Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blessings for Everyone

Today, I have been involved in more Priesthood blessings than I have on any other day in my life. This morning, I stood in a circle of Priesthood holders as we gave a blessing to my youngest nephew, and this evening, I corrected my mistake of not getting a blessing at the start of the school year. My brothers gave me a blessing, my brothers and I gave our mom a blessing, and one of my brothers and I gave a blessing to another of my brothers. It was a day filled with blessings.

I am grateful for the Priesthood in my life. I'm grateful that my family members are always there for me and that I can be there for them. It is such a blessing to have family members who are willing and able to give me Priesthood blessings when I need them, and it's a privilege to be able to offer Priesthood blessings to them.

I know that not all people can give Priesthood blessings, and that is unfortunate, but I find it comforting that anyone can get a Priesthood blessing if they want one. Those who don't have family members who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can turn to their home teachers or to their Bishop for a blessing. Those who aren't yet members of this church can turn to their local missionaries if they want a blessing. There are fortunately few people who are beyond the physical reach of Priesthood blessings. And for those few, I'm sure that God is willing to grant them equivalent blessings, if they are faithful.

I'm grateful for God's willingness to bless us and for the opportunity we have as Priesthood holders to have a hand in blessing others. Through the Priesthood, everyone on earth can and will receive great blessings. I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of that.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Don't Hide the Footnotes

The other day, my institute teacher asked the class to count the 'F's in 1 Nephi 1:1. It was a trick question, and it was especially tricky for us. There are many 'F's in that verse, but there may or may not be one more 'F' in it, depending on whether or not you count the small, italicised 'F' that marks the 6th footnote in the verse. Most of the class, including myself, looked up the verse in our smartphones, where it's possible, for convenience’s sake, to hide the footnotes. Doing so will remove the many links that you might accidentally tap as you scroll down the page, which would take you away from the verse you were reading and offer you other verses on similar topics. Leaving the footnotes in can lead to frustrating moments when you accidentally touch the wrong part of the screen the wrong way, but hiding them can be much worse in a very different way.

Yes, the linked footnotes can be annoying, but they can also be very helpful. If a particular verse of scripture stands out to you, you can use the footnotes to quickly and easily find other verses that shed more light on the same subject. The footnotes can help you study the scriptures topic-by-topic and uncover insights you might have otherwise have overlooked, but only if you can see them. Because these links can be tapped by accident, some people choose to hide the footnotes. For the sake of convenience, they restrict themselves from the opportunity of even knowing that those footnotes are there. Those people are missing out.

Hiding the footnotes in the Gospel Library app can make it easier to scroll through the chapter of scripture you're reading, but scrolling through it might be the only thing you do. Keeping the footnotes in gives you a way to explore the scriptures in a way that people never could before. With easy-to-follow links built into almost every verse, cross-referencing scriptures has never been easier. In fact, linking from one scripture to another is so easy now that it's possible to do it by accident, but I think that the accidental tapping of links is a small price to pay for the ability those links give us to study the scriptures more thoroughly more quickly. I've made sure that these helpful footnotes aren't hidden from me as I study the scriptures. I hope you do the same.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Losing my Sunglasses Was a Win

A few weeks ago, I lost a pair of sunglasses at a church building I rarely visit. I don't expect to ever get those sunglasses back, but that's not a huge loss. In fact, as I told a friend earlier today, that was actually a win.

You see, I know that somebody, someday, is going to find my sunglasses. When they do, either they'll keep the sunglasses, and thus get a free pair of sunglasses, which I count as a win, or they'll put the sunglasses into the lost and found. No one will claim the sunglasses from the lost and found, because they all know that they're not the ones that lost it. Thus, a little part of me will be a part of that church building for a very long time, which I also count as a win. So, really, losing my sunglasses at that church building was a win for me, no matter what happens to the glasses. Plus, the sunglasses proved to be cheap to replace, so, again, it wasn't a huge loss anyway.

