Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gremlins and Their Rules!

Look how cute!
Who's seen the movie Gremlins? If not, go see it... like, right now. If you have, how awesome is that movie? Pretty awesome. I love that movie, because it's not only highly entertaining, and filled with neat little creatures (both the Mogwai and the Gremlins), but it also teaches a very valuable lesson. Not just in how to defend yourself from attacking gremlins or responsibility for pets. The Mogwai come with three very specific, very easy directions to follow: Don't feed them after midnight, don't get them wet, avoid bright light. All you have to do is those simple things, and everything is alright. How hard is that? You just play with your little Mogwai, give him a cool name like Gizmo, follow the rules, and you have nothing to worry about. But of course, it being a movie, it would be quite boring if nothing went wrong. The rules are broken, and pandemonium breaks out. The adorable little Mogwai turns into a not-so-adorable Gremlin. Cue zany antics, more mishaps, and lots of entertainment, and you've got yourself a great movie! But how much easier would life have been for Billy had he just followed the rules?
Oh geez!
Billy's story isn't too different from us. There are rules we have to follow all the time: traffic rules, rules in the classroom, rules our parents give us. There are lots of rules out there. But, most are pretty darn simple to follow. We think about the gospel: We're given rules, commandments, to follow. They're not at all difficult. We aren't expected to do anything we can't handle, and are promised great blessings in return. It should be pretty simple to just go through with it. And of course, just like with the Mogwai, there are consequences to not following these simple rules. These repercussions can make things very difficult for us. We don't want to have to deal with negative side effects, and luckily can very easily avoid that, simply by following the commandments. We can keep our Gizmo a cute, furry little Mogwai, and not have to worry about dealing with a scaly, malicious Gremlin. So, are we willing to follow the simple instructions, and avoid having things get out of hand?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the mission
All the missionaries were having little night visions
Of nice, big packages all loaded with presents
From friends and family all far from their presence.
Their families were sitting right by their phones,
Anxiously awaiting the semi-annual call home.
For some, it's their first, for others their last,
But either way, the time goes by quite fast.
But even with the excitement of gifts and phone calls,
The missionaries were still out in the snow fall:
Sharing a message about this wonderful season,
And what exactly is the true reason.
We honor the birth of our dear Lord and Savior,
Who came to this earth and did us the ultimate favor:
He gave up His life so that we might live.
So this Christmas season, let us to him give.
Let's give Him our time, our effort, our heart,
Our all, our devotion, let's all do our part.
Now my farewell, 'fore we go fight the good fight:
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Merry Christmas everyone! And remember, this time isn't about receiving or decorations, it's about our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Every Who Down In Who-Ville Like Christmas a lot...
But The Grinch, Who lived just North of Who-ville, Did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
But, Whatever the reason, His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistleoe wreath.
"And they're hanging their stockings!" he snarled with a sneer.
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"
Then he growled, with his grinch fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find a way to keep Christmas from coming!"
For, tomorrow, he knew... ...All the Who girls and boys
Would wake up bright and early. They'd rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they'd feast! And they'd feast! And they'd FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would start on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast
Which was something the Grinch couldn't stand in the least!
And THEN They'd do something he liked least of all!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!
They'd sing! And they'd sing! AND they'd SING! SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Grinch thought of the Who-Christmas-Sing
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!
"Why for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!
I MUST stop Christmas from coming! ...But HOW?"
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
"I know just what to do!" The Grinch Laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Grinchy trick!
With this coat and this hat, I'll look just like Saint Nick!
All I need is a reindeer..." The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch...? No! The Grinch simply said,
"If I can't find a reindeer, I'll make one instead!"
So he called his dog Max. Then he took some red thread
And he tied a big horn on top of his head.
THEN He loaded some bags and some old empty sacks
On a ramshakle sleigh and he hitched up old Max.
Then the Grinch said, "Giddyap!" And the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whos Lay a-snooze in their town.
All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first house in the square.
"This is stop number one," The old Grinchy Claus hissed
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue
Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row.
"These stockings," he grinned, "are the first things to go!"
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos' feast!
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
"And NOW!" grinned the Grinch, "I will stuff up the tree!"
And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove
When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!
Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this little Who daughter
Who'd got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, "Santy Claus, why,
Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?"
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,
"There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side.
So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here."
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head
And he got her a drink and he sent he to bed.
And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took Was the log for their fire.
Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.
On their walls he left nothing but hooks, and some wire.
And the one speck of food The he left in the house
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
Then He did the same thing To the other Whos' houses
Leaving crumbs Much too small For the other Whos' mouses!
It was quarter past dawn... All the Whos, still a-bed
All the Whos, still a-snooze When he packed up his sled,
Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!
Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
He rode to the tiptop to dump it!
"Pooh-pooh to the Whos!" he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!
That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "That I simply must hear!"
So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow...
But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
And what happened then...? Who-ville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he... ...HE HIMSELF...! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Conversion

