An equal chance to fight

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We have all heard and/or read a lot about equality lately, and the importance of making sure that everyone has an ‘equal chance’ for everything.  An equal chance at education, career opportunities, to have their voice heard, and to have rights or liberties or freedoms.  But I’d like to talk about a situation in which we actually want to discourage equal chances and encourage lopsidedness – and if we do it right – severe lopsidedness.

This situation happens to be an ongoing battle with the forces of evil, which ironically highlights in one sense the perfect case of equality, because forces on both sides of this battle are attempting with all their might to create the most severe cases of inequality imaginable in order to gain the victory.  In other words, neither side wants to create an ‘equal chance’ for fighting because each side wants a severely lopsided victory.  One side wants to save as many people as possible, and the other side wants as many casualties as possible.  There isn’t much room there for compromise – and if we don’t realize that – we need to.

There are many ways in which people can gain an advantage, in business, in sports, and in life.  For example, just this week I did something that I had been resisting for quite a while. I joined a triathlon club.  In fact, I joined a triathlon club with a very good reputation and track record with a lot of successful athletes (they had 7 athletes qualify for (and race in) the world championships in Kona this last month).  That’s impressive.  The reason for my hesitation has been primarily because I felt that it was the easy way out.  I thought it might be more admirable/impressive if I were to work hard on my own, improve on my own, and qualify for Kona on my own, because after all (in my mind), a tri club (this one in particular) seemed to create an unfair advantage for their athletes somehow removing the ‘equal chance’ for the rest of us due to their associations with vendors, bike fitters, coaches, and advisors.  In some strange way, my brain associated these athletes getting all the help they could possibly get in order to improve was somehow cheating.  I was (and still am most of the time) an idiot.

Luckily for me, the Book of Mormon is true, and it can prevent my idiot-ness from being permanent.

What I learned this week (helping me feel good about joining this club) is that captain Moroni had founded a triathlon club in the earlier years (about 72 BC) and that if you joined his club you weren’t cheating, you were giving yourself the best chance for improvement (and winning).  Just check out his coaching bio: “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17).  And his bio doesn’t end there; the record goes on to show several case studies in how he had encouraged his people to prepare for battle in ‘in a manner which never had been known’ (Alma 49:8) – and win.

Now to be fair, there might have been some Nephites who thought to themselves “all of Moroni’s troops are cheating.  They are creating an unfair advantage over the Lamanites by joining his fight club with his extensive preparations and unknown manner of preparation and matching triathlon unitards (the title of liberty is definitely the Nephite tri club logo and the original basis for the current unitard design of today).  So, I’ll just work out my own preparation plan by doing the same things we’ve always done.”

Moroni was taking their previously weak places, and building them to ‘exceeding strength’.  Is there a better description of what a tri club and/or tri coach should be doing?  No.   Is there a better description of what we as parents should be doing for our children?  No.

We are not preparing the youth (our children) for a battle by ensuring that all sides get an equal chance.  We are not preparing them for a battle in which the enemy will engage in ‘good sportsmanship’.  We are preparing them for battle against an enemy who is absolutely ruthless and does not want anything other than complete domination.

Moroni teaches all of us how to create inequality in battle and it all starts with preparation.  Lots and lots and lots and lots (and lots) of preparation.  And he doesn’t stop – even in peaceful times – “Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people” (Alma 50:1).  As parents, we must build up heaps of earth round about all the city as the first line of defense.  Then we must create ‘works of timbers’ atop the heaps of earth.  Then we must build ‘frames of pickets’ atop the works of timbers.  After that, we must build a tower overlooking the picket.  Then, and only then can we create a place of security on top of the towers in which we can stand (nice and safe) and “cast stones from the top thereof, according to [our] pleasure and [our] strength” (Alma 50:5).

Thus, Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies” (Alma 50:6).

Thus, they were prepared… to smite down all who should attempt to come into their place of security” (Alma 49:20).

None of these guys in Moroni’s club were down on the ground fighting the Lamanites ‘on equal grounds’.  None of them.  And for that reason, “there was not a single soul of the Nephites which was slain” (Alma 49:23).

I think it is worth noting here, that the Lamanites tried their best and began to “dig down their banks of earth that they might obtain a pass to their armies, that they might have an equal chance to fight; but behold, in these attempts they were swept off by the stones and arrow which were thrown at them” (Alma 49:22).

Thus, the Nephites had all power over their enemies” (Alma 49:23).

We must create an absolutely lopsided battle fortifications for our kids.  We are charged (just like Moroni) in establishing a ‘place of security’.  And yes, it will take constant preparation.  We cannot allow the enemy to ‘obtain a pass’ to our army by any other way than the death trap we create – the front door – where we can see them coming from a mile away and where we have our strongest fortifications.  We cannot stop at the heaps of earth, or the timbers, or the pickets, or even the towers.  We need to create that place of security on top of all that which happens to be the most unequal chance possible for the enemy to win – just like we want.  We cannot think that by sending them out into the world on equal ground with the enemy is a show of good sportsmanship or that somehow that meeting the enemy head on will teach them good battle skills.  No – that will just get them injured, or worse – killed.

From our carefully crafted places of security we much teach our kids what the enemy looks like, sounds like, smells like, and feels like so that they are not surprised when they see them coming and so they can be ‘swept off’ by our stones and arrows thrown according to ‘our pleasure and our strength’ (not theirs).

We cannot be naïve or embarrassed about the plain, simple, and powerful doctrines that create our places of safety.  We cannot think that by building up heaps of earth, timbers, pickets, towers, and places of safety that we are guilty of offense, discrimination, or hate –because if you are busy down on the ground at the place of entrance apologizing for the towers and the pickets, you can’t see the enemy sneaking up as they come to destroy you.

Let us be like Moroni, who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people… and who was firm in the faith of Christ” (Alma 48:12-13).

Thwimmin’ Thoup and Mac ‘n’ Doo

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Having a 3 year old in the house is hilarious. If any of you have one, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There is never a dull moment. Our youngest son Jake is right in that fun age where he thinks he is way older than he is, but his language hasn’t quite caught up with his ego.

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He is just getting old enough to have really good conversations, but still young enough to where they are a mix of real words, and garbled up toddler jargon. The results are fantastic. It’s non-stop verbal entertainment. If you take into account that all these words are spoken with his toddler lisp as well, its priceless.

Here are just a few examples of his “Jake-ese” that cracks us up…

Swimming suit and goggles -“thwimmin’ thoup” and “gobbles”.
Movie theatre – “moobie peadure”
Gatorade – “Gardogade”
Computer – “pewder”
Favorite – “fravrit”
Horses – “horthes”
Grandpa – “Drampa”
Grandma – “Dramma”
Yellow – “Weddo”
Mountain Dew – “Mac ’n’ Doo”

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Jake loves to play on his own, and in his own little world. He has the world’s biggest imagination. He has worn out countless wooden surfaces all around our house with the constant stampede of plastic horse, and dinosaur feet. He gets this high pitched play voice that he goes into and does full on conversations between all his imagined characters. He rides his bike around the inside of the house and loves to show off his sprinting skills whenever someone comes in to visit. He makes our life full, and fun, exciting, and exhausting all at the same time.

 

Unfortunately for us, the entertaining days of our Jake words will eventually come to and end, and he will learn the right way to say all these words, and the dinosaurs will be replaced with homework, or something else way more boring as he keeps growing and developing. All our other kids have done it, and so will he. Kids grow up. Its part of life, and we will have to rely on all the fun memories that he gives us now, and then wait for all the grandkids to do the same thing.

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In a way, we all are still growing. It never stops. We are all still learning and developing. Im sure our Heavenly Parents look down lovingly to watch us learn new principles, or finally pull through our challenges. Im sure they relish the fun memories, and look forward to each and every one of our spiritual milestones. Sometimes, however, it takes us quite a while to learn.

Over the last year or so, that kind of describes me. I have had a bit of a struggle trying to reconcile my own personal practical views on the refugee situation that is going on in Syria. The church has asked for our support of the refugees and that we should treat them with open and welcoming arms. In my heart, I knew this was true, and, of course we should treat everyone that way. But, my head seemed to just see the potential for problems. I was kind of stuck. I guess I was stuck saying “thwimming soup”, and “Mac ’n’ doo” in a spiritual sense on this one particular issue.

In my head, along with many others, I just kept thinking about all the potential bad guys that would likely use this situation to take advantage of our country’s generosity. This was right at the time of all the attacks in France, and the bombing at the airport that effected the missionaries. It seemed like it would be so easy for terrorists to slip in claiming to be a refugee and then do a lot of damage to the honest innocent people just trying to help. My head was saying we had to be wary of the refugees to make sure we weren’t opening ourselves up for an easy attack. I seemed to be at a stalemate. My head saying one thing, while the church encouraging me to do what seemed like the exact opposite.

I hadn’t quite learned what I needed to learn. I had a spiritual lisp. Until a few days ago.

