Friday, August 18, 2017

Almost Forgot

In my getting ready for an overnighter camping trip, I almost forgot to blog.

Never get so caught up in the daily rush or the everyday distractions that you forget to do what's truly important.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Old Mission Stories

Because of a minor change of schedule, I will be teaching my primary class again next week. (My teaching partner and I usually alternate weeks.) This week, the lesson is about the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other early saints being sent out as missionaries to proclaim the Gospel to all the world. The lesson manual shares several stories about these missionaries, highlighting some of the miracles and successes they experienced.

Yet, this subject matter doesn't really grab me, and I'm not sure how helpful it'll be in accomplishing the purpose of the lesson: "To increase each child’s desire to be a missionary and share the gospel with others." I can't promise that they'll see the same kind of success the first Apostles saw, and I'm not they'll even find the stories interesting, let alone inspiring. Maybe I'll be able to make the stories seem interesting, or maybe I should take a different approach altogether.

Since the purpose of the lesson is to help the children want to be missionaries, maybe I'll focus the lesson on explaining why they would want to do that. I could talk about the blessings involved, both for them and for those they'd be teaching. I could mention the possibility of success and miracles, using the stories in the manual as examples, but I'd also talk about the smaller miracles that they're almost guaranteed to experience, like gaining a stronger testimony, creating a stronger connection to the spirit, and helping extend the blessings of the Gospel to others. The future missionaries in my Primary class may not convert as many people as the early Apostles did or see the same kinds of miracles the early Apostles saw, but there are other good reasons to serve.

Of course, I will have to cover the history in the lesson, so I'll have to at least mention that thousands of people were converted across Europe, but converting thousands of people or getting people ready to be baptised within the first week in the field are not the main goals of missionary service. A missionary's purpose isn't to baptise as many people as possible, but to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel." If a missionary does that, they were successful, whether they baptised anyone or not.

In short, I may have to deviate from the lesson manual a little bit this time. I'm sure I'll use the manual, and I'll certainly cover the main points in it, but I'm just not sure how important it is for my primary kids to learn the details of these old missionary stories. I'll seek the Lord's direction as I prepare this lesson, and I'll try to accomplish the given purpose of the lesson. I just might not use all the stories in the lesson to do it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Problems in Perspective

On my way home today, I got a flat tire, meaning that I had to either repair the tire on the sidewalk or walk the rest of the way home. I decided to walk. As I was walking home, I walked past a group of men who were gathered around a man who was laying face-down on the sidewalk. He wasn't moving, and a motorcycle lay at the side of the road nearby. Kinda put my problems into perspective.

Thankfully, the paramedics arrived and the man was able to communicate with them. He wasn't dead. But even if he was completely fine from then on out (which I'm not sure he was or would have been), he still would have had gone through an ordeal that put my inconvenience to shame. I might be annoyed that I had to walk a considerable distance and that I still have to fix my bike's tire tomorrow, but things could be worse for me, a LOT worse.

The same is true for all of us. All of us suffer, but there are many people whose sufferings are greater than ours. There are many people who have fewer blessings and greater hardships than we have. So, while we can always try to reduce our hardships, and we may even be justified in complaining about them, we should bear in mind that, despite our trials, we are still a lot better off than some people.

Everyone has problems, but we, as Americans, have many fewer problems than those who live in many other parts of the world. Things aren't perfect here, and we can and should try to make life more perfect here, but we should try to keep our grievances in perspective. Life is a lot harder elsewhere, and it's a lot harder for some people than it is for us.

Answers

I love communication. We are blessed to live in an era with miraculous devices that enable us to instantly communicate with people all over the globe. If you are reading this blog post, that almost definitely means that you have access to the Internet, which means that you can ask the world questions and quickly get thousands of answers. Do you want to know what the standard currency of Taiwan is? You could find out very easily with a quick web search, and countless other questions could be answered just as easily.

But, of course, there's a catch. Among the thousands of answers the internet will give you to any questions you could possibly think of asking, there are going to be some wrong answers. For example, if you ask the internet what happened in Charlottesville a few days ago, you are going to get a wide variety of answers. These answers differ because each person has their own perspective and set of opinions. Even if each person was being completely honest, they would all have vastly different stories to tell. Thus, the complete, unvarnished, objective truth of this or any matter can be hard to find on the internet.

