Satan exists. His power is real. This is why an understanding of his motivations and methods is critical to our survival. Shedding Light on the Dark Side will help both youth and adults understand the Adversary and his tactics so they can stand fearlessly on the Lord’s side in this battle of good and evil. Find out more…
I vividly remember one Easter morning many years ago. I was a teenager and had been out on a Saturday night, being stupid with my friends. Oh, nothing illegal, or immoral, or particularly irresponsible and destructive to society at large. Just your basic, aimless, waste-of-time, 16 year-old stupid. That night I drove. My car was an unimpressive, blue, 4-door Chevy II that probably wouldn’t have beaten a skateboard in a downhill race. But it got us from here to there in the Southeast LA semi-ghetto where I grew up. That night it had taken us from here to there on our last free night of Easter break and we had enjoyed the ride. But eventually, somewhere around 3 am, we decided to call it a night. After dropping all my buddies off, I hung out with my best friend, Tino for a while, and then walked out to my car a few houses away on the residential street.
Then I noticed her — a woman sitting alone on her front steps, illuminated by the blue light of a street lamp. Well, she wasn’t really alone. She was sitting with a dog. And it wasn’t just any dog. It was a huge german shepherd leaning devotedly against her. But for the moment I wasn’t much aware of the dog. I was too enraptured with how good my life was to notice those kinds of details. After all, I was young, the night was fresh and mild, and Spring was in the California air. In general, I was feeling pretty pleased with existence. So, as I opened the car door I cheerfully said, “Happy Easter.”
Her answer took me off guard. ”Ha,” she said. ”To you maybe.”
Now, I was just empty headed enough as a teenager to think that this was an invitation to discuss the matter. So, stepping from the car, I shut the door and leaned over the hood. “Why would you say a thing like that,,” I said, “on this of all mornings?”
“Oh, yea,” she slurred bitterly, “Easter!” She took a long breath and a deep, deliberate pause. “Well, Easter means nothin’ to me. Just another day that was worse than the day before.” Now it was obvious to me that the woman was drunk. But in my teenage brilliance, I thought to myself, “What a marvelous teaching opportunity!” So I boldly rounded the car and marched up her walkway to share with her the joyous reality of what little I knew of Jesus Christ and God’s Great Plan of Happiness for his children — drunk or sober.
That’s when I noticed the dog. Because it was precisely at that moment that the woman ordered the dog to attack me. Instantly Maslow’s heirarchy of needs kicked into operation, In my case my thoughts transformed from those of a 16 year-old who wanted to share the Gospel, to those of a 16 year-old who wanted desperately to be a 17 year-old. I reached the driver’s door of the car one step ahead of the bounding German shepherd. As my hand touched the door handle, I realized in a burst of inspiration, that if I took the time to open the car door, I wouldn’t be getting into the car alone. So, I chose the next best alternative. I sprang with all my strength on the handle and hurled byself on top of the car.
I lay there panting for a good minute before I struggled up to peer over the edge of the roof at the growling dog, and then at the stone-faced woman on the steps 20 feet away. I spent the next hour an top of my Chevy II on that deserted street 3 in the morning. Just me, and the lady, and the dog. Every time I made any effort to get down from the roof of the car, or even raised my voice, the dog made an excited attempt to devour me. Neither was there any reasoning with the woman, who was quite content that I remain there. And since the dog was in perfect agreement with her, I finally gave up the argument and sat cross-legged on the roof of my little beat-up Chevrolet, while our teaching experience continued.
I don’t remember much of what was said. I’m sure it wasn’t very profound. (I was 16 for crying out loud!) I do remember we talked the world, about life, the Savior and Easter. After I’d been captive for quite some time she finally unloaded on me. ”Look,” she drawled, “you’re a just a kid. You haven’t lived as long as I have or as hard as I have. You don’t know anything about me and you don’t know anything about life. But I do. And it all means nothing. And that’s why I’ve done this tonight.”
“So,” I asked her, “is drinking the only way you can think of to give any meaning to life?” The night grew quiet. i waited self-righteously, thinking I’d said something very clever.
Then after a long pause she began to laugh. ”Drinking? You think I’ve been drinking! I’m not drunk,” grew serious. ”I’m dying. A little while ago I swallowed a whole bottle of sleeping pills. And in a little while longer it will all be over. And you get to sit up there on top of your car and watch.”
Suddenly all my words were vain, and empty, and meaningless as I was struck with the horror of what I’d been watching. And it was all the more horrifying and ironic that on this morning celebrating the event which gave life to all humanity, this woman was taking hers away.
