Thursday, December 19, 2013

No One is Watching

If there's one thing that online games are known for, it's that they're home to the absolute worst kinds of people. In the virtual world, social norms and courtesy can be disregarded with wonton glee. In Eve, I've been lied to, backstabbed, blown up, robbed, and blown up again just for good measure. Confused bystanders would ask why anyone in their right mind would want to play such a game where complete strangers regularly betraying you is a normal aspect of gameplay. I've yet to come up with a good response for why I keep going back for more. 

Pictured: A complete stranger that wants to ruin your life for no reason. 

Just like in real life, examples of pure charity and christian behavior in Eve are as eye grabbing as an armed robbery, it's a rare occurence and usually quite spectacular when it does happen. 

One day, our target on a hunt was a lonely Nidhoggur Carrier who was relaying through the Aridia system. The 'man on deck' with me at the time was Gunny, a formidable German fellow with a hearty laugh and a lust for killing anything bigger than a cruiser. Our scout observed a Nidhoggur Carrier jump into the Afrah system at a planet, after which he jumped to the station in Yiratal system. 

Since we also monitored the local market carefully for clues, we noted that the Carrier pilot had quickly purchased 300 units of liquid ozone next door and returned to his spot on the planet. Clearly, after his business was done in Yiratal, this mean the Nidhoggur would likely jump back through Afrah system. 

In preparation for this, I positioned my own ship close by where his would turn up, at the same planet. The plan was simple: on his return trip, we'd tackle him and then drop our own capital ships to kill him. it seemed the easiest and cleanest of kills.

"HE'S UNDOCKING!" roared Gunny, who had docked at the same station in Yiratal.

But instead of a massive capital ship, the fellow appeared instead in a Rookie ship, a small frigate known as a reaper. 

To our surprise, this reaper then jumped to our own home system in Fihrneh. Once there, we monitored him buying Hydrogen Isotopes (The fuel for his carrier) at the market. Then, he undocked again and flew back to Yiratal, where his Nidhoggur was docked.  

"Now it comes!" enthused Gunny. But again it was the reaper, and not the carrier, which appeared. 

We waited. Clearly this man, whom we now dubbed The Ferryman, was intent on moving a lot of fuel for some grand journey. He also appeared to have no intention at all of simply dropping into the station and putting it all into his carrier at once. No, he was happy enough to fervently fly back and forth, hauling it piecemeal in the under-endowed cargo of a rookie ship. 

In Eve, good things often come to those who wait. So we sat and watched. As we imagined the isotopes piling up and the carrier getting ever closer to its fateful departure, we decided that there was something inherently moribund about the sight of a man so methodically crafting his own doom.

Even his anointed name became strangely apt. The scent of death followed our ferryman as closely as it would his namesake scurrying across the banks of the River Styx.

And still we waited. And still the ferrying went on. 

Then, with our patience wearing thin, we devised a plan to give fate a helping hand.

During one of his stops in Fihrneh, we piloted a Hoarder (an industrial ship) to the system of Edilkam, which lay between the fuel haven of Fihrneh and his carrier's location in Yiratal.  

While he was busy loading up another round of fuel and undocking, the pilot ejected from the Hoarder and left it floating in space. Although unboarded, the hauler was far form empty. We'd laden it to the brim with Hydrogen Isotopes.

The Ferryman's rookie ship soon arrived. We watched with baited breath as he aligned toward Yiratal. Would he ignore this offering? Suddenly, to our Malignant delight, he began approaching the Hoarder and boarded it. After a long pause, he warped it toward Yiratal.

"We have him now." exclaimed Gunny. 

Dreadnoughts were primed and final checks were made on the drone bays of our own hungry carriers. Surely it would b only moments until he warped into our trap.

Suddenly, Gunny erupted again on the comms. "It can't be!" 

The Ferryman had returned to Edilkam and he was still flying the Hoarder. We watched in shock as he carefully positioned the cargo sip back into the same spot over the gate where he'd found it. Then he boarded his rookie ship again and continued his work.

During one of his stops in Yiratal we checked the Hoarder. It's cargo was completely untouched. 

In Eve, the phrase 'Honor tanked' is often reserved for the dark art of hull tanking. (taking direct fire to the hull of your ship, rather than the armor or shields) And yet, it would never have been more applicable than for the incorruptible Ferryman.

When he finally did jump out, it was much as we expected. He warped to the exact planet and spot where our own pilots were waiting. Our tackler remained resolutely cloaked and we could only offer a silent salute as he jumped on to whatever adventures awaited him in New Eden.

Integrity means thinking and doing what is right at all times, no matter what the consequences. when we have integrity, we are willing to live by our standards and beliefs even when no one is watching. Choose to live so that your thoughts and behavior are always in harmony with the gospel. 

True integrity is a rare thing these days in society. Just like the virtual world, there always seems to be someone lurking around the corner just waiting to cheat you in some way or another. I think we all know at least one person that cheated his way through high school. Ditto steroid use in sports. There's an awful lot of pressure for us to do well in life and there seem to be just as many short cuts to achieve what we think will make us successful. But there always seems to be a catch. 

It never pays off to take the easy route through something. One way or another, it'll come back to bite us in the rear. The above account with the Ferryman provides a stark contrast for that. Had he done what we assumed he'd do, he would've taken the fuel for his carrier and then warped into his doom as we sprang the trap. Another Carrier would have become scrap metal floating in space. 

So what will you do the next time the opportunity presents itself and you believe no on else is watching? Will you take the shortcut or follow the path you know to be right? I can promise you that the we'll always know the difference between the two and when we make the correct choice, sometimes at great sacrifice, that we'll be recompensed for our effort. That's the joy of living the commandments. We're able to receive the help that we need from a loving heavenly father who knows our needs and is ever anxious to bless us. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Active Faith vs. Active Belief

There is a common annoyance for me as a missionary serving in the south. You see, I meet a great deal of people who say that they believe in God and have faith in him. However, when it comes to getting them to actually act on the faith that they claim to have by inviting them to read scriptures or go to church, you might as well be kicking a two week old seal carcass into action. I think a lot of people, especially the church going variety, tend to misunderstand what it means to believe in something vs. to actually have faith in something. The difference being that faith requires action in order to be faith. Otherwise it is simply belief, and in today's society of constant turmoil, simple belief isn't good enough. 