It was another testimony to me of the power and relevance of the Book of Mormon. I was reading in Alma about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. Also known as the people of Ammon. Those guys were as tough as nails. This group of Lamanites, thanks to some great missionaries, had converted to the Lord and repented of all their previous sins and murders of the Nephites. They had been a very nasty group of people, but had completely changed into an unbelievably good, devout, and committed people. They had converted to the Lord so completely that nothing else mattered to them. Not even their physical lives.

As a first token of their commitment, they first put away all their “weapons of rebellion¹”. I think that these these “weapons of rebellion” can mean ideas, thought processes, habits, traditions, or anything else that puts us in opposition to the Lord. However, this wasn’t necessarily the act that made them famous in the Book of Mormon.

A little while after these Anti-Nephi-Lehis had converted to the Lord, their fellow countrymen, the Lamanites who were NOT converted to the Lord, started making preparations for war. But, this time, they were not preparing for war against the Nephites. They were getting ready for war against their own people. The people of Ammon. They had become angry with the Anti-Nephi-Lehis because of their conversion to the Lord².

It is interesting to me, and very telling, that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, who are famous for burying their weapons of war deep in the earth as a covenant not to shed the blood of man ever again, did not do so immediately. Remember, the first step was only putting away their “weapons of rebellion” as well as their weapons of war. It was not until their fellow Lamanites were actively preparing to come to war against them, that they physically buried their weapons, to absolutely make sure that they did not break their covenant. Even in self defense.

In peacetime it would be difficult to make such a commitment. But can we imagine how much more difficult it would have been to voluntarily disarm, in the very moments that their hardened enemy was preparing to come to battle against them? This was an act of pure faith.

Here are the words that their king used describing their mindset, “And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved³”

In that short amount of time, the people of Ammon had gone from recent converts to one of the most committed, righteous people to ever have lived. Their spiritual development was rapid, and complete. They had changed their character to be more Christlike, and had NO reservations, and had complete faith in their God, and left their fate in his hands. They knew that if they were faithful to him, their fate would be sealed, and they would be with the Lord.

“And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it. Therefore, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take the sword or cimeter to smite them. And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord4

The people of Ammon were completely converted to the Lord. That conversion influenced their actions. They had changed their character completely. They weren’t only committed and righteous on Sunday, but everyday, and every hour and every minute.  They looked at the world around them through the lens of the gospel, not the lens of self preservation, political affiliation, or secular ideology. I have a lot to learn from them.

I am not suggesting that we as a country or as a people should do just as the Anti-Nephi-Lehis and bury our weapons of defense, and come what may. But, I am hoping that we can all look to them as an example of true and complete commitment to the Lord.  Their faith took away their fear. Their love of God, replaced their apprehension for death.

The people of Ammon, because of their degree of commitment and testimony, had reached the point of being unafraid of death. Because of their faith, they didn’t look upon it with “any degree of terror4.” Not even when they were faced with death “in the most aggravating and distressing ways.4” They knew exactly what was coming, and still held true to their covenants.

I need to graduate from my current elementary school spot, to their graduate level of faith. In a spiritual sense, I was still playing with plastic “dinothaurs” and “horthes”. I was looking at the world through nothing but my worldly eyes. I had been stuck in 3rd grade and couldn’t quite wrap my head around 4th grade, let alone the concepts mastered and taught in the Graduate School of the People of Ammon.

I learned right then, that I had been wrong. My thought process had been too narrow and not spiritually based. I had to get my head right. Even if it meant going in the opposite direction of where my head was telling me to go. I had to graduate from “Mac “n” Doo, to the actual real life Mountain Dew. I needed to open my heart to see what was really happening in Syria, and other devastated areas of the world. People are hurting, and desperately need help. It is my duty as a follower of Jesus Christ to act as he would act, think as he would think, and love as he would love. My own personal opinions notwithstanding. My character needed an upgrade.

So, I decided to change. I decided to try and be more faithful, and less skeptical. I decided to look at all the chaos in the world right now, and compare it to the chaos that surely existed in the days of the people of Ammon. If they could do it, maybe I can too. If I work to be more committed, all the time, even when looking at practical problems in seemingly secular situations.

In Emma Lazerus’ poem “The New Colossus” the ideas of inclusion and welcome that shaped this modern day promised land are perfectly put into words. They are inscribed on the pedestal under the Statue of Liberty. Sometimes I need a little (or big) reminder to put my thoughts and actions back into the proper perspective. The people of Ammon did that for me this last week, as well as these words that are written under the feet of Lady Liberty….

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  1. Alma 23:7
  2. Alma 24:1
  3. Alma 24:16
  4. Alma 27:28-30

Titles of Liberty

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 Flag remnant from Fort McHenry

Eleven days ago it was September 14th. It was a special day. And, up until a few days ago, I never realized quite how special it really was. I always thought that the only thing worth remembering about that particular day was that 38 years ago, yours truly was born. But, as usual, something way more cool and better than me is the real reason for that day’s awesomeness.

On September 14, 1814 something vastly more inspiring than me was born. It was the birth of the Star Spangled Banner. We all know the basics of the story. Francis Scott Key saw the flag standing after a battle and was inspired to write his poem, one thing led to another, and voila, we had the National Anthem.

The back story, though, is a lot more amazing than just that little snippet we hear from the history books.

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer, and an amateur poet. He had a way with words. Because of his skills, he was sent by the Americans to meet with the commander of the British naval fleet floating in the bay outside the city of Baltimore. In this fleet, hundreds of American prisoners were being kept in cells under deck. His job was to be a prisoner exchange negotiator.

After reaching an agreement to release the American prisoners being held, the British Commander informed him that the agreement would be meaningless soon, because the war would soon be over. The war would end because of a massive impending British attack on the nearby Fort McHenry.

The British had plans to unleash all hell on the fort. The Commander was confident that as soon as the Americans realized their plight was helpless, they would be ready to surrender.

In order to give up the fight and survive, all they had to do was lower the American flag that was flying over the ramparts of the fort. If, and only if, this happened, the bombing would stop, that was the deal. The fort would then be turned over to the British, and the battle, and soon the war, would be over.

Needless to say, Key, was anxious to see how this played out. All of the American prisoners below deck were also anxious to see, and were all focused on the flag flying above the fort. In many ways, that one flag’s survival symbolized the survival of the USA, and real freedom that she had fought for and won.

Soon, at the twilight’s last gleaming, the bombing started. It was relentless, endless, and complete. All the British ships were aiming all of their cannon fire on the flag. If it fell, the battle was over. The bombing lasted all night. The flag took numerous direct hits, but somehow stayed upright. All night the prisoners were below deck anxiously hoping, and actively praying for the survival of the flag. They constantly begged for updates from Key as he watched from above deck. After a long night, and with the gleam of the morning’s first beam, the flag was still there, upright, although hammered, shredded, and teetering.

Upon his return to the fort, Key was able to get a better understanding of just what had taken place over that terrible night. Each bomb had taken its toll. The fort had been ravished.The flag had indeed fallen several times due to direct cannon strikes, only to be hoisted back up, over and over again, by individual men. These men were willing to hold it up themselves, with their hands. Doing so was a death sentence. But, they were willing to die, so that the flag would still fly.

As the bombs had been aimed squarely at the flag, the cannon fire had thus taken the lives of many of those men. Their bodies now lay strewn around the pole holding the tattered flag up at that tilted angle. Those men knew exactly what their fate would be when they volunteered to hold up that flag, and yet, they were still willing to so. It wasn’t just for the flag, but for what the flag stood for. It was their symbol of God given freedom and liberty.

Is it any wonder, that after what he had witnessed, both from the ship in the harbor, and then from the fort itself, that such a poem would be written? The same flag that had inspired those men to give their lives for its continued display, had also inspired Francis Scott Key to write an amazing few verses, that now, in turn, inspire so many of us.

Think of all the times that you have heard the National Anthem, before a baseball or football game, or special event. Remember each time that we all sing those words that describe the feelings of that day. Think about the climactic ending of the words, “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!” It instills a sense of pride to be an American. It helps us honor and appreciate the men and women that helped preserve us a nation. That is what our flag represents. It represents our liberty, and freedom. The gifts that God gave to this land.

Now lets look even further back in American history. Like about 2,089 years ago to be exact. Lets look back at the story of another inspiring flag. One that has a very similar story, and that was equally inspiring. Its pretty amazing how these stories are so similar. I guess the old adage of “history repeats itself” really is true.

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Captain Moroni’s Title of Liberty

We read all about this ancient flag in The Book of Mormon in Alma Chapter 46. At this time, there is a huge uprising all over the land of the Nephites. If we look back at this story and compare it to 1814, its amazing how the stories can be so similar so many years apart.

