Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gospel and Comic Books Part 1: Faith

I figured I'd right a new blog... It's about time, right?
Well, I wanted to write another series of blogs. I like doing that. It's fun! So, in concocting an idea, I decided I would take principles most people were familiar with, and do my thing with them (that is, compare it to something nerdy). So, in my pondering and thinking, I decided on doing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 Gospel means the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation, or the message or teachings of a religious leader. Christ's gospel was incredibly simple. He taught it to everyone, including His Apostles so they could teach it to others, and it can be found throughout the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon. It's the third lesson in the series of lessons that we as missionaries teach people. It is summed up simply in five steps, namely: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. These are the steps that we must follow to gain eternal life. It's a simple path, and one that we are never alone on.
We're going to start off with step one, Faith. Faith is a hope for things that are not seen that are real. As Adam and Eve fell and were banished from the Garden, they also left the presence of our Heavenly Father. They no long were walking by sight. They had to do everything they were told to by faith. They didn't know it would do anything, really, but they had faith it would. Now, generations later, here we all are, working through our life, and (hopefully) following the commandments. I've never seen God, and odds are you haven't either. We don't have a perfect knowledge of Him, or His Son, but we have faith that They are there and watching, and that each thing we do right, we'll be blessed. We can see the blessings that come from obedience, but we have to have faith that they will come before they do. How can we be sure that God is really there, watching over us, waiting to bless us? Well, for now, we can't know for absolutely sure. We walk by faith rather than by sight. It's a simple thing, and it's the first step. Everything comes back to faith. Without it, we have nothing. And before we can do anything else, before we can progress and learn, before we can grow any closer to our Father in Heaven or to Christ, we need to have faith. That is the starting point.
Where does faith come in in the world of comic books and superheroes? Well, consider this: Wolverine is going to face off with Sabertooth. They've fought several times before, but this time it's meaningful. This isn't just some feud match that's been going on between the two, this is for protection. Sabertooth is no longer just trying to beat up Wolverine our of spite, now he's joined forces with Magneto and is trying to bring down the entire X-Men organization, starting at Xavier's Institute. Wolverine is the only one who can take him on at this point, so he marches towards his foe, ready to take him on, one-on-one. As they meet, Wolverine wastes no time in bringing out the claws. He has no fear because he knows any damage dealt to him, he can quickly recover from, thanks to his regenerating powers. But, how does he know all this?
Imagine Spider-Man, answering to a cry for help. Peter puts on his outfit, and jumps out the window. He doesn't care that he's twenty-some stories up, he can just sling his webs and swing around the city no problem. He's got agility and acrobatic skills that make maneuvering a cinch. But, how can he be so sure the webs will come out?
I could go on and on with examples, but we'll leave it at that. Because Wolverine and Spider-Man have used their powers before, they know what they are, what they themselves are capable of, and how to use their powers. They know what makes them start and stop, and how to control them. They have faith that their powers will work. Every time Wolverine takes on a bad guy, and everytime Spider-Man jumps out of a window, their exercising faith. Maybe it's not the same faith we exercise, but it still is hoping for something that can't be seen, that's real. Ok, maybe Spider-Man can see his webs, and Wolverine can see his claws and watch himself heal, but you know what I'm getting at. They can't be entirely sure their powers will be there everytime they need them, but based on previous experience, they're pretty confident in them. And because of that, when Wolverine comes face to face with Sabertooth, or Spider-Man leaps our of that building, they do so with a knowledge that their powers will carry them through.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Before Abraham was... I... AM... Batman

