Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why I Believe: The Scriptures

If you're new to the blog, you should know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons. The first weekend in April and October are special times for Mormons. It's the opportunity to listen to a prophet of God speak to us. We call it General Conference. Leading up to Conference, I'll be posting some of my beliefs and why I belief the way I do. I hope it helps you understand Mormonism and Mormons a little bit more.

 Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the Bible. I love the Bible. I've been studying the New Testament lately, and I feel even closer to my Savior each time I study it. The Bible is the word of God, given to prophets who taught the people how to return to live with God again.

Similarly, Mormons also believe in the Book of Mormon (hence, the nickname). The Book of Mormon is also the word of God given to prophets. The Bible takes place in the Middle East and the Holy Land. The Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets in the Americas. They knew of the coming of Christ and prophesied about it just like the prophets in the Bible. The Book of Mormon's purpose is to "convince Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST." The Bible tells out that "out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." The Book of Mormon is a second witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ.

A Book of Mormon prophet wrote, "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."

The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith, a modern prophet. God has always used prophets to teach and declare his word. We still need prophets to teach us. As we read the words of prophets as found in the scriptures, we will come closer to our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We will feel the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I love the Book of Mormon and the Bible. They help me come closer to Christ. They bring me hope in times of need. They are the words of God and we will know the way to return to live with God if we abide by the principles that are taught therein.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on Changing the World

You may call me an overly optimistic optimist. You may call me crazy. Nonetheless, these are some thoughts that have been accumulating in my mind over the last several days since BYU's Hunger Banquet.

Too many people want change but do nothing to bring it about. Too often, we just throw money at a problem and leave feeling justified that we have done our part. I can't do that. My conscience doesn't allow me to. I have every intention of making a difference in the world.

This is not a post about how I'm going to change the world. I'm still figuring that out. Rather, it's about how we can do our part individually to change things around us.

At the Hunger Banquet, Steven Dorsey, director of the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, spoke about the theme -- Peace by Piece. He said that each of us must be willing to put our piece into bringing an end to conflict, hunger, and oppression. How does one do that? Mr. Dorsey offered four suggestions.

1) You must be at peace with yourself.
2) The Love of God must pervade your heart.
3) The love of our neighbors must be evident in all our interactions.
4) Action -- You cannot just feel. You have to act.

Too often, we think that we cannot change anything because of our limitations. It's not enough to feel pity. It's not enough to be saddened by the situations in Africa, Japan, or Haiti. It's not enough to just throw money at the problems hoping that they disappear. You can't ignore the problem until it goes away.

I can't be content when I think about problems in the world and problems in my own backyard. Not only is Africa a mess, but education in America is falling behind, kids in foster care are falling through the cracks, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, child soldiers, despotic dictators, tsunamis, hunger, famine, AIDS, and a million other issues surround us.

That's why there has to be change. That's why I have to do something about it and will do something about it. No longer will I sit apathetically by while there are things that I can do to make a difference. There's too much to do to just wait for opportunities to help. It's not enough to want change. You have to change. You have to be the point at which the status quo is no longer acceptable. The status quo is unacceptable. It's time to change.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Forks in the Road

I love this picture. It makes me laugh hysterically. It also gives a new meaning to the title of today's post.

Choices are everywhere in our lives. Do I really want to wake up? Should I shave? What should I wear? How badly do I want to do my homework right now? The list goes on and on. Some choices we make are of little consequence. Others make a whole lot of difference in the long run. We can't avoid choice. It attacks us even at the grocery store.

Sometimes, our choices are like forks in the road. I can make the choice to wake up on time or not. Two different forks; either one will take me in opposite directions. When we come to these, we often don't know which one to take. Both seem appealing and/or right. We are like Alice in Wonderland. We don't know where we're going. Every once in a while we get some helpful advice like that given to Alice by the Cheshire Cat, "If you do not know where you want to go, it does not matter which path you take." 

What we choose has implications in our lives. Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a talk entitled, "The Three R's of Choice," in which he laid out three aspects of choice: Right, Responsibility, and Results. We will, President Monson says, always have the right of choice. We are never limited in that aspect. We are not, however free from the results of consequences of choice.

Sometimes, the choices we make are stupid, we know that going into them, and we make the choice anyway. We don't make a whole lot of sense sometimes. In times like these, decisions become like the picture -- literal blocks in the road. Our choices can obstruct our path and halt our progress. Giant roadblocks. 

It's in times like these when I find myself frustrated and rent with indecision. I find myself wondering why I make such decisions; I beat myself over the head for those decisions, and then I make the same one a few days later.

Sometimes the choices we make in life don't make sense to others. My career path baffles much of my extended family. Some choices sadden those who love us the most. It is especially painful to be the observer to such choices. We all have the ability to choose, but not the ability to choose the results.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Confusion, Thy Name is Woman

  Girls -- I don't understand them. At all. If any of my female friends would like to enlighten me on how to understand the feminine mind, I would love it. Girls, please don't try to be so mysterious and confusing. I feel like I'm pretty straight forward in expressing things. I'm just asking for a little reciprocity. That's all. You'd think I would have a better understanding of relationships and girls and such since I grew up with four sisters. Not so. My sisters tend to make even less sense to me than other girls, but I love them anyway.   
  I still do not understand girls. They are so strange. I feel like sometimes they try to define relationships way too soon, which just makes things mildly awkward for the rest of the time...True story.
  Dating at BYU feels very mechanical -- you do it because that's what you're supposed to do or what culture mandates. Maybe that's just my struggle with the culture in Utah. Maybe it's sociology. One purpose of dating is to prepare you to find/marry your eternal companion. In the process, you find things that you want and don't want in a potential spouse. That's why it's fun to date lots of people.
  I also don't understand the rush to get married. I enjoy taking my time with things, and I think that when something as important as marriage is involved, it should take time. Girls, it's okay to be 20 (or older) and single. Guys (especially RMs) it's okay to not be married after only being home for three weeks. Cool the jets, please.
  This thinking stems mostly from this two year plan I developed. It goes something like this: I spent my mission (2 years) being with someone constantly. I am giving myself at least that much time without serious/committed relationships. So far, it's worked out fairly well. I still date... occasionally...and make friends with girls in my ward and classes.
  There's this theory in sociology called the Paradox of Love Relations. Because society is becoming more and more individualistic and we have fewer and fewer meaningful relationships, we look for substitutes and try really hard to have those relationships. In doing so, we strive to find someone who will accept all of who and what we are. We let them see every side of us, every skeleton we've kept hidden, and every dream and aspiration. In doing this, we scare the other off -- we are viewed as too intense or desperate. We can't let everything out. Somethings are best left hidden. In searching for the idea of love, we come to find that we cannot have a perfect love and we slowly begin to hide who we are and what it means to exist for us.
  That's all I have to say about that today. The Paradox of Love Relations. Confusing women. Two year plans. Girls. You make no sense.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Life is a Paradox

Sometimes I laugh at myself for having conflicting plans and paradoxical ideas. Here's a sample of them:
1) I really want a break from school this summer, but I know if I take one I'll be a semester behind and be at BYU longer than I really want.
2) Marriage is not in the plans for me right now and yet I'm doing research on marital stability for my undergrad.
3) I am a liberal in the most conservative state in the Union.
4) I'm a mildly anti-social sociologist.

Life just doesn't make sense sometimes, but that's the fun of it I think. Paradoxes are the best.