Friday, January 20, 2017

How to Pray Like a Warrior

In the blog post I mentioned yesterday, which can be found here, the author, Maurice W. Harker shared an example of a warrior's prayer and how it might be adapted to our spiritual battle.
“Father, please grant that I will see the enemy in time to win the war.
Please help me to observe and understand the fighting techniques of the enemy.
Help me to develop techniques and weapons sufficiently effective to win my battles.
Please help me to work hard to train…to become stronger, faster and more precise with my skills.
Please help me to be strong, precise and fast so I can protect my family.
And help me to always remember, so that I will be filled with motivation and courage, why I am fighting.”
With just a little change to the wording, an excellent prayer for modern day warriors can be developed:
“Father, please grant me an increase in the Spirit of Discernment, so I will recognize Satanic attacks in time to win each battle.
Father, please help me to observe, discern and understand the attacks and fighting methods Satan will try on my mind, heart and spirit.
Help me to discover and develop techniques and weapons (actions, words, thoughts, feelings and chemical switches) sufficiently effective to win the battles that come my way.
Please fill me with the desire to work hard to train…to become stronger, faster and more precise with these techniques and weapons…sufficient to win the battles.
Please help me to remember why I am fighting and why I am training so hard…so I will be filled with the motivation and courage necessary to protect my life, my (future) wife, my (future) children and our freedom!”
I already knew that it's important to pray for some of these things, like the Spirit of Discernment and help with developing effective temptation-resisting techniques, but I hadn't thought of praying for motivation and desire to train and fight. I guess I had figured that we had to supply our own motivation, since resisting temptation has to be our choice it's uncommon for God to place any influence on a person's mind. I didn't realize (or perhaps had forgotten) that God is willing to increase our desire and motivation to choose the right, if we ask Him to.

If you find yourself facing tough spiritual battles and you find that you could use an edge in those conflicts, I'd encourage you to look over these warrior's prayers and pick one or two things that you may not have been praying for, and start praying for those things more regularly. I plan on doing so, and I feel confident that it will help me develop a stronger desire to do what's right. Perhaps some of these suggestions could help you, too.

Pray Like a Warrior

Sorry I couldn't blog last night. Our internet was out. In fact, it's still out. I'm blogging from school right now.

Recently, my mother shared a blog post someone had written about different styles of prayers. The blog post related that farmers often pray for God to help them with forces beyond their control, like the weather and the growth of their crops. On the other hand, warriors tend to pray for help with things they can control. They pray for the motivation, courage, and wisdom to train hard and fight well.

The blogger suggested that, as all of us are engaged in a spiritual war, we would do well to learn from the warrior's prayer. It's true that there are many forces beyond our control that we could certainly use God's help with, but it may be more important for us to gain the wisdom we need to work with the forces within our control. God can't fight our battles for us, and He can't take them away from us. We have to win our battles on our own power, but we can ask for God to help us increase and direct that power.

I believe that God most frequently helps those who are willing to do their own part. It's easy to pray for God to take control and make life easier for us; it's harder to pray for, and then exercise, the strength to face the challenges and difficulties of life. But that's what we have to do. It's what we came here to do. One of the purposes of mortality is to face challenges and learn how to overcome them. So rather than praying for God to influence His control to make life better for us (which we can still do, by the way), it may be more beneficial for us to pray for the strength to take control for ourselves and for the wisdom to use that strength well. We are all warriors here. Perhaps we'd do well to learn to pray like them.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Moana's Dilemma - To Lead or To Leave?

You know how I said there's probably a blogworthy thought somewhere in Moana's most popular song, How Far I'll Go? Well, I've found one. In this song, Moana wrestles between what she wants to do and what she's supposed to do, however, the situation is more complicated than that.

As far as I understand it, it's not so much that she wants to cross the ocean, it's that she feels compelled to. She mentions trying to avoid the ocean, but feeling herself being drawn back to it. She feels like it's calling out to her, much like any prompting or calling we might receive.

On the other hand, her duty is really more of a tradition. She can't go cross the ocean because she's supposed to stay on the island and take over as village chief, mostly just because she's the current chief's daughter.

This puts her in an interesting moral dilemma. Should she do what she feels she's supposed to do or should she do what she's told she's supposed to do? Should she be true to her passion or to her responsibility? Should she follow her heart or the guidance of her parents? It's a tricky puzzle, and I look forward to learning more about her situation so I could make a better judgement call. In the meantime, I'll try to make the best judgement I can with the information I have.

If I were in her shoes (or lack thereof, as she's one of the few (but by no means only) Disney Princesses who go barefoot for their whole movies), I'd want to figure out how deep inside of me this call to the ocean is. If it's just that I like the ocean and I like the idea of maybe crossing it someday, then I'd try to put those impulsions out of my mind and focus on being a good chief for my village. However, if I felt that the call came from deep down inside of me, if I felt that crossing the ocean was what I was born to do. . . I don't know.

