Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Best Plan

Emotions run high on the ice.
There's a sport that I think is really cool.  Not a lot of people like it.  But I think it's a real good sport.  It's called curling and it's real good.  It involves two teams and it's similar to shuffleboard but it's on ice(to see more information see  At first glance, you might think that the athletes competing are simply sliding rocks toward a circle indiscriminately.  But as you watch the game continue, you realize the skill and strategy involved in this wonderful sport.  Each time the skip slides the large granite rock down the ice, he or she knows exactly where it should end up and how it should get there.  They've determined the path for the stone long before they release it onto the ice.  They take several factors into account while planning the release.  These factors include, but are not limited to, speed, angle, spin, and curvature.  These plans are there to get the rock where they want it and avoid the obstacles the other team put into place with their rocks.  There's even a few people with brooms sweeping the ice to get it to go where they want it.  These brooms can help, but without a solid release and a good plan, you'll end up in the vast multitude of failed curling prodigies.

I believe the same can be said about our journey here on earth.  We know what we all want after this life: exaltation and Eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  But that seems like a pretty big goal at times.  And if you don't have a plan with how to get there, you'll never make it.  It'll just be good intentions that never materialized.  The reason we need s solid plan is the same as the reason to have a plan in curling, our enemy has placed rocks and other obstacle in our way.  These obstacles can take the forms of temptations and difficulties.  If inspected and avoided accordingly we can not only avoid the problems associated but learn the best ways to keep us on the strait and narrow.

The good thing about all of this is we have a plan prepared for us already.  This plan was prepared before the foundation of the world and it is guaranteed to work.  God made this plan and Jesus Christ is at the center of it.  Through the atonement, Christ prepared a way for us to avoid all of the pesky obstacles that come up in our lives.  He knows exactly what we need to achieve our goals.  If we trust in Him, and live His Gospel, we're going to succeed.  Just like the United States Women's Curling team, nothing will be able to stop us!!

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen" (2 Nephi 31:20-21).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

He Lied!

The Lion King, I think, is one of the best movies I've ever seen.  But one thing I haven't realized until recently is how much it can teach us about the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I've previously spoken of the conniving Scar's plot to rise to greatness.  His plan works out pretty well, he conquers the pride and rules with an iron fist.  But he didn't plan well for the long-term well-being of himself and his hordes of hyenas.  In the years of Scar's dreadful reign things deteriorate rather quickly.  The Lionesses, who traditionally do the bulk of the hunting, refuse to supply the food for the pride.  Suddenly, all involved are left hungry and desolate.  Even the hyenas realize that all the promises Scar made are not coming to pass.  The mighty kingdom that Scar wanted to establish was never going to be fully realized.

This reminds me of another liar.  Someone who promises us wealth, success, and pleasure if we break the commandments of God and follow him.  The power of the devil is real and he can tempt us in many different ways.  One of the most powerful ways is the same way Scar convinced many African animals to follow his plan.  Satan convinces us that we'll be happier when we're not constricted by so many rules.  We start to see sin as an exercise of our freedom.  Sooner or later, though, we realize just what the lions and hyenas found out: "wickedness never was happiness".  We may find temporary satisfaction or excitement in what we do,  but it's never a good idea to break the commandments of God.  Like Scar and his hyenas we'll be left lonely and spiritually hungry.

I know that God gives us commandments for a reason.  I know from experience that God blesses the obedience of His children.  Disobedience alienates us from God and from the feelings of the Holy Spirit.  I also know that Jesus Christ, The Son of God, has prepared a way for us to receive the ultimate blessing of that obedience: Eternal Life.  We need to follow the commandments and do our part to get to that point.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Gospel Doesn't Change

This is what the old one looks like.

New Book.

Alright, I had a neat experience.  A few days ago I happened across an old book entitled Gospel Principles.  This book is what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints used in the 1970s to teach the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a Sunday School class.  Nowadays, in the same Sunday School class, we use a book called Gospel Principles.  The newest edition went into use at the beginning of the year 2010.  That was last year.  A lot has changed in all those years.  Even with the book, the cover and the pictures have changed almost 100%.  But I got to thumbing through the book.  It turns out that all the chapters of this manual are in the same order they were 40 years ago.  What impressed me more was that the words in it were almost exactly the same as the newer version.  There have been a few updates based on cultural and grammatical changes but really nothing has changed. 

It surprised me at first, but as I thought about it, it makes a lot of sense.  The gospel hasn't really changed at all.  It's still exactly what Jesus Christ taught when He was on the earth.  We could go back even further though.  Christ taught the same teachings to prophets in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.  And in our day, that gospel and all of the truths of it have been restored to the earth.

A lot has changed in the world in the past 40 years but some things will never change.  Jesus Christ is our Savior.  The Principles of His gospel are set in stone and will never be altered or adulterated within His restored church.  Jesus Christ is at the head of our church and through His priesthood it is led.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who Needs A Magic Lamp?!

Through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord instucted the members of His church to "teach one another ... out of the best books" (D&C 88:118).  Lately in my blog, I've been taking a similar approach but with a slight variation.  I've been using the best movies.  And the best movies are indisputably those released by Walt Disney Pictures, particularly those relesaed in the early to mid-1990s.  In 1992 Alladin came out.  It's a great story of love and excitement.  Alladin, with the help of his monkey Abu and the trusty magic genie, eventually wins the heart of Princess Jasmine and they live happily together.