With far more at stake that a few hours of lost sleep, I watched the dog more carefully as the woman became more disoriented. Within a few minutes I siezed my opportunity, leaped to the ground, wrenched open the car door and jumped inside, just ahead of the snarling dog. I sped away and was fortunate enought to find a policeman. (There was a donut shop only a few blocks away.) I breathlessly told the officer about the woman — and the dog. He thanked me, called for backup, and with his lights flashing, raced around the corner.
I sighed and drove wearily home where I fell into bed, only to awake a few hours later, thinking differently about Easter and about life than I ever had before. I never did find out about the woman, whether she lived or died. But what stuck in my mind was the burning question, “What does Easter mean to us?”
To some it is merely a vacation day. To others it is a work day. To children it is an innocent fantasy. And to the cynics it is a stupid tradition, an “opiate for the masses”, mired in a bog of religious superstition not far removed from their own relative morality and political correctness. Through it all, most of the world has lost sight of the simple reality that changed the world one spring morning some 2000 years ago — that Jesus Christ lives. And because He lives, we shall live also. And we will live forever.
May we all enjoy a Happy Easter. And may we ponder for a moment what that reality truly means for all of us.
My time has been pretty much occupied lately with the editing of my novel, Persona Non Grata, which goes to press in May. But in the midst of that “busy work” I have made a little time for a few important things. And by important things, I mean genuine “people” things that have nothing to do with fiction. Things that are real life. Lindsey Stirling pays a lot of attention to the real things of life. Whereas most of us are pretty wrapped up in what I call “the thick of thin things”, Lindsey takes the time to get involved in “the thick of thick things”.
For example, last month on March 21, Lindsey contributed her talents to “One Night for One Drop”, a benefit performed by Cirque du Soleil to promote and support worldwide access to water. The single evening performance, held in Las Vegas, was a dazzling philanthropic event that raised both hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as public awareness that we do indeed live in a thirsty world. Lindsey was there, playing the violin and dancing for many of the nation’s wealthy ‘crem de la crem’ assembled in the Michael Jackson ONE Theatre. It was a gala event and all who were there donated their time and gifts to a worthy cause.
But the day before, Lindsey was donating her talents in another part of town, far from the bright lights of the strip. Answering a quiet invitation, the dancing violinist appeared at two schools for special needs children on the outskirts of Las Vegas. She showed up without fanfare, without publicity and without her band. Just a girl with a fiddle and an ipod to plug into the sound sustem. And she played and danced. Children who’s needs are simple and whose hearts are huge listened and lit up like sparklers on the 4th of July as the miracle of music touched their souls. The hip-hop violinist spoke in a magic language to probably less than a hundred special little people who found joy and applauded with smiles and light hearts. That is enough ovation for Lindsey Stirling on such occasions. She loves these simple and wonderful venues.
One week ago, Lindsey came home for a day. The event: a special fundraising event in Mesa, Arizona for a good friend, McKindrie Patton, who courageously struggles with an expremely rare blood disorder. Lindsey performed for an hour. When the applause was done, and she stepped off the makeshif platform that had been her stage, she was exhausted, and overjoyed that she had the opportunity to give in a world where God has given her so much. But that is the way Lindsey’s brain and heart work. She lives fully, she loves deeply, and she shares freely. God has given her much, and life has been a blessing. She is keenly aware and profoundly grateful for that. And so she gives in return. Lindsey Stirling is the real thing.
I received a short thought provoking note today, regarding Crimea’s national status and their referrendum decision to become part of Russia in the aftermath of invasion.
The note concluded that, “. . . over 80% of the registered voters in Crimea voted to join with Russia. Having said that, your book still got pretty close to what happened.”
In answer, let me clarify the unique national status of Crimea. It is an unusual situation. An “autonomous republic”, it has still been recognized as a part of the “independent nation of Ukraine” since the break up of the USSR. Of course, we’re beginning to discover that Vladimir Putin, in his own way, doesn’t believe the USSR ever broke up. (He’s a dangerous fellow.) Having said that, one thing is certain. It’s hard to argue with 80% of the registered voters of Crimea. And in any event, it would be difficult to justify any unilateral action of the United States to restore the original status quo. The scenario in Persona Non Grata is only one pleasant outcome among many. One thing is certain, the current international situation in Eastern Europe is an ominous sign of the perilous times in which we live. And there will be more to come.
My upcoming novel, Persona Non Grata is about an innocent American in Eastern Europe who becomes embroiled in the intrigue and controversy surrounding the invasion of Crimea by the forces of the Russian Federation. What was my surprise two weeks ago to open the internet and find that the Russians had actually invaded Crimea – a nation incidentally, which doesn’t exist. That will teach me not to send advance copies of my book to Vladimir Putin in the future.
