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)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deliberate Disobedience

At one point in Disney's The Lion King, The mane (main) character, Simba really wanted to escape the confines of his father's kingdom.  He escaped with his (girl)friend Nala, to an elephant graveyard where hyenas rule and the king's dominion is limited.  You've heard the phrase, "curiosity killed the cat".  Well, in this case, it almost killed two lions and a toucan.  They end up barely escaping the wrath of the hyenas, but only with some help from Mufasa, the king.  After this incident Mufasa is chastising his son for his youthful indiscretion.  One line of his lecture always catches my attention more than any other, "You deliberately disobeyed me!".  Mufasa gave Simba explicit directions never to leave the pride.  As the king's son, Simba was guaranteed freedom and protection anywhere in his father's kingdom.  But when outside those boundaries, Simba was a huge target as the heir to the throne.

Similarly, we are "heirs of God" (Romans 8:17).  God is our father and He wants the best for us.  He wants us to be happy so He gives us commandments.  When we obey God and His commandments, we learn for ourselves the blessings that come from obedience.  But sadly, like Simba, we sometimes learn these lessons another way.  When we "deliberately disobey" the commandments of God, we learn firsthand that "wickedness never was [or is] happiness"(Alma 41:10).

Elder David A. Bednar
Most fathers, including the wise Mufasa, have their children's safety and well-being at heart when they give useful and sometimes stern counsel.  Our Father in Heaven knows what we can become, that's why He gives us these commandments.  Just like Mufasa, God wants His children to become like Him.  To accomplish this, we need to avoid dangers and pitfalls.  You could describe this as our own "elephant graveyard[s]" where Satan rules and the Holy Ghost's effect is diminished.  This could be a physical place or simply thoughts in our minds or our hearts.  Whatever the case, we must avoid these dangers at all costs if we are to fulfill our commission as "joint-heirs with Christ".

God wants the best for us.  Commandments are there to protect us and strengthen us.  When we follow the counsel of God we will learn this for ourselves.  Like Simba eventually did, we will see our potential and rise to the occasion.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All About Mormons: What Makes Them Different?

"What makes the LDS church different from other Christian churches?"

If you've ever wondered this, or even if you haven't, I'm gonna answer it.  A lot of people notice a difference in Mormons from others.  Some notice our focus on families, some our extreme zeal for sharing our faith, and others think we are weird because we don't drink, smoke, swear, or fornicate.  I'm not saying that nobody else in the world lives by those standards.  But, as a missionary, people have mentioned these differences to me. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Jesus Christ's church on the earth today.  It wasn't born from another church, it wasn't thought up by a man. God called Joseph Smith as a prophet.  Through him, God restored His church.  All of the doctrine and organization of Jesus Christ's church is now available in simplicity to all the inhabitants of the earth.  For more on this restoration, click here

The reason Mormons are different than others is because they are members of the Church of Jesus Christ.  We seek to understand the will of God and do our best to live accordingly. The Lord has made it known on multiple occasions that the members of His church will be a peculiar people (click here). defines "peculiar" as " distinctive in nature or character from others".  Considering that, it shouldn't be so surprising that members of Christ's modern church are are seen as being different from everyone else.

I bear witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true.  It's God's kingdom on the earth.  That's what makes us different.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's Up To You, Choose The Right

There were some people in the Book of Mormon named the Zoramites.  They were once righteous Nephites but they rebelled and formed their own civilization.  The worst part was in the church that they started.  They didn't let poor people come into the churches because of their clothes and poverty.  The prophet, Alma, saw a great need to teach this apostate group and bring them back to the church of God.  While talking to a bunch of these poor people, Alma said a lot of cool stuff.  He taught them how to gain a testimony and strengthen their faith.  He also shared much from the scriptures about Jesus Christ and His role in our lives.  My favorite part of what Alma taught was the last thing he said to them:

"And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen" (Alma 33:23). 

This seems like a pretty simple statement.  There aren't even any big words in it.  But it had a big impact on me when I read it.  It really shows the role of our personal agency, or freedom to choose.  Alma had just gotten done teaching these people some of the most important stuff they'd ever hear.  But Alma couldn't force these people to do what he said.  All the blessings of faith and the atonement of Christ were available to them but only on their taking advantage of it.

There's a cute little saying used in our church a lot: "Choose the Right".  Many members, especially young children, wear what is called a CTR ring.  It's simply a daily reminder to follow the commandments of God.  We recognize what Alma taught to the Zoramites.  We want to use our choices to do what is right and good.

God is willing to bless all of His children.  When we make the decision to follow God and keep His commandments, we will see these blessings in our lives.  God loves you.  We should all show our love for Him by keeping His commandments.

