Monday, November 18, 2013

What of the Ninety and Nine?

As my final blog post, I wanted to include the text of the letter I read in Sacrament meeting. While it is impossible to adequately capture the torrent of emotions that come from being released, I tried to summarize our almost four-years experience into a short one-page letter.

Please understand how very much Sister Heiss and I grew to love each one of you. You are a light in our lives that will never dim. With the power of social media, it will be simple to stay in touch in the short and long term. Please keep us posted on the great things you will accomplish.

We love you all very much.

                                                                            Sunday, November 17,  2013                      
Dear Amy:
It seems odd that I would use my last opportunity to address my ward from this pulpit by reading a letter to you. Odd, because you are not a member of this ward. In fact, we only recently became acquainted as you and Scott participated in my marriage prep discussions.

So, why read a letter to you on this of all Sundays?

Well, in the short time we have known each other, I see in this relationship a microcosm of the miracle of this ward. So though I am writing a letter to you, I am really writing a letter to all ward members --past and present.  

One of the most intimidating aspects of being a Bishop is the amount of trust ward members afforded me without even knowing who I am. I realize it is the office of Bishop that they trust and not so much in me as a person. But the key to working successfully with people is transforming that automatic trust to a more personal trust.

As we met together, I saw your trust in my calling quickly change to a personal trust. It is so strange how that happened but I sincerely appreciated it. You had no need to trust me. I was not your Bishop. Still, you trusted. This miracle happened repeatedly as I worked with my ward members. I feel this personal trust was the direct result of you feeling genuinely loved.

My guess is that throughout your life you did all those things that were expected of you. Because of your goodness, most priesthood and young women leaders worried less about you than they did about others; hence, your needs, which were real, were mostly ignored.

For the most part this probably didn't bother you. But over time, this benign neglect as a result of your good choices left you on the periphery. Leaders will say that they were following Christ’s example and leaving the ninety and nine to seek after the one. I do not agree with that. True, there are times when extra effort must be devoted to those who wander, but what about the ninety and nine?

We learn in Isaiah 53:6 we are all like sheep and we all go astray, everyone to his own way. This verse became the genesis of a grand experiment I performed in the laboratory of this ward. What would happen if all ward members were treated with special attention? What if I assumed that none were of the ninety and nine?

It took time to develop this idea, but through you, I saw that we had truly accomplished this goal. You were able to develop that personal trust in me, because you felt loved. Through small and simple acts of kindness, be it a cheer note, a sincere compliment, a heart to heart conversation, or just a smile, the miracle of this ward was manifest in the love and community we have enjoyed and still enjoy to this day.

As I have often said, we are all in leaky boats on the ocean of mortality. At times we need others to help us stay afloat. Sometimes others need us to keep them afloat. The key to our success in mortality is our ability to love (by helping others bail out their boats) and to be loved (by allowing others to help us bail out our boats).

Thank you, Amy, for allowing us to love you.


Reid Heiss

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Can Do Better

We Can Do Better
I am once again deeply concerned about the social media posting that has been so bitter during this current political crisis. I raised this concern over a year ago when we faced a hard-fought election season and challenged ward members not to get caught up in the lack of civility that was so prevalent. I was deeply impressed that ward members heeded this challenge and kept their dialog civil.

I feel it is of no small coincidence that two Apostles (Elder Perry and Elder Anderson) reminded us of the importance of the 12th Article of Faith which reads:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Focus for a minute in the terms “obeying, honoring, and sustain.” Where, in these admonitions, are we encouraged to be rude, close-minded, or disrespectful?

Now add to this the following words from President Hinckley:

Civility is the root of the word civilization. It carries with it the essence of courtesy, politeness, and consideration of others. How very much of it we have lost in our contemporary society! All of the education and accomplishments in the world will not count for much unless they are accompanied by marks of gentility, of respect for others, of serving as a good Samaritan, of being men and women who look beyond our own selfish interests to the good of others. Our Fading Civility, June 10, 2008.
In light of these two powerful concepts, let me offer some suggestions.

The height of disrespect, which runs counter to President Hinckley’s counsel, comes in name calling of elected officials. I have seen Face Book posts referring to President Obama a liar, slime ball, dictator, and as Satan incarnate. These irresponsible and childish epithets were found on Face Book pages hosted by members of the Church. In my opinion, when we resort to name calling, we dilute our own voices in the conversation and become nothing more than annoying static.

A sure sign of an impotent argument is when the one framing it insists on absolutes. The minute we assume ours is the only true and living opinion, we become close-minded and are no longer contributors to the political arena. There are no absolutes in politics.

When we blur the lines between our religion and our politics we run the risk of assuming that we speak for God or as God as we pontificate our beliefs. God is not American. He is not a member of any party. While our religiosity can shape our politics, it cannot become our politics.

Please remember this; America is a conversation and not a blunt instrument. The Framers of our Constitution clearly understood that this nation would evolve and change in content and complexity. They purposely left us a document and political process that could ebb and flow with those changes. 