Fortunately, while the internet is a good source of answers, we all have access to an even better source of Truth. Now, I highly doubt that God will tell or show any of us exactly what happened in Charlottesville, but He will tell us something that's even more important and an even stronger point of internet contention: what we ought to do about it. God won't tell us the standard currency of Taiwan or what sort of weather we can expect to see in Nebraska this weekend; we can turn to the internet for answers like that, but God is the best source to turn to for advice.

So, as we all try to determine what to say and how to say it and what to do and how to do it, it probably couldn't hurt to consult the internet, but we should definitely consult God, too. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it doesn't have all the answers. The internet can give us directions to the nearest restaurant or anywhere else on the globe, but God can give us accurate, trustworthy directions for life.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Important Conversations

There have been many important conversations today. I've taken part in a few of them. Thankfully, many of the conversations have been civil, but civil or not, they have all played an important role in forcing us to examine our beliefs and how strongly we believe in them. I have felt some of my beliefs become stronger, and I have felt some of my other beliefs begin to change. I trust that these changes have been for the better, and I hope that you have had or will have similar experiences in your conversations about your beliefs. It is important to examine our beliefs periodically, especially at times when we feel the need to fight for them. Conversations with those whose beliefs differ from ours can help us make the vital decisions of which beliefs to strengthen and which beliefs to change. I pray that we will all have the wisdom to make the right decisions regarding our beliefs, especially as it becomes increasingly important to discuss them.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Daily Devotions

In his General Conference talk, Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It, Elder L. Whitney Clayton spoke about the importance of "simple practices of faith, such as studying the Book of Mormon . . . paying tithing, and serving in the Church with devotion." I occasionally blog about the same topic, usually noting that I need to do a better job of consistently employing those practices. Tonight is same as usual. I guess that my problem is that I stay up too late blogging and watching Youtube videos, so my brother / roommate has usually gone to bed by the time I do, and I don't want to wake him and keep him up by reading a book, assuming I'm still awake enough to get anything from reading it.

However, it has occurred to me that I don't necessarily have to read the scriptures every night. I could read them every morning instead, and get that whole "'Ere you left your room this morning" thing going. I might still stink at blogging early, but if I read the scriptures in the morning, before even getting out of bed, I might pick up spiritual messages that I'll remember longer than it takes me to fall asleep at night. Those spiritual messages may even be blogworthy, giving me the opportunity to blog first thing in the morning, before the whole day evaporates.

I had thought that I should blog earlier so I could spend part of my evening reading the scriptures so I could find things I could blog about so I could blog about them earlier. Now, I think I had the right idea, except that my timing was just a bit off. Tweaking the cycle slightly, the new plan is to read the scriptures first thing in the morning (getting my day off to a good start), and then blogging shortly after I get out of bed (rather than shortly before I go to bed). I'll follow this plan for a few days, or as long as I can manage to stick to the plan, and we'll see how it goes. Elder Clayton made some pretty great promises to those who keep up their "simple practices of faith." Most of the Apostles have. Now that I have a slightly revised plan, I figure that it's worth another shot.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tests of Strength

The purpose of my Primary lesson tomorrow is "To help the children understand that trials and tests of faith can strengthen us if we are faithful and obedient," so that's what I'm going to try to do. Toward the end of the lesson, I am going to testify to the strengthening power of tests. I'll compare these tests to exercise, noting that our bodies get stronger when we perform physically difficult tasks. Similarly, when we perform spiritually difficult tasks, like fasting, resisting temptation, and obeying the commandments, our spirits grow stronger. Going out on what turned out to be a "pointless" expedition and facing such great hardships without complaining must have been a great test of faith for Zion's Camp, and many of the men couldn't manage it, but those who did endure those hardships without complaining showed and developed great spiritual strength.

We need great spiritual strength in order to face the challenges of today's world, so it's more important than ever for God to test our faith and faithfulness so they can grow. The tests and challenges we face are difficult, and they cause some people to become bitter and angry, but if we are faithful, we can use these tests and challenges to develop our spiritual strength. We can view each experience we have and each choice we make as a kind of practice or exercise, with the purpose of helping us gain the strength to pass our next tests and overcome our next challenges. The men of Zion's Camp faced challenges that helped strengthen them for the challenges that lied ahead, and I'm sure that my Primary class will, too, so with this lesson, I'm going to try to help the children develop a positive attitude about tests and trials, knowing that these tests can help make them stronger.