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Opposition

18

shaking fist

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? Not everyone has, but in recent days, I have had the opportunity to visit with some people close to me who have, or do. I found the conversations both sad and hopeful at the same time. One reason I am happy to talk about the subject is because – brace yourselves – I have felt abandoned by God. Even beyond feeling abandoned, I have been angry at Him as well. I don’t recommend it, but it can happen.

The most personal and specific example in my life was a stretch of time earlier in our marriage when my EC and I had four young kids in the home, ranging from two to eleven years old. During an eighteen month period we had a non-stop run of heartbreak and challenge. I say this knowing full well that to some of you, our challenges will look difficult, yet to others, they will look like a walk in the park. Everyone faces their own challenges, and they can be wildly different. Our challenges were kicking my butt.

To start off the stretch, we lost a baby to miscarriage. A few months later, my father-in-law passed away from a painful illness. Three months later, my mother died unexpectedly. Shortly afterwards, my father suffered a massive stroke that rendered him invalid. Finally, a few month later, my EC suffered a life-changing leg injury that left her confined to a hospital bed for three months, unable to walk for six.

It was during this last event that I remember how I felt. My wife was stuck sleeping on her back in an extra room in  a rented hospital bed, fuzzy from pain medications. The kids were upstairs asleep when I decided to go outside for a walk. I was so tired. Tired from playing nurse, tired of trying to keep a business afloat, and tired of taking care of a houseful of kids. I was still mourning my mom and dad, and just trying to keep my own head above water.

I vividly remember standing in our driveway that night and bursting into tears. Not tears of sadness, or exhaustion, but tears of anger. I was angry at God for abandoning us. I was angry that he allowed all of these life-crisis to pile up on us without even time to mourn or breath before the next gut-punch came. I felt cheated that our reward for doing our best to live righteously was to be repeatedly pummeled by tragedy. I felt alone and cheated.

It was an unfamiliar feeling to me.

As I tell this, I’m sure that many of you are nodding your heads and saying, “Been there, done that.” I also know that many of you are taken aback because you have never grappled with those kind of feelings. I do guarantee that someone you know and love has walked this path.

One of them is the prophet Joseph Smith. When he was suffering in Liberty Jail, his frustration and feelings of abandonment bubbled up, as recorded in scripture. He pled:

O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? (D&C 121:1-2)

He went on to offer God a list of suggestions of how He could better do His job, but mostly his plea was full of questions. Where are you? Why aren’t you helping? Way aren’t you listening?

The greatest example of feeling abandoned in the scriptures is from the Savior’s own lips. As he hung on the cross, suffering more than any man ever would, or could, he called out to God.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)

Apparently it happens to the best of us.

The danger in harboring feelings of abandonment or anger towards God is not in that moment, but what it can lead to if unchecked. Something has to stop the slide before we find ourselves hurtling into the abyss of atheism or agnosticism. (Think of Tom Cruise sliding off that skyscraper in Shanghai.)

It would be both trite and naive to suggest that we just “snap out of it.” These challenges are real and can run deep. What I can suggest are some ways that we can stop the slide and climb back into a healthier relationship with God.

– Find something to grab onto to stop the slide.

Might I suggest this thought: Anger towards God is a personal testimony that you believe He is real and that He lives. You wouldn’t be angry if you didn’t believe in Him, right? Grab onto that basic, pure testimony that He does live, and begin to work your way back. As frightening as it is to think God has abandoned us, it is more frightening to think that He doesn’t exist. He does.

– Find a sense of proportion.

Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to be told that things could be worse, and I would suggest that you never, ever do that to someone who is suffering. Yet that is exactly how God responded to Joseph Smith when he called out to Him from Liberty Jail.

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job”. (D&C 121:7-10)

It was a gently rebuke, looking at the bright side – but then the Lord came back again, gave him a dose of proportion and dressed him down:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8)

– Find a sense of eternal perspective.

