Sunday, April 3, 2016

I believe in Perfection

Yesterday I was watching the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and had some great feedback in some areas but found myself not pleased with some of the statements of the conference. There is one in particular that I would like to discuss here today and it deals with the word 'perfect'. So, let's begin this long journey together. 
The word perfect has two definitions according to my favorite definer: Google. Those two definitions are 1. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be and 2. absolute; complete (used for emphasis). Read those once more and consider with me the 'imperfect' definition of perfection used so widely today. To explain this definition we need to look within the Christian religion. In Christianity we believe in the ability of continuous growth, that although we may falter and do wrong, we can become better. This includes forgiveness of sins, capabilities to develop more desirable attributes, and ultimately, to become more like the man we call Saviour. This ideology comes from biblical verses such as Isaiah 1:18, which reads 'Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool'. Then we move into the New Testament where Jesus commands us to 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect' (Matthew 5:48). And as we read these verses we have a strange predicament. We believe in a perfect God, one who does not make mistakes, and we are commanded to be perfect like unto Him. But we are, according to Christian tradition, a fallen people prone to sin and error thus making it impossible for us to truly be perfect in this mortal existence. Do you see perhaps where the flaws are coming in?
Now let's jump back into yesterday at General Conference before I give you my spiel on my own interpretations of the word perfect. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the Second Counselor in the LDS church, addressed the men of the church on the topic of marriage. (If your like me you are probably already thinking, "Oh great, everyone will talk marriage to me even more...) His talk was great, and he spoke of marriage so lovingly, but then he made a statement that just does not work for me. He mentioned the idea of single men waiting for the perfect woman and then stated that she does not exist. Following this remark he said, "If there were a perfect woman, do you really think she would be that interested in you?" My answer is a very strong and resonating 'YES!' I do believe in a perfect woman, and I do believe that a perfect woman can be and will be interested in me. Let's get onto my reasoning because y'all are starting to think I'm crazy and hopeless now. 
I served for two years as a missionary in Iceland (I promise I'm not just distracting you now!). I learned the Icelandic language and it changed my perspective on a lot of things, some more positive than others. One of those changes was my interpretation of the word perfect. In Icelandic the adjective perfect is fullkominn and the verb to be perfect is að fullkomna. This word is comprised of two parts, the word full and the verb að koma. The word full in compounds means completely or totally. The word að koma means, in this instance, to get there. So the words fullkominn and að fullkomna refer to a state where we have come to completeness, wholeness, or a sense of begin total. Go back to my definitions from my friend Google. Which definition does this sound like to you? To me this lines up completely with definition number 2, which according to that definition makes it perfect. 
Now back to ideology. For centuries the Christian world has distorted this word, perfect, to mean without flaws, sins, and mistakes. We have taken away the simplicity of a word that means complete, whole, total. Do you feel that you can say that you are complete? How about whole? Total? I think that I can confidently say that I feel that I am whole and complete, but not without error. I believe that most of us can actually state that we feel whole and complete, and I think we can all agree that we have a lot of improvements to make as well. But why should our flaws restrain us from being perfect in the sense of being whole? As Jesus worked miracles upon the earth He consistently referred to this process as being made 'whole'. In John 5:6 he asked the man at the pool "Wilt thou be made whole?" His role in our lives is to make us whole, complete, even perfect. God commands that we be sinless, yet He gives us time to become that person and He is not disappointed in our shortcomings. He watches us and accepts that we aren't there yet, but we are trying to be better. For heaven's sake every year in America the nation sets New Year's Resolution to try to be better! But I don't think it is wise or appropriate to let that keep us from being whole. 
So, now that I've rambled on, yes, I do believe in a perfect woman for me. And yes, I do believe that that perfect woman will be interested in me, not as an imperfect project but rather as a perfect man. And together we will be perfect, whole, complete, and total. Will we have flaws? Of course. But we will be whole. 

Friday, March 18, 2016


Wow, it has been a long time since I have posted anything! And a lot has happened, but I'm not gonna bore you with all the up's and down's of my life. No, not this time. This time I want to talk about one special occasion that has happened in the past few months. And I know many of you will be thrilled that I am finally getting this done. So, are you ready? 