Pictured: Active Belief

It is easy enough to say that you believe in something. There's not a doubt in my mind that anyone who says they believe in God really does believe in him. (If you're in the south, that's just about everybody.) They'll spend all day telling you how their belief in God has helped them become better people and how they know that he's watching out for them. Granted, you'll never see these people set foot in a church on Sunday, but gosh darn it they BELIEVE! In the end, however, these people lack real faith. Belief is the prerequisite of faith and without belief it impossible for anyone to have faith. Again we're brought to the conclusion that in order for belief to become faith, it requires action because it is through our actions that we are able to qualify for the blessings of Christ's Atonement. 

How is it that our actions can help us receive blessings from God, you ask? Let's take a look at the concept of repentance for example. By definition it is an effort to turn from things we do that are contrary to the laws of God and make a commitment to follow his laws more fully in the future. In return for our effort, we are blessed with greater sensitivity to the spirit and freedom from guilt over past mistakes as we receive a remission of our sins. It's that simple. Repentance isn't repentance unless you make the required effort to change your heathen ways and make changes in life in order to not go to hell. The heretic remains a heretic if he sits on his tucas all day and believes that he'll be saved because Christ suffered for his sins. Compared to the sinner that becomes a saint who exercises his faith in the atonement by changing his sinful ways, because he believes that Christ suffered for his sins. 

It's a simple fact that God will not do for man what man is perfectly capable of doing for himself. I imagine that's the goal of any parent; their kids learn to do things on their own, to solve problems on their own, to become agents for themselves. The kids that don't learn this tend to be the ones that cause their parents to exclaim in desperation "Get out of the house, you're thirty years old!" They are generally known as lazy folks and are a burden on everyone they come in contact with. 

Little wonder, then, that the greatest blessings that we seek often take the most effort. For every sacrifice we make, God promises to make up the difference, but first we have to make the sacrifice. He loves us, he really does, but I also imagine that he gets terribly frustrated with those of his children that expect hand-outs and then bewail and curse everything when their every whim isn't met. Kinda like the new dad that watches his two year old writhe on the floor in a screaming fit because the kid can't have cookies any time he wishes. 

In the end, we all must believe. It's where everyone must start out on the road to salvation. However, in order for it to become faith and in order to strengthen the faith that we already have, me must, as Nike puts it: Just do it. We do what it takes to maintain the faith by getting up and doing what God has asked us to do. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Don't Worry, Be Happy

There's a song called Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin which, aside from being the anthem of every stoner ever, is also the motto that God wants all of his children to follow. It's a simple fact that contrary to popular belief, God does in fact want us to be happy in this life. Hard to believe at times isn't it? Your car payment is late, you don't have the funds to pay for it, and you just found out that you have some sort of super rare form of larynx cancer... Okay, so maybe that's a bit extreme, but you get the idea. In life, we're constantly facing some looming problem or another. Others build up amid the constant swarm of annoyances that we face as human beings and someone dares write a song titled Don't Worry Be Happy?

The sad truth, or rather, the joyful truth is that God has actually commanded us to "Be of good cheer." In fact, the word "Gospel" literally means: The Good News. I've also noticed that those who have the Gospel in their lives are inexplicably happier than those around them who do not. As a missionary, I've been able to experience this 'joy for no reason' as well. 

My companions and I would stumble through the front door at the end of a long day, exhausted as could be. We'd be disappointed because appointments fell through, people cursed us and at us, investigators refuse to progress, etc. There was always a tsunami of worries that we had to deal with. Yet, I noticed that I was happy and the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that I was pretty much happy for no reason. What reason did I have to be happy? In one day, all of our teaching appointments fell through, I got charged by a pit-bull, random guys swore at us and told us to go to hell, our dinner fell through, and to finish it all off, my bike tire popped. Yet, at the end of the day, I was still at peace with myself because I had given my all for God. 

Contrast this with the lengths that people go to for personal happiness through material wealth or otherwise. Billions of dollars are spent every year on chocolates, toys, and mind altering drugs to make one happy. People indulge in every little fantasy and dream they could possibly have, as if the new iPhone 4SG PS4 or a fleet of porches could bring lasting happiness. We invest in material things with the subliminal hopes that they'll make us happy and perhaps they do, But the happiness that a new Kawasaki R3 brings in only temporary. (Because the engine tends to wear out after a good 15,000 miles) 

For me, it's a question on priorities and what's really going to make you happy in life that brings... well... happiness. To focus more on what's going to bring the happiness that lasts throughout this life and into the eternities. Bullet bikes come and go, but things like family and marriage can last lifetimes. God only expects us to obey his commandments and not to worry about the rest. We can put the troubles that we face in his hands and then forget about them. Then as long as we hold out strong until the very end, we will be guaranteed happiness in this life and the life to come. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lean on Me

There's a common expression for those of us with little faith that goes, "With God, all things are possible." This statement usually follows an expression of self doubt in terms of overcoming a personal obstacle. Like gravity for instance. We tell our beleaguered friend to press onward and have faith. He thanks you for the comfort, then proceeds to brush it off later on. 

I feel that the general attitude towards most things in life is to square your shoulders and go forth the best you can relying on your own strength to carry you through. As though it's a display of manliness that we take on life's obstacles by ourselves rather than reaching out for help. Action movies draw on this and love to show burly heroes who take on entire zombie hordes by themselves wielding nothing but a garden weasel and their teeth. While I can understand that we don't want people to see us in our moments of weakness, I fear that this leads us to include God right next to the government and mother-in-laws on the list of people who cannot help us in life. Unfortunately for your pride, life doesn't work that way. 
Unless you're Chuck Norris, Then life works for you.
It's true that God expects us to do things on our own. The whole purpose of this mortal life is for us to learn the difference between good and evil so that we can make good decisions and act for ourselves. Like learning to ride a bike, God doesn't expect us to use training wheels all of our lives. Even if it takes falling down a couple times to find our balance. He wants us to become agents for ourselves. However, there's another lesson that he expects us to learn during our brief sojourn through mortality; that there will come a time where we cannot do things by ourselves and must rely on Him to carry us through. 

It's a lesson that the Mission has taught me thoroughly. I've been reminded just how dependant I am on God when certain challenges come. Taking over an area is still one of the most stressful experiences I have had in the field because I'm suddenly personally responsible for the salvation of everyone in the entire city because my new companion doesn't know jack about the area. In short I stress myself out as I try to comprehend all that I must do in order to make sure that the area runs smoothly. 