The Plan of Happiness does not always mean “Instant Happiness.” it is a plan for playing the long-game. Studying that plan, and what God desires for us, helps us weather the inevitable storms life brings. The immediacy of our current struggles sometimes overwhelms the reality that this life is indeed a “blip” on the eternities. While that perspective does not reduce the pain, it can make it a little more tolerable. It helps to know that God is aware, and that he loves us – even when we can’t tell.

President Boyd K. Packer taught, “Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven” (link)

– Find some blessings.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but the concept is sound. When we focus on gratitude, we become humble. Humility helps us in the next step:

– Find some grace.

President James E Faust: In the many trials of life, when we feel abandoned and when sorrow, sin, disappointment, failure, and weakness make us less than we should ever be, there can come the healing salve of the unreserved love in the grace of God. It is a love that forgives and forgets, a love that lifts and blesses. (link)

As the Lord pointed out to Joseph Smith, “the Son of Man hath descended below them all,” placing the Savior in the remarkable position of having total empathy, understanding and compassion. Turn to Him. By seeking healing through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can mend our strained relationship with God.

I testify that the Savior invites all of us to come and partake of His Atonement. As we exercise our faith in Him, He will lift us up and carry us through all of our trials and, ultimately, save us in the celestial kingdom. (Elder Evan A. Scmutz)

– Find common ground through prayer.

Standing in the driveway that night, I had a one-sided conversation with God, and it wasn’t pretty. But at least I was having a one-sided conversation with God. Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite plays/films. The lead character Tevye, walks through his life in a constant running dialogue with God. It is not only funny, but exemplary. I’ll admit standing in a driveway – full of tears and rage – is not the best way to converse with God, it is at least an honest attempt, and the best I could muster at the time. The next step would be to dial it back, and search for a two-way communication that involves much less complaining, and much more listening and searching for understanding.

Elder Bednar added this counsel: “Discerning and accepting the will of God in our lives are fundamental elements of asking in faith in meaningful prayer. However, simply saying the words “Thy will be done” is not enough. Each of us needs God’s help in surrendering our will to Him.

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” Humble, earnest, and persistent prayer enables us to recognize and align ourselves with the will of our Heavenly Father. And in this the Savior provided the perfect example as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. … And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:42, 44).

Ultimately, when we are angry at God, or feel abandoned by Him, we are focusing on the idea that we know better – that things should run according to our plan. Until we let go of this false sense of control and actually submit our will to His, we will be at odds with God. It is a lifetime challenge, and tougher to embrace when we are mired in struggle.

To those who are suffering, I feel for you and hope you can stop the slide and climb out. To those of you who have never experienced the feelings of abandonment and frustration with God, I am happy for you, and hope you never do.

God does live, and He does love us – even though sometimes we can’t see it.

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14

bonsai trees

Bonsai!

Last week I came home to find my sons clustered around the kitchen counter, admiring their latest acquisitions. Bonsai trees. They had driven past the “Bonsai Guy” who randomly appears on a street corner near our house with a truck laden with bonsai trees. We have seen him now and again for years, but had never stopped.

Bonsai truck

This time, my boys did. They each bought a tree for themselves, and one for my EC for her birthday. Now everyone in the house has their own personal bonsai tree, except me. The good news is that I will be the only one in the house that will not eventually kill their own personal bonsai tree.

I can’t see a bonsai tree without thinking of Mr. Myagi in the Karate Kid (1984)

Myagi

While the meditative aspects of for a bonsai tree artistry are worthy of consideration, I was curious as to what you have to do to care for it, and keep it looking like, well, a bonsai tree. So I checked out Wiki and discovered that there is a lot to the art of bonsai.

