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.