Why not me?

In 1 Nephi 3:31, Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi, “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even slay fifty; then why not us.” This inquiry is juxtaposed so aptly with the very next verse in 1 Nephi 4:1, in which Nephi tells his less-faithful brothers, “Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?” The exact same phrase then why not is used in both circumstances, but associated perspective and follow-on consequences of that attitude could not be more diametrically opposed.

Nephi has a clear opt-in strategy that is demonstrated throughout the rest of the first book of Nephi; whereas his brothers Laman and Lemuel demonstrate a clear opt-out strategy. In essence, when a challenge arises, Nephi’s older brothers immediately ask the question, “who are we to overcome this seemingly insurmountable challenge against all odds”; meanwhile, Nephi asks, “who am I not to?” with a confidence borne from trust that is well-founded on the rock of the integrity of gospel living. He then follows that positive introspection with decisive action that expands his skill set and makes him more capable to solve problems in the future. To summarize a few of these examples and juxtapositions found throughout the rest of the first book of Nephi:

    • Lehi, Nephi’s father, sees an incredible vision of the Savior and the future destruction of Jerusalem (in which its inhabitants are carried away captive into Babylon). Laman and Lemuel proceed to think about all the things that they are missing out on (1 Ne 2:11) and choose to dwell in ignorance (1 Ne 2:12). Meanwhile, Nephi decides to act instead of being acted upon, and he prays and the Lord visits him and softens his heart (1 Ne 2:16). This same pattern occurs again when Lehi has the vision of the tree of life in 1 Nephi 8, with Nephi seeing an even more detailed version of the dream in 1 Nephi 11-13. While Laman and Lemuel miss out on spiritual experiences and truths that would have been bestowed upon them with their desire and asking, they choose to take the easier route and live in ignorance.
    • Nephi breaks his bow (1 Ne 16:18). The first response of Nephi’s brothers is to murmur (1 Nephi 16:20). While Nephi’s brothers are complaining and thinking of their terrible state, Nephi moves to action, and builds a bow out of wood (1 Ne 16:23), and then later goes up into the mountain and finds food for his family.
    • The Lord tells Nephi to build a ship (1 Ne 17:8). Again, Nephi’s can-do attitude causes him to problem solve, and instead of asking the Lord to give him a ship, he thinks backward and recognizes the essential elements he would need to build a ship. Nephi is not troubled that he has no previous boat-building experience, but he trusts that God will provide a way for him to follow the direction he has been given (1 Ne 17:50). We see Nephi, yet again, say, “if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” Once again, Nephi is confronted with a problem he has never before faced, and his response is to think “who am I not to rise to this challenge?” His response in this experience is contrasted with the response of Nephi’s brothers, who don’t even try to think big enough to suppose that their talents are greater than their current state and, thus, they don’t even want to try (1 Ne 17:17-18).

In sum, how am I going to use the phrase “why not me?” in response to my circumstances? Will it drive me to accomplish things I have never before done, or will it drive me into a state of mediocrity–paralyzed by a fear of failure? The pattern that Nephi demonstrates in the first book of Nephi (and the contrast of his brothers) provides an interesting comparison, the consequences of which can be well documented throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon. My goal is to be more successful in my endeavors by attacking each challenge and trial with this attitude and belief.

My Testimony of Trials – Adult Session Stake Conference Talk

I was born to two amazing parents who taught me principles of the gospel from a very young age. Growing up, I always felt very blessed to be a part of my family and to have been given the opportunity to grow up with a fairly comfortable life. I remember feeling like everything was going right my senior year of high school: I was going to graduate at the top of my class, I had been accepted to my dream college, I was a good athlete, and I had the chance to serve in many different leadership positions in seminary and in our ward.