This Nephite uprising was led by a conniving, evil man named Amalakiah. Amalakiah wanted to be king. His only problem was that the Nephites were a free people, they no longer had a king. They had recently transitioned into a free government system of elected lower, and higher judges. At this time, the Nephite people were in their 19th year of this whole no king experiment. It was then that Amalakiah decided he should be king and because of his pride and malice, caused pain and misery. But, because he was a persuasive man he had convinced most of the lower judges to side with him. They, like Amalakiah, sought the same thing. Power.

However, not everyone was on board with Amalakiah. In fact, the majority of the free Nephites opposed him. Among those who opposed Amalakiah was the famous Captain Moroni. Moroni was integral in reminding the Nephites of what was at stake, and was unrelenting in his defense of liberty.

Moroni had done this same thing time and time again. He had just led the Nephites for years against the invading Lamanites in order to preserve their lands and freedom. The Lamanites were in a near constant state of war to attack and take over the lands of the Nephites. But, this time, he found himself needing to fend off the threat of Amalakiah and his supporters from within his own people.

So how did Moroni do it? How did he manage to inspire an already war torn and weary people yet again? He made a flag. Not an ordinary flag, but a personalized, symbolic flag. He cut off his coat, and wrote on it by hand, he wrote just a few simple words, but words that reminded the people just what was at stake. He needed to inspire them to turn to God, and turn to the cause of freedom and liberty. He needed them to fight for the very thing that meant the most. The words he wrote on his flag were “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children¹”. He then fastened it to a pole and raised it to rally the people, and inspire them to join the cause.

Just as the American flag over Fort McHenry stood as a symbol of liberty and freedom attained  by sacrifice in war and loss of life, so did Moroni’s Title of Liberty. Both flags inspired men and soldiers to fight for what their flags represented. Which, in both cases, was freedom and liberty. Not only freedom from tyranny, and oppression, but freedom to worship God how they wished.

Both of these events seemed to be centered around their respective flags, or titles of liberty. As we listen to these words of Moroni, they could almost be used interchangeably to describe the times that would come 2000 years later.

“And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty²”.

“Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them³”.

This land is special. It has been special for a long, long, time. Even before Columbus was a twinkle in his father’s eye, this land was special. Long before that inspired morning’s sunlight shone on our flag in 1814. It will remain a special place for freedom and liberty for exactly as long as we treat it as such. It is a God blessed land, a chosen land for those who would honor Him. Its up to us to live up to our end of the covenant. Our blessings as a country will depend upon our collective obedience to God’s commandments.

Let’s always remember the history of this great place. This history goes back thousands of years, but seems to always have a way of repeating itself. These two stories show how a simple flag served as the reminder of the fragility of freedom and liberty. Both of these flags inspire me. They make me want to be better. They make me want to be a part of the great cause of liberty and freedom.

Amazingly, we still live under those same skies that watched the flag survive over Fort McHenry. We still live on the same land as those who followed Captain Moroni against the forces of Amalakiah. We still live under that same covenant today. Let’s try harder to be like those who sacrificed for us, and understood the necessity of liberty and freedom. Lets try harder to honor our part in the covenant. Lets try harder to keep God’s commandments so that we can be deserving and worthy of the freedoms we currently enjoy.

 

  1. Alma 46:12
  2. Alma 46:17
  3. Alma 46:20

 

Additional Note:

We are all very familiar with the first verse of the National Anthem. But, all 4 verses of this poem are amazing. Sometimes, I wish we would sing the 1st and 4th verses at least…

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Lost in Translation

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About 19 years ago, I learned a great lesson about the perils of translation. I was 19 years old and had just finished up the grueling 8 week language program in the Missionary Training Center before being sent to Brazil for my mission. If anyone else has tried to learn a language in 8 weeks, you can empathize that it’s not all that simple. If you couple this with the fact that other Americans, not Brazilians, were the ones trying to teach me, it meant that I had a lot of work to do.

But, for 16 hours a day, for 8 weeks, I worked, learned, practiced, practiced, listened, listened and practiced. So much so, that I felt I was half Brazilian after about 7 weeks. I was sure that in all the years of the MTC there had never been a more fluent American missionary. I had set records. I would have a plaque on the wall. I was pumped to go and blow the faces off the Brazilians with my 8 week old Portuguese.

I felt that I had a huge advantage because I had spent the last 3 years in high school learning Spanish. I loved it. I loved trying to talk with my friends in high school for practice, and I was excited to transition that into Portuguese because they were so similar.  Many of the words were the same, the verbs conjugated in the same way, and I was picking it up pretty easily. I thought I was awesome.

As the end of the 8 weeks came, and it was time to head to real Brazil to put my newly crafted skill to use, I started to get a little nervous. I had begun to realize that if any conversation wasn’t about the gospel, breakfast, cats and dogs, ice cream, or what time it was, I was going to struggle. I started trying to think in Portuguese, and translate full sentences in my head just to be ready.

When I finally got to Brazil, myself and all the new American missionaries were able to get together at the Mission President’s house to meet him, his family, as well as the missionary leaders. We were all exhausted. We had just spent the last 36 hours on several different planes, and transfer buses, and were now in a time zone that gave us some serious jet lag.  In addition to our thrown off sleep patterns, no one spoke English. This led to a scenario where there were a lot of Elders who, instead of spiritual firecrackers, were more like little deer caught in the headlights.

The Mission President’s wife had a favorite tradition she would do each time the new missionaries came from America. She would take out her video camera, start recording, and then, in a mix of Portuguese and the occasional English word, go around to each wide-eyed Elder, and do simple little individual interviews or introductions while we were milling around in the apartment.

The questions were simple, but the pressure was on. This was, of course, for the entertainment of the Brazilians,  and for us to be able to watch and laugh at ourselves and our stumbling Portuguese 2 years later when we would watch it again, as we left the mission on our way back home.

I was confident that I could handle this simple task. I wasnt looking forward to being recorded necessarily, but I was ready to be the best there ever was with my flawless Brazilian accent.

When the camera was finally on me, and the question came, “Oi, Elder, qual é o seu nome?” Or, “Hi, Elder, what is your name?” I understood perfectly. I had been in this scenario a million times before. I had played this out in my mind, I had silently practiced over and over. I knew what I should say, and I was ready to shine, it was go time…..right up until my mouth opened.

At that very moment, the moment of my rise to Portuguese stardom, the moment that the whole room would pause, and gasp in amazement at my stellar, perfect Portuguese, I blew it. My brain was running left instead of right, my tongue went up instead of down. The little gerbils running the translation department in my brain passed out, and all that came out of my mouth was, “Yo me llamo Elder Alexander.” Which in Spanish means, “My name is Elder Alexander”. The obvious problem was that I wasn’t anywhere near anyone, or even any country, that spoke Spanish.

My brain had barfed all over my shoes and reverted back to the Spanish I had learned in high school. So much for first impressions. But, that isn’t all. I could have survived if it was just a little slip up in the languages. The biggest problem with my slip up, was that in Portuguese, “Eu me amo” doesn’t mean “my name is”, it means, “I love myself”.

So, there I was, on day one, ready to be crowned the best Portuguese speaker ever, and as soon as my mouth opened, I blurted out, on camera, in front of everyone, that “I love myself, Elder Alexander”. The mission President’s wife, and two boys busted up laughing uncontrollably. The two boys were around 9 and 11. The perfect ages to make fun of the gringo Elders as they came through. I had given them just what they wanted. The translation didn’t go as I had planned. Needless to say, I wasn’t crowned most impressive Portuguese speaker that day.

The worst part of this story is that I only had to relive this almost every day, every single conference, and each time I saw those two boys for the next two years. The gift of humility I guess. The moral of the story? Sometimes things do get lost in translation.

Two days ago, I learned about another translation snafu. I was reading and getting ready for my lesson this Sunday when I came across this scripture in Genesis. This is where the Lord is creating Eve and presenting her to Adam.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

The interesting thing about this scripture is the word “help meet”. I had heard that word a bazillion times before, but this time, the manual said something about the word “meet” meaning “equal”.  I had never heard that before. So I looked into it. Turns out, the word “help meet” is a lot more complex than I ever realized.

First of all, the word “help meet”is like the 10% of an iceberg that is visible. If we look at what that word really means, it opens up the real purpose and role of Eve, as well as her relationship to Adam. In addition to that, I think it will open our own eyes to what our relationship should be with the women in our lives.

In Hebrew, the two words that “help meet” are derived from are “Ezer” and ‘k’enegdo¹”. Ezer is a word that is a combination of two word roots, one means “to rescue”, or “to save”, and the other means “to be strong”.

The noun “ezer” occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. In eight of these instances, the word means “savior”. It is the word most frequently used to describe God in his relationship to us. God is an ezer to man. This “ezer” word is the same word that God himself used to describe Eve when He gave her to Adam². The simplified translation of “ezer” into “help” misses by a mile, its like hitting with a putter off the tee on a par 5. It’s that short. The true meaning of “Ezer” describes much better the purpose, scope, and power that Eve had. Eve was meant to be so much more than a simple helper, or even just Adam’s companion. She was intended to be his savior and deliverer.

