Monday, September 15, 2014

Fighting for a Worthy Prize

People who know what prize they're fighting for often have a better attitude about how hard they have to fight for it. The greater the goal is, the harder you'll be willing to fight to get it, which is fortunate, since the greatest victories often come with the greatest costs. I saw a quote on facebook that says "If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you're fighting." If we truly understood what we're fighting for, we wouldn't feel the need to complain about how difficult the battle is, because we'd know that any hardship we have to face would be overshadowed by the prize we stand to win.

We are fighting for Eternal Life, the Greatest of All the Gifts of God. To obtain such a gift would be worth any struggle or sacrifice, which is lucky, since just as Eternal Life would be worth a lot to us to obtain it, it'd be worth just as much to Satan to keep it away from us. Gaining Eternal Life would be a very good thing for us, and since Satan doesn't want any good thing to happen to us, he's as much opposed to our Eternal Progress as we should be for it. He's fighting as hard as he can. We should be too.

Life is difficult because there's a lot at stake. We stand to lose a lot if we're not careful, but we stand to gain infinitely more if we are. Because Satan understands what stakes we're fighting for, he's giving it all he's got. If we truly understood what we were fighting for, so would we. We've all been told how important it is to be valiant and keep the commandments, but in this world, it's easy to forget. In pursuit of other goals, we sometimes lose sight of our true prize, and we sometimes put too much effort toward the wrong endeavors and too little effort toward the ones that really matter. But if we could make ourselves understand what it is that truly matters, it wouldn't be as hard to keep our eyes on the prize and to fight for it.

We face a lot of opposition, but that's okay. The prize we have in store for us is well worth fighting for, no matter how hard the fight may be.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Credit for Trying

This morning, I was unable to blog because of technical difficulties. Now, I should be able to.

I'm grateful to know that God's okay with us not being perfect right now, and that He's patient with us. Sometimes, I feel discouraged, like I'm not making any progress, but that's okay. I'm probably making better progress than I realize, but even if I'm not, at least I'm trying. I think that all that God really asks of us is that we try. If we desire to keep the commandments, I'm sure that that counts for a lot, even if we struggle from time to time. God knows that we're not perfect, and He understands how hard it is to try to be. He sees how hard we're trying to keep His commandments, and I believe that He'll give us credit for trying. I've made a commitment to blog every morning before noon. I haven't been able to keep that commitment, but every day, I try to, and I think that that means something to Him.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How God Would Change the World

A family conversation recently reminded me of something I heard in General Conference a while back. As it turns out, what I had heard was a quote which was originally given only a few months after I was born.
The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.
- President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign July 1989
 Almost everyone knows that it's more effective to kill weeds by pulling out their roots than by cutting down the parts that we can see. That's because if the root of the weed remains, it'll grow right back. The same goes with most problems, including societal ones. If we only treat the symptoms of the problem, the problem will remain, but if we can get to the cause of the problem, we can neutralize the problem altogether and thus end its effects.

God knows this, so rather than changing people by the use of external influences, He works directly on their hearts. It's commonly believed that the world is not as it should be. God could miraculously fix the world, but that really wouldn't solve the world's problems because the cause of those problems is us. Human beings have caused many of the world's problems, and I believe that we have the power to fix them, but to do so would require a change of heart, or rather, a change of a lot of hearts.

To effect such a change, society could impose strict moral and environmental laws, hoping that people's minds and hearts would change to accept the new rules, but God doesn't work like that. He would rather change our natures to help us be more loving, more thoughtful, and more righteous, so we would chose to change our behavior ourselves. God is in an interesting position of having all the power in the universe, but not actually wanting to use it. He could literally change our minds for us, but He won't. He could physically fix the world Himself, not He's not going to - not until the end, anyway. This is our Earth, and our hearts. He gave them to us. It's up to us to fix them ourselves. He'll help us, if we let Him, but the responsibility is ours.

