Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Why Go To Church?

Sorry for the really long post.  I was making up for forgetting to post in so long;

     I was 18 years old, living at university.  I thought I had the best life I could possibly have.  One Saturday night I decided I would play video games late into the night (as I  often did).  I played game after game and got more and more engrossed as the pile of wrappers and soda cans piled higher and higher.
     Patrick walked slowly down the long road that led to his small flat.  After another 12 hour shift at the burger factory he was very tired.  He was living in a place where he shared a kitchen with 5 other people, he had been away from his family for quite some time and lived alone. He lived in London while his family was spread throughout the world, his wife was in Jerusalem while his children were going to college in his homeland of Nigeria.  He worked over 50 hours a week for about 7 pounds an hour in order to send his children to school.  
     He was horribly alone and was deep in thought as he unlocked his front door and stepped inside and walked upstairs to his flat.  While he felt very blessed to be living in the United Kingdom, and able to make far more money than he would have been able to if he had been living in Nigeria in order to give more opportunity to his children, he still was not very happy.  He was not happy to be living away from his family, he was not happy to be living in a foreign country, and he especially was especially not happy that he felt all alone.  
     After sitting on the edge of his bed pondering, and trying to keep the loneliness at bay, Patrick decided he would have yet again another early night.  He wished that he had someone to just speak with, just one person who was a true friend to him.  His flat mates were just that, flat mates and nothing more.  He sighed; he could handle it, he had to, for the sake of his children getting a quality education. He knelt to the side of his bed and prayed for some heaven sent help. 
     I played late into the night, not really giving any thought to the morning.  When the last round of my game ended I looked at the clock and gasped at the time.  It was 6 am!  I had church in just 4 hours.  I had wasted away all evening and I realized I was going to have a rough morning when I woke up.  I quickly slipped into bed, not even bothering to change my clothes.  
     The next day, I slowly opened my eyes to see light pouring in the window.  I sat up straight and then turned towards the clock.  Church starts at 10 am and goes until 1 pm... and it was 2 pm!  I had slept right through my alarm and right on through the whole of church!  I sighed, it was too late now, so I figured I might as well enjoy my mistake and went back to bed.  
     About an hour later one of my good friends named Brandon stepped in and realized what I had done started laughing his head off at me.  I blushed in embarrassment. After more than a few jokes we finally left to go get some food.  I didn't really think much of my mistake the rest of the week if I'm completely honest.
     Finally a break!  Patrick woke up to his alarm at 8 am, nearly 3 hours of extra much needed sleep compared to normal.  His boss at the burger factory had told him that he couldn't come into work because he hadn't used up his vacation time for the year.  He was given a 1 week paid vacation, and he was planning on using every ounce of it.  
     The thing he feared was to spend all week just sitting in his flat thinking of his family but being unable to do anything more than give them a phone or skype call.  He normally had to wake up at around 5 am and then ride a long bus to work and work late into the evening.  Feeling rather happy about how rested he felt, Patrick went for a trip to the market to keep himself occupied.  He decided he might buy himself a new pair of shoes if he could find one he liked.  He opened up the door and stepped out into the world, the busy city of London.
     The week past like any other, and Sunday came once again.  This time I was prepared, I arose and went to church, I showed up about 5 minutes before it started which meant basically no one was there yet.  But I was happy that I had woken up on time and that I could repent of missing church the week before.  30 minutes past and a bit into the meeting I realized I didn't see Brandon anywhere.  
     After the meeting I raced to his room and knocked on the door "Boom, Boom, Boom!" Just like a police officer in the movies, I was going to get to the bottom of this!  Brandon opened the door a few seconds later, he looked like he had woken up very recently.  I asked him where he was for church and his answer was that he had woken up a little late and decided he would just play video games instead of going to church.  I blushed and then hypocritically chewed him out for missing church.  In turn he let me have it for not going the week before.  
     After squabbling like pigeons over a piece of bread for a while we both apologised and made a pact to go together to church the next week.  I was shocked that someone would choose to skip church largely because of my failure to go to church.  There is a scripture in Isaiah 58:13+14 that says; 
"13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
     I know these words are true, but I had always been confused at how vague this promise is for keeping the Sabbath day holy.  Usually I find promises for keeping commandments are very specific.  I realized the promise is very specific here after this experience.  I saw that the words of Matthew 5 are true where it says that we are the light of the world, that a city set on a hill cannot be hid.  In other words, I know that there is always someone watching, someone learning from the things I do.  
     In this experience I did not feel the blessing was to ride in a high place though, I might have already been a "city set on a hill" where people were noticing the things that I did, I'm not too sure of that.  But I am sure that the promise came into effect that I was blessed with the heritage of Jacob.  His blessing was to have a very numerous group of righteous people come about as a result of his righteous example.  The blessing being the father of all of the children of israel.  I saw this heritage of Jacob because as I kept the Sabbath day holy I have seen how it affects others around me to make better decisions and to be better.  But the blessings don't end there, because us both having a willingness to keep the Sabbath day holy, we were both able to be on missions to teach others about Christ.
     I was really blessed by Brandon's example as well, that he was willing to go to church so that we could sort of team up in order to encourage each other to wake up on time.  So I guess in that when I think when you keep the Sabbath day holy, you really bless the lives of those around you.  
     It was the 3rd day of Patrick's vacation and it was already getting a little old, of course he loved the break, But work helped keep his mind off any loneliness he felt and off the other problems he was facing.  As he walked along he was running just a few errands, he was deep in thought.  So deep that he wasn't really watching where he was going.  He pondered on the usual things he tended to think about, he prayed in his mind as he walked and asked God if he could send some help as he had done countless times already.  
     He decided he would take a shortcut home, usually he avoided the route because Peckham had a bad reputation.  But because the sun was shining and there were a decent number of people out and about he though it would be perfectly safe to cut through a rougher part of town.  
     On my mission I was standing outside the house of one of the people we had been teaching about the church.  He had been very nice in the past (unlike many others)  it was a long day and I had been hoping to finally have a set appointment with someone go through that day.  Unfortunately it didn't go through, the man never answered the door, he must have forgotten our appointment, or maybe decided he wasn't interested anymore without even fully hearing us out.  We walked slowly away from the door and down a few flights of steps.
     We decided we would speak to people in the area on the street in that area and see if we could have any better success there.  We walked slowly down the path trying to stop people along the way. 
     Patrick practically ran headlong into 2 mormon missionaries.  1 was from Spain and the other was American.  Because he still had about a weeks worth of vacation he decided to have them over that Week.  That missionary was me.  On our first visit to his home we taught him about the gospel and shared the Book of Mormon with him.  We could tell that something was bothering him but we couldn't tell what because he hid it well.  After a few Sundays of coming to church, I could see that he seemed to be doing much better.  We talked to him about it and he said, "As I was alone, now I am not" Church had a personally uplifting effect for him.  The blessings of church attendance are personal, that much was clear to me.  I also know that they can apply to many of the people around us.  I know that attending church has helped me to "Ride in the high places".  Patrick did end up joining the church and is fully active today.
     As a last scripture I am reminded; Matthew 6:26 "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" God knows our needs and wants to help us, many times he can only give us that help if we are willing to accept it.  One of the ways that we can accept that help is through follow the commandments, including keeping the Sabbath Day Holy to the best of our ability.  Coming to church may often be hard, but it's always worth it. 