The best way to join that conversation is to integrate President Hinckley’s counsel for civility. We all can do better at constantly seeking to obey, honor, and sustain the law.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What is your Balcony


Ward Date Night

To those new in the ward the concept of Ward Date Night may be new. So let me take a minute to explain. 

In reality, Ward Date Night is no different than any other ward activity. We have a committee that plans it. We try to do things that are fun. There is usually food. Most important, it costs you nothing. 

So, if that sounds like a normal ward activity, why do we call it Ward Date Night?

Simple, you all attend this ward activity with a date. 

But how do we do that?

Again, that is simple. The Ward Date Night committee not only plans and executes the activity, they also assign who will be going with whom. Now that may seem like a restriction of your agency. Well, get over it. It is just for an hour or two and there in no pressure to create from this data a lasting relationship. It is just a date, nothing more, nothing less. 

Here is how it works.

1. The Ward Date Night leaders announce when the activity will take place and what we will be doing. 

2. They send around a sign up sheet to get as many of youth sign up as possible. 

3. They personally contact all those who did not sign up to make sure no one was missed.

4. They make sure we have an even number of guys and girls so that each person is actually on a date.

5. They inform the guys who their date will be. 

6. The guys must ask the girls at least three days prior to the activity. 

7. On the day of the activity, the guy picks up the girl and takes her to the activity.

8. When the activity is over, the guy takes the girl home. 

It couldn't be any easier. 

Now, if you are a committed relationship, a commitment you have both agreed upon, you let the Ward Date Night leaders know and they will not assign you a date.

Our first Ward Date Night will be this Saturday. We have reserved the Wlikinson Center bowling ally for just our ward at 10:00 a.m. We have one hour of free bowling. After that hour, we will go upstairs to a room we reserved in the Wlik for some light refreshments. 

I know you are all busy, but this active will take less than two hours on a Saturday. 

Remember, this is a commandment. As it states in D&C 139:1

"Thou shalt all attend Ward Date Night ."

It is hard to argue with scriptures, even those I make up. 

If you are still confused, please see this link from last year to gain greater clarity.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jesus Wept

image Now I think I better understand the poignancy of these two small words buried deep in John 11.

As you are aware, Jesus wept when he arrived at the home of his dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for three days and Mary and Martha had been hit hard by this untimely and even preventable tragedy. Upon seeing the pain this death had caused His friends and perhaps struggling to understand His own emotions, Jesus wept.

But why?

More than anyone, Jesus knew the Plan of Salvation. He knew where Lazarus was. Jesus knew that Lazarus’ pain was over. Lazarus had fought a good fight and finished the race. Christ was aware that death is merely a passage way each of us will take in our journey back to that God who gave us life.

Yet, He wept. Despite all that He knew and despite who He was, Jesus wept.


Biblical scholars all have their insights into this seemingly strange reaction. But having just gone through the death of a dear friend, I think I have an explanation -- at least one that suits my current needs.

I am on firm doctrinal ground when I state that Christ, as a mortal, had to experience the full onslaught of the human experience in order to qualify to be our advocate to the Father. Yes, the preponderance of this suffering could only come through His atoning experience, that much is for sure. But a critical part of His ability to heal our pain and dry our tears comes from what He experienced during His own life.

image I am convinced that Jesus wept because this may have been the first time He experienced death so closely. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He told his apostles this well before they arrived. But the theory of death is always much simpler to understand that the reality of death.

I feel Jesus wept because of His great love for Lazarus. Add to this the deep mourning of  Mary and Martha whom He loved as well. He wept because He grieved the untimely death of a good friend. He wept because the death of a loved one is hard.

image But, there is hope even amidst the pain. For Christ, during this same experience stated the only words that can bring peace to a grieving soul:

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

Our family will miss our dear friend Dorothy Gillespie. We will grieve. We will weep. But we have hope that though she is dead, yet shall she live.

I thank each of you for your words of support and prayers during this difficult time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Trojan Horses

image Growing up, one of my all-time favorite stories from Greek mythology was the tale of the Trojan Horse. As you may recall, Greece was in a lengthy 10 year war with Troy. The Greeks had besieged the city of Troy but the war drug on with no end in sight.

In a bold act of desperation, the Greek army constructed a beautiful wooden horse to offer the people of Troy as a gift of the city’s bravery and tenacity in their ability to hold out against the seemingly overpowering military

After completing the horse, the Greek invaders wheeled it up to the city gate, marched down to the sea,  boarded their ships, and the entire army sailed back home. Or so it seemed. Little did the people of Troy know that hidden within this wonderful “gift” was a number of Greek soldiers.

The people of Troy celebrated their hard fought victory -- a celebration that likely included wine flowing freely late into the night. Unconcerned about an entirely inebriated populous, the people partied until all were in a deep, drunken sleep.

image In the cover of darkness, the men inside the horse crept out and opened all the city gates to the Greek army that had secretly returned. In a matter of minutes, the magnificent city of Troy fell to the invading army – a city that defiantly withstood that same army for years.

