Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Time 2009 - DC

A little early b-day celebration for Dustin.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Boston Education Conference

Warning:  This recap of my weekend is NOT short. 

Friday morning I woke up really early, got on a plane, and flew to Boston to attend a big singles education conference (there were approximately 600 singles, mostly from the east coast).  Since I arrived well before the rest of my group, I rented a car and went straight to the Boston Temple.  I was able to do a regular session plus some sealings.  I think I was the only non-temple worker in the building.  The temple grounds were very nice, but I was told that just a week or two ago the whole place was enveloped in brilliant colors.  Before I went in for the session I checked my camera at the front desk.  When I was in the dressing room after the session, the temple worker came up and asked me if I was Daniel Ogden.  I said yes.  He wanted to know if Daniel Ogden had already left because he was worried that I had left my camera.  Then he asked if I knew a Kelly Ogden.  I told him that was my Dad.  He said he took one of Dad’s classes at BYU a few years ago.

After my nice, peaceful temple experience I got back in the car to head out on the not-so-peaceful Boston roads.  After driving around the Boston area for three days I think I’m qualified to say that Boston driving is crazier than DC driving.  I’m not a fan.  Even with my GPS I took wrong roads quite a few times. 

I drove to the house where I was planning on staying for the weekend.  A friend had set me up with a house of LDS guys so I wouldn’t have get a hotel room.  Now that the weekend is over, I should have paid for a hotel room. J  When I arrived they showed me the couch where I would be sleeping.  The house was a large and very old (run down) Boston home.  It was cold!  I changed my clothes, rested for a few minutes, and then I went back to the airport to pick up three girls who also came in from DC.  We drove over to the place where they were going to stay for the weekend.  It was also a run down, old Boston home……with 10 guys living in it (some LDS and some not).  For one reason or another, all three of them ended up staying elsewhere.  One decided to go with her original host (a LDS family with small children) and the other two got a hotel room.  I decided to change my location to the house with 10 guys so I would be with a few of the people in my group and a little closer to the events of the weekend. 



Mary, Sara, Leslie and I decided to go see something and get some dinner before I had to go back one more time to the airport to pick up Diana and Rachel (also coming in from DC).  We drove over to Mt. Auburn Cemetery and thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous trees and gravesites.  Dad’s name came up again while we were driving around the cemetery.  Leslie said she knew Dad from years ago when she worked on a project that he and Terri (Terry?) Warner were involved in.  We talked for a few minutes about what a great Dad I have. 

We ate dinner at a little place with home cookin’.  It was recommended to us by a local man.  Then it was off to the airport to pick up Diana and Rachel and back to get some sleep before the big conference.  I got up really early again the next morning because I wanted to shower and be ready before the girls (another one had joined the other two) needed the bathrooms (not to mention the other 10 residents). 


I tried to raise the dead.  Didn't work.
Leslie, Mary, Sara
Looking out over Boston

Saturday morning was amazing.  We spent the entire morning listening to Elder Ballard, Elder (Clayton) Christensen, and David Neeleman (founder of JetBlue).  Elder Ballard spoke first.  He talked about Prop 8 and the need to defend the Church and the things we teach.  He discussed the need to control our passions and appetites in order to build our spiritual side.  He talked about pornography.  He said that if anyone in the audience had a problem with pornography, “…in the name of the Lord I call upon you to repent.”  He told those who struggle with anger to “stop it,” and to those who have a problem with honesty to “fix it.”  He said that our quest is to keep our heads on straight and do everything we can to prepare ourselves spiritually for the day we leave this world.

He told us that every first Thursday of the month the General Authorities who happen to be in the Salt Lake area gather in the temple.  They participate in the Sacrament and a few of them are invited to share their testimonies with the others.  He said that he had been given permission to share some of the minutes from one of those meetings that took place back in 1997.  During that particular meeting President Hinckley got up after the testimonies and shared some thoughts with the group.  President Hinckley asked the brethren why the Church lost so many of its members.  He said, “They have a mental conversion but don’t experience the spiritual conversion….the power and deep conversion of the Spirit is what our members need to get into their hearts, to confirm what they agreed to in their minds, and that will carry them through every storm of adversity.” 

Elder Ballard said that members are always asking them why the General Authorities repeat things every General Conference (prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, family home evening, service, etc).  His answer to us was, “When people are doing all those things we’ll try to find Kolob or something more lofty like that.” J

At the end of his remarks he said, “I know you wanted me to talk about marriage.  It’s simple.  Just find somebody and get married.  Don’t hang out.  Date.  Do they hang out here?  I know they do at BYU.  We’re trying to fight that but I think we’re losing the battle.”  He told us to remember that no one is perfect.