My ardent love for athletics had me very involved in numerous sports, including cross country, track and field, and basketball. During my senior year of high school, my race times were not improving as I hoped, so my coach suggested that I do blood tests for anemia, a fairly common ailment affecting distance runners speed and stamina. The tests came back negative, but doctors noticed that some of my other protein levels seemed unusually high. After almost weekly blood tests, a liver biopsy, and a multitude of doctors appointments, the doctors seemed stumped. Then, I remember coming home from school almost exactly 8 years ago and finding my mother in tears in our living room. Looking at me through her tears, she said that my most recent blood test had revealed that I likely had a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

In what was one of the hardest moments of my life, I ran downstairs to my room, closed the door and got on my knees to pray in a way that I had never prayed before. As I sobbed and offered up my soul to God that afternoon, I had a sacred experience that I can best describe as a warm hug that filled my entire soul when there had previously just been intense pain. In that moment, I felt “encircled about in the arms of His love” and gained a witness that He, my Savior, lives. I also came to understand that the Atonement of Christ was never meant to simply erase our sins. It was meant to transcend all of our weaknesses, to bring light in our darkest moments, and to bring hope when all seems lost.

I would be lying if I said that after that moment, everything has been easy. I have spent many nights wetting my pillow with my tears in despair. I believe that faith was always a natural gift of mine. Growing up, I always trusted that God had omnipotent power and that He could do all things, and I fully believe that at the moment when I knelt down and communed with God, I had the faith to be healed if that was his will at that time. However, the toughest test I have faced in my life is trying to develop, as Elder Bednar describes, the faith not to be healed. I learned that it is much easier to have faith when God’s will aligns with your personal desires. It is much harder to have faith and accept God’s will when it seems contrary to everything you desire and yearn for. Struggling through this process of accepting my unique challenge and trial has been difficult, but it has taught me many lessons.

I would like to briefly share with you two of the many lessons I have learned from this particular trial.

  1. Many of the toughest trials are not immediately apparent, so treat everyone with kindness. For several years, almost no one knew that I had this disease, and that I felt my legs slowly getting weaker. That I was no longer able to run like I loved to do or play basketball, which was a favorite pastime. On the outside, I think I probably looked like I had no trials, and yet there were days of incredible sadness and anger for me. Similarly, we never know when a friend, coworker, or ward member has just had a death in the family, or is experiencing depression, struggling with sin, family problems, or illness. So treat everyone with kindness–as if they are struggling with something–because they probably are. Just like we, at different points in our life, have all struggled with heartache, or frustration, or doubt.  
  2. Life is not fair, but it was never meant to be fair. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, We are all acquainted with other kinds of mortal opposition not caused by our personal sins, including illness, disability, and death. President Thomas S. Monson explained: “Some of you may at times have cried out in your suffering, wondering why our Heavenly Father would allow you to go through whatever trials you are facing.…“Our mortal life, however, was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father… knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.

I testify that our trials can refine us like hot fire purifies drossy metal. I prayed every night for years to be like the sick and disabled Nephites in 3 Nephi 17, whom Christ healed one by one. I yearned with all my heart for that physical healing that I felt would make me whole again. Nevertheless, I have come to learn that in some ways, an even more incredible miracle is our Savior’s power to heal our broken hearts. I have felt Him heal my heart, and I know that He lives. I know that because of His atonement, we will all be brought to stand before Him and our Father in Heaven again someday, and I hope to kneel at His feet and, like those Nephites in ancient America, bathe His feet with my tears in gratitude for His tremendous sacrifice. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Chick-Fil-A Debate

Over the past several weeks, a controversy has erupted over the comments Dan Cathy, president and COO of Chick-Fil-A, made in regards to the company’s Christian values. Among other things, Cathy stated,

We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business . . . We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.

The uproar that followed has been incredible. Conservative activists lauded Cathy and staged Chick-Fil-A appreciation days. Many pro-gay marriage supporters organized their own protest days. Some gay Americans and supporters of gay marriage have proclaimed that they will not eat at Chick-Fil-A anymore. Even mayors of some major cities have expressed opinions that Chick-Fil-A would not be welcome in their cities.

I have been disappointed in seeing how this situation has been blown completely out of proportion and degraded to hateful words being said on both sides of the issue. I want to analyze quickly the ramifications of the recent actions by those trying to boycott Chick-Fil-A and deny them business. I believe that regardless on your position on the issue of marriage, common sense tells us that the actions have been inappropriate.

