Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We All Need Angels

In Institute, we recently watched a Bible video portraying the Savior's Atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane, and one moment in that video reminded me of what I consider one of the most touching parts of that whole experience.

Luke 22: 43 "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him."

Jesus was perfect and incredibly powerful, and He certainly had the heaviest burden of anyone who ever lived, but I have to think to myself: If even He needed angelic help at one point, maybe it's not so bad when I need it.

I am a weak individual. I often need angelic help to just handle my regular obligations. Sometimes, I find certain trials or temptations too difficult for me, and I feel like I'm about to cave in. But if Christ Himself needed an angel to get through His trials, what makes me think that I won't need one to help me get through mine?

Earth life is not a good time for prideful bravado. The challenges of this life are, in fact, challenging, and we could use all the help we can get, no matter how strong or capable we are on our own.

We all need help sometimes. Even Jesus did. Let's not be too timid to ask for it, and let's not be too proud to accept it. There will come times in each person's life when that person needs an angel. Jesus was no exception to this rule. None of us are. We all need angels sometimes. Not even Jesus could have made it through life without one.

Should Hector Kill the Ruffians Now?

I little over two months ago, I blogged about an encounter my D&D character, Hector, had had with a band of ruffians. Remember that Hector is a Paladin, committed to the virtues of justice and goodness. Remember also that, while these ruffians didn't attack anyone in Hector's presence, it was abundantly clear that that was just the sort of thing they might have done if they thought they could get away with it. To protect the innocents that these ruffians would attack later, Hector probably should have killed the ruffians, but since they didn't attack anyone while Hector was around, and I didn't think it'd be just for Hector to deal the first blow, he and the ruffians never fought, and the ruffians lived.

But now, almost by random chance, Hector has found himself back in the same town where he met the ruffians previously, and he has half a mind to seek them out. After all, if he made a mistake by not killing the ruffians, he should probably correct that mistake now, while he has the chance. But this forces the question again: Should Hector have killed the ruffians? And it adds another layer of complexity: Should Hector kill them now?

Clearly, some time has passed -- at least a week or two, in game. The ruffians must have been doing something during that time. If Hector learns that the ruffians have been attacking people, the ruffians will die. However, if it turns out that the ruffians haven't attacked anyone, perhaps Hector ought to leave them alone. After all, perceptions can be misleading. Hector's first impression of them, that they are violent thugs who are a blight on society, may have been wrong. Maybe they're not actually ruffians. They could simply be assertive people who persuade through intimidation. If they don't actually hurt anyone, not even the people who don't do what they say, perhaps Hector should let them be.

However, I feel like I'm jumping through hoops trying to defend the ruffians. It was clear two months ago that the ruffians are trouble. And, as a Paladin, Hector should probably "deal with" that trouble. Now, Hector has a second (or, technically, third) chance to deal with these ruffians, and I intend for him to do so because I think it's the right thing for him to do.

Still, I'm not sure it's just. The ruffians may "have it coming," so to speak, but justice doesn't work like that. As far as Hector knows, these guys haven't broken any laws or done anything wrong, and even if they had, Hector doesn't have any legal right to enforce any laws, let alone convicting and executing suspects without any solid evidence. I don't know how important "law" is in a kingdom ruled by an evil vampire, but it's certainly not just for Hector to kill people who, as far as he knows, haven't done anything wrong and aren't planning on doing anything wrong besides being insistent and intimidating and lingering suspiciously on the road in the middle of the woods. Hector can't justifiably kill them just for that, and, legally, he probably can't justifiably kill them at all.

So, I'm back in the same tough situation I was in two months ago. Should Hector kill the ruffians or not? On the one hand, they were clearly acting in a dangerous manner, and that didn't seem to be unusual for them, so they're probably habitual thugs and highwaymen. On the other hand, "probably" isn't good enough. Hector would need some kind of evidence, or at least a self-defence excuse, to justify taking action against the ruffians, and even in that case, that action probably shouldn't be killing.

The plan, at the moment, is to see what the ruffians haven been up to these last few weeks. As stated before, if it's found that these ruffians have been acting exactly the way Hector expected them to act, they're done for, but if they haven't been causing any problems recently, Hector will probably, for the third time, let these ruffians live.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What I Know She Knows

At the beginning of his talk, Elder K. Brett Nattress asked "If all that your children knew of the gospel came from you—as their only source—how much would they know?" I don't have kids yet, but I have a mother who, at the very least, taught me one very important thing about God: He is real. My mother has a strong testimony of this. She has, on multiple occasions, shared an experience in which she had literally felt God's influence in her life. I know that she knows for certain that God is real.

I know a good deal more about God than merely that He exists, but it's hard to pin down what I've learned from my mother. I'm sure that it's a lot. Even just through this blog and the comments and conversations that have stemmed from it, I've learned a lot about the Gospel from my mother. But the one thing that I can pin down as having learned from her is also the most fundamental thing about it. I know that God lives and loves me, even if for no other reason than that I know that she knows that He lives and loves her.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

(How) Can We Talk?