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Pooh Sticks

     This past past preparation day we decided we would go to the 100 acre wood (yes that is an actual real place).  So after getting permission we picked up some other elders and as the 4 of us we went searching.  Along the way we had some trials, we got lost about 34812903812 times, we almost ran out of fuel, then the nearest petrol station was about 6 miles away and we were running out of time (the 100 acre woods are in the middle of no where).  Anyway, by the end of it I was really tired and just wanted to go home.  We saw the bridge though that is the bridge in Winnie the Pooh where they play Pooh Sticks.  We played a round of Pooh sticks, and I came out with the win which I was very excited about.
     When you play Pooh sticks what you do if you aren't familiar to the game is you each take 1 stick and go to the bridge.  Then determine which way the water is flowing.  You all then throw your sticks in the water at the same time on the upstream side of the bridge and then go to the other side of the bridge and wait for your stick to come out the other side.  Then comes the tricky part, you have to remember what your stick looks like because if the stick that comes out the other side first belongs to you then you win!  It is a childs game but because that is what the bridge is famous for we all had to play.
     So if I'm being honest, there aren't really that many appropriate parallels to Pooh sticks and Baptism, I really did end up enjoying the trip out the the 100 acre wood, but I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about baptism which is very important.  In preach my gospel lesson 3 under where it talks about baptism it says; "Baptism by immersion is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior. In a similar way, it represents the end of our old life of sin and a commitment to live a new life as a disciple of Christ." (bold added) I am struck by the word disciple.  When I think of a disciple I think about the word discipline.  I have found that it is often not easy to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  To me the word disciple means a follower.  In other words when we are a disciple of Jesus Christ we do not just listen to him, but we do the things he would want us to do.
     When we are baptised we promise to be disciples of Jesus Christ, I love the words in the New Testament "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:29) I love it because to me a yoke is a symbol of discipleship.  When we are baptised we take his yoke upon us, if we are willing to do this then it will be huge in increasing the quality of our lives.

Pooh Bridge

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Packet of Mints

     I must have been about 10 years old.  I went through the supermarket with my mother and my older brother. I dragged my heals as deep as I could into the tile floor and begged my mother to buy me every snack, sweet, and sugary morsel I could see.  Eventually we came to the checkout line and that seemed to be the straw on the camel's back.  My mother told my brother and I that we could pick 1 item each.  Those clever marketing and psychology specialists who put all the chocolate and chewing gum in the checkout line.... I'll have a rant about them in another blog post possibly... But for now, my young heart leapt for joy and I felt I had just had a momentous victory.  I scanned through the many choices several times and then grabbed a packet of mints that I thought were amazing.  Somehow, I made it through the line and accidentally held on to the packet of mints without having them scanned by the cashier.  In other words, before I knew it I had become a shoplifter as I followed my mother out of the shop.
     Thoughts raced through my 10 year old heart.  "I am a villain" and then I thought, "I wonder how long they will put me in prison for," last of all I thought, "This is all my mom's fault!"  Months passed by, I never said anything, but about six months later the guilt from this experience weighed deep into my soul.  For some reason I could not seem to forget something as simple as stealing a package of mints that probably would have cost no more than 60 cents.  One day, I was sick, and after staying home from school I confided in my mother about the horrible guilt that I felt from my dishonesty.  We drove back to the shop around 6 months after I took the packet of mints and paid for them.  I'm sure the manager had a laugh later that I cried my eyes out as I admitted my guilt over 60 cents.
      But I am reminded of the story of Karl G. Maeser, a prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He was quoted to say,
     "I have been asked what I mean by “word of honor.” I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I might be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first.”
     Being perfectly honest is something that I strive towards everyday.  As we live by our "word of honor"  we can be blessed with increased peace of mind in our lives, others around us will trust us more, and we will feel more accountable for the things we do and say. This increased accountability will increase our performance in all areas of our life.  We will also have the spirit more in our life as we follow Jesus Christ's example of honesty.  If we mess up, we can make use of the atonement through sincere repentance.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Spirit of Christ

