Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Mormon "hello": miracles and heroes

As if it needed saying, we LDS (Mormons) have a culture with some unique characteristics. One such characteristic stems from our lack of paid clergy. Because weekly sermons (we call them "talks") are delivered by various men, women, and youth from the congregation at the request of the lay leadership, ANYONE can expect to be the speaker on a Sunday morning. It's often the case that recently arrived or departing members of the congregation are invited to speak as a way of getting introduced or saying goodbye. In our recent move from the Redmond Washington 3rd Ward, to the Holladay Utah, Valley view 24th Ward, Amy and I  were invited to speak at both ends of our move.  Because my symptoms increase with the effects of adrenaline, Amy agreed to deliver my talks if I would write them.  Amy did a great job and, I think, was a much prettier speaker than I am :-)


 Redmond 3rd Ward, Sacrament Meeting, May 4, 2014

I am grateful that  Amy is willing to read a few of my thoughts to you. If this works out I plan to outsource all future speaking and teaching opportunities :-)

As we have prepared to move, I have been struck by a recurring theme in the Book of Mormon: the central role of memory in one's faith.  My favorite example is found in 1 Nephi  7:12 as Nephi reminds his brothers when their faith is shaken.

10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
 11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?
 12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
In the 6 years our family has lived here in Redmond, we have been given a lifetime of memories that we will rely on during future trials. These  miracles have come, most often, through you. Whether it be your service to our family after Ellie's bike accident, your fasting and prayers during my health project, your  mentoring of our children, your priesthood blessings, or your endless cleaning, packing, or repackaging of our house, we see these as miracles. Nephi continues:

13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain thealand of promise

This simple  passage reminded me that remembering the miracles I have seen in the past is critical for maintaining my faith when it is stretched thin in the future.
Because of the miracles we have seen, we have faith that we are making progress towards our own promised land, and the pain of our current trials is eased by this knowledge.

I leave with you my gratitude and my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I look forward to hearing of your progress and miracles.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


"The Priesthood Man"-sacrament talk
Seth Christensen, Sunday, June 15, 2014

Good afternoon brothers and sisters. I realize this method of speaking is not what any of us are used to, but I beg your pardon since of my body does not react well to the adrenaline of public speaking. I am grateful Amy is willing to read a few of my thoughts… Think of this as a pilot program in the Church, exploring the effect of allowing only pretty speakers to address us on a father's day :-).

In the Elder Eyring's recent Gen. conference talk "The Priesthood Man" he recognizes three characteristics of his priesthood heroes: a pattern of prayer; a habit of service; and a rock hard decision to be honest. I would like to share examples of these three attributes, as well as one other, in my scriptural heroes:

A pattern of prayer: Enos is my prayer hero. We all know how he, while hunting, knelt and prayed all day for a remission of his sins. We also know that he next sought blessings for his people, and then for his enemies. This man is not my hero because of his  "knee endurance" or because he included everyone in his prayer, but because of what he records AFTER his second prayer. We read in verse 11:

" 11 And AFTER I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord…

It wasn't until AFTER this man had received a remission of his sins, AND had heard the voice of the Lord on behalf of his brethren, that his faith began to be unshaken in the Lord. This means that he offered his first two prayers, some of the mightiest in all of Scripture, using faith not dissimilar to my own imperfect faith.  Because of his example, I too have hope to hear the voice of the Lord as I seek him in prayer. For this, Enos is my priesthood hero.

A habit of service: My service hero is Alma the younger. We all know how this man, the first chief judge of the Nephite nation, stepped down to dedicate himself to the spiritual needs of his people. We also know that his ministry was not a bed of roses--he suffered hunger, imprisonment, ridicule, and frustration. He saw, what he must of felt, was success and failure. Alma is not my hero because of his success or failure on a macro scale, but because, in the midst of his national spiritual campaign, he did not forget the individual. We read in Alma 15:18 that, after their work among the Ammoniha-ites, Alma recognized  and acted on a need in his junior companion:

18 Now as I said, Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord.

I aspire to be the friend, brother, and servant that Alma was to his people and to Amulek. I aspire to never be so busy that I am unable to recognize the individual needs and suffering of those around me… And to never fail to do what I can to address those needs. For this, Alma is my priesthood hero.

A rock hard decision to be honest: Amulek is my hero for this attribute. We know that he was a well-known and successful man from a good family in Ammoniha. This is why his words to his people shocked them. In Alma 10, Amulek recognizes his place in his society, and then continues:

5 Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
 6 Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.

If these words had come from a man who was known to be dishonest, they would have meant nothing. But they came from Amulek, who, though spiritually unwilling to recognize God’s promptings, was respected in his society as an honest man. Because of his reputation, I can imagine the shock his words must have inspired because of the questions they would have stirred in the hearts of Amulek’s fellow citizens:  "why is Amulek doing this?" "I know he is honest, what explanation could there be?" And, "could I also have been wrong?"

