Monday, December 30, 2013

The Master Programmer

NOTE: This is a work in progress. It is essentially done, but there is some finishing touches that need to be made. I shared this talk in a Zone Conference a few months back. Hopefully the insights Heavenly Father gave me will be of benefit to you.

When designing a computer program, many people are brought together. An idea for a program is created, and then managers, designers, and programmers come together to create the application. While writing the program, errors are inevitably made by the human programmers which cause problems with the program known as "bugs". Sometimes these bugs are major problems that are glaringly obvious. Other times, they are less common and hard to find. The effect of these bugs can range anywhere from a minor miscalculation, to a blue screen of death. Additionally, when making the program, oftentimes there are improvements or new features that are added down the road to enhance the functionality of the program. In both cases, already existing programs can be fixed or made better by the use of patches or updates. Both problems and suggested changes must be found and reported to the people maintaining the program so that fixes and enhancements can be made.

In many ways, we ourselves are like computer programs. We all have many influences in our lives that have helped shape us, for good or ill. Parents, environment, and the choices of others, are all things that are outside of our control, but each can affect us and enhance our lives or even introduce "bugs" into us. Similarly, the result of these influences can be anything as small as a bad habit of rolling one's eyes, to extreme cases of criminal acts. Additionally, we all have room to grow and improve. Our skills, talents, and abilities can be developed, and new ones gained, similarly to how a computer program can be updated.

Repentance is the great patch and update mechanism to our lives. We can daily get on our knees and seek Heavenly Father's forgiveness and His tender aid to change. Perhaps the biggest difference between a program and us is that we are self aware. it is us that must recognize the flaw, the bug, the thing that needs changing, and then we can go to God for help getting the necessary change. Fortunately it is not left entirely up to us! We need someone that can see more clearly than we do to help us. God has the plans for what He wants us to be, and He knows how to get us there.

I testify that with Christ's help, and with the fixing and changing power of the Atonement, of which repentance is a part, we can change. Study it out. Find out where you need to improve. Humbly acknowledge it before God, and seek His aid to change. It is He, the Master Programmer, that will provide the change, if you let Him. Just as a programmer can find joy in updating and fixing programs, I testify that He finds joy in helping us become better, for "it is His work and glory" (Moses 1:39). He lives. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Great Gift of Family

Why is your family important to you?

I would suggest you take a few minutes to think about this question. I love this time of year. It helps many people to refocus on the importance of family. Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as some of the other non-Christian holidays, tend to emphasize spending time as a family more than perhaps any other holidays of the year.

Family really is the center of many people's lives. Unfortunately there are a lot of things out there that distract us from our family. How many fathers and mothers go out and work countless hours to provide for children, only to learn later on that the thing that both the children and the parents wanted most, was time together?1 There are a million other things to that can distract us from that most important aspect of our lives. Sports, video games, shopping, leisure activities, and much more, if not used wisely, can be a detriment to the health of the family as a whole.

One of the great things about being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is the knowledge that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to bless families and bring them together. Have you ever heard of that being a "selling point" of any other church? Great youth programs, maybe. Services that include everyone, perhaps. With the restored gospel though, we know that the focus of the church is meant to be the family. Our church is designed to help develop strong families, because the gospel that Christ originally taught was meant to create strong families.

The gospel message we have about families excites me for many reasons. It provides me a hope that through sacred covenants, I can be with my parents and siblings for eternity. You'll find a lot of other people and churches out there that believe that, but you won't find any that teach it as doctrine. This message also provides me similar hope for my future family. It brings a lot of peace to know that through faith in Christ, repentance, covenants, the Holy Ghost, and continued endurance, the challenges that you or I face in our families can be overcome. I sure make a lot of mistakes. Most of them have been made with my family. How good it is to know that those mistakes don't have to be permanent wounds to them or myself!

Families are also designed to be a support team. Have you ever thought about facing the world all by yourself? I have, and it's a scary thought. It can even be overwhelming, but as we remember that we aren't alone, that we have a family there to support us, to "have our back", those challenges become more manageable. The task at hand may not have gotten any smaller, but knowing you only have to do a part instead of the whole can change perspective.

I want to share my witness that family is one of God's great gifts to us. He cares for the individual, and the fundamental units that individuals are a part of—families. I witness that it is only through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, all of God's blessings for our families are made available. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

For more information on the importance of families, see: - Strengthening Families
The Family: A Proclamation to the World

1 A great example of this can be found in Elder Cook's talk, Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage

Friday, December 6, 2013

God, Our Loving Father

Have you ever stopped to take a moment and contemplate your relationship with God? As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we have what could be considered a slightly different view of God than the rest of the world. Generally speaking, I refer to God as Heavenly Father. I know many other Christians that refer to Him the same way. The difference lies in how we take that meaning—literally instead of figuratively. I believe that my spirit, and the spirit of every living human on Earth, was formed by our loving Heavenly Father long before being placed on the Earth. This knowledge—provided one believes it is true—can dramatically change one's view on that relationship.

