Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Taking Pride in Trying

I saw this on Facebook just now: "Don't wait until you've reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal."

Too often, we base our self-esteem on our accomplishments. We consider ourselves successful as human beings if, and only if, we succeed in what we attempt to do. But often, even just making the attempt is, in itself, an accomplishment, and we should recognise that. Every effort is a little victory, but we almost never celebrate them. Instead, we tend to set goals for ourselves, then think of ourselves as complete failures if we fall short of those goals in any way, forgetting the little successes we have along the way, including the victory of choosing to try.

When it comes down to it, our choices are really the only things we can control. We can choose our actions, but we can never choose the results of our actions. Often, whether we succeed or fail depends largely on factors outside our control. In those cases especially, we should give ourselves credit for trying, whether we succeed or not.

Our success is not ultimately in our hands. There are too many other factors, beyond our own actions, for us to take full credit for any success or full blame for any failure. It's not for us to decide whether we succeed or not, so we shouldn't place the burden of determining our success solely on our shoulders. All we can really do is try. If we try and we succeed, that's great. Good for us. But if we try and we don't succeed, that's okay, too. Good for us for trying. To deepen our inner peace, we would do well to try to learn to accept ourselves and take pride in our efforts, even if our efforts don't become accomplishments. We don't always get to succeed in what we set out to do, so we should give ourselves some credit, even if we can accomplish no more than to try to do the right thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

AoE Healing

Many games that involve combat also involve healing. If there is a way to lose health in the game, there's also usually a way to regain it. In games that involve multiple people on the same team, there are sometimes ways for one player to heal another. Sometimes, one player can heal many others at the same time, though they usually all have to be within the same area. This is called Area of Effect (AoE) healing. Everyone stands within the circle, then everyone within the circle gets healed.

However, games with AoE healing effects have to answer an interesting question: What happens if an enemy gets into the circle? Do they get healed as well? I see no reason why they wouldn't. A spell whose effect is as simple as "heal everyone in this circle" would have no way to distinguish between friend and foe. If an effect were to heal your friends, but not your enemies, it would have to have some way to tell the difference between the two.

Games solve this problem in different ways. Some games keep track of who's on whose team, and they make sure your healing spells affect only your teammates. Other games allow you to specify exactly who you do or do not want to be healed, either by allowing you to name exceptions to the AoE effect (e.g. Heal everyone in this circle, except for that guy), or by forcing you to select each individual you want to heal. Depending on how the game goes about it, trying to figure out how to heal your friends but not heal your enemies can be a complicated problem.

In real life, it's not actually a problem at all. Real life is a game that involves spiritual combat, and it involves spiritual healing as well. The spiritual healing I'm referring to is forgiveness. In this sense, Jesus Christ is the ultimate healer. His Atonement created an AoE healing effect that encompasses the entire world. By putting the entire planet within His healing circle, Christ was presented with the challenge of figuring out He could make sure He healed some people without accidentally healing others. His solution was wonderfully simple; He didn't bother. As far as I know, Jesus made no effort to exclude anyone from His healing power. Even His mortal enemies, the people who actually executed Him, had access to His forgiveness. He didn't exclude anyone from His healing circle, and neither should we.

In a much smaller way, we have the ability to forgive others, healing their (and our own) spiritual pain. Some of these people, we may consider our enemies. After all, they hurt us, which is why they require our forgiveness. However, in the grand scheme of things, we are not enemies at all. We are all brothers and sisters. We have the same goal, even if not all of us know it, and there is no good reason for us not to help each other along. As such, we have no reason not to heal others, including even those who have hurt us. In fact, there are many reasons why we should forgive them, specifically.

One reason we should heal our enemies is because we heal ourselves in the process. In his April 2016 General Conference talk, The Healing Ointment of Forgiveness, Elder Kevin R. Duncan taught us that "an unforgiving heart harbors so much needless pain."
Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!
Another reason we should especially heal our enemies is to show them that we are not really enemies at all. If we forgive those who have harmed us, they may feel sorry for harming us, making them less likely to do it again. In a purely practical sense, it's a defensive measure designed to reduce and prevent aggression. In a spiritual sense, it's the right thing to do.