I aspire to be like Amulek.… Honest in all things BOTH with myself and with others… willing to admit when I am wrong. For his example, Amulek is my priesthood of   hero.

I would like to add one attribute to Elder Eyring's list: a hunger for righteousness and knowledge. My priesthood hero for this attribute is Abraham. In Abraham 1:2 we read of Abraham's priesthood aspirations:

2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

I have a perfect knowledge of the "greater happiness and peace and rest" that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the ordinances of his priesthood. Because of this knowledge I am overwhelmed to relate with Abraham and his desire to follow righteousness and to possess a greater knowledge and to be a better father and priesthood holder. Because of this knowledge, I desire the same for all of my brothers and sisters.

For his perfection of desire, Abraham is my priesthood hero.

I give thanks this is day for all of my priesthood heroes, both scriptural and present. And say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Hey (Insert  my pet name for you here),

If word that has not reached you yet, we are moving! It's a long story that I'll leave to Amy to tell, but we've sold our home in Seattle and are under contract to purchase a home in Salt Lake City (hereafter to be known as "Basecamp 1"). We will finish packing over the next week and will drive out with the kids on Sunday May 4th. Though I haven't worked in quite some time, my official last day at Microsoft will be May 15th.

All-in-all,  I'm still in a bit of shock. Because we were not actively seeking a buyer for our house, and did not think we were willing to sell/move, we were honestly caught off guard by our own feeling (mine and then Amy's) that it was the right time to accept an offer we had previously felt comfortable turning down.  This move, for me, IS NOT about moving closer to family for more support or to prepare for _______. It IS about trusting an impression/prompting and "feeling" our way through life

Despite the strength of this feeling,  I have struggled daily with the thought of leaving our Seattle family. My "wiring" is to be fairly emotionally independent and free from most sentimentality (the exception to this is Amy...who I simply need to be around to be happy). This is why my "village departure anxiety" has been a surprise. I love you people and, with love comes the temptation to fear…fear for your well-being , happiness, progress, etc.  In relation to our move, I am not worried that we will be okay without you, or that you will be okay without us, but that you will be okay ABOUT us…especially given the Project…It's the same partially unrighteous desire I have, only more intense because it's for you, for everyone Amy and I know: that 'the Project' can be nothing but a blessing to all we meet; that you can be preserved from questioning this blessing by being preserved from seeing us struggle at times; that those around us can recognize the hand of God in their lives because they see it in ours; and that, in the Lord's time and way, our loved ones will be able to see an undeniable miracle (the type we hope for or otherwise) follow our collective faith. It's this same desire, combined with my pride, that makes me bristle when people try and take care of me. In their concern for my physical well-being, I fear that loved ones might not see my overwhelmingly greater need--that THEY see the bigger picture and live by greater faith as a result of the Lord's gift/trial to me and my family. I recognize this desire is riddled with imperfection AND that imperfect execution of an imperfect desire is no recipe for success, but I do want you to know what I want for you and, in the process, how you can best help me.

 Thank you for all of your help in this transition. Thanks also for understanding the chaos and emotion around this move.  Please vent as needed :-). 

 Your brother,

Monday, February 10, 2014

Medical update: drug trial end

Hi everyone,

As many of you may have heard, after meeting with our medical team, and weighing my own experience with the drug trial we began in September (little evidence of benefit and some evidence of detriment), Amy and I decided to end that drug trial and return to our search for therapies that will benefit at my condition. We feel we are already making progress and hope to update you soon. We are deeply grateful to the doctors and administrators at the University of Utah who made this trial possible for us, and to all of you for your support, prayers, and faith. You are truly heroes.



Repost (from 10-7-13): medical trial begins, fundraiser thank you!

The following is a repost of a blog entry written on October 7, 2013 that was accidentally deleted:


Hey all,

I apologize for not having written in quite some time. Following our return from Israel we spent the remainder of the summer visiting family and friends in Utah. We also used this time to meet with doctors at the University of Utah to explore irregularities, not known to be typical of ALS, in my lab work. Because many of these irregularities are more commonly associated with autoimmune disorders, we began to re-explore the idea of immunosuppressive therapy. Our exploration "just happened" to peak within days of a lecture at the University by my Boston-based neurologist--a lecture that included the theory that ALS may have a number of onset mechanisms including autoimmune irregularity. We also learn from her the details of an FDA approved drug trial of immunosuppressive therapy for ALS designed to test this.. Working directly with her, my University of Utah neurologist sought out and gained approval to treat me according to the FDA approved regimen. After rigorous baseline test, I began a six-month protocol on Friday, September 27th. My initial impression is that my body is handling the medication relatively well… I'll be sure to provide more detailed updates as we progress.

