Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Hope of Easter

It has occurred to me that the lesson of Easter is mostly about hope, though the surety of that hope varies. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ has guaranteed that everyone will be redeemed from physical death. We will all be restored to life, all of our physical infirmities will be alleviated, and we will become immortal. That's a future we hope for, and we can be certain of it.

However, our hope for redemption from spiritual death depends on our actions. Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ made it possible for us to repent and be forgiven of our sins, but it does not make it certain that we will. While our redemption from physical death is guaranteed, our redemption from spiritual death depends on our repentance. So, while Eastertime gives Christians a good deal of hope, it's partially up to us to make sure that our hope is realized.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Many Easter Lessons

There are so many lessons to learn from Easter and the week that preceded it, it's hard for me to pin down any one lesson to focus on. I could emphasize Christ's love, courage, or mercy. I could focus on hope through The Atonement. I could share any of the lessons Christ taught that week and my thoughts on how we should apply them. But the problem for me is that none of those thoughts or messages stands out to me more than any of the others, and I'm sure that any message I could share about Easter has already been shared by people much better-equipped to talk about it than I am. I'll try to focus on one aspect of Easter and try to gain some new insights about it, but mostly, I'm just glad that Easter happens, and I'm glad there are so many different lessons one can learn from it.

Our Wants and His Wisdom

Elder Brook P. Hales of the Seventy opened his talk, Answers to Prayer, with the following words:
An important and comforting doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that our Heavenly Father has perfect love for His children. Because of that perfect love, He blesses us not only according to our desires and needs but also according to His infinite wisdom.
What I find interesting about this is that, while God doesn't always give us what we want, He sometimes does. This seems somewhat odd to me. If God knows what's best for us, why not only give us that, regardless of what we want? At the moment, I can think of a handful of reasons why God sometimes gives us what we want.

The first reason is that it may not ultimately matter. God has a perfect plan for each of us, but some elements of that plan may be nonessential or flexible, allowing us the freedom and leeway to seek our own path within the bounds The Lord has set. In fact, God might specifically plan for this. God values our agency. Perhaps our choices and preferences factor into His plans for us. He  wants what's best for us, but there may be times when having opportunities to exercise our agency and get what we want ultimately is what's best for us.

Another reason God might let us have what we want, despite Him wanting what's best for us, is that what we want is what's best for us. I don't imagine this happens often, and it may be pure coincidence when it does, but it's possible for our choices to, coincidentally or not, align with God's will, especially when we seek to follow God's will. God wants what's best for us, but perhaps we sometimes want what's best for us, too.

God gives us many blessings, and He'll certainly never give us anything that's not going to be good for us, but I find it interesting that God blesses us not only according to our needs and His wisdom, but also, occasionally, according to our desires.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Raising Standards

In her talk, Careful versus Casual, President Becky Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, warned us against lowering our standards to match others'. Instead, she advised us to elevate others and encourage them to raise their standards. I see some wisdom in this. People would do well to hold themselves, if not also others, to high standards. We should all strive to exhibit great moral character, not just "good" or "acceptable" moral character. And sadly, some people's behavior is unacceptable, by God's standards. We should do better, and we should urge others to do better. The world regularly lowers its standards of personal moral conduct. We should do what we can to reverse that trend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Making Sacrifices for Blank-Check Blessings

In our D&D game tonight, we encountered a dragon. Normally, a dragon would be a pretty tough fight, but this dragon approached us in the form of a human and subsequently became an ally of ours. Now, it's uncertain how genuine this alliance is our how long it'll last, but for now, we have a draconic ally, and my character, Krusk, believes he has Besmara to thank for that.

Shortly before the dragon encounter, Krusk prayed to Besmara and made her an offering of 50 Gold Pieces and his wedding ring. (Krusk no longer considers himself married to the woman who cheated on him and attempted to kill one of his friends and steal a whole hoard of treasure from him.) When Krusk made that offering, he wasn't asking for anything specific. The was no favor he was especially trying to seek. He was merely devoting himself to the worship of Besmara and hoping that she'd choose him to be (one of) her champion(s).

He had no idea a dragon might get involved. He would never have dreamed of asking for anything that great. The dragon was a complete surprise, but it was a welcome one.

When we Fast and contribute Fast Offerings, we sometimes have specific blessings in mind. There are often particular trials or challenges we want to overcome or particular blessings we want to get. We are encouraged to pray specifically, since that makes it at least a little bit more likely for us to get what we want.

Yet, God knows our wants and needs better than we can imagine, and there are certainly times when what we want isn't actually what's best for us. Perhaps we should occasionally ask God to bless us with whatever He wants to give us. Maybe we should sometimes make sacrifices to and for God "just because." God wants to bless us, and He knows which blessings would help us most. So, while we can certainly pray and fast and sacrifice for whatever blessings we think we need, perhaps we should also pray and fast and sacrifice for whatever blessings God knows we need. We may not know what blessings we're making sacrifices for, but I'm sure that God will make sure that whatever blessings He gives us will be well worth the sacrifices.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Purpose of Playing

This evening, I played a game of D&D with my siblings, but we didn't do much of what I had planned.

I had planned for us to track down a giant hoar, overcome an obstacle or two, and charm the boar into performing at an event we were invited to attend. Instead, we spent the entire session talking to some soldiers, pointing them in the direction of a dungeon we had cleared out, and following them to the dungeon and then back to their base of operations.

We did eventually get to the part where we found boar tracks, but that was about as far as we got along the line of events I had planned. Most other games would tell us that we had not accomplished our objectives, and had therefore failed.

However, this is D&D. The objectives can be whatever we want them to be. If we want to spend our whole gaming evening sneaking around some soldiers, chatting with them, and sneaking around them some more, so be it.

One of the main objectives of any game is to have fun. As long as we're having fun, we're playing the game just fine.

But more importantly, I play D&D with my siblings largely as an excuse to get together and hang out with my siblings. As long as we're spending time together, enjoying each others' company, that's what really matters.

I like D&D for many reasons. I like the stories we get to tell and experience, I like the wacky shenanigans we get into, and I like spending time with my friends and family (in manageably small groups; I'm still fairly introverted). Of those reasons, I generally count the last one as the most important. As long as we're all together, having a good time, I'd say it hardly matters how we're playing D&Dor even whether or not we're actually playing the game at all.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sharing and Learning Together

In his talk, How Can I Understand?, Elder Ulisses Soares reminded us that one of the purposes of the new(ish) Come, Follow Me curriculum is to give us opportunities to teach and learn from each other. The Gospel has many layers and messages. Different people, after hearing the same parable or reading the same scripture, will sometimes see different lessons in them. As we share the gospel and our insights on it with each other, we will gain additional insights and perspectives, and we will be able to build on each others' insights and all learn more together. Studying the Gospel on one's own is important, but it can also be beneficial to get together after our personal studies and share what we've learned.