In order for us to change our behavior, we have to want to change. In order for our neighborhoods, country, or world to change, the people that live there have to want them to change. It starts on the inside, or in other words, at the roots. If we change ourselves at the center, that change will grow outward from there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Looking Back With Gratitude or Regret

A few days ago, I found a photo on Facebook that encourages people to spend more time with those they love, saying that "one day, you'll say either 'I wish I had' or 'I'm glad I did.'" The funny thing is that that's true for just about any good thing we could do. We get opportunities to do good all the time, and one day, we're going to look back and remember whether we took those opportunities or not. When I look back on my life, I want to be able to remember that I did as much good as I could have. I want to look back with gratitude toward my past self, rather than regret.I'm going to try to let that desire influence my decisions. Human nature is to make decisions based on how you feel in the moment. Wise men make decisions based on how they're going to feel about those decisions later. Some people make bad choices simply because they weren't thinking ahead.

I want to think ahead more and make decisions based on how I'll feel about those decisions later. Some times, I think that heaven and hell aren't places where we get special rewards or punishments to make us either happy or miserable. I think heaven and hell are places where we can spend a lot of time thinking about what we think of ourselves. There, we can either be proud of ourselves for the good decisions we've made, or upset with ourselves for the bad decisions we've made. We get to choose, but the tricky part is that we have to make the decisions now, long before the benefits or regret kick in.

It's hard to maintain an eternal perspective, but it's worthy trying, mostly because I know I'm going to regret it if I don't.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 John 1:13-14 - Face-to-Face Communication

Part of me wants to blog about something I shared on Facebook a few days ago, another part of me wants to blog about something that happened just now, but the largest part of me just wants to blog about pretty much anything, as long as it's quick, so I can get to school. Random Scripture Time!

Bible or Book of Mormon? -flips coin- Bible.
Old or New Testament? -flips coin- New Testament.
There are... -checks- 27 books in the New Testament. Which one should we pull our scripture from? -rolls dice- The 25th one, 3rd John.
3rd John only has one chapter, so that part's easy. Which verse should we read? -rolls dice- Verse 13. It's short. I'll throw in 14 as well.
I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 
But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. 
3 John 1: 13-14
Have you ever heard of the Vlogbrothers? They were really big on Youtube a few years back. Basically, they were two brothers who lived in different states and really only communicated through texts and emails and such. Knowing that face-to-face communication was more personal than textual communication, they decided that, for an entire year, they would A) not send any textual communications to each other, and B) send a video-blog message to each other every day, alternating days on which they gave or received videos. Since, between the two of them, they were posting videos on Youtube every day and because, partway through the year, one of them wrote and performed a song about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was all anyone was talking about at that time, they quickly gathered a large following, and the group became a dedicated force for good in the world, collectively donating millions of dollars to charities and engaging in countless worthwhile and frequently international projects. They're awesome. And it all started when two guys decided that their relationship would be strengthened more by (semi) face-to-face communication than by continuing to just text and email each other, and boy were they right!

In the verses above, John notes at the end of a letter that he could write a lot more. He "had many things to write," but he decided not to write all that because he trusted that he'd soon have an opportunity to speak to his readers face to face, and he decided that that would be better. And in many ways, it is.

With face-to-face communication, you can communicate so much more than just the words of your message. You also share the tone of your voice and your physical positions. Your emotions are more easily read in person than on paper, and if emotion is what you're trying to convey, a visit, or even a phone call, would be much more powerful than just sending someone a text or an email.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say anything bad about texts or emails. It's really awesome that we have this technology, and we should use it for good as much as we can, including sending quick, loving notes to each other to strengthen and encourage each other. That's really good. But if you get the chance to bear your testimony or share your love with someone in person, that's even better. John had such an opportunity, and he didn't let it go to waste. On anniversaries like these, we get reminders that we might be separated from our loved ones sooner than we think, so we should share our love with each other, through any means at our disposal, as frequently as we can. But remember, words said and heard are more powerful than words written and read. If you love someone, tell them - face to face, if you can.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Mother is an Angel

Today is my mother's birthday, so I'd like to write this morning's blog post about her. In Elder Holland's October 2008 General Conference talk, The Ministry of Angels, he taught that:
not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my [Elder Holland's] case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.
My mother is an angel, but just in case she thinks the term angelic couldn't apply to her, let me add a little bit of clarification. Angelic, a quality possessed by many women, especially mothers, does not mean perfect, which is a quality that, sadly, no mortal being possesses. Angelic, as defined in our copy of The World Book Dictionary, means "like an angel; pure, innocent, good, or lovely." No human being is perfectly pure or innocent, but as far as I can tell, my mother comes pretty close. She is also certainly a good person. Know one who knows her could honestly deny that. And, though she may claim otherwise, she is lovely, and more importantly, loving. The defining characteristic of any heavenly being is love, and she exemplifies it better than anyone else I know.