So, for my newest blog post, I've decided to simply regale you with a personal story that's very near and dear to my heart: My conversion story. Now, if you know me pretty well, odds are you've heard this story, at least in part. There are several people out there who know a grand portion of it, many who know all but the finest details, and a few that were there for it. However, even those present from the beginning to the end... well, actually, no one was there from the beginning to the end. But, those who were there for the time of investigating this Church, even they are devoid of some things. So, for those who don't know me or my story, or those who want to learn more, or even for those who just want to hear it again, here it is:
It all started, I guess, when I was born. I was born into a good Christian family, and baptized into the Methodist Church as a baby. There we went for several years before moving to Massachusetts. Upon returning to Colorado, we started attending a Presbyterian church. That lasted another few years, until moving to an Evangelical church. We were pretty well rooted there, and attended regularly for about three years. At the age of twelve, my dad passed away. This shook me to the core. It's never easy to lose a parent, especially at that age. This made me question a lot of things, including the existence of God. Thanks to some friends who already weren't very religious, or who were also at that time questioning the same thing, I very quickly fell away from religion. What at first was simply a dislike for church turned into a dislike of religion, which became very heated and angry. I became hostile and antagonistic to people of faith, especially when they tried to talk to me about it. I would go out of my way to make sure religious people knew that I had nothing to do with their silly ideas. I even remember a specific occasion after a football game at my high school. I went to talk to a friend of mine who was talking to a girl. It quickly came out that she was Mormon, and if there was any religious person I would give a hard time, it was those crazy Mormons. This being the first time I'd ever met her, I still had no problem giving her a hard time about it, making her angry enough to storm off. Yep, that was me.
During this time, from about 13 to 17, I developed some very interesting views on... well, everything. In a nutshell, I was anarchist, atheist (and eventually even nihilist), anti-American, anti-big business, anti-media, anti-... everything. Like the line from the Marlon Brando flick "The Wild One", when he's asked what he's rebelling against, he answers "What've ya got?" That was me! I made my views and opinions very well known, and would never shy away from a debate or argument. At this time, I also grew into a new social/fashion statement, by subscribing to what is commonly referred to as "punk". 9-inch tall, blue mohawk, plaid pants with zippers and patches, band shirts, studded jackets or vests, covered in patches, pins, band logos, etc. Children were terrified of me, their parents even more so, and, at least once, people actually crossed the street to avoid me. I had absolutely no problem with this. I had my group of friends, and they were all I needed.
However, just as is common amongst all teenagers, something had to give. I couldn't just keep this up forever. Cue the Mormon girl. I started working at a movie theatre that my brother worked at shortly after I turned 16. A few months later, a coworker's younger sister started working there too. We started a friendship, mostly based on being coworkers, but it soon became a legitimate friendship. We started hanging out on our time off, and talking pretty frequently. We both were very aware of each others views, and that they conflicted entirely. Eventually, with seemingly no reason, I actually developing feelings for her; feelings that were not reciprocated. After several painful months (painful because of my unreturned feelings, and painful because of how much it reminded me of the typical teenage love story on movies and TV shows), I finally won the girl. The details of this part, and the relationship overall, are unnecessary to the story. After a while (and after winning over her family, which was, believe me, no easy feat), the subject of religion came up. At first, very little. Just a mention or a question here or there. Eventually, those questions started coming from me (the first question I even asked was why they crossed their arms when they prayed, instead of just folding their hands).
I was soon asking a lot of questions, many that my girlfriend couldn't answer. She suggested I ask missionaries. I firmly said no. I then started asking my very good friend, who had some, but not all, the answers. He then referred me to his dad, who was the Bishop. I had a pretty good relationship with him already, so I was okay with that idea. I asked him every single question I could think of. I could tell that this made him, my girlfriend, and her family rather excited. However, once I was done with my questions, I was done. There was no further interest expressed. Some time later, my girlfriend got a restrengthened testimony, and realized just how important the Church really was. She became more persistent in her intents of me at least investigating the Church. After many arguments and excuses on my part, I folded.
I started meeting with missionaries (Elder O'Brien and Elder Higley), at first simply to appease my girlfriend. The first lesson was probably rather rough for them, and I made no intent on showing interest. However, what God wants, He gets. The next time we met, they went over the Plan of Salvation. Something about what they said struck me. I will now make a quick side note: Nothing about an afterlife was new to me, and it wasn't a specific doctrine that they taught me that got me. I can't say that one specific thing they said really made me pay attention. I can't even be sure it was the principles themselves. Simply stated, I felt something as they were talking. I attribute it to it being the Plan of Salvation, with my father having passed away. It may not have been nice to know what actually happened to him, but at least to know that something did happen. Back to the story: They could tell something was impacting me. My demeanor, my posture, everything changed. They cam back with renewed vigor, and finished the lesson. At the lesson, besides the missionaries, were also my girlfriend's dad and the Bishop. At the end of the lesson, my missionaries asked me to say a prayer. I hadn't prayed in about 6 years, and the idea terrified me. Elder O'Brien suggested that we all kneel down, and each person, starting with him, then Elder Higley, then my girlfriend's dad, then the Bishop, would offer a prayer. When it got to me, if I felt inclined to go ahead and pray. If not, I would just give him a little head nod, and he would end it. When the prayer got to me, I was quite ready to have it just end, until, without thinking about it, or what I was saying, and with no recollection of anything I said, even to this day, I offered my first prayer in years. Upon saying Amen, I was greeted with happy, excited faces and handshakes. All I could think was "Oh, crap".
It still took several months to get me ready. In that time I still met with the missionaries and progressed. When I finally decided to be baptized, I told the missionaries "I'll do it, but give me time. I need to tell my family". It took me a long time to work up the courage. I was quite aware of the feelings members of my family had toward the Church, and what they would think if I told them I was joining. Finally, I buckled down, worked up my courage, and broke the news. The reaction was about what I expected. I moved forward anyways. A few weeks later, on July 2nd, 2008, I was baptized by Elder Higley. Elder O'Brien got transferred about a week before. I would like to say that, after this, everything went smoothly and life was grand, but that would be a lie. Don't ask why, don't try to figure it out, and don't try to have me figure it out, but shortly after baptism, I reverted to old ways. I once again denied a God, and did some pretty stupid things. Sometimes, God brings us low, just so He can raise us up. My girlfriend dumped me. Talk about sucky, huh? Amidst lots of moping and self-pity, and more than a little bit of House (great show), I had quite the experience. I was sitting in my living room, watching TV, when, clear as day, I heard a very distinct voice in the back of my head say "God has always been there for you. So has Jesus Christ". Nothing eloquent or fancy, a simple statement just like that. There was no way I would have thought that on my own. Not a chance. Why would someone who denied the very existence of a God have a thought like that? This made me realize that I should at least try this thing out. What would it hurt?
Me with Elder Higley (left) and Elder
After that, I decided to go to church voluntarily. I started going to the student ward with my friend, and making my own friends. Soon, I told my boss I could no longer work Sundays. I was meeting with the missionaries weekly, and reading my scripture and praying. I was making huge changes in my life, and even started admitting, to my friends and to new acquaintances, that I was LDS (however, I was using the term Mormon). About 6 months after I was baptized, I went to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. A few months after being baptized, I decided I wanted to serve a mission. Almost a year later, I got the Melchizedek Priesthood, being ordained by Elder O'Brien, who had gotten transferred into my student ward. After many other helpful moments, both good and bad, I was finally able to submit my mission papers, and in February got my mission call to labor in the Montana Billings Mission. I reported to the MTC on May 5th, 2010, and have enjoyed every second of it, to this day.
My story is nothing amazing, or even unique. Everyone must have a conversion. At some point, we all need to know that the Church is true. My baptism wasn't anything of extreme import. The only difference between mine and a life-long member was mine was 10 years later than normal. I am so incredibly grateful for the experiences I've had, and for this long process that has brought me to this point. I've experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. As much as I'm grateful for that, I'm grateful for this opportunity to share the Gospel and what I've found for myself with others. I love my Heavenly Father and am eternally indebted to Him for all He's done for me. I love my Savior and His selfless sacrifice for me and everyone. I'm grateful for the people who have helped me along the way and who have impacted me so much. I'm grateful for this Gospel and this Church.
Me after my farewell talk

