Monday, October 16, 2017

Wisdom and Happiness

I have just had (and, in some ways, am still in the middle of) a conversation with my brother on the subject of wisdom. Our conversation has covered many sub-topics, including debating various definitions and exploring its relation to knowledge and intelligence. Ultimately, we've determined that there's a lot more to say about it, but in the interest of time, I want to share just one of the highlights from our conversation: Wisdom can lead to happiness.

When we make wise decisions, we can be content that we have acted well. The wisest decisions are the ones that lead us to (and make us more like) God, and following God always ultimately leads to a great deal of happiness. We should always (time permitting) try to consider our options and choose the best one, though that may not always be the easiest or the most immediately rewarding option. Acting wisely is difficult; it takes a good deal of discipline to be wise. But the results of exercising wisdom are worth the effort it takes to develop it, especially since the ultimate result of wisdom is ultimate happiness, a reward that one would be wise to seek.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Day of Rest

Not long ago, I felt stressed about my assignments, which seemed to be stacking up. I had a lesson to give today, a midterm exam to take tomorrow, and a paper due two days after that. Yesterday, I felt badly worried about these things, so much so that I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything, and I felt irritated at people whom I felt were wasting my time.

But now, after I've had a mostly restful Sunday, I feel a lot better about everything. My lesson has been given, and it went well enough, so I don't need to worry about that any more. I've spent a good deal of time preparing for tomorrow's midterm, and I'll have some more time tomorrow to cram for it before I take it. As for the paper that's due on Wednesday, it's actually due at midnight Wednesday night, which means that I'll have some time on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening to work on it. Yes, I have other stuff going on on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and I may or may not have enough material to write my paper until then, but I'm still confident that I'll have enough time to write the paper, especially since the paper's so short.

It's amazing how challenging some obstacles can appear at some times and how manageable they can seem at other times. From a distance, with each task seeming to take time away from completing the other tasks, my work seemed overwhelming to me, but now that I've gotten one task out of the way, and I've properly taken stock of my remaining time, I think I should be able to tackle my remaining tasks with relative ease (knock on wood).

I am thankful for the peace that this day of rest has given me. I have previously lamented how busy and laborious these sabbath days can be, with their many meetings and gatherings, and I don't even have it as bad as other people have it. Many people have many more meetings and much more work to do on Sundays than I do. Yet, I still sometimes feel overwhelmed, and taking a "day of rest" hasn't always felt helpful to me. I'm glad this week was different. I'm thankful that this Sunday was actually a day of rest for me, and I now feel largely refreshed and ready for the work I'll do over the next few days. I don't know what it is about this Sunday that made it so restful and refreshing, but I'm thankful for it. This Sunday truly was a day of rest for me, and I look forward to getting my next few tasks over with so I can rest from those labors and cares as well.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Questions the Articles Answer

If I'm going to ask my Primary kids questions that can be answered by the Articles of Faith, I should probably write a list of those questions, so here are a couple of questions that the Articles of Faith can answer:

Who are the three members of the Godhead?

Do we believe in Original Sin? (I won't ask the kids this one. It's a yes/no question, and the kids probably don't know what Original Sin is.)

How can we saved from our sins? (There are a couple of good, correct answers to this one.)

What are the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel? (Another list question, like the first question, and it's a fairly obvious reference to the Article of Faith, so I might skip this one, too.)

Who can perform ordinances? (This one might be a bit of a stretch to link it to the Article of Faith, but I think I can do it with a follow-up question, like "How does a person get the Priesthood?")

What spiritual gifts are available to us? (I might not ask this question, either, for the sake of brevity, if for no other reason.)

How is the church organized? (Another one I won't ask during the quiz portion, but I'll plan on bringing it up when I teach the kids that we tell people about the church using the Articles of Faith.)

What do we believe about the Bible? What do we believe about the Book of Mormon? (I should be careful about using the words "we believe" until I'm ready to tip my hand about the purpose of the quiz, but this is a fairly good question that can lead to an interesting discussion.)

Is there such a thing as modern revelation? (It's another yes/no question that'd probably be better brought up after the quiz.)

What will the Millennium be like? (It's a stretch, but if I recall correctly, at least some of my Primary kids had an interest in the Millennium, so the Tenth Article of Faith might be worth bringing up at some point.)

How important is religious freedom? (This question might go over my students' heads, but it might be a good idea to plant the seeds at an early age. I don't know what kind of world these kids will grow up in, but it seems like there's a chance that they'll have to fight for their (and others') rights to act according to their principles.)

What is our attitude toward the law? (This question would be best saved for later, if I use it at all.)

