2012: Dun-dun-dunnnn

Oh my goodness, it’s gonna be 2012! Oh no! Everyone run for your lives! It’s attacking! Some people that lived a long time ago said it would end! There’s no possible way they were incorrect or that we’ve all just misinterpreted what they thought!

If you didn’t realize, that was sarcasm. Unfortunately, there really isn’t any good way to express that type of irony in writing. But anyway, the year 2012 is just around the corner. It’s a year that has approached society with an infamous stench, though honestly, there is no odor attached to this next year. It’s another year… that’s it. I’m excited for it to be here. It’s another chapter in our lives, another chance to improve our characters, eliminate bad habits and create good ones. It’s an opportunity to learn something new, turn enemies into friends, and add more bricks to make our life’s foundation more stable.

This year, I’d like to better myself by thinking and acting more upon Christ’s example. It sounds vague, but I do have some specifics that go along with that goal. I want to be a better disciple of Him, and a better representative of His teachings.

A Book of Mormon prophet named Amulek spoke of our time on this earth as such,

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. (Alma 34:32)

As the new year approaches, let’s do more to prepare ourselves to meet God. Whether that’s when we’re ninety-nine years old, sixty-five, forty, or twenty. We don’t know, so all the more reason to get prepared. Sounds logical? I thought so too. I know that as we put our faith in Christ and our trust in God, we can accomplish the goals we have for this next year. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ want us to succeed! Our efforts will not go unnoticed, nor unaided. Whether nor not your goal(s) may be spiritually related, so long as it is a goal of righteous improvement, I know that putting the Savior first will make that goal possible.

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Let Us Keep Christmas

Let me just start off by saying MERRY CHRISTMAS! Tis the season for… well, lots of awesome stuff. Unfortunately, however, this awesome stuff can get in the way of the true reason for the season. Lights, trees, gifts, colors, red suits, stockings, egg nog, cookies, carols, more lights, more cookies. It really is a ton of fun, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying all these things that go along with our Christmas celebrations. It’s part of why I absolutely love this time of year.

However, many times we allow these wonderful things to take presidence over the Savior Himself. It is, afterall, called Christmas, a term that evolved from the phrase Christemasse (Christ’s Mass). Every church service is already dedicated to Him, but this time we put special emphasis on the meaning of His birth. Gifts and such are great, but they are nothing in comparison to the greatest gift we have ever received. It is a gift from our Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus Christ.

But let’s not go the opposite way here. Some may shun these traditions because… well… their origins are kind of… sketchy. Take the actual time of the Christmas holiday, December 25th. Christ was obviously not born on this day. With some simple deductive reasoning, we can assume the Savior was born in the springtime. The time of the traditional Christmas season has a pagan source, as does some other things surrounding it, i.e., chimneys and fire gods. But none of that really matters. What matters is what we get out of Christmas.

What matters is the spirit of Christmas, which has no preference to how close we celebrate to Jesus’ actual birthday, or how thick the Christmas tree is, or how many gifts are resting under it, or whether or not we decided to put lights on the house this year.

A famous preacher named Peter Marshall once said, “Let us not spend Christmas … but let us keep Christmas in our hearts and in our lives.”

This Christmas season, I invite you, the reader, as well as myself, to follow the counsel of the Savior Jesus Christ and lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven where, unlike the gifts under the tree, moth and rust do not corrupt, and thieves cannot steal.

Let us worship our Savior. Let us remember Him always, but especially now. Like I said before, the gifts we receive from our friends and family are nice, but the greatest gift we have and will ever receive came from our Father in Heaven, the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. The Savior’s atonement will always be the best present. This is a gift that we can enjoy each and every day. It will never grow old or fade away. This Christmas, let’s celebrate Christ. After all, ’tis the season.

Time Is Short… Welcome to Narnia

In the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, part of the book series known as the Chronicles of Narnia, four siblings discover the world known as Narnia while stumbling through a portal in a wardrobe. While there in Narnia, they find out the White Witch is in control, and the fantasy world is stuck in a constant winter. The children embark on an adventure that eventually destroys the White Witch, saving Narnia and bringing spring to the world. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are crowned as kings and queens and remain in Narnia for a long time, until they’re adults.

On a hunt for the White Stag, the four siblings accidentally come across the same portal they had originally entered and return to the ‘real’ world. Citing the movie, they fall out of the wardrobe, again as children, and find the owner of the house, Professor Kirke, in the room as well. We soon discover that their many years spent in the world of Narnia were only a couple minutes back in their world.

We are in our own Narnia. We existed before this life with our Father in Heaven and made the decision to come down to this earth and be tested, but we are here for only a short time. It may seem like a long time to us, but only because our perspective is limited. Our Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective. To Him, we are away for only a couple hours. We must make the most of what time we have. It is short, but it is the most important time among our entire eternal existence.

Chocolate Altoids

So, my companion and I were getting some food from a gas station because… well… it was lunch time… and we were hungry and had no food on us. After I grab my Clif bars (which, by the way, are super delicious… and good for you) I notice some altoids in the mint section, or whatever you want to call it.

Now, don’t judge me, but it has been one of many goals in life to find some chocolate covered altoids. I saw a commercial years ago and I said to myself, “I want those!”, but I have never found them… until this day in the gas station. I look and, lo!, I see some chocolate altoids. I kind of flip out a bit as I snag them and proceed to explain to my companion what you just now read. I mean… of all the places I’ve been, all the Wal-marts I’ve entered, I finally find my evasive chocolate altoids in a random gas station in Frenchtown, Montana. Who would have thought? Seriously, it baffles me.