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Joy to the World...Cup

What is that, you may be wondering. Well, that is the trophy that you receive if you win the FIFA World Cup. The FIFA World Cup is the largest tournament in any sport (this doesn't include the Olympics as those are several different sports. I'm simply referring to within one sport). This is the most sought after trophy out there. Every four years, 32 teams from around the world gather in one place to compete. The greatest of the greatest, the best of the best, the world's elite all come with their A-game, ready to throw down and give it all they got. This isn't just a cross town or even cross country rivalry. This isn't just for the fame and glory of your specific team in one region. This is for the whole shebang. These players represent their entire country, and are vying for world recognition. This is the WORLD Cup. This is truly the only international, worldwide tournament, which is why it's such a big deal to win it. There is no other trophy that has as much pomp, holds as much grandeur, or claims the most respect as this. It's small and simple, but is most coveted above all other trophies. Who wouldn't want a little of that?
Most soccer (football) players will never even enter into the World Cup. That's just how it goes. Only 32 teams can enter, and of all the hundreds, if not thousands of players in each country, not many will get to have that experience. Even the best players who do make it to their national team may never have that opportunity. Some countries just aren't good enough. But anyone who plays soccer and pursues it as far as they can dreams of making it to the World Cup and getting that trophy. It's something they've grown up watching and fantasizing about. For many, it's a life long goal, and for those who have realized it, it's something they looked forward to all their lives.
Before the coming of the Messiah, Prophets had prophesied of His coming. Prophets such as Hosea, Isaiah, and others gave us things to look for: they told of His birth, His ministry, and His death. The Jews looked longingly for the Savior and Messiah, one who would rescue them. Eventually, the idea became one of a political savior, one to come and rescue them from bondage and restore Israel to glory. The expected a king, a conqueror to come and lead them to power. That was not what the Christ's mission was to be. It was never intended to be, and no prophets had even hinted at that idea. He was to be born in humble circumstances, and be rather low key. He wasn't going to be a warrior or a general, and He wasn't going to fight any wars. The Christ's purpose was to save us from our sins.
Those who looked for the Savior were well acquainted with the many prophecies of Him. He was the most anticipated of births. Everyone wanted the Messiah to come. It was a long awaited arrival. Just like the players who practice and train all their lives to have the opportunity to play in the World Cup, and achieve amazing glory of winning, the Jews longed for the greatest prize of all: Salvation. However, just like those players who, while hard working and achieving much individual success, just couldn't achieve the grandeur of the World Cup, there were many who missed the wonderful gift from our Heavenly Father. They disregarded this humble Jesus as simply a carpenter's son, and no one of real significance. Because of their own pride, they rejected the Man they had been waiting for their whole life.
Jesus Christ and his Atonement are the greatest things to happen to us as humans. Because of the gift of the Father of His Son, and the gift of Christ of the Atonement, we are able to have Salvation. As much as I'd love to win the World Cup, this is a much better award. I'll take it. Remember this this Christmas season, and don't worry about the little things. Remember: Christ is the reason for the season.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Who are You?

Who am I? A pretty standard question. Sometimes asked in confusion, such as in situations of amnesia, questioning one's true identity, or having Alzheimer's, shouting it while flying through the air and tackling someone ("Scrubs", anyone?). It can also be a deep question, requiring some thoughts. Look back at your life, and you'll often wonder who you are compared to who you were. Or, when a major dilemma comes up, it may cause you to question yourself. Or even when a major life change occurs, you may be pondering just what kind of person you've become as a result of it (I had one of those a couple years ago... check out this blog about it!) But, it's important that we have that sense of identity to allow us to truly understand ourselves, as well as our relationship with out Heavenly Father.
So, quick side tangent: I love punk. I've been into punk since junior high, and it's just fun. It's loud and aggressive and very expressive (well, some times, at least). I also love ska, because when it comes to having fun with music, it's hard to beat ska. I will now reference a couple bands to illustrate my point. DRI is a hardcore punk band from the '80s. In a song entitled "Who Am I?" (fitting, right?), they raise that very question (over and over again). "Who am I?... A human being... This strange thing... Not what I seem." And there you have pretty much the whole song. It's a short one. Kurt Brecht poses the question, then answers it. He is a human being, a strange thing, and not what he seems. He reasserts this several times, until culminating in affirming (repeatedly) the his DRI... DRI... DRI. That's his identity. Jumping over a bit to a band that I absolutely adore, We Are the Union. They do an awesome job of meshing punk with ska. They have a song entitled "Ourcore", which is a song all about their individuality and refusal to fall into a cookie cutter mold. A line they use towards the end (that often gets in my head) goes "We're just being who we are! We take the road less traveled by!". A powerful line, referencing famous poetry, put to angry punk/ska riffs. What more can you ask for?
Both these bands, in their songs, raise very profound points on their identity, that we as members of the church should be able to relate to. Kurt Brecht answers the question saying he's not what he seems. How accurate is that of church members? We seem like the everyday person, but really we're covenant people. We have a higher standard because we have more awareness of the desires of our Heavenly Father for us. We Are the Union assert that what they do is who they are, and that involves taking the less traveled road and not just following the crowd. I think about this in terms of my mission: I often wonder what people think of us when we're out in public in regular clothes. They obviously have no reason to assume that we're Mormon missionaries, they're just going to assume we're regular twenty-some year old guys. Well, the average twenty-something year old guy has quite the reputation, and it's not entirely unfounded. So, when a group of us missionaries, disguised in regular clothes, are out in public, I wonder if people notice that we're not swearing, or talking about girls or how drunk we got. It's an interesting thought.
And more than just members of the church, everybody has an identity (obviously). How many of our brothers and sisters don't even know who they truly are? Romans 8:16 tells us: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God". We ARE children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. Each of us is loved, and each of us has that lineage. That's who we are: Children of God. And this should influence us in many ways. As we are Children of God, we should be willing to do what He asks, just like we would our earthly parents. Also, we should take it upon ourselves to teach those around us their true identity. EVERYONE is a Child of God, and He loves us all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Harry Potter and the Final Battle