I took over the Monroe area on the 12th of November and about a day later, I woke up sometime around three in the morning and couldn't fall back asleep because of all the things that came into my mind that I was stressing out about. Are the people we're teaching still going to progress? Are we doing everything we can to help the members out? How's my new companion doing? Do I know the area well enough? The questions kept coming with no sure resolution. I was sinking into despair when I realized that this is the Lord's work, therefore, I should let Him take care of things and that's what I did. I prayed to God for quite some time. Telling Him how I felt about the area, the fears I had, and what I wanted to do. I asked for help in the guidance in the things I was expected to do as a missionary and left the rest up to him. As soon as I finished, the despair dissipated and I was able to go back to sleep. Since that first night, I haven't been worried with the schedule of the upcoming days. I haven't been stressing over the people we're teaching and how they're doing because now I understand that we're expected to simply take things day by day and not concern to much about what's to come. This is the Lord's work and He'll do it His way. 

I was able to feel a weight lifted off my shoulders as I asked for God to throw me a bone and help a brother out. Even though it wasn't as dramatic as fighting off a rabid kodiak grizzly using nothing but a tin of Altoids, God was able to pull me up and help me out when I felt like I couldn't do things on my own. I know that god answers prayers and is willing to help us in the situations that we face where we feel like there's no hope to be had. Because there is always hope, and when we have hope, we have faith, and when we have faith, we can do anything. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

That's Just the Way I Am

The Human race seems hell bent on destroying itself one way or another. Perhaps that's the major reason we need God in the first place. The guy can't turn his back without us running off some proverbial cliff or starting some war somewhere. Every day in the news we hear something about a shooting, armed robbery, homicide, abortion, chemical weapons, the list goes on and on. If it wasn't for the tender mercies of God and a sufficient amount of 'Good' people, the human race would have self destructed eons ago like a snake eating it's own tail. 

There is nothing so discouraging in life than to hear the phrase, "That's just the way I am." Especially as a missionary because nothing else conveys such a profound sense of hopelessness on their part or evoke as much frustration on mine. We as missionaries are here to help people change their lives for the better and everyone can through living the Gospel of Christ. I know for a fact that anyone can make changes to their lives and improve. So imagine what it must feel like when someone tells me that they cannot change because that's "Just they way they are." It's the greatest form of self condemnation that I've ever heard. 

I understand that there is a part of us that will never change despite years, growth, or maturity. Our personalities are as permanent a part of our lives as the shape of our noses because they reflect the eternal soul that dwells within. Despite the changes of view on politics, or our maturity as we go through experience, at our very cores, we are the same people from when we were born to when we die. I feel that's a fear of a lot of people that undertake something that requires them to change, that they'll lose that spark of what makes them... well... them. However, I know for a fact that that's not the case. 

My first week or so in the mission, I absolutely dreaded what I would become. I feared that I would change and become a person that I didn't want to be. I saw the robotic personalities of missionaries around me, how everyone expected me to act a certain way. That there was a right way and a wrong way to act and if you didn't act the right way, you would be cast out into outer darkness where there's weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Granted I was terrified of the social norms in the MTC but in the beginning of my mission, I saw my flaws as an integral part of who I was. In the beginning I repeated to myself  "That's just the way I am." and I'll never change. 

God has accurately been compared to a gardener. A master of his vineyard. Like anyone with a garden and a green thumb. He wants the best out of the plants that he grows. He wants them to be tall, green, and bear a lot of fruit when the harvest comes. Therefore He'll do all he can to prune, shear, cut, and trim his plants so that they grow according to His desired manner and fulfill the vision that He has for them. Gardening is rarely a gentle process for the plants, but you'll never hear a barren berry bush exclaim "That's just the way I am." when God expects it to yield fruit. 

As I got into the work and started to develop an actual testimony of the gospel rather than having a sideline basic knowledge of what repentance was, I realized that despite the changes that we go through in life. We remain the same at our core. I still have the quirks and thought process that I did when I was sixteen but now I've become a more refined and mature individual even though I'm still... me. The process wasn't easy, nor was it particularly enjoyable at times, but it was well worth it and will continue to be worth it. It also taught me that there's no such thing as "That's just the way I am." We can always become better. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Livin on the Edge

A while back I was wearing a shirt that features a chimpanzee dressed as Che Guevara and the phrase: "Viva la Evolucion" when I was approached by another missionary and he said. "Ah, I see you believe in evolution." 

To which I replied, "Uh yeah, the same way you believe in electromagnetism or the theory of gravity." 

We later got into a conversation about how Bruce R. McConkie stated that natural selection was one of seven deadly heresies and I told him to stuff it because James E. Talmage noted that the stones that Adam supposedly used to build his first altar were fossiliferous. (Meaning that there were dead things in them.) In either case, I tend to get heated up in discussions such as these because I can't wrap my mind around the concept that people don't accept Evolution as scientific fact. 

The way I see it, there's this massive genre of stuff in our every day lives wherein we don't really have any form of guidance from God or holy scripture. We're forced to use our own personal judgement and hope for the best. Stuff that falls into this category are things like which political party you should join, what kind of car you should drive, and is Weight Watchers really worth it? God promises us that he'll always be there for the big important stuff but there's a plethora of things in life that in the end, don't really matter to him. It may make a lot of people upset but I don't believe God really cares what we think about evolution because we'll all find out the truth eventually. 

However, I think the issue is important for another reason. Namely how we need to take great care that our understanding and interpretation of scripture and church doctrine doesn't cloud our judgement to other truths that aren't covered between Genesis and Revelations. Things like Gravity, Quantum Physics, or the Dirac Sea. After all, the glory  of God is Intelligence and he wants us to learn everything we can about this dizzyingly beautiful universe He put us in. Knowledge gained is a precious resource because it allows us to achieve so much. I'm using Darwin's theory of Natural Selection as a springboard for this entry because it's been a stupidly controversial topic for quite some time and it's something that I feel passionate about. 

Natural Evolution can be summarized thusly; Over millions of years, species go through physical changes in order to more effectively adapt to their environments. Through reproduction over various generations, traits are developed and refined that help ensure the greatest survival of that particular species. 