So, this week I reflected on geology.  I was recently able to go and visit Seven Sisters, which in basic terms is a big cliff made out of chalk that is on the southern side on England, right on the coast.  It has some pretty breathtaking views and was a good day.  I got chalk all over my shoes, trousers, and hands.  It took a while to clean myself all up afterwards.
     Something that I saw that I thought was really cool was that when the tide is down you can walk along the coast at the bottom of the cliffs, all the rocks there are made of chalk and have a green slippery moss on them that isn't the most attractive but this area creates a nice place for a bunch of small sea creatures to live. I was hopping from rock to rock when I saw one of the rocks had split down the middle.  This is a picture of it:

     As you can see the outside is pretty gross while the inside is bright and shinning white. This rock is equally as white on the inside as the rocks that are still up on the top of the cliff side. A popular scripture comes to mind from the Book of Mormon which says:
     "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
     But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him."
     I was honestly a little bit surprised to see how white and clean looking the rock was on the inside despite the circumstances it was in.  That even though it was in conditions that would easily lead to becoming covered in grime and moss, it was still shockingly white.
     There is a way that we can keep ourselves pure despite bad circumstances.  This is to follow "the spirit of Christ"  and to follow what we know to be right.  When we do this, we can find stability and blessings.  The quality of our lives will improve here and now.  These blessings are immediate as well as long lasting.  They increase as time goes on and help confirm to us that what we are doing is right.

Saturday, 3 May 2014


     Some time ago, I remember buying a little bit of furniture for a new flat I was moving into, and a friend gave us a sofa as a gift because she knew we didn't have enough furniture.  Upon delivering all the furniture we ran into an interesting situation w here everything went in except the sofa.  The problem being that the front door was unusually narrow.  The other problem was that the flat was not on the ground floor, it was 1 floor up.  After a few awkward situations with storing it, a few weeks later we finally organized for a friend to come with a ladder.  He pushed the couch up the ladder with his head (no small feat) and we stood at the top and pulled it in through the window.
     Then, a few weeks later, there were university students we knew fairly well that offered us another couch.  We foolishly accepted, forgetting all the problems we had the last time we tried to get a couch into our flat.  But notwithstanding this we took a look at it and it was quite a bit smaller than the last couch and we assumed it would fit this time.  But after dragging it about a mile and a half over to our flat and trying about 20 times to fit it through the doorway, it felt a lot like fitting a square peg into a circular hole.  We sat for a few minutes out on the sidewalk with the couch in silence.  Then I slowly sat down on the couch and placed my back carefully against one armrest and my feet on the other laying down.  Then I kicked as hard as I could and snapped the arm right off.  After that the couch fit right through the doorway and we later had to fix the couch ourselves.  
     All this drama of getting these 2 couches into our flat makes me think sometimes.  I ponder somewhat regularly on repentance.  To repent to me means to change in a way that puts my will more in line with God's will.  Repentance is more than saying sorry, it is showing that you are sorry, by doing all you can to not be a repeat offender any longer! I am far from perfect, but I try my best to repent when I do fall short of what God asks me to do.  Often I make a resolution, never again will I do that again!  NEVER AGAIN will I accept a couch as a gift!  Only to realize in the moment just a small while later that I am making the same mistakes that I thought I had left in the dust.  Often they are even things that I had thought I overcome, only to see myself doing the same thing.
    When these things happen I find it is important to not get discouraged.  I was very frustrated when the second couch didn't fit through the doorway.  I started to have flashbacks and fears emerge from the memory of the first couch.  Just know when faced in these situations, that this happens to everyone.  Everyone at some point doesn't quite measure up, and they do it more than once.  They commit to being better and they do not reach that commitment.  The key is to not give up or allow discouragement to slow your progress.  God does not demand instant perfection, but rather he pleads for constant progression.  As you repent regularly you will come to see that it is always worth it.
     Remember also, how much easier prevention is than repentance.  Don't be the person who says they will sin now and repent later.  The Book of Mormon teaches that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God".   No matter how good it sounds at first, sin always results in a decrease in happiness for someone. It would have been so much easier to just not accept the second couch, rather than have to break it and then do all I can to fix it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