So, when we last left off, I was filling you up on the seventh book, leaving off where Voldemort crashed the wedding, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione took off. Their adventure begins, hunting down the Horcruxes and trying to avoid Voldemort's goons. A good chunk of the book can be viewed as a long camp out. Amongst this, they are able to locate and destroy a Horcrux, and identify a few other ones. A bunch of crazy stuff happens, and they end up back at Hogwarts, where the final war begins. Harry discovers that, in order to stop the war, he needs to sacrifice himself, because, as it turns out, he's a Horcrux. It wasn't supposed to be that way, but when Voldemort tried to kill Harry, and it backfired, he inadvertently made Harry a Horcrux. So he goes right into Voldemort's camp and offers himself up. Something crazy happens, though, when he gets hit with the Killing Curse. Rather than dying, he enters into an in-between state, the he envisions to be King's Cross Station, where he meets up with Dumbledore, and gets some of his answers. Harry is able to return, and plays dead for a little while, and is brought back to the school, where the sides face off, once again. All that remains, now, is for someone to kill Nagini, Voldemort's pet snake and the final Horcrux, and Voldemort can be killed. Neville Longbottom, in a great and uncharacteristic act of heroism, is able to cut off Nagini's head, and the war recommences. Right when it seems like it's all going to fall into the hands of Voldemort, Harry reemerges (having covered himself in his invisibility cloak at the beginning of the battle), runs through everything and how Voldemort did it all, and in a final conflict is able to kill Voldemort. It's a bittersweet end, as the greatest evil is finally destroyed, but many dear friends have been killed. But, now Harry can finally have a normal life, and be free of the fear of Voldemort.
For those who have read the books, you'll notice some MAJOR points missing from the summary, including the main factors and the name sake of the seventh book. Oh well...
So, the Final Battle is a pretty exciting part of the book... frankly, the whole series. It's the culminating event. This is where everything is going to be decided, once and for all. All the questions are answered, all the pieces are in place, and now, either good or evil will win, and that will be the end. And, just when it seems like the bad guys are about to overpower and come out victorious, the hero pops up, out of no where, and saves the day. Things are a lot more like fiction than we realize (and often than what we're comfortable with). We're in a war today. It's us vs. Satan. He's trying his hardest to make us all miserable like him, and will do anything to take us down. But, there's going to be a HUGE war that comes up at the very end, where "Michael and his angels [will fight] against the dragon..." (Revelation 12:7). This will be the final battle to decide who wins, good or bad. We, of course, know what the outcome will be: Good will triumph. Finally, Satan will be overthrown and cast out, and we can all have peace and serenity. It will be similar to the Final Battle at Hogwarts. It may seem like the evil is going to win, but at the last second, the hero will come and save the day. We can prepare ourselves for this war. We know it's coming, and we know what we have to do. As we start readying ourselves and start today, we will be better able to overcome the struggles that will face us. We have no reason to fear the end, as long as we know where we stand. When we're on the Lord's side, we're protected, for "if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). The war and the end is nothing to fear as long as we know whose side we're on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Spiritual Gifts

So a rather genius idea was suggested to me to do the seventh installation of this blog series in two parts. It's brilliant for several reasons: 1. It fits the movie series, where the last movie was split into two installments. 2. It allows me to write about two ideas from the seventh book (one was suggested by the same person who suggested I do two parts... she's a winner). 3. It allows me to squeeze out one more blog. Rather than racking my brain for another idea, I can now simply draw out this idea, and get one more out of it! So, without much further ado, here is the summary of Book Seven!
Dumbledore is dead. Harry knows about the Horcruxes. Voldemort has control of Hogwarts and (soon) the Ministry. Harry has reached 17 years of age, which is the age of adulthood in the Wizarding community, and the protections that he's had on him, and the protections on the Dursley's home, will be lifted. Before that, the Dursley's are strongly encouraged to leave their home. They resist at first, but finally agree. As soon as the clock strikes midnight, bringing in July 31, 1997, Death Eaters are all over that house. The Order of the Phoenix set up a plan with several Harry impersonators (thanks to polyjuice potion), and he's able to get away, but not without losing Mad Eye Moody and Hedwig. Shortly thereafter, they're able to forget their problems for a brief time to celebrate Bill and Fleur's wedding. At this event, Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic, comes to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and gives them items left to them by Dumbledore. To Harry, the snitch he caught in his first ever Quidditch game. To Ron, his "Put-Outer", a device that is able to magically extinguish any light. To Hermione, a book entitled Tales of Beedle the Bard, a book of fairy tales for young witches and wizards. The meaning behind these gifts is a mystery to all, though Scrimgeour is convinced they know why. All they can figure out is the connection of the snitch, and that's only in part. Snitches have a magical attribute that allows them to be able to identify the first person to touch it, in case of a close call. Scrimgeour assumes something will happen as soon as Harry touches the snitch, but is disappointed when nothing happens. However, after Scrimgeour leaves, Harry remembers that he didn't catch his first snitch, but nearly swallowed it. He presses the small golden ball to his lips, and a message appears: I open at the close. The wedding is a success, until a message baring Patronus from Kingsley Shacklebolt comes, telling everyone of the fall of the Ministry into Voldemort's hands. Chaos ensues, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione hightail it out of there, beginning their journey...
For the purpose of this blog, I'll leave off the summary at that point, and continue it in the next blog. The gifts given to Harry, Ron, and Hermione seem odd. None can figure out why they received them. The snitch certainly carried some sentimental value, but what of the mysterious message? What would the "Put-Outer" benefit Ron? And, while Hermione is certainly a lover of books, why a wizard's children book? The reasoning for it all is explained later in the book, and plays quite the pivotal role in the whole scheme of things. It's quite amazing how Dumbledore could foresee what would happen, and be able to recognize what each individual person of the group would need in order to help accomplish the task. He knew them well enough, their strengths and their personalities, to know what tools to present them with. The same could be said of the things our Heavenly Father provides for us. Since He knows us all perfectly, He knows what trials we will go through. He also knows what our strengths are, so that He can know what tools will best benefit us, and allow us to succeed. We all go through hard times, and will all face challenges, but we are never left to our own devices. The Lord never abandons us. He gives us each, individually, ways to cope with Satan's temptations. We each have personal abilities that allow us to overcome. Just like the snitch for Harry, maybe you have a lot of patience that allows you to grin-and-bear; or like Ron and the "Put-Outer", maybe you can look at things in a more eternal perspective to be able to let the little things just roll off you; or, like Hermione and her book, you have an unwavering positive attitude that makes it so you can greet any problem with a smile. We all gifts like these, and they've all been given us by our Heavenly Father. It's the difference in them that makes them unique to us, as we are all unique individuals (one of the many wonderful parts of our Heavenly Father's plan!). Our Father gives us spiritual gifts, and as we nourish them, we are "able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). So know that we are not left alone, but have been given gifts to help us stand strong in the face of the adversary!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Individual Testimony