Watering, soil composition, fertilization, repotting, sunlight, pruning, shaping, etc., are all part of keeping it alive and flourishing. The part I find most curious is the shaping. There are all sorts of techniques to make the tree look the way the gardner wants it to look,  including the following:

  • Leaf trimming, the selective removal of leaves or needles from a bonsai’s trunk and branches.
  • Pruning the trunk, branches, and roots
  • Wiring branches and trunks to create the desired form and make detailed branch and leaf placements.
  • Clamping using mechanical devices for shaping trunks and branches.
  • Grafting new growing material (typically a bud, branch, or root) into the trunk or under the bark of the tree.
  • Defoliation, which can provide short-term dwarfing of foliage for certain deciduous species. (link)

As I learned about these techniques, I understood that they are often used to do a very specific thing: To force the tree to grow and develop in a way that is not natural, or comfortable to the tree. By clamping or cutting of one branch, the tree is forced to grow in another direction. With this kind of manipulation, the gardener eventually gets the tree that he wants. The tree has two options, conform, or die. The gardener is basically saying to nature, “No, I don’t think so – let’s do this instead.”

Even tougher, the gardener might use one, two or more of these techniques – at the same time! Imagine being uprooted, pruned and forced to bend, all at the same time. (Actually, I’ll bet that a lot of us can imagine – or describe – that process.)

Another aspect I found quite intriguing is that this is a very, very slow process. One that is measured in months and years, not in days. I can go back and trim one of my pomegranate bush, and within a few months it will be gangly again. But there are bonsai trees that have been around for 1,000 years. Think about that! Growing and grooming a bonsai is not a quick and easy process. It takes time, and patience. It also takes timing. There are certain times when the tree needs pruned. Other times it needs uprooted and repotted, and other times it might need an increase of sunlight.

The goal of the gardener is to keep the tree healthy, and beautiful, and to continue becoming something more and more beautiful. That gardner is willing to spend a lifetime to get his tree as close to that place of near-perfection as he can.

Cutting, uprooting, scraping, clamping, etc. The gardner doesn’t do it because he hates the bonsai tree. He does it to make the tree more beautiful, and of more worth.

Which leads me to a wonderful story you might know from Elder Hugh B. Brown, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He told a story in a talk he gave at a BYU Commencement address way back in 1968. It has been retold more recently by Elder Christofferson, and might be familiar to you. Enjoy!

Could I tell you just a quick story out of my own experience in life? Sixty-odd years ago I was on a farm in Canada. I had purchased the farm from another who had been somewhat careless in keeping it up. I went out one morning and found a currant bush that was at least six feet high. I knew that it was going all to wood. There was no sign of blossom or of fruit. I had had some experience in pruning trees before we left Salt Lake to go to Canada, as my father had a fruit farm. So I got my pruning shears and went to work on that currant bush, and I clipped it and cut it and cut it down until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps.

And as I looked at them, I yielded to an impulse, which I often have, to talk with inanimate things and have them talk to me. It’s a ridiculous habit. It’s one I can’t overcome. As I looked at this little clump of stumps, there seemed to be a tear on each one, and I said, “What’s the matter, currant bush? What are you crying about?”

And I thought I heard that currant bush speak. It seemed to say, “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as large as the fruit tree and the shade tree, and now you have cut me down. And all in the garden will look upon me with contempt and pity. How could you do it? I thought you were the gardener here.”

I thought I heard that from the currant bush. I thought it so much that I answered it.

I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. But someday, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to think back and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”

Ten years passed, and I found myself in Europe. I had made some progress in the First World War in the Canadian army. In fact, I was a field officer, and there was only one man between me and the rank of general, which I had cherished in my heart for years. Then he became a casualty. And the day after, I received a telegram from London from General Turner, who was in charge of all Canadian officers. The telegram said, “Be in my office tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”

I puffed up. I called my special servant. (We called them “batmen” over there.) I said, “Polish my boots and my buttons. Make me look like a general, because I am going up tomorrow to be appointed.”

He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went to London. I walked into the office of the general. I saluted him smartly, and he replied to my salute as higher officers usually do to juniors—sort of a “Get out of the way, worm.” Then he said, “Sit down, Brown.”

I was deflated. I sat down. And he said, “Brown, you are entitled to this promotion, but I cannot make it. You have qualified and passed the regulations, you have had the experience, and you are entitled to it in every way, but I cannot make this appointment.”

Just then he went into the other room to answer a phone call, and I did what most every officer and man in the army would do under those circumstances: I looked over on his desk to see what my personal history sheet showed. And I saw written on the bottom of that history sheet in large capital letters: “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.”