On one hand, I know I could be wrong about what I think I was born to do. I don't know myself very well, and I certainly don't know God's plan or my exact place in it. It's entirely possible for me to think that God wants me to do something, only to learn later that that was just something that I wanted to do.

On the other hand, I also know that my parents could be wrong instead. Just because I was born to a chief doesn't mean I was born to be a chief. If I could be wrong about what I was born to do, so could others. And tradition isn't the best reason to do anything. There are many good traditions, but there are also many bad traditions and traditions that just don't matter.

It would make sense for someone who's born to be a chief to receive chiefing lessons since their early childhood, and it'd make sense to choose as chief someone who had been preparing for that role practically from birth, so if someone is thought to be destined to be chief, they've got good odds of becoming the best person for the job, but that doesn't guarantee that they'll be the best person for the job, and even if they were, that doesn't mean that they should be the one to do it.

For example, let's say that two people, say, Ralph and Felix, are each to be given a job. The two jobs are stacking boxes and painting signs. Let's say that Ralph is better at stacking boxes than Felix is. That suggests that Ralph should stack boxes and Felix should paint signs, but if painting signs is more important than stacking boxes, and if Ralph is also better at painting signs than Felix is, perhaps Ralph should paint the signs and Felix should stack the boxes.

Perhaps Moana would be the best choice for chief, but if crossing the ocean (and subsequently saving the world, or whatever she does in the movie) is more important than having the best possible chief, maybe she should do that instead.

Unfortunately for Moana, she doesn't seem to know why she's supposed to cross the ocean, and while it may feel important, there's no solid evidence to suggest that it actually is. Then again, I also caught glimpses of scenes where the self-described "village crazy lady" says something about a legend and a demigod, and she might have mentioned something about preventing some disaster, and this all sounds pretty important, but how sure are we that any of it is even true?

Again, I'd love to know more about Moana's situation. If I knew how strong the call was or how credible the legend was, I might have an easier time making the decision Moana did, but as it stands, I think that she probably should have stayed. Maybe I put too much faith in my leaders and/or too little faith in my own gut instincts, but if there's any discrepancy between the two of them, I consider it more likely that I'm wrong than that they are. If I had been Moana, that movie might have gone, and ended, very differently. I'm not sure it would have been the right choice to stay, but given what I know about the situation and myself, it's the choice I think I would have made.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Love Trumps Hate

Sorry in advance for getting political again. Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I completely missed an opportunity to blog about my favorite of his quotes.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated as President of the United States this Friday, and the big problem that some people have with that idea is how hateful Trump is or seems to be. He's not afraid of expressing his opinions, and he seems to have strongly negative opinions about some people and groups. He has been accused of being racist and sexist, and those who admit to having voted for him have been subjected to similar accusations, and that's where things turn sour, in my opinion.

It's one thing to have opinions and to express those opinions, but let's refrain from labels and insults, please. We're better than that. One of the campaign slogans against Trump was "Love Trumps Hate," and my response to that is "Prove it," or rather, "Yes, it does, so let's prove it." Let's prove that people don't need to hate those they disagree with. Let's prove that getting angry with your political opponents isn't the best way to win over the public opinion. Some of those who oppose Trump have insulted his intelligence, relating his communication skills to those of an angry child. Let's prove that our conversations can be more civilized than his tweets.

Regardless of how we feel about the President-Elect, there's not much we can do about the election now, and arguing and getting angry was never going to solve anything anyway. For the record, Trump wasn't my first choice for President, but he wasn't my last choice, either. I was leaning toward Ben Carson for a while, but in the end, I wrote in McMullin, not that any of that matters anymore. If we want to have a discussion about politics, policies, the role of government, how strong it should be, and other related topics, we can do that, but let's make sure that it remains a discussion. Regardless of anyone's feelings or opinions on these or any subjects, let's try not to get angry at each other. I'm tired of all the hatred that comes out of political "discussions." Let's try love instead.

Getting angry with each other and hating our political opponents isn't going to make things better. Having peaceful, respectful conversations might. At any rate, we won't get rid of the hatred some claim Trump represents by expressing how much we hate him and his supporters. Personally, I'm willing to give him a chance and his supporters the benefit of a doubt. There weren't many good options this time around, and many of them dropped out before election night. Given the options we had, I don't blame those who ultimately voted for Trump, and I certainly wouldn't accuse them all of being racist and sexist. If I were to have voted for Trump, I would have done so in the hopes that he'd have the business experience needed to fix the economy, not because I agree with every opinion he has ever expressed.

Anyhow, now I've expressed my opinion and allowed myself to talk more about politics than I ever wanted to on this blog. I hope I have also made my point about the counterproductivity of hatred in speaking against hatred. I dislike anger, and I don't have to get angry to say that. Love is far more useful for establishing peaceful communication and cooperation, and if we express more love and less hatred, then there will be at least that much less hatred in the world. And I think we can agree that the world could use a lot less hatred than it has now.