It's simple and it makes sense. Yet how much drama has been made over this issue ever since 'The Origin of Species' was first printed? I've discussed it with past mission companions, one of which vehemently exclaimed "NO! I didn't come from no monkey!" Even now we hear of lawsuits in which public education boards (I'm looking at you, Kansas) wish to teach intelligent design alongside natural selection, as if the scientific explanation conflicts with their spiritual beliefs. It's not the first time people were slow to embrace new fact, consider for a moment that Copernicus was put to death by the Catholic church on account of Heresy for saying that the earth orbits the sun. 

Genesis has plenty to say on the "Why" man was created, but nothing to say on "How" he was created. The observations of Charles Darwin and thousands of others since provide that evidence of "How" we came to be. Do we have an entire line of events? Not yet, but we're working on it. I feel that some people develop the attitude that if it can't be readily explained, then God did it and we shouldn't probe any further. This forces God to become a sort of "God of the Gaps." We don't know how something happened, therefore it was God working in "mysterious ways" and we leave it at that. We should take care to avoid this way of thinking because in time, those gaps become filled. It is a way of thinking that undermines faith as our understanding of our surrounding universe improves.

Do we understand everything about Life, the Universe, and everything else? Not even close. But we're working towards those answers and slowly learning how God put together this magnificent world of ours. As our understanding continues to increase at faster rates, I urge you to always maintain an open heart and an open mind. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Glory of God is Intelligence

The wise philosopher once said that opinions are like noses because everyone has them. There is great wisdom in this however, I feel he failed to mention that our opinions are different from noses because they need to be constantly and thoroughly examined. We need to be critical with them and not just the opinions of others. We need to challenge our own beliefs. To take them outside and severely beat them with a cricket bat. To be intellectually rigorous. I say this because it's our opinions that we're more than happy to share with everyone else whether they want to hear what we think or not. Unfortunately this can lead to situations where it's people wanting to beat US with a cricket bat. 
It's small wonder, then, that God counseled us that:
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. -Proverbs 4:7
It's through learning and knowledge that we are able to change and influence our opinions. To learn how to think is possibly one of the greatest pursuits a man can have in life because it will positively affect every other aspect of his life. 

Pictured: Me vs. Calculus 
This lesson was hard learned for me back when I took AP calculus back in high school. Going into the class I was confident that I could tackle Isaac Newton's way of thinking like Terry Tate tackles unsuspecting co-workers in the break room. As the weeks dragged on and the amount of math I had to assimilate increased I realized that, like captain Ahab realized with Moby Dick, I had tackled something that was ready and willing to tackle back with all it's aquatic mammalian fury. 

One day in frustration I asked my teacher "When will we ever use negative integrals in life?" and he being the sagely philosopher/calculus teacher that he is, responded "The only people that ask those kinds of questions are the ones that are frustrated with the work." Boy howdy was he right. I went in early, I stayed late, and I always asked him for help. Unfortunately, despite my efforts, my grade seemed dead set to stay at a 'C' for the entire year and I passed the AP test with a 3/5. So I passed at the same level that I had been all year. 

Despite the heartache, frustrations, and cursing that it caused me at the time. I look back on AP calc with fondness. I'll happily admit that Newton destroyed me intellectually the same way Mr. T could destroy me physically. However, I'm glad that I went through the experience because it taught me how to think. Logic had found a nice little nook in which to nestle in my mind and I got infected with a bug that made me want to learn as much as I could about everything. Despite the fact that Calculus kicked my rear, it also engaged my mind in ways that it hadn't been engaged before and I found that... well... engaging. 

We must always search after wisdom in life. It's the only thing that we can take with us into the afterlife besides a litany of our misdeeds. By learning and growing mentally as we do physically, we are able to grow and become better people. Constantly questioning and challenging yourself on you think and believe will always keep you engaged and moving upward. Calculus had the courtesy to do that for me and the lessons I took from it far outweigh my ability to do derivatives. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chained down by Agency

There's an obnoxious saying used only by parents and bossy colleagues that goes; "Obedience to the Law will set you free." The funny part is that we only hear this statement when we're doing stuff that we're not supposed to or when we're about to get into some serious trouble. The obnoxious thing is that this is one of those 'true' statements. Like Murphy's Law, (Anything that can go wrong will go wrong) it applies to everyone regardless of background, ethnicity, or current white blood cell count. 

I've noticed  a phenomenon when it comes to obedience to the law, or lack thereof. It's that when we choose to go against the commandments of God (Because we're big and bad like that) we really end up limiting ourselves and our ability to choose in the long run. Freedom from law is not true freedom. The scary part is that it doesn't all happen at once. We don't see each chain slowly being wound around us until they're pulled taught and we suddenly cannot move. Each decision we make will either limit or multiply our ability to make choices in the long run. Even when we cannot move, we may still believe that we are free or are living the 'high life' (A lovably ironic phrase if you think about it.) 

Take for instance those that are into drugs. When you first start out, it's fantastic. You feel like your brain is being expanded in ways that were never before possible as your perspective is bent and twisted as the chemistry in your brain goes completely out of whack in the same way that ants go completely whack when you knock their piles over. But after those first couple of hits, the chains starts to tighten a little bit here, or another chain there. Addiction begins to govern our lives instead of our God given agency. We begin to seek for ways to sate those pangs of desire that seem as strong as the need to breathe as the chains are pulled completely taught. We destroy our lives in pursuit of something we've come to need and eventually end up in the slammer or six feet under. Either way, we're no longer agents for ourselves. 

But even when we're at the very bottom and can go no further, God has given us a way out. Thanks to the sacrifice of his son, we are able to make changes in our lives for the better because when you have hit rock bottom, change is your only real option. Repentance is that key that unlocks the chains that bind us. It is through changing and becoming better that each chain is unlocked and we become free. Like binding ourselves up, repentance is not an instantaneous process, but in the end, it's alway worth the trouble. Then when we've gotten back up on our feet and are no longer bound down by the decisions of our past, Repentance becomes a way to continually stay free. 

Our agency is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us as his children. I want you to take a moment and consider this: Can you imagine how painful it was for God as our father to give us such a gift as the ability to choose for ourselves? I doubt that it was a decision that he made quickly or without forethought. He knew from the beginning what we would do. The atrocities that would be committed, the futures that would be thrown away, the cursing and hate between men, etc. We're all all too familiar with the blackness that the human heart is capable of. However, in the end he gave it to us out of love because we must be agents for ourselves if we desire to be truly happy. 

