Author Archives: Andy Day

New Snapchat-like Video App Missionary Families Will Love

Alex Balinski, creator of the popular mission prep YouTube channel “Prepare to Serve,” recently launched an app, that’s like a combination of Snapchat and Wikipedia.

 

The new app “Lifey”, is a video platform that allows the public to share what they know and things they’ve experienced. So far the Lifey app has crowdsourced and published more than 5,000 informational videos, mostly about missions.But that’s only the beginning. In the next three year, Balinski aims to crowdsource 50,000-100,000 mission videos through the Lifey app. And in the next 30 years he hopes to crowdsource more than 100 million videos to create the world’s largest free video database to help people learn from each others’ experiences.

Balinski’s primary focus for the app so far has been on providing returned missionaries with a platform to share useful tips and experiences about their Latter-day Saint missions, to help prospective missionaries prepare.

Returned missionaries are able to download the app and record short videos, up to 60 seconds long, on approximately 15 topics, including favorite foods, language tips, packing and safety advice. Upon receiving their mission calls, young men and women and their families can watch these videos and learn from returned missionaries’ insights and stories to better prepare them for missionary service.

The Lifey app was created to help individuals in their unique circumstances, find the help they need. It’s a user friendly app that allows users to quickly upload videos or browse thousands of topics in only a few clicks. In five minutes, the user can become more knowledgeable about any of a myriad of topics.

The Lifey app also allows people to share their insights and experiences about what living in their hometown in is like. People thinking of moving to a city can learn about the community from residents. Lifey users can browse city videos on about 17 topics, including local issues, crime, community resources, pros, cons, etc..

Another topic recently launched on the Lifey app is health conditions. People can record videos about their experiences with health conditions, share valuable information, and offer support for other people diagnosed with the same diseases/conditions.

In the future, Balinski plans to expand Lifey to include tens of thousands of video forums to improve people’s access to information, and help them make better life decisions.

If you or someone you know is interested in sharing mission stories on the Lifey app, watch this video:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=FQ7VSMzOWvU

If you or someone you know is interested in sharing health experiences on the app, watch this video:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=nZ9d8BAULOg

To learn more about Lifey, visit their website, Lifey.org.

*Please share this article with anyone you know who’s served or is thinking of serving a mission.
*Guest post contribution by Brittany Fromm, a BYU student intern for Lifey.

Visit Family History Locations This Summer

The school year is coming to an end, and summer will be upon us soon. Have you made plans for your family vacation yet? Whether you choose to go near or far you can incorporate an element of family history into your travel plans.

When some people think about blending family history with a road trip, they think of visits to cemeteries and courthouses. Depending on your family’s interest in research, this many not incite shouts of joy from your family members. But there are other ways to combine family history learning that will add to the happy memories of your family vacation.

Kids and teenagers can have powerful connections with their ancestors as they get to know them through photos and stories. Having an experience in a physical location with ties to an ancestor can leave a positive impression that will last forever.

A fun mobile app for iOS makes it even easier to visit family history locations on your summer vacation. The Family Nexus is a free app that integrates with your FamilySearch account to automatically plot 6 generations of your family tree. Family members will enjoy exploring the map or tracing the locations for a particular family member. Automatic alerts to your phone when you get near a place from your family history could encourage a spontaneous detour!

In addition to the free features, users can subscribe to unlock additional premium features. For example, subscribers can access photos and stories about their ancestors. They can also customize what life events appear on the map. It also allows you to “check in” and keep track of ancestral places you have visited. One of the newest features allows users to utilize the power of mobile GPS to update the precise locations of birth, marriage, residence, or burial locations.

An Android version is currently under development and is scheduled for release in August 2018.

Download The Family Nexus app and make new family history discoveries and connections on your summer vacation this year! Learn more at https://TheFamilyNexus.com/app.

Special deal for SugarDoodle followers from Our Picnic Tree!