It's very possible (likely, even) that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is my favorite book of the series. Why? Cause I'm weird. It all starts coming together: the mysteries behind Voldemort's seeming immortality is explained, details that seemed weird and even unimportant from previous books suddenly are tied in to the bigger picture, the Horcruxes are introduced, things really start to go down, and it ends on kind of a downer (that's why I'm weird, I like that part... much like the end of Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back). Dumbledore is dead, Snape is a traitor, Harry breaks up with Ginny, Hogwarts and the Ministry (though that was earlier) have been taken over by Voldemort and his goons, and Harry has to leave Hogwarts a year early to start hunting down Horcruxes and save... well, the world.
As for a brief rundown of the plot: Harry is back in the public eye, and things are getting pretty dang crazy. Cornelius Fudge was sacked as Minister of Magic because of his lack of action at the warnings of Voldemort's return (he claimed Harry was making up stories and it wasn't true). Now, Rufus Scrimgeour is the new Minister, and Voldemort and his Death Eaters have no problem making their presence known, as it's already out in the open. Destruction and chaos have gotten of hold of not only Wizarding England, but Muggle England as well. Harry is taken on a trip with Dumbledore shortly before school begins to find a Horace Slughorn, former potions master. Horace is enticed by Harry, being quite fond of getting in with well-known, high-ranking people, and agrees to return to Hogwarts... to once again be potions master. This means that Snape gets to finally get his dream position of professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Snape's had a busy summer as well, making an unbreakable vow with Narcissa Malfoy, Draco Malfoy's mother, that he would do everything he could to help Draco with whatever task Voldemort had assigned him.
Harry returns to school and finds himself able to continue with potions due to Professor Slughorn's less strict requirements. He borrows a used book, which has lots of notes in the margin that help Harry not only do much better at Potions than usual, but actually excel in the class. The year seems pretty typical, except for one extra "class" Harry has: he meets with Dumbledore and, through his Pensieve, and using memories that he's collected, they're able to see some of Tom Riddle's history. Harry is able to get an untampered memory from Professor Slughorn which solidifies Dumbledore's guess that Voldemort has been using Horcruxes, a very dark magic where one rips their soul, and places it in an object, allowing them to survive even after death. They have enough evidence to know several key points: He made 7, they've destroyed 2, and Tom would use artifacts from the founders of Hogwarts. Dumbledore was able to locate one, and they take off to get it. The protection that Dumbledore has to go through to get it leaves him very weakened, and when they return to Hogwarts and find it overrun with Death Eaters, things don't look good. Upon landing in one of the towers, Dumbledore quickly stuns Harry, making it impossible for him to move. Out of sight, Harry can only listen and watch as Draco comes to try and kill Dumbledore. When he realizes he can't do it, Snape suddenly barges in and kills him. Harry is now free, because a spell can't continue once the caster is dead. He chases after Snape and tries to get revenge, but to no avail. Harry is now without Dumbledore, his mentor and greatest form of protection, and he now has to go out and accomplish what Dumbledore had started, with little knowledge of what to do, little idea of where to go, and little preparation for what he was going to face.
Harry had relied on Dumbledore these past 5 years for just about everything. He felt comfortable and safe with Dumbledore around, and knew that nothing bad could happen to him. He learned a lot from him, and discovered things about himself, his family, his past, present, and future. Dumbledore was his guiding light; but after that night, Harry was alone. Harry never considered the event of Dumbledore's death, or what that would mean. He always assumed he'd be there to help him. But the end came for him, and Harry was left to face this great adventure without him. Now, he could no longer rely on Dumbledore, he had to do it all on his own.  
As we grow up, we lean a lot on our parents and leaders for lots of things. We gain opinions and tastes, likes and dislikes, morals and beliefs from the people who raise us. This is common, it's hard for a young child to make a well formed view of a serious issue. So, they simply take from their parents or their teachers of their church leaders those things. The same is true of a testimony. We often see small children go and bare their testimony: "I know the church is true, I love my mom and dad, I know Heavenly Father loves me, name of Jesus Christ amen." Classic. But, their testimony is simply an appendage of their parents'. They know the church is true cause mom and dad do, and they told them so. Because their Bishop does, and he told them so. Because their Primary teachers do, and they told them so. They don't truly have their own testimony. They don't have a rock solid foundation. They can't, they're simply too young. It's when we grow up and start to learn things for ourselves that we can come to certain important conclusions. At some point everyone, everyone, must decide for themselves if this church is true. Everyone from you to President Monson. We need to read the Book of Mormon and pray, to truly and sincerely ask if it is true, and the Lord will tell us. It's only when He tells us that we will truly know that it is true. We're just like Harry: eventually, we're expected to do things on our own. We can't just ride on the coattails of others, we need to be able to stand on our own. Just as Harry took on Voldemort and his army, even without Dumbledore, we can all take on Satan and his army, even on our own. As we develop and strengthen our individual testimonies, and nourish the seed (Alma 32), we'll be able to face whatever opposition comes our way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Church's Purpose

Following up a rather exciting fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry is back at the Dursleys for what promises to be a long, rough summer holiday. Fortunately for him, a group of mysterious people show up to carry him away. With the reemergence of Voldemort, and the lack of belief on the part of the Ministry of Magic, it's not safe for, frankly, anyone, but this isn't just anyone... this is Harry Potter. Since the Ministry won't take any action to protect him (as they don't even believe him that Voldemort is back), then Dumbledore will, with the reformation of the Order of the Phoenix. Headquartered at Sirius Black's house, and protected with every form of magical protection they can, the Order of the Phoenix is an organization made up of wizards and witches, most of them Aurors (magical policemen, pretty much), and several of them very involved in the Ministry of Magic. The group existed in the first war against Voldemort as well. They're all out to protect Harry and try to keep Voldemort from running amok.
Well, things are just as weird as ever. Now, suddenly, Harry is seeing things. Strange dreams of running through long hallways. When one of the dreams involves Harry, as a snake, striking Mr. Weasly, his best friend's dad, he gets more than a little concerned. He tells Dumbledore, and they find that it indeed happened. Now it's become apparent that these aren't just random dreams, but Harry's connection to Voldemort is actually allowing him to see into Voldemort's world. This Voldemort eventually uses to his advantage, placing a fake vision of Sirius Black being tortured. Harry and his friends rush to his rescue, only to find him not there, but rather an ambush of Death Eaters. They fight as best they can, eventually being aided by the Order of the Phoenix, but the battle cost Sirius Black's life (probably the lamest occurrence in the series). Following this, there's a showdown between Voldemort and Harry, where Dumbledore steps in. Voldemort tries to possess Harry's body, but Harry is able to resist this. When all is said and done, enough of a warning has been dent out that many prominent members of the Ministry, including the Minister of Magic himself, were able to show up and see for themselves that Voldemort was in fact back and in power.
The plot just keeps thickening in this very exciting, and rather sad book. No one wanted to see Sirius die... he was Harry's best shot at a normal life. I guess Harry just wasn't meant to have a normal life.
The Order of the Phoenix (possibly one of the coolest named organizations ever) plays a major role in the second war with Voldemort, and we're told it played a pretty big part of the first war, too. This group of dedicated individuals are willing to risk life and limb to stand up for what's right and try to stop evil from conquering. They're unified in their purpose and are willing to do anything to accomplish their goal. This is how the Church is. We are the best form of protection from the world, because we have the best resources to combat the evil out there. We have the fullness of the Gospel; we have the Bible and Book of Mormon, that go together to answer all questions and provide an entirety of doctrine; we have Prophets and Apostles who reveal God's will for us, and let us know how best to get through life's maze. Thanks to these tools, we are never lost, and can be a guiding/protecting force for all our brothers and sisters. If they don't know the way, at least we do, and we can do our parts in helping and protecting them. That's what we as member's of Christ's church should do: reach out and "lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees" (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Harry Potter and the Unified Purpose

