Monday, March 30, 2015

On the Palms of His Hands

The main reason Mom and I visited the Rosers this weekend was that this was the weekend when their Stake was holding their annual Life of Christ celebration. In addition to heart-moving musical numbers, there were live actors describing scenes from Jesus' life, as well as many still pictures and paintings that depicted Jesus. Of the still images, the one that affected me most looked something like this:

See! I will not forget you... I have carved you on the palm of my hand. -Isaiah 49:15-16

When I think of what Jesus went through when He got those scars and His deliberate decision to keep them after His resurrection, I feel a very sure knowledge that He won't forget me now. When life is challenging, I know that He has felt that struggle and that He's continually working with me to help me overcome them. Because He lives and loves me, I will never be forsaken or alone.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Helpful Hints

Yesterday, I took part in a small Easter egg hunt with some of my family. The role I played in this even was mostly giving the youngest clues to where she could find her eggs, but I could only help her find her eggs after I spotted them first.

Later that day, my brother-in-law and I went out to play some disc golf, and we almost lost one of the discs. We searched for it for about half an hour, thinking that it might have fallen into a stream and become wedged under some rocks. After some time, other disc golfers suggested that we look further downstream and, sure enough, we found the disc much farther downstream than we had expected.

In each case, those who helped others find what they were looking for were only able to do so because they had a better idea, or at least a better guess, of where to look.

Many people in the world are searching for the happiness and peace that comes from the gospel. Those of us who were lucky enough to have found or been raised in the gospel would be kind to let others know what we found and where we found it.

In Easter egg hunts, the challenge of searching is half the fun, but when it comes to the gospel, we shouldn't leave others to find it on their own. We should be more like the other disc golfers and give others guidance as soon as they're ready to receive it.

We're all trying to find happiness in life. If you've found some, it'd be good of you to tell others where.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Minecraft - Stay Out of Caves or Bring Torches

Last night, I had the opportunity to introduce my mom to Minecraft. I wanted to show Mom that Minecraft is a clean game, one that she could approve of, and one that I would be totally comfortable playing in front of her, which I was. I'd even be comfortable playing it on Sunday, even though I wouldn't be comfortable playing a game as violent as Mario on Sunday, and Minecraft has monsters in it. The reason for the difference is that the monsters in Minecraft are easy to avoid - you just need to stay in the light.

In Minecraft, monsters only spawn in dark places. During the day, you're safe from monsters as long as you don't go into caves or linger near them. But during the game's night cycle, monsters can appear almost everywhere. To protect yourself then, you need to have a shelter - a place where the monsters can't get in, and fill that area with light.

Similarly, there are certain places in the world where evil thrives. You can avoid much of the world's evil by staying away from those places, but there are also times or seasons when evil is more abundant. During such times as these, we need to create shelters and stay in places of light. Like temples, other church buildings, or our own homes.

But we can't stay inside forever. In Minecraft, you need resources that can only be found underground, so you frequently need to risk exposure to monsters. And in life, we need to leave our houses in order to go to school and work and to fulfil our other obligations. However hard you try, you do have to encounter monsters, both virtual ones and spiritual ones, though preferably not on Sunday.

The good news is that we can turn dark places into places of light. You can bring light with you in the form of torches or a strong testimony, to defend yourself even when dark places are unavoidable. In Minecraft, and in some cases in real life, you can permanently change dark places into light places, changing them from from dangerous places into places of safety. It's not as easy in real life as it is in Minecraft, but it's often possible.

One of the greatest things about Minecraft is that you can change your surroundings. You can do that in reality, too. You can improve the world around you and bring light with you wherever you go. You can't always avoid facing darkness, but by bringing light with you, you can always dispel the darkness around you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gathering vs Gathering

Today, Planeswalkers from across the Multiverse are getting together at their favorite Gathering places to summon and battle armies of dragons on the battlefields of Tarkir, and I won't be joining them. But that's okay, partly because I don't want to spend any much more money on Magic right now, and partly because I'm doing to be doing something better. I'm going on an adventure with someone I love, and we'll be attending a different kind of gathering. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How Belief May Work and When it Doesn't

I little bit of a disclaimer from last nights blog post: Sometimes, even often, the power of belief isn't enough. For example, I could believe that there was an invisible platform that I'd land on safely if I hopped off a cliff, but merely believing it wouldn't make it true, even if I believed in it with all my heart.

I have no idea how sugar pills work. I don't know how an illness or condition could be cured just by believing you took medicine that could cure it. It seems illogical that taking a pill with no medicinal properties could have any medicinal benefit. Yet, it does work - sometimes. I wonder why.

Maybe some illnesses are partly (mostly? entirely?) mental, meaning that we feel sick because we think we're sick. That makes sense to me. I've heard that confirmation bias can be pretty strong. If a person thinks they're sick, then they may see or feel symptoms of the sickness they think they have. On the flip-side, confirmation bias can fuel sugar pills as well. If you took something you thought was medicine, you may start to see the benefits of the medicine you thought you had taken.

Can belief, either in a false sickness or a fake cure, affect a person's actual physical health? Perhaps. In ways that I don't fully understand, the mind is connected to the body, and the mind and the body affect each other. I wish I were more qualified to talk about this. I wish I knew more about how belief affects health. Maybe I'll do some research later. More likely, I'll just drop the topic and forget about it for now, even though understanding how sugar pills work could help me answer my next question.

How is it that mere belief can affect the real world, like a person's actual state of wellness, at some times and in some ways, but not in others? If sugar pills can cure some illnesses, why can't they cure all of them? I suppose the answer lies somewhere in medical science. But if there needs to be a scientific explanation why a certain drug or treatment works, how is it that sugar pills have any affect on a person at all?

Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers. However, I know that some things are absolutely true, no matter what anyone believes. There is no invisible platform, no matter how strongly I believe it's there. Similarly, God's existence and His power and authority are not dependent on whether or not anyone believes in Him. The scriptures are true, and, by extension, the commandments, promised blessings, and prophecies therein are all true as well, even if nobody believes in them. I also know that some things are absolutely not true, no matter how many people believe in them. Some things don't exist, no matter what a person thinks they've seen or felt, and some things don't work, no matter what a person has seen or experienced or what they think it means. Sometimes, belief just doesn't cut it. I just wish I better understood why, sometimes, it does.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Power of Belief

A young woman in one of my English classes was wearing a light blue crystal that was wrapped in a metallic spiral and that hung from a necklace. When I asked her about the unique piece of jewelry, she told me that it was an aqua aura crystal. When I googled the term, I learned that it's a psychic energy crystal, used to enhance a person's clairvoyance and telepathy, as well as to ward off psychic or telepathic attacks. I, like many people, find myself skeptical about the effectiveness of such things. I don't really believe in auras or psychic energy. There may be more to it than I suspect there is, but the real power behind those crystals is, in my opinion, the power of belief.

I almost said "the power of faith," but that wouldn't quite be accurate. Faith is a belief in things that are not seen that are true (Alma 32:21). The power of belief works even if the thing believed in isn't true. The power of belief is responsible for the healing power of sugar pills. A while back, I blogged about Dove's Beauty Patches, and commented that I wouldn't mind getting some "Awesome Patches," even though none of those patches did or would do anything beyond giving the wearer something to believe in. The women who participated in the beauty patch trial experiment said that they could feel the beauty patches working. Perhaps aqua aura crystals work the same way.

Still, I think that the power of belief is less potent than the power of faith, with the difference being that the power of faith is derived from the belief in something that is actually true. A belief in God is going to help you more than a belief in psychic energy, and a belief in your identity as a daughter or son of God will do more to improve your self-image than a beauty patch would.

Yet, how arrogant must I be to say that? How arrogant is it to say that psychic energy only works (if/when it actually works) because people believe that it works, while faith in God works miracles because God is real? How arrogant is it to say that the things that I believe in are true while things others believe in are false? I don't want to be arrogant. And, to be honest, I can't really say that psychic energy doesn't work. Maybe it does. Maybe it works just because people believe that it does, or maybe it works because of scientific or mystical reasons I don't yet understand, or maybe it doesn't work at all. I have little experience with it, so I can't really say.

But what I can say is that faith works. My belief in God has helped me in ways that I can't describe. Maybe that was just the power of belief, but I don't think so. I think that God actually exists and that He actually does work miracles in the lives of those who have faith in Him. It could be that God also created psychic energy crystals and that people really do have chakras and auras in addition to spirits and souls. Our beliefs aren't mutually exclusive. Maybe we're both right. And even if there's nothing real behind mystic energy, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with wearing an aqua aura pendant. It may not be magical, but it could still have positive effects on you if you believe that it will. Dove's Beauty Patches worked, despite Dove admitting that there was nothing special about them. I believe that the power of belief can be a strong thing, even if the thing you believe in isn't entirely true.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Share the Joy

In Elder Bednar's talk, Come and See, he spoke about a few of the reasons why we do missionary work. To illustrate one of the reasons, he shared an experience he and his wife had had watching two of their boys. When the younger brother received a slight injury, the older brother gave the small wound an excessive amount of treatment. Having been thus healed, the younger brother wanted to heal others, so he went around putting medicated ointment and bandages on everyone. Commenting on the younger boy's action, Elder Bednar said:
Please note that he immediately and intuitively wanted to give to his friends the very thing that had helped him when he was hurt. That little boy did not have to be urged, challenged, prompted, or goaded to act. His desire to share was the natural consequence of a most helpful and beneficial personal experience.
When we find something that helps us or makes our lives better in any way, there is a natural desire to share it. Out of genuine love for others, we want them to also have the things that bring happiness into our lives. This is part of the reason we do missionary work, and it's part of the reason I blog about games and fantasy. I enjoy those things and they inspire me. My hope is that they'll give you some happiness and inspiration, too.

Then again, I know that games and fantasy aren't for everyone. The children who weren't injured probably didn't get as much benefit from the ointment and bandages as the injured boy had. On them, the bandages were just big stickers. Fun, perhaps, but not really helpful. I knew that not everyone would be inspired by thinking of life as an open-world, massively multiplayer, role-playing, sandbox, choose-your-own-adventure game, but I was, and I hoped that some of you would be as well.

Yet, even though bandages are more useful at some times than at others, and fantasy does more good for some people than for others, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. We all need to hear messages that increase our faith and strengthen our testimonies. We all need the strength that comes from the Gospel and the peace that comes from living it. We all need occasional reminders to repent and encouragement to press forward, despite our troubles, trials, and weaknesses. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope and salvation. It is of benefit to everyone who hears of it and applies its message. That's why we want everyone to hear of it, and that's why we share the gospel.

Of course, there's more to the story than that. You should check out Elder Bednar's talk for a more complete explanation. I mostly just wanted to make the point that I share my love of games and fantasy for one of the same reasons as I share the gospel. They make me happy. They bring fun and/or joy into my life. You may already have as much fun in your life as you would like to have, or maybe you get your fun in other ways, but games and fantasy are where I get a good deal of my fun and even some inspiration, so as often as I find something inspiring in some game or fantasy story, I plan on sharing it here. I'm not trying to push my hobbies on you any more than I'm trying to push my religion on you. I'm just trying to share the joy.