What sort of people are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? (Shortly after I ask this question (and I will ask this question in the quiz, especially since there are lots of good answers to it), I'll want to reveal that we're talking about the Thirteen Articles of Faith, in case the kids haven't figured it out by then, so I might quote this Article of Faith after giving the kids a chance to list some answers.)

I think I like how this quiz is shaping up. I'll only ask about half of the questions, if that, but five or six questions are plenty for a warm up exercise. This is mostly just to get the kids' attention on the lesson and to get them involved in it before I get into the less-engaging part of reading (or having the kids read) the stories. Still, I'll have a second quiz that tests (and refreshes) the kids' knowledge of the Articles of Faith, so if we can get through the story part of the lesson quickly enough, we can go back to discussing the Articles of Faith, in random order. And I think the kids were promised a round or two of hangman after that, so I won't spend a whole lot of time on the boring parts.

I think I have some pretty good lesson preparation set up now. I'll put my list of questions together with my outline tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I should probably shut my computer off and get some rest.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pencils, Pens, and Repentence

When I write, I usually write in pencil or on the computer, rather than in pen. I do this because I occasionally (frequently) make mistakes. With an eraser or a Backspace key, it's easy to correct mistakes made in pencil or in a word processor. Mistakes made in pen are not so easily fixed. Often, one has to cross out a word or sentence and try to squeeze a correction in among what has already been written. One can, supposedly, correct one's mistakes that way, but that doesn't take away the mark of a mistake or the additional marks made in correcting it.

There is a clear spiritual message here. Two, in fact. And I'm not sure which is more important.

The first is that the Atonement is wonderful. Through the infinite power of the Atonement, our sins can be washed away so completely that God will forget we ever committed them. In that way, repenting is like erasing something written in pencil or on the computer. Once the correction process is finished, the marks of our mistakes are completely gone.

Except that they're not. The second lesson is that, even after we've repented, the memories of our sins stay with us, even if they don't remain with God. God may only concern Himself with the final draft, but we still remember all the mistakes and corrections we've made in the revision process. This is probably important because it helps us remember our mistakes long enough to learn from them, so we can learn to do better in the future. We can't help making mistakes, so long as we're human, but if we remember how and why we made such mistakes, we can gradually learn to make them less frequently until we reach the point where we don't make them at all.

At times, I'm glad I remember the mistakes I've made (and how to avoid them), and sometimes I'm happier when I can forget that the mistakes ever happened. I'm not sure which is better, in the long run. Learning from one's past mistakes is important, but it's also important to eventually let them go. I'm not ultimately sure, then, whether it's better to write in pen or in pencil. It may depend on the job. It also may depend on how many mistakes one makes and how much one still needs to learn. Both pens and pencils have their pros and cons. I'm thankful that God can help us remember what we need to remember and forget what we can afford to forget.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Would You Put on the Ark?

My laptop is having trouble. Actually, it has been having trouble since I got it from my brother a few years ago. You see, up until that point, my brother was letting me borrow the laptop so I could use it for school, but I left it on a table that also had a vase of flowers on it, and evidently, one of our cats got too close. The vase fell over, spilling water on the laptop, which was shut off, but plugged in. As soon as I realized what had happened, I did what I could to hopefully save the laptop, and then made my brother a deal: I would pay him for the laptop in a way of making reparations, and he would let me keep the laptop if it survived the water damage I had unwittingly subjected it to. Luckily for me, the laptop did survive, and I jokingly named it Noah, because it survived "the flood."

Now, my laptop's fan is wearing out. It has had trouble with overheating in the Summer, and I've taken to keeping it on a cooling rack to help it radiate the heat its processors make. So far, it's been working - so long as I don't mind the white noise of the whirring of the fan. But I know that laptops don't last forever. And, now that I'm blogging about this, I realise that my laptop has been sharing a table with another vase of flowers since my dad's funeral. Noting my computer's fan trouble, Mom recommended that I find out if I have any files on this computer that I would like to save, in case my laptop dies sometime soon.

I saved four folders. Two of them have to do with Magic: the Gathering and D&D, admittedly. They include character sheets, rulebooks, and collections of images that would be difficult to replace. I also saved a General Conference folder, which contains my notes from the last few General Conferences, and a folder labelled "Blog," which contains blog posts I wrote when I didn't have access to the internet and images that I either used or thought of using on my blog. I shared one of those blog posts with my family tonight because I felt that it was good enough to be worth sharing, and I certainly think it's good enough to be worth keeping.

