Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Miracles

Uh...that's root beer.
 First things first, I apologize to any and all who ever actually read this blog for the hiatus you have so long endured.  I learned quickly that life back in the world moves fast, and it seems that you have no time to do simple things like write a blog (even when you really don't have much else to do).  But due to happenings of late, I could no longer ignore the promptings to fire up the ol' blogspot, and so here we are.  Forgive me if I'm rusty. :P

 I believe that everyone, sporadically if not occasionally, has experiences with miracles.  And why wouldn't we? I mean, if there is anything the scriptures teach us, it is that throughout history, God has constantly and consistently shown us miracles.  "And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles." 

 Today I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a farewell of Grant Walker, whose family has long been friends with mine.  Grant's father was my bishop through a pivotal time in my life, and his guidance and influence was instrumental in me serving a mission.  While I was serving in my last area, just a couple months to go, I received word from my family that Bishop Walker had passed away.  To anyone who knew Bishop Walker, this was devastating news.  He was young, faithful, and one of the nicest men you could ever hope meet.  Grant shared that, at that point in his life, he was struggling and wasn't sure what to do. But, through a miracle, God strengthened and inspired Grant to serve a mission.

 Now, we learn in Ether that " ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Basically, it tells us that we receive miracles according to our faith.  There can be miracles, if you believe. ;)

 However, in my experience in life, there are also miracles that are just the opposite: they occur to help your faith. Grant received a miracle that wasn't akin to parting the red sea or raising the dead, but for him, he knew it was from God and it helped him to serve a mission.  Throughout my own life, I experienced similar miracles that gave me strength, faith, and comfort to know that God is there. Recently, someone very close to me survived a serious car accident with (comparatively) minimal injuries.  There isn't a doubt in my mind that this was a miracle. 

 Yes, we can call down miracles by faith. But to me, the true beauty of miracles is how many of them simply happen because God loves us.  He reaches out to us each and every day, and I imagine we are very often completely unaware of miracles He performs in our day to day lives.

 This year, as Christmas approaches, may we all express our love and gratitude to Him who loves us so very much.  May we remember His Son who performed the greatest miracle of all in the Atonement.  May we strive to make this season a little brighter for those who may have little reason to celebrate, and perform miracles of joy and love in the name of our Father.

This is my Christmas wish, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Return With Honor

 The time has finally come. 
 As much as a missionary can try not to think about it, the steady march of time presses forward.  Some days the tempo seems to be at a crawl, other days it can proceed with alarming accelerando.  For me, the day of my release always seemed so far off (and still does), but I know better.  Time will continue on, and the sun is setting over the horizon of this chapter of my life.
 Because this is my last post as a full-time missionary, I'm trying to figure out exactly what to say.  I feel like Moroni, who decided to leave some final thoughts at the end of his service on those plates of gold.  His words, almost an afterthought, have been some of the most special and powerful in all of the Book of Mormon (for me, anyways).

 So what counsel do I have for you?  What sage spiritual insights can I possibly offer? 

 Well, let me tell you. :)


~Don't ever study in a recliner.
~With lunch meats, you get what you pay for.
~No matter how much you prepare, you will still get a flat tire.
~Children know a lot more than we think they do.
~Never, EVER argue with somebody about scriptures (aka "Bashing")!
~Don't eat things that were in the apartment before you.
~Always check expiration dates!
~If you are on bike, don't go into gated communities at night.  Just trust me.
~Wear biking gloves.  They are the cheapest form of bike insurance.
~Laundry is Not something you can put off.
~The people you don't want to talk to are the people you need to talk to.
~Early to bed and early to rise makes a missionary happy, healthy, and obedient. :P
~Peanut butter is good on everything.
~You won't be happy until you stop worrying about how happy you are.
~If you think you can do everything on your own, God will let you do everything on your own.
~You can't do everything on your own.
~You don't tell someone you love them, you show them.
~Companions can be your best frenemies.
~Dogs will love you if you love them.
~Dog hair goes away if you don't worry about it.
~Dog drool doesn't go away.
~If you want to look professional, shine your shoes.
~The best days sometimes have the worst beginnings.
~If you are afraid to change, you are in the wrong place.
~Don't be afraid to be original.
~Don't be afraid to be unorginal.
~If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.
~You can be a teacher for people 2-4 times older than you.
~Always pack a towel.
~Your scriptures are your best friend.
~Shower first if you can.
~Planning is key.
~It should always be about the people, and never about the numbers.
~Take pictures!
~Your family gets bigger with every area.
~Double dinners are Not a good thing.
~You will never be happier than when you are serving others.
~Jesus Is The Christ.