Look at these fun block sets that are perfect for Christmas! Our Picnic tree has designed some block sets that bring the scriptures to life.
What a perfect way to spend some time with your family this Holiday Season.  They have a 140 piece Nativity scene and a 150 piece set of Nephi & the Broken Bow (including an adorable Liahona!)  They also have 6 mini-figures from the Bible that would be amazing in your kids stockings!
The figures are:
★ Moses (with the Burning Bush)
★ Noah (with Cane & Sheep)
★ King Solomon (with his Throne)
★ Goliath (with his Sword & Shield)
★ Baby Moses (with a Cradle & his mother, Jochebed)
★ Joseph (with coins and his mulit-colored coat)
AND- All of their sets are COMPATIBLE with Legos!
Our Picnic Tree is giving SugarDoodle followers a 25% off code to use on their entire order! Go to their website at www.ourpicnictree.com  and use code STACKERS25 at checkout.

The New FREE Video Family History Service In Utah!

Hey Wonderful SugarDoodlers!

My name’s Alex Balinski. Melanie’s been super nice to provide me this opportunity to tell you a little bit about a free family history service I recently started called Lifey.

Here’s a run down of everything you should know about Lifey.

What Is A “Lifey”?

So, to start off, let me define what a Lifey is. A Lifey is like a selfie about your life. It’s your life story in video format. It’s like a browsable, shareable video journal that you can embed anywhere online. I personally believe Lifeys are the best way to share your life story.

Currently there are two types of Lifeys we can create for you (they’re both free): Individual Lifeys and Family Lifeys.

Individual Lifey Example

Below is one of the dozens of free individual Lifeys we’ve created. You can see Clint’s Lifey is broken up into seven sections: Childhood, Aviation, Mission, UVU, Career, Family and Other. Under each section there are specific stories/insights that Clint decided to share from his life.

Individual Lifeys are easy to prepare for and to record. They usually take 1-3 hours to record, though we’ve had some individuals create Lifeys that are 4+ hours long. The beauty of creating a Lifey, is that it’s free (it’d normally cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to pay someone to create a similar video autobiography), it’s long form (1-7 hours long) and it’s browsable (viewers can jump to whichever story/topic interests them).

Family Lifey Example

Below is an example of a family Lifey. Family Lifeys only take about an hour to record (depending on how many people are in your family).

Instead of a one-time comprehensive Lifey about someone’s life, a family Lifey is more like an ongoing family video journal where once a year you can take your family on a date to the studio and each take 5-10 minutes in front of the camera to share highlights from the previous year.

How Lifey Got Started

The story of how Lifey started goes back to the summer of 2006. I was attending my first term at Brigham Young University and I felt strongly like I should look into Broadcast Journalism. I attended BYU for two years, served a two-year mission in Argentina, and then finished my Bachelor’s degree at BYU. While studying journalism I felt impressed to create the Prepare to Serve project where we video interview returned missionaries about their missions, etc.

Then about one year ago I felt inspired to shift my focus to working on Lifey.

Why Record A Lifey?

I believe there is huge value in opening up, and sharing our ideas with each other. I believe every person has experiences and insights that they can share, that can be helpful to others.

Hands down the most prized family history possession I have is my Mother’s Lifey. I’m so grateful that we took a few hours to record my Mom’s Lifey. For many years to come my Mother will still be able to influence, and teach my children values, principles and testimony from her life experiences, because we recorded her Lifey. While reading a journal is good, nothing quite beats hearing and seeing my Mother share her stories in her own words. When I watch my Mom’s Lifey, it feels like she’s having a heart-to-heart conversation with me.

More Info About Lifey

  • We currently offer free video life histories at our office in Provo, Utah (if you live outside of Utah, and would like me to consider traveling to your state to offer free Lifeys in your state for a few days, please email me at alexbalinski@gmail.com).
  • Our service is completely free (you can leave a donation if you’d like).
  • A Lifey typically takes 2-4 hours to record, though we’ve had some Lifeys last longer.
  • Lifeys are recorded in front of a green screen (which works great, as long as you don’t wear a green top).
  • Lifeys are self-directed. When you come in, I’ll welcome you to the studio and get the camera, microphone and lights all working, and then I’ll press record, shut the door, and let you share however much you’d like to share from your life.
  • We encourage people to let their Lifeys be public, so their stories and insights are easily accessible for family and friends.
  • Lifeys are recorded in 4K.
  • Lifeys can be organized into however many stories/topics as you’d like (we once had an older gentleman come in and share 99 different stories/insights from his life).
  • Lifeys can also be used to organize any other YouTube videos (home videos, etc.)

If You’re Interested…

If you’d like me to create a Lifey for you or a loved one, feel free to email me at alexbalinski@gmail.com. If you’d like to learn more about the Lifey project, you might enjoy watching the videos on the Lifey About page.

I hope you have a wonderful summer! The Gospel’s true!

Sincerely,

Alex Balinski

History of the Church in Hawaii

History of the Church in Hawaii (Then and Now)

-Around 1820 (when Joseph Smith was receiving his first vision in upstate New York), the first Protestant Christian missionaries arrived to Hawaii. The missionaries found that the traditional Hawaiian religion had just been abandoned, and that the people were looking to find a new spiritual practice that fit with the new world. The missionaries taught christianity and set up schools and congregations across the islands. The people were eager to learn how to read and write.

-Mormon missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1850. A decision was made to focus missionary work on native Hawaiians (1865).

Finding a Gathering Place in Hawaii

-There was a large push for the Saints to gather to Zion (SLC), the problem for the new saints in Hawaii was that the Kingdom of Hawaii prohibited Hawaiians from emigrating.

-In 1853, President Brigham Young instructed Elder George Q. Cannon to find a temporary gathering place in Hawaii, until they could prepare themselves to gather with the rest of the saints.

-In 1854, Elder Joseph F. Smith proposed that Laie be the gather place in the Hawaiian islands. Instead the elders selected the Palawai Basin on Lana’i …. Laie would have to wait. The saints began moving to Lana’i (property on Palawai) under the direction of the missionaries. The community was named “City of Joseph.” Only 5% of the members actually moved.

Lay_Making

The Elders of Laie taught several of the Sisters in our group how to make Lays.

 

Laie is Chosen as the Gathering Place

-On December 23, 1864 Elders George Nebeker and Francis A. Hammond arrived in Honolulu for the purpose of establishing a plantation where the Saints could gather.

Elder Hammond heard about a plantation on O’ahu called La’ie. Thomas T. Dougherty, United States Vice-Consul in Honolulu, was eager to sell his ranching operations. He demanded that the sale must be effected at once.

In his quick decision on the Laie plantation, Brother Hammond prayed and had this dream:

President Young and Heber C. Kimball came and went with him over the plantation, calling his attention to the many desirable features it presented for the gathering place of the native Saints, and also saying in a very positive manner that this was the chosen spot.

All doubts were set at rest and the purchase was made.

Elder William W. Cluff shared a similar experience:

One day when I was walking along one of these paths, I saw President Brigham Young approach me. Said he, “This is the place to gather the native Saints to.” He seemed to fully comprehend the surroundings, and in that easy, familiar way, so characteristic of him, indicated the advantages afforded for a settlement. No matter what my bodily condition might have been at that time, the apparent meeting was in the open air and in the broad light of day. It was the facilities of the place as represented them, and ever afterwards that appeared to me the best place on the Islands for the gathering of the Saints.

-Elder Hammond negotiated the sale for $14,000 on January 26, 1865. Farming operations began immediately.

-President Young wanted La’ie to be a gathering place that would provide spiritual and physical well-being for the natives.

-Lanier Britsch, in Moramona, his history of the Church in Hawai’i, sums up the purpose for selecting La’ie as a gathering place…

Laie was not to be a gathering place in the normal sense of the term. It is clear that it was to be a refuge from the world. But it was also to be a school in proper behavior, in hard work, in virtue, and in mortality. It was to be not only a place where the Saints could gather to strengthen each other in their determination to live Christian lives, but also a center for learning.” (page 26)

-The Church was growing and sugar plantations were being cultivated (and were helping the island become prosperous).

-Some people moved down coast to Kahana, some challenges to the area, Relief Society, youth auxiliary, and Primary was organized (1875-1876)

Here’s some fascinating facts around the significance of Laie for the Church.HistoricLaieSignificance

La’ie Temple

Laie Temple

In 1915 the Hawai’i Temple was announced. Hawai’i Mission President Samuel E. Woolley said, “Now, this particular land, the land of Laie, now owned by the Church since 1864, was a city of refuge in olden times, because that people are of the pure blood of Israel, and we find among them until this day rites and ceremonies that were practiced by ancient Israel, and they had cities of refuge and Laie was one of those, and it will be an eternal city of refuge to the remnant of that portion of the house of Israel.”

The Temple was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1919 by President Heber J. Grant, which was a fulfillment of prophecy.

From the earliest Mormon missionary efforts in Hawaii, there existed the belief that a temple would be built there. Elder John S. Woodbury made the first known prophecy

Later, 1864, William W. Cluff further affirmed the prophecy of the temple. He was one of the missionaries sent to Hawaii to establish the church.

George Q. Cannon Also made a prophecy by saying that if they would only be faithful enough, the time would come when someone would be given the power to seal husband and wife for time and eternity so that their children would be born under the covenant.

During a 1915 visit, President Joseph F. Smith dedicated the land for a temple to be built.

John A. Widstoe said the location couldn’t have been more beautiful.

World War II

Pearl Harbor: On December 7, 1941, as most people in Laie were getting ready for Church in a social hall, they noticed many noisy planes flying overhead toward kaneohe. Some members claimed they saw a japanese plane attempt to drop a bomb on the temple without success.

Because of WWII, few missionaries were called to serve in Hawaii.  Laie survived the rationing and shortages better than any other place in Hawaii because of the cohesiveness of the community.

After the War (and cultural celebration)

Hukilau

 

After the war, members wanted to build another chapel, but could not afford to pay for it so they started to raise money. Therefore, they decided to stage a hukilau for tourists in order to help pay for it.

 

The Hukilau: Thousands of people came out to enjoy one of these in order to raise money for the new chapel. Almost 2000 visitors participated (1930).

A Hukilau includes all kinds of authentic dancing and other cultural performances.

Many of the volunteers that dedicated their time and talents to the Hukilau also ended up working in the PCC.

Church College of Hawaii later to become BYU Hawaii

PresidentDavidOmcKay David O. Mckay was passionate about education and ever since his first visit to Laie in 1921, he wanted to do something about the education of the great people there.

For 20 years, nothing happened to the President Mckay’s vision, but finally in 1941 he returned to hawaii to dedicate the Honolulu Tabernacle. At the dedication he said: “Don’t forget Laie. That is the educational center and spiritual center of our people in these islands.”

When President McKay was made president of the church in 1951, the education of members in the south pacific took priority.

In 1954, PBYUHawaiiresident McKay selected Laie for the site of what would become the Church College of Hawaii (CCH)

The school taught curriculum for the last two years of high school and first two years of college.

The college opened in the fall of 1955 with a temporary campus while the permanent campus was being built. The permanent Campus was built by “building Missionaries.”  Tuition was $75 per year.

BYUH_Flags

The permanent campus was dedicated 3 years after the temporary campus was built.  Many bishops, stake presidents, temple presidents, and even mission presidents and General Authorities in the pacific and Asia are products of the CCH.

We were very fortunate to get to tour BYU Hawaii the successor to CCH.

We got to meet many wonderful sHungarianStudentExecutiveAssistMarriedMexicantudents and see what a special place BYU Hawaii is.

We had a great time visiting with one of the Executive Assistants at BYU-H who was originally from Hungary.  She met her husband from Mexico on campus.  Neither one would’ve been able to go to a University if it weren’t for the IWORK program offered which allows students who wouldn’t be able to afford college otherwise to be able attend BYU-H and work.  If they go back to their home country upon graduation their student debts are forgiven.  A pretty amazing program and the students are very grateful and work hard.

A Sister Missionary helping the International students to practice their english.

A Sister Missionary helping the International students to practice their english.

The Polynesian Cultural Center

The influx of new ethnic groups to Laie sparked a new twist to the gathering concept.

Elder Cowley first expressed the idea of creating a cultural center at an O’ahu Stake conference on March 11, 1951.

The idea behind this cultural was to help entertain and inform visitors as well as providing for a solid way for the students to pay for their travels and tuitions.

