Saturday, November 28, 2015

One of the Many Blessings of Blogging

Last night, I wrote that I had been asked to give a talk using Elder David A. Bednar's talk, "Therefore, They Hushed Their Fears." Actually, it had been last night when I was asked. (The person who had asked me had been unable to contact the person whom he had originally asked earlier in the week.) This short notice might have made the preparation of this talk difficult, but fortunately, I had already blogged about this talk at least twice. I hope not to recycle too much of the material from those two blog posts, but it certainly helps that I had already done the work of studying the topic and recording my thoughts.

I wonder if studying the scriptures could be done in the same way and produce similarly beneficial results. How hard would it be to fill a folder with word documents, with each folder representing a chapter of scripture, and each word document  representing a passage of scripture about which you had something to say? With such a system of files and notes, one could look up a scripture and view their past insights about it any time they wanted to, including at such times as when they wanted to find insights they could share with others.

Because I have already blogged about this talk, and could search through my blog posts for key words and phrases, I was able to quickly find noteworthy thoughts which I can share over the pulpit at church tomorrow. Having insights is good. Recording insights where you can quickly find them again when you need them can be even more helpful.

Green Eggs and Informed Opinions

I've been asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting this Sunday. The subject is "Fear Not," and I was asked to use Elder Bednar's talk titled "Therefore, They Hushed Their Fears." Knowing that I had blogged about that talk before, I searched my recent posts for "fear," and when I did, I found this. It was a draft of a blog post that I had written, but not completed or posted for some reason. When and almost-fully written blog post just fell in my lap like that, I thought I'd finish it off and post it, so here it is:

On Facebook, I saw a photo showing the cover of Dr Seuess's book, Green Eggs and Ham, retitled as "How Fear of the Unknown Hinders the Development of Informed Opinions." To me, this new title and the book to which it was given seem to imply that fear of the unknown and uninformed opinions are bad things, but I'm not sure how much I agree.

In the book, Sam-I-Am persistently offers a seemingly unnamed character green eggs and ham, despite sturdy resilience to the unprovoked offers, until the unnamed character relents and partakes of the green eggs and ham. The unnamed character is pleased to discover that the strange food is actually delicious, and he ends up thanking Sam-I-Am for sharing it with him, but what if the offering hadn't been so innocent? What if the green eggs and ham were poisonous or addicting? If Sam-I-Am had been a drug dealer, offering the unnamed character substances that would create momentary feelings of pleasure and then cause his life to spiral out of control, the unnamed character's initial resistance would have been seen as wise. He didn't need to try the green eggs before he could "just say 'no'" to them. And neither do we.

Fear of the unknown may still be somewhat irrational, but we don't need to experiment with something in order to develop an informed opinion about it. We have Prophets and the experiences of others to tell us or show us what things are bad for us. They can help us gain greater wisdom than we could have gained in our own lifetimes. They can help us know to stay away from mind-affecting substances and potentially poisonous foods. Not having experienced something doesn't necessarily mean that our fears about them are completely irrational or that our opinions about them are completely uninformed. We have more sources of knowledge and wisdom than just our personal experiences, and they can help us learn of things that we haven't personally encountered yet, and help us avoid things that would have turned out to be bad for us. We don't need to experiment with everything personally; when we learn about something elsewhere, especially from the prophets, our opinions about those things are no longer completely uninformed.

Friday, November 27, 2015

How to Celebrate the Holidays

This evening, it occurred to me that, despite having the traditional Thanksgiving experience, with the food prep and the family gathering and the parade and, of course, the meal, at no point did I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. When I realised that, I said a mental prayer of thanks and for thankfulness. That's when I felt what some have called the spirit of Thanksgiving.

We have certain holidays for certain reasons. Thanksgiving is, theoretically, about giving thanks. However, observing a holiday by honoring its traditions isn't always going to fulfil the purpose of that holiday. I did all of the traditional Thanksgiving things, but I didn't feel a real sense of gratitude until I prayed. By some standards, I observed Thanksgiving better earlier in the month, while riding my bike, when I said a heartfelt prayer of thanks to God for keeping a traffic light green for me.