Can we choose to throw our lives away and curse God with a clenched fist? Yes. However, we can also choose the good things in life. The stuff that will make us happy for eternity rather than the few all too brief moments that we call mortal existence.  By making an effort to choose what's good in life, our ability to enjoy life itself will grow exponentially.

Because honestly, how much easier is it to appreciate all of God's creation from the top of a mountain than from behind the bars of a jail cell? 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls.

Death is by far one of the weirdest aspects of life, or lack thereof. This past week, I had an opportunity to attend the funeral of a missionary that recently passed away after getting hit by a car. The services of Elder Page caused a lot of introspection and self reflection as I listened to the eulogies that his family and Elder Zwick gave in regards to the life of this young elder. It caused me to wonder about a great deal of things, where am I going in this life, what will others say about me when I die, and how can I know if I've lived a successful life. 

I believe one of the greatest and most profound fears that human beings have is to leave a life unlived. To slough off their mortal coil (as Shakespeare puts it) with their music still in them. After hearing the eulogies of Andrew Page, there was no doubt that he had died a life well lived despite his youth. Though he was only eight days in the mission, he completed his tenure in mortality. It raised the the question in me of what it means to live a full life, and how can we know that we're on the right track? 

To me, Life isn't about what you are able to accomplish, but rather it's the influence that you have on others. We all want to be remembered for something when we pass on: our love for music, our past achievements, or what we contributed to this earth before we left it behind for that great gig in the sky. The way we are able to do it is quite simple. So simple, in fact, that a lot of people miss it. The way that we can know that we are becoming an influence for good and using the time we've been given to the fullest is to always seek to grow. To improve and refine our capacities to perform in any task or challenge that we face. There's even a basic checklist that God has given us to help us stay on that track, otherwise known as the commandments. 

Think about it, how much happier would we all be if we just tried as hard as we could every day to live the ten commandments? I can't think of a single person that would be unhappy by living by those ten guidelines that God gave to Moses those many years ago. Or consider to two most basic commandments that God has given us; love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy might. The second is like unto it, love thy neighbor as thyself. To live these two basic commandments would make us the happiest people on the planet because God lives to bless us, and we live to bless the lives of others. 

We have a instinctual need to search for the bigger and better in life. We want to find what will make us happy. The Meaning of Life, if you will. However, we should take care not to confuse the Meaning of life with the Purpose of life. Our purpose is resolute and cannot be changed, but the Meaning of life is a matter of personal opinion. We can always know the purpose of life thanks to holy scripture and living prophets, but the meaning of life is dependant on our own self examination and opinion. I recently came across a comic by Bill Watterson that explains what the Meaning of Life... well... means. Besides being the author of my childhood with Calvin and Hobbes, his views on life bring him to a level like that of Ralph Waldo Emerson in sagely wisdom. 

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There are certain guideposts such as commandments that will keep us on the path to have rich and fulfilling lives. Thanks to the direction that God gives us and by fostering an attitude to always improve, we needn't worry about dying with our music still in us. However, it will always be up to us to find the meaning of life. A task that requires a lot of self reflection and experimentation, but like Watterson said, we'll be all the happier for our trouble. I don't know what it's like to die, nor do I feel like I'm prepared to leave this existence just yet. But by doing all that we can to live life to the fullest. 

Strive for what matters most in life and once found, do with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Let's Go Dragon Slaying

I've noticed an odd phenomenon among world cultures. That is that in nearly every single culture, whether tribal or civilized has at least ten myths that feature a dragon. Whether it be that scaly, fire breathing, worm that Beowulf slays, or the snake-like and wise dragons of the orient that brought rain. Even today, how many of us still want to see a dragon in person? We just can't get over the things. Their role in fiction has varied almost as much as the culture wherein they reside, but the most common is that as something to be conquered.

Consider The Hobbit's main antagonist, Smaug. Thanks to J.R.R. Tolkein and modern cinema, he'll be one of the most famous dragons in pop culture. In the book, Tolkein describes him as "A most specially greedy, strong, and wicked worm." as he lays waste to the town of Dale and ejects the dwarven residents of the Lonely Mountain. Centuries spent laying upon his hoard of treasure caused the gems and coins to lodge themselves in his flesh, augmenting his already near impenetrable armor. His only weakness was a bare patch on his left breast. 

An invisible Bilbo Baggins has a conversation with the ancient creature and steals a cup. Tolkein describes Smaug's subsequent rage as comparable to that of "rich folk who have more than they could possibly enjoy who lose something that they long had but neither needed or wanted." He descends upon the neighboring village, Esgaroth, in all his fiery wrath to mete out revenge for his loss. Later to be slain by an arrow from Bard the Bowman. 

But isn't that how it always ends? Bard slays the dragon, Wiglaf and Beowulf slay the dragon, Sir George slays the dragon, etc. etc. So what point does all this fantastic draconian slaughter (and Fantasy in general) prove? 

It's not the fact that dragons exist, but rather, that dragons can be defeated. 

Smaug had his weak spot of skin. Beowulf had the loyalty of Wiglaf at his side. There's always SOMETHING that makes the impossible become possible. However, we are still required to give our all despite the weakness. Bard still had to face one of the most powerful dragons Middle Earth had ever seen. Despite the help of Wiglaf, Beowulf took on an angry Worm by himself. Every dragon requires courage and valor in order to be slain. 

So it is in our own lives. So too must we face immense challenges that are seemingly impossible to overcome because of their size and ferocity. But just like Smaug, every challenge we will face has something that we can use to overcome and defeat it. However, it'll require our all and, in the case of Beowulf, the help of others. But so be it, life was never meant to be easy. Stories aren't written about the quitters or those who avoided conflict but about those who overcome the greatest conflicts and didn't back down. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

That Fuzzy Connection

Before you assault me for pictures of cats because you took the time to look at the title, lemme just start by saying that this post has nothing to do with felines. Rather I speak of the connection that we have between us and deity, that for many of us seems to be the same quality as a sketchy phone call. We try to get a clear signal as we try to communicate with our Heavenly Father, but it sometimes seems like God's responses are masked in static.

I think that, when it comes to our communication with God, the fault is our own when we can't seem to get answers to the questions we have. This shouldn't be a cause of alarm, it's simply a fact of life. We live in a world that is constantly vying for our attention nearly every minute of our waking day. Whether it be emails at work, the phone ringing, or your own pangs of hunger around one in the afternoon because you haven't eaten yet. There are hundreds, and each distraction seems to be ten times louder than that still, small, voice by which God communicates with us. No wonder, it seems, that we never get a clear answer from the guy upstairs. 

