Thursday, March 5, 2015

Are We Willing to Pay the Price?

It's time to revisit Elder Carlos A. Godoy's talk, The Lord Has a Plan for Us! Something I noticed in rereading this talk was a pair of pointed questions Elder Godoy asks in the second section of his talk: "Are we willing to pay the price for our decisions? Are we prepared to leave our comfort zones to reach a better place?"

Every act, every choice, has a consequence or a price. Are we willing to pay the prices our decisions entail? Yesterday, I told you that I want to be more righteous. Am I willing to consistently put in the effort to proceed with the almost always difficult and sometimes seemingly hopeless endeavor to improve? Alternatively, I could give up on myself and stop trying to improve, but that choice comes with a price, too. Am I willing to live with the consequence of having to live with a version of myself that's no better than I am now? Every action or inaction has a price. Do we fully consider the consequences of decisions as we decide which choice to make?

Part of our problem is that we tend to be rather short-sighted. We sometimes don't consider the consequences we'll face later if we don't make the right choices now. The other night, it would have been easy to stay in bed and not read my scriptures, and the consequences of that choice would have been too far down the road to realize the connection between the choice and the result. The reverse is sometimes also true. We see the difficulty of making righteous decisions, but we don't always see the blessings that'll eventually come from it.

Or, we may hear of and desire the blessings, but not want to have to go through the trouble of being righteous to get them. We know that heaven is a wonderful place - one that we want to be worthy to live in. We also know of the blessings God grants to the righteous and the joy we feel from doing what's right and having the Spirit with us. Doing good has good results. But first, doing good requires sacrifice. Are we willing to make those sacrifices to get those blessings? "Are we prepared to leave our comfort zones to reach a better place?"

Whether we choose to do things the hard way or the easy way, there are going to be consequences. To be wise, we have to consider not only the immediate results of our choices, but their long-term results as well. Then we need to decide, are we willing to suffer short-term discomfort now to gain long-term peace later, or are we willing to accept long-term consequences later to enjoy short-term comforts now?Both choices come with a price. Which price are we willing to pay?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Choosing to Change Now

Last night, after blogging, I really wanted to go to sleep, but then I remembered one thing that a prophet said was more important than sleep. With my head on my pillow and my eyes closed, I reasoned to myself that I had already done a little bit of scripture study, in a sense. I had just read and blogged about one or two verses of scripture, hadn't I? Wasn't that enough? In response, the Spirit asked me whether that I wanted that spirit - the spirit of weariness, of "I've already done enough" - to continue to control me in the afterlife.

Last night, I blogged about Captain Moroni still being Captain Moroni after he died, and how that was pretty cool. The flip-side of that message is that when I die, I'm still going to be the same person I am now. If that's not something I'm okay with, I had better change myself now.

I know that, in the afterlife, there will be opportunities for growth and improvement, but I'm not sure how easily that change will come. And why wait? If the way you are now isn't the way you would like to remain forever, why not start making the desired changes today?

Last night, I had the opportunity to be lazy or to put in a little bit of extra effort to study the scriptures, and I'm glad to say that I made the right choice. I can't remember hardly anything that I had read, but I remember that I chose to read it. It takes far more than one act to overcome a habit of procrastination and laziness, but that one act was a step in the right direction, and the more frequently we make decisions based on how we'd like to be, the sooner we'll become our ideal selves. It's not going to happen overnight, and not even dying is going to bring about the changes we want to see in ourselves, but every time we make a good decision, especially when it's difficult, we change ourselves for the better.

There are many things that I'd like to change about myself, but to be brief and vague, I'd like to be more righteous. It isn't always easy to choose the right, but the more I do it, the more I'll become the person I want to be, and that makes it worth the extra effort.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Present Tense

In my old, paper version of the Book of Mormon, the chapter heading of Alma Chapter 48 says that Captain Moroni "rejoiced in liberty and freedom and was a mighty man of God." When I read this in our family scripture study this evening, my mom informed me that the digital version says that he "rejoices in liberty and freedom and is a mighty man of God" (emphasis added). When I thought about this, I was struck with this truth - Yes, Captain Moroni was "a mighty man of God," and he still is. (Never mind that the rest of the chapter heading, including the part about Amalickiah inciting the Lamanites against the Nephites, is also written in present tense. That's not important right now.)