I was in a group art show at BYU! That's right. For two weeks I was able to display my art for other's to see. It's about time, eh? I like to think so. Anyway, I promised to post pictures to some friends and family and I guess I should probably keep up on that promise. Along with that promise I will do my best to explain what I'm trying to accomplish with my pieces. But first, a picture of the show! (I apologize for the glares on the images, these were taken on my phone...)

These are the four pieces that I had in our group show, Haven. Our theme revolved around the idea of finding a haven in our daily circumstances. Now I know, leaves aren't exactly the first thing you think of when you think of a haven. But trust me, there was reason behind my desire to paint leaves besides my general obsession with leaves. Let me explain it to you.

 Our explanation begins within me. I have a lot of issues, at least I like to think I do but I'm probably not that bad off. Anyway, I've never really felt like I fit into any "clique" and I have already explained how I don't fit into stereotypes. So I've always felt like a bit of a loner, but that doesn't really bother me too much. I feel as though it's expected that people fit within a clique and I just don't. I like to think that I am just as strong on my own as I am with other people. Now let's check out how this ties into the art.

Each piece within this series of work displays a minimum of three leaves. If you'll notice though, none of the leaves are actually connected. They may interact with other leaves, one overlapping the other and the other ducking behind, but they are not truly connected together. This is easy to see in the first painting with the little berry. (Don't ask what kind it is, I have no idea. Just took a picture of a plant with berries...) I wanted the leaves to be strong and finished, but I also wanted them to be isolated like how I feel. Like I said though, I don't want that to sound bad, hence why the leaves are painted in full detail.

The leaves are painted onto a background with a single circle of color surrounded by textured black. The circle itself represents the 'haven', that one place where we should feel strongest. The textured black space is symbolic of a new setting, someplace that is uncomfortable. However, I didn't want the leaves to only be strong within the circle. I really wanted to express how we can be strong on our own. Even when we are without our safe place, when we are apart from our comfort zones, we can exhibit true strength. Thus the leaves being focused inside the circle, but emanating outward.

I hope that clarifies the pieces a little bit to you. If not just know that you are not alone! I began this project with a brief understanding of what I wanted, and now that I have finished four pieces and had a show I am beginning to understand what it truly means to me. My main focus was on the idea of being isolated, yet being strong.

This series is not finished, not for me. I am currently working on three more pieces for this series. Each of the painting exhibited here are 20"x25" and the three paintings I'm working on now are 16"x20". I hope to be able to exhibit this show again, and maybe if you missed the first show you can catch the next one! If you have any questions regarding the work feel free to ask here!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Freedom of Speech?

Be warned, I have very strong feelings about the topic I will be discussing today. If you don't want to hear them, leave now. 

Freedom of Speech. It's been on everyone's minds recently. People standing on flags, issues with racism, art competitions about Muhammad. It's everywhere. And it's infuriating. Today I want to focus on the one that aggravates me the most, the 'art' competition in Texas. 

Before we delve into this though, let's rewind a few years and cross the big blue wet thing. That's right, we're taking a short trip over to Denmark! The year is 2005 and the Jylland-Posten has asked Kurt Westergaard to make some cartoon depictions of Muhammad, and so he does. The next part of this story is Kurt Westergaard being threatened multiple times, being attacked in his home, and living in fear of what might happen next. I know what you're probably thinking, "He has the right to do what he wants!", right? True, he does. But does that excuse the blatant disrespect for the Islamic religion? The Islamic religion has a firm belief that trying to depict Muhammad is highly blasphemous. Can we not use our freedom of speech to respect that?

Back to the modern time. So, ten years after one of our first experiences with the cartoon world and Muhammad, Pamela Geller has a genius idea. Let's try again! This time it will be a competition to see who can make the 'best' Muhammad depiction. And of course, what was the result? It certainly wasn't respectful images of Muhammad, no, it was our view on the extremists but thrown onto Muhammad. And then we acted as though they were in the wrong for being offended! I will say, the way that they responded I do not agree with, but I don't agree with Ms Geller either. This isn't a 'war on free speech'. We have that. What we forget is that we do NOT have the right to say how others react. Again, I do not agree with the reaction, but here I ask you to step into their shoes. Your faith is being attacked, your prophet has been depicted as a man leading suicide bombers to their death. How do you feel?