Oh man! I just keep going! Now we're on to book number 4! Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a pretty pivotal book in the series. Why? Well, let me tell ya:
Harry gets to spend an actual magic summer, spending time with Weasleys and going to the Quidditch World Cup. While there, some Death Eaters (Voldemort's supporters) make a stand, marching around and tormenting some muggles. This is quickly put to rest by someone sending the Dark Mark (Voldemort's sign) into the air. They find the wand that did it, and it seems like a house elf named Winky did it. But, evidence says there's more to it than that. Things get even more exciting upon Harry, Ron, and Hermione's return to Hogwarts. The announcement of the Tri Wizard Tournament puts all of Hogwarts in an uproar. The Triwizard Tournament is an even that tests young witch and wizard's skill and magical prowess, and takes place between Europe's 3 major Wizarding schools: Hogwarts of England, Beauxbatons of France, and Durmstrang of Scandinavia. The catch is, however, you can only enter if you're 17 or older. Well, somehow, when the champions are being chosen, Harry is one of them. This is strange because, not only is he only 14, but Hogwarts already had a champion selected, Cedric Diggory. Now Harry has to participate. He's getting some help from friends, and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Professor "Mad Eye" Moody (named for his strange, magical glass eye). Some crazy stuff goes down, and suddenly, when in a labyrinth for the final event of the tournament, Harry and Cedric come upon the trophy, which turns out to be a portkey (an object able to magically transport you anywhere). They wind up in a graveyard, where Cedric is killed and Harry is bound, and his blood is taken and used to bring Voldemort back to full strength. Thanks to another magical occurrence (Priori Incantatem), Harry is able to get back to the portkey and bring Cedric's body with him. Now, Voldemort's back, and the wizarding world is in an uproar. Well, sort of...
I've left out the part about Mad Eye actually being a prominent Death Eater posing as him, but that's not pertinent to the current blog post. What I'm choosing to focus on is the unity that is displayed, and will continue to be displayed in the series, between the three opposing schools. This was the main point of why they started the Triwizard Tournament ca 1294. Dumbledore knew something was up, and that something bad was soon to come to fruition. He urges all three schools, upon their arrival, to remember the importance of unity, and that all the wizarding world needed to be united to fight against evil. This must exist amongst us, as well. I've written about this subject a couple times (here and here). But if something is repeated, you know it must be important.
We as members of the Church have a common goal and dream. We know where we want to go, and we know what we want our world to be like. And, there's only one way we can accomplish that, and that is through Unity. We can unite ourselves with others by forming friendships, and this can be done through service. But what's important is to remember that we are all children of God, and thus we are all brothers and sisters. This idea must unite us, and our desire to make this world better must unite us as well. Why quarrel and squabble over such minute details as to where we're from, what we like, where we stand on certain issues, or what our race is? These things are only temporal, and don't matter at all in the grand scheme of things. We must put behind our differences and be one in purpose and unity to help the Gospel reach all the inhabitants of the world. When our hearts are knit together in love, we can do anything, and bring all of our Heavenly Father's children to a knowledge of Him.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Harry Potter and the Guest Blog: How Strong Is Your Patronus?

Courtesy of the wonderful Elder Miller:
So I'm pretty sure that everyone reading this loves Harry Potter, and one night as I was eating dinner with one of my favorite families here in Whitefish, Mt and we were talking about Harry Potter this came to me.

In the third book/movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is introduced to an intense new enemy, dementors. After his initial meeting with them Harry wanted to be able to defend himself against their insidious attacks. He turned to Professor Lupin who then taught him the famous Patronus charm.

However casting a Patronus charm is pretty tricky. You first have to think of an extremely happy memory or idea, and then say the incantation: "Expecto Patronum". Because of this, negative emotions or influences can compromise a wizard or witch's ability to cast a Patronus; such as the difficulty Harry had casting his Patronus when under the negative influence of Salazar Slytherin's Locket, one of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes

So the Patronus charm  "is a kind of positive force, and for the wizard who can conjure one, it works something like a shield, with the Dementor feeding on it, rather than him" (Harry Potter Wiki). Another use for the Patronus charm was developed by none other than Albus Dumbledore, who invented a way of using the Patronus to deliver messages.

So what about our Patronus? What kind of protection do we have from the dementors of life? What can protect us from the forces of Satan who like the dementors "seeks to make all miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27)? God has given us a powerful source of protection and communication, and that is prayer.

 He councils us: "Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work." Prayer allows us to focus on the redeeming power of Christ that then shields us form the forces of Satan trying to break us down.

So next time you encounter a dementor along your path, Pray! You'll quickly find how much strength you have when you tap into the power God will give you to overcome temptation and adversity. 

To read more of Elder Miller's work, check him out at

Friday, November 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half Truths

That's right, I'm going for it... I'm gonna do a series! So,  the logical progression in a series is to go from 1 to 2, so we're going to go from Harry Potter book 1, to Harry Potter book 2. So, here's a brief summary of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
Harry is set to go back to Hogwarts, but some strange stuff is going on, mainly a house elf named Dobby trying to keep him from getting back. Well, Harry gets back, and strange stuff doesn't stop. There are mysterious messages being written, and people (and cats) being petrified. What's not helping the matter is the fact that Harry is hearing voices that no one else can. Throw in the legend of the Heir of Slytherin and the Chamber of Secrets, and that people have discovered Harry is a parselmouth (can speak to snakes), and it's looking like a pretty rough year for Harry. Well, when a mysterious diary pops up, then just as quickly goes missing, the plot thickens. And now there's a big problem: A note saying that someone is taken into the Chamber of Secrets... and it's Ginny, Ron's little sister. Now it's up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione (no surprise) to go and save the day. But can they do it?
Well, if you've read the book or seen the movie (or can make a guess based on the 5 books that come after it), you'll know that they can do it. Harry once again comes face-to-face with Voldemort, though this time a memory of his former self. This came about through an enchanted diary, the depth of its magic goes far deeper than at first expected. This diary came into the possession of Ginny Weasley, and she started using it. What was so special about this diary is that it could respond to what you wrote in it, so Ginny started to write all of her secrets in it. The more she poured into the diary, the more Tom Riddle (who would become Lord Voldemort) was able to make himself stronger, till finally he could pretty much control her, and bring himself out of the book. He was the Heir of Slytherin, and had opened the Chamber before, and had done it again. Now Harry needs to kill a Basilisk, destroy the diary, and save Ginny's life. This is a frightening thing that happened to Ginny, and it's fortunate that something like that couldn't happen to us... right?
What's so frightening is that could happen to us. The diary is certainly something that could be compared to Satan. As Ginny put her trust and confidence in something she didn't understand, and that seemed innocent, she made herself weak and vulnerable to Tom Riddle's designs. That is just how Satan works. He presents us with things that seem innocent and harmless, so we don't see a problem going ahead with it. As we do this, thinking all is well and we're in control, he gains stronger possession of us until he has control. Our actions are no longer in line with the Lord's will, and we are being lead carefully down to hell (2 Nephi 28:21). It's Satan's half truths that make it possible for him to do his work. He presents us with something that seems okay, and convinces us that there's no harm in it. It's presented with just enough truth to justify it. We need to be careful of these things. We need to always be on the lookout for things that seem alright, but we know aren't. Satan's plan is to drag us down with him and make us "miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27). We should follow the advice of Ginny's father and never trust anything where we can't see where it keeps its brain, applying it to the Gospel: if we can't see how it will bring us closer to our Heavenly Father. Don't trust Satan's half truths.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Preparatory State