However, there is hope for us. The good news is that it doesn't require that new Galaxy 4GSi MK VI Velociraptor iOS smart phone that costs you your first born child for the basic data plan. It's simply being able to become in tune with that still small voice which is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the third member of the godhead or trinity and he acts as the link between us and the Father. It is through Him we are able to receive promptings and help from God. Through the whisperings of the spirit, he is able to calm our fears, hush the nagging worries of life, and comfort us when we grieve. After all, one of the Holy Ghost's titles is the Comforter. 

But that's just it, he speaks and influences us through whispers. God has never gotten our attention with a heavy hand shaking us back and forth. It's always through moments of peace and quiet when we open ourselves to receive help from god that we actually do. When we seek to qualify for the spirit, the static vanishes and it seems that our connection to God becomes crystal clear. 

Like family, revelation is something you need to make time for during every day. If you don't have any time during the day where you're open enough to receive spiritual promptings, then you probably wont get any. Times when we read scriptures, pray, and spend time with our families are good times to feel the spirit work through us. Basically, if an activity draws us closer to God, then we'll have a clear connection with Him. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Spirit of Brotherhood

Back in the Christmas of 1914, The allied forces and the Germans found themselves locked in the famous stalemate that comprised most of World War 1 before the United States came swooping in to kick butt in the name of Uncle Sam. In the weeks leading up to Christmas day, treaties and ceasefires had been put forward including a treaty from Pope Benedict XV, for peace on Christ's birthday. All of which were rebuffed. However, on December 24th, roughly 100,000 British and German soldiers entered into an unofficial ceasefire for Christmas Eve. 

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British and German soldiers pose for a quick snapshot

The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and Christmas trees and then continued the celebrations by singing carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings at each other. Soon both sides made excursions into "no man's land" to exchange small gifts such as food, tobacco, booze, and souvenirs such as buttons before returning back to their trenches. Artillery in the region silenced and soldiers were allowed a breather to retrieve dead and dying soldiers. 

Bruce Bairnsfather, who served throughout the war, wrote: "I wouldn't have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. Then I gave him two of mine in exchange. The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck." 

Nor were the observations confined to the British. Leutnant Johannes Niemann: "Grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy."

There is a stark lesson to be learned here. No, it's not that the Germans' hearts grew three sizes that day. Rather, in what was the most devastating war the world had yet seen, love still prevailed. Holiday cheer still brought out the best of both sides despite the fact that they were conscripted mortal enemies. It brings to mind, my mind anyways, that despite whatever illusions and prejudices we put up about the rest of humanity, we're still brothers and sisters. If German and British soldiers were able to find peace for a week in each other's company, then by George it should be possible to find peace among those we come in daily contact with. 

So be kind to people. You don't know everything that they're going through. Sometimes the one thing that'll help someone get through a tough week is the kindness of a complete stranger acting out of no other motivation than the love of Christ. After all, the second greatest commandment, according to Christ, is to love thy neighbor as thyself. In the end, we're all brothers and sisters in this dazzlingly beautiful world that God created especially for us. There are no 'teams' or 'sides' to be on when it comes to dealing with your fellow man, there is only 'us.'

Monday, September 30, 2013

Doubt Not in Thyself

A scribe once asked Christ what, of all the commandments, was the greatest commandment. To which the Savior replies: to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, with all thy heart, and with all thy strength. Upon this one commandment hangs all the Law and all the Prophets. And the second is like unto it: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Upon these two commandments hang everything we do as disciples of Christ. I've learned that the greatest hindrance to these two laws and perhaps to our lives in general as human beings is that of doubt. Especially self doubt. 

Doubt in its simplest form is the absence of faith. Doubt of the self is an absence of faith in our ability to accomplish what we desire and a fear that we won't be able to progress. Just as serious sin can vastly impact our lives, so can doubt drag us down and hinder our progress. We are commanded to doubt not, only believe, so how can we learn to believe in ourselves? 

Faith in ourselves is gained in much the same way that we build our faith in God. It comes mainly through being able to experiment and see edifying results. We build faith in God by reading scriptures, praying, and going to church. Then as we live his commandments, he blesses us in return and we are able to see the results of our faithfulness. This in turn builds our faith to follow the commandments even more and thus the cycle continues. We come to recognize that we are sons and daughters of a divine Heavenly Father. A spark of divinity rests within each of us and as we allow ourselves to be influenced by it, we build ourselves up and realize our potential. 

“Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. …
“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.
“Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 6:34, 36–37.)
We would do well to remember this scripture. When all else fails, we can turn to our savior who's been down the path that we're going through. He's suffered all so that we may rise above our mistakes and obtain our deepest desires. We have a promise, now let us stretch out our hands and take it. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Enormity of Nothing

My next entry for video game week comes to you from a distant galaxy known as New Eden. This is the absolutely enormous game world of EVE Online, my current favorite MMO. (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) The game revolves around piloting spaceships ranging in size from small and nimble frigates to city sized Titans. You can do whatever you want whether it be mining, trading, bounty hunting, or piracy. As long as you got the right ship for the job. Meanwhile all the other players are trying to do the same thing which means there's a lot of player interaction. Especially if they've got you locked in their cross-hairs, ready to unleash all kinds of interstellar hurt on you because they want your stuff.

EVE is different because there isn't any set path to follow, you're in control of your own destiny. It's not like Halo or Call of Duty where you start from point A and try to get to point B while shooting everything in the face with big guns. Rather you are given a HUGE menagerie of choices to follow based on what you want to do because the structure of the game is largely player run. All the while you're traveling billions of miles across the universe. Being in the world can make one feel very, very, very small. 

Isn't that how it's always been? Whether in EVE online or in the real world, we sometimes feel infinitesimally small sometimes. Douglas Adams had this to say on the subject: 

"The Universe, as has been observed before, is an unsettlingly big place, a fact which for the sake of a quiet life most people tend to ignore.

Many would happily move to somewhere rather smaller of their own devising, and this is what most beings in fact do.