 Obviously this list could nearly go on to infinity.  To quote Elder Matthew O. Richardson of the Seventy,     "I... feel that my mission was the best two years for my life." Though my service ends now, I know that who I am and where I'm going will forever be changed because of these short two years.  I pray I will be true to all the wonderful people I have met and who have changed me for the better along the way.  I have faith that everything I've learned here will help me every day for the rest of my life. I'm grateful for the blessing that being a missionary has been, and I implore that everyone who ever has the chance will do so.
 If I can do it, so can you.

 The ways I have changed and learned and grown are countless, but the things I have learned are simple.
I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know that God speaks today.  I know you can be happier than you are, right now, through Jesus Christ.
 He is my my Savior.  My exemplar.  My teacher. My redeemer.  My best friend.
 He lives.

 In the name of Jesus Christ,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


  Today, in the midst of our missionary labors, I was having a conversation with my companion, Elder Longstaff.  In one way or another, something I had said or done caused him to comment on the fact that I was a nerd.
"Beward of Attack Frog."

 Now, this was not news to me.  I have been accused of being a Nerd many times throughout my life; be it by family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, bosses, companions, passerby, whatever.  Anyone who is in my vicinity for any amount of time will surely come to realize this one simple fact:
 I am a Nerd.

Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Training. Yep.
  I have no shame in admitting this, whether or not this title is intended to be demeaning or embarrassing.  It's not really something I can deny.  I have R2-D2 dangling from my backpack (to keep my Lego Bandito company), my journal is an illustrated comic book with stick figures, I can point out most major constellations in the Northern Hemisphere, I read the Lord of the Rings before I left elementary school (and all the Harry Potters multiple times since their release), and I can even draw most of the (now) 492 Pokemon from memory (after 2 years of missionary service, mind you).
 I know what you are thinking at this point in time:
 "He's right; he is a nerd."

Some people are ninjas.
 Thank you.  Now that this is established, I can get to my point. :)

 God created all of us to be different.  Some may be naturally good at piano, while others can run like the wind.  Some people are always cheerful and good natured, and others can solve a rubix cube in ten seconds.  Some love math, others flourish in art.  Some love the hustle and bustle of the city, others live for the serene calm of the country.  Some like to spend rainy days under a blanket reading, and others like to go jump in the puddles and sing.  Some like to do both.
  Only one thing is common of all of us:
 Everyone is unique.

  We all are blessed with different gifts, talents, abilities, bodies, weaknesses, and personalities.  Someone once said "variety is the spice of life."  We can speak of being "normal", "fitting in", or what have you.  But whether we like it or not, there just is no "normal".  Everyone is different.  Fact.  Now what you choose to do with your individuality is another story.

Me at 12.  Still a nerd.
 Some feel pressure by friends to act, dress, or speak a certain way.  Let's face it, there's a lot of pressure in today's world to be "hip" (or whatever words the kids use nowadays).  If you don't always say the right things all the time, people might brand you "awkward".  If you don't wear designer jeans, they might accuse you of not being "in fashion".  And if you have drawings of dragons on your binder cover, they might just call you a "nerd."

So what?

 If variety is the spice of life, then conformity must surely be the mold.  God created each of us to be gloriously different. There are countless ways we are all individual and special, and God tells us to "let your light so shine before men".  Your light. Not anyone elses.

When we worry about molding ourselves to the world's standards, that is precisely what we become: a gross, fuzzy black spot on the feast of diversity that is the human family.  So be proud of who you are.  Whether you're a "jock", "geek", "bookworm", "spaz", "tomboy", or whatever, just be you. 
And I'll leave you with the immortal words of Dr. Seuss (because yes, I am a nerd):

5 pens in pocket. 2 pairs of glasses. 1 nerdy guy.
 "You are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one today who is youer than you."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Why are You Mormon?"

 The other day, we had the privilege to table at Humboldt State University in Arcata.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of "tabling", it is basically a way to advertise and initiate conversation via table.  Here's how it works: you set up a table (in a strategic location), and you put a whole bunch of stuff on said table to attract people.  Once these two ingredients are in place, you stand and wait for the people to come.
 And on a misty, cloudy morning in Humboldt county, that is precisely what we did.

  As the hordes of students ambled by on the way to their classes, we got several different reactions.  Some laughs, some cold shoulders, plenty of snippets of conversation that didn't include us ("-they have castles!"), but I was pleasantly surprised at the number who actually stopped to have an open minded conversation with us. 

 After an uplifting conversation with several students (who then left to go to class), we got to talk to another student who approached us.  She asked us lots of good questions, and was determined to get each of the four missionaries present to talk. 
 At one point in the conversation, she turned to me and said, "So why are you Mormon?"

  Now, as someone who asks other people questions all day, I was quite taken aback for a moment.  This was a good question.  A very good question.  This wasn't just something I could answer with a simple "yes" or "no", this wasn't something I could glibly deflect with "just 'cuz" or something of that nature.  I could go off on physical and geographical evidences of the Book of Mormon, how we can see fulfilled prophecies of Joseph Smith throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, or even how modern plasma cosmology may support the idea of Kolob. 
 But that wouldn't answer the question.
 Why was I Mormon?
 It didn't take long for the words to come.

 Now, in my opinion, a true testimony is when you don't have time to think about what you are going to say.  An unfortunate side effect of this is that you often don't remember a word you said afterwords.  And such is the case here.
 But what I can remember is what I felt.  And I still know what I know.

  I'm not a perfect person.  I'm not the smartest person.  I'm not always the nicest, most giving, or most forgiving person. I'm not even the most spiritual person. But I know that my Savior loves me anyways.  I know that I am a better person through my Friend and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I still have a long way to go, but that is the joy of life: being able to learn, and to grow, and to love.

 Being a "mormon" isn't about the white shirts, ties, and nametags.  It's not about telling people they are wrong and we are right, or about the little differences that can divide us from other churches.  It's not about green jello, knocking on your doors, or having a lot of wives.

  It's about following our Savior's example, loving all our brothers and sisters, and striving to fulfil the Divine potential that is within all of us.  It is about being a family, whether in the home or in a nation or in a world.  It's about serving and giving to all who's hands hang low, because they are our brothers and sisters.  It's about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  It's about faith, hope, and love.

 It's about Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Final Countdown

 First off, I'm Not "Trunky".

Now THAT is trunky.
  To anyone who is unfamiliar with missionary lingo (and yes, there is a special certain vernacular among mormon missionaries), being "Trunky" is a condition where you are constantly thinking of home; life back in the "real world", including (but not limited to): movies, music, dating, video games, etc.
 In the life of a missionary, this syndrome we call "Trunkiness" is a killer of productivity, desire, and sometimes, happiness.  It causes time to slow down and drag on, making days feel like weeks, weeks like months, months like years. 
 Nothing makes the work harder than being trunky.

 (Side note: just in case you are wondering the origins of the phrase "Trunky", it signifies that you have your Trunk packed early, and are ready to go.  Trunkiness usually rears its ugly head in the twilight of a missionary's service, although it can occur at any time in a missionary's tenure.)

 Now, I can honestly admit I have had thoughts of home now and then.  I would by lying if I told you I am not anticipating that day with some (high) degree of excitement.  I may even have a Top Ten list of Things I Will Do When I Get Home that includes hugging my new family dog that I have not yet met (I'm coming, Dood!).
 But please refer back to my opening sentence.
 I am NOT Trunky.

 As hard as this is to believe (to someone who hasn't experienced it), being a missionary has been the best time of my life.  Waking up at 6:30 every single morning, knowing you're only purpose is to go out and do your best to brighten some lives with the light of Christ is a wonderful thing.  Even days that aren't so easy (and there are plenty of them, I assure you) are incredible experiences and important lessons, chipping away the impurities of my soul through patient perseverance.

You have to be ready for Anything.
 From countless flat tires and full days of biking in the rain, slammed doors, obscene outbursts, golden investigators, double dinner appointments, crazy members, awesome members, members you thought were members but weren't actually members, beautiful miracles, painful losses, moments where you had to pinch yourself to make sure you weren't dreaming because you were so happy, and everything in between, being a missionary is unlike anything else.

 It's wonderful.

 The things of the world are nice.  Video games are fun.  Movies will likely remain a pastime for me.  Things like careers and cars and houses and iPhones are all awesome.
 But my perspective has shifted.  My desires have changed.  My understanding of who I am, why I'm here, and what my potential is helps me understand My life so much better.  And what is really important.

 So yes, I'm looking forward to going home.  But not for the same reasons as before.
 I'm returning to my wonderful family.
 I'm returning to continue my education.
 I'm returning to help others closer to home who's hands hang low.
 I'm returning to a future as bright as I choose to make it.
 And this time, I know where to turn for light.

Being a missionary has been a turning point in my life.  My time remaining is short, yes, but it is precious to me.  I know I have plenty to learn before I board that flight back to my snowcapped rockies.  I am determined not to waste my days now, thinking about what is to come tomorrow.
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."

 Life is short.  Time moves fast.  But all we need to worry about is today.
 There's just no time to be Trunky.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Small and Simple Things

  Peanut Butter. 
  Those four syllables have always played an important role in my life. Growing up, if I got hungry, it was a quick fix for the hunger monster.  Going into college, it was a staple and luxury, enhancing everything from cereal to oreos.  On my mission, my relationship with Peanut Butter has only continue to flourish.

 At this point, you're probably wondering where I am going with this.  Well, let me tell you.  Peanut butter was invented by a man named George Washington Carver.  One of the things I admire about this great man (besides his divine contribution to humanity via the peanut) is his sense of humor.  I remember hearing this quote from him once, and I immediately felt a bond of kinship to this great man:
 "When I was young, I said to God, 'God, tell me the mystery of the universe.' But God answered, 'That knowledge is for me alone.' So I said, 'God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.' Then God said, 'Well, George, that's more nearly your size.'" ~George Washington Carver

 Now, I don't know about you, but I totally relate.  Sometimes, like Mr. Carver, I want to know everything, and I want to know now!  But also, like Mr. Carver, I am definitely not ready for God to reveal all of His secrets and mysteries to my puny, mortal brain.  I'm sure that would be similar in scope to standing beneath Niagara Falls with an open mouth, because you are thirsty and want a drink. 
 You'll find that 10 out of 10 physicians will recommend just drinking out of a glass of water instead.

 And so it is with life, knowledge, and the mysteries of God.  We may want it all at once, but because God is smart, he teaches us instead one day, one page, one sip at a time.  But if we are patient, God will teach us everything, little by little.  Which makes sense. 
 We have to start kindergarten to graduate from college. 
 We have to start at the base before we can reach the summit.
 We have to learn even the mysteries of a peanut before we can conceive the cosmos.
"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass..."

 From a seed smaller than an M&M comes the mighty Redwood. From one man's desire to learn about peanuts came the glorious reward of creamy (or chunky, both are good) peanut butter.  God can make seemingly simple things into something far greater.
 Be it a seed, a peanut, or me and you, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."  All it takes is some patience, some faith, and an appetite to learn.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Chains of Hell

 Wayyyy back when I was a new missionary, wide-eyed and bushy tailed, I received a startling question one evening from my trainer.
  First, to set the scene, he had heretofore been sitting quietly in his chair, pondering (as he was inclinded to do).  I believe I was doodling (as I am inclined to do), and he broke the peaceful silence with a question:
 "Elder Williams, scripture trivia!  What are 'The Chains of Hell'?"

  Perturbed, I stalled for time by repeating the question as my mind frantically scanned my (then scanty) mental scripture databank for any reference to this phrase.  Upon finding nothing but cobwebs and dust within the "Chains of Hell" drawer in my mental filing cabinet, I did what any self-respecting greenie does. 

Chains are no bueno!
  I winged it.

 "That's like...when we sin and stuff right?  And it's like chains around us?"

 I'm not sure if he was proud or disappointed (he was very hard to read), but he graciously allowed that to be a correct answer, and taught me the principle behind "The Chains of Hell".

  Chains are strong imagery.  In a positive light, they can be used to represent teamwork and power (unless you are the weakest link).  In a negative light, they portray bondage, weight, and oppression.  This because they are strong and binding, nearly impossible for anyone short of a superhuman to break through.
  "And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance."

 The scary thing about a chain isn't the single link.  One by itself is puny-- easily tossed aside into the nearest waste recepticle.  In that same way, we may think it's ok to sin just once. But it's never "just once".  Slowly, carefully, link by link, we bind ourselves down in sin. 
 "I don't have time to say my prayers tonight."
 "I'll read my scriptures tomorrow."
 "I'm too tired to go to church- I didn't get to bed until two last night!"
 "...You're probably right.  One drink can't be that bad, can it?"
 "I swear officer, I'm sotally tober!"
 "Hello, mom?  I swear it's not my fault, but can you come get me-..."

 There are all kinds of chains, of all shapes, shades, and sizes.  Satan uses every single one in his arsenal to keep us wound bound to the ground, dragging us slowly and painfully away from the light and down into the darkness.  Eventually, we can't even remember what the light was like.  We forget what it was like to be free of the chains that bind us, and we resign to wallow away in misery with the Father of All Lies.

 But don't worry!!  Light will always conquer the darkness, and Our Father sent the Light and the Life of the World to be the ultimate chainbreaker.  We call this the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
 Want to know how to break the "Chains of Hell"?  

 "The Atonement: All for All" ~Bruce C. Hafen

 "Tide Pen Repentance" ~Elder Jordan Sharples

 "The Miracle of the Atonement" ~C. Scott Grow (Grow Scott, Grow!)

"Lifting Burdens" ~Mormon Messages