Now at that time we were hated heartily in Britain, and I knew why he couldn’t make the appointment. Finally he came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.”

I saluted him, less heartily than before, and went out. On my way back to Shorncliffe, 120 kilometers away, I thought every turn of the wheels that clacked across the rails was saying, “You’re a failure. You must go home and be called a coward by those who do not understand.”

And bitterness rose in my heart until I arrived, finally, in my tent, and I rather vigorously threw my cap on the cot, together with my Sam Browne belt. I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do to uphold the standards of the Church. I was making such wonderful growth, and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”

And then I heard a voice. It sounded like my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. And someday, when you are ripened in life, you are going to shout back across the time and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”

Those words—which I recognize now as my words to the currant bush and that had become God’s word to me—drove me to my knees, where I prayed for forgiveness for my arrogance and my ambition.

As I was praying there, I heard some Mormon boys in an adjoining tent singing the closing number to an M.I.A. session, which I usually attended with them. And I recognized these words, which all of you have memorized:

It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
. . .
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere;
I’ll be what you want me to be. 

My young friends and brothers and sisters, will you remember that little experience that changed my whole life? Had the Gardener not taken control and done for me what was best for me, or if I had gone the way I wanted to go, I would have returned to Canada as a senior commanding officer of western Canada. I would have raised my family in a barracks. My six daughters would have had little chance to marry in the Church. I myself would probably have gone down and down. I do not know what might have happened, but this I know, and this I say to you and to Him in your presence, looking back over sixty years: “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down.”

(Here is a link to the entire talk. I heartily recommend it. Audio and print)

I love the currant bush story, but when I think about how it applies, the bonsai compliments it.  The Gardener does not always chop us down to mere stumps. Sometimes it is more precise, more nuanced. A little pressure here, a nudge there, and maybe a little snip to foster needed changes that are only visible to the Gardener.

We are all subject to a lifetime of constant, gradual, and sometimes painful pruning. And we should actually strive to understand and be grateful to be on the receiving end. Grateful? Yes, grateful, because that is the only way we can become what the Gardener wants us to become – more productive, more fruitful, more beautiful, less “natural,” and nearer to perfection.

Bonsai!

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41

Dog flood

On August 19, 2014, Elder David A. Bednar called on members of the Church to get busy using Social Media in positive ways. More specifically he challenged:

“Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.” (link)

This topic has been becoming more and more of an emphasis by the brethren for some time. President Uchtdorf, Elder Perry, and Elder Anderson have all made it a point to encourage our use of Social Media in their General Conference talks. Apparently, they are serious.

So many obedient Latter-day Saints are joining the ranks, and flooding the earth on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and that Google + thingy. I have been at this for almost four years, and I still consider myself a novice, but I have noticed the increase as the trickle becomes a flood.

I guarantee that your efforts are not in vain. Many people will read your tweets and posts and be touched by the Spirit. Some sincere readers or followers might ask you honest questions to learn about “the reason of the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Some readers will be prompted to make changes in their lives, some will even embrace the Gospel because of what you share. It is worth it. I know this because I have experienced it. It is a noble effort, and you can find a great sense of accomplishment in being part of this great flood.

One thing about floods – they always seem to dredge up all sorts of crud.

This flood of goodness is no different. As we make an effort to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ via Social Media – or any other method – there will be opposition. There are those out there desiring to add their personal backwash to the Living Water.

The following observations are based on my limited experience as a blogger and Facebook addict. I know that my experiences are not the same as yours.  From my perspective, the opposition I encounter online can present itself in many different ways. As I have mentioned before, there are good-hearted people who ask questions to seek truth, there are also people who have other beliefs who can and will respectfully want to discuss our differences. The following are not those people.