For instance, in one corner of the Eastern Galactic Arm lies the large forest planet Oglaroon, the entire "intelligent" population of which lives permanently in one fairly small and crowded nut tree. In which tree they are born, live, fall in love, carve tiny speculative articles in the bark on the meaning of life, the futility of death and the importance of birth control, fight a few extremely minor wars, and eventually die strapped to the underside of some of the less accessible outer branches.
In fact the only Oglaroonians who ever leave their tree are those who are hurled out of it for the heinous crime of wondering whether any of the other trees might be capable of supporting life at all, or indeed whether the other trees are anything other than illusions brought on by eating too many Oglanuts.

Exotic though this behaviour may seem, there is no life form in the Galaxy which is not in some way guilty of the same thing."

The earth is large with billions of people living on this planet. Living our own little lives and influencing those that have the luck to come in contact with us. Meanwhile everyone else is doing the same thing in their own little bubbles of existence. Perhaps that's why a clear midnight sky evokes such thought in us as we gaze up, reminded of just how small we really are. We read of galaxies and planets that are this many light years away from us. Incomprehensible distances that the human mind is unable, or unwilling, to grasp as we observe the seemingly limitless reaches of God's creation.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to god. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within us. We have the incomprehensible promise of salvation within our grasp. And it is God's great desire to help us reach it. Therein we can find hope when we feel the vast enormity of the universe weighing down upon our shoulders. Everything he created is for us and we are the center of everything he does. His glory comes through us and our receiving of our own glory. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Gravity of Choices

I'm going to continue using favorite video games to illustrate gospel principles. An unofficial game week of sorts. So buckle up people because we're visiting the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Fallout 3 

The game takes place in Washington DC, at least what's left of it after the bombs fell and eradicated most human civilization. The main reason I love this game, and what I want to talk about today is that the choices you make, whether in game or in life, have impact. In Fallout, you are pretty much given free reign as to what you want to do. 

You wanna shoot zombies in the face? 

do it. 
Do you wanna fight Super Mutants, big monsters that carry assault weaponry? 

You bet your cerebral cortex you can do that!
In fallout, you are free to do whatever you want. However, each choice you make has an impact on how the game unfolds and how certain characters in the game will treat you in the future. You can crash, burn, pillage, and steal, but be prepared to deal with the consequences. There is a certain gravity to everything that you do. 

I feel that there is a great misconception among the general public that the day where we'll have to make a big decision is far away. That the choices we make today aren't that important or don't have any impact. The simple reality is that every day we make decisions that will impact our lives further on down the road. We are constantly making decisions that will make our lives different or have an impact on other people. 

Back in Fallout, there were decisions that I made that didn't seem to have any impact, like what kind of gun I wanted to carry that in the beginning didn't really seem to be all that important. Fast forward an hour or so when I find myself in the depths of an abandoned subway, being chased by swarms of radioactive zombies through the old metro tunnels. Suddenly a sniper rifle doesn't sound like such a good idea. 

We may not need to worry about what sort of high power weaponry is going to get us through the day, but we make decisions that impact how our days go. There seems to be an never ending list of decisions to make. Some choices are easy to make because they either camp out in the white space, others in the black, but there's an obnoxiously large amount of decisions that seem to hang out in the grey areas where there's  a mix of good and bad with every decision. Suddenly we're forced to consider the long term consequences of what we choose to do.  

Fortunately God has given us things such as scriptures, prayer, and modern prophets who help us know what choices need to be made. The difference between the good and wrong has been made known to us and God expects us to follow through. It's our ability to make choices that is perhaps the greatest gift that God has given us besides his son, so of course He's going to help you make the right choices. However, that also means that we have a responsibility as his children to actually USE this gift. We simply cannot sit in an empty room, unwilling to make ANY choice because we fear what the consequences might bring us. Nor can we expect God to make the decisions for us because then we would miss out on the greatest opportunities of growth. 

There's no doubt that he'll be there to guide us when we need it, but there are other choices where we won't have that clear guide, we'll simply need to make the decision and see where the consequences take us. The time to decide isn't tomorrow. It's today. Character, who we are as people, isn't given to us, but rather it is earned.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Not to Play Starcraft

Anyone who knows me knows I like to play video games and anyone who knows me well knows that Starcraft is one of my favorites. 

It's an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game that takes place in the distant future where you play as three different factions; Terran, Protoss, and Zerg which all have their own unique play styles. You control groups of units to collect resources in order to build combat units. These are then used take out your opponent who is trying to do the same thing to you. It's basically a fast and violent version of chess as you use different strategies to stay ahead and defeat your opponent. 

This game takes a lot of practice to get good at playing it. One needs to understand the workings of the game, strengths and weaknesses of each race, and what strategies work best in certain situations. The learning process is as rapid as the game action, which means that you'll make a LOT of mistakes. 

I remember playing a couple matches in Starcraft where I just got owned in some way or another. Sometimes it was because my opponent would use really cheap tactics, something hard to defend against, so that he could squeeze out an easy win. Other times it was a massive army of units so numerous that it would be impossible to defeat all of them with the meager force that I had. In either case, I would quit the game fuming from the defeat and rather than trying to learn from my mistakes, I immediately went into another match. Therefore I missed out on the opportunities to learn so I could better defend myself in the future. Thus I would get owned in the future by the EXACT same tactics used by someone else. If I had taken the extra bit of time to watch the replays of my past games and learn from my mistakes, things like zerg rushes and protoss Death-balls would have become a thing of the past.  

We as humans are going to make mistakes. It is an unavoidable part of because it is how we are able to progress as human beings. The true test is whether we are able to learn from those mistakes and do better next time. Thankfully, we have a loving Heavenly Father that is always willing to help us in the same way that our parents lift us up when we fall down. In the same way that they brush us off and wipe away the tears. As long as we earnestly seek to do better, he will lift us up. 

We shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. That's how life works. But what we should fear is when we are unwilling to make mistakes or to fix them. Then we will be left unto ourselves because just like our earth parents, God cannot help those of us who are unwilling to change or accept the help. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Forging Your Own Path

Have you ever heard the old saying that people who get lost tend to walk in circles?

Jan L. Souman, a German psychologist, wanted to determine scientifically if this was true. He took participants of an experiment to a large forest area and to the Sahara desert and used a global positioning system to track where they went. They had no compass or any other device. Instructions to them were simple: Walk in a straight line in the direction indicated. 

Dr. Souman later described what happened. "Some of them walked on a cloudy day, with the sun hidden behind the clouds and with no reference points in view. They all walked in circles, with several of them repeatedly crossing their own path without noticing it." Other participants walked while the sun was shining, with faraway reference points in view, "These participants followed an almost perfectly straight course. 