True, the first Harry Potter book is far from the most exciting. It's an introductory book, acquainting you to the characters and building up who they are, and introducing you to this brand new world. However, you're not deprived of action and adventure. Little blips of excitement come up here and there to keep you intersted, and to set up for the big climax, which, if you've read it, you surely remember. But in case you don't know, or have forgotten, I'll give you a brief run down:
The Philosopher's Stone (or Sorceror's Stone in the American editions) is a stone with many magical powers, but quite a distinguishing feature is its ability to create the Elixir of Life, a potion that perpetuates life in the drinker. That is what draws a particular "person" to it. After many clues are laid out, the adventurous trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione finally realize just what's been going on: The Philosopher's Stone is somewhere in Hogwarts Castle, and Professor Snape is trying to steal it. Well, they know enough to know where the entrance to the hiding place is, and what they may be up against. The first obstacle is Fluffy, a giant three-headed dog, who's already asleep by the time they get there. Next, they find themselves in Devil's Snare, a magical vine that ensnares them, and will not let go. Thanks to some quick thinking on Hermione's part, though, they get away unscathed. Next, they find themselves in a large room, which quickly reveals itself to be a human-sized Wizard Chess board (wizard chess is like regular chess, only the pieces move on their own, and it's quite violent). Well, thankfully, Ron just happens to be quite proficient at Wizard Chess, and is able to win the match for them, while sacrificing himself in the process. Following this, Harry and Hermione come to a room filled with flying keys. They need to find the right one to open the door. But how? They're flying. Well, wouldn't ya know, there's a broomstick right there, and Harry is the youngest Quidditch player in Hogwarts in over a century, and is quite the flyer. Not only that, he's a Seeker, making him quite adept at finding and capturing a small, golden, flying ball. He hops on and is able to find and grab the key and open the door. In the next room, there is a selection of different potions, and a poem to help discover which will get you through, which will take you back, and which will kill you. Hermione is quite the student, and has excelled in all her subjects, and thanks to her wisdom, she's able to identify the potion Harry needs to move on, and which one will get her safely back. Harry takes the potion, and finds himself in a room where he expects to find Professor Snape, but what he finds surprises him.
Rather than Snape, it's actually Professor Quirrell, the stuttering, nervous Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. Suddenly, he's no longer stuttering, but is now quite deranged. It's then revealed that he is playing host to the sinister Lord Voldemort, the dark wizard who tried to kill Harry in his infancy. He's made it all the way to this room, but can't figure out how to get the Mirror of Erised to give him the stone. Harry, however, knows, because he had encountered the mirror before, and Dumbledore had explained how it works. Harry is able to get the stone, ward off Voldemort and Professor Quirrell, and save the day. Not the first time, certainly not the last time.
But where would Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been had they not been prepared for these tasks? Because of their preparation, the things they'd learned, their skills and abilities, they were able to get through the obstacles and come out on top. Because of Hermione's studious nature, she was able to get them through Devil's Snare and tricky potions; thanks to Ron's skill at Wizard Chess, they were able to win the game; as a result of Harry's seemingly natural talent at flying, he easily procured the key and got them through the door. They already had the means of accomplishing these feats. The same is true for us. Alma said "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). We're preparing. We all want to inherit Celestial Glory, to live with our Heavenly Father and our families forever. But, in our present state, we couldn't possibly live that life. We need to prepare ourselves for that, and what better time than today? As we do the things we need to do, we are preparing ourselves. As we live the Gospel, follow the commandments, and stay true to our covenants, we prepare ourselves.
As we read our scriputres and heed the words of Prophets, both ancient and modern, we are taught what we need to do to prepare. As we go to the Temple, we also are taught. Knowing these things help us to know what it is we need to inherit Celestial Glory and to live a Celestial Life. The Lord won't just send us here and expect us to make it ourselves. He's going to give us everything we need. Just like Harry, Ron, and Hermione were prepared, through schooling and through their personal interests and talents, were able to overcome, so are we. Because of the councel and guidelines we are given, we know that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father, and be able to live the life He would have us live.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You can be an Avenger, too!

Ah, the Avengers. A crack team of Superheroes, backed by S.H.I.E.L.D., and overseen by Nick Fury. Of course, we've seen many different formations of this top notch squad, including such reorganized groups as the New Avengers, the Younger Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, and even the Dark Avengers. Members have included some of the biggest names in Marvel Universe: Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye, War Machine, the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, and many many more. They are the world's best defense against any evil that may exist, both on and off this planet. Gathering the combined strengths of these great heroes, there seems to be no way to beat them. What one hero is incapable of doing on his own, a group of heroes can easily accomplish. Thanks to the innovative thinking and brilliant leadership of Nick Fury, the world's greatest heroes have been assembled to solve all the world's problems.
Sometimes we look at all the problems in our world, and wish that there were superheroes to save the day. With all the evil, we often find ourselves thinking "why can't someone just swoop in and fix this all?" It would be nice to have those heroes, but we have to make the best with what we have. Even without superheroes, we can make the world better.
The best way to do this is the same way the Avengers do it: They work together to solve the problems going on, and we can do the same thing. If we all join together, united in our cause, we can change the world. But, this is best done when we all have the same goal in mind. Never mind silly things that label us. Who cares what music we listen to, what sports we like, or if we even like sports, what political views we have, where we're from, or what we look like. Those things don't matter, and amount to nothing in an eternal perspective. We should all have the same vision, and all work together to accomplish it. United we stand, divided we fall. We need to all do our part to overcome the evils of this world, and make it the world it should be. Besides, we have God as our leader... He's a better than Nick Fury. If the Avengers can do it, so can we!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If you want to read this blog, turn to page...