It can go a lot further than Eve. It’s not just her that this translation effects. The scripture clearly says that it is not good that man should be alone, meaning all of us. We all need a savior and deliverer at our side.

The second word “meet” comes from the Hebrew “k’negdo”. This word can mean “exactly corresponding to²”. I picture this like someone looking into a mirror, you see an exact reflection of who you are. This reflection connotes equality. No one is better than the other. Both are equal parts, one corresponding perfectly with the other, working together.

This translation teaches us a lot more about the power and purpose of Eve, and also of our wives, and mothers.  It should open our eyes to the calling that women have not only to us directly, but to everyone around them. Women are not here to be merely helpers, they are here to be saviors and deliverers. I like that translation a lot better.

Maybe, if we had a do-over, the scripture in Genesis could read, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who has a saving power and is equal with him.”

I am convinced that this definition, the deeper, more meaningful definition, that describes the calling and role for women is WAY more accurate than what we read in Genesis at a brief glance. I know just by my own personal experience that this is the case. How do we as men, fathers, and husbands treat our “Eves”? Do we treat them merely as “helpers”? Or, do we try and see them, and treat them, as the powerful saviors and rescuers that they really are?

 

  1. Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. Beverly Campbell 2003
  2. Forgotten Women of God. Diana Webb 2010

My ‘little’ army

In the NBA these days, there are a lot of superstars – but there are 2 MEGA superstars.  LeBron James and Steph Curry.  In the last 2-3 years there has been an increased surge of popularity and support (love and fandom) for Steph Curry.  There are some who have attributed this increased love to his “normal” physical stature (6’3” 190 soaking wet) – which happens to be much more in common with the average Joe basketball player/fan than that of LeBron James (listed at 6’ 8” 250).  For most people, they can try and be like Steph Curry through practice and training (launching 3’s and dancing as the little guy), but being built like LeBron and running like LeBron, and dunking like LeBron seem out of the realm of possibility no matter how hard we work (I can’t train myself to grow taller).  Somehow, we can all relate a bit more to Steph Curry and his ‘underdog-ishness’.1  At the same time, we may even dissociate ourselves from comparing ourselves to the skill set or talent of LeBron James by thinking that we’ll never be as buff/ripped/tall/muscular as him, so we shouldn’t even try.

There may be a similar thing that happens sometimes in the scriptures.  Whether we mean to or not, we sometimes attribute LeBron James status to our scripture heroes, and therefore think that we can’t relate ourselves or our lives or our situations to theirs because they were just way to righteous or way to buff or way to obedient or way to faithful to be ‘the average joe’.  One (very popular) story in particular happens to be the story of the 2,000 stripling warriors.  Most of the paintings/images of these guys could easily be mistaken for a WWE roll call or an ‘ultimate warrior’ look alike contest.  A guy in my ward yesterday even said that “based on those photos, every single stripling warrior benched at least 500 lbs.” Here’s a little taste of what I’m talking about:

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Now, to be fair, some of these guys could have been totally ripped.  Some of them might have looked like they were 35, but if we really want to ‘liken the scriptures unto us’ we need to understand that these stripling warriors probably looked a bit more ‘real life’ than that.  Some of them probably had some had acne and awkward teenage hairstyles. Some of them were probably as skinny as a rail, and most of them had been purposely been developing their talents off of the battlefield.  These guys probably looked a lot like the 12-18-year-old Aaronic priesthood holders that you and I see every week in church.  You know, the scrawny deacons who pass the sacrament, the slightly beefier teachers with cracking voices who prepare it, and the maybe not so burly/muscular, just getting some man-like facial hair priests who bless it.  They probably look a bit more Steph-ish than LeBron-ish right?  Most of the ones I know certainly do.

It’s worth noting here that the definition and word origin (history) for the word ‘stripling’ includes “a youth” and is possibly from the noun ‘strip’, meaning ‘long, narrow piece’ on the notion of ‘one who is slender as a strip, whose figure is not yet filled out’.2 Not quite the description of the rock (Dwayne Johnson) is it?  Helaman himself calls them his ‘little’ army twice (Alma 56:19, 56:33), and his ‘little’ band twice more (Alma 57:6, 57:19).

With that in mind, let’s review some of the important things that happen throughout this entire story that are critical to helping our youth today understand and relate this amazing story to their own lives (hint: this story just might be even more important for the parents of youth to understand), because the story of the stripling warriors is pretty much the story of our youth today.

Background/Context (Alma 53): Before we even get to the great details, there are some parallels that we need to understand.  In the 2 verses that precede the introduction of this story about the ‘sons of the people of Ammon’ we learn that the Lamanites have ‘gained some ground’ over the Nephites and have ‘obtained possession of a number of their cities placing the Nephites in ‘the most dangerous circumstances’.  And, the cause of this loss (listed in both verse 8 and 9 so we don’t miss it) is ‘intrigue and dissensions’ among the Nephites.  Not an outside force, but internal intrigue and dissensions.

Intrigue:

  1. Arouse the curiosity or interest of; fascinate
  2. Make secret plans to do something illicit or detrimental to someone

Dissension:

  1. Disagreement that leads to discord
  2. Difference in opinion

These youth were growing up in a world that was filled with intrigue (curiosity, fascination, and interest with secret plans, detrimental and/or illicit things, which led to disagreements, and then subsequent dissensions (differences of opinion which led to discord and battle).  That sounds pretty much exactly like the world we live in today.  There is no shortage of intrigue, and no shortage of discord based on opinions, rights, demonstrations, initiatives, programs, litigations, demands, etc. These circumstances placed the Nephites in ‘the most dangerous circumstances’ just like we find ourselves in today.  How many times have we heard that these latter days are the ‘most dangerous circumstances’?

Things set in motion:  I’ve written here concerning Antipus and his awesomeness, but for this post, I will just highlight two things.  Alma 56:10 indicates that the army of Antipus had been reduced by the Lamanites (slain in battle), which caused him to mourn.  How many leaders of the church are mourning because we are losing members of our armies?  Lots.  Some of them are being slain by the enemy, and some of them are being lost due to intrigue and dissensions.  This reduction of our forces gives us all ‘cause to mourn’.  Yet, when this army of Helaman arrives, Antipus ‘did rejoice exceedingly’.  I can imagine that he was happy to see additional warriors, but I’m guessing he was happier about seeing (and hearing) who they were and the reasons why they were there.  Alma 56:16 indicates that this ‘little’ force which Helaman brought to Antipus, gave them (his army) ‘great hopes and much joy’.  I don’t think Helaman put that into his letter to Moroni by accident (because it’s in there twice – verse 10 and 16).  I think Helaman (and later Moroni when he was abridging the record) realized by the spirit how important this story would be for the youth in the latter days, AND how important this story would be for the adults in the latter days.

One of the main reasons the stripling warriors were so important, is because of the effect they had on the adult leaders.  Antipus, Helaman, Moroni, the other unnamed leaders, and their parents all were able to somehow find additional strength, motivation, and were filled with this same ‘great hopes and much joy’ because of what these young warriors did.  The youth of this story turn out to be the catalyst for the Nephite victory.  As soon as this story is told in the Book of Mormon, the tide starts to turn.  The Nephites were losing ground, smothered in dissension and intrigue until a little band of Aaronic priesthood aged youth reminded everyone what was the most important.  They instilled love, faith, obedience, and fire back into the Nephite army.  They were beloved by everyone (see Alma 57:25), not just Helaman.

 Obey and observe with exactness:  Since we are drawing parallels to real life, let’s not forget that the record indicates that these young men ‘did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness’ (Alma 57:21).  Here we come to maybe the most amazing part of this story, and one where the LeBron James effect can come into play – so let’s think about it for a minute.  Do we honestly think that they were born with the perfect obedience gene?  Maybe they developed the gift of the spirit called observing with exactness, but I doubt it.  I think that these young men were exactly like the young men I know.

For example – let’s just say that Helaman heads home after the battle with the Lamanites in which they acted as decoy, turned around and then overtook the Lamanites and were miraculously saved.  He sees some of the mothers of these young boys during Sunday school and he relates this story of battle to them – and while he does he includes the words ‘they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness’.  How do you suppose their mothers responded to Helaman?  They probably thought in their minds of the many times when their sons did NOT ‘obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness’ at home (like when they asked these boys to clean their rooms, take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, do their homework, and any of the hundred other normal tasks mothers ask their sons to do).  Isn’t that what you and I do when their youth leaders tell us how amazing our kids are?  These amazing mothers may have even thought to themselves, I wish Helaman could come over to my place sometime and watch my son ‘obey with exactness’.  He doesn’t know the real story….  Just this morning I had to ask my son 3 times to pick up his bow and arrow which he always leaves laying around.

Two real life examples that I witnessed just this week that help me believe this is true.