My friend said something about this scenario only being a "win" for me because I had a winning attitude, but I'll accept that as a win as well. Having a good attitude and being able to see the bright side of things has helped me to get through some rough times. Notably, once when I found an instructor (understandably) somewhat difficult to work with, I remarked to myself that, if this instructor had been one of the other instructors I had learned from in past semesters, they might have been more willing to work with me. This meant that I knew kind people who knew me to be a good person, which is definitely a win. So, even though things weren't going well for me with this particular person, I was comforted in knowing that there were many other instructors at that campus that I could consider friends.

When bad things happen, it can be hard to look for the good in it. Of course, there are much greater tragedies in the world than losing sunglasses and knowing people who are (with good reason) inflexible. With the greater tragedies of life, it can be harder to see the silver lining, but I believe that there always is one. There is some good in everything, we just have to look for it. And if we can find the good in the bad things that happen, if we have that winning attitude, we can turn any loss into a win.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Great Faith is an Effective Defense

The next talk, the opening talk of the Sunday Morning Session of the April 2016 General Conference, was also given by President Thomas S. Monson. In that talk, he encouraged us to develop strong faith to help us make good choices:
May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary—a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right.
 The thought of faith being a defense reminds me of the Shield of Faith in the Armor of God. However, even perfect faith won't protect us from everything. There have been countless people in the scriptures and in modern Mormon history who had great faith, but also great trials. Our faith will not defend us from afflictions. But, then, what will faith defend us against?

President Monson said that "powerful faith . . . will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary." Then, what are "the designs of the adversary"? What Satan wants most of all is for us to be miserable and to foil our Heavenly Father's plan. To that end, he wants to keep us out of heaven at all costs.

However, the choice of whether or not we end up in the Celestial Kingdom lies entirely with us. We can choose to keep the commandments and qualify for the Celestial Kingdom, no matter what Satan does to try to stop us. So if he wants to prevent us from achieving exaltation, his only hope is to convince us to choose not to.

One of the tools Satan uses to try to convince us not to choose exaltation is to present us with other choices. We could choose the right, but Satan tries to make it seem easier and more desirable not to. We could maintain high standards, or we could be accepted and popular and have fun. Satan uses deception to try to trick us into giving up Eternal Life.

Strong faith defends us from Satan's tactics by reminding us of the truth. We have faith in the promptings of the Holy Spirit, which warn us of deception and encourage us to choose the right. We have faith that the rewards of eternity are worth making painful, temporal sacrifices. Our faith in the truths of the gospel and in the guidance of the Spirit can help defend us from the temptations of the devil. We may still feel the temptations, but they won't be as strong. Like fiery darts hitting a shield, the devil's temptations may still have an impact that we may be perceptive enough to feel, but they won't be able to pierce us, and they won't burn us either.

Having faith in the Savior, in the Holy Ghost, and in our Heavenly Father's plan won't make our lives painless or easy. We will still have plenty of trials and afflictions, and the choices we'll have to make will still be difficult, but a strong faith can help us by taking the edge off of Satan's temptations and by bolstering our desire to choose the right. Faith won't shield us from afflictions or tough decisions, but great faith is an effective defense against the temptations of the devil.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can the Priesthood Do That?

In the concluding talk of the Priesthood Session of last General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson shared a story of a friend of his who was serving in the South Pacific during World War II. The man's plane was shot down, but he and a few others managed to parachute safely down to the ocean, inflate their life rafts, and survive. Several days passed. Finally, the survivors spotted a rescue vessel in the area, but it seemed not to notice them. As it sailed away, President Monson's friend felt impressed to use his  Priesthood authority to command the rescue vessel to return and pick them up. He did, and it did, and I wonder, can the Priesthood really do that?

Most of what members of the church do with the Priesthood falls into the realm of spiritual things. We give blessings of comfort and counsel. We perform sacred ordinances. We ordain people to Priesthood offices and set people apart for church callings. Very rarely does a Priesthood holder use their Priesthood to do anything physical.

But they can.

The Priesthood is the power and authority to act in God's name. It is the power by which God created the universe. When God gathered the waters together and divided the light from the darkness, He did so with the Priesthood. And God is not the only one who performed physical miracles with the Priesthood. Arguably, all of the miracle Jesus performed were wrought by the power of the Priesthood, including the turning of water into wine, the multiplication of bread and fish, and the countless healings. And on the subject of healings, modern Priesthood holders also perform miraculous healings through the power of the Priesthood. In some cases, the Priesthood physically removes tumors or disease. Much of the work done by mortal Priesthood holders is spiritual, but the Priesthood has power in the physical world as well.