So, who loves Batman? Answer: Everyone. He's awesome: he uses his brains, brawn, and billions to make him a "super"hero, though he posses no actual superpowers. That doesn't stop him from whooping up on the bad guys and doing things that the average person couldn't, or at least wouldn't, do (either from lack of funds, lack of equipment, or too much sanity). With the help of his butler, Alfred, his gadget provider, Lucius Fox, and a police commissioner, Commissioner Gordon, who's good at turning a blind eye, Batman is able to weed out the villains and ne'er-do-wells of Gotham (of which there are many). He's able to incorporate his own style of criminal justice, and able to infiltrate places and apprehend suspects in ways that the normal police force are unable to do. This is because he's, obvioulsy, not part of the Gotham Police Department... and this for a very good reason.
The whole purpose for Bruce Wayne donning the Batman get-up is because of the lack of reliability the residents of Gotham had for the GPD. When the cops are as bad as the crooks, who can you trust? Who can save the people? Who can protect the innocent? Cue the Caped Crusader. By entering the contest as a vigilante, he's able to uphold the law without being subject to the finer rules. Sure, a cop needs a warrant, and probable cause, and this and that... Batman doesn't need any of that! He just needs some sweet gadgets, and a location, and within minutes, he'll have the bad guy.
But, this raises quite an objection amongst many people (besides the villains, of course). Many people are uncomfortable with the vigilante type. They feel it unsafe and reckless for one man to take the law upon himself. What gives him the right? And how can we be sure he won't become corrupted as well? These are legitimate concerns, and obvioulsy it's hard to quell these with a simple "well, he's Batman!" While those of us who know him a little more personally (this group consisting of Alfred, Lucius, and the readers), we know that Bruce Wayne is nothing if not trustworthy. We know he'll never do anything wrong, and only has the best of intentions. However, those who only see him in newspaper articles and as a black blur on the nightly news have no reason to assume him to be infallible.
Many people think he's just a lunatic! Some guy running around with a mask, beating up people? What a nut job. Others fear the possibility of an abuse of his abilities. It's likely that some people even think that he's no less a villain than the Joker or Riddler. But, there are a few who stand by him, praising him for his efforts, and standing up for him as a true hero. These include even such notable public figures as Harvey Dent, the District Attorney (who's opinions obviously change, but that comes later). So, just what is Batman? Hero? Villain? or Maniac?
Batman is far from the first person to be the subject of such public debate. Even when the evidence is obvious, some people will always find a way to slander someone when they don't like what they're doing. Want the ultimate example? Look no further than the New Testament. Jesus Christ, the only perfect human, came to this earth to teach the gospel, establish His church, and die for our sins. While here, He healed the sick, gave the blind sight, made the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. He did many great and wonderful things... and yet, wast He welcomed with open arms and made the king that He truly was? Of course not! He was ridiculed, questioned, and mocked. He was rejected by even the most devout followers of His Father, and was the subject of many an attempt on His life.
He was public enemy number one amongst the Jews, and when they finally couldn't take anymore, they brought Him under false pretenses, trumping up non-existent charges, and bringing in complete liars as witnesses, breaking all their own laws, just to get rid of Him. He did nothing to them, especially nothing they tried Him for. Their charges were that of blasphemy, heresy, treason, and sedition, of which He was guilty of none. And besides just the Pharisees and Sadducees, the regular man on the street often didn't even realize who He truly was. Many people thought He was just a crazy person, claiming to be the Son of God. Even amongst the signs, miracles, and wonders, many people still didn't believe His claim. They often would say "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" (John 6:42).
Even His own kinsmen didn't believe Him to be who He was. Still today, people doubt Him: they say He was a prophet, and no more. Or, some even less, no more than a good man. I bare you solemn testimony that Jesus was the Christ. That He lives! He is our Savior and Redeemer, our advocate with the Father. No man can come to the Father, except through Him. It is through Him that we have life, and we will have life eternal. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Only Begotten, and to whom we owe our allegiance and deepest gratitude. So, what was Jesus? Hero? Villain? or Maniac?
Your call.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

