Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moments that really matter

I agree with this wholeheartedly.  So often, as we go through life we just get lost in the motions.  We don't really enjoy life for what it is.  It kind of reminds me of another quote:

"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."

I have some experience with this.  About six months ago, I was still in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, serving a mission in that area.  On the day after I found out I was leaving, we went for a run.  As we jogged, I was struck by the beauty of the area.  As the sun rose over Center City, I appreciated Philly as never before.  Sure, it's still covered with trash and bums, but it truly is a beautiful city.  All of the church spires, the few trees that there are, send light scattering randomly.  Beautiful.

In the same way, if we just look at the earth and enjoy nature, we will be truly happier.  A sunset, a leaf from a tree, that beetle crawling on the ground.  Just sit back, and let God paint you a masterpiece.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are you a good witch? Or a bad witch?

This is a section from one of my favorite webcomics, entitled Slightly Damned.  The main character, Rhea, (She's the brown fuzzy thing with big ears.) has just died.  Death, the red guy with fire coming out of his head, is explaining something.  Her sins were more than her good, so she can't go to heaven.  However, she truly isn't worthy of hell.  So where does she go?

In the webcomic, she goes to a place called The Ring of the Slightly Damned, just on the outskirts of hell, thus the name of the webcomic. 

However, in life it's a lot simpler.  If a person does not accept Christ as his savior, no matter how much good he does, he cannot go to the highest kingdom of Glory.  It is through the atonement of Christ that we are made clean.  We need to have faith in him, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.  If we do these things, we will be made clean, and go to where God lives.

(Should you choose to check out SD, go to  Don't worry, the art improves later on.)

Friday, June 24, 2011


A while back, people began freaking out over a book called, "The Secret."  Basically, what the book states is that if you want a thing really bad and are constantly thinking about that thing, you're going to get it.  To a certain extent, I've seen that to be true.

You remember how a few posts back I talked a lot about how I love Legos?  How I saved up money and pestered the parental units until I got the sets that I wanted?  It's kind of like that.  For a kid, Legos are a big thing.  But they're so expensive nowadays!  I mean, twenty bucks for a lego car?  The only way for a kid to get that much money is to scrimp and save;  I had to really want those legos if I expected to have any.

Or what about that bike I got when I was fourteen years old?  I didn't want to depend on my Mom or Dad to take me places.  I needed that bike, if only just to get away for a while.  So, I mowed lawns.  I cleaned the house.   I helped out, and scrimped and saved just so that I could get that bike and find better places.

(Just a word of advice;  if you're going to save up for a bike, save up more than four hundred dollars so that you can afford one that doesn't come from the rack at Walmart.  I think I replaced every part in that bike except the frame, the fork, and the cassette on the rear wheel.)

All of this just goes to show that as human beings we have an immense amount of power.  When we really want to do something, by golly we're going to do it!

It's the same way with God, really.  A lot of times, we come to people's houses, and they tell us that they weren't able to do what we asked.  They say that it's because they didn't have time, or they had to work, or because futbol was on, or some other excuse.  Usually it boils down to that they didn't want it enough.

If the first desire of our heart is to follow God, and this desire is more important than anything else in the world, then we will follow God.  That's all there is to it.  If we desire to follow God and obey his commandments, we will come to church even if our job requires us to work on sunday.

Of course, I'm far from perfect.  Even I don't measure up to this standard.  But I am trying my hardest to have faith in God, and work for his glory alone.  If I want it enough, it will happen.

When you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it,
To work day and night for it,
To give up your peace and your sleep and your time for it;
If only the desire of it makes your aim strong enough never to tire of it;
If life seems all empty and useless without it,
And all that you dream and you scheme is about it;
If gladly you'll sweat for it, fret for it, plan for it,
Pray with all your strength for it;
If you'll simply go after the thing that you want with all your capacity,
Strength and sagacity; faith, hope, and confidence, stern pertinacity;
If neither poverty nor cold nor famish nor gaunt
Nor sickness or pain to body or brain can turn you away
From the aim that you want;
If dogged and grim, you besiege and beset it, you'll get it!

                    Author Unknown

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When in doubt, read the instructions!

I've usually tried to be a cautious driver.  You know, obey the speed limit, give others the right of way, yield to pedestrians, that sort of thing.  It just works so much better that way. 

(On a side note, that might be why I tend to frustrate some people when I drive.  If you go the speed limit in New Jersey, you'd better expect to be honked at.)