I had an unusual and life-changing experience on Saturday night – watching a performance of some 15,000 young people of the Southeast Phoenix Valley in Arizona. The event was a cultural celebration commemorating the dedication of the Gilbert Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Held and televised on the eve of the Sunday dedication, the spectacular was the culmination of months of preparation by event planners, choreographers, costume designers, and technical crews. It also represented countless hours of rehearsal time from almost 15,000 teenagers from Gilbert, Queen Creek, Chandler and surrounding areas who could have easily thought of other ways to spend their spare days and evenings.
So it was with great excitement that we watched the mass gathering of talent for rehearsals at Gilbert’s Discovery Park — practically in the shadow of the completed temple — in anticipation of the March 1st outdoor extravaganza.
And then, the forecasts began to filter in. Rain Saturday night — possible. Rain — highly probable. Rain — almost certain. Rain – a 100% absolute, iron-clad, bet-the-farm-on-it, face-the-music, law of the universe, fact of life. “No,” I cried in anguish. “Surely the Lord in heaven would not allow it to rain on the expectations of so many dedicated youth and adults who have sacrifices so much for this day.” So I hoped and prayed. I’m sure thousands of others hoped and prayed. And since hope – and prayer – both spring eternal, we all had great anticipations of the miraculous, and a nice dry weekend.
And so on Saturday – it rained, and cleared, and rained again. As the performance time approached, the clouds gathered in their fierce and conspiring anger — and it poured in a torrent, drenching the field and the participants in a veritable cloudburst. And then, the Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson arrived at the site. Fifteen thousand teenagers standing in the rain erupted into a thunderous cheer of enthusiasm for the evening’s honored guest – and the rain ceased, instantly. (I heard the roar of young voices shouting into the night from my home, one mile away.) The Prophet greeted the massive congregation with a wave and a smile, and almost immediately, the program began.
It was a miraculous moment. Of course within 15 minutes it began to rain lightly, on and off, throughout the evening. And for the last 20 minutes the rain began to fall harder, ending the program in a genuine flood, which seems to make the whole story less miraculous — until you think about it.
But being human, it’s natural for a few irresistible questions to go through our minds. Why, after the driest winter in years, would the Lord send the first huge rainstorm to Arizona on this important Saturday? Why would God stop the downpour, only to let it begin again? Why was the following morning so conspicuously dry? And why did the television camera invariably focus on some kid who had obviously not come to practice and had no idea which way to turn and when to kick? These questions, (except for that last one), provide us with opportunity to ponder the nature of the miraculous in our lives.
Here’s the point. No matter how you feel about God or even how you feel about Mormons, the entire experience was a miracle in many ways. It is a miracle that it does rain! (And in the arid Southwest desert, there are certainly more people who need it to rain than those who don’t. Their prayers were answered.) It was a miracle that it stopped! No youth on that field at Discovery Park will ever doubt the power of that moment when the Prophet arrived and the rains ceased. And finally, it was miraculous and appropriate that it started to rain again – and even to rain hard! Saturday’s cultural event was a celebration of the Mormon youth to honor heroes, in any age, who have struggled, sacrificed, and overcome. It was a recognition of their personal heritage. However, the courageous performance of thousands of Arizona youth, drenched in a winter shower, transformed the night into a memorial to the past and a legacy to the future. For they were not devastated by misfortune, but radiant with joy for the moment and hope for the future. I was overwhelmed as I watched the beaming smiles on the faces of the young people of Zion, as they danced and sang, filled with gratitude and praise, amidst a torrent of rain. Now that was a miracle!
Stephen J. Stirling
Paladin Smith, a high school history teacher, leads a well-ordered life in Southern California until, lured by an old friendship, he is enlisted to go to Crimea, in former Soviet Russia, on a simple mission of mercy: Persuade a former student, Victoria Grant to leave war-threatened Eastern Europe and return to the safety of America.
Paladin arrives in Crimea with nothing more than a debit card and a letter of introduction to Victoria’s mentor, the American Ambassador. But he quickly finds himself in the midst of an international conspiracy revolving around Victoria Grant, the US Embassy, the Royalty of Crimea, and the Russian Federation. What begins as a simple assignment to rescue an old friend soon becomes an adventure of multi-national intrigue and a challenge, to not only escape from Eastern Europe, but to preserve the independence of a nation.
Led by the Spirit and driven by a sense of destiny, Paladin must outmaneuver corrupt diplomats, ambitious tyrants, and powerful invading armies to save a free people from the jaws of dictatorship. Paladin Smith and Victoria Grant are about to change the world.
Persona Non Grata is a diplomatic term (from Latin) meaning ‘an unacceptable, unwanted, or unwelcome person’ – a penalty upon those few who fall out of favor with the governments of nations or kingdoms. It amounts to the revocation of all rights and the removal of any legal immunity or protection in that country. It is the lowest life form in the diplomatic community.