After he finished, he invited people to ask questions for a few minutes.  Two of the questions were about homosexuality.  “It’s simple.  God commanded us to multiply and replenish the Earth and to keep the Law of Chastity.” 

He spoke for a few more minutes about religious freedoms and the need to defend them.  He brought up the defense of marriage again.  As part of his testimony he said, “I wouldn’t do this for a million dollars, but I’ll do it for the Lord.”

Elder Christensen (a professor at the Harvard Business School) and Bro. Neeleman (founder of JetBlue and the More Good Foundation) spoke to us about missionary work.  The title of our conference was “Spread The Word – Innovative Ideas For Sharing The Gospel.”  Here are some of the ideas (from our information packet) shared by Elder Christensen on how to be better member missionaries:

1.     We cannot predict – nor should we judge from appearance, language, or lifestyle – who, of all the people we might meet, is prepared to learn of the gospel.  Only the Lord knows this.”

2.     Transforming our relationships with others into deeper friendships as a means of “preparing” them to receive our invitation is not only unnecessary – it often is deceitful.  We can invite friends, neighbors, work associates, classmates, store clerks, and fellow travelers to learn.  As long as we do so in an open, straightforward way in which they can feel our love for them, they will not be offended.

3.     Most people who live in prosperous circumstances have a deeper need to give service than to receive help.  We rarely connect with their needs when we suggest that the gospel will help them become better, happier people.  But when we ask them to join with us as we serve others in the kingdom of God, it often fulfills an important need in their lives.  Just as we feel the Spirit when serving the Lord, they can too – and some of them will realize that something important has been missing in their lives.

4.     People can’t exercise their free agency if we do not give them the opportunity to choose the gospel.  We therefore succeed as member missionaries when we invite.  Those who we invite succeed when they use their agency to accept the gospel.

5.     Most people – even those with graduate degrees from the best universities – don’t know how to pray or how to find answers to their questions in the scriptures.  If we teach them how to do these things through “homework” assignments, the Holy Ghost and the Book of Mormon will do the “heavy lifting” of conversion.

6.     Things get done when we have deadlines.  If we commit to God that we will find someone to introduce to the missionaries by a specific date, and if we take the commitment so seriously that we become desperate to find someone, then God knows He can trust us to invite him or her – and He will put someone in our path who will accept our invitation.

 

From Bro. Neeleman:

1.     Ordinary is extraordinary.  The internet is a place where the next door neighbor has become an online superstar.  The world is looking to people like you for answers about topics like faith.  The non-authority, or ordinary, relatable “peer” is today’s authority.  Many are skeptical of authorized sites.  This can present a problem if the seeker is not willing to seek information about the Church on www.lds.org.

2.     The internet is today’s card catalog.  It is the research tool of choice today.  We must first be aware of what is on file and seek to make sure proper representation is found.  Everyone can participate in having their thoughts visible on the Internet.  Our critics have identified this medium and we should also occupy virtual real estate.

3.     Bridging the gap.  We cannot expect that the online investigator is accustomed to our terminology and acronyms or shares in our self-image.  We must become educated regarding what is said about us.  Through our efforts we can remedy online shortfalls, which the Church simply cannot address alone.  As lay members of the Church, we can become online friends to investigators around the world.

4.     Anonymity is a major component to the effectiveness of online investigations.  What we share online may be read and accepted without our knowledge.  As the Savior told his future apostles to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, we must trust that the Lord can see the fish and that with our nets they can be gathered.

5.     If we build it…they will come.  We have the opportunity to use today’s literal gathering “net” by participating in the online discussion.  The preferred sites today for opinion or expression are often found on the blogs of ordinary people or in living room videos posted to YouTube.  These venues allow us to freely participate in the gospel discussion.  We must remember that each of our histories and Church experiences will relate uniquely to someone who is seeking.  In short, if we are organized and work together we can flood the Internet with light and drown out the anti-Mormon voices which have dominated for too long.

6.     With declining numbers of missionaries, discussions and baptisms, and populations ever increasing, now more than ever before we have the opportunity to reach out in support of the missionary cause.  With our help missionaries can fill their rightful role as ordinance workers.  Our missionaries need our help.  We can be a figurative “Air Force” to support them.  We must be prayerful and thoughtful in how we can best assist in the online cause.

 

Before Bro. Neeleman began his talk he told us that he couldn’t sympathize with our situation because he was married two months after he returned from serving a mission.  He said that guys are the problem.  “Most of you are 7’s looking for 10’s.” 

He said that the only thing to change people’s opinions is to get them to come to Church.  There’s no reason to argue about things.  Just get them to Church and let them find out for themselves.

He spoke quite a bit about anti-Mormon websites and he mentioned one (www.fairlds.org) that is a great counter-anti-Mormon website.  He shared some of the feelings he had before he started the More Good Foundation.  “I wanted to scatter their horses.  I wanted to go to India and hire the best hackers to hack into every anti-Mormon website and put a picture of the angel Moroni blowing his trumpet every time someone accessed one of those sites.  I wanted to call it [the More Good Foundation] the Porter Rockwell Foundation.  I wanted vengeance.”

He told us all kinds of things he’s been doing to battle the anti-Mormon Internet offensive.  There are 245 More Good Foundation websites.  He bought up 1400 domain names so that when people do a search for words like Mormon, polygamy, Joseph Smith, or anything else dealing with the Church, there would be more pro-Mormon websites in their Google search results than anti-Mormon websites.  He wasn’t kidding about flooding the Internet with the truth.  There are over 350,000 monthly visitors to the sites he started.

He said that members should watch more of the Church-related videos posted on YouTube because the more people that watch them the higher position they get on YouTube.  The most-viewed videos are right on the front page of YouTube.  He talked about making a blog and posting what we learn every Sunday in church, baring our testimonies, sharing spiritual thoughts, etc.

We skipped out on the second half of the conference Saturday afternoon because Rachel’s brother (Matt) offered to take us sailing.  During the second half of the conference everyone was split into groups to come up with ideas to help the Church with missionary work.

Sailing was fun even though we didn’t put up the sail.  It was too windy.  As you can see, I got a little wet from the wind and the waves.  
Pretending to know what I'm doing
Matt - The real captain
Wind + Waves
Lighthouse on an Island
All of the poop from Boston goes into those big jars
Annie came with us on the boat

Saturday night we had the masquerade ball at the Harvard Club (pretty fancy place).  Dancing was fun and the girls were pretty, but I’m too tired to type any more about that. J

Matt, Mary, Diana, Sara, and Leslie wandering around Boston

We had Stake Conference (Sunday morning) back at the Marriott Hotel (same place where the Education Conference was held).  Mitt Romney and his wife were there.  The Cambridge Stake President spoke along with Elder Eyring (of the Seventy) and Elder Ballard.  There were a ton of kids this time, so it was harder to pay attention.  Plus, I had just dropped off the girls, taken a wrong turn on my way to the parking garage, ended up on the highway, and had to come back through a toll booth to get back to the (free) parking garage.  I arrived 15 minutes late and somewhat frustrated with the Boston roads.  I got mad at God when I took that wrong turn because there I was trying to get to Stake Conference to be spiritually uplifted, and He wasn’t helping me J.  I have since repented. 

Oh, so after I got soaked on the boat (Saturday afternoon), I wanted to wash my clothes to get all the salt out.  Our host’s house had a washer, but no dryer, so I washed my clothes and hung them on the clotheslines.  It rained that night.  I used a hair dryer the next morning to dry a pair of black socks for Stake Conference.  

We all wandered around Boston after Stake Conference and then I had to drop everyone off at the airport.  I didn’t fly back to DC until this morning (Monday).  I’m exhausted and excited for some good sleep in my bed.  It was a fantastic weekend!  Now I know what it’s like to be a taxi driver in Boston. J


Yes, I was wearing my suit pants with tennis shoes and my BYU hoody.  My jeans were drying on the clothesline.


This is a picture of my new license plate.  I didn’t want to give up my Utah plates so I did this to keep my connection to Utah.  I’m doing missionary work with my license plates, right?  People will either ask me questions about the Church or slash my tires because I have four wives and I’m a bigot who doesn’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle. 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

30 years!

Well, I am no longer in my 20's.  Isn't it amazing how time goes by?  It's been a good birthday week.

Wednesday night a group of us went to a restaurant called Carlyle to celebrate Marlene's b-day (the 21st) and my b-day (the 24th).  I ate a delicious salad with salmon, dates, pecans, new potatoes, and cranberries all mixed together.  It had a yummy dressing on it too.
Tia made an amazing cake and had the restaurant hold on to it for us until we finished dinner.  It was awesome, Tia!
Gabe and I took off really yesterday morning to head down to southern Virginia.  Our first stop was Yogaville.  Yes, there really is a place called Yogaville (Satchidananda Ashram) where people go to relax, do yoga, meditate, and eat vegetarian food.  We wandered around their beautiful land and then ate breakfast with them.  We met a guy named Snehan (meaning "friend" in whatever language they use....Sanskrit, I believe), who told us about some of the things they believe.  He said that their way of life isn't a religion (they embrace all religions).  I don't know why, but for some reason I was thinking that I was going to have a feast of biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc., but when we walked into their cafeteria I was reminded that these are yoga people.  They had oatmeal, organic cereals, fruit, plain yoghurt, rice cakes, and rice and soy milk.  Ha!  At least it was healthy. :)

This is where their spiritual guru is buried.  He died six years ago.  Hey Mom, do you like my shirt? :)  That shirt was in the birthday box Mom sent me.  I thought it would be appropriate to reach back to my childhood roots on my 30th birthday.
Overlooking their Lotus Temple


This sign was in the bathroom at the cafeteria.
Our next stop was the LDS Church's Southern Virginia University (SVU) in Buena Vista.  It's very small (I think they have around 1000 students), but very pretty.  It was dedicated in the 1870's.
Gabe sporting the shirt we bought in Yogaville.  It says "Truth is one.  Paths are many."  In and around the lotus flower are the symbols for all the religions of the world.  If you're wondering about the knight, that's the mascot of SVU.

We stopped by Montpelier and almost went to see the home of James Madison, but when I saw the brochure I realized that it's very similar to George Washington's home and property in Mount Vernon and we didn't want to pay (and spend time) to see more of the same stuff.  So we decided to come back up north.
I went over to Tia's apartment when we got back to D.C.  They made some chocolate chip cookie bars and lit some matches (we didn't have any candles) for my birthday.  I'm not sure I deserve the treatment I get at that apartment.  Great friends!

Yesterday I thought about the last 30 years of my life.  I sure have a lot to be grateful for.  I have a wonderful family, fantastic friends, and a good job.  I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ and I serve the God who has blessed me throughout my time on Earth.  Life really is good! 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Palmyra

A few hours into our 7-hour trip up to Palmyra we stopped for breakfast and found this furry thing stuck to my grill.  Gabe was so hungry he couldn't wait to get into the restaurant.
The beautiful Palmyra Temple

Gabe in front of the Palmyra Temple.  When we arrived at the temple it was pouring rain.  By the time I finished the session we were able to take all of these pictures.  It was perfect.
The reason I have such a big smile on my face is because just a few seconds before the picture I watched Gabe step in a huge puddle full of water.  It went all the way up his ankle.
We took a picture with the guy who knocked Lehi onto the ground.  At least he was friendly before the pageant started. 

We were part of history that night.  It was only the second time they have ever cancelled the pageant due to rain.  Actually, it wasn't just the rain that forced them to cancel the pageant.  There was a lot of lightning too, and with all those people standing out on a stage on the hillside, it wasn't the best thing to be doing during a lightning storm.
Mormon is a big guy.
Sunday morning we woke up early so we could be alone in the Sacred Grove.  It was really peaceful, and pretty cold too.
Sun coming through the Sacred Grove.
At the top of the Hill Cumorah

Margaret (taking the picture) made us a tasty breakfast of pancakes, potatoes, eggs, infidel meat (sausage), and orange juice.  She even got the eggs from the chickens behind the house.  Yummy!  We stayed at her home for the one night we had in Palmyra.  It's a little Bed & Breakfast only two miles from the temple.
A couple more pictures in the Sacred Grove
Me, Anna, Gabe, Afton, Stephanie, and Jeff

Sunday, June 14, 2009

750m Swim, 17.5 mile bike, 5k run

Mary, Cherie, and I took off on Friday down to Asheville, North Carolina, to participate in the Enka (Sprint) Triathlon. It was a fun weekend despite the thrashing I gave my body. I did not train for the event and I will never do that again (not training).

We started with a 750 meter swim in a beautiful lake. I was in the first of four waves. By the time I finished the swim, everyone but about five people had passed me. We're talking young teenage girls, old men, everyone! The swimming killed me. I should mention that I have had pretty bad back pain for over a month and I was getting a cold at the same time as the race (excuses, excuses).

After the swim I jumped on my (rental) road bike and headed out for the 17.5 miles through gorgeous North Carolina hills. I caught up with Mary and we chatted the rest of the way. The 5k run was the last part and I barely made it to the finish line. I was exhausted.

Trying on my swim gear.  They marked both of my arms (166), both of my thighs, and they put "30" on my right calf (supposedly my age).


I finished in 2 hours 25 minutes.  To give you an idea of how slow I must have been going, there was a man in the 70-74 age category who finished in 2 hours 20 minutes.
The lake we swam in
Me, Cherie, and Mary
Walking the bikes back to the car.  What a fun time!
Mary had to go further south for work, so Cherie and I drove over to the Biltmore Estate to check out the largest house in the United States.  I highly recommend it.  Gorgeous house, gorgeous gardens, lands, etc, etc.  Absolutely stunning.  They even had a bowling alley built in the basement.