Monday, January 16, 2017

We Do Need to Pray

Where You Are isn't the only Moana song I've had playing in my head the last few days. The villain song, Shiny, pointed out an interesting possible sub-theme that I'll want to explore after I've actually seen Moana (which I have no immediate plans to do). Also, the first song I stumbled upon, How Far I'll Go, which is basically the new Let It Go, probably has at least one blogworthy line in it. But the Moana song that's on my mind right now is You're Welcome.

In this song, the demigod Maui lists a few of the things he has done for the Pacific Islanders, bragging on himself a little bit, but ostensibly telling them that they don't have to thank him for any of that and that they're welcome. Unfortunately, at one point during this song, he makes a very poor choice of words:

"You don't need to pray. It's okay. You're welcome."

Now, I'm sure he meant "You don't need to pray [to me to thank me for all of those marellous things I did for you]." But even if that is what he meant to say, that's still not a good message. God does want us to pray to Him to thank Him for what He does for us, and there are several reasons we should.

First, thanking God for our blessings reminds us that we have blessings to thank Him for. It's a way of counting our blessings, and there are many blessings that come from doing that, as we see in the hymn, Count Your Blessings.

Also, thanking God reminds us where our blessings come from. Every good thing in our lives are gifts (or loans) from God, even the things we think we earned or are entitled to. Acknowledging this can help us feel indebted to God, which can help us want to keep His commandments to thank and repay Him.

And I've heard a rumor that those who thank God for their blessings generally tend to get more blessings. Just saying.

It's good and important for us to thank God for what He does for us, and there are countless other good and important reasons to pray to Him. So, even if God doesn't feel the need to be praised and thanked, we should still praise and thank Him, if only for our own sakes. God doesn't have an emotional need for us to thank Him, but He will still never tell us that we don't need to pray.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Big Picture of Small Contributions

In today's Elder's Quorum lesson, one elder raised the question of how we can see the "big picture" or the mission of the church while they focus on their individual assignments. It is easy for members of the church to focus on our specific tasks and lose sight of how we are all working together to build up the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, no one had a satisfactory answer to the elder's concern, but another mentioned that every task we have in he church helps somebody, and all those "somebodies" we help in small and simple ways are part of the kingdom of God. For example, when we bare our testimonies, everyone who hears us is strengthened by our witness, and if any of those people are members of the church, then that helps strengthen the church. I agree that it is difficult to see how our small contributions help at all. After all, we are each but one person, and one person can only do so much. But if many people act together with a common goal, their efforts can combine to great effect. As one last example, my blog posts probably only reach a few handfuls of people, but I'm not the only member who posts spiritual things on Facebook, and as we share positive messages with each other and our other friends, we can have a strong, positive impact on those around us. Each individual can only touch so many hearts, but if we all do what we can, together, we can accomplish much more than any one could do alone.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Happiness Where You Are

I am learning that you can count on Disney to create catchy songs with interesting (and thankfully, blogworthy) moral messages. I haven't seen Moana yet, but I've heard most, if not all, of its songs on Youtube, and I think I have a fair grip on at least the beginning of the plot. The title character, Moana lives on a Pacific island and is the daughter of the village chief. One day, she'll grow up to be the chief of the village, but she dreams of crossing the ocean instead. (Classic Disney, starring children and teenagers daring to go beyond the bounds set by their parents and society, but that's a blog post for another day.)

"Where You Are," which I'm pretty sure is the first song of Moana, features Moana's father making the argument for why she should stay on the island. Beside the fact that the village will need a leader, he argues that the island isn't a bad place to be. "We're safe and we're well provided," he says. "In time, you'll learn, just as I did, you must find happiness right where you are."

The reason I said Disney songs contain "interesting" moral messages rather than "good" moral messages is that I'm often not convinced of how true they are. I'm sure that "You can find happiness right where you are," as Moana sings later, but I'm not sure that you "must," as her father says.

First of all, you don't have to find happiness. It's completely optional. If you don't want to find happiness, that's your choice. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that everyone wants to find happiness and that it's essential that they do. People still may not need to find happiness where they are. People can move. Circumstances can be changed. If you're not happy with your present circumstances, there's often something you can do about that. For example, Moana didn't really have to find happiness on her island. She could sail out and find happiness on another island.

However, that is sometimes not an option. Sometimes, we can't change or leave our present circumstances, and, in those cases, Moana's father's advice makes sense and Moana's realization is comforting. When we're locked into our circumstances, we would do well to make the best of things. Even when our circumstances are unpleasant and there's nothing we can do about that, we can still find happiness, and, for our own sakes, we must. We may not have to find happiness right where we are, but it's comforting to know that we always can, and we'd be happier if we did.

So, do we have to find happiness where we are? Technically, no. We can usually change our circumstances, and even when we can't, we don't really have to be happy. Strictly speaking, we don't have to find happiness where we are, but the good news is that we always can.