So exactly what point am I attempting to make? I’m sure you’re wondering, and I’d be wondering too if I was reading this. Let me direct you to an experience shared by J. Devn Cornish, of the Seventy, during the most recent LDS General Conference this last October.

My route would take me past a fried chicken shop, and I felt like I would be a lot less hungry and tired if I could pause for a piece of chicken on my way home. I knew they were running a sale on thighs or drumsticks for 29 cents each, but when I checked my wallet, all I had was one nickel. As I rode along, I told the Lord my situation and asked if, in His mercy, He could let me find a quarter on the side of the road. I told Him that I didn’t need this as a sign but that I would be really grateful if He felt to grant me this kind blessing.

I began watching the ground more intently but saw nothing. Trying to maintain a faith-filled but submissive attitude as I rode, I approached the store. Then, almost exactly across the street from the chicken place, I saw a quarter on the ground. With gratitude and relief, I picked it up, bought the chicken, savored every morsel, and rode happily home.

Elder Cornish goes on to explain how, despite this piece of chicken being a very minor thing, it was important to him and therefore important to our Father in Heaven. God loves us. He wants to bless us, even in minor things. Essentially, what is important to us is important to the Lord, so long, of course, as it is within righteous boundaries. I would say that a piece of chicken, or chocolate altoids, isn’t a super righteous desire, but it’s certainly not a wicked one either.

To me, Elder Cornish’s experience as well as my own are small testimonies of the Lord’s watchful eye and His love. He is always with us, even in things that may seem insignificant to us. No detail is too small for the Lord to overlook. He does indeed know all. He knows our lives in and out. He knows every feeling we possess, from the smallest of our desires to the most fleeting of lonely thoughts. He knows every intricate detail of our lives, especially the ones that we ourselves are unaware of.

Every instant He is aware of, and every prayer He does answer.

Love: Speak No Ill

My companion and I were recently called by a sick member of The Church. He was sick and desired us to stop by and give him a priesthood blessing. Giving blessings to the sick and afflicted was a common practice in Christ’s primitive church, and it remains the same in His church that He restored in this day and age, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

When we arrived at this member’s house, his wife led us to where her husband lay sick in his bed. We were surprised to see that his condition was actually quite serious. He barely possessed enough energy to speak to us, but he expressed his gratitude repeatedly. We anointed him with consecrated oil and sealed a blessing upon him using the power of the priesthood. The Spirit became strong and this gentleman pointed it out as soon as the blessing was done. He thanked us kindly for the service and testified to us of the power of the priesthood and his faith in the Lord.

He then began to explain what had happened to him. Some medication he took reacted badly and he fell. Unable to get himself back up, he called several members of the congregation in hopes that someone would be able to assist him. One member would have gladly helped, but had no gas to make it to his house. The others never returned the calls. It was his neighbor who eventually found him and was able to lift him back onto his bed. My sorrow for this man quickly turned to anger against those members, and I imagined that if I was in this man’s position I would be a pretty bitter person.

This member’s attitude was completely opposite. Rather than complaining about his unresponsive friends, he quickly praised them. With long, tired breaths, he told us what good people they are, and that they simply live busy lives. He told us that years ago, he had made a conviction to never speak ill of anyone. This man’s show of Christ-like love brought tears to my eyes, which I quickly wiped away.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

This man truly understood the meaning of Christ’s commandment to love one another, and he helped me to develop a stronger testimony of this commandment. Though he was physically weak, I could feel the Spirit strongly in his words. In a way I almost felt rebuked, but I knew that my companion and I had been sent to see this man and feel of his spirit. He was content, and although he is being put through a sore trial, he is happy. This is the power of Christ-like love.

A Better Land

Many instances in my life have proven, to me, that the Lord rather enjoys pulling a fast one on me. Take, for example, the fact that I am no longer in Columbia Falls, but Frenchtown, MT. I thought for sure I was going to stay in Columbia Falls for another transfer. But alas, I was bamboozled… and am now sitting here typing this in the Frenchtown High School library.

I’ll admit, I’m not one to readily accept change. When I feel like I need to be in a certain situation, I don’t take kindly to being brought out of that situation. This happens a lot with all of us. We’re traveling along on our life’s journey, comfortable with our speed, the conditions of our metaphorical road, and then all of sudden we hit a road block, or something causes us to swerve off the road, or the road ends up curving in a direction we didn’t intend to go. It happens a lot. There are definitely some things in our lives we have little or no control over.

In my case, I couldn’t decide where I wanted to serve next on my mission. My mission president told me I was going to Frenchtown, so it was either that or go home. So what do we control? And how can this be used advantageously?

Let’s look to the scriptures here for a second. I’ll take a verse out of the Book of Mormon. This is Jacob talking, he was a brother to the prophet Nephi.

And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.(2 Nephi 10:20)

The Lord brought their family out of the land of Jerusalem. They struggled and endured tons of contention and other troubles, but, as Jacob says, they were led to a better land, the Americas. This better land can be many different things in our lives. It could very well be a better location, or a better situation, better friends, better job, etc. It could be almost anything.

So going back to the question… what do we control? We control our attitude and our perspective. We can have the attitude of thinking God is picking on us or ignoring us, that when change or trials arise, our lives have become screwed up. Or we can be like Jacob, as see the changes as being led to a better situation, one in which we can learn, grow, and have better opportunities.

I hated Columbia Falls when I first arrived there, and I wondered why in the world the Lord had sent me there. Over time, however, I saw the reasons, and when the time came to depart I absolutely did not want to leave. I don’t know if the same thing will come with me in Frenchtown, but I know the Lord guides us to where we need to be. He’s always aware of where we are, and wherever He leads us, it will always be to a better land.