This thought reminds me of Alma 34:34 and of the concept of eternal progression. Alma 34:34 says that "that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." That is, when we die, we'll still be the same person that we were at the time of our death. Captain Moroni was a strong follower of God during his life. I assume that he remained a strong follower of God up to the time of his death. And, judging by the chapter heading of Alma 48, I would suppose that he remained a strong follower of God even after his death, and remains so to this day. It's not that he was a good man, but isn't anymore, it's that he was a good man, and still is.

It's hard to imagine Captain Moroni still being "around" today, but if a soul is immortal, I guess he must be. Still, it's hard to imagine him as still being Captain Moroni. I would have thought that death was the quintessential life-changing experience. Surely, we would change during our crossing over, but maybe we change less than I thought. Maybe we don't change at all. Do you think Captain Moroni still gets angry as much as he used to? It's hard to say. Maybe as part of our eternal progression, we can lose the negative aspects of our personalities without losing the positive ones, thus becoming better people while still being us.

I think a part of why I think this is a strange concept is that I don't understand how death wouldn't change us, when people in mortality change every day. Maybe change is more difficult in the afterlife? Or maybe, in the afterlife, we see more clearly what parts of ourselves do and do not need to change. I'll have to look into this later.

In the meantime, the moral I want to take from this message is to endure to the end, to keep on keeping on, and to keep all of my good attributes as well as I can. Being a mighty man of God is part of what made Captain Moroni a good role-model. It's good to hear that he hasn't lost that attribute, even after all these years. He is still a mighty man of God, as he once had been. I hope that I become a mighty man of God and that I can keep that attribute literally forever.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Prepare for Your Miracle

As many of you know, my home State of California is currently experiencing a drought. As such, we've been preying for rain regularly for several weeks, and this morning, it looked as though we might get some. I was doubtful, however, so I almost went out in my usual, light, non-rain-resistant jacket, expecting the clouds to clear without much rainfall (which is ultimately what happened, but that's beside the point). As I was getting ready to leave in my non-rain-resistant jacket, the thought came to my mind that I should wear my less comfortable, rain-resistant jacket, for multiple reasons.

First, just in case. It looked like it might rain, and it couldn't hurt to be prepared in case it did. But more than that, if you pray for a miracle, you shouldn't put yourself into a position where it would be a bad thing for you if God answered your prayer. God is good at turning misfortune into miracles, but only a human would be foolish enough to turn a miracle into misfortune. If you pray for rain, don't put yourself into a position where it would become a bad thing if you got some.

Also, leaving the house unprepared for rain after having prayed for rain shows a certain lack of faith. Yes, it's completely up to God whether He answers our prayers affirmatively, and what we ask for may not ultimately be in our best interest, so God does sometimes withhold they blessings for which we pray. Yet, God is also a generous and loving God, so we shouldn't be too terribly surprised if He gives us the blessings we ask for. If we pray for rain, and then look up and see clouds, we shouldn't be too awfully shocked if it rained that day. It didn't, but I shouldn't have been surprised if it did.

In the end, I chose to wear my rain jacket, and it did sprinkle a little bit in the morning. It wasn't quite the rain that we needed, but it was enough to make me glad that I had heeded the prompting to grab my jacket. I plan to wear, or at least carry, my rain jacket tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, so just in case God decides to surprise us with the rain we've been praying for, I'll be prepared to be out in it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Scripture Study - More Important Than...

Continuing on with Elder Scott's talk, I'd like to share something he said about studying the scriptures.
Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!
We are all busy - some of us more so than others. We all have a terrible number of things to get done. And sometimes, it seems that scripture study ends up pretty low on our list of things to do. It's not that we don't think scripture study is important. It's that there are other things that we need to do first. We need to get a project done for work, or we need to write an essay for school, or we need to get some sleep before we collapse. It's not that we consider scripture study to be a low priority; we just have other priorities that are higher.

But Elder Scott reminded us that if we don't have time to study the scriptures, it's because we're spending too much time doing for other things. I think we can all agree that TV, video games, and social media are less important than scripture study, but that hypothetical belief in relative levels of priorities isn't always reflected in how we spend our time. And we know that scripture study is important, but so are school, work, and sleep. Is Elder Scott really saying that we should put school, work, and sleep on the back burner for a few minutes (probably even longer than a few minutes), to read the scriptures?

Well, yes. The scriptures are one of the best sources for messages from God. He communicates with us through the scriptures. If He has a message for us, it's probably in there somewhere. Certainly His Spirit is in the scriptures, and gaining the Spirit can help us with everything else. We may need to sacrifice some time, and even some sleep, to study the scriptures, but according to prophetic counsel, if that's what it takes, we should do it. It's not always going to be convenient. It may sometimes be unpleasant, or even risky, to put scripture study above work, sleep, and school, but a prophet of God has counseled us that that's what we should do.