In fact, the Priesthood has all power. The Priesthood is God's power, and God is omnipotent. There is nothing that God, through the Priesthood, cannot do. So, perhaps I shouldn't be terribly surprised to hear that someone once used the Priesthood to turn a boat around. It's not a typical use of the Priesthood, but it's certainly within the realm of God's capabilities, which means that it's a power that God has and can grant to others. If God can do it, then the Priesthood could do it, so if the question is "Can the Priesthood do that?", the answer will almost certainly be "Yes."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three Bad Reasons to Reject a Blessing

When asked if I wanted to receive a blessing before the start of the semester, I answered no. There are several reasons for my answer, all of them bad.

First, I thought that I didn't really need one. I felt prepared and confident that I could handle at least the first few weeks of class without extra help from God.

I was foolish to think that. Several times in the scriptures, groups and individuals express confidence in their own abilities, and decry the need for God's help, and when they boast of their own strength, God leaves them to their own strength, and they rediscover how weak they really are. We often don't realize how much God helps us in our lives or how much we rely on that help. I should have acknowledged my perpetual need for God's help by seeking His blessing on my upcoming semester.

The second reason I turned down the blessing was because I felt that the moment was too mundane. Blessings are usually requested and granted in extreme circumstances, when there are great challenges or when a lot is at risk. At least, that's what I thought. The start of a new semester seemed too normal to me to be worthy of requesting a blessing. In my opinion, it just didn't seem right to seek a special blessing for such an unspecial occasion.

But there are no unspecial occasions. Each moment is miraculously given and could contain a decision on which our eternal lives could depend. The start of a new semester may seem routine to me by now, but surprises can come at any time, especially when any kind of changes are made. I've already received a few surprises and felt the need for God's help this semester. I should have asked for His help earlier, so I could have been better prepared.

The third reason is similar to the second. I didn't want to waste the blessing. Asking for a blessing when I didn't think I'd need it felt like a waste of God's time and energy. I didn't think it was worth any portion of God's power to make sure the first few weeks of the semester would go smoothly when I thought they were going to anyway. When a ball is already rolling in the direction and speed that you want it to, and you know that it will continue to do so, it doesn't make sense to spend any time or energy on pushing it.

What I failed to take into account is that God has an infinite amount of time and energy. Even if I had asked God to divert a large portion of His power to making sure I'd have a good semester, and even if He did, He'd still have an infinite amount of power to devote to everything else He wants and needs to do. It is not possible to waste an infinite resource by using it all up. In fact, you might even say that the only way to waste an infinite resource is to not use it at all, which is what I elected to do.

Any way you look at it, I should have requested a blessing. It wouldn't have been a waste of God's time or energy, because He has time and energy to spare. It wouldn't have been too mundane a moment, because there are no mundane moments. And it wouldn't have been overkill to make sure I was extra prepared for what the first day of school would throw at me because it turned out that I wasn't prepared enough. Next chance I get, I'm going to ask for that blessing. Better late than never. And who knows? I may need it even more later than I do now. Since God has offered me access to a portion of His infinite power, it would be foolish of me not to use it, even if I incorrectly think that it would be a waste.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Brought to My Knees

Apparently, I get clumsy when I'm tired. After a particularly trying day, I spilled something, and, in my attempt to clean it up, I was necessarily, and literally, brought to my knees. I usually find irony funny, but this time, I was more annoyed than amused.

I know that it's important to pray frequently, especially when things are going badly and I could use some extra help, but I don't think I had been praying enough that day, which might have been at least part of the reason I was so tired, clumsy, and frustrated.

I need to remember to pray, especially, but not only, when things are going badly. I need more help than I care to admit, and, for whatever reason, God makes many of His blessings contingent on our praying for them. When we don't pray, we're missing out, perhaps even on the blessings we need to get through the day.

I wish I had prayed more earlier, but I can pray now. Hopefully, things will go better in the future.