  1. A young man in our ward happens to be leaving for college this weekend. He has caused his mother a fair amount of grief over the years (I know this because both he and she have disclosed this fact).  I have watched him in the priest’s quorum for the last year and happens to be one of the young men that I know I can count on.  In fact, I once asked him to sing in a combined youth meeting knowing full well he couldn’t sing (and didn’t want to) – but I asked him because I knew he would say yes (he did).  If you asked me if he ‘obeys and observes to perform every word with exactness’ I would say ‘absolutely’.
  2. Due to the labor day weekend this past Sunday, our deacon turnout for fast offerings was much less than normal. We needed help from the teachers and priests.  Even though it is not their ‘normal’ fast Sunday duty, we asked them for their help (by sending out texts/calls).  About 20 minutes later, I answered the door at my home to see a priest and an almost priest gathering fast offerings.  Further, the almost priest actually apologized for being late.  Are they stripling warriors?  Yes, indeed.  Do they obey and observe to perform every word with exactness?  Yes, again.   Was there some encouragement from their mothers/fathers?   Of course.

Now, I’m not Helaman, and I’m not Moroni, and I’m not Antipus.   But I can promise that the same ‘great hopes and joy’ that they felt when this little army came to the fight is real and the leaders of our youth today feel it.  It is a love that has been around since the beginning – and it is a love that is accompanied by the spirit.

The enemy we face today is just as frightening and just as scary as the Lamanite armies the stripling warriors battled long ago.  But our youth are just as prepared and are just as important to our forces today as they were to theirs in the past.  They are taught by their mothers in the exact same way – repetition, encouragement, patience, and love.  Even when their mothers may not see the results of that firmness of mind and exactness at home every day – rest assured that others do, and they are filled with ‘great hopes and joy’ when they see it – And wise leaders recognize that these young boys and girls of today can and will turn the tide in the last and great battle just like they did before.  The youth of the church will be a catalyst for increased devotion, increased love, increased faithfulness, and increased effort from their adult leaders who are reminded of the reason we are fighting the battle in the first place.

Hopefully we (as old people), can understand that the past can teach us the future, and the series of events as it’s laid out in Alma can be repeated as our youth realize that they are exactly like the stripling warriors were. Normal, everyday young men and women who are consistent, faithful, and true.

 

Notes

1 Yes, this is a made up word.  And, I realize that he isn’t really an underdog playing for the Warriors, but the idea is that he is not the physical specimen that many other NBA athletes are, and he looks like a normal dude.

2 Dictionary.com/stripling

3 It’s probably a miracle all on it’s own that these young men were able to stay ahead of the Lamanite armies long enough for Antipus to even catch up.

 Additional questions to consider:

  • Do you think Antipus would have run himself and his other leaders to death trying to catch the enemy if they thought these youngters could actually fight off the Lamanites?
  • Do you think Helaman would have frantically searched through the numbers of wounded soldiers as soon as the battle was over to count how many of his little army had perished if they all had strength like the Hulk?
  • Do you think they would have written how ‘miraculous’ it was that they all survived if they were physically built for battle?
  • Do you think Helaman would have been so inspired by their ‘so great courage’ if they were at least a physical match for the Lamanites?

This photo may be a bit more ‘real life’ even though its a cartoon.

sons-of-helaman-269044-wallpaper

 

Lead by Following

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Like many of you, we have children.  Our oldest two happen to be of babysitting age, which makes our lives easier in the event my wife and I (or some other combination of kids/adults) need to leave some of the other (responsible) kids home while we do important things like go on dates to the grocery store or the church to print the monthly newsletter.  Sometimes we are gone for a few minutes, and other times we are gone for a few hours.  In every case, we leave a few instructions with the oldest – and I bet that you do as well.

This list of instructions might be fairly simple if you are leaving for a few minutes, but could grow to be several pages worth of notes in the event you are expecting to be gone for an extended period of time – especially if the babysitters are expected to ensure that bedtime goes according to plan.  That’s not to mention how long and detailed the list would be if you were going to be gone for a week on vacation and the babysitters (probably a responsible adult in this case) reminding them of all the details, events, dates, homework assignments, car rides, etc. that need to be attended to during their absence.

With that in mind, I’d like to review a couple of verses in Mosiah where King Benjamin asked his son Mosiah to babysit (and by babysit I mean rule the kingdom).

In Mosiah 1:15 King Benjamin gave Mosiah “’charge’ concerning all the affairs of the kingdom.”  Let’s remember that this was the Land of Zarahemla, the ecclesiastical and political capital of the Nephites – at least until the time of Christ (See Alma 5:1, Alma 6:1, Alma 27:20) so it was not a small town or village.  King Benjamin put Mosiah in charge of a whole lot of stuff.   But, instead of listing a bazillion things to make sure he took care of, let’s review the tools King Benjamin emphasizes to Mosiah in verse 16:

And moreover, he (Benjamin) also gave him (Mosiah) charge concerning (1) the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also (2) the plates of Nephi; and also, (3) the sword of Laban, and (4) the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness.

So, in today’s language, King Benjamin said something like this: “Hey Mosiah, I’m going to die soon, so I am putting you in charge of the whole kingdom – yes all of it.  And, in order to be in charge of it (or to do a good job of being in charge of it) I am giving you 4 things:

  1. The scriptures
  2. Recent conference talks
  3. The sword of Laban – in case the Lamanites attack
  4. The Liahona – so you’ll know what (and where) to go or do (just remember that it only works according to your heed and diligence).

I bet Mosiah asked “is that it”?  and King Benjamin said “yes – now please gather the entire Kingdom (like I asked) so that I can tell them you are in charge.”

If that conversation wasn’t enough to weigh down Mosiah, then what King Benjamin told his people in the next chapter certainly was – he said to the entire kingdom (in Mosiah 2:31) “if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you.  He lays the responsibility on Mosiah’s shoulders of only delivering commandments to the people that were from God.  (in essence he blackmailed Mosiah into not becoming King Noah).  Not a bad way to convince Mosiah to be good right?

Maybe the next time that I ask our oldest daughter to babysit I will proclaim to the younger children something like this “kids, if you do the things Elyse tells you to do, ye will prosper and your enemies will have no power over you”.  And see if she turns into a tyrant or if she relies too much on the sword of Laban and not on the scriptures and the Liahona to inform her of what the ‘commandments’ to be delivered to the children are.

Yet, there is another bit of context that helps us understand King Benjamin’s trust in Mosiah.  If we go back to read the first part of chapter 1 (specifically verses 2-14 before he gives Mosiah ‘charge’ concerning the kingdom).  The record indicates that prior to this transfer of ‘charge’ King Benjamin had heavily emphasized the importance of the tools that he was passing on to Mosiah.

In referencing the instruction that he gave to all his sons, he underscored the importance of the plates, and how they were critical to learning and understanding the language of his fathers, prophecies which had been spoken, the records which were engraven, the commandments, and how important it was that these things were ‘always before their eyes’ so that they did not dwindle in unbelief (like the Lamanites who didn’t have the records).   He also exhorted them to search the records diligently among many other things which were not written.  All of a sudden, it’s not so surprising that the only tools that he gave as part of the babysitting list were the scriptures – indicating that any answers or struggles that come up as a leader of a kingdom can be solved by seeking inspiration and direction from the Lord.

Now, we can’t really assume that King Benjamin never spoke another word to Mosiah again, because he lived for 3 more years before he passed away (See Mosiah 6:5), but let’s assume that he retired to live a life of peace without explaining every little thing to Mosiah.  This leaves us with a pretty solid model by which to lead/instruct our children when they are set to inherit new responsibilities:

  1. Help them remember how great the scriptures are
  2. Make sure they know that all the answers are in there – they’ll figure it out if they really look for them.

No doubt Mosiah also had the luxury of watching his father lead the people for 30 years (See Mosiah 6:4) and had seen the proper use of wisdom, patience, service, love, and scripture seeking over and over again in action – which likely made his attempts to follow in his footsteps slightly easier.

This also helps us understand that the best way to lead (as taught by Benjamin to Mosiah) is to be a devoted follower.  A follower of the scriptures, the spirit, and the commandments of the Lord.  Then (and only then) are we able to deliver any of his commandments to those we lead in a manner that will be accompanied by the spirit and the truth.  Then (and only then) will we be able to recognize the Liahona guiding us along.

 

Note: Don’t forget that Benjamin spent the majority of his days ‘serving’ the people.  This is another key component of his successful leadership that goes hand in hand with being a devoted follower.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I Am a Nephite.”

young-thorin

Thorin Oakenshield

The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are awesome. What more could you ask for than a story full of dragons, goblins, flesh eating orcs, Dwarves, Hobbits, Humans, and special forces olympic-gymnastics-esque assassin Elves all in one place. There are so many similarities between the stories of middle earth and Christianity its crazy. This makes for totally awesome comparisons between Middle Earth and actual earth. We could probably spend weeks talking about all of them. But for today we will keep it simple.

