Friday, May 25, 2018

Stumbling Blocks Into Stepping Stones

In his talk, Until Seventy Times Seven, Elder Lynn G. Robbins spoke about mistakes. He spoke about how we make countless mistakes in our attempts to do basically anything and how those mistakes can teach us how to do better. "Hopefully," he said, "each mistake we make becomes a lesson in wisdom, turning stumbling blocks into stepping-stones." We can accomplish this by learning from our mistakes, examining how and why we made them, and learning how we can  recognize and avoid those kinds of mistakes in the future.

Continuing his talk, Elder Robbins spoke of a college professor who let his students retake exams after reviewing the material that covers the questions the students had gotten wrong. By doing so, this professor "inspired his students to keep trying—to consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy, and to not fear failure but to learn from it."

In life, we will face failures. As we try to be righteous, we will fail over and over and over again. Yet, we can learn from those failures and ultimately grow out of our mistakes. To do so, it helps to analyze our actions and the circumstances and choices that led up to them. That way, we can determine what went wrong and how we can do better. And that's what life is all about: learning how to do better. Our mistakes can help us do that, but only if we think of them as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Healing Word

In my family scripture reading tonight, we read Jacob 2. In this chapter, Jacob speaks strongly against those who "are beginning to labor in sin" (Jacob 2:5), but first he explains how reluctant he is to do so, considering the number of faithful people who have also come to hear Jacob speak. Of the righteous congregants, Jacob said "And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul" (Jacob 2: 8).

Jacob's messages, both to the righteous and to the unrighteous, are blogworthy, but tonight I just wanted to add my testimony to Jacob's that "the pleasing word of God" truly "healeth the wounded soul." There have been many times when I was going through a rough patch, but was helped by remembering the word of God in the form of a scripture or a hymn or a fresh piece of inspiration sent directly to me. Though inspiration, God has confirmed my divine value and potential when I needed that reminder most. God has helped me see the eternal perspective when things were going wrong, and He had forgiven me and healed me of spiritual wounds that I had caused myself.

So, I urge you, when you go through a hard time, when you find that your soul has been wounded, no matter who or what has done the wounding, turn to the word of God. Read a scripture. Sing a hymn. Pray for inspiration. I am certain that if you do those three things, something in the word of God will speak to you and will offer some healing for your soul. The wound may take time to fully heal, but the process will begin as soon as you turn to "the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Deciding to Be a Paladin - Whatever that Means

Last night, I wrestled with my indecision, saying that "I don't know what I want to be," but that's not completely true. That may be true professionally, but on a personal level, I know what I want to be. I want to be a Paladin.

Knowing that I want to be a Paladin can help me make decisions in my personal life. It can help me decide to do what a Paladin would do. So, when I encounter a situation where I have to make a choice that has any moral bearing at all, I don't have to agonize over the decision. I often do, but I don't have to, because the choice should be obvious. A Paladin would at least try to do the right thing. If I want to be like a Paladin, so should I.

Yet, while that can help me make moral decisions, that won't necessarily help me make professional decisions. In their fantastical settings, the occupation of any given Paladin is probably just being a Paladin. Whether that means guarding their town or city both as a duty and a job, serving as professional clergy, or going out on quests funded by a church or another patron or by the treasures found by the Paladin over the course of the quest. In fantasy worlds, Paladins make their money simply by being Paladins.

Obviously, that won't work for me. My church doesn't have paid clergy and I don't have what it takes to be a modern "town guard." I don't want to be a cop or a soldier. When I was young, I toyed with the idea of wanting to be a firefighter, but I don't want to do that either. I want to help people, but not in a way that depends on physical ability, which is certain to decline rather than improve with age. Sure, if I work out, I'll be stronger in the coming years than I am now, but relying on physical strength is not a good long-term strategy.

So, what else could I do to simulate being a Paladin? How else could I help others for a living? Being a lawyer or a politician seems to be an obvious choice. It allows you to defend the defenseless. Yet, it relies on an intricate knowledge of a complex system of laws that I would really rather not have to study. Doctors and psychiatrists also work as Paladins by being healers, but they too rely on knowledge that I do not possess and have little interest in gaining, though learning how to be a psychiatrist seems a lot more appealing to be than learning to be a doctor. In a different way, teachers and tutors help people as well, and I'm already on that career path, so I might as well follow it. But teaching people the half-dozen ways to correct comma splices isn't an action that readily comes to mind when I think about being a Paladin. Inspiring confidence in others is something a Paladin might do, so I could focus my tutoring on inspiring my students. Paladins often serve as guides and mentors. Perhaps I could view my tutoring in that light as well. Maybe I could teach and tutor like a Paladin.

But how can I blog like a Paladin? If a Paladin suddenly found himself with a blog, what would he do with it? Of course, he would honor his commitment to blog daily (or nightly), as a Paladin tries to honor all of his commitments. But what would he say on his blog? What would he blog about?

I think that a Paladin might try to use his blog to spread faith, guidance, and inspiration as far as his voice could carry. A Paladin would try to encourage others to do good and be good. I like the sound of that. I would like my blog to be a place where people can turn for inspiration, and not just to hear my introspection and political opinions. I'd rather inspire people than present an argument to them. So, I'll try to focus on that.