While it is disputed if these events ever really happened, story teaches us some important lessons. Throughout our lives we will all face a myriad of personal Trojan Horses. By that I mean we will be tempted to let down our guard to something that seems so innocent only to become easy prey to forces that wish to destroy us. Let me enumerate a few such personal Trojan Horses.

image Honesty is a virtue we all wish to possess but it can be misused. I am convinced that honesty devoid of kindness is nothing more the rudeness hidden inside a Trojan Horse. We must be ever vigilant in how we say things to others because words really do count. James called the tongue “a little member that boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth” (James 3:5).

Sensitivity is a better companion to honesty. We must refrain from using honesty as a weapon. This is especially true with your roommates and friends. To be honest without sensitivity is, in my opinion, a sign of immaturity. It may have worked in High School, but it does not bode well in the adult world.

image Another Trojan Horse is the incessant need to be right. Yes, this is a paradox. We are taught to be right in all that we do. I am not talking about doing right. Rather, I am talking about setting ourselves apart as the fountain of all knowledge. When our opinions or our practices become absolute in our minds, our only course of action is to diminish those who think differently. This is not a Christ-like attribute. Tolerance must replace our desire to prove to the world the we are right.

image Being too casual among others is one of the tricky Trojan Horses. We live a very casual society. But being casual too easily leads to gross and indecent behavior. Conversations about body functions, body parts, and bodily fluids, will initially be funny but do little to bring one closer to Christ. Yes, like a Trojan Horse, such juvenile behavior seems innocent on the outside, but inside the deception of casualness is a festering pool of disrespect and lewdness that we need not entertain.

image A final Trojan Horse I wish to comment on is that of physical intimacy. In a developing relationship, physical intimacy has its place. (Yes, I struggle to say that.) When properly used it can create a bond between a couple and provide clarity in a relationship. However, when used as a form of conquest, meaning such expressions are merely a tool to satisfy a selfish desire or to boast of one’s own powers, you cheapen the experience.

I am convinced that God is not pleased when we become casual with the tender feelings of others. The prophet Jacob warned the Nephites to respect the tender feelings of others. I feel a cavalier attitude toward physical intimacy is nothing more the a Trojan Horse that will lead to hurt and confusion.

These are just a sampling of potential personal Trojan Horses. As always, I am open to a vigorous and lively debate.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What’s Love?

image I have been in this calling for a long time and have seen trends that are consistent even when ward membership changes so dramatically from year to year. One of those consistent trends is a discussion of love. This makes total sense. We are, after all, a singles ward. Many members are meeting their future spouses while living within our boundaries. So it comes as no surprise that I am often asked to help people come to understand love.

Now, of course, there are many meanings to the word love. I have no intention to try to delineate love and its different expressions. My aim to provide you greater clarity on the type of love necessary to gently push a budding relationship towards marriage.

image To start out, let me explain what I feel is the facade of love. By facade, I mean it has all the trappings of love. It looks and feels like love. But, scratch beneath the surface and there is really nothing there. Hence, it is called a facade.

image The facade of love is best expressed in the giddy feelings that come when you think about, dream about, or are even in the presence of that person you think you are in love with. This feeling was best descried by Thumper in Disney’s Bambi, as twiderpation. The more mature word to use is infatuation. Contrary to popular opinion, this emotional turmoil is not love.

While it is true that infatuation may lead to love. This transition from the facade to the substance of love has lead many potentially great relationships to break up for no good reason. Too often, I have seen great relationship end up in heartbreak when one or both people feel the spark is gone or that they are not feeling it.

Now, I will admit that couples have the right to explore a relationship and determine if it is right. This is a vital part of your current social situation. You are not meant to marry everyone you meet. But if your sole reason for questioning the potential of a relationship is simply because the infatuation is over, then I question your motives.

Married couples cannot sustain an infatuated relationship. It would kill them in a week. Married couples must quickly learn that love is more than an all consuming feeling. Rather, love a journey that two people take requiring their best effort everyday. It evolves, it changes, and it deepens over time.

image The problem many of you face is that you judge the love you need to marry someone by a benchmark that is not allotted you at this time in your life. Many of you look to your parents or to beloved leaders as an example of the type of relationship you want before you enter into marriage.

This is unrealistic. Those relationships you look at as being the definition of love only came after years, if not decades of hard work, constant nurturing, and massive personal changes. You don’t get that at this time of your life. Instead, you get the confused, muddled, and even down right frightening version of that all consuming emotion called love.

image As I have explained to many of you, Alma’s lecture on faith is a perfect recipe for understanding love. He teaches that faith is to be compared to a seed. When you first plant it, if it is a good seed, you will feel stirrings. Soon, a seedling appears. If you are not careful, you will find yourselves rejoicing at the seedling but neglecting its care. In a short amount of time, the seedling will wither and die. Why? Because it was not nurtured. Faith cannot grow without constant nurturing.

I feel faith is nothing more than a relationship with God. So Alma is talking about how relationships work. Infatuation is the stirrings that let us know a relationship may work. Once that seedling of love appears, the work of love begins. At this point, the infatuation is over. It is the work of love that causes great couples to shy away from that seedling and look elsewhere. The problem with that is if they walk away because of the work, then they will likely find that same problem with the next relationship.

This is why I feel love is misunderstood. Love is not so much a feeling as it as an opportunity to work.

What do you think?