One of the main characters in the Hobbit is the storied warrior leader of the Dwarves. His name is Thorin Oakenshield. He is the last in a long line of kings. His Father Thrain was a mighty King, as was his Grandfather Thror. He is extremely proud of his heritage and lineage. Thorin is a direct descendent from Durin the Deathless, the original and most revered dwarf King. Thorin makes sure that everyone knows exactly who he is, and from whom he descended. He is Thorin son of Thrain, Son of Thror the Kings under the mountain. Just because its awesome and I needed an excuse to have a Hobbit video on the blog, the following clip is a Lord of the Rings poem written by J.R.R. Tolkein and put to music. It’s called Durin’s song. It explains the history of Durin, and the heritage of the Dwarves that Thorin Oakenshield is so proud of. This is the song that Gimli sang to the Fellowship of the Ring as they entered the the mines of Moria…

 

As much as I would love to write another 27 pages on the lineage of dwarves, elves, hobbits, and wizards, I’d better not. My reputation of not having a lisp and/or wearing Gandalf garb to the midnight showings of all the Lord of the Rings movies is at stake.

One of the principles that Thorin Oakenshield demonstrates, however, is what I would like to showcase. He is proud of who he is. He announces it openly. He feels very much responsible for the name he bears, and knows that his actions will reflect back on his lineage and carry on after he is gone. He feels this connection to his past through his name and heritage.

Recently, I was reading in Alma and came back to the story of how Alma met Amulek. Amulek was a wealthy man, a well-known man, who lived in the very wicked city, Ammonihah. As Alma was traveling around the cities of the Nephites to strengthen a weakening church, he stopped and taught in Ammonihah only to be outrightly rejected. They cast him out because, “[He] had no power over [them]’ as he had previously “delivered up the judgment-seat unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us.¹” 

Basically, they rejected him saying “You’re not the boss of us.” So, because he no longer had any real legal authority over them, and he was now just a “church guy”, they “reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city.²”

Not exactly the best reception for the sitting Prophet. After that, Ammonihah was probably scratched of the list of cities to host the next regional conference. After being completely rejected, Alma left. Almost immediately afterwards, however, he was summoned back to Ammonihah by an angel to complete his mission there.

Alma, being Alma, then decided to fast many days in order to attempt to soften the hearts of the people of Ammonihah while traveling back to this unwelcoming city of uber wickedness. This time, however, was different. The first man he saw upon his return to Ammonihah was a man named Amulek, who, not so coincidentally, had also been told by an angel that his meeting with a prophet would take place. Notice the very first words out of Amulek’s mouth to Alma, this total stranger, a man he’d never met.

“And as he (Alma) entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man: Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?”

“And the man (Amulek) said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.³”

Amulek didn’t waste even one syllable in letting Alma know who he was. Right away he comes out and says, “I am a Nephite, and I know thou art a holy prophet of God.” 

We don’t really know why exactly why he chose those words to introduce himself. But, in my mind, I imagine Amulek being overly anxious and even excited to express his unwavering support for Alma, the prophet, the church, and the Lord. He was proud to be a Nephite, and happy to be a part of what that actually meant. He knew the heritage behind that name, as well as how that would sound to Alma.

Being a Nephite could have meant not only that he was a descendant of Nephi, but that he was also converted to the Lord, and living righteously.  We know that later in the Book of Mormon, all the righteous people were known as Nephites regardless of their lineage, and all those who chose not to be righteous were known as Lamanites4. This was exactly who Amulek was. He was proud to be a Nephite in every sense of that word. So much so, that the first recorded words he uttered to Alma were “I am a Nephite.”

This is awesome. Amulek is awesome. The lesson I take from him, is that I should be proud of where I come from. I should be honored to share the name of my fathers just as Amulek was. I should be proud of my heritage and lineage. I should be willing, and even honored, to wear my belief on my sleeve. That means, at the same time, I need to be worthy of my name, and who I claim to be. And that takes effort, commitment and dedication on my part. I need to BE a Nephite, in order to claim upon meeting the prophet, “I am a Nephite”!

Amulek’s pronouncement was not the first example in the scriptures of clear and bold introductions.  Great examples are all over the place….

One such example is when my man, Captain Moroni, never one to mince words, closed his famous beat down letter to Ammoron, the General of the enemy Lamanite army, like this…

“…it supposeth me that thou art a child of hell…I will come against you with my armies; yea, even I will arm my women and my children, and I will come against you, and I will follow you even into your own land, which is the land of our first inheritance; yea, and it shall be blood for blood, yea, life for life; and I will give you battle even until you are destroyed from off the face of the earth. 

Behold, I am in my anger, and also my people; ye have sought to murder us, and we have only sought to defend ourselves. But behold, if ye seek to destroy us more we will seek to destroy you; yea, and we will seek our land, the land of our first inheritance.

Now I close my epistle. I am Moroni; I am a leader of the people of the Nephites5.

In response, Ammoron tried to do the same type of thing, but unfortunately for him, it wasn’t quite as powerful….

“And behold now, I am a bold Lamanite; behold, this war hath been waged to avenge their wrongs, and to maintain and to obtain their rights to the government; and I close my epistle to Moroni6.”

Mormon, author, and abridger of the Book of Mormon left us this clear definition of who he was…

“Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life7.”

The Psalmist gives us a great example of how we can present ourselves before the Lord in prayer to help us gain a testimony…

I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies8.”

The best example of all, and by far the most powerful to read, is the way the Lord himself handles his own introductions. He makes it powerfully clear just who He is.

I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father9.”

“Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name10.

I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end11.”

“Behold, I am God and have spoken it12;…”

I want to be just like Amulek, Mormon, and Moroni. I want to stand up and honorably proclaim who I am, and live worthily to do so.  I want to be just like my Savior, and live in such a way that others can see his influence on me. I want to wear my belief and my spiritual  heritage on my sleeve, and BE who I claim to be. A Christian, a Father, a Husband, and a Mormon.

 

1. Alma 8:12
2. Alma 8:13
3. Alma 8:19,20
4. 4 Nephi 37,38
5. Alma 54:11-14
6. Alma 54:24
7. 3 Nephi 5:13
8. Psalm 119:125
9. D&C 110:4
10. 3 Nephi 9:13
11. 3 Nephi 9:18
12. D&C 1:24

I Wanna Be Like Tikes

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When I was in Jr High, it was common knowledge that the best basketball player in the world was Michael Jordan. He had the best shoes, he stuck his tongue out when he dunked, and he was cool. He was the whole package. He even had a commercial/song that unabashedly touted the phrase, “I wanna be like Mike”.

Remember this?

That sentence pretty much summed up my whole existence at that time. I wanted to play basketball for the Bulls, have black shoes, and dunk on everyone. He was the guy I wanted to be like, I wanted to emulate him, I wanted to do what he was doing, I wanted to be just like him. So, I practiced. I practiced, and I practiced. I stuck my tongue out when I dunked on the 7’5” hoop we had in the driveway. I palmed the mini-basketball I won at Lagoon when I did my pump fakes and everything. It was awesome. Watching him made me want to be better.

Last weekend, all that admiration happened again, it was like a flashback. Except this time, I wasn’t watching Michael Jordan. I was watching my little brother Tikes (Tikes is short for Tikes-Bikes, a nickname Tyson gave himself about 10 years ago when we all had blog wars back in the day. Talk about foreshadowing…) do an Ironman. He is awesome. I pretty much have the best little brothers in the world. For another example of how awesome my brothers are, click here.

It was in Guernville California. My wife Catie and I met up with Tyson and his wife, Amanda, to watch him compete in the Vineman Iron Man Triathlon. It was nuts. If you’re not quite sure what that is, imagine if you were a prisoner trying to escape a Russian gulag in the middle of a siberian wasteland 140 miles from the nearest anything. The only real difference is that you willingly sign up for it. It starts with a 2.4 mile swim in a river, immediately followed by a 112 mile bike ride, which, in turn, is immediately followed by a full marathon (26.2 miles). I dropped him off at the starting line by the river at 5:00 a.m. I then, being the supportive brother that I am, went back to where we were staying and fell asleep.

swim

After we (Myself, Catie, and Amanda) all woke up, and met around 8:00 am, we took a nice drive into the nearest town, and sat down in the morning sun, and had an amazing breakfast. This breakfast consisted of a lobster mushroom benedict, and some homemade fresh donuts dusted with sugar and served with a local plum jelly. It was amazing. It was hard work to eat everything, but we showed character, and dedication (almost as much as Tyson) and put our heads down and got the job done. After then relaxing outside at the quaint cafe, we gathered up, made another couple errand stops, and then went out to our planned observation spot. It was a nice shady spot on a sidewalk along the road where the runners and bikers would pass several times during the race. It was now about 11:15 a.m.

By this time, Tyson had finished the swim, and started his bike ride. Actually, he had already passed the spot we picked. Twice. Way to go us. Fans of the year award. We were totally justified though because we were really busy looking for the blackberry tarts he had requested.