LDS FC: Our Manager

You thought I was done, didn't you? Well, the game of football doesn't only happen on the field! There's a lot done on the sidelines, by the supporting cast. The manager is a noble position to hold on the football club. It takes years and years to work your way up to that spot, and then several more years to be someone of note. You really have to perform well under pressure, and whip your team into top shape to be regarded as a manager.
There are many notable coaches and managers out there who have worked their way to a solid grounding, including Carlo Ancelotti, Arsène Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Andre Villa-Boas, Jose Mourinho, and Bob Bradley. These men are incredible in their line of work, and are just as renowned, and sometimes even more renowned, then their players. Much as it pains me to admit such things about Wenger and Ferguson, give credit where credit is due. The manager is the one who calls the shots. He organizes everything, from practices to workouts, strategies and game plans, and makes sure everything runs just as smoothly as possible. They need to know the game inside out and backwards, but more importantly, they need to know their players.
A good manager knows each of his players strengths and weaknesses, where the perform the best, and how they react under any circumstance. They know their players almost perfectly. And because of this knowledge, they can make the perfect lineup against another team. Their understanding of what threats the other team brings, and their own team's potential and capabilities allows them to make the best possible decision. Even when others, including the players themselves, don't understand just what the manager was thinking, he knows what he's doing and (usually) is making the right call. He stays in the background, not on the field scoring the goals, but if it wasn't for the manager, nothing would get done.
Ok, I think it's pretty obvious where I'm going with this... process of elimination would lead you to the conclusion that the manager is none other than our Heavenly Father. He knows us all perfectly! He knows our strengths and weaknesses, and how we'll react under any situation. He knows where we would fit best, what purpose we can accomplish, and who we would work with. He knows exactly what threats Satan has in store for us, and is thus able to make the perfect line up to fight him. He gives instructions to the players, from the background, the sidelines, and encourages where He can, but He can't (and won't) come on to the field and play the game for us. He can't score the goals or block the shots, He can only give us top notch leadership, and help us to train and practice to prepare ourselves. It's still our game, and we're still the players, but we have the best Manager ever to help us to win! No one knows the game, His own players, and the other teams' players better than our Heavenly Father. All we have to do is listening to his advice, cause it's good. He knows what's up. Nothing out there is a surprise to Him. There are no trick plays, no secret weapons, no sudden, last minute switch ups that He doesn't know about, and the He can't combat. The team is only as good as its manager, and is there any better manager than God, Himself? He's undefeated! And undefeatable. So, that cup is as good as ours, as long as we're willing to play as a strong, cohesive unit, and listen to the counsels of our coach!
Unlike our Heavenly Father, however, not all mangers are perfect...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

LDS FC: Keeper

Alright, your patience has paid off, and we're up to the keeper! You've got to have mad respect for keepers. One man is in charge of a goal 24 feet wide and 8 feet tall... that is quite the area to cover, and when you've got 4 or 5 guys trying to kick the ball in any open space they can find, it gets pretty difficult. Plus, the amazing things soccer players are able to do to those balls, like curving them amazing amounts, it's phenomenal what keepers are capable of. If it gets to the point where the midfielders and defenders just can't keep the striker from taking a shot, then it's all up to the keeper. He'll do anything he can to stop it. If it's a corner kick, he'll come out a little bit and try to punch the ball out. If the ball is rolling in, just a little ahead of the offender, he'll slide out to meet it, and try to diffuse the situation right away. And if the shot is to the opposite goal of where he's at, he'll dive for it. There are some great keepers out there that seem to have slinky spines, lightning reflexes, and psychic abilities to know where that ball is going. Some great keepers include Iker Casillas, Oliver Kahn, Edwin van der Sar, and, of course, Tim Howard. If you need rock solid confidence in your keeper, put in the bald American brick wall that is Tim Howard. You'd think he slows down time the way he's always in the right place at the right time. Oh, 2 unguarded Argentina strikers 10 feet in front of the goal? No problem! That's Tim, unstoppable! That's the purpose of the keeper: to save....
Any guesses? That last part gave it away. So, on our little club we got here, who would be our keeper? None other than the Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides the obvious and blaring reason, being that Jesus saves, we have other reasons. The Keeper is the last line of defense, often the last thing separating the striker from a goal. It's up to him to keep the ball out when all else has failed. When everything seems to be falling apart, and Satan seems awfully close to scoring on us, we still have the Savior. When we've done everything we could, but it just isn't good enough, we still have Christ and his Atonement to save us. And what fantastic saves they are! It's impressive when a keeper blocks a penalty kick. The striker is lined up, 12 yards from the goal, with a major upper hand. It's incredibly difficult to know exactly what he's going to do. Is he going high, middle, or low? Left, right, or center? Upper corner, just inside the post, or dead center? But, when a keeper can pull of a save, it's amazing. Well, Christ can certainly pull off a save like, a seemingly impossible save, in the most necessary time for it. We can always rely on Him, for He will always stay cool under pressure, and perform at His best all the time. No matter how skilled the striker, no matter how tense the situation, He will always make that save. Jesus Saves!