If you're familiar with the story, you know about the magic lamp.  Alladin originally gets it and, over the course of the movie, makes 3 wishes:

1. To become a prince so he can pursue a devoted spouse.
2. The saving of his own life after being attacked by Jafar and his cronies.
3. The freedom of his blue friend, the genie.

 Although one can possibly question Alladin's motives and means to the end, his wishes were more or less noble.  They were to help himself and others live a happy successful life.

However, between Alladin's second and third wishes, the evil and conspiring Jafar obtains the lamp for a time.  Jafar also makes 3 wishes with the lamp:

1. To become a Sultan, to rule the land.
2. To become a sorcerer, to widen his rule with the use of magic.
3. To become "AN ALL-POWERFUL GENIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Jafar wanted power.   All of his wishes were to gain more and more of it.  The worst part was that he was already a powerful man in the government.  But that power wasn't enough.  He never would've been satisfied with any amount of power.  His wishes were selfish and ignoble.  But eventually he got what he deserved.  With the "phenomenal cosmic powers" of a genie came the "itty-bitty living space" and the life of constant bondage.

We have a tool way cooler than a magic lamp.  It's called prayer!  God has repeatedly promised us answers to our prayers.  Jesus Christ gave the following counsel to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas:
"And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you" (3 Nephi 18:20 emphasis added).

That's cool, God will only give us stuff that is good for us to have.  It may seem like like that's not so great a thing, but think about it.  We might pray for stuff that we don't really need, or even pray for stuff that will be harmful to us or others.  But God is such a loving Heavenly Father that He won't give us that harmful stuff.  In doing this, God helps us avoid the trap that Jafar fell into.  If we just kept getting more and more power, we would never be happy with the blessings we already have.  In this way, prayer is WAY better than a lame magic lamp.  And we don't have to put up with a weird blue man with a knack for bad impersonations. 

It is my prayer that we can follow the example found in this wonderful movie.  I hope we can use our prayers to better ours and others lives and not pray for selfish, greedy purposes.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hakuna Matata

"It means no worries".  I love this song.  I like the tune and the rhythmic patterns of it.  I love how Simba grows into a mature lion while walking across a log-bridge.  I love Pumba's story about his childhood woes.  But most of all, I like it's message.  When Simba heard this song, he had a lot on his mind.  His uncle had just murdered his father.  This young lion was subsequently chased out of the pride by ferocious hyenas.  The worst part was that Simba was too young and inexperienced to do anything about it.  That would be hard.  Timon and Pumba helped Simba overcome all these worries he had.  I've heard it said that "worrying will do you no good" (see here).  Dwelling on the sad events of the recent past did nothing for Simba but make him more sad.  The message of this great song helped Simba to put the worries of the past behind him and focus on the future.

Jesus Christ gave similar counsel to His followers almost 2000 years before.  After prophesying His own death and resurrection, our savior told His disciples that hard times are going to come: "In the world ye shall have tribulation".  But Christ told them how to get through the hard times: "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 emphasis added).  Jesus Christ has overcome all.  If we really focus on that, we will not find it difficult to "be of good cheer".

We all have good times and bad times in our lives.  We can spend our lives waiting for something bad to happen or we can find the good in it.  We can look back with regrets or we can use the lessons we've learned to improve our futures.  I know that if we follow Christ's counsel to "be of good cheer" our lives will better.  It may not be easier, but it'll be a whole lot more fun!

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17 emphasis added)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Be Prepared

Disney's The Lion King, I've found out, has a lot of really good messages for us in it.  One thing this movie does well is illustrate the battle between good & evil.  This battle is very real.  There's one scene when Scar is leading his hyena minions in a Nazi-style march about preparation.  Scar's voice echoes in a deep baritone while the hyenas belt out the chorus in an ominous cacophony that'll make the burliest of pachyderms squeal with terror.  The song is entitled, "Be Prepared".  Scar is plotting a complete overthrow of his brother, Mufasa's kingdom.  This plan includes two murders and many lies and deceptions.  Scar is eventually successful in taking over the pride and enjoys years of dominance before Simba finally returns and claims his right to the throne.  With some simple preparation and a reasonable amount of foresight, Mufasa could've thwarted his conspiring brother's plans of wild domination.

It gets me to thinking.  In our lives, we have the same battle between good & Evil.  There are two forces always working on us.  God always compels us to do good- to repent and forsake sin, to follow His son, Jesus Christ.  Satan, on the other hand, always does his best to convince us to do wrong.  Just like the evil and aspiring Scar, Satan is always prepared to get us at our weakest point.  Just like Scar knew his brother Mufasa, the devil knows us and our weaknesses.  We have an advantage over Mufasa though; we know who the enemy is.  If we do all we can to prepare for the temptations that we know the devil will throw at us, we can avoid the catastrophes similar to those Mufasa faced.  We must follow the commandments of God in order to avoid this.  Prayer, repentance, and scripture study are crucial points in thwarting the plan of the adversary.  I know that as we do our best to "be prepared" to fight evil, God will bless us and help us in our preparation.

"Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome." (D&C 38:9 emphasis added)