One problem I've encountered on this blog is that there's no good way to hold a conversation here. If you post a comment on one of my blog posts, I'll see it, and I'll likely appreciate the insight and perspective, but I'm not sure how I could respond.

I, too, could post a comment on the blog post, and you'd be able to see it, but I don't think you'd be notified in any way, so you probably wouldn't know that I responded (which is a large part of why I haven't responded to many comments). I could mention a comment and then respond to it directly in a blog post. If you follow my blog, you'd almost certainly see that kind of response, but so would everyone else.

Many people get to my blog through links from Facebook, which is a much better channel for electronic communication, but I can't assume that everyone who finds this blog also has a Facebook account. (By the way, I just now realized that many of the Facebook friend requests I've gotten from people I don't know may have been from people who've found my blog and want to follow it. If that's the case for you, send me a Facebook message and I'll probably accept your friend request.) If we could open up these topics for discussion on Facebook, that would be great, since we'd both get notifications when we say stuff to each other.

Of course, if you know me personally, you could contact me through text or email or just by talking to me face-to-face, but that wouldn't be convenient, or even possible, for some of you.

Other than that, I don't know how we could hold conversations. If you have any ideas, you could share them in a comment, as long as you don't mind the rest of the world potentially seeing it. I think that these interactive conversations would be good because then we'd be more free to discuss and explore ideas. We'd learn a lot more from each other if we could communicate more effectively. This blog has been great, but it has some limitations. If we could learn how to overcome some of these limitations by learning how to exchange comments with each other, we'd all get a lot more out of this blog than we get out of it now.

Friday, March 24, 2017

He Will Help Us Bear Them

As he spoke about afflictions, Elder Evan A. Schmutz said the following:
Many of us have pleaded with God to remove the cause of our suffering, and when the relief we seek has not come, we have been tempted to think He is not listening. I testify that, even in those moments, He hears our prayers, has a reason for allowing our afflictions to continue, and will help us bear them.
God does not always remove our afflictions. There are essential reasons for many of them. If there weren't, He would probably have already removed them out of His intense desire to help us. But when the trials we face are unavoidable, God offers us a different form of comfort; He helps us bear them. When God, for some wise reason, can't take our burdens from us, He can still often lighten them and strengthen us. In fact, strengthening us is one of the main reasons we have trials in the first place. God won't always just take our problems away from us, but as Elder Schmutz said, He "will help us bear them."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Both Harmless and Deadly

Last night, as Hector (whom you'll be happy to hear did not contract lycanthropy) was keeping watch, he saw a set of faint lights, like those of torches or lanterns, off in the woods. He roused his companions, and the sneakiest among them went off into the dark woods to investigate the mysterious lights. Even after several minutes, he didn't return. It turned out that the mysterious lights were Will-O'-Wisps, and they had tricked him into falling into a potentially-deadly pit of noxious fumes. On their own, the Wisps were harmless; they were just lights. But with a deadly trap to lure adventurers into, the Wisps had become a serious threat.

Similarly, temptations are also harmless, yet deadly. They are harmless in that they are just thoughts, but they are spiritually-deadly in that they can lead us into vicious traps. However, they share the same weakness that Will-O'-Wisps have: we can ignore them. The only way the Wisps were able to threaten Hector's companion was by convincing him to follow them, and the same is true for temptations; the only way temptations can harm us is by convincing us to follow them. We can choose not to. If we resist the temptations, they will be unable to harm us. It is only when we follow temptations that they gain the power to destroy us.

Last night, Hector and his companions learned better than to follow strange lights into the dark woods again. May we also learn not to follow such dangerous temptations. We may think temptations are harmless (and as long as we resist them, they are), but as soon as we begin to follow them, we will be at risk of finding out just how deadly they can be.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Comparing Problems

As Elder Evan A. Schmutz spoke of afflictions and trials, he reminded us that though the afflictions people suffer are (or at least seem to be) distributed unevenly, it doesn't do much good to compare our afflictions against others'. Rather, he encouraged us to learn from our afflictions, so we can gain the insights and learn the wisdom that God wants us to learn from them. It's not helpful to know whether our trials are more or less severe than another person's. Let it suffice that everyone has their own trials and afflictions and that God tailors the afflictions He gives us to best suit our strengths and needs, which vary greatly from one person to another. Your trials may be different from mine, and they may be stronger or weaker, or just as strong, but in different ways, but each of our trials are made specifically for us, and it's pointless to wish you had someone else's problems instead of your own. God's not going to let you trade, and even if He did, it would be counterproductive. Your afflictions were designed for you, to help you learn and grow. It doesn't matter if your problems are bigger or smaller than someone else's; they are just the right size and shape for you. So, let's try not to worry about who has it harder or easier than others. That's not going to help us become the people we need to be, but thankfully, our tailor-made trials will.