As we sat there and cheered on the 2200 participants who were riding their bikes, and then as the runners started to pass us, we were impressed. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were the traditional looking triathletes (5’9” 160 lbs. 6% body fat) but many were normal ordinary looking people, who were doing this extraordinary thing. It was inspiring. Hour after hour, as we waited and cheered, it was fun to watch.

We eventually did see him as he passed our spot several times during the marathon portion of the event. Each time it was better and better. He looked great. I was so proud of him. It was about that time that I realized, I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do what he was doing, I wanted to be able to swim, bike, and run and endure just like him. I wanted to emulate him. It was just like I was 14 again, wanting to be Michael Jordan, but I was 37 and wanted to be like Tikes.

I had watched him over the last year get ready, plan, train, prepare, work, train, compete, train, and train some more. And it all came to fruition last Saturday over the 11 hours and 38 minutes that he gave everything he had. He had gone from barely being able to swim 25 meters without drowning, to swimming 3,862 meters in an hour and 11 minutes, then biking for 5+ hours, then running a marathon. He didn’t even die. He was awesome.

run

He and all the others who chose to participate are inspirational. They embody commitment, dedication, hard work, and endurance. Through his example, I want to be better. I want to become something better, and be like him.

This principle is not new, and applies to all aspects of our lives, not just in a physical sense, but in a character sense as well. We live our entire lives following the examples of others. We learn, starting as babies, by watching our parents, siblings, friends, and everyone else. We emulate the actions of those we admire.

Over this last week I have been thinking specifically of all the examples I have close to me, and around me, that make me want to be better. There are several in and out of my ward, my work, and in my own family. Most of them probably don’t even realize how much I look up to them. I just kind of secretly spy on them and their awesomeness from a distance.

This is exactly how I feel about the great men in the Book of Mormon. And, to me, therein lies the power in that book. By reading it, it makes me want to be just like those amazing prophets and leaders. It has the same effect on me as watching Tikes swim, bike and run for 12 hours straight. It Inspires me to emulate the characteristics that make them great. They become my heroes, they are spiritual superstars. Its also full of stories about normal everyday people who developed Christlike characteristics through grinding out a tough life. There are countless examples of dedication, strength, character, commitment, sacrifice, faith, humility, and honor. I want to be like them.

I want to be like Abinidi, and be so committed to my faith that I can stand up for, and defend it in front of an evil king and his wormtongue priests in the face of death threats.

I want to be like Teancum, and be brave enough to sneak alone into the enemy camp and send a spear into the heart of their wicked general, at great personal risk, in order to attempt to end a senseless war, and save the lives of countless innocent soldiers.

I want to be like Antipus, and have the strength to run all day, and then all night, and then all the next day in order to save 2000 young inexperienced volunteer warriors who were willing to be live bait to draw out the enemy. Then be willing to engage that enemy army, completely exhausted, and give up my life to save theirs.

As we take another look at the righteous men and women in the Book of Mormon, it becomes perfectly clear that the characteristics they all display- strength, sacrifice, honor and commitment are developed as they were simply following the examples of previous prophets, or their fathers before them. As we learn more, it is clear that the the ultimate example that they were all striving towards was that of Christ himself. Either by his words found in the scriptures, or by his actual presence in influencing the attitudes, and actions of his people.

“…be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
-1 Timothy 4:12

“And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.”
-2 Nephi 31:16

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”
-John 13:15

“Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.”
-3 Nephi 18:16

In Sunday School yesterday, we learned about a good way to envision what changes are necessary in our lives. Instead of saying “we”, or “you” when we discuss what we should do, we change our words into the first person using “I”. It makes things more personal, and meaningful. So, to finish this off, Ill give it a shot.

Good examples are all around me. As I identify who they are, and how they are, and I try to be like them, I will learn that ultimately every good example I have, steers me to be more like my Savior. He is who I need to emulate. I need to learn to love other people like he does. I need to treat everyone around me like he would. I need to forgive, bless, and teach like he did. As I try and change myself and be more like him, and emulate him, I then feel closer to him. And that is where my real happiness is.

Judgment

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Since I have already disclosed my willingness to wear a triathlon singlet on this blog, and since I apparently see the world through a triathlon lens at the moment, it won’t surprise you if I share a few more thoughts that I’ve had recently.  The good news is that what I want to talk about is not skin tight clothing, but the finish line – because it’s awesome (and the best part of any race).

For my first Ironman 70.3 that took place in May of this year, I trained using a 20-week program.  For the 5 months leading up to the race I worked hard, and I visualized myself crossing the finish line. In looking back, I see that I had limited that visualization to maybe the last 2 or 3 steps and the actual crossing of the finish line.  I did not once ever visualize the last quarter mile, or the entire ‘finish line chute’, and didn’t really have a plan for what to do when I encountered that amazing scene.  So, naturally, I just ran past it all (missing most of it).  Then, at the beginning of my full Ironman I had mentally planned on slowing down and enjoying my finish line (this last week), but since I am a very slow learner, I had a problem with actually doing it.  I stopped for a second or two, but then took off again in order to finish.

This is important now, because it was only later (after I had finished both races), that I fully realized that my wife, my kids, and other family members who had travelled quite some way to come watch me finish (not to mention the hours that they waited there patiently in the heat) were all stationed about 50 feet from the finish line and only saw me for 5 or 6 seconds.  As I approached the finish line, even though I knew that they would be there, and was happy to see them, I gave them a quick high 5 while I passed right on by so that I could finish the race.  Later on, I wished I had spent a bit more time to ‘take in’ the scene, thank the crowd, and to really enjoy the moment – at least the last few hundred feet where the crowd is intense and the families are cheering on their athletes.  But, my time was 10 or 15 seconds faster than it would have been had I done that right?

Often, and by often I mean pretty much every time, when I get to the book of Moroni I tend to speed up in order to cross the finish line in a flurry and check off another completed reading and tend to not notice the crowds of amazing doctrine and commentary lining the finish chute.  In doing so, I fail to really enjoy the moment, which might somehow be better if instead of speeding up, I slowed down, I walked, I take a drink, I thank my family for coming, I hug them, I enjoy the crowd that only lines the finish line chute, and I really soak in the experience.

Recently, when I reached Moroni in the Book of Mormon and suddenly knew that I was so close to being done again that I (too) quickly read the entire book while sprinting to the finish line.  Even while I was reading chapters 7-10, I knew that I was missing way too much good stuff.  So, after I finished I went back to chapter 7 and crawled through the last few chapters over the next several days (a luxury you don’t get at an Ironman event).

The best part about that process, is what I learned.  I gained a few particular insights which I had missed before, one in particular which led me to some additional material, which led me to even more learning.  So, by slowing down and enjoying Moroni’s final contributions, I appreciated the finish line chute much more than in the past.

With that background, and the state of the world today with it’s social media, political commentary, news stories, and the immediacy of information, opinions, and demands for judgment, this is what I learned from Moroni – as directed to the “peaceable followers of Christ”1 (that’s us) as it relates to judging between good and evil; because we all know that there is good and there is evil and more importantly “it is given unto us to judge, that [we] may know good from evil.2

I think we all realize that there are judgments (a.k.a. choices) that we need to make every day3, some big and some little, all of which are important, which means we should exercise great caution and always “take heed… that [we] do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.”4  

 Luckily, Moroni is not stingy on the details for how we are to judge righteously.  The first two clues are that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” and that “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ”.5 So, to recap what he teaches us:

  • The spirit of Christ is given, or in other words – it is a gift. And;
  • Everything that is good, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ

Naturally then, Moroni would like us to understand that the gift of the spirit will accompany every thing that is good (and by necessity will accompany nothing [literally no thing] that is bad).

In case we missed the first 2 clues on how we are to judge, he gives us another (keep in mind that they are a requirement to judging between good and evil (which is important);

  • Ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ.6
  • See that ye search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil.7

Moroni tells us that if we are to judge righteously or between good and evil we need to judge by the light of Christ after having searched diligently in that same light (which is a gift and which accompanies good things).  I don’t think searching diligently in the light means anything less than strenuous effort and constant striving to have the spirit at all times.

All of our knowledge, our reason, or our perceptions or limited understanding are not even close to the criteria for proper judgment.  If we elect (as we so often do) to judge ‘outside’ of The light based on our own views or opinions (or even what we assume or think are facts as we perceive them), we are prone to mistakes, assumptions and gross error.  That is the warning that Moroni gives us, because if we opt to pass that type of judgment on others, that same judgment made ‘outside’ the light will be used on us.  Scary right?

I for one do not want that type of limited judgment in the end. So, perhaps by giving everyone else the maximum benefit of doubt, and not passing limited judgment, or comparisons, I do myself a great service.

There is a parable that we are familiar with, but read with new light during this slow crawl through Moroni 7-10 (and it’s related ideas/talks); it’s about Martha and Mary, and it’s about every single one of us.