This study has been repeated by others with different methodologies. All returned similar results. Without clear markers of direction, Human beings tend to walk in circles. 

There seems to be an interesting phenomenon that I've become acquainted with over the past year and a half of my mission being in contact with countless people on the streets and now over the web as the Church gets it's act together to finally plunge into the 21st century. It's not a serious problem, but I feel it's one of the major reasons that certain people find themselves in the positions that they are in. 

I speak about setting goals. Being able to set up markers and sign post for ourselves on the paths of life that we each follow and then being able to follow through in order to achieve what we want out of life. It's not hard to do, but it's something that everyone needs to know in order to get ahead. 

I had an inspiration when it comes to figuring out our life goals such as cars, education, future wife, etc. are best figured out by asking yourself two three word questions: Why and How. When I have a certain idea pop into my head about something I want in life, such as a Subaru BRZ 

I first have to ask myself WHY I want a fast, six cylinder, rear wheel drive, race car. I want her because I want a car that's fast, steezin' to look at, and is something that I can have fun with. 

So that's why I want a BRZ. Now the question is HOW I'm going to get my hands on one. By simply considering what we need to do, the mental to do list practically writes itself, and because it can get extensive in a hurry, it's always best to keep something to write it down and it's not enought to simply know where we want to end up at, but we need to know where we're going to be in between START and FINISH. You can't climb a ladder that only has the bottom and top steps and so we also need to set intermediate goals of where we want to be at certain steps in achieving our dreams.

First, I need to get a job that pays well. Second, I need to set up a separate bank account or two to fund this car, her modifications, and of course a paint job. Third, I need to check out with separate insurance agencies to get the best deals. Fourth, find a joint that sells these things. (Used preferably) 

And so on and so forth. 

My dream car is but an example in how we can set goals to get what we want in life. I know what I want and how I'm going to get there. Now all that remains is to put these plans into action so I can roll around in style sooner than later.

Setting goals and carrying them out isn't all that complicated, nor hard to pull off, it just requires a little effort and willingness to follow through on our part.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sink the Bismarck

So I had a revelation of sorts, an analogy to life that I found inspiring. I've since used it in my correspondence with a number of people, however, I also feel that it could inspire a lot more people here.

(Now please bear with me, some of my history may be off, so don't criticize me too much. Besides, it's the thought that counts, right?)

Back in World War II, Nazi Germany possessed two of the most powerful battleships to sail the Atlantic. The Tirpitz and the Bismarck, these iron sisters were made to disrupt the Allied shipping between 'Merica and the allies. Both Tirpitz and Bismarck carried 38 cm main guns carried in four two-barrel turrets that fired shells that were basically the size of your little sister and had enough fire power to take on a navy convoy by themselves. The Bismarck even came equipped with 4 float planes just for good measure. (I'm going to focus on the Bismarck for the rest of this little analogy)

In the Bismarck's first real engagement. She singlehandedly took out the pride and joy of the British fleet, the battle-cruiser HMS Hood as well as severely damaging the HMS Prince of Wales, however, she was wounded herself and the allies had learned of her position and decided to give chase to put an end to this German threat. In all, six battleships and battle-cruisers, two aircraft carriers, thirteen cruisers, and twenty-one destroyers were committed to take out ONE battleship and her support. In the resulting battle that finally brought Bismarck's demise, it wasn't from the salvos of who knows how many battleships and battle-cruisers that did the Bismarck in. The deciding factor of the engagement with Bismarck was from the MK II torpedoes of a squadron of obsolete swordfish torpedo bombers. Bi-planes that could fit in your garage, made of wood and canvas, were the deciding factor in sinking the Bismarck and the deaths of many German servicemen that served on her.

So what does all this nautical nonsense have to do with helping you? Simply put, everyone has a Bismarck to face. We all have that one challenge that seems determined to drag us down and sink us. Bismarck was commissioned and designed to disrupt shipping (valuable supplies that kept the allied war machine going), Likewise, the Bismarck's that we face seem designed to hit us where it hurts. And in the end, just as the British fleet did, we need to face these challenges head on. To wound them and chase them down when they try to slip away and when the deciding moment comes, it's always the little things that we do that'll help decide whether we sink the Bismarck or she gets away.

Do not let fear get a hold of you. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. There are always people ready and willing to help you out in a moments notice. You have me and my family behind you as well. Music to bear you up and take your mind off of what's happening. There's a million different little 'swordfish' in our lives that make overcoming challenges possible. And if all else fails, we all have a very loving heavenly father who's ready and willing to lift our burdens and make the weight on our shoulders light because Christ already went through exactly what your experiencing. Just ask him.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Praying for a Mantis

Here's a picture of a Praying Mantis, a somewhat larger species of Orthoptera that I found while doing service for a non-member about a week ago. Some of you ask, "Dear elder, what does this insect have to do with anything important in my life? Is she going to fix the stock market? The Syrian crisis? Daytime television? Why is this Mantis relevant?" The truth is she's an object lesson so buckle down. 

This praying mantis is near the top of her environment, the only thing that she needs to worry about are orb web spiders and birds. She's been given certain tools to use in order to maintain that position. The most notable being her front legs which have evolved into a deadly set of claws for catching prey. You see, a preying mantis hunts by standing absolutely still with her legs held close to her body, making it look like the mantis is 'praying.' She then waits for food to come within striking distance and pounces. Catching whatever hapless prey in her arms where she can then feed at her gruesome leisure. 

So what does this elegant huntress have to do with the gospel, you ask? Simply put she uses the tools that she's been given to hunt and keep herself well fed. On a larger scale, every animal has SOMETHING that gives it an edge in the wild. Something help it find food, avoid getting eaten, or to find a mate. We all have ways that help us get ahead in life and of the competition. Heavenly father has done the same for us. He's given us a set of tools that we can use to get ahead of the competition, overcome temptation, and live happy lives because, Contrary to popular belief, God wants us to be happy in this life. 

He's given us things like the scriptures, living day prophets and apostles, and even the ability to communicate directly with him whenever we want to. Because even though we're at the top of the food chain, I don't believe we're at the top of the spiritual food chain. There's always something greater that we have to watch out for. Some temptation lurking below the water that's waiting to jump when we're not looking. But I know that if we continually try to do what we're supposed to. To put on that armor of God. Then we'll never fall to the darts of the adversary.