     When I was about 17 years old I decided I wanted to learn how to dive off a diving board.  I had no more experience than the ability to swim as well as having gone through the typical lightweight cannon ball escapades.  I told my parents, and they signed me up for some diving lessons.  I was embarrassingly caught on the first day, in a class of six with five 13-14 year old girls.   But I decided I would endure and continue on.  My desire to learn how to dive drove me forward.
     First the teacher walked us through the basics, and then we did some diving off the ground by the side of the pool, then slowly we moved up, to diving without jumping from the lowest diving board.  Then eventually we were ready to attempt a full on jumping swan dive.  I was very excited for this, a few of my friends had self taught themselves how to do it and now I would be able to show off the next time we went swimming!
     When my turn came, a few of the girls had gone before me, and 2-3 had been successful in pulling off the maneuver.  I got up there and did the carefully measured out steps and footwork the teacher had taught me.  But as I cam to the edge of the board, I chickened out, and I buckled my knees instead of jumping off the edge.  After teetering for a moment on the edge of the board, I awkwardly slipped off the board and dropped the 3 or 4 feet down into the water.  As I came out of the water I heard the subsiding laughs of the girls in my class.  My pride wounded, I waited for my next attempt.
     When my turn came I went for it again, but this time I jumped off the board with a bit too much enthusiasm.  As I turned to go headfirst into the water, again I was not 100% committed to the maneuver, I didn't fully trust the proven technique to stay committed to the dive and tried to pull out.  The result was devastating as I slammed belly down on the water which subsequently knocked the breath right out of me. After coming to terms with the pain, I slowly got out of the pool again.  
    Commitment is a huge part of our faith.  What we get out of the gospel comes from how committed we are to it.  Now I'm not saying necessarily that if you are a little less to the gospel, that the result will be as painful as a belly flop.  But the difference to holding back on just a few things in the gospel makes a huge difference.  Also in order to commit ourselves we must know what we are committed to.  Just like me learning to dive, where I had to understand the theory and the technique of it all, we also need to learn all we can from the scriptures, revelation, and church leaders in order to know how we can be firmly committed to the church.
    For myself the blessings I have seen most readily when being as committed as I can have been that I feel the spirit so much stronger and more readily, I understand the gospel much better, and I see God's promised blessings fulfilled all the more periodically.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

General Conference is Here!!!

     So taking a side step for a week I wanted to talk about general conference.
This week on Saturday and Sunday the 5 and 6 of April at 10 am and at 2 pm MDT, a living prophet will speak.  That is either true or it is not, but either way it is a bold and very interesting claim.  For myself, I know it's true because I have heard the prophet speak and I have felt the spirit bear witness to me that he is a true prophet.  My invitation is to watch conference!  It is always so uplifting and I always learn so much.   here is a link you can watch it live: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/watch?lang=eng or watch it after the live showing by following links to general conference through lds.org.
   When I was about 8 years old I had a problem.  I had no idea as to whether I liked carrots or not.  I decided though that because they were a vegetable I didn't want to try them.  I had eaten them about 2 years before and I thought I could remember what they tasted like.  I could think of nothing so disgusting as eating a carrot.
     After going through life this way for a long time, every time I was offered a carrot I would deny it, all based on 1 experience that was only a shady memory.  Eventually I tried a carrot again and today I know that they are actually ok tasting, especially if they are prepared well.  I learned this through personal experience.  If you have negative experiences with faith in the past I would invite you to give it another try.  While painful those experiences may be, you really have very little to risk by dipping your toe in and trying to have a small spiritual experience.  General conference is a great way to do this.  From the comfort of your own home you can learn and grow and feel the spirit.  If this happens then take a further step of faith and see if the trend continues, try attending a local sacrament meeting.  I can promise that is a step you will never regret. It wont necessarily be easy, but it will be the first small step in the right direction.  

The LDS Conference Center

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Pull Over

     I had a fairly typical experience with learning to drive.  I was very easily excited and I was also very impatient in wanting to give it a try.  For my first driving experience, my wise and battle hardened mother who has already taught my older brother how to drive, drove me over to a local parking lot to practice in a low stress area.  After gaining enough confidence in the parking lot and driving around for about an hour, she also let me drive around my neighborhood for about half an hour.
     The next weekend I was given an unusual opportunity.  We needed to go to downtown Denver and I asked if I could drive.  My mother said that would be ok.  I was so elated!  The problem came when we actually got downtown though, the suburban our family owned, seated 8 people and seemed to me to be wider than the lanes I was supposed to be driving in.  After a couple of close calls, I heard the sirens of an ambulance coming up behind me.  I panicked and attempted to pull the car over to the side of the road, out of the way.  I over-steered and curb checked at a little higher speed than I meant to come in at and the car jostled violently as 2 of the wheels went up onto the sidewalk.  I looked up and saw 2 pedestrians right in the path of my travel who looked like deer caught in my headlights.  After a second they seemed to laugh it off after having seen my pathetic driving prowess.
     The point of this story is to illustrate that there is life after death.  When an ambulance is pulling up behind you, all cars eventually get out of the ambulance's way.  Likewise we all will one day die.  When we die, our spirits go to a place called the spirit world where, if we are righteous, we will be in a state of rest and of happiness.  While if we are not righteous then we will be in a state of unhappiness.  When it was my time to pull over, I found myself unprepared and feeling unready.  The result was quite the stressful situation, I was not happy that I had to pull over. In fact, the ambulance's sudden appearance scared me to half to death! It can be the same with death in this life, if we find ourselves unprepared for that day then we will find ourselves in a state of unhappiness.   While if we prepare ourselves, "pulling over" will not be nearly so traumatic an experience.  