Can you imagine what this world would be like if nobody obeyed the rules of traffic?  If people went whatever speed they wanted whereever they wanted?  It would be utter chaos.  There would be people going a hundred and fifty miles an hour down neighborhood streets, cars weaving in and out of traffic, driving the wrong way.  Accident reports would skyrocket.  People would die left and right because of people assuming that another person wouldn't go when they did.  Just imagine a major intersection, and imagine what would happen if there were no stoplight.  I wouldn't expect there to be less than one accident per day at that intersection.

You see, we human beings are kind of stupid.  Myself included.  On our own, we want what we want, and we want it now.  We do whatever pleases us, and hang the consequences.  That's why God gives us commandments.

Just like traffic rules help us stay safe, the commandments aren't meant to limit us or make us suffer; rather, they are to help us stay free from the paralyzing influences of sin.  No matter how fun the sin may appear, it is always more enjoyable in the end to obey the commandments.  Having experienced it, the fun of speeding into the triple digits is more than matched by the misery of sitting in that car as the cop writes you a ticket.

Can you imagine the peace that would envelope the world if everyone were to keep the ten commandments? 
  • There would be no crime, because noone would steal. 
  • The number of illegitemate children and divorced families would drop to almost nil. 
  • Loving our neighbor would be more important than keeping up with the Joneses. 
  • We could take the 4.8 billion dollars that are annually spent on crime prevention and put them to a much better use.  Add to that the 2.5 billion that the defense department recieves, and we're up to more than seven billion dollars, free to be used by the government as needed. 
  • Contention and domestic violence would all but disappear.
This is all if people only kept half of the Ten Commandments.  What would happen if people kept all of them?

Of course, while we are in the flesh we will not achieve such lofty perfection.  However, that should not impede us from striving for excellence.

In this blog, I know that I've looked and sounded a bit like a hippy dreamer, with shouts of "Give peace a chance!"  Is that so bad?  It's better than the alternative.  God loves us.  He wants us to be happy.  If that means that I have to give up certain things, so be it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Good things happen to those who wait

Now, I suppose that I could just end this blog post by saying "Amen."   After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video worth?  Plus, there's really not much I could say to add to what an Apostle of the Lord has to say.

All the same, I'd just like to say that I know this is true.  So long as we are constanly working to come back to God, we will eventually see the fruits of our efforts.  God loves us, and will not let us fail.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why bother?

Why bother?

I mean, really?  What's the point?  Why go through all the troubles of life?  Why suffer?  Why do we work so hard to get people to do what they really don't want to do?  We get up, we go to work, we jump through all sorts of hoops, and in the end we're a day older and not a lot smarter.  We've given up twenty-four hours of our life, usually in a place that we don't want to be, doing something unpleasant for people we may or may not despise.

Why bother?  Why did we choose to come to this miserable sphere we call earth?  Why do we keep at this?

Well, why do you work?  What do you get from it?  Hopefully, you're being paid for your labors.  The pay is a good reason, right?

Why do people run marathons?  I would be miserable!  I'd be dying by mile three, and there's still eighteen miles to go!  But isn't the prize worth it?

I saw a tee-shirt in Lindenwold once.  It said, "Working for God: The pay isn't that great, but the retirement plan is out of this world!"  The statement invites a chuckle, and the best part is that it's true.

So long as we keep our eyes on the prize of eternal life, we're able to keep going.  God has many promises for us, and I know that it's worth it.  We might question God at times.  Why does bad stuff happen?  Why would he let someone die?  If instead of focusing on all the bad things, we should focus on the good, and even more on what happens afterwards.  God loves us, and he wants what's best for us.
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. ~Doctrine and Covenants 122:7
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever believeth in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life. ~John 3:16
I know that this is true.  God loves us, and if we will focus on the prize, we will win.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Ozy and Millie and Alice in Wonderland

This is a strip taken from one of my favorite webcomics.  My family and some of my friends will probably recognize it as taken from Ozy and Millie.  It's a delightful mix of Calvin and Hobbes atmosphere and style, with a touch of Bloom County adulthood.  Unfortunately, the author and artist decided to end the strip a few years ago. 

In this strip, Millie asks some very important questions: Where am I?  How did I get here?  In a later strip, she asks,  "Where am I going?  What is my purpose here?"

Have you ever asked yourselves these questions?

Wouldn't it be marvelous if everyone knew the answer to these questions?

You see, we really can't get where we want to go if we neither know where we are or where we are going.  It's a bit like part of Alice in Wonderland.  Alice is walking down a path when she comes to a Tee in the road.  There are two paths, both going straight in opposite directions.  The Cheschire Cat appears, and she asks which path she should take.  "That depends on where you want to go," he replies.
"I don't really know," she worries.
"If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't really matter which path you take," he tells her.