I am so grateful that I've found a role-model like Paladins. As I strive to become more like a Paladin, I may eventually overcome my indecision to the point where I consistently blog and teach and behave like a Paladin. And who knows? Given enough time to practice, I may eventually figuratively become a Paladin.


Once, when I was asked to describe myself in one word, I couldn't choose a word, so I ultimately replied "Indecisive." I have demonstrated that trait several times tonight including when I tried to figure out what to blog about. Unfortunately for me, indecision is actually a fairly serious fault. One of the reasons we came to earth is to learn how to make good decisions, and it can be difficult to make good decisions when one struggles to make decisions at all. I should practice being more assertive and making more firm decisions on a regular basis rather than just going with the flow. I should fight my indecision by determining what I should set as my goals and what I can do to help me accomplish those goals. This blog can be a great tool for me, but I often end up wasting my opportunities to use it because I can't decide what to do with it. I should try figure out what I want to do with this blog and with myself so I can actually start doing those things. This blog can be a tool for introspection and self-improvement. It can be a study help. It can be a soapbox. Or it can be a place where I regularly spend hours trying to decide what I want it to be that evening. The same thing goes for me. I can be anything I want to be - as soon as I figure out what that is. But that's the problem: I don't know what I want to be. I don't know what I want. For now, all I can say is that I know that I want to stop being so indecisive.

Monday, May 21, 2018


In response to my most recent blog post, about Cost Reduction, my mother reminded us all that most of the costs for God's choicest blessings have already been paid by the Savior. This reminded me almost immediately of another mechanic in Magic, a new one called "Assist."

Assist comes from a new set called Battlebond, which focuses on 2v2 matches. A team of two players play against another team of two players. Teammates are encouraged to work together, covering for each other's weaknesses and following the same plan and strategy. One thing they can normally not do is share resources. No player can give another player their mana, for instance, unless a special ability says otherwise.

Assist is just such an ability. When a player casts a spell with Assist, they still have to pay part of the mana cost, but they can ask another player, like their teammate, to help pay part of the cost. Exactly how much the teammate is allowed to help depends on the spell, but let it suffice to say that the teammate can pay up to almost all of the cost of any spell with Assist. For example, a 7-mana spell would probably allow the other player to pay up to 5 or 6 mana.

While the player casting the spell still has to pay at least 1 or 2 mana, it still somewhat works with my analogy. When we want blessings, there are costs we have to pay. But, as my mom reminded me, we should remember that a large portion of those costs have already been paid by our Teammate.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cost Reduction

In Magic: the Gathering, every spell has a mana cost. In order to cast a spell, you have to tap enough lands to produce enough mana to pay the cost. Some of the more powerful spells, like the spells that let you summon dragons, cost a lot of mana; however, there are some effects that can reduce the costs of some spells. For example, Dragonspeaker Shaman is a creature that has the effect "Dragon spells you cast cost (2) less to cast." If I have a Dragonspeaker Shaman on my side, dragons that would normally cost 6 mana only cost 4, and dragons that would normally cost 4 mana only cost 2.

A more real-world example would be coupons. With the right coupon, you can reduce the cost of a purchase and get something for less than what it would normally cost you.

But in spiritual matters, there are no such cost reductions. Every blessing has a cost in the form of a spiritual law that you have to obey in order to qualify for that blessing, and there is (as far as I know) no way to reduce that cost. If you want the blessings of the temple, for example, you have to obey the spiritual laws that allow you to qualify for those blessings. Period. There are no cost-reducing effects that will allow you to obtain those blessings without being fully worthy.

Cost reduction is an interesting mechanic in Magic: the Gathering, and it's a useful tool in commerce, but in the Gospel, it just doesn't happen. If you ever want any blessing, you have to pay the full cost.

A Lesson on Temptation

I'm not sure I much care for the stated purpose of the lesson I'm teaching tomorrow. The stated purpose of the lesson is "To encourage the children to keep themselves pure by staying away from temptation and living close to the Lord." This is a reference to the moment in which Joseph flees from the advances of Potiphar's wife. Yet, while that is a critical moment in the story, it is only one moment.

The rest of Joseph's story is about diligence. He work's hard for Potiphar, and it goes well, until he's sent to jail. Then he works hard again in prison, and it gets him nowhere until the butler remembers him two years after he helped him. And then he works hard for Pharaoh and ends up saving multiple countries from starvation. Through it all, Joseph works hard, regardless of his circumstances.

A large part of me is tempted to reuse the purpose from the last lesson, which was "To teach the children that even though we may not always be able to control the things that happen to us, we can control our attitudes." But that word, tempted, makes it clear to me what I ought to do.

While I'd love to focus the lesson on Joseph's diligence or, alternatively, on how his experience and an experience of mine could illustrate the surprisingly miraculous nature of God's plans, I know that the lesson the manual wants me to teach is probably more important. Diligence is an admirable trait, as is faith, but learning a wise response in the face of temptation is probably going to be far more important for these children, especially in the years to come.

So, as tempted as I am to spend as little time on it as I have to, I know that I have to cover Joseph's interaction (and lack thereof) with Potiphar's wife. At least, I know that I need to cover it enough that the children learn how to resist temptation.