Persona Non Grata is the story of one man, outcast and abandoned in a foreign land, being led by the Spirit with a chance to make a difference – and to change history.
I’ll give a synopsis soon.
With Christmas morning right around the corner, may I suggest the absolutely most perfect, awesome stocking stuffer on the planet for just about, practically everybody. Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about “Shedding Light on the Dark Side”, the high-water mark for scholarship and insightful reading this holiday season.
Now, there are many fantastic bookstores out there. But my suggestion for retail purchases has always been Deseret Book — for their convenient and numerous locations as well as their volume and variety of merchandise. Great store. However Deseret Book does not seem to be able to keep “Shedding Light” in stock. (The graphic and tearful accounts of disappointed, would-be book buyers are both poignant and tragic.)
So, if you have searched in vain for the ideal gift for everyone on your Christmas list, (and you know what that is), you may want to visit one of the many other fantastic bookstores in the marketplace who carry “Shedding Light on the Dark Side.” Or order on line at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, or Books and Things.com. (You might also look for me in the parking lot at your nearest Deseret Bookstore — selling books out of the open trunk of my Toyota Echo.)
“Shedding Light on the Dark Side” is available at the following outlets:
Baker & Taylor (distributor for several national chains)
Ingram Book Co. (ditto)
Barnes & Noble (distribution centers in NJ and Reno, Nev.)
Book Barn (Show Low, Arizona)
The Brass Plates (Spoken Valley, Washington)
Deseret Book (distribution center in Salt Lake City)
Amazon.com (distribution centers in Tennessee, Arizona, Penn.)
Boyd’s LDS Books (Orlando, Florida)
Beehive Mercantile (Springdale, Aransas.)
Anderson Drug & Floral (Ephraim, Utah)
Confetti Antiques & Books (Spanish Fork, Utah)
Cover-to-Cover Books (Reno, Nevada)
Cover-to-Cover Books (Folsom, California)
Beehive Books (Bakersfield, California)
Nephi’s Books (Columbia, South Carolina)
Far West Books & Gifts (Kennewick, Washington)
Old Mill RV & Gift Shop (Hanna, Utah)
This Is the Place Bookstore (Kensington, Maryland)
Nauvoo Books (Midvale, Utah)
BYU-Idaho Bookstore (Rexburg, Idaho)
Wholesome Books (Heber City, Utah)
BYU Bookstore (Provo, Utah)
Book Plaza (Burley, Idaho)
Cardston Book Shop (Babb, Montana)
Inspired Lifestyles (Calgary, Alberta)
Moon’s LDS Bookstore (Dallas, Texas)
Seagull Book (All Utah locations)
Seagull Book (Mesa, Arizona; Henderson, Nev.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Meridian, Idaho)
It’s nice to have friends — and I have almost 1500 of them. Who would have thought, when I began collecting about a year ago, that I would have met so many nice peoplein such a short time. So, I now have friends from France to the Philippines, from Japan to Germany, from Turkey to Tehran. I have friends in Italy, Russia, England, India, and China. My list of friends is a veritable United Nations of Facebook contacts. I have friends in a few places I cannot begin to pronounce, and at least a couple in locations so remote I don’t think they’ve been discovered yet.
So, when I say how much I appreciate the good wishes of my international assembly of internet acquaintences with regard to my book and my book signing — I truly mean it. The comment, “I would love to come on Saturday — but I’m in Zimbabwe”, still means a lot to me. But now I need a few of my lest distant friends to respond with equal generosity. I’m talking about friends who live distant ports of call like Phoenix, or Gilbert, or Mesa.
Therefore, I announce for one last time — or almost the last time — that I will be at the Mesa Temple Deseret Book (144 S MESA DR) on Saturday, December 7, from 1-3. I’ll be in place there, signing books, eating donuts, and giving away free stuff. I invite anyone to join me there. I’ll be waiting with a hearty embrace and a warm smile — all in the name of international friendship and shameless merchandising. See you at the store.
Writing, publishing and marketing “Shedding Light on the Dark Side” has been the experience of a lifetime. One of the great things about “Shedding Light” is that there is simply no other book like it on the nature and reality of Satan. Unmasking the adversary has been a satisfying mission.
Of course non-fiction is one thing. Fiction is quite another. And every author has “the Great American Novel” tucked somewhere in his file cabinet, waiting for the right moment to be brought forth to the world. Well, my novel is titled “Persona Non Grata”. And it’s official. It is going to be published!!! We’re looking at a release date sometime next July. So, somebody congratulate me. And remember the name, Paladin Smith. We’ve both been looking forward to this for a long time.