Unlike Alice, we do know where we want to go.  And it matters much which path we take, for the path to heaven is not very wide.  It is a straight and narrow path.  If we do not have faith in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, we cannot expect to arrive at our goal.

I've borrowed heavily from a talk given by Thomas S. Monson about a year ago.  I highly recommend that you read it.  It will change your life.  Click here to read it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Up or down?

Well, that seems fairly straightforward, doesn't it?

After all, that's what the Bible says, doesn't it?

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ~John 3:18

Or what about Romans 3:23, which says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

So, we can see that those who believe in Jesus Christ go to heaven, whereas those who do not are condemned.  But in all this, I want to know one thing:  what about those who didn't have the chance?

After all, if we believe some people's interpretation of the Bible, all those who didn't believe in Jesus Christ during this life will enjoy eternity being constantly burnt in a lake of fire and brimstone.  I say that this sounds nothing like the loving God that I know.  If he loves us, doesn't that mean that he wants us to be happy? 

This whole "Saved or Not" business is a bit like a mail contest where if you get a letter and send it, you get an all expense paid vacation for eternity.  If you don't send in a reply, the government takes you and drops you off in the Sahara desert to be there for eternity.  What if you don't get a letter?  It's not fair that you get the vacation, because you didn't fulfill all the requirements; however, it's also not fair that you get sent to suffer for eternity if it's not your fault.

Why would a being who loves his children send people to spend an eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone, especially if some people had no chance whatsoever to repent?

The simple answer is that he doesn't.

Of course, some people would get all up in my face right now if I was there in real life.  "Blasphemer!" they cry.  "Why don't you believe the Bible?"  I believe in the Bible, don't get me wrong.  What I don't believe is an erroneous interpretation of the Bible.

You see, God is a perfectly fair being.  Everyone in the entire world is going to receive an equal chance to choose to follow Christ.  It may be here, or it may be in the next world.

You see, there's more to life than this.  Most people think that once you die, that's it.  Once you die, it's like the story about you is set; either you're going to heaven or you're going to hell.  That's not the way it is.

Now, concerning the astate of the soul between bdeath and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are ctaken dhome to that God who gave them life.

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of ahappiness, which is called bparadise, a state of rest, a state of cpeace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

And then shall it come to pass, that the aspirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the bdevil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer cdarkness; there shall be dweeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.

Now this is the state of the asouls of the bwicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, cfearful looking for the fiery dindignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this estate, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection. ~Alma 11-14
After death, we are able to learn of Jesus Christ, and come closer to him.  Those who didn't get a chance to learn of Jesus will.

For Christ also hath once asuffered for sins, the just for the bunjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to cdeath in the flesh, but quickened by the dSpirit:
By which also he went and apreached unto the bspirits in cprison;
Which sometime were bdisobedient, when once the clongsuffering of God waited in the days of dNoah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were esaved by fwater. ~1 Peter 3:18-20

aFor for this cause was the bgospel cpreached also to them that are ddead, that they might be ejudged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. ~1 Peter 4:6

Else what shall they do which are abaptized bfor the dead, if the dead crise not at all? why are they then baptized for the ddead? ~1 Corinthians 15:29
This is one of the most precious doctrines that was lost during the general apostasy of the church following the death of the Apostles.  Many of the truths, known and practiced by the Christians of the time, were lost or changed, and only the smallest portions survive in the Bible today.

It's the truth.  There is redemption after this life.  Jesus can save even those who have perished without ever finding out about Jesus Christ.  There is hope for your loved ones.  In heaven, we can all be with our deceased relatives.  It's true.  God loves all men equally, and all men will have the chance to hear His voice.  I know this.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On Charity: Sometimes, it really sucks.

But acharity is the pure blove of Christ, and it endurethcforever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. ~Moroni 7:47

That's what Mormon told his son, Moroni, right before he died.  He goes on and says, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, apray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true bfollowers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall cbe like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be dpurified even as he is pure. Amen."

I've been trying to apply that more nowadays, praying to be able to love my investigators more.  In the past, I've been a bit aloof from all, not caring so much about the people I come in contact with.  Subconsciously, I've been putting up defensive walls, making sure that I don't ever love people enough.  After all, as missionaries we rarely stay in one spot for more than six months.  Why get attached to people that you won't be with in two years, right?

Recently, I've been praying more and more for charity, the love of Christ.  I want to actually feel more of the love of God for these people.  I hadn't been feeling the results all that much until last night.  That's when I found out that I am leaving this area.  Not only that, but starting next Monday, there won't be Spanish missionaries here anymore.