In the end, all judgement belongs to the Lord, and He has offered a way for everyone to be forgiven. We should follow His example by offering forgiveness to others. Doing so will lessen the spiritual pain that we feel, and it will dull their spiritual pain as well. When it comes time for justice, God will be just, but He will also be merciful, and He asks us to be merciful as well. Let us let the Lord soften our hearts so we can gladly extend the healing ointment of forgiveness, not just to our friends, but to everyone whose lives we touch.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ponderize - Mosiah 4:30

We've been reading through Mosiah in our family scripture reading, and I've highlighted several blogworthy and ponderize-worthy verses. One of them is Mosiah 4:30.
But this much I can tell you, that if you do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your days, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.
This is kind of what I've been doing with my ponderizing: trying to watch myself, especially my thoughts. Last week, it didn't work so well because the scripture I chose was rather vague in its guidance of what a person should do to increase their spiritual power. It basically just says to be righteous. This scripture is much more specific in its counsel, but it remains broad enough to cover many situations.

It's kind of a longer scripture, but I think that's a good thing. The extra challenge of trying to memorize it will give me more time to ponder it and to really think about the words and the message.

I wonder what it means to "continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord." Granted, this counsel was given before Jesus' first coming, but if we apply it to our own time, it could mean to remain conscious of the reality of the Second Coming and to prepare ourselves for it.

Anyhow, I hope it works. I've been trying to use ponderizing to center my thoughts on the gospel, and ponderizing a scripture that literally says to "watch your thoughts" should help with that. At any rate, it's worth spending a week thinking about it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ponderize 121:36 - A Limit to God's Power?

This week, I've been ponderizing D&C 121:36
The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled or handled except upon the principles of righteousness.

Apart from a few minor errors, like saying "or" instead of "nor," the only differences between what I memorized and the original verse were deliberate. I took out the two "that"s so the sentence could stand on its own, and "only" to "except," because I'm pretty sure that's more true to the original meaning.

But while we're on the subject of that "except," I wonder how true that second half of the verse is. "The powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled [except] on the principles of righteousness." Does this restriction extend to God as well? Does God have to be righteous in order to use His power? We know that if a mortal priesthood holder tries to use to priesthood unrighteously or unworthily, it won't work, and I'm pretty sure the power that priesthood holders hold is the same kind of power that God uses. If we cannot use the priesthood unrighteously, I wonder if God couldn't either. Then again, the question is moot, since God is always perfectly righteous anyway.

Still, I wonder sometimes whether the rules of the universe were created by God, and whether He could change or break them, or whether those rules were in place before He attained His godhood, and whether He is as bound by them as we are.

Of course, it's not an important question. If it ever becomes important for us to know, we'll probably find out at that point, and like I said earlier, the questions is moot anyway. God wouldn't break His own rules, even if they were his own rules and He could do it and get away with it. He wouldn't set that kind of example for us and have His Son tell us to be like Him. God is perfect; therefore, His righteousness is perfect. He will always act on the principles of righteousness, whether His priesthood power depends on it or not.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Lost Keys and the Cold

In his April 2016 General Conference talk, Where Are the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood?, Elder Gary E. Stevenson shared an experience he had when, at the end of a skiing trip, he found that he had misplaced the keys to the vehicle that would take him home. He and I have something in common; when this happened to him, even before finding the keys, he thought, "there just might be a lesson here." And there was. He thought of how powerful and important the car was, especially since it was very cold that evening and night was falling. He must have thought about how necessary it was to get into the car so he could get warm and get home. But he also thought of how impossible it was to get into the car without the keys.

The obvious analogy is to relate the car and its keys to the priesthood authority and its keys. Elder Stevenson said "priesthood authority and priesthood keys . . . open the gates of heaven, . . . and pave the covenant pathway back to our loving Heavenly Father." Without the priesthood, essential ordinances, such as baptism, could not be performed, and without those ordinances, no one could enter the kingdom of heaven, no matter how righteous they are.

Fortunately, "The Lord has shown us that He will not leave us standing in the bitter cold without keys or authority to lead us safely home to Him." There was a space of time when the priesthood power wasn't available on the earth, but just as Elder Stevenson miraculously found the keys to his car, the keys to the priesthood were also restored. "Without this restoration, we would be locked out from the vehicle necessary to transport us on our journey home to loving heavenly parents," but with those keys, we can access a power that will comfort us, strengthen us, and make it possible for us to get back to our home with our Father in Heaven. I am thankful for the power and keys of the priesthood and I'm thankful that God restored those keys when they were lost.