You know what I miss? Choose Your Own Adventure books. How great are those? You get, like, 4 different stories in one... if not more! As you read through them, you run into different options to choose from. Do you follow the stranger into the woods, or do you just wait outside of them? Do you accept the knight's challenge, or try to find another way through the maze? There are always different occurences that come up, and you have to take the risk of what might happen. Each decision takes you to a different section of the book. "If you choose to follow the stranger into the forest, go to page 42. If you choose to not follow him, go to page 19." You get the chance to control the outcome of the book, rather than just going along with whatever the author wants. You're in control.
The nice thing about CYOA books is the ability to go back. Say you turn to page 42, and while in the forest you get attacked by a wolf and die. No problem, just turn back to page 9, and instead go to page 19 and choose to not enter the forest. Boom, you get to keep going. Any bad thing can quickly be undone simply by flipping back to the page where you made your choice, and making the other choice. Through this, we are able to avoid unhappy outcomes and can allow us to keep reading into our adventure.
Our life is a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only it's not a book. It's real. We all come to points where we have to make a choice, and deal with the consequence. We all have to choose if we're going to wake up on Sunday morning and go to Church, or if we're going to go to that party, or if we're going to serve a mission. We always have a choice to make. But, unlike in the books, when we make a mistake that doesn't end well, we can't just flip back a couple pages and choose the other choice. We have to deal with the choice we've made, and to try to fix the mistake we made. Our life is full of choices, and each choice takes us to a different section of our life. While we can go back and correct what we've done, we can't just erase what's been done and have it not happen. It's up to us to make the right choices, and get the best results out of it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gospel and Comic Books Part 5: Enduring to the End

Consider the following... You're in a battle. This is no ordinary battle: There are people throwing fireballs at you, other people flying overhead, and did that guy just shoot lasers out of his eyes? It becomes pretty apparent to you who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and you know that this is no ordinary battle... This is a battle with some serious consequences attached to it. The outcome could not only determine the fate of those involved, but the fate of the entire world. It's pretty obvious who you would root for... The matching outfits make it pretty obvious (good ol' blue and yellow!). You cheer for the heroes, and do anything you can to help. Suddenly, they just stop. All the good guys just sit down and take a breather. You run up to them and start shouting "what are you doing? You can't just let Magneto win!" Cyclops simply replies "We're too tired. We've been up pretty much all night the past couple weeks fighting these guys, and we're just exhausted. We'll try again later." What!? Come on! Not even Cyclops can be that sissy, can he? But you look around, and sure enough, everyone's about to fall sleep. Even Wolverine! (Well, maybe not Wolverine, but everyone else, for sure). What can you do? You can't just force the X-Men to do anything. All you can do is sit back and watch Magneto and his crew of villains take over the city, then the world. And that doesn't bode well for non-mutants. Soon, they'll be enslaved, or worse.
But of course, that would never happen. The X-Men would never give up in the middle of a fight! (Not even Cyclops... though he'd be the most likely). They're going to see it through to the bitter end, no matter what happens. Nothing would stop them from defending the innocent and upholding justice. That's what they do, that's why they're the X-Men. They're there through thick and thin, and are going to make sure the job gets done.
The battle isn't over till it's over, and that's just as true for us as it is the X-Men. Just because it starts getting really hard, even overwhelming, or we're tired or sick of fighting, that's no reason to just sit there and let the Adversary walk all over you. There are times in every one's life when the odds seem insurmountable, and we're not sure where we can turn for help. There are also times when the temptation is so enticing, that we're not sure we can resist it, or if we even want to. No body is perfect, and no body is immune to this.
We're all here to be tested. Just like the prophet Alma taught, "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). We are meant to prepare for that time when we stand before the Lord to be judged. Imagine what it would be like to get up there and have to tell your Heavenly Father "Well, I got really tired, and that seemed like it would be really fun, so I decided to just go for it." That probably wouldn't go over very well, would it? Just because it's hard to get up and go to church, or you're really tired and don't feel like reading your scriptures, or your friends keep telling you one little drink won't hurt doesn't mean that you can just give up. Once you know who you are and see the path laid ahead of you, it's Exaltation or bust... and that all depends on you. Endure to the End! Live the life you know you should live. Enduring to the End is just constantly redoing those previous steps: It's always having faith in Jesus Christ and in your Heavenly Father, it's constantly repenting and making yourself better, it's living worthily to take the sacrament and renew the covenants you made at baptism, and it's striving to constantly have the Holy Ghost with you. It seems to me that this step is either the easiest or the hardest, and you're the one that makes it that way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gospel and Comic Books Part 4: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Gosh I love comic books... In case you can't tell. And I rather enjoy being back in the swing of this whole blog writing thing... Neat. Just gotta keep myself motivated, I can keep pumping these bad boys out. Ideas are also important, I guess. Well, if you haven't guessed, I'm still on my kick on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yesterday was baptism, and baptism is incomplete if it isn't followed up with the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a very important, and very amazing thing. Thanks to the Holy Ghost, we are able to have a member of the Godhead with us at all times. We are able to be led and guided in right choices, and we can be warned of dangerous situations. As long as we are living righteously, we can always count on the Holy Ghost to be with us and to help us out. It's like our conscience, whispering in our ears what we should and shouldn't do. If we will listen, we can always be sure to make the right choice, and we can be aided in our day to day lives. What a wonderful gift we are given, and all we have to do is be obedient to the commandments! The Holy Ghost is a great help to everyone, no matter who you are, and will protect us from any dangers we may face, spiritual or temporal.
And now... comic book application. Spider-Man is pretty awesome. He's got cool powers, a witty persona, and a firm grounding in what he's doing and why he's doing it. He's got some pretty sweet powers, and he's always on the job. I've written about him before, but today I'm going to focus on a certain power of his that makes him unique: his spidey senses. We've all heard the quote before: "My spidey senses are tingling!" This is possibly Spider-Man's most useful power, because it allows him to have the upper hand over his villains, because he's able to detect threats before they even happen. Thanks to his senses, his villains are at a severe disadvantage. It makes dodging that much easier when you know what's coming at you, no matter what. So, what would you say if I said that you could have spidey senses? Well, that's a lot like what the Holy Ghost is like. Before we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, it can testify to us truth. That's how we can gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, or anything else. But once we're baptized, and confirmed a member, the Holy Ghost becomes our constant companion. With it, we're always able to feel our Heavenly Father's love, and know what it is He wants. And, of course, the Holy Ghost can warn us of danger. Whenever we're in a situation, and we get a bad feeling, that's the Holy Ghost telling us to get out. So, just like Spider-Man, we can have spidey senses, too! Thanks to promptings from the Holy Ghost!