Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Overcoming Unnecessary Guilt in a Gospel Context

How can we avoid the guilt that sometimes comes with the gospel? In other words, at times even when I am reading my scriptures and praying regularly I feel like I am not doing my part. I never feel like the Lord is happy with me.
            We know that guilt to the spirit is like pain to the body; it is an essential indication of the need to repent and better ourselves. It is not rare however for a saint to self-inflict themselves with guilt for one reason or another and this can be dangerous because it is depressing to put forth a valiant effort and still feel like you are coming up short, so how can this be avoided? How can we eliminate guilt that is the cause of our incorrect perception and not actually caused by sin? First we need to make sure we know that perfection is not a prerequisite to grace. In Doctrine and Covenants 39:4 Christ says, “…Even so will I give unto as many as will receive me power to become my sons.” This is so important that we get the order of events right. First we receive Christ and then we have power to become his sons, or become like He is. Often times we flip this concept and think that we need to become like He is by our own strength and then we can enter into his grace. That is a false and dangerous idea because we will never be good enough for Christ, but he is willing to accept us as we are, if we just allow him to.
            Another important thing that will help us remove some of our guilt is to be more liberal in our speech of Christ’s grace. We often say that thoughts lead to words, but I think it’s almost more powerful in reverse, words lead to thoughts. If we vocalize the gratitude we have for Christ and his atonement, we will start to think more on the grace he has given us and less on the criticism we give ourselves. God knows how important this is and so he has given us a commandment in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12-13 “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea a song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice…” The Lord has not only told us to praise Him, he has given us the very words. We should never underestimate the power of a hymn. Too often we see hymns as fluff. If we need to save time in a meeting we cut out the hymn, but I feel that hymns are essential in assuring that our focus is on Christ’s grace and mercy. 
            One more thing that we can do to remove some of the guilt we feel is found in Doctrine and Covenants 27:2 “…It mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory- remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” If we partake of the Sacrament with an eye single to the glory of God then we will have a stark remembrance of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. If we have the perspective that Christ wants us to have we will realize that our lives are worth the life of a God. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote (from the perspective of a demon) “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” Satan isn’t necessarily telling us all the time that we’re worthless, he’s just fighting to make sure we don’t remember how much we’re really worth. Taking the sacrament with the right perspective will overcome that tactic of the enemy.

            As 2 Nephi 2:25 teaches, we were made to have joy. Just because perfect obedience amplifies that joy, it should not be a prerequisite to joy in general. We just have to learn how to see us from God’s perspective. 

Good, Better, Best... and Best?

We often hear about 'good, better, best' decisions. How do we choose between two seemingly 'best' options?

    The path to the Lord is straight and narrow, but it doesn’t mean that there is no room for variation. Not every person has to follow the exact same course of action to be able to successfully return to God’s presence. In fact, God wants us to learn how to act for ourselves as explained in Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-27, “For behold it is not meet that I should command in all things… 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” This might be a scary principle to apply in our lives because we may feel like God has a path for us, and even though these two decisions both seem good, how can I be sure that I didn’t miss out on some of the blessings by picking the wrong path. The Lord assures us that we can be confident in our decisions in Doctrine and Covenants 58:28, “…And inasmuch as men do good, they shall in nowise lose their reward.”

    Maybe in the past we have felt good about a decision and then it ended up not being the “best” like we thought it was. This shouldn’t make us afraid of continuing to act for ourselves in the future. Sometimes the Lord will wait for us to go down the wrong path before instructing us, as was the case with the elders traveling to Missouri. They asked God if they should travel by land or canoe and received the answer that it didn’t matter to the Lord. They chose to travel by canoe and then the dangers of the river forced them to the banks and they had to continue on foot. When the elders questioned why they were permitted at all to travel by water the Lord responded, “I suffered it that ye might bear record; behold, there are many dangers upon the waters, and more especially hereafter;” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:4). When the Lord doesn’t give us specific direction, and both options seem “best” we should proceed with faith and trust that if we go the wrong way, the Lord won’t let us get far without correcting our course. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why I support Evan McMullin, and why I initially was hesitant

As all of my Facebook friends know, up to this point I have been an avid supporter of Gary Johnson, but as of today I have made up my mind that I will be voting for Evan McMullin. Gary Johnson didn't do anything in particular to lose my vote. I agree with a lot of what he believes and says and I think that he is an extremely honest and sincere person. I have a lot of respect for Governor Johnson and the awesome job he did with New Mexico.  I would have supported him through all his "gaffes" up until election day if it weren't for the wild card named Evan McMullin.

Why I hestitated to support McMullin
There are many reasons I didn't want to support him at first, one of the biggest being that he is unable to be on the ballot in over 30 states. I'm all about voting your conscience and that you shouldn't avoid a third party because you feel like it's "wasting your vote", however with McMullin it's not only unlikely that he gets enough electoral votes, it's mathematically impossible. This was a big turn off for me. I have since accepted however that he has as good a chance as Johnson does for getting elected since both are banking on both major candidates failing to get 270 electoral votes and congress appointing them. 

The next reason I hestitated to support him was his Mormon faith. This might seem strange since I am Mormon, but let me explain. I, like many Latter Day Saints, was saddened by the amount of people in 2008 that said they would never vote for Mitt Romney solely because he was Mormon. It seemed unfair and unAmerican, but then in the primaries Romney received 90% of the vote in Utah against John McCain and I gaurantee that if Romney had the exact same political views and moral standards, but was Baptist, it would have been a much closer race. My point is, a lot of Mormons supported Mitt Romney ONLY because he is Mormon which in my mind is just as bad as not supporting him just because he is Mormon. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't leaping to support McMullin only because of his Mormon faith and so I have taken the time to really understand his policies and while there is a lot more I can read and watch, I have read and seen enough to support him, here's what I've liked.

Why I now Support McMullin
One of Evan McMullin's biggest selling points is his service as a CIA operative. He has a very profound understanding of the war on terror and he knows what needs to be done to stop ISIS. His foreign policy is excellent.

The next thing I like about him is his presentation. He's a very collected person who talks with authority but maintains respect. He has stated why he is a better option than his opponents but he does it without name calling or immature summations of their character. He points to their actions and words and policies and uses that to show why they are unfit for office. On top of that he uses an intelligent vocabulary and a calm demeanor that shows that he is confident and in control.

He is a man of faith, but respects government. When questioned on whether he would try to appoint Justices that would change the Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex Marriage he replied that he would not. He explained that as a man of faith he believes that marriage is ordained of God as a sacred covenant between a man and woman, but then explained that the president represents all faiths, not just his, and that he would respect the Supreme Court ruling. I find this to be a sign of maturity and that he is ready to represent a nation and not just a subsection of that nation.

He is fiscally conservative. This is extremely important to me, I think our government has been spending money in a very immature way and we are out of control. Unlike the candidate on the Republican ticket, McMullin is a true conservative.

He wants to decriminalize marijuana, but not legalize it. I feel like the debate on marijuana has always been black and white, legal or a criminal act, but there is a classification system on drugs and you can make decriminalize a drug without making it legal for medical and recreational use. This is extremely important because it would allow science to do much more meaningful research that could shine light on the true breadth of side effects from marijuana.

I could go on, but the point is, Evan McMullin aligns with my views in many many ways and I feel like I have finally had enough exposure to his campaign to know that I am supporting him for the right reason. 

Evan McMullin 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

Work Therapy

It seems like everyone is longing for a get rich quick scheme. They dream of a time called retirement when finally they'll be able to relax.  They will do anything to avoid a 40 hour work week.  But I propose that a 40 hour work week brings more happiness than a million dollar winning lottery ticket.

I'm writing this post right after I woke up from a nap.  I took a nap because I was exhausted.  I was exhausted because I finished up a 2 day employment where I worked 30 hours. It was a construction job at the LDS temple in Los Angeles.  I arrived the first day at 6am and expected an 8 hour work day.  I was imagining being done at around 2pm, driving home and being able to attend institute. Instead I finished at 7:20pm got home around 9pm, ate dinner and went to bed.  I woke up at 3:30am again and drove to LA to be at work by 6am.  I worked until almost 11pm.  They thanked me for my work and then I drove home.  Probably a risky move since in the 2 days combined I had slept a grand total of 8 hours. But despite physical exhaustion, I was happier than I had been all summer.  Not because I suddenly had a lot of money, but because I felt accomplished.

As I was 20 feet in the air trying to hold a piece of plywood against some 2x4's and shoot nails in at the right spots extremely stressed because any slip up could damage an extremely valuable mural that was just a foot in front of me, I wasn't thinking about any of the mistakes I made this summer.  I wasn't worried about politics or drama, I was just focused on the task at hand.

At 10am each day we got our lunch break and that was all the food I'd eat in the entire work day.  Two peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, an applesauce, some dried mango, and some fruit snacks for dessert.  I eat more than that during one episode of Shark Tank on days where I don't get up and do anything at all! Even if your job isn't as physically demanding as construction, it can be very good for your health by taking you out of your home and away from your tv which has been proven to increase your eating.

I feel like this post is very scattered, like I said, I just woke up from a nap, but the point I wanted to make is, your 9-5 job can be the best therapy in the world if you allow it to be. If you are working a job and you just spend your time complaining about how much it sucks to have to work and that it's too demanding, then you're missing out on a very big blessing.  There are thousands of people that would give anything to be employed.  Search for the good things in your work.  Be happy that you have a job.  For those who are students, being in class can be equally therapeutic. It is your job in a sense to be a good student.  For those who have opted to not work in order to take care of children, allow that to be therapeutic for you.  Find inner strength to not settle for distracting your children and surviving each day.  Find things to accomplish, create projects and adventures with your children.

 My most miserable days are the days when I have been so free from obligation that I was able to sit in front of the television all day.  Some of the best days in my life, and probably my most consistent happiness is from my mission when I worked every day for two years. 10-9.  No vacations, no holidays, and no pay.

Happiness in life doesn't come from being able to survive while doing nothing, happiness comes from having the strength to do something every single day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

How to vote in 2016

I share everyone's concern as we near the 2016 Presidential election.  A Trump v. Clinton election is terrifying, but let's face the reality.  Even with a good, upstanding candidate, there isn't a lot a president can really do.  Congress is not passing anything, our government is just sitting there depositing our checks with empty promises.  So how can you really make a difference in 2016? How about exercising your right to vote in the checkout line at the grocery store.  Every dollar you spend is a vote for the direction of American commerce and buying whole foods and plant based foods is voting to change America.  Here's how!

1.) Healthcare: Billions of dollars are spent by the government each year on healthcare.  We can't just let people die in the streets so it's a complicated issue! How about we learn how to prevent our health problems in the first place! On a whole foods plant based diet we can nearly eliminate heart disease, diabetes, obesity (which is connected to thousands of other illnesses), osteoporosis, arthritis, and even a vast majority of cancer.  

2.) Economy: Americans are right that we need to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour.... IF WE ARE SUSTAINING OUR LIFESTYLE.  Why don't we consider a lifestyle change as a viable option? We need $15 an hour to buy fast food three times a day, to eat McDonald's breakfast all day, and to purchase Milk and beef!  But you probably could live on $5 an hour if you realized that a $2 bag of potatoes is all we really need to survive! Stop eating out so much, and stop eating expensive health threatening foods.  Vegetables are more expensive, but they aren't the staple we need.  Buy rice, pasta, and potatoes! Throw in a few vegetables and you'll save thousands of dollars.

3.) Global Warming: Methane gas is much more damaging to the environment than Carbon Dioxide, Methane gas that is produced by cows! Obviously we can't eliminate cows from the face of the planet, but if we stop raising beef to sustain 7 billion people, than there will be a lot less of them.  Raising livestock contributes to about 18% of all greenhouse gases where if you add up all the transportation worldwide (not just cars, but boats and planes and trains) then you get about 15%.

4.) World Hunger: On the same amount of land required to raise 100 lbs of beef, you can grow about 10,000 lbs of potatoes! 'nuff said.

PLEASE OPEN YOUR EYES! Every day is election day! And you have as many votes as you like.  If Americans stop buying beef and dairy, they'll stop producing it! Supply and demand baby, supply and demand.  You have the power to change the world.  Don't wait another 4 years, because I promise that you'll probably be just as dissatisfied with whoever is on the ballot next time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Bro Code

The Bro Code. It's a code of honor among male friends that was popularized by the hit show How I Met Your Mother, but is it a joke or should it be taken with more than a grain of salt? 

This semester in my apartment the bro code has been a popular topic; we even have in our possession the official Barney Stinson Bro Code book.  We read from it and we laugh at it and to be honest, some points have been applied in every day scenarios, but it does hold a certain riduclousness to it as it tells us how to wear hats, how to lie to potential girlfriends, and how to get away with immorality.  It's obvious that the book authored by Stinson is nothing short of a joke. So that raises the question, is there really a bro code?

The answer is yes. The real bro code is found in a book of scripture exclusive to the Latter Day Saints known as Doctrine and Covenants.  Whether you accept this book as revelation from God or total blasphemy, you cannot deny the wisdom and power of the code of conduct found in Section 108 verse 7:

"Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings." 

It's as simple as that.  A bro never brings another bro down.  The world's bro code allows for playful insults and a little bit of humiliation if it's deserved, but the Lord's bro code doesn't.  We have a duty to lift up everyone in our path.

I'm not saying that the joke needs to end.  I love getting out of tense situations by making the bro code my scapegoat and I love the laughter and jokes that it brings into my apartment but when the going gets tough I want my friends to know that I'm going to be there for them.  I want them to know that if I ever make a joke that is hurtful, they can let me know and I will apologize and strive to be better. This life is hard, we need each other, especially before marriage.  As we experience broken hearts, disappointments, big life choices, we need each other and it is all of our responsibility to lift one another up.

I guess as a final note I'll just add this: This "bro code" or code of conduct SHOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO BROS.  Any man who tears down or discourages a woman with his words or actions is not a man.  He is a coward and weak individual.  This is not so much a bro code as a human being code, but I write about it as a bro code to contrast the increasingly popular code laid out by Mr. Stinson.

May we all seek to build up one another is my humble invitation. As you read this, send a text, or a facebook message, or call a friend that has come to mind.  Let them know how much you appreciate them, and tell them why they're great.  You'll learn that as you bring light into other peoples lives, you can't help brightening up your own.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Christian's Guide to Loving Homosexuals

On February 20, 2013 I published a blog post entitled, "Thoughts on Homosexuality from a Straight Mormon"  A couple weeks later I left for my two year LDS mission.  Upon returning, I found a comment left on that post asking for a follow up.  In the post I say that we all need to love our homosexual brothers and sisters, but the question was raised, "HOW does a strong christian love their homosexual brothers and sisters?".  It was a hard question and I have meditated a lot on the issue and I finally feel ready to respond, so here it goes.

My friend Julia Devera is engaged to the love of her life, Victoria Lopez.  I thought there would be no better person than Julia to base this post on and she so gracefully granted me permission to talk about her.  I would like to introduce her to everyone.

Julia is a beautiful young lady who comes from a great family.  They are so fun a silly and can laugh together.  For Halloween this year they all dressed up as different characters from Inisde Out.  She recently graduated from CSULB.  In high school she was a blast to be around.  We had several classes together and she's super smart.  She's also very talented! She plays basketball and she plays the piano! In fact we took piano lessons from the same teacher and we performed together three times! Playing the songs Angels We Have Heard on High, Baby it's Cold Outside, and C.S. Themes and Variations.

This is a brief, brief introduction into who Julia is, and based on that, I can introduce the three keys to why I am able to love her, and three keys to how every Christian can love any homosexual.


1.) Get to know people entirely, not just their sexual orientation.  Julia is not "my lesbian friend." She is a great friend who has likes and dislikes, who loves her family and shares many core values with me.  She is a talented person who shares in my love for music and sports and someone who will understand my math jokes.  And yes, she happens to be lesbian.  It's part of who she is but it's not her only attribute

2.) Do not try to ignore the fact that homosexuals are homosexual.  If you use step one to find all the attributes of someone and use those to cover up the fact that they are gay, then you will have a hard time loving them because it's not something you can or should avoid forever.  I have seen Julia kiss her girlfriend several times.  Had I been trying to ignore the fact that she is gay, it would have made for a very uncomfortable situation, but I don't pretend she is anything she's not, or that she's not anything that she is.  I accept the fact that I don't choose who Julia loves nor does she choose who I love and I'm okay with that.

3.)  You are not God.  Commandments are for us to learn and apply to our lives so that we can be happy.  I believe it is a commandment to not be in a homosexual relationship, but I also believe it is a commandment to not drink coffee! What do I do with this information?  I don't get into a homosexual relationship, and I don't drink coffee.  What do I NOT do with this information?  I do not tell every gay person and every coffee drinker that they are going to hell.  First of all that's just rude and second, I am not God.  I will not be the one who decides Julia's eternal fate, so I shouldn't try to.  Julia knows what I believe on the subject and she obviously disagrees.  It will do me no good to bring it up to her constantly, it will only hurt a friendship.

There may be those Christians who feel like it is beneficial for them to distance themselves from "sinners" and they have that right, but they don't have the right to be rude, or cruel, or mocking.  They can respectfully abstain from making friendships with people who differ from them.

As for me, I love Julia, and I love having her as a friend.  I look back with great fondness on our piano recitals.  I feel like I have gained a lot from my association with her and she has always been respectful of my beliefs.

I hope that this has been an adequate response to the question at hand.  I welcome any more questions or feedback.  May we all feel God's love for us, and in turn, show that love to ALL of our brothers and sisters.