PCC_Mission_Statement

The PCC was dedicated in 1963 by President Hugh B. Brown. Not all of the brethren of the church were in favor of the idea of creating a revenue generating center.

Even though there were many pessimistic predictions about how much attention the PCC would get since it was so far away from other tourist attractions, it successfully became Hawaii’s most-visited paid attraction, giving thousands of students the opportunity to share their cultures with millions of visitors.

The theater went from 600 seats to 1300 seats and then a new theater was needed to be built to accommodate for 2800 spectators.

In June 1966, Elvis Presley came to film a segment of his movie Paradise Hawaiian Style at the PCC.

In the 1970s, the PCC went through a major expansion and the First presidency modified the role of the center. Priority shifted from providing student employment and financial support for CCH to fulfilling its role as a major missionary tool in giving large numbers of visitors a favorable experience with the Church.

The people who had made the former Hukilau’s successful transferred their talents over to the PCC.

Growing Laie

The newly added college and cultural center caused the population to triple.  The biggest change in Laie was a social change. It was a cost. Before the rapid growth, no one would lock their doors and people would just walk into each other’s homes.  With the additions of the PCC and College, life seemed to get a more complicated and busy on Laie.

Refining Laie

By 1973, all land in Laie that was zoned for residential housing had been filled, so the gathering had to stop. The carrying capacity of Laie is still the biggest frustration to expansion.

The bulk of Hawaii has the impression that Laie wants to stay isolated from the rest of the world. However, the church and its entities in laie have worked to change that perception and to integrate Laie into a larger world.

The legacy and history of Laie continues to get passed down by story in the families that live on the island.  This is a special city with special people.  The history and culture make Laie it amazing place to experience.

 

The Spirit of Aloha

The Spirit of Aloha is an attitude of friendly acceptance you feel most anywhere you go in Hawaii.  When we first arrived at the Honolulu airport we were greeted by these 3 native Hawaiian students who presented us with fresh flower lays.  Their smiles and friendly welcoming is infectious.  That gave us our first small taste of The Spirit of Aloha.

WelcomeToHawaii

The following is a letter written to the Polynesian Cultural Center shared by permission, which exemplifies our experience and the Spirit of Aloha that you feel in this special place.

Hello,

You don’t know me, but my family and I had a most wonderful visit with you on July 1st of this year. There were seven of us; me, my wife; my 86 year old dad, our daughter and her husband and their two sons (ages 5 and 8)… so four generations on our first visit to Hawaii and the PCC. I am a retired computer engineer, my father is a retired traffic design engineer, my wife and daughter are both nurses and my son in law is a Master Chemist for a large pharmaceutical firm. I tell you this only to show even though are from West Virginia we are not what many consider to be that regions prototypical hillbillies.

We visited you using your Super Ambassador ticket and had an absolutely wonderful and most enjoyable visit. I could ramble on for hours regaling you into near comatose states with glowing descriptives of our experience and all the fun we had… but, even though it’s true, I’m sure you’ve heard all that hyperbole before so I won’t bore you with it again for the umpteenth time.

I will however tell you about three remarkable people we had the very good fortune to cross paths with and how they made our good trip into something extraordinary! And I might throw in one of two things that most impressed me and my family.

The first person was Phoebe. She was our escort and guide while we were there and she was an absolute delight. ChineseSisterDue to my daughter and wife’s love of shopping we were late checking in and she had to hustle us along to avoid missing more than we had already missed of the canoe parade. Throughout the day she kept us moving, but was so sweet and entertaining we never felt rushed. We were very happy to find she was just a regular person with her own feelings and genuine thoughts and cares about us and our visit. In other words, she was not some glossy stuffed shirt with an artificial smile saying the spiel she’d been taught by some bean counter. We found she was a student at your nearby university with all the angst and stress of any other student and, surprisingly, she was from China. She had a remarkable life story and our one regret was we did not have more time to get to know her. She was a genuine person and freely shared her thoughts and opinions about the various exhibits and shows. Throughout our visit she explained everything and showed us the things that we were most eager to see and got us where we needed to be on time and with a minimum of fuss all while being herself and truly caring about us and our experience. Thank you for having such special people there to help and care for your guests.