By some measures, I failed to truly celebrate Thanksgiving this year in the way that it was intended. That will not happen with Christmas. This Christmas season, I will make a strong effort to not just go through the motions. While I do the normal, Christmassy things like buying gifts and singing Christmas carols, I'm also going to try to really get into the Christmas spirit, to really celebrate the birth of Christ, rather than just following traditions. I basically failed to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. I'm not going to fail to celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Familial Reception

Before I move on from Elder Holland's talk, I want to point out something that Elder Holland mentioned almost in passing that stood out to me as a confirmation of something that many people I know had already believed:
Now, I am absolutely certain that upon his passing, his mother received my friend with open, loving arms; that is what parents do.
It is my opinion that, when an Apostle says, over the pulpit during General Conference, that he is "absolutely certain" of something, we can pretty much take it as gospel truth, and this particular truth is a pretty cool one. Judging by this, the mother of Elder Holland's friend was met and embraced by his mother at or very shortly after the moment of his death. Assuming that this occurrence wasn't exceptional, we might expect that our beloved family members will be right there with us when we die, that when we pass on, those who have already done so will be there to welcome us to the other side of the veil.

This is a pretty awesome idea, and it's especially comforting for those who have lost people they deeply care about. Thankfully, we now know that this isn't just wishful thinking or something that people hope is true. If the Apostles are to be believed, and I personally believe that they are, this has happened before. We now know that at least one person has gotten a familial reception into heaven. I imagine that most people do.

Blogging at Night Isn't Working

Maybe it wasn't just that one General Conference talk, and maybe the problem wasn't just that I wanted to wait until I could do it justice. Maybe the problem, or at least part of the problem, is that I don't blog in the mornings like I should (and often don't have time to), so I end up blogging at night, before and/or after doing homework, when I'm suffering from a severe lack of inspiration. Maybe that's part of the reason why I haven't had many really interesting blog posts lately.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's much I can do about that problem. I could try to blog in the mornings, but I often don't have time to. I could try to blog as soon as I get home from school. That might work. But there will always be the question of inspiration. My daily life experiences haven't been very blogworthy, and I haven't been able to focus on the things that are. You can't force inspiration to come, so I end up spending hours trying to stimulate it or simulate it. Often, I don't do a very good job. In the future, I'll try to do better.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Blessing of the Love of a Mother

As promised, tonight I'm going to blog about Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk, Behold Thy Mother, and as predicted, my blog post won't be anywhere near as good as the talk itself is or as my mother deserves it to be. I would have loved to have written something about the love of mothers and how Christlike it is, drawing many detailed comparisons, but I just haven't been able to find the right words. So instead, I'll use some of Elder Holland's: "no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child."

To illustrate this, Elder Holland shared the example of a young man who was struggling with a very difficult, deeply personal challenge. The young man eventually overcame many of his struggles, and when he did, he knew exactly who he had to thank for that.
He knows he owes much to many, but he knows he owes the most to two messianic figures in his life, two who bore him and carried him, labored with him and delivered him—his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his determined, redemptive, absolutely saintly mother.
I have not yet been delivered from all my ills, and I still need frequent help from both God and others. However, I've discovered that the one thing that gives me the most strength is the love and support I get from my Heavenly Father and my earthly, but still heavenly, mother. Though she may doubt it sometimes, she is a powerfully positive influence in my life and a wonderfully Christlike woman. Everyone that knows her knows that she is a good person. I am blessed to have a mother like her.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hidden Blessings

As I gave my lesson this afternoon, the conversation around the classroom seemed to focus on the unexpected blessings that President Uchtdorf received from having worked so hard as a laundry delivery boy. When he was hauling a heavy cart around on his bike, he didn't know that the fresh air and exercise he was getting was helping him stave off a lung disease, or that he would need to have strong lungs to pass the medical exams he'd need to take to become a pilot. He later remarked that if he had known that the work he was doing would bring great blessings into his life, it would have made the work a lot easier.

As a class, we figured that probably most of the work we do has blessings hidden in it, largely because God blesses people for doing good and He helps them use their experiences to improve their lives. Much of the work we have to do seems like drudgery, but with either a focus on the blessings we know will come from that work, or at least faith in the fact that unknown blessings will come into our lives as a result of the work we do, we can motivate ourselves to push forward in doing work that we otherwise might not be motivated enough to do. As we look for hidden blessings, or at least have faith that such blessings will come, we can increase our motivation to do what's right.