Let's make it a little more real, eh? Now we'll go to the year 1095. Don't remember what happened then? Here's a review: Pope Urban II began the First Crusade. All we wanted to do was use our freedom of speech to spread our religion, right? Wrong. People were murdered for not accepting the Catholic religion. Now imagine with me the 'art' competition of their day. The theme? Jesus. And how is he depicted? Well, he isn't holding a child in his arm, no, he's commanding an army to destroy the local city. He laughs as the Catholics murder those who oppose them. Doesn't sound to pleasant does it? We as Christians have a long history as a religion and it isn't all peace and love! But somehow we still ended up with people like Mother Teresa. 

Somewhere along the dark road of the Christians people recognized that not all Christians wanted to kill the pagans. I had the opportunity to meet with some Muslims while I lived in Iceland, and they were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Let me tell you about one. We knocked on his door, wanting to share our religion with him. He answered the door and immediately invited us in. Why? He told us it was what his religion had taught him. His belief, his Muslim belief, taught him that when anyone knocks on the door you should invite them in and take care of them for as long as they are there. He offered us food, he invited us to come anytime, he showed love. That is the freedom of speech I wish we would live. 

So here's a quick recap. Was the art show an act of free speech? Yes. Was the response of the two men appropriate? No. Was the art show offensive? Yes. Do I believe that both parties are in the wrong here? Yes. 

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that we all need to stop being jerks to each other. I don't care if you are Muslim or Jewish or Protestant. I don't care if you are Atheist or Catholic. I respect you for your beliefs. And I won't use my freedom of speech to offend you on purpose. Rather, I will use my freedom of speech to learn from you and to share my opinions in a respectful, adult manner. I'm sick of people trying to say that they have freedom of speech and can therefore do whatever they want. Grow up. Take responsibility for what you say. As we tell kids all the time, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." We can't choose how others will react to our speech, but we can choose how we speak. So instead of a 'war of the freedom of speech' let's have a war of using our freedom of speech to build up rather than tear down. Enough of us being jerks to one another. Let's follow the words of the Saviour and "Love one Another". 

P.S. He included our enemies in that statement, in case you forgot. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

On Depression

   It has been quite some time since I last posted, but something happened today that I cannot pass to share. We had a lesson today on how to stand strong in difficult times. This lesson seems to have come too late to some however. Earlier during our testimony meeting, one of the bishopric members stood and informed us that one of the young men he had worked with in a different ward had taken his life as well as one of the young women who lives in Wyview Park. It was devastating news to say the least. I feel a personal tie anytime people talk about depression and/or suicide. I have struggled with seasonal depression and during my teen years I contemplated suicide a few different times. I saw no reason to continue, just like the aforementioned individuals. Unfortunately, they also followed through with their thoughts whereas I was able to block them out. And this is where I begin my story. 
   In our lesson the instructor talked about how as long as we have faith in God and his plan for us, then we can be and will be happy. That's hard news to take as someone who has struggled with depression and knows the feeling of doing everything 'right' and still feeling like a failure. The next sentence we were told is that our instructor felt that both of these people lacked the faith that he was talking about. I was infuriated at that comment! Depression is a mental illness that does not care about how your faith is. Depression is not simply having a bad day. As Psychology Today defines it, 
"A depressive disorder is not a passing blue mood but rather persistent feelings of sadness and worthlessness and a lack of desire to engage in formerly pleasurable activities." 
   Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at the October 2013 General Conference and said this of depression:
"[It is] so severe that it significantly restricts a person's ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively."
   I've known a lot of people who have struggled with depression, and as I said, I struggle with seasonal depression. I know people who have struggled with bipolar disorder, another form of depressive disorder. It's not easy. It's not that we are choosing to think negatively or choosing to not think positively, there is almost literally a mental block that takes time to overcome. There is no easy fix. It sounds wonderful, truly it does, but it's just not there. 
   Depression is a situation that many people avoid talking about for these reasons. It's hard to understand and it doesn't make sense. To the logical mind one would say "Just think more positively," but as is stated above, that's not how depression works. I've had days where I wake up and my mind is full of thoughts of failure. In everything from school, aspirations, lifestyle, the list could go on forever. And that mood continues. It debilitates you as a person. You spend days trying to find the reason for you to be here, and for some that reason doesn't come. Their frustration increases and the depression steepens. And in the end it doesn't matter how strong their faith is, some of them will end their lives. Let us not think that their actions reflected their level of faith. Their actions reflect a battle that they fought sorely. I'm not trying to advocate suicide, or say that it's not as bad as you think, but those individuals were fighting hard. Let us honor how long they fought, and mourn the fact that they chose to end. Let's not try to make claims about them and their faith when we stand on the outside. 
   Finally, if you are one struggling with depression in any of it's forms, I want you to know that I do believe that God has a plan for all of us. He knows your struggle, and He cheers on every victory blow you make. He wants you to be successful. He wants you to continue onward. Don't give up. Press forward and keep fighting strong. God speed!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Within two years