Kap_coconut Kap_fire

Next was a show host from Samoa named Kap. As we sat through the beginnings of the show I thought him to be a bit of a clown and a mere caricature of a native Samoan. However, it took only a few moments of observation to realize this was a performance meant to lightheartedly entertain while still educating us on daily life and the customs of the Samoan people. My family, and especially my grandsons, were enthralled by his fire-starting and coconut husking skills. I sat amazed that in just a few short minutes he had shared at least a few important aspects of his native island’s culture; coconut tree climbing to harvest the nuts, cooking habits, dancing, and coconut harvesting/preparation and fire-starting. In just a few moments I had done a 180 degree about face regarding him and had to marvel at what he taught and shared about his culture all while maintaining a comic persona to keep the kids entertained. (This old kid enjoyed it too!) I had the great pleasure to meet and speak with him several times afterwards and found him to be friendly, genuinely warm and caring, and a very talented and intelligent person. I was surprised to find this showman was also an accomplished artist.

The last person was perhaps the most influential person we met. He was one of the lead players in your production of Ha Breath of Life! Sadly, we never learned his last name, but his first name was Jonathan.Jonathan

Attending on Super Ambassador tickets we had literally front row seats and after the show were fortunate enough to get photos with many of the stars of this most wonderful production. Four or five of the actors showed genuine interest in the audience and their new fans. My grandsons were in awe of Jonathan and several of the other the actors for their fire dancing and fire-sword handling and the fight scenes and were bubbling with questions. (The fire dancing was very impressive and while I know the fight scenes were carefully choreographed and only intended to be symbolic of war, they are the stuff of dreams for a 5 and 8 year old.) Jonathan, the young man who played the final leading man, was most patient with them and assured them while the fire dancing was very dangerous, and not to try it at home, he and the other dancers were very well trained and were quite safe and no one was injured. He also explained the skill it takes to handle the fire swords and the months of training he got that insured neither he or any of the other cast members were hurt. He was genuinely interested in us, where we were from, how we came to be in Hawaii, what we had seen and what we hoped to see. He was interested in us. He told us about himself, his studies, and his beliefs. And most importantly to this grandfather, he selflessly spent time with us. C’mon now… He’s the star and we’re just folks from West Virginia. But, he spent time with us and was really interested in us and freely shared himself and his experiences with us. We stood and talked with him until the lights were turned out on us. Only then did we realize how late it had gotten. To his credit, his first thought was could we see to get out of the theater safely and he was graciously leading us to the exit when the lights came back on. I want to commend you for having young people like Jonathan at the Polynesian Cultural Center. He is a wonderful young man and he, to us, is a shining example of God’s word: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Phoebe, Kap, and Jonathan are credits to themselves, you, and their openly shared faith in God. Were I there I would offer them a hug of appreciation, but since I am many thousands of miles away will you please offer these fine young people my heartfelt regard and congratulations on a job well done.

There was one other thought I wanted to share… Our tickets gave us a behind the scenes tour, which was very informative and enjoyable. We were given the rare privilege of seeing the cast of the show as people in their everyday apparel and not the costumes that transformed them into the characters we grew to love and relate to during your show. While on our backstage tour we were there during the casts final meeting in preparation for the show and were honored and filled with joy to find your cast involved in a cast led prayer for their success and God’s guidance during the performance. My family and I are devout Christians. And I was thrilled to see your cast in prayer. Yes, I know a Christian church owns and operates this wonderful slice of Polynesia. But in this day of denial and hidden beliefs my family was thrilled to see your faith in action openly and unashamedly.  (See a video we took of their devotional here.)

Thank you for a wonderful experience. May God bless you richly. And until we see you again, Aloha.  Tracy G Reagan (and wife Debbie, Dad Glenn, Daughter and son-in law Karri and Ryan Hayhurst, and our two grandsons, Tucker and Tyler)

The following video is a small glimpse into the amazing experience we had, the Reagan family had and what you too can experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

One lucky Sugardoodle follower will win a trip for 4 to Hawaii.  Enter now here!