It's more than a little scary.  Frustrating, a little.  Depressing, more than a bit.  It feels so pointless for us to keep talking to Spanish people.  After all, what's the point?  Without us here, they won't progress.  

What's more, what will happen to all the people that we're talking to?  To Jose, Josue, Leo and Ayde, Flor, Miriam, Heidi, Ariel and Sandra, Marina...  They're doing so well, but we won't be able to help them.  Josue even has a time set when he wants to get baptized.  What will happen to him?  Who's going to help him grow, to learn?

This all hit me as I was saying my nightly prayers.  I can count on one hand the number of times that I've cried during my prayers; this was one of them.  I was a mix of worry, confusion, disappointment, with a sprinkle of curiosity and excitement on the side.  I'm not sure that the ward is up to taking care of my investigators, and I'm not used to having regular members take care of an area after I've left it.  All I can do is really hope that Brother Swanson is up to visiting all these people, and hope that these investigators that I have might know enough English to be taught that way.

Then it hit me.  I really do love these people.  I feel a portion of the love that Christ feels for them.  To a certain extent, I've developed charity.

This also hit me:  This sucks.  Can you imagine what God feels like?  He's got 6+ billion people to worry about, and nobody to talk to about it.  I had so many things to think about, I didn't get to bed until about midnight.  I felt like my mind had been put in a blender right before someone pushed '"Puree."

This is so difficult, mostly because I don't see how it's going to work out.  I'm going to have to put my own principles in place.  Like Indiana Jones, I'm going to have to take a leap of faith, and let the Lord grab me.  I'm willing.

Let's go.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Rube Goldberg and Simplicity

So, I'm more than a little impressed with this machine.  If not for the Lego engineering skills that I know this required, than for the sheer number of Lego pieces required.  To the unseen maker of this work: Sir, I applaud you.

(Here's a fun bit of trivia: Go through and count how many balls there were.  Do you have any idea how many lego soccer and lego basketball kits that must have taken?  Plus, I counted at least fifteen different Lego programming modules.  That's a whole lot of fiddling around to make that work.)

Here's a fun fact about Elder Tryon:  He loves Legos.  (You know, this Google spellcheck is really annoying.  It keeps insisting that Lego in the singular is correct, but lego, legos, and Legos are not.  I say, "Hang the code! They're more like guidelines anyway!" and a cookie to the first person to name that movie.)  Anyway, Elder Tryon loves legos.  He has a great big box of them at home, accumulated over more than twelve years of scrimping and saving money from yard work, gift cards, and begging Mom for more legos.  And from personal experience, he knows just how hard it is to make a big project.

I think that the closest that I've ever come to making something like this was back in ninth grade.  They had us do a project on Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist back from the 19th century.  He made a lot of cartoons, depicting machines that accomplish a simple purpose in complex ways.  I'd say the most well known adaptation would be the game Mousetrap. You turn the crank, which turns the gear that hits the lever, which collides with the boot, kicking over the bucket containing the marble which rolls down the ramps, down another ramp, which knocks into a large pole.  The pole then shoves a larger marble down a ramp, into a bathtub, through the hole in the tub down onto a small see-saw.  The weight of the steel marble sends the man on the other end of the see-saw flying through the air into a bucket.  The force of the impact sends a small cage falling down a pole, trapping the unsuspecting mouse below. 

My project back then was a device to turn off my alarm using dominoes, a rat-trap, string, scissors, a lego robot, and lots of legos.  Not that all of this blabbing really has anything to do with what my point is.

There's a number of reasons, but the simplest reason that I quit most of my Lego projects is that I run out of pieces, time, or interest.  It requires planning, accounting, and careful placement of resources.  That's usually why reasons number two and three come about.

That's kind of why most things fail in life, I think.  Either we run out of materials because of lack of planning, or we run out of interest or time.

I've found that generally, it's good to apply the rule found in Occam's Razor:  The simplest explanation [or plan] is usually the right one.

For me, the best plan is always the simplest.  All we need to do is apply what God tells us.  He always knows what is best for us, and wants the best.  If we work according to the plan that he gives us, we'll always come out wiser and happier.  I know this.   Getting into heaven is deceptively simple: It only has five steps:

  1. Believe in Jesus Christ to the point that you'll get out and do stuff.
  2. Repent, in other words change your life to be like God wants it to be.
  3. Be baptized by someone holding the proper priesthood authority.
  4. Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
  5. Endure to the end, which means you do steps 1 and 2 for the rest of your life.
If we do this, we will go to heaven.  I hope to see all of you there.

Also, a small music video to go along with this: