Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Religious Feature (LDS Youth): Standing as a Witness Online

Have you ever been in a crowded room where everyone was talking but you?

The Internet can feel like that room—everyone seems to be shouting an opinion! Some of what you hear is true, but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there. As members of the Church we need to help spread truth by joining the conversation.

Church leaders are asking us to take part in online discussions. Elder David A. Bednar recently issued a challenge to use social media to “sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth.” He said that what has been accomplished “is a good beginning—but only a small trickle. I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood.”

A great way to help create that flood is to add a blog to the social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) you may already use. The advantage of a blog is that it becomes your own personal virtual room where you can express yourself however you want. Some people use blogs to express opinions, share their ideas for Personal Progress, communicate gospel messages, or teach a skill.

Religious Feature (LDS Adults): Crowding Out the Darkness

As my alarm clock rang, I opened my eyes and sighed. A pervasive feeling of gloom, like a gray cloud, had settled in lately. I knew the feeling well, having suffered before with bouts of mild depression.

As I lay in bed I wondered what I could possibly do to feel better. My gaze drifted to the nightstand and the book I’d been reading about the Atonement. Had I truly been trusting the Savior to help carry my burdens?

I thought about how I was spending my time. Although my family had been pretty faithful in scripture time and prayers, I realized with regret that I’d become casual in my personal habits. I got on my knees and prayed for wisdom.

Religious Feature (LDS Children): My Prayer Was Answered in a Different Way

“Natalie! It’s getting late. Time to come in!” my dad called from the porch.

I was racing toward the orange bandana peeking from behind a bush. “I’ll be right there!” I yelled as I ran.

I found it! My friends cheered as I held up the other team’s flag. One friend said it would be fun to play again, but a few shook their heads and said it was getting too dark. I handed the flag to a friend. “Sorry, I have to go.”

I crossed the street and opened the door. Dad smiled at me. “That looked like a good game.”

“I was so fast. Did you see me find the last flag?” I said.

“Way to go!” He gave me a hug. “Now see how fast you can get ready for bed.”

I walked to my room. My teddy bears looked so inviting on the yellow bedspread. As I stretched and yawned, my right hand brushed against my ear. Oh, no! My earring was gone! My hands flew to my left ear, where I felt the other earring. I took it out and cradled it in my hand. My special new earrings! One must have fallen out as I was playing capture the flag.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Press Release: Salt Lake Choral Artists in Utah Premiere of "Orpheus Lex"

SALT LAKE CITY (July 26, 2014)--Salt Lake Vocal Artists invite you to join them for a thrilling autumn season opener, the Utah premiere of the opera "Orpheus Lex" by local composer Marie Nelson Bennett. While the original opera is a full-length, two-act piece, this performance will be presented as a multimedia concert on September 13, 7:00 p.m., at Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Soloists are soprano Alisa Peterson playing Eurydice and baritone Tyler Oliphant as Orpheus, with Michael J. Bennett in the role of narrator.

Renowned Salt Lake writer David Kranes wrote the libretto for this modern version of the classic Greek tale, setting it in a rustic cabin in Idaho, with the conflict twisted to become that Orpheus cannot look back--in time. The law, or lex, decrees that if he remembers Eurydice he will lose her again. Throughout the opera there is an exquisite tension as the characters devise ways to avoid remembering each other so they can remain together.

“Orpheus Lex” was composed by Marie Nelson Bennett, who has made a name for herself internationally. She earned degrees at the University of Utah as well as at the Yale School of Music, where she studied with famed composer Paul Hindemith. Her music has been performed and recorded by multiple orchestras, including the London Symphony, Prague Symphony, Slovak Radio Symphony, Czech Radio symphony, Seattle Symphony, Concordia, Boston Modern Orchestra, Utah Symphony, and Salt Lake Symphony. Some of the distinguished conductors she has worked under are Gerard Schwarz, Joseph Silverstein, Marin Alsop, Gil Rose, Robert Stankovsky, Vladimir Valek, Roger Briggs, Joel Rosenberg, David Cho, and Harold Rosenbaum.

PSA: "Orpheus Lex"

A modern twist on the love story for the ages: the Utah premiere of “Orpheus Lex” by Marie Nelson Bennett, presented by Salt Lake Vocal Artists with conductor Dr. Brady Allred. Special guests include Alisa Peterson, Tyler Oliphant, and Michael J. Bennett. Hear the music that was hailed at its New York premiere as “gripping, sensuous, and sublime,” on September 13, 7 p.m., Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Tickets and info at

Product Review: Kodak Playsport Zx5 Waterproof Pocket Video Camera

Ratings (out of four stars)
     Video/Image Quality- 3
     Integrated Memory- 2
     Additional features- 3.5
Ease of Use: 3
Support: 3.5
Verdict: Overall rating 3. The Kodak Zx5 is an excellent value for shooting video at the beach or pool or on the go.

Quick Look
Pro: Video quality is good on this simple-to-use waterproof pocket camcorder that can withstand the elements.
Con: The unremovable battery means you’ll have to watch that you’re not running out of juice.

Review (648 words)
While smart phones are convenient, using them for every task—like shooting video—is like trying to use only a screwdriver to build a house. The Kodak Playsport Zx5 Video Camera gives you another tool that’s still pocket-sized but powerful enough for the job. With its HD image capability and the durability of a rugged action video recorder, your on-the-go videos will actually be enjoyable to watch and share.

One of the best features of the Zx5 is that it can take some abuse. No more worrying about accidental drops or protecting your camcorder from splashes at the pool. This recorder shoots underwater up to 10 feet and is dustproof and shockproof, resisting damage when dropped from 5 feet. The rubber coating also makes it easy to grip, even in water. It’s perfect for adventures from the skate park to skiing.

Personal Essay: Why I Won't Do Black Friday Madness Anymore

The first time I shopped Black Friday was 11 years ago. We woke up at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at Wal-Mart just in time for the 6:00 a.m. opening. (How quaint!) The parking lot had fewer cars than on a normal shopping day, but quite a few started pulling in as the store opened.

Images from
The seasoned Black Friday shopper knows what came next: Feeling the fierce adrenaline rush. Dividing and conquering with a map of the store and an ad in hand. Pushing past the slow people wrestling a cart. Grabbing the $6 jeans off the already-messy display.  Feeling the electricity of this mad swarm.

I love bargains. My first Black Friday was a bit of a rush: I felt initiated. Crazy shopping for 20 minutes, standing in line to buy for an hour, and then home and back to bed for a lazy morning. O what fun it is to shop!

Having done it once, over the next several years it slipped into a bit of a tradition. You know, flip through the newspaper ads while the turkey is cooking. Find the thing we couldn't live without. Plan out how to best hit a few stores.

Movie Review: Inspiring "Meet the Mormons" Challenges Stereotypes

Have you ever been watching the evening news and finally just turned it off in disgust at all of the depressing stories? Have you, like me, said, "Why is the news just about all the bad things that happen in the world? Why doesn't anyone tell the stories of people doing good and making the world better?"

"Meet the Mormons" is that kind of good news we've been looking for. Six ordinary people--all Mormons--are profiled in this inspirational feature film. It was such a nice change to see news of people making a difference in the world, even just through small actions.

The church is also putting goodness into the world by donating proceeds from the movie to the American Red Cross. The ARC commented on the "Meet the Mormons" Facebook page: "We are grateful that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has selected the Red Cross as one of the primary beneficiaries for the proceeds from its film, Meet the Mormons. The support of the Church and its members is important in our work providing blood to patients in need and enabling the Red Cross to respond to disasters big and small."

Feature Article: Cover Story on Elizabeth Dole

Cover story, profile on Elizabeth Dole: "We've Received That We Might Give"
Published in FranklinCovey's Priorities magazine, Volume 2, Issue 6

Interview by Mark Cook, publisher and editor of Priorities
Written by Jennifer Hughes

It's almost un-American to ask who Elizabeth Dole is. Wife of former senator and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, "Liddy," as she is called, is actually considered a good bet for the 2000 presidential election herself (although she quickly denies any plans to run). But she's too busy for politics right now. She is president of the American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization that helps victims of some 60,000 domestic disasters a year. She has family relationships to ten to, including a "beautiful marriage" and her 97-year-old mother who is her "best friend." She has daily time set aside for devotional and exercise. And as if that weren't enough, she's always looking for something more to do.

A Life of Opportunities
Elizabeth Hanford Dole has the charming accent of a Southern belle from her childhood in the small town of Salisbury, North Carolina. She grew up in the lovely Southern home that is easy to picture as she speaks — complete with a magnolia tree. Her parents encouraged their children to succeed early. "They were very unselfish, and they wanted me to do things that would broaden my horizons," explains Mrs. Dole. She speaks glowingly of her parents, as if they were mentors and friends instead of authority figures. "[My mother] has certainly been a great influence in my life because she's very unselfish, very giving, always thinking of other people."

Mary Hanford taught Elizabeth by example from a young age to be generous with her time and resources. "Even now when I call home, more often than not there's a young person there. They come to her for help with a term paper and she'll gather material for them, or they need a little money to go on a Christian mission in Romania or maybe she'll call me," Mrs. Dole laughs, "and say, 'There's this very worthy young man here. Can't you find him a little job in Washington?'"

Personal Essay: To Choir, with Love

I love singing, but my favorite kind is in a group. For just a few moments, everyone is totally united in a single purpose: to make beautiful music.

I've sung in a choir pretty much nonstop since I was in grade school. For the last few years I've been especially privileged to sing under Dr. Brady Allred with Salt Lake Choral Artists. Singing in a choir creates unique connections. I may not actually know much about my choir neighbors, but as we meet together once a week, we become friends.

Choral singing may sound easy, but consider that a singer's instrument is more complex than any other--essentially the whole body. The act of singing is very physical and sensorial, and singing with others is especially intimate. We actually absorb each other's sound waves. They vibrate against our eardrums and tap telegraphic messages to our brains. If everyone sings just right--in just the same way--these sound waves weave together in an invisible though very real tapestry.