Friday, 14 March 2014

How Firm a Foundation

     The London Temple is an incredible building, but it is one with a history as well.  In 1952, president David O. Mckay travelled to several European countries selecting and acquiring sites for future temples.   In this process he felt very inspired in his work.  One of the sites he chose was in England, but after reviewing the land, engineers were hesitant to go forward with it because it was very swampy.  They wanted to be sure that such an important building was built with a strong foundation.  They felt this location would not be capable offering the temple such a foundation.  
     However, after taking a closer look, they found bedrock at the correct depth to support the foundation of the temple.  Temple construction went forward and today we have this; 

     One of my favourite scriptures is in the Book of Mormon in Heleman 5:12.  It says;  "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." 
     This is meaningful to me because Christ is the foundation of my life.  Just like the engineers, there will always be sceptics about that, but if you honestly seek for it, you can find that foundation in your life.  Christ died for each of us so that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father one day and so that we can be with our families and those we love forever.  Temples play an important role in this, to find out more about why temples are important take a look here.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Learning to Swim

     If you knew me as a kid, I hope that one thing you would know is that I hated swimming lessons.  I slowly got into the pool but held on to the edge with a viselike grip, even though they had put a large table in the bottom of the pool for us all to stand on.  I wasn't falling for the false sense of security.  The teacher continued in her deceitful ways and told all 6 of the kids there that we needed to bob our heads completely under water and try to blow bubbles.  I saw straight through her scam and I wasn't about to fall for it.  I knew she would just keep asking more and more of us until eventually she would ask us to leave the safety of the table and attempt to swim.
     The good news was I had a plan, as she turned her head and faced away from me for a second or two, I initiated it.  I quickly splashed a bit of water on my hair and wiped my wet hands on my face to make it look like I had gone under water.  As she turned and looked at the rest of the class she congratulated us all for doing such a good job.  In my mind I was gloating, Success!  I had pulled off the biggest coup ever!!! She would never find out that I hadn't actually gone under water!  Unfortunately I was very wrong, my mother had been watching from the side of the pool and was not very impressed.  She updated my swimming teacher after the lesson and plans were set in place to make sure I didn't get away with anything in the future. As a result of this, it took me far longer to learn how to swim than it should have.
     This story is connected to the story of the garden of eden.  Adam and Eve were the first man and woman and were placed in the garden of eden which was a state of paradise where they lived with God.  Here they couldn't fully appreciate joy because they could not feel pain, they were in a state of immortality.  They were given the commandment not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The did this and because of this they became mortal and they as well as us are now able to have this mortal experience and gain a body and grow and learn from making mistakes.  
     Agency is a powerful thing, just like adam and eve had the choice weather to eat of the fruit or not, I had the choice to be obedient to the teacher or not.  By not doing what I was supposed to, I experienced shame and sadness.  This is likewise with Adam and Eve, they also experienced shame and sadness.  But from that mistake we are able to learn and all of us were enabled with the chance to come here and have this mortal experience.  Also interestingly in this mortal life, we can try and short change the experience and get away with things in life.  But if we do that we are getting rid of our purpose in being here.  What is the point of taking swimming lessons if you aren't going to try and learn how to swim?  Life is very much like this, we all make mistakes, but what is the point of coming to earth and gaining a body, if we aren't going to try and do everything we can to learn and grow from it and fulfill the purpose of coming here by trying to become more like our father in heaven throughout our lives?  

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Creative Reasoning

     So usually I tell stories that either happened to me, or happened to someone I know, but this week I was thinking a lot about this story that is actually more of a parable.  So I thought I'd share it.
     There once was a man standing at the top of a very tall cliff.  There was also a tree at the top of the cliff.  He was leaning with one arm up against the tree and gazing out at the incredible view when suddenly an unexpectedly large gust of wind came along and threw him right off the edge of the cliff.  In that moment of terror he fell and flailed his arms and legs helplessly.  Miraculously his hand caught hold of one of the roots of the tree on the top of the cliff that was protruding from the cliff face.  He took a minute to calm himself down, realizing he was still alive, and then looked for what to do next.  After surveying his situation for a little while he realized he was pretty stuck, there was no way of climbing up, and no way of climbing down.  He did the only thing he could think to do, he prayed.  God answered his prayer and he had a short dialogue with God.  The conversation went something like this;

Man: "Can you help me get back on top of the cliff?"
God:  "Yes of course, but its a matter of if you are willing to accept my help.  I have a few questions first, do you believe that I created this cliff?"
Man: "Yes I definitely do!"
God: "Good, do you believe that I created the tree, the root of which you are holding onto right now?"
Man: "Yes I believe you created this tree."
God: "Ok, well do you believe that I created the gust of wind that blew you off the side of the cliff?"
Man:  (humbly)  "I..... Yes, I don't know why you created the gust of wind, but yes  I believe you created it."
God: "Do you believe that I could create a gust of wind that could push you back up on top of the cliff."
Man: (pause)  "Yes I believe you can."
God: "Ok then, let go of the root."

     This story illustrates a lot of principles and can be applied to a lot of things.  I wanted to talk about the creation.  I don't know how God created the earth, I know what it says in Genesis but I have no idea what that entails.  I don't endeavor to try to explain how God may have created the earth.  I have theories, but to me it isn't very important how God created the earth, but I think the question that is more important is why did he create it?