"And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stain Remover

Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are supposed to maintain a professional, uplifting appearance.  We often wear suits and ties to convey this (and by "often" I mean every day).   I have been wearing a white shirt every day for some time now.  These shirts, no matter how well they are made, are not the best at hiding stains.  Anything you drop, spill, or fall into, will show like an alligator in a room full of business administrators.  One of the biggest culprits is spaghetti.  The splashy, slurpy, long noodles get a lot of torque worked up and catapult that red, drippy sauce onto your neatly tailored clothing.  If not treated, the stain would last forever, never to be removed.  I've tried wearing shirts with stains on them and it's not fun.  I'm always so self-conscious; I try to cover up the stain so others don't know it's there.  It makes it more difficult to maintain that clean, modest appearance with a big spaghetti stain for all to see.

But there is good news!  The geniuses in some factory somewhere made a way for me to get rid of these stains immediately.  It comes in the form of a pen and I can take it anywhere I go!  I can just rub it on the stain and BOOM! the stain is gone.  It works like magic.  Because of this nifty contraption, I can go about my life in comfort, without trying to hide my embarrassing stain.

Because I'm a missionary, this concept reminds me of a scripture.  There's a part in The Book Of Mormon when a bunch of Lamanites (usually the bad guys) become converted to the Lord and join God's church.  The king of this people expresses their feelings about repentance: "it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain" (Alma 24:11).  When we make mistakes, or sin, it effects us tremendously.  We have feelings of guilt and shame.  These feelings put a "stain" on our hearts.  The only way to get rid of this stain is to repent and ask God for forgiveness.  When removed, we don't need to worry about hiding our sins or our past transgressions from others.  All of those bad feelings we have will be gone.  Just like that really neat pen takes the stain from my shirt, through repentance, God will take the stain from our hearts.

While this awesome pen can quickly and easily solve many problems with my white shirts, it can't do everything.  Some stains, because of the size and severity of  the stain, need further treatment.  This treatment usually takes a lot more work than the convenient pen.  Without extensive care, the shirt could be lost forever.  It's not as easy but it's just as important.  It's the same way with sins.  Repentance isn't always the easiest process.  Just like the huge stain on my shirt, a very serious sin can only be removed by much prayer and forgiveness.

Repentance is available to everybody.  The Lamanites I mentioned earlier described themselves as "the most lost of all mankind" and they were able to repent and come to the Lord.  We all make mistakes and these mistakes really can be forgiven by God!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Everyone Gets a Ring

So the NBA Finals are underway.  I, as a missionary, don't really follow current events much.  But being in the United States, I tend to get unexpected updates every now & then.  One thing that's been impossible not to hear about is the rise of the Miami Heat.  The signing of Chris Bosh and Lebron James and their spotty success with fellow all-star Dwyane Wade has been huge news throughout this whole year.  This sort of team organization has really been a trend in recent years in the NBA.  A few very good players highlight an otherwise average roster.  In fact, it's been quite a successful strategy lately, consider the recent success of the L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics, and San Antonio Spurs.  I'm personally a fan of this kind of basketball.  I love watching multiple all-stars play off of each other's individual strengths and even take the freedoms they have to fix weaknesses in their own game.

Udonis Haslem
So I'm gonna change the subject right now but It'll make sense in the end, I promise.  There's a tradition in most major sports involving jewelry.  Each member of the winning organization that year gets a championship ring.  If the Heat take it all this year, it's not just Lebron, Chris Bosh, and D-Wade getting the ring.  Each player claims the prize.  They all have different roles in the team's success.  Not everybody is expected to take over a game in a tough situation like Lebron.  Sometimes, all you need to do is play solid defense and hit an open shot when Chris Bosh is double-teamed inside. In an ideal situation, the coach will know each player's strengths and weaknesses to put together the winning team.  But if your team comes out on top, you get the same ring that Lebron gets.

This is how it is in our journey here on Earth.  Not everybody has the same responsibilities.  God knows our talents and weaknesses.  He doesn't give us anything we can't handle.  He might make us stretch sometimes, just like guys like Udonis Haslem need to come through in some tough situations.  But one good thing is we are all on the same team.  The fullness of Joy that comes with Eternal Life is available to everyone!  And this team is going to win.  All we have to do is listen to the coach and we're on the team.  Some people , like prophets and apostles, have huge responsibilities.  And some are called simply to help others.  We all have different opportunities in life.  These opportunities don't determine if we get the ring, or Eternal life with God, but it's what we do with those chances.

I know that God lives and loves His children.  I know that Jesus Christ is the son of God.  Because of Him it is possible for us, all of God's children to return to live with Him someday.  That opportunity is available to all.  We can all join the winning team and get a ring!  We do this by living the principles and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I leave my witness in His name, even Jesus Christ's.