Techniques of the Opposition

Point laughThose Who Mock:  Nephi described the people hanging out in the Great and Spacious Building:

“And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” (1 Ne. 8:27)

Sadly, it was effective:

“And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” (1 Ne. 8:28)

In my experience, the most vocal mockers are former members of the Church, rather than non-members, confirming what President Boyd K. Packer once said, “They leave the Church, but they can’t leave it alone.” (link)

As you share your thoughts and testimony with the world, there is a chance that you will be mocked by those who disagree. They might not even be subtle, or sneaky about it – they might just flat out attack you with snarky insults. Yes, it stings. They want you to feel stupid. They want you to stop. Don’t stop.

Wold sheepWolves in Sheep’s Clothing: Christ taughtBeware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Disguised wolves are sneaky. They won’t confront you directly, but will try and engage you in conversation, and ask you seemingly sincere question, when in reality their motive is to have you provide a forum for their own views, as a means to discredit you. Their coup de grâce would be to sow seeds of doubt in your mind, as well as the minds of your readers. These wolves can come from both inside and outside of the Church.

President Harold B. Lee described it this way:

“There are some as wolves among us. By that, I mean some who profess membership in this church who are not sparing the flock. And among our own membership, men are arising speaking perverse things. Now perverse means diverting from the right or correct, and being obstinate in the wrong, willfully, in order to draw the weak and unwary members of the Church away after them.” (link)

CareeristCareer Antagonists: Last year I had an article run in the Deseret News. Within minutes, there were multiple comments attacking, and mocking what I had written. They instantly began putting out counter-claims and contradicting not only me, but the prophets that I quoted. Their speed and efficiency was stunning.

As I looked into it, I learned that there are actually people who make it their life’s work to lie in wait to see anything positive about the Church or it’s members, then pounce on it. They have pre-written comments that they toss into a conversation like an anti-Mormon hand grenade, trying to see how much damage they can do.

After their attacks, they head back to their groups, or networks and brag about their exploits with their friends, and continue the mockery. It is their hobby – or their career.  I believe the Lord called them out in D&C 121:12, when He said, For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” (italics added)

DetourThe Non-Sequiturs.  (Sorry, but the name fits – definition here)

Last week I posted some information about a free app that can enhance our scripture study and teaching. A few minutes later, a guy on Twitter starts in about how the “Church releases those to make money, blah, blah, blah.”

What?  Did I mention that it was free app? And that it wasn’t even released but the Church? I told him – but it didn’t matter. He droned on about issues relating the the Church’s finances, tithing, business, etc., trying to see what would stick.

You will see a lot of non-sequitur behavior if you bring up anything regarding Church History, or Joseph Smith. A statement of gratitude regarding the pioneers can, and has, instantly become a discussion about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Sigh.

They are either trying to save you from what they consider your “ignorance,” or just trying to make you mad. Either suits their purposes just fine. Don’t take their bait.

How to Respond

Dog cartoonDon’t Bite Back. A simple phrase, really. But for some of us, a Herculean task.

Years ago, I was in a calling that was encountering some public opposition. Whenever we discussed it, my leader would say the same thing, “Don’t bite back.” It was inspired counsel, bore good fruit, and became a mantra I try and carry to this day.

But it is so hard! I still struggle with it all the time. My entire family has been blessed/cursed with a caustic, quick wit. Too quick, and too caustic. We can fire back so fast your head will spin, and it can be harsh. I have had to fight those instincts all of my life – and I still lose the battle on a regular basis.

Sometimes people post things that are so dumb that I just want to shred them publicly. Others send me emails full of hate and mockery. There are some popular bloggers who actually take such letters and use them for fodder for their next blog post, all while espousing their Christianity. It doesn’t wok like that. I have deleted so many posts, Facebook conversations, and tweets that I have written before I settled down and remembered to heed the simple counsel, “Don’t bite back.”  Once the words are out there, you can’t always retrieve them. (Or ever.)

Christ taught the “Don’t bite back” concept this way:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemiesbless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Or this, But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheekturn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)

It is more fun, more exciting, and more natural to fire back at ignorance or malice. That is just the problem – it is a more natural reaction – the very type of thing we are trying to overcome. But it is a constant challenge – at least it is for me.

