Thursday, November 15, 2018

How to Destroy Temptations

That's right: "Destroy." Temptations can be destroyed.

I have often heard of temptations being described as traps. Traps, at least the actual, physical traps, can be destroyed, but I didn't think that the "temptations as traps" analogy went that far. However, according to Helaman 5:29, the analogy can stretch that far, thanks mostly to another analogy:
Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, . . .
(There's more to the verse, but it's not relevant right now.)

I can think of at least one thing that is "quick and powerful" and that "divide[s things] asunder." A sword. And this isn't the first time the word of God has been compared to a sword.

It's not too hard to imagine how a physical sword might destroy a physical trap. Swords can cut through nets and snares fairly easily, and even tougher traps would eventually break if you hit them enough times.

But how does the word of God destroy temptation? Many temptations are built on lies, and the word of God is the truth. Such truths could disprove many of the lies upon which temptations rely, thus destroying those temptations. The word of God can also overpower, if not destroy, temptation by helping us gain a stronger motivation and desire to to good and resist temptation. And if we keep the commandments, we can have God's Spirit with us, and He can help us avoid having to face temptation in the first place.

I think the Word of God destroys temptation the same way we might "destroy" a supposedly logical argument: By disproving its premises, by showing its logic to be faulty, and/or by providing a stronger counterargument. Doing so may not physically destroy temptations because temptations are not actually physical objects, but if we keep the commandments and turn to the word of God in the face of temptation, we can destroy Satan's hopes of getting us to yield to temptation, and that might be good enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


During the past two days, I've had an opportunity to think about privilege. It has been smoky in Sacramento for the past several days, but this smokiness has been little more than a nuisance to me. In fact, I've noted a few times how amazing the smoke looks, something like a gray fog that, when it's thick enough, turns the sunlight orange. The smoke hasn't bothered me any more than being a slight inconvenience at having to put on a smoke mask and reduce the amount of time I spend outside. I am increasingly coming to realize how much of a privilege that is.

Not all people have smoke masks. By the time we heard on the news that some fire stations had smoke masks, most of the local fire stations were already out of stock. There weren't any masks at the first place we checked, or the second, or the third. We did, eventually, manage to get smoke masks, but only because we had smartphones that could tell us the location of every fire station in Sacramento and a car that could drive us to them. We were privileged to have been lucky enough to hear that news report in time. We were privileged to even have a TV at all and to have enough leisure time to watch it and spend an evening tracking down masks like it was some kind of scavenger hunt.

Others, I know, aren't so lucky. There are those who are too poor to own cars or smartphones or televisions. There are those who don't even have a roof over their heads or any other indoor space where they can get away from the smoke. There are those who have lost everything they owned to the fire that is causing all this smoke, and there are those who never owned that much in the first place.

Privilege begets privilege. The privileges of owning a car and a smartphone and a TV have bought my family another privilege: the privilege of having smoke masks. Those masks (and access to rapid transportation and many indoor spaces) will help us stay healthy, despite the smoke in the air outside, and that health will continue to buy us more privileges, like strength and lower healthcare costs. I've never thought of my family as being wealthy, but we do enjoy a great number of privileges which work together to get us even more.

I don't deserve the privileges I have, and those who don't have them don't deserve not to have them. None of us deserve many of the blessings or the afflictions that come into our lives. Sure, there are some blessings we "earn" through righteousness and some afflictions we "earn" through wickedness, but none of those account for the blessings and afflictions we were born into. I was born into a fiscally-afloat family of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the most richly blessed country in the world at a time of unparalleled technology, some of which I can afford. Most people only have a few of those blessings, if any.

The question now is what is to be done about this realization. I was born to privilege. What should I do with it? Of course, I can spend some of it satisfying my own desires; I don't think too many people would fault me for that. But what else? I should certainly use my blessings to help others, but how? It seems foolish to give everything away, even for charity's sake, but I should give some, perhaps more than I already do. And I should also give service. I readily use my smartphone to answer others' questions and communicate with those who regularly need help, and I serve with my health and strength as well. I suppose I could use my blog and Facebook page to give a voice to the voiceless, though I'll have to choose judiciously which voiceless I give voice to; however, engaging in internet politics is hardly the best use of anyone's time. Still, I should try to think more about what additional good I could do with my privileges, and I'll have to try to muster the will-power to do it.

This unfortunate smoke experience has helped me to realize how fortunate I am. Now, I should try to find ways to share my good fortune with others.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Just One Person

Today, I traveled about 10 miles, round trip, spending a total of about an hour and a half in smoke-hazy air, waited a total of two hours, and worked for one hour, all to help just one person.

It was worth it.

I don't want to give away too many details without anyone's permission, but it turned out that I was uniquely qualified to help this one person, and the person really needed my help. I was glad to be able to help.

Besides, it wasn't an unpleasant experience. For most of those six and a half hours, I felt satisfied and happy.

Plus, it may not be entirely accurate to say that I only helped one person. I only tutored one person, but now that I look back on that time, I answered other people's questions, helped a little bit with some paperwork, and shared laughs with at least three other people. I imagine that those three people's lives were made maybe slightly better by my being there than they would have been had I stayed home.

I also have myself to consider. I had a good experience, and I am going to get paid for some of that time, including all of the time I spent helping my student, so while I was helping "just one person," I was also helping myself.