Two years ago today my stresses were completely different from what they are today. I didn't worry about how I was doing in school, or what classes I would be taking next semester. I didn't even know where I was going to school. I didn't think about who I was dating, who I would marry, or when I would marry. I had no thoughts about an income earning job, few thoughts on my career and hardly any thoughts about pop culture and society. Two years ago today my concerns included who were we teaching, what would I study in the morning, who could we invite to church, if we would find new people to teach. My concerns aren't the only thing that was different about that time. Two years ago today my life was filled with God's spirit. I had hardships, but I could face them. Although I have seasonal depression and lived in a country with three hours of daylight max in the winter, I could handle it. I served others all day, which made me happy. I talked and laughed with my fellow missionaries about all the little things we did. I was a happy individual. But then I came home, and somewhere in that transition I lost my ability to cope with the hardships. I easily slipped out of habits formed on my mission such as reading my scriptures daily and even praying. Life was 'back to normal' I thought. 

But it wasn't. Once you know the feeling of happiness, you can't pretend that you don't know what it is. Once you know that a lemon is sour, you can't pretend that it is sweet. As I went about my 'back to normal' life, I felt unsatisfied. There was simply something missing, and I couldn't explain what it was. Even though Provo offers hours more sunlight than Reykjavík ever will, my seasonal depression took vengeance on me. I felt like I would hit brick walls in my study and in my life in general. And for some reason, I just couldn't figure out what it was that I was missing. Even after two years of having joy with me almost all the time, I couldn't remember what it was that had given me that joy. 

This semester I was offered a job as an Icelandic teacher at the Missionary Training Center, or MTC. I have wanted to work at the MTC as a teacher for a while, but since missionaries come very rarely for Icelandic, the opportunities are few and far between. When the job was offered, I applied and was accepted. For the past week I have been meeting with the missionaries as someone who did not know anything about the Mormon church. It was a blast for me to experience what it is like to be taught by our missionaries. It was also a great time for me to feel God's spirit.

Today I went in, as myself, to teach. The missionaries now know me as 'Steini', the Icelander who wanted to learn more about the church, but today they met Brother Schofield, their teacher. It was such a great experience! We went over some language skills and we talked about stress and missionary work. But there was one thing that I noticed today that is helping me to remember what Öldungur Schofield had that I have been putting to the side. God's spirit is so prevalent in that classroom. These elders, only 18-year-olds, talk about how they can help each other when stressed. They talk about the ability that we have to communicate with God through prayer and the strength we can receive as we pray. They have helped me remember what was so unique about my two-year experience in Iceland. I was never alone there, and I don't mean that I was always with another missionary. I always had God's spirit with me. I had someone there to strengthen me and to guide me. 

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto you souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
                                                                                            -Matthew 11:28-30

As I spent my two years serving others, I was given rest unto my soul. I was given the chance to see how I could find peace in a life that will never stop moving and changing. I was given a chance to see how I could have God's spirit to guide me, to strengthen me, and to be with me. After coming home I put this knowledge to the side, but after this week? I see what it is that I have lost, and what I need to do to find it again. And I will find it again, because I could use that spirit in my life again. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Temples to dot my life!

It all started a long time ago, when I was just a child and my parents worried about how to raise there kids in a good way. Coming from an LDS family (commonly known as Mormon) my parents made a decision. Just like King Mosiah, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, they asked us to turn ourselves towards the temple. Temples are places of learning, where we can go to our Heavenly Father and ask for his help with our problems or just go to feel His spirit. They're incredibly beautiful and full of inspiration. So, what better option for my parents than to point their children to the temple? 
Jordan River Temple
South Jordan, Utah

As a child, my parents gave each of us pictures of a temple. They decorated our rooms for many years, but were eventually lost or just set aside. But that didn't stop us. By this point we were old enough to enter the temple and do baptisms for our ancestors. Our parents obviously stressed that, in line with them pointing us to the temples. I can remember days where my father would take off work just so he could drive the youth of our congregation down to Oklahoma City to attend the temple. When we went on road trips we would make a point to stop at temples if they were nearby, including Denver, CO; Nauvoo, IL; Reno, NV; St. Louis, MO; and Albuquerque, NM. This brought about a new game in the family: the temple game. Game rules are super simple, whoever has attended and done work in the most temples is in first place and it goes down from there. Dad will probably be in the lead for many many years to come. He has those extra years, ya know. Meanwhile, us kids are battling it out for a second to Dad. 