When we fire back at an antagonist, they win. When a conversation with the opposition causes us to lose our temper, they win. They win because we abandon the very Christianity we espouse as we are defending it. I imagine they get a modicum of satisfaction from our failure, and a chuckle.

I lose these battles occasionally – but I am much improved. A while ago, I had a personal spiritual epiphany that helped me have greater love for those who oppose the Lord’s work and Kingdom. I wrote about it here.

 

CrownMy Blog = My Rules  One of the favorite accusations of the opposition is to accuse us of “not being fair.” They make the point that by not permitting them to use your blog, thread, comments as a forum for opposing views, you have somehow broken an important Politically Correct protocol that allows for open discussion.

Hogwash. You have absolutely no obligation to host, entertain, or permit false doctrine to be taught on the forum you are hosting – the forum, blog, thread, or conversation that you are responsible for. You have been blessed with a delete button, and the ability to block people. Use them with power. Guilt-free.

Preach truth – let the others find somewhere else to share their falsehoods.

refer misisonariesRefer:  One of the true tests between a sincere questioner, – someone who really wants to learn – is how they respond when you don’t know the answer to the question. This might seem hard to believe, but I don’t have all the answers. When I don’t I can find them, and refer people to those who do have the answers, and they are usually better equipped at explaining them.

www.Mormon.org has tremendous resources to help teach. The very best reply is always to send the missionaries over to visit.

Also, the Church has recently posted wonderful articles about topics that get a lot of attention, and are favorites of there Non-sequitur Club: Polygamy, the First Vision, Mountain Meadows, Women and the Priesthood, etc. In addition, there are groups that make it a point to learn about, and how to teach difficult gospel and Church topics. We refer to them as “apologists.”  One such group is FairMormon.

If they really want to learn more, you can help them. If they just want to argue, then you know what to do:

Delete buttonMove On, Graciously

It is OK to thank them for their time, and move on. Last week I even had to ask a person (nicely) to stop tweeting me. It is OK to unfriend someone who is not your friend. You have no obligation to converse with someone who has a goal of undermining your faith, or someone who is mocking you. There is no defense for that.

“When you wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty, but the pig loves it.”Muddy Pig

 

To tie this up, Elder Bednar talked about how we should personally pursue our goal of flooding the earth:

“…we and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle. As Paul counseled the Ephesians, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29).

“Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.” (Elder Bednar)

• To my new friends who are just starting out as part of this Social Media adventure, I welcome you.

• To those who have been doing it for a long time, I thank you for your trailblazing and example.

• To those who haven’t started yet, let me reaffirm that sharing the gospel online can be a wonderful experience. Join the party! It is good for my soul, and helps me feel like I am fulfilling the Lord’s charge to me, as I’m sure it will for you.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27)

Get involved, love everyone, and remember, don’t bite back!

MMM logo small

 

 

16

Note:  I am honored to run this guest post on my blog. Please read it with an open heart  I will follow-up with some comments.  -MMM-

Ryanne

The Why

Almost two years ago, I began praying about serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A mission was some thing that had never appealed to me before, but I was coming up on my 21st birthday and I was confused about what I wanted for my life at the time.  But I knew I loved the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I knew I wanted to tell other people about the “good news!”  I spent a couple months praying and thinking about it.  I got my schedule in line for the next semester so that I could get my associates and work to save money to go. I would worry about all my nursing aspirations later, I was going to be a Missionary!
I pondered this for a few months.  I got no real answer which I mostly took to mean I needed to proceed. Than, as I began driving back to what I thought would be my last semester, I felt, very strongly, “Ryanne, you need to get going on this nurse thing.”  I recognized this as the Holy Ghost, so I dropped my guitar class (still bummed) and retook Anatomy.  I was okay with this, it felt right, but I always wondered why the Lord didn’t want me out with His other valiant servants, spreading light and truth. I thought maybe I just wasn’t righteous enough or that I wasn’t cut out to proselyte or learn a new language. In the back of my mind these thoughts were present, but I went forward with what I felt was inspiration.