I'm not sure it's possible to help "just one person." We all touch so many lives. Even an entirely selfish person might inadvertently help others by giving them experiences from which they can learn.

But even if I had somehow managed to help only one person, that still might have been worth my time, because, if nothing else, at least I helped that one person. That may not have had a big impact on the world in general, but I know it had at least some impact on at least one person, and maybe that's all one really needs. I can be satisfied with knowing that at least one person's life was better off by having me in it, and I know I accomplished at least that much today. I'm satisfied.

And, thankfully, I don't have to stop there. Helping even just one person can end up helping quite a few people, and I'm glad that that was the case today. I was blessed too be able to help a handful of people today, even when I was only focusing on one.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pass Up Passing Judgment

I know that God wants us to do a lot of things on our own, especially the things we can handle on our own and/or will need to learn eventually anyway, but there are also some things that are best left to His judgment, such as most cases of passing judgment on others.

We are not supposed to judge others, or at least, we're not supposed to judge them unrighteously, yet many people do. People mete out accusations, judgments, and punishments as though it were their place to do so, and admittedly, in some cases, it is, but not for most of us. To everyone who has not been specifically chosen as a judge, the Lord has said, in Mormon 3:5 and several other scriptures, "Vengeance is mine, and I will repay." Instead, we should probably follow the advice of a post I just shared on Facebook: "Just love everyone; I'll sort 'em out later. -God"

Years ago, I criticized a shirt that said "Only God Can Judge Me." My stance may have softened slightly since then, and I acknowledge that there are some people with the authority and responsibility to judge. However, while there are some people who must judge others, most of the rest of us shouldn't. It's difficult to know a person's motivations or intentions, and it's usually not any of our business anyway. There is often no need for us to pass judgment. Let's let God (and His delegates) handle that.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Temporary and the Eternal

Something that's been on my mind lately is how temporary most of mortality is. Most things end. Most callings are temporary. All trials are. Many of the situations we find ourselves in are temporary. In fact, even mortality itself is temporary.

There are many lessons we can draw from this fact. The first is that, if you are experiencing trials, take heart. Your trials will not last forever. Your trials, however long and painful, will eventually end. You will find relief.

The second is to not get too attached to anything temporary. Some people set their hearts on worldly goods or build their identities on their social status, but these things don't last. I suppose one can get attached to their bodies, but even then, one shouldn't get too attached to any particular physical characteristics because one never knows how much one's resurrection might change.

The third lesson is drawn from the exceptions. Most things in life are temporary, but the best things aren't. Our family relationships are eternal. Our minds and hearts (and all that they contain) also come with us into the afterlife. These are the things that we can set our hearts on and get attached to. These are the things that matter. These are the things that are certain to endure, even when just about everything else comes to an end.

Mortality is mostly compose of things that are temporary.  Our trials, possessions, and social conditions won't be part of our lives forever. When our mortal lives are over, only a few, eternal aspects would remain. These are the things on which we should focus our attention. Our families and our testimonies are among the few things that truly last. Most things in life are temporary, so it's important to focus instead on the few things that last forever.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Return Visit to Primary

Today and tomorrow, I had and will have a chance to briefly rejoin my Primary class for their Primary Program this year. It was really nice to be able to sit and chat with them again. I know that I was only released about a month ago, but it felt longer ago, and today felt a bit like a reunion. I like those kids, and I'm honored that they like me. They're good kids, and I'm glad I had a chance to be their teacher and to be with them again this weekend. I love the Primary, especially my class. I'm glad I've gotten this opportunity to visit them again.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Davies Did Something Difficult

Sometimes, God asks us to do something that is terribly (and seemingly meaninglessly) difficult. Before he was called to be the First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop Dean M. Davies was asked to help find a good site for a temple in or near Vancouver, BC, Canada. He and the rest of the committee found several good sites, with one site standing out above the rest. President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the prophet at the time, went to see that site and the others that had been considered, but he felt impressed to keep looking. He was led by the Spirit to another location and felt a strong impression that the temple should be built there. He asked the committee to look into buying the site.

As it turned out, as Bishop Davies put it, "he couldn’t have picked a more difficult property. It was owned by three individuals: one from Canada, one from India, and one from China! And it didn’t have the necessary religious zoning."

It seemed like a no-go, but the Prophet said, “Well, do your best," so they did.

"Then," Davies said, "the miracles happened. Within several months we owned the property, and later the city of Langley, British Columbia, gave permission to build the temple."

Through His Prophet, God had asked Bishop Davies to do the impossible, and with the help of the Lord and some of His other servants, he did it.

Now, I don't know why God wanted His temple built there. Maybe there's a reason that site was particularly perfect or reasons that the sites that had previously been considered weren't. Maybe there's a good, practical reason why God asked Bishop Davies to do the impossible. Or maybe God asked Bishop Davies to do the impossible just to prove that, with His help, he could do it.

We all face challenges in life. Some of those challenges are posed by God and seem arbitrary or needlessly difficult; however, God has good reasons to give us those challenges. They help us prove and improve our competence. They help us learn to rely on God. They help us gain faith in the omnipotence of God. And some of those challenges aren't actually arbitrary at all; they're vital for reasons that we just don't understand yet. Whatever God's reasons are for giving us difficult challenges, they're good ones. That's why we should always try to do what God asks of us, even when it seems terribly and arbitrarily difficult.