Luke, chapter 10, verses 38–42:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Those of us with more of Martha than of Mary in us (as we suppose) have maybe once or twice felt that this rebuke from the Lord is a bit harsh.  While we do not doubt the overriding importance of listening to the Lord, does the listening have to be done while we are making dinner preparations? Would it have hurt Mary to have joined us in serving, then we all could have sat down to hear the Lord together?    Why, didn’t the Lord say something like: “You’re absolutely right, Martha. What are we thinking of to let you do all this work alone? We’ll all help, and by the way, that centerpiece looks lovely”?

What he did say is difficult to bear, but perhaps somewhat less difficult if we examine its context. First and foremost, the Lord (as he likes to do) acknowledges Martha’s care: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (v. 41). Then he delivers the gentle but clear rebuke. But the rebuke would not have come had Martha not prompted it. The Lord did not go into the kitchen and tell Martha to stop cooking and come listen. Apparently he was content to let her serve him however she cared to, until she judged another person’s service: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (v. 40).

Martha’s self-importance, expressed through her judgment of her sister, occasioned the Lord’s rebuke, not her busyness with the meal.8

As we are cumbered about with our daily lives and our own sacrifices and sufferings for the Lord, we can take satisfaction in knowing that we are doing the best that we can, and that is absolutely all that matters.  Nobody else’s contribution or sacrifices can or should be compared to ours, and if/when we start to observe their sacrifices or their efforts say (or think) “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister/brother hath left me to serve alone?” we can imagine the Lord saying to us “Mary, thou art careful and troubled about many things”, but you don’t need to be burdened with the judgment of anyone else’s offering to me.

We don’t need to appoint ourselves to be the judge, and we don’t need to demand that justice be administered for mistakes – even when they appear to be intentional or grievous.  As we try to let those things go and worry about ourselves, we can hear the Lords voice say to us “by the way, you are welcome for that gift.”

 

Notes

1 Moroni 7:3

2 Moroni 7:15

3 I know what it says in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, but that can’t logically or spiritually mean don’t ever judge anything ever, because in the very next verse it says “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again”.   That sounds remarkably similar to Moroni 7:18 – which I will get to shortly (above).

4 Moroni 7:14

5 Moroni 7:16

6 Moroni 7:18

7 Moroni 7:19

8 This parable, and the commentary comes from “Simon, I Have Somewhat to Say unto Thee”: Judgment and Condemnation in the parables of Jesus” by Catherine Corman Parry.  It was a BYU devotional speech from May 7, 1991. (https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/catherine-corman-parry_simon-somewhat-say-unto-thee-judgment-condemnation-parables-jesus/).  I had never once realized or thought about that parable in the context of ‘judgment’.  Her speech outlines not only this parable, but many others which are similarly fantastic.  I recommend you read this speech.  It is fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie vs Reba and the Rad Fads that Ended Up Bad

 

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This is a pretty close representation of Dad’s boom box

When Tyson and I were growing up, everything was a competition. Everything. Among the things we “competed” or fought over were super important things like, who could have the most posters covering the walls of our room, who had the best haircut (mullet vs rat-tail, side-spike vs steps), who would win in 21 tip in, who could eat faster (this was really for 2nd place as Casey was the clear champion here), Ryne Sandberg vs Andre Dawson, and on and on and on. All of this was also compounded by the fact that we shared a room.

Looking back its pretty funny, but one of the more ridiculous things we fought over was our Dad’s old maroon boombox. At that time, it was state of the art. It had dual cassette decks, stereo surround, and a bunch of equalizer buttons. We basically just confiscated it, and hoarded it away in our room to listen to our favorite music.

The daily fight and struggle was over who had the right to listen to who’s music at night as we were falling asleep. This is a sibling battle that may be foreign to all those who never shared a room growing up. But for us, we had to survive those nights when our musical choice had to be put on hold, while we suffered the torture of the other’s music until we fell asleep.

The thing that makes this hilarious is the music we chose. Back in the late 80’s, and early 90’s music was a lot different. Stuff that was cool then, isn’t exactly cool now. Stuff that was perfectly normal listening material to us then, just cracks us up now. To this day, we make fun of each other’s previous childhood musical choices. The beauty of this memory from that particular competition, is that we were both losers.

My personal choice of music varied nightly, but one song, on one tape, has become fodder for Tyson razzing me. It’s a song called “Gonna Love Ya (till the cows come home)” by Reba Macintyre. I know, I know, don’t say anything. I’ve heard it for like 25 years straight now. Trust me. I know. But, just in case you were wondering about that song, here it is…

 

Tyson, on the other hand, was a bit more eclectic in his choices. He was also a bit more current, and sappy than me. He was also maybe even a little bit “chic flicky”. So, his choice that earned his 25 years of my counter-razzing was, “Lost in Your Eyes” by Debbie Gibson. If you still have room in your doggy bag, here it is…

 

Now you can clearly understand why we both lost the competition. It was really more like choosing between a colonoscopy and a root canal.

The funniest thing about all this is that we were both supposedly big tough macho guys, and every night, we would argue and fight, nearly coming to blows, over listening to Debbie Gibson or Reba Macyntire! If we had a time machine, we’d probably have to both go back and slap ourselves. But it is hilarious now.

Isn’t it interesting how time changes everything? What is “cool” and “popular” changes. Shows like MacGuyver, and Knight Rider, the best things ever in their time, are now filed away in the “Man, I can’t believe I watched that, this is so lame” category right next to the files for pegged pants, L.A. Gear shoes, and big hair bands. But, such is the way of popular culture. It is always moving on, moving constantly to the next big thing, the next fad, style, sound, or whatever, but the only thing that remains constant is that nothing lasts.

These popular fads don’t ever last because their content isn’t lasting. It’s not even meant to be. People get tired of them because they don’t satisfy the demands of real happiness.  Fads have a shelf life of mere moments. Look what happened to the Titanic song by Celine Dion. In its day, it was played on the radio every 3 minutes all over the world and people still couldn’t hear it enough. But now, Its probably on the top 5 list of reasons why people want to pluck their eyes out.

If we look only to things like Debbie Gibson, or songs about cows to make us happy forever, we will only be disappointed (other than maybe laughing at ourselves 25 years later). Real, true happiness that lasts through changing societies, peoples, cultures, and traditions only comes through obedience to God’s laws. And these fortunately don’t change.

“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?”

-Mormon 9:9

“…I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

-Doctrine and Covenants 82:9,10

God will not change. His laws will not change. The blessings he pours upon us when we follow his commandments also will not change. They last forever. It is reliable, dependable, lasting and true. We can count on it 100%. Its like a #1 hit song that stays #1 forever.

Its so much easier to play the game, when the out of bounds lines aren’t constantly shifting and changing. When the laws or rules that bring us happiness are constant, dependable, and solid, we know exactly where to look to find and achieve real lasting happiness. Contrast this with following popular culture and its ever shifting views, beliefs, and so-called values. When we follow what is popular, we soon feel like we have one foot on a hover board, and the other on a banana peel.

This ever changing popular culture will try to lure us into the “better ideas” of what will make us happy. We may think, “that particular commandment is outdated, and doesn’t really apply today because…”, or, “I’m good with all of the commandments, except the one that…”, or, “The church needs to…”  Remember, when we think that we have a better idea than God, there is a good chance (like 100%) we are wrong.

Many, many people, have thought their ideas were better. Namely, Pharoah when he butted heads with Moses, Goliath and the Philistines, the false priests of Baal, Laman, Lemuel, Laban, and basically the whole world not in Noah’s family boat. Im not sure if anyone is actually keeping score, but God is undefeated. It may be a good idea to be on his team. We aren’t always as smart as we think we are.

The Lord specifically warned us about ourselves and this manner of thinking in the Book of Mormon…

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”

-2 Nephi 9:28,29

It may seem complicated to navigate through our everyday lives and deal with all the changing standards that the world seems to hold us to.  What words we can use, what is offensive, what isn’t, what is normal, what isn’t, and so on. And, if we try and figure out the world’s standards, we will be confused, because they change almost as quickly as they are established. But, if we just hold ourselves up against God’s standard, it becomes super simple. After all, we are all participating in his plan, not ours. He even left us specific instructions that even a 3 year old can understand.

In fact, if we think about it, the mind-bending big questions that world famous philosophers from the beginning of time have contemplated over, argued about, and postulated opinions on, come down to…

Who are we?

Why are we here?

Where did we come from?

Where do we go when we die?

God made his plan so simple, that the smallest primary children can answer these age old questions as soon as they can talk, or sing….

I am a child of God,
And He has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With Parents kind and dear.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me
Help me find the way,
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

I am a child of God,
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will,
I’ll live with him once more

I am a child of God
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure

If we follow the instructions that our loving Heavenly Father left us in the words of this simple song, we will find real, lasting happiness not only in our lives here on this earth, but also in our future lives yet to come. When we look at the reasons why we are here on this earth from the proper perspective, isn’t this the #1 hit song that should be #1 forever?