     Under the Direction of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to come and experience mortality.  Just like the man in this story didn't understand why God created the gust of wind that pushed him off the cliff, I don't understand all the why's to the creation, for example, I don't like mosquito's and I don't understand why God created them specifically.  But I know that the creation was for us, it was done because God loves us and wanted to give us this opportunity, to give us somewhere to come and experience mortality.  While in this life we don't remember our pre-earth life.  We must walk by faith, not by sight.  Just like the man is asked to let go of the root and exercise trust in God, we too must often exercise trust and from showing that trust, our faith will grow because God will keep his promises to us.  A humble perspective with trust in his purposes will help us focus on the important questions.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Playing with Fire

    When I was a boy, I would periodically go camping with my father who was always pretty enthusiastic about nature.  When I was 12 years old I had very different feelings than my father and hated the thought of having to go outside without a good reason. Every year there was a camping trip we would go on in the mountains near our home in Colorado.
     One year, as the sun was setting, we started to work on starting a campfire.  My dad realized he had forgotten to bring matches or any sort of lighter.  It wasn't a big ordeal though because we would do what is called car camping, which was my favorite type of camping because your tent is usually only a stones throw away from the car.  So he sent me with a big ball of lint he had taken from the clothes dryer before we left and told me to light it on fire using the cigarette lighter built into the car.  Not hard to convince a 12 year old to take the assignment to light a fire.  
     Unfortunately I had no idea how to use the thing.  I used my common sense as best as I could though and pushed the cigarette lighter down until it lit up.  After sitting there a few minutes I got impatient and pulled on the cigarette lighter, which was on a spring so it popped right out and I lost my grip on it, but I hadn't pulled the tray out for it to fall in.  So the nearly fully heated cigarette lighter landed on my lap, to which I panicked and grabbed it and threw it on the seat next to me.  Next, I reached over and tried to pick it back up to use it on the lint.  But I was clueless when it comes to these things and grabbed it by the metal which was very hot.  I severely burned my fingers and screamed in pain.  My father came over and showed me how to use the cigarette lighter properly and help me nurse my 2 burn injuries.  
     So before this life we lived with God as spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.  He has a body of flesh and bone and we were just spirits.  We could never become more like him or enjoy all the blessings he had in store for us without experiencing mortal life.  He presented a plan to us to come to earth and gain a physical body and to learn and grow and gain experiences.  
     This plan was centered on Christ, who would make it possible for us to return to our father in heaven, as well as on agency, which is a gift form God and is the ability to chose.  How we use this gift will decide our eternal progression.  
     The purpose of this plan that God has for each and every one of us is to learn and grow and become more like our father in heaven.  When my dad showed me how to use the cigarette lighter I instantly wanted to become more like him and learn how to do it, but I was a bit weary admittedly about going anywhere near that thing again.  Learning both to be careful around hot objects, as well as how to use a cigarette lighter, came from personal experience.  This life is a huge opportunity provided for us by our heavenly father, it is up to us how we choose to use it.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Avoid Flat Tires

     So this week I wanted to talk about a tractor. The tractor that I have in mind is called a combine. It is a tractor that harvests, threshes, and cleans grain. The story is a tragedy and it comes as so often many things do, from laziness.
     That morning was like any other, Stockton woke up and got ready for the day. He was going to be working all morning for his dad by driving the combine over a huge field his family owned. What a day what a day! Driving the combine was one of the most boring jobs he had to do on the family farm. The technique is quite simple, drive for about 10 miles 1 way, then when you get to the end of the field you turned it around and go the other way, similar technique to using a vacuum cleaner, you just want to run over every square inch of the field. The combine his family had was very expensive, and went about 8 miles per hour while harvesting.
     After a few hours of driving it was getting quite warm, and Stockton hadn't gotten the best nights sleep. He knew he should just take a break, but his pride, and the possibility of displeasing his father kept him going. After a few close calls, eventually the inevitable happened and he fell dead asleep while making a pass on the field, about halfway done with the field. The combine, of course, had cruise control and continued along it's path and slammed down one of the fences surrounding the property.
     Unfortunately somehow one of the posts of the fence created a puncture in the tire of the combine, which was surprising because the wheels are very durable and should have been just fine. This was a costly mistake, it was a front tire and would cost the family about $1000 to replace it. You can imagine Stockton's father was not overly impressed by the reason why the incident had happened. At the end of the day it was put down to pure laziness. That or a lack of common sense. It was a pretty embarrassing situation.
     The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture that I believe along with the Bible is scripture and the word of God. Together, they support and teach us about God and are powerful witnesses of him. They contain God's warnings for us today, and how we can be happy in this life and have eternal life in the life to come. By reading and praying about both of them together, you can come to know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.
     Sometimes a lapse of concentration, or a foolish move on my part can cause me to experience bad things. But I know that by paying attention and taking the simple steps to strengthen my testimony, that it will lead me to increased happiness. It is as simple as reading the scriptures, praying about them, and attending church. Nearly as simple as turning a combine around, it may be intimidating at first if you are asked to do it, especially if you have never had the experience of driving a combine before. Likewise going to church, reading, and praying, seem difficult at first but are actually very simple steps that anyone can take. I have seen how doing this has helped me to find more happiness and avoid a lot of tragedies in my life. I have found and maintained a testimony that God is there from these things.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Baseball Miracle