Many pro-gay marriage supporters have decided to boycott Chick-Fil-A completely because they don’t want to support a “hateful company”. (See Adam Smith of Vante and his deplorable actions toward a  Chick-Fil-A worker). I want to make it very clear that doing so is completely within the right of individuals who are upset by Dan Cathy’s remarks (just as it was completely within his rights to express his personal views). However, imagine a world in which everyone stopped doing business with people they disagreed with. Over time, traditional marriage supporters would only do business with other traditional marriage supporters, gay marriage supporters would associate with only other gay marriage supporters. The possible ramifications are much more extensive than simply politics. What Chick-Fil-A boycotters are doing is creating a dangerous precedent for the way to handle situations in which two parties disagree. Instead of creating a healthy dialogue, boycotters have radicalized the climate for political conversation. Civility is being taken out of the political environment and we have been degraded to outlandish solutions for minor problems.

I also find it very interesting how one-sided the argument is in the media. Dan Cathy expresses his views on marriage and is martyred for doing so. This has made national news for weeks now. However, the media and many others have completely ignored similar news that came out at the same time that Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife pledged $2.5 million to the cause of gay marriage in Washington. For some reason, I don’t see thousands of heterosexuals claiming to boycott Jeff and Amazon.com. I think most common sense individuals recognized the actions by Bezos at face value. He was expressing his opinion, and he has the funds to support that opinion with millions of dollars. That is exactly what Dan Cathy has tried to do with Chick-Fil-A. Thus, I think that we need to make sure that when we receive information, especially via the media, that we understand the whole picture.

I am grateful that we live in a country where so many different views can be appreciated and expressed. I think, however, that we need to make sure that we express our views in a constructive, not destructive, manner. Hopefully, we can make our decision to go to Chick-Fil-A on how good the chicken sandwich is (I love it!) and not on what the COO believes should be the definition of marriage. Instead, let’s have a constructive debate and dialogue in the political arena about such issues.

Here are a couple of links to places I got my information as well as a good article written in the Huffington Post by a gay man.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/max-windcowie/gay-marriage-who-will-stand-up-to-the-hetero-phobes_b_1514024.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/amazon-founder-gives-25-million-to-gay-marriage-effort/2012/07/27/gJQAyYoOEX_blog.html

http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=38271

http://www.businessinsider.com/vante-cfo-bullies-chick-fil-a-worker-then-promptly-gets-fired-for-it-2012-8

The Pay It Forward Experiment

So, this past week I watched the movie Pay It Forward, and I was deeply touched by the movie and its message. Maybe it was because I have been thinking a lot about trying to make a difference in the world or maybe it is just because it is a great movie . . . either way, it has had me thinking a lot about the impact I (and we) can make on our surroundings.

If I can make one person’s life a little better, who knows what the ramifications may be for good. Conversely, by treating someone a little better, what ill acts could be prevented in the world? This train of thought has occupied my mind over the past week or so and it has gotten me thinking a lot about what a difference I can make just by working to make my immediate surroundings (people, environments, etc..) a little bit better.

Therefore, I want to do an experiment of sorts, and if you want to join in, I would appreciate it. In the movie Pay It Forward, the seventh grader Trevor McKinney makes it his goal to do something for three different people that they cannot do for themselves. The hope is that these people will then do three things for three different people as well. This exponential growth means that five degrees of separation from the original act will result in 243 people being affected, ten degrees of separation will result in 59,049 people being affected, and so on.

Thus, for the next few weeks, I am making it my goal to look for opportunities to affect people’s lives for good. My goal is to affect at least three people, but the more the merrier. I hope if nothing else, I will be fulfilling the Savior’s command in Matthew 25 to serve those around us who are suffering. I think this world could use much more love and service, and it has to start somewhere.. so let’s decide today to be the catalyst for something bigger and better than ourselves. I am grateful for all the people who have made my life so amazing and it is time to pay it back, by paying it forward.

The beginning of my remarks…

My freshman year at Brigham Young University, I created a blog with the effort to put some of my ideas on paper (digitally). I wrote about things that I am passionate about–from politics to BYU sports… and for those of you who know me, you understand that I can be very passionate (sometimes too passionate) about my ideas, political stances, and even random gizmos and gadgets that I think need to be invented. So I am at it again, this time with a brand-new webpage because I wanted that fresh feeling you get when you start a new semester or a new year. I would liken it to the fresh chalkboard, blank notebook feeling. You know, when you have a 100% in class for the one homework assignment you turned in and received a 5/5 for. So these are my ideas…my “remarks” as it were. I hope you enjoy them.

(and I hope that you catch that remark is Kramer spelled backwards).