This same semester, my cousin and one of my dearest friends, was in a car accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury.  For a while, we didn’t know what her life would be like as a result of this accident. There was a period of unknown that was terrifying for our family.  I prayed a lot during that time, and though I had no real reason, I knew it would all turn out okay, no matter the results, because I knew that Heavenly Father was in charge. Somehow that was good enough for me.

And it did turn out okay 🙂 It was, however, a difficult semester, but I finished my prereq’s for nursing school and did well in all my classes. I applied to three nursing schools. I didn’t get into any of them, and with nothing left to take, I left my beloved Rexburg, hoping that I would nab one of the coveted nursing student positions I worked so hard for and return.

I went to live in Montana with my mom’s side of the family. This was one of the greatest times of my life! I made wonderful friends there. I grew a lot spiritually.  I  had some time off from school and relax.  My two cute cousins were both having baby girls and I was going to be there for all of the excitement!

Then came some of the most horrible news I had ever heard. My sweet cousins baby was going to be a still born. Our hearts were completely broken. She was their first. We were so excited for her to come and be with her cousins and aunts and her mom and dad! I remember sitting outside the hospital room after she was delivered, crying and asking God, “Why, why did this happen?! She was ours, she was supposed to be ours!!”

And the answer came, clear in my mind, “She is still yours.”
Suddenly I remembered. Temple covenants have bound her to our family. She is ours forever.  I was washed with peace knowing our sweet McKinley was never lost to us because of the temple and Heavenly Fathers great plan.

While in Montana, I applied again to nursing schools. This time I was accepted to Dixie State and I was pretty excited, but I waited to hear from BYUI.

On a stupid technicality, my application was rejected though I was (what I felt,) more than qualified. I had wanted so badly go to BYUI. My friends were there, it was close to the ones I had in Billings as well. There had also been potential for a relationship with a boy whom I had really liked. It was somewhere I was comfortable. The tuition was cheap, not to mention it is a great nursing school!  Yet again, I didn’t understand why the Lord didn’t want me there, a place that focused greatly on his gospel, a place I desperately wanted to be. I felt a bit rejected and unworthy.

So I went down south were I was accepted and tried to adjust.  It was very different.  I had a few family members I knew and I made a few friends and had some great roommates, but often I was lonely and sad.  I stayed for the summer thinking it was a good way to make friends, but I spent most of my time alone.  I called my mom and dad often and told them how I wished I was somewhere else. Deep down I think I knew this was where I was supposed to be, but had no idea why.

July 14th, 2013.
My parents died.
My heart broke.

But in thinking about the last two years, my life made more sense.

I was being prepared.

Had I gone on a mission, I would not have been there for my sisters right away. I would not have gotten to see my parents the day before their passing.  I would not be in a position where I could make sure they are taken care of.

Had I not been there for Ashley’s accident, I would not have learned to have faith that Heavenly Father really is in control and no matter what the outcome, it really will be alright.

Had I stayed at BYUI and not been in Montana when Kaitie and Adam lost McKinely, I would not have had the experience that gave me a strong testimony of Temples and the Plan of Salvation that I now cling to.

Had I not been in St. George, I would not have had the immediate family support I had when the news broke.  I would not have been able to get to my scared and lonely sisters in the hospital as quickly.

This all tells me several things.

1.  God has a plan for my life.
2.  Things that happen might not make sense now, but we will know the meaning of all of this eventually.
3.  My best interests are always His motivation, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
4. He prepares the way when he asks us to do hard things.

So, I guess the whole point of this is that I don’t know why this has happened to me and my sisters.  I am living between hoping this isn’t reality and the heart breaking truth that it really is.  I question why the Lord thought it best I should have this burden on my shoulders, or why He thinks I can do it at all.

But I am not angry. I am not afraid.
Everything works out.
In time I will know. Maybe in two years, maybe in forty. I probably won’t even fully comprehend why until I get to see Mom and Dad again.

Until then I wait  in faith.  🙂

Forever
••••••••
-MMM-

This post was written day before yesterday (7/26), and forwarded to me by a friend. It touched my heart.  So, I reached out and asked Ryanne if I could run it on my blog so more people could find it. She graciously accepted.