     2 guys were walking along the street talking.  One was a baseball player, he was the starting pitcher for a university, we'll call him Benny, the other man was planning on going to university very shortly, we'll call him Scotty.  After a few hours they picked up some abuse in the form of a young group of boys around 14-17 years old that started following them and yelling the 3 words of profanity they knew again and again at the men.  Eventually they started throwing rocks which Benny and Scotty pretty much completely saw coming as they continuously tried to walk quickly and diligently away from the neighborhood.  
     They hurried down the street but Benny lost his cool as the children chased them, it might have had something to do with getting hit with a rock or two.  He stooped and picked up a rock.  Scotty was about to express his concerns for the situation but then it was too late.  As the abuse escalated and the shouting intensified, Benny pivoted, and threw the rock as hard as he could towards the children.  BANG!  as the rock hit a stop sign right in the dead center and left a large gash in the metal.  The children went absolutely silent.  The throw had been so fast, and so accurate and unexpected.  For weeks after this, whenever the men would walk by, the children would run out and bring rocks to Benny so they could watch him throw them.  
     This story is one that I love!  To me I learned from it that a lot of incredible things in life come from difficult beginnings.  The men were persecuted and went through a hard time.  But out of that situation, because it was handled in a good way they were able to become friends with the kids.  If you think about this story, the children would have never found out about Benny's incredible throwing arm if bad things hadn't happened first.  
     Bearing that in mind, I wanted to talk about what is called the great apostasy which led into a restoration.  From my last post I said that an apostasy is a time when there is no prophet on the earth.  This is a difficult situation comparable to the story.  After the death of Christ and the apostles, there was an apostasy.  The priesthood authority was lost, there was no longer a prophet of God on the earth to maintain the standard of worthiness and receive revelation on behalf of the world.  From this apostasy many churches were created by men.  Eventually truth seeking men and women realized there was a problem and called for change, they were known as the reformers.  
     These people recognized that they were not prophets but called for change, some even recognized the need for an eventual restoration of the gospel.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I believe that Christ's church was lost from the earth, but now has been restored by God, that he has called a living day prophet, and a quorum of 12 apostles just like the organization that existed in Christ's original church.  From a difficult situation, a lot has come. When we handle difficult situations correctly we often have miracles in unexpected ways.  

Thursday, 30 January 2014

A Type and Symbol of Christ

     So this week I wanted to talk about Christ, I find it interesting with this that there are a ton of types and symbols of Christ.  You can draw parallels in many places where they may not have been even intended.  The first ones that come to my mind are; Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, Moses holding up a brass serpent, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (especially in the movies),  Superman, Harry Potter, the list goes on and on.  The reason for this I feel is because what Christ did was the most heroic act of all time.
     By following his example and trying to develop more Christlike characteristics we show our love for God.  While in London I have seen many good examples of Christlike people.  As a mormon missionary I was once teaching a man who was in very humble circumstances just outside of London, his name is Paul.  His wife had left him and he was in a difficult place for money.  He received help from the government and one month pulled out his money for the next 4 weeks and headed home on his bike.
     What he didn't know was that his wallet fell out of his pocket.  So when he arrived home the money that was meant to feed him, and keep his gas and electric going for the month, was all missing.  About 200 pounds which is around 400 dollars.  With no heating, food, or gas to cook food, he felt very hopeless.
     We stopped by with a man who is a local member of the church.  As we stepped inside the member asked about Paul's problems, recognizing that it was very cold in the humble home.  Within 20 seconds he had figured out what the problem was, and asked for the gas and electric key for the home.  (a gas and electric key is basically a card that gives you pay as you go gas and electric, you top it up at a shop and then stick it into a machine back at your house to use the credit.)
     He returned in about 10 minutes and turned the heating on with around 18 pounds on the card and a bag full of groceries.  Paul asked if he wanted to him to repay his selfless act when he had the money.  The member said that he didn't want to be re-payed,  and at this point Paul lost control of his emotions and repeatedly thanked him.
     The nice thing about Christ is that his love, like this members love, is selfless.  He came and payed for our sins so that all that is unfair about life can be made right.  His atonement, or his suffering in Gethsemane, death on the cross, and resurrection, make it possible so that all of us can one day return to live with God despite our many short comings. Christ did many things during his mortal ministry, always demonstrating that love.  He also set up a church and established his doctrines, he called 12 men as apostles and gave them authority to preach his message.  I'd like to just leave also my favorite quote about this subject; "Live in such a way that people who know you but don't know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you."

Thursday, 23 January 2014

One Ring to Rule Them All...