This was my motivation for a while to go to new temples. It certainly made it a thrill when I had the opportunity to go through the temple in Copenhagen, Denmark.  But I was still a ways behind. When I came out to Utah for school my dad made it a point to go to some of the temples out here to "up my list" so to say. The void quickly set in. If that was my only reason for going, then why was I going? Was there any point really? No, to be honest it sucked out all the joys of the temple. 

But don't give up hope there, I had already begun to think differently about attending temples. While on my mission I met a man who had lived in America and I think was in the military as well. He had a giant map in his garage with push pins in every city he had been to; and let me tell you, his map was packed!! Around that time I began to think of all the temples that "dot the Earth". What if my new challenge was not to go to more temples than my brothers and sisters, but instead just to attend the many various temples? What if I had a giant map, and on it I had a picture of every temple that I had attended? I latched onto this idea, and after that day I have pushed myself to attend different temples just as a personal goal. Something just for me. 

This year I have set the goal to attend all of the temples in Utah. As of today, when I attended Jordan River, I am officially half way to that goal. My lifetime goal is quite a bit bigger. I have a goal to attend every LDS temple. I know, it sounds absurd and it's a massive goal being as there are dozens of temples outside of America and more being built all the time. But it's what I want, I want the temple to dot my life!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Changing the World

Another day, another rant from me. Again, this one involves being an art major and questions raised by this. Now for the context: English, Writing about the Arts and Humanities. We began discussing our research papers today and we were asked why we do research? Is it really necessary? In case you're wondering, this is not the question I seek to answer. I think we can all agree that there are good points to doing research and we will all do some research at some point in our lives. But the answer we had in class was that it was necessary because we all have an obligation to better the world. Now, I could go off on obligation for hours because I'm not a fan of the view we took on that in class. But, what is it that we do that betters the world? Is it research? Is research the only way? No, obviously not. But the way our discussion went seemed to point more that way and towards majors that use research way more than an art major. And here I begin. 

So, take a seat in my shoes. You're an art major. You want nothing more than to have gallery shows, for people to applaud your name because your name stands behind art that inspires and uplifts. You don't want an office job, you want a studio. You want paint to riddle your clothes; you want ideas to fill every inch of paper you own. But you don't want research. The very thought is repulsive and you cast it as far away from you as possible. If you can call studying art research, than that is the research you will do. The only things you truly enjoy studying are colors and patterns. Now, ask yourself. What do you do that improves the world for good?

What did you come up with? Anything? You didn't find a cure to cancer. You're not a CEO of a company, and you certainly didn't found a company. You don't run a city. In the eyes of too many, you've done nothing. 

But if you're like me, you came up with a whole list of things that you did that were good for the world. You captured a moment of peace in the mountains, just as the sun was setting and the world was slowly covered in a haze of cool colors. Maybe you're a photographer and you've created a memory that won't fade over time, one that carries on past the lives of those involved. Graphic Design? You're the reason people associate certain colors and shapes with the business you worked for. Sculpture? You decorate the houses of thousands. No matter which art form you used, you made a lasting difference on someone's life. On some of my hardest days I am lifted out of the darkness after seeing a piece of art that is truly inspirational. 

So, did you do something to affect the world for the better? Yeah, you did. And what you did inspired someone, changed them for the better. Changing the world isn't something that can only be achieved through the sciences or business. Changing the world is about you being you and doing what you love. The things you do will have an effect, they will change others. And maybe that is done through the sciences. Awesome! You've done what I couldn't. But let me return the favor by doing what you can't, and let me live my dream in the art world. We can both change the world, but we have to do it our own way. Be you, and love you. Enough of the comparisons. I'm truly sick of hearing about all the great things I could be doing if I was doing something else. Trust me, I've thought about all of those options. What I want to do is be an artist, and that's the road I travel.