While it is not spelled out in the post, Ryanne’s parents were both killed in a car accident, leaving behind three daughters – Ryanne being the eldest.
I don’t know Ryanne, or her family.  But I love her.  I admire her for her tremendous strength and her faith.  It is important to note that her parents were taken from her less than two weeks ago. She is in the middle of this difficult process – yet she shows such wisdom, grace, and faith.
Her story brings up some thoughts I will blog about later in the week. But for now, I would like to point out how rare it is to see the importance of why things happen when we are in the midsts of them. Often things happen and it takes years or a lifetime to understand the “why.” Sometimes we never do, and we have to trust in the Lord that one day, when we meet, the answers will become clear.
My heart goes out to Ryanne and her sisters.
I also found out that there is a Memorial Trust set up for the girl. Contributions can be made  through PayPal using the email address mayfamily1989@gmail.com.
Also, there has been an account at Wells Fargo established under the name May Family Memorial Account.
Also, here is Ryanne’s blog. She’s awesome.
Please show her the love.

25

OK. I am a Geek. Or if you prefer, Nerd.  I really like Tolkein, and I really like what Peter Jackson does with his books. Right now, I am a Hobbit Geek.  A few years ago, I was a LOTR Geek.  Feel free to laugh, or mock, as I intend to forward any such comments directly to President Uchtdorf.

MInd you, I am not the kind of Hobbit geek that waits outside the theater, in full costume, anxiously awaiting a midnight showing on opening day.  The idea of coming home at 3:30am, and then getting up two hours later does not appeal to me. I am not that committed.

However, I am committed enough to find tickets to an early screening of the movie, so that I am going home when the young men in their Gollum outfits are trying to convince the theater manager to not have them arrested. I may like the movies, but not in that way.

In this regard, I am greatly blessed with an EC who loves the movies, and is a Hobbit/LOTR fan as well. She has read all the books – multiple times. She saw all of the trilogy with me, and she was excited to see the first Hobbit as well.  I find great reassurance in this -because it reaffirms to me that the reason she liked LOTR wasn’t solely because of Aragorn. (Not that she would say anything, but I did notice how she would ignore her soda whenever he was onscreen. (Teasing, honey!) (Not really)

My EC and I go to all our movies together, she goes to the ones I like, I go to those she likes, because I would rather be with her watching a chick flick, than not be with her. And she has tolerated some dumb movies on my behalf as well.

So we saw the Hobbit in the regular film style on Thursday, and then plunked down our hard-earned cash to see it again on Saturday night, in the new HFR 3D technology. (HFR is High Frame Rate, which means that your eyes see twice as many pictures every second than in a normal movie – 48 vs. 24. Breathtaking and weird a the same time.

We enjoyed The Hobbit, but I won’t use this space to give a review. Instead I want to talk about more important stuff. First, about the author, J.R.R Tolkein.

Tolkein was a Christian, who threaded Christian theology through much of his writing. Some of you might now know that he was also good friends with C.S. Lewis, another famed Christian fantasy writer (Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe.) The theological slant in both their writings were very intentional, although C.S. Lewis tended to be more obvious than Tolkein. (Here is an interesting article about it.)But if you read, and listen closely, you will hear great wisdom in his work. This wisdom is usually voiced by Gandalf the wizard.

Gandalf has the ability to show more love and compassion in his face than any actor I have ever seen. Ian McKellen portrays Gandalf, although he is probably more familiar to all of you from his role as Citizen Chauvelin in the movie The Scarlet Pimpernel. OK, not really. But my wife did introduce me to that movie. Sink me.  Anyway, McKellan is a perfect Gandalf.He is awesome.

So, for today’s wisdom, I give you two of my favorite Gandalf quotes.  The first is from the new Hobbit movie, and is particularly interesting given the news of the day,  and the second is from the Lord of the Rings.

Gandalf speaking to Galadriel about Saruman (the bad guy):
“He believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

 

Gandalf speaking to Frodo:
Frodo: “I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”