Hearing about the natural disasters that have been happening everywhere, including wildfires in my state, has given me cause to think "If I were to lose everything except what I could put in a suitcase or backpack, what would I put in that suitcase or backpack?" I made a similar (though far less wrenching) decision when I looked through my files, thinking "Given the limited space on my storage drive, what files would I most like to keep?" I found some files that were worth keeping and some files that weren't, so I stored some files in a folder named "ARK" on my flash drive, and I moved others into a folder named "Trash" on my computer.

As we examine our lives, as we occasionally should, we will find some things that are worth keeping forever, and some things that aren't worth keeping at all. Some things should be abandoned, and some things should be preserved. So the question for all of us becomes, "If you were going to change over time and gradually lose everything you don't make a conscious effort to keep, what would you choose to keep?" What would you put in a suitcase or a flash drive? If you knew a spiritual flood was coming, and you had to choose only the best parts of you to keep, what would you put on the ark?

These are, naturally, very difficult questions to answer. To even begin to answer them, we need to establish our highest priorities, which is difficult enough. And the fear of losing the parts of ourselves that we may or may not want to keep can be paralysing. For example, I know I'm not going to take my Magic or D&D stuff into heaven with me. Does that mean that I should give them up now? Even if I should, I'm not sure I'm willing to do that.

Thankfully, we all have some time on Earth to enjoy the things that won't last forever, but we should put some thought into deciding what we'll try to keep with us when our time on Earth is over. We'll want to keep our family relationships (at least some of them) and our testimonies and spiritual knowledge. We'll want to keep at least a few precious memories and experiences from our mortal lives. We'll want to keep much of what we've learned about almost everything we've learned about.

But what else? What other priorities should we have? What else should we try to hold on to forever? I hate to be a doomsayer, but the world isn't becoming any more stable any time soon. The floods are, eventually, going to come up. When that happens, what all are we going to try to carry with us onto that Ark?

Thirteen Basic Statements

I'm teaching a lesson in Primary again next Sunday, and I, thankfully, have a fairly simple lesson to give. The lesson is about the thirteen Articles of Faith, and normally I would want to make sure that I cover the historical aspect of the lesson so the children could learn about the sequence of events in church history, but this time, there is almost no history to cover. A man was writing a history about New Hampshire and wanted to mention the Mormons who lived there. He didn't know a whole lot about the church, so he asked a Mormon friend of his about the church, that friend then asked Joseph Smith a question that amounted to "What should I tell my friend to tell the world about Mormons?" and Joseph Smith responded with the story of the First Vision, an account of church history up to that point, and the thirteen Articles of Faith. The story has virtually no impact on later events in church history, so I barely need to teach it.

What I do need to teach the children is a lesson about the Articles of Faith themselves. I might start off by asking my Primary kids questions that are answered in the Articles of Faith, such as "Who are the members of the Godhead?" and "What are the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel?" Then, I'll explain that the answers to these questions, which may or may not come easily to us, are completely unknown to many people who don't know about our church. I'll then explain that the Articles of Faith were written to explain our basic beliefs to those who don't know about us. I might share a story about a girl who told a man about the church using the Articles of Faith. Toward the end of the lesson, I might have the children play a game that tests their knowledge of the Articles of Faith. The lesson manual gives several options for such a game. I'll pick one and possibly adapt it.

By the end of the lesson, I'll want my students to know and understand the thirteen Articles of Faith, or at least understand why it's important to know and understand them. These statements, though fairly plain and simple to us, form a basic foundation of our faith and highlight several of the key differences between our church and many others. If we or someone we know wants to know the basics about our church, , the Articles of Faith are a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Beloved

This morning, I rewatched Elder Russell M. Nelson's General Conference talk. In it, Elder Nelson mentioned God and "His Beloved Son." When I heard those words, I thought about how that description applies to literally half the people who ever lived, and the other half are only excluded from this description because they aren't "sons." God loves all His children, not just Jesus, and Jesus loves all His disciples, not just John. We are all "beloved."

I think that's something that's important to remember. We've always been taught that Heavenly Father loves us, but we regularly forget that, despite our many flaws, God loves us just as much as He loves anyone - Infinitely.

Of course, His loves sometimes manifests itself in His withholding of blessings from those who are unworthy. This doesn't mean that God loves them any less. On the contrary, it shows that He loves us enough to do whatever it takes to convince us to choose the path that leads to happiness. Thus, even when He has to punish us for wrongdoing, that punishment is actually a manifestation of His love.

God love all of us, no matter who we are of what we've done. His love, as mentioned previously, is infinite and eternal. And, notably, it extends to literally everyone.