Enjoying Adversity

The game Cards Against Humanity is not a good source of inspiration. In fact, I wouldn't recommend looking into it, since the game is built around the concept of making fill-in-the-blank sentences that often end up being "humorously" inappropriate. Regardless, I spent part of yesterday afternoon thinking about one of the cards in the game: "If God didn't want us to enjoy _, he wouldn't have given us _." I wanted to fill the two blanks in such a way that the sentence became doctrinally accurate and slightly insightful. I'm not sure I succeeded in the first part of my objective, but I think I succeeded in the second. The sentence I came up with was "If God didn't want us to enjoy climbing mountains, he wouldn't have given us mountains to climb."

I enjoy climbing mountains. I like the physical challenge of climbing mountains and the sense of accomplishment I feel when I reach the top. I love the view from the tops of mountains, and I appreciate the exercise I get from climbing them.

Interestingly, though, when mountains are brought up in a gospel setting, they almost always represent either temples or adversity. It's easy to enjoy temples. Going to the temple, whether you can actually enter the temple or not, can be an enrichingly spiritual experience. The personal challenge of becoming worthy to enter the temple is undoubtedly rewarding, and the blessings available within the temple are priceless.

But what of adversity? Is it possible, and did God intend us, to actually enjoy facing adversity? There are certainly some blessings to be gained from adversity. The spiritual exercise can be rewarding, and there are long-term blessings that could be related to the view from the top of a mountain. But can we enjoy the act of facing adversity the same way some people enjoy the act of climbing mountains, even before the payoff is gained?

Perhaps we can enjoy adversity, but only if we have the right attitude. When climbing a mountain, the going is often difficult, but the setting is usually nice. If we focus on the difficulty, we'd find the experience difficult to enjoy, but if we focus on the setting, we may enjoy the experience despite the difficulty of the trip. Additionally, if we set our minds forward, looking forward to the view from the top or the strength from the exercise, we can suffer through our mountain climbing with a patience born of faith. Similarly, if we face our adversity with faith in the blessings we may receive, we can endure our adversity well.

Still, that's not quite the same as actually enjoying facing adversity. If we're really looking forward to the blessings or really good at looking for the good in any situation, we might be able to pull it off, but I don't think that's really the point of adversity. God loves us and He wants us to be happy, but I think He's far more concerned with our ultimate happiness than with our present happiness. Thus, we face adversity, not because God hopes that we'll enjoy it, but because He knows that it'll bring us more joy in the long run. Thus, the phrase "If God didn't want us to enjoy climbing mountains, he wouldn't have given us mountains to climb" doesn't actually hold any water. Even if it was literally impossible to enjoy facing adversity, I think He'd give us adversity anyway, because He knows that the payoff is worth it.

But the fact that it's possible to enjoy facing adversity is an important truth to know. Now that we've established the one can have joy, even while facing adversity, we can take the steps necessary to do so, namely, developing a good attitude. We know that, in God's wisdom, we are going to face adversity whether we'll enjoy it or not, so we might as well try to make the best of it. When we face adversity, let's try to focus on the good that we can find in it and the blessings that we'll gain from it. Let's appreciate the opportunity to flex and strengthen our spiritual muscles. Let's rise to the challenge of trying to actually enjoy facing adversity.

Friday, April 22, 2016

I "Blogged" Today

I have an idea of what to blog about, but I'm not sure I'm still awake enough to fully develop my thoughts. How about, for now, we count this as a "blog post" so I can say that I blogged today, and tomorrow I'll blog twice: once about the idea I wanted to blog about tonight, and once about whatever the next Conference talk is.

I really should build up some kind of reserve of blog posts I will have written, but not posted, so I could have a pre-witten blog post that I could just post, and not have to try to write something insightful when I'm tired, but that would require me to occasionally, perhaps frequently, write more than one blog post in a day. I might be able to do that, but I'm not sure how quickly I could build up a blog post reserve or how quickly I would deplete it. I'm not sure the idea would hold up in practice. But I'll give it a shot. Maybe I'll write three blog posts tomorrow, and post two of them.

Or maybe I should just go to bed before I make any promises a sane version of me won't want to keep.