     One of my favorite family activities as a kid was when we would float down different rivers wearing a life preserver.  I don't think my mother liked doing it herself because there were always a few perils involved.  First off the whole idea was to float down a stretch of river, feet pointed down stream for safety, in an area that had decent sized rapids.  You had to guide yourself down and avoid the more treacherous looking parts of the river.  Then you had to book it back to the car and beg my mom to drive us to the top, but she wouldn't let us in the car because we were soaking wet.   So, what we had to do was run bare foot to the top ourselves.  I remember one occasion specifically, not because it was one of the times that someone injured themselves on a rock, but because it was a little more symbolically meaningful to me.
     My dad went into the rapids about 30 feet ahead of me and we both came out to our spot of more calm water that we had decided was where we would get out of the water.  It was very dark and muddy in the shallows where we got out, and my dad had forgotten to take off his ring.  As he reached down to steady himself, then mud sucked it right off his finger.  
     At the time I didn't notice it, or maybe he didn't show it, but he was definitely panicking on the inside.  We scrambled through the mud looking for the ring for about 15 minutes with our hands in the dark, murky water, praying we would feel it.  The number of Gollum/Smeagol Lord of the Rings jokes I could have dropped was almost unbearable, but my dad didn't seam in the mood.  My memory isn't perfect, but I do think we ended up finding the ring after quite a bit of prayer and searching.  
      A prophet is a man chosen by God to act on his behalf for the salvation of his children.  Prophets receive revelation about the true nature of God and about how we can draw nearer to him.  If people do what the prophet says, then God blesses them.  But when people don't follow the prophet, they don't receive those blessings.  When this happens widespread it is called an apostasy, and if it gets bad enough, God takes away the prophet.  But because God loves us, he will always send another prophet.  This pattern of apostasies (no prophet on the earth) and dispensations (period of time with a prophet on the earth)  goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.
     Just like the ring was in my dad's possession but then was lost and subsequently found, so is the pattern that happens with prophets.  But just like the ring has deeper significance than it's surface value (namely it is a symbol of my parents marriage)  Also having a prophet of God on the earth has deep significance.  For example: it means the authority of God to do things like baptism is on the earth (priesthood), it means that we can receive guidance from God through the prophet on current day challenges, and it means that God is still communicating with us today.  Having a prophet doesn't take away from our personal relationship with God, we still must seek that through prayer, reading scriptures, etc.  But rather, following the prophet strengthens our relationship with God. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Faithful to Our Families

    Where does joy come from? Where do you find lasting happiness? I have asked this question to thousands of people and have gotten varying responses, from money, to girls, whatever else people want at that moment, all these answers are far overwhelmed by those who say that lasting happiness for them comes from having a happy family. The movie Iron Man says it well, Tony Stark is "... a man who has everything... and nothing" because he has lots of money but no family.

    The hardest trials in our lives often come when they hit closest to home, its often the worst when it affects our families. My great great grandmother lived through one of these nightmares. Her name was Dorothea, she lived in Chicago in 1911 and it was at this time that her husband left her. She had two kids and as you can imagine felt quite alone and abandoned. Her family and friends gave her the advice to move to California so that she could find work more easily. She decided that was a good idea and borrowed some money from her family and took her small, struggling family on a train to southern California.

    When she arrived in California she found a cheap hotel room and had enough money to stay there for a day or two. So she left her kids in the room and told them not to answer the door if anyone knocked and started walking, stopping at every store and asking for a job. After about an hour she found a place that the manager agreed to hire her for just a few days because they were short staffed with one of their employees was sick.

    She excitedly got right to work and went to stocking produce shelves. After a few hours of work, she saw a man come in that looked a little shady. She saw him reach out and take an apple off a shelf and sneak it into his pocket. Realizing this wasn't right she thought about it for a minute and then decided to confront him. She told him that he shouldn't become a thief for the price of an apple and that if he was hungry, the manager was a pretty nice guy and would probably let him have one if he just asked and he really needed it.

    After considering what she said silently the man nodded and walked over to the manager. A few minutes later she noticed the man was still talking with the manager and that the two of them were laughing. Then they shook hands and the shady man left. The manager then walked over to her and said "Well that was interesting.... If that man comes back and takes something, it's ok. He is the owner of the shop." Dorothea was so embarrassed, and started to apologise but then was cut off. The manager said "Don't be embarrassed, he was very impressed, he wants to hire you on full time! What do you think? Do you want the job?" A startled "yes" was all she could manage. 

      The home is the best place to learn and apply gospel principles. Just as Dorothea had no idea who would be watching her actions, the same is true for children, they watch and learn from their parents actions often far more than their words. Also, the best way to draw closer to God is as a family. This poor widow showed what family truly means by her dedication to provide for her children. I believe that the family is established by God, and that we can live forever with our families after this life if we do the things we need to in order to prepare for the life after this one. Our choices matter and have lasting consequences for more than just us. 

    Thursday, 9 January 2014

    Knowledge is Power

         Johnny wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, or the sharpest tool in the shed, or even the smartest suit in the closet.  What I'm trying to say is that Johnny often made poor judgement calls.
         Johnny's father loved to hunt and was a staunch and proud redneck.  Johnny's father lent him his extra bow and some arrows once so they could go hunting for deer together.
        After a few hours they set themselves up for an easy catch, Papy (Johnny's father) was at the bottom of a hill and scared a few deer up the hill to a waiting Johnny.  As the deer entered the clearing near Johnny, Papy saw him pull back, release and..... the bow snapped in Johnny's face.
         From reviewing what happened, Johnny said, "I held the arrow in place, pulled back the string and let it fly hoping it would catch the arrow along the way, and carry it on through."  Papy was furious at it all, Johnny, hadn't nocked the arrow on the string but just hoped the string and back of the arrow would line up.  From dry firing, the bow snapped because of this horrible misuse.
         Often an incorrect view of God shakes or destroys our faith, just like the bow in this story.  That, or sometimes we expect God to do all the work for us.  For him to scare the deer, knock the arrow, and even pull back the string.  But God has given us this mortal experience to learn and grow. The purpose of this life is not to be pampered, but to be prepared for the life after this.  As we do the small and simple things necessary such as prayer and try to learn more about God, we can come to know him.