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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


  As I've swept over my blog, deleting any and all pictures that I don't legally have rights to use, I felt a plethora of emotions:
  A pang of regret for all of my hard work that was disappearing, one click at a time. 
  A tinge of shame at the realization that I had not been completely obedient in my picture collecting. 
  A wave of relief in knowing that, at some cost to my blog's "prettyness" factor, I was showing my love for my Savior by obeying the laws of the land.
 Still, the bitter taste of sacrifice remains.

 I find it fascinating that the Jewish diet consists of many bitter things.  Horseradish, vinegar, and other less-than-sweet fare make up much of their ceremonial meals.  This is to remind them of the bitter sacrifices they have made as a people, in memory of the history they have lived, and the things they continue to endure.

 The keynote here is Sacrifice.  I don't think there are enough fingers in Humboldt county to number how many times I've been asked why Mormons live the way we do.
  Why do we not drink or smoke or party or have fun (which of course is a misconception; Mormons can still party and have fun, providing the former two elements aren't involved)?  Why do we pay 10% of our money to a church?  Why do we spend so much time on Sundays and throughout the week at said church?  Why would we give two years of this fun time in our youth to leave home, dating, college, and video games to talk to people about Jesus? 
 Don't we know that all those things we are leaving behind make us happy??

 Now, sacrifice can be a hard principle to explain to those who have had no real acquaintance with it. How can giving up something we love be good for us?!  How confusing!!

 However, that is exactly what we teach to people.  Not that you have to give up everything that makes you happy in life to join our church.  But that through controlling ourselves and our desires, we gain mastery over our souls.  That by sacrificing things we love, or loved, we learn what is truly important and gain a greater appreciation for what we have.  And by giving up the material "things" of this world that promise happiness, we feel the true and lasting happiness that money simply cannot buy. 

 Is it easy?  Goodness no.  Are there days where we wonder if it's all worth it?  Of course.  It isn't sacrifice if it doesn't evoke at least some feelings of loss.  But when we do so, we prove ourselves to our Father in Heaven, who is waiting, lovingly, to bless us, and make up all our losses. 
When we are truly willing to give all that we have, it is then that we will find who we are.
"He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

He never said it would be easy, He only said it would be worth it.

(credits to Sister Emilee Cluff on her awesome pictures!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

P A T I E N C E!

Life is a funny thing.  Anyone familiar with the concept of "time" knows that it is a fickle monster.  Sometimes, it can seem to drag on mercilessly, testing your patience and resolve.  Other times, it can seem to fly by in a blink, going from then to now like a flash of lightning, and turning now to then, just as quickly.  As missionaries, we gain an intimate relationship with the quirks of time over the course of a short 18 to 24 months. 

 Life is like that too.  As we reflect on memories past, often it is startling to realize how much time has truly passed since yesteryear!  As we look with hopes and dreams to the future, it seems to always stay just out of reach, dangling in front of us, teasing us, like a carrot on a string.  And, as always, between our memories of the past and our hopes of the future, lies the present.

 The fact of the matter is, all we have is now.  We must learn from experiences of time past, and press forward patiently towards our dreams of the future.

 But (if you are like me,) waiting can be hard!  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave an awesome story on this subject.

 Now, this is cute and awesome and everything, but it distressed me a little.  We all have to ask ourselves: Which child was I?  Honestly, I'm not sure if I would have refrained from eating the marshmallow.  To quote one of my favorite songs, "the waiting is the hardest part."

  But we all learn at an early age (from a very determined tortoise and a rather impatient hare) that steadily enduring day to day is key to having a happy life.  Patience isn't only a virtue, it is requisite to reach the finish line, and win the prize of eternal life.  Those who live "fast" lives may be shocked to find at the end, just like the hare, that they have still lost the race.

 In the end, it is what we do that counts, not how fast we do it. Elder Quentin L. Cook quoted this poem on the subject:

O, one might reach heroic heights
By one strong burst of power.
He might endure the whitest lights
Of heaven for an hour;--
But harder is the daily drag,
To smile at trials which fret and fag,
And not to murmur--nor to lag.
The test of greatness is the way
One meets the eternal Everyday.

~Edmund Vance Cooke

 So hang in there!  It is by sticking to it in through those long, tough days that we prove ourselves worthy of the Kingdom. Greatness comes one day, one trial, one step at a time. Patience is hard.  Patience is long.  Patience is tough.
 But Patience is Power.