My mother is an angel. In fact, she's the most angelic person I know. There are a number of people in my family circle that could be described as angelic, and many of them have their mother's influence to thank for that. If I am, in any way, angelic, I'm certain that I owe that trait to my mother, to whom I also owe my life, my spirituality, my hope, and all of my happiness. I would literally be nothing if she hadn't given birth to me, and I'd be less than nothing if she hadn't raised me. There is, I'll admit, some small measure of good in me, and most of it came from her.

So I'd like to wish a happy birthday to the angel I call my mother. I love you. Thank you for setting such a good, angelic example for me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trusting my Brothers

A while back, my brother, Joe, handed me some mail that had come for me. I don't usually get mail, though I do occasionally get solicitations from a group of Eagle Scouts, asking me to join their prestigious, exclusive group. When Joe told me that that was all this was, I tore it up without even looking at it. When he asked me why I tore up a piece of mail without reading it first, probably mentioning that it could have been something important, I told Joe that I trusted him. If he told me it was just a piece of junk mail, I believed that enough to take the risk that it wasn't.

A short time afterward, I casually mentioned to Ben that the water from a certain drinking fountain tasted terrible, and he recommended another drinking fountain whose water he claimed was better. When I came to the drinking fountain, I filled my water bottle with it without tasting the water first. Again, the reason was trust. I knew Ben wouldn't lie to me, so I felt sure that the water was good, even before I had tried it.

Of course, I tasted the water later by taking a drink from my water bottle, and after Joe's comment, I decided to put the torn pieces of junk mail back together so I could read it after all, just for fun, but in both cases, I found that my trust in my brothers was well-placed.

We all have some brothers who are equally trustworthy. We usually call them The Brethren, the General Authorities, or Elder or President So-And-So. They frequently tell us things that, like all things, may or may not be true. They teach us doctrine, which, like all doctrine, is either true or false. And they give us advice and counsel, which, like all advice, is either good or bad. Some people wonder how we can tell whether what they tell us is true or false. There are ways to check. We can check their words against what's found in the scriptures. If they match up, it's probably good. We can test their advice and see how it works out for us before we whole-heartedly commit to it. Or, once we've come to understand that everything they've told us that we've tested has proven to be good and true, we could simply start taking their word for it.

For me, the Brethren have developed a reputation for trustworthiness, just as my brothers have. I don't need to read the junk mail, taste the water, or double-check General Conference talks against the scriptures. As far as I'm concerned, the General Conference talks are just as good as scripture. I'd trust it to the end of the Earth.

Or would I? When you trust that information is true, you usually act on it. When I tore up my mail, I was acting on the belief that, as Joe had told me, it actually was just some junk mail. When I filled my water bottle from the untested drinking fountain, I was acting on Ben's testimony that the drinking fountain's water was good. When the Brethren tell us that it's important to, say, study the scriptures diligently every day, do I give such study the priority that befits the importance that the Brethren say it has, or do I just skim through the books and read a few verses casually, because I know I'm supposed to, but not like it's actually all that important after all?

If I truly trust the General Authorities, and they say that this or that is of vital importance to the welfare of my soul, shouldn't I then act like that thing is of vital importance to the welfare of my soul? Shouldn't I put full faith in not only the truthfulness of their words, but also in the soundness of their counsel? The Brethren give us a lot of good advice, and I don't actually follow hardly any of it. But I should. I do trust the Brethren. I should commit to trust them and their counsel, even to the end of the Earth. It takes a lot of commitment to do that, and a lot of faith, just as it took some faith to tear up the junk mail and refill my water bottle, but I trust my brothers, and I know I can trust my Brethren too.