Monday, July 4, 2011

LDS FC: Defenders

With the ball moving rapidly up and down the field, it's everyone's job to make sure it stays on the right side of the field. However, if by some chance you let the ball slip past and it's making its way towards your goal, don't worry... you've got defneders! These guys are tough! They've gotta be quick and agile, they've gotta be strong, and they've gotta have stamina like none other! These guys are the main thing keeping a striker from taking a shot, and it's a lot harder for them to score when they can't even get a shot off. Simple logic, there. Yes, these guys will often be up towards the front when their team has the ball, lending support to their team, helping out where they can, but they'll still be back a little bit, and ready to book it back the other way if there's a loss of possession. And of course, within the defense there are different roles. Like with midfielders, some are more offensive and some are more defensive, you'll see the same with defense. Some will be up a little farther, some will stay back. There's always gonna be one who stays back, known as the sweeper (the position my brother played). There main purpose, their focus, is to make sure the goalie doesn't have to do a darn thing! They want that ball out of there, and back on the other side of the field! Some great names in defense are players like Puyol, Pique, John Terry, and Carlos Bocanegra. They're central in making sure that the team wins.
We often hear about our first line of defense being the Prophet. The Prophet and Apostles are special men, set apart to be special witnesses of Christ. The Prophet receives revelation pertinent for the world, and the Apostles have oversight for the Church. Thanks to them, we can know how best to defend ourselves against Satan and his attack. We can look to these men, by reading the Engisn or watching Conference, and Apostles and Prophets from the days of old, through Scriptures, to find out what Satan wants to do, and how we can stand up to him. It's an amazing gift they have, and they share it with all of us. They want us to be protected, as does our Heavenly Father. That's why He calls Prophets, to make sure we're not left in the dark. When we lose the ball, and it's heading back the other way, we have out defenders who can stop the other team, and get the ball back where it needs to be. Thank God we have Prophets and Apostles, true inspired men of God, who lead and guide us in our day to day lives. We have a brickwall defense, so long as we heed their council and listen to what they say. They're not just giving us good advice, they're giving us words of wisdom, straight from our Heavenly Father. They are the BEST defense we could hope for! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

LDS FC: Midfielders

Midfielders are athletes to be admired. They're offense, they're defense, they're everything! They run more than most humans do, and will usually run about 8 miles a game. They have to have speed, agility, ball-handling skills, stamina, energy, and good reasoning skills. They need to know when they need to focus on defense, and when they should be offensive. They're often called upon to set up the play, or to make sure the ball stays in their range. They often have opportunities for glory, given the chance to take a free kick, or drive towards the goal, or even get a good shot. They'll get goals, too, but they need to know when they need to play the second fiddle and give it up for the strikers. Though they may not be the main attraction of a team, midfielders are invaluable in their contribution to the team. Even though the middies aren't up there scoring goals all the time, I guarantee you know at least a few: Landon Donovan, Frank Lampard, Xabi Alonso, Florent Malouda, Michael Bradley... Just to name a few. It's also not uncommon for middies to fill the role of Captain because of their versatility and the incredible assets they make to the team.
So, in terms of LDS FC, who are the midfielders? Why, the members, of course! Sure, the strikers are more likely to score a goal, but if you look at stats, what position do you think almost always has the assist? The middies! And where's a goal without an assist? Usually not there. The members of this Church are missionaries, as well, just without being set apart and without the name tag. They share the gospel with their friends, and help them come into the fold. Without the work of the members, missionary work just isn't as effective. Just like the midfielders, members play all roles: They play the part of friend and missionary. We can befriend the people, no doubt, but first and foremost, we are the missionaries. We're just to teach. When a member shares the gospel with a friend, and invites them to come and take the missionary discussions, that person automatically has a friend to help them. A familiar face, someone to sit by in church, and to ask questions of between discussions. Sure, it's the missionaries who teach them and set them up for baptism, but the role of the members are invaluable. The comfort and added testimony a member can provide makes such an impact on the situation. It is almost impossible for an investigator, in that situation, not to feel the Spirit, and be converted! Members are the middlemen of missionary work, making it possible for us missionaries (the strikers) to help people receive the restored gospel.