If this trial was the medical highlight of the past couple weeks, the clear emotional highlight was the outpouring of love and generosity we saw in the course of a fundraiser thrown for us by our dear friends Jenny and Paul Ahlstrom. The Tuesday before the trial began, Paul and Jenny called and informed us that they were launching a fundraiser for us. They asked for the email addresses of close friends and family, and an estimate of the costs we might incur for this trial. They launched the site on Friday morning just hours before my treatment began. Over the next 24 hours Amy and I were overwhelmed to the point of tears all day as family, friends, strangers, and numerous anonymous donors expressed support, hope, and faith for our family. The initial funding goal of $28,500 was raised within 24 hours, and you haven't stopped there…

I personally have never seen anything like this. I find myself overcome and unable to think about you people without becoming emotional. I find myself lying in bed at night, unable to sleep, thinking about the thoughts you shared on the site. I find myself wondering about you anonymous donors, and how I can possibly find you and thank you. I find myself thinking about whether I myself have missed similar opportunities to overwhelm someone as you have overwhelmed me. I made the following attempt to recapture some of the effect of this experience on me:

Our Design

Now clearly I see that the good around me exceeds my beliefs' incline,
as mere mortals I know surprised me and showed their actual nature divine,
when a trial I'd embraced as given by grace and thought I shouldered with few
was taken by many as if were were anything I trading places would do?

How do I allow, with fear on my own brow, expressions of faith unashamed
from strangers complete with no cause for deceit, my burden communally claimed?

Why so sublime, such a blow to my mind, to learn of prayers for me by many
when in weakness of self my village I'd shelved, to be used maybe later if any?

Truly, how do I live when Angels would give everything to give me their turn
when these Angels, though clothed in mortality's robe, love I unworthily earn?

It seems all too clear the debt is to dear, this burden giv'n not for repay,
but to be passed along when sufficiently strong, I'll be Angel on love's needful day

I'll cry for my brother and weary the father though I see at best through dark glass
reaching out to new length seeking for a strength to act, though unsure, I will act!

My fear put aside, imperfection in stride, I'll express unashamed what I know
with unfurrowed brow, empowered somehow, finding grace lights my steps as I go.

Though I've only stooped shoulders, twas never a boulder so big it could never be moved,
no trial built so broad, by man or by God, that together we'll never improve.

I will not forget, though we are mortals yet, that in each of us rest the divine
that kernel is so good that, once understood, we believe and achieve, our design.

I love you and thank you all.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Conversation With A Friend

A recent conversation with a close friend provided some powerful lessons to me… I wanted to share a little of what I learned.

Amy and I were surprised when a dear friend of ours, though a self-described atheist, asked if she could speak with us about our beliefs / religion. My initial reaction was to be both excited and nervous--excited to talk openly about something we care so much about, and nervous about discussing something so sensitive as religion with someone we care so much about. We responded that we recognized the sensitivity of this topic, but were happy to share our personal experiences if it would be helpful.

A few days later our friend came to our home. She explained that she had had some recent experiences that had made her truly curious for the first time in her life about faith/religion. She further explained that she had seen many desirable things in her interaction with our Church's members, but had a few questions about our beliefs. She then said, "So… My main questions are about your beliefs in divorce, tithing, women's roles in the Church, and homosexuality."…MAN! I had never been asked such an explicit question by such a sincere person. Though I won't attempt to share here the specifics of our conversation (I've found it difficult/impossible to accurately recapture a conversation in writing), I will share that, for the next couple hours, we had one of those truly rare experiences of open, honest, high-fidelity, additive-free communication in which nothing is held back on either side...including convictions, beliefs, fears, aspirations, hopes, and tears.

I want to thank this friend publicly for one of the most memorable conversations of my life. Since that conversation, I've thought daily about what made it possible for us to have such a unique experience--our friends' example of being honest with self and with others, about living in a state of "remodeling" and willingness to seek out truth wherever we find it, about being open to reconsidering long-held assumptions, and about not fearing to seek answers to the BIGGEST questions of our hearts. Her example has led me to "re-test" many of my own beliefs and to seek to deepen and broaden my understanding of truths I learned years ago.

Because I continue to believe in "truth"--my definition has not yet changed since THIS blog entry--and believe that we can seek out and find truth, I believe that all honest seekers will, eventually, whether in this life or the next, come to the same understanding. Along the way, until/towards that day, I pray that I will be more like my friend (and that more of my friends will be more like her as well), and that conversations of this type become less rare… Ask me anything :-)

All my thanks,