Apparently, scripture study is pretty important - at least more important than a lot of other things we could be doing instead.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bonus Post: A Pitiful Repayment

Along the same lines as my official blog post of the day, I'm reminded that prayer is not just for telling God things. We also use prayer to ask God for blessings, including answers to questions, and now I wonder if telling God a little bit about our lives is part of how we repay God for telling us a little bit about His plan and the universe. At first, I thought that, of course, tell God a few things about ourselves is a poor way to repay Him for the light and knowledge He shares with us, let alone the miracles He does for us and the many other blessings He brings into our lives, but it may be that He loves us so much that He's happy with even the smallest amount of repayment.

I'm reminded of a scene in one of my favorite movies, which may even be my favorite movie. In a conversation at the beginning of the film, a character talks of an arrangement she and her son have with her mother, her son's grandmother: Grandma helps them pay their bills, asking only for pictures of the two of them in return.

In my opinion, this generosity reflects the generosity of God. In effect, they're each saying "In return for helping you overcome the biggest challenges in your life, I just want to be a part of your life and for you to be a part of mine."

It's not possible for us to fully repay God. There's a scripture in Mosiah that says something to that effect. But God's not asking for a full repayment. All He really wants in return for everything He does for us is for us to love Him and His children. Sometimes, that means visiting the sick and afflicted, sometimes that means telling God how our day went. Regardless of what form our expressions of love take, it's a small price to pay for our blessings, and even when it takes a measurable amount of sacrifice to show our love for God and others, God repays us in spades. That's also in Mosiah.

It's strange that, in some ways, God wants very little from us, and in other ways, He wants everything we can give Him. In the end, all He really wants from us is our hearts. Whether you see that as a huge sacrifice or a tiny one is up to you, but either way, it's a pitiful repayment for what God offers us in return.

Tell Him Anyway

There are several blog posts worth of insights from Elder Richard G. Scott's talk, Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority. The first one I want to blog about is about prayer.
Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.
It sometimes seems foolish to tell God things in prayer. Surely He already knows what challenges we face, how we feel, and what blessings we need and want. There's nothing we can say that God, being omniscient, doesn't know. Yet, God wants us to tell Him anyway. Why?

Maybe He just wants to talk with us, to have a conversation with us. We are, after all, His children. Even if you already know everything that's going on in your child's life, it can be rewarding to talk with them about it and bond with them over it.

Also, talking to God about things can help us put things into perspective. If we wouldn't bother God with some minor problem we're having, maybe we shouldn't let it bother us, either. On the other hand, it our problems do bother us, we can talk to God about them, and talking about them can bring us some peace. We may even be inspired in finding a solution to our problems when we bring them to God.

It astonishes me that the God of the whole universe wants to hear about my daily life. He wants to hear about my troubles and desires, as trivial as they may be. I'm even more astonished that the God of the whole universe wants to talk to me. I'm nobody. I'm beneath His attention. Or am I? Perhaps the reason God wants me to talk with Him, the reason He's willing to take time to listen to my feelings and troubles, is because He wants to convince me of how important I am to Him. He wants to spend time talking with us because He loves us. Even if the things you have to say seem trivial, He wants to hear it because if it matters to you, it matters to Him, if only because you matter to Him.

So, if you feel reluctant to talk to God because you don't think you have anything grand to tell Him, pray anyway. Even if all you can say is a brief anecdote about something that happened that day, which you know He already saw, tell Him anyway. If you think your problems are too small to be worthy of God's attention, tell Him anyway. If you think you're too small to be worthy of God's attention, talk to Him anyway. He wants to hear from you. He wants so badly to hear from you that He's willing to listen to anything you want to say to Him. I know from my own life that even when you're angry with Him, shouting at Him, He's glad to hear from you. Even if you have nothing but unkind things to say to Him, tell Him anyway. Praying has brought more peace to my soul than my angry words deserved.

I hope you never feel like you don't have anything worthy of telling to God. The purpose of prayer is not to inform God of anything He didn't already know. We couldn't do that if we tried. The purpose, or at least part of it, is to bond with God, to connect with Him, to communicate with Him so we can build and strengthen a relationship with Him. Lately, I haven't be praying regularly because I didn't feel like I had anything important enough to tell Him. Tonight, I'm going to pray to Him anyway. I may not have anything to say other than what He already knows, but now I know that He wants me to talk with Him anyway. So I will.