As we come to understand that God is in a very literal way, our Father, we come to understand Him better. The scriptures are replete with examples of God's tender care for us, much like an earthly father should care. There is no coincidence here. God teaches us with types, symbols, and examples. Earthly fathers are meant to be an example of our Heavenly Father. They may not always measure up, and some may be far from the example they ought to be, but the average, truly good father provides a baseline type of who our Heavenly Father is.

Let me give you an example of what I envision a loving father to be like. That father would provide advice and direction. He has experience that children don't yet have. A loving father provides support and looks after the needs of his children. A good father listens. He makes his children feel loved and appreciated. That father allows his children to make their own choices. When those choices are good, he supports his children. As the child succeeds in his or her goals, the father provides complement and praise. If choices are not what they should be, he may gently encourage the child to make a better choice, but does not force, except in circumstances that would put the child's health or safety at serious risk. When mistakes are made, purposeful, or accidental, he puts himself in a position to help and listen with love, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. A loving father wants his children to succeed. He desires for their lives to be better than his own. This father finds his greatest successes in life to be the choices and accomplishments of their children, for their choices and accomplishments are in part a reflection of him.

You may or may not agree with all of what I feel makes the "ideal" father. Certainly, in life here, no father will be perfect and match every ideal, but if you were to perfectly apply all those characteristics and ideals to God, I think you'd be going in the right direction of what He's like.

I would like to share one experience I had of feeling His love. A while back, I had an argument with my siblings, on what, I cannot remember. Afterward I felt hurt and depressed. I had gone downstairs and offered a silent prayer for comfort and love. My father, who had overheard the argument came down shortly after my silent prayer to give me a hug and talk with me. The silent plea of comfort I had asked for of my loving Heavenly Father was answered. Perhaps it would be simpler for me and the rest of humanity to recognize that love if answers came more simply, but I know there is a reason for it not being the case, and it is motivated by love.

While I don't know Him perfectly yet, not do I fully comprehend my relationship to Him, I do know that He loves me. I have felt that love from time to time. As I have taken time to reflect on events that have, or are, taking place in my life, I recognize His hand more fully, and as a result, feel His love more too. While He has not answered every prayer, He has answered the ones that have mattered the most, and I still have hope that He will answer the others in His own due time. I testify, or witness, that He does live. He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). He wants us to be like Him. He wants us to be happy, and He has provided a way for that to happen through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Can't Do This

There is no simpler way of damning ourselves than by saying: "I can't do this!"

That's the thought that came to mind as I was battling over some thoughts a little while ago. Internal conversations can be a source of tremendous insight (or frustration). As I thought about this prompting, I began to realize that there are some big implications to it.

We can be our own worst enemy

What is it that stops us from doing something? It might be that we don't want to do it, like it, or believe it's possible. Each is a choice that keeps us from accomplishing something. It can be as mundane as "I don't like eggs", with the result being you don't eat eggs. On the other hand, it can be something as critical as "I don't believe I can change", "I don't believe I can be forgiven", or "I don't believe that God exists". The implications of these statements are far more profound than a dislike of pre-poultry. In a very literal sense, by making these conclusions, we stop, or damn, or progress. That's where I was at with my thoughts in regard to my personal change.

When we determine that we don't believe that something is possible, when we make a qualifier of "that can't happen", we effectively put up a wall which stops us from progressing down a path. What would have happened if Thomas Edison thought that making a light bulb was impossible? What would have happened if Moses didn't believe that God could help him lead the children of Israel out of Egypt? What would happen if you or I didn't believe that we could change? Well, the world be a different place.

We can open the way for progress

On the flip side, when we have a belief that something can be done, we open the window to accomplishment. If we feel that we can change ourselves, family, community, or world, and have a determination to act, things will get done. It takes dedication, persistence, and perseverance, but in the end, change can be made.

Can you think of a time that you found success when you were expecting failure? When you were expecting things to work out, did things go horribly wrong instead? Well they do from time to time! Does that mean that if it was worth while you gave up? I'd imagine that most people have had experiences both with persevering and giving up. I know I have. I'm also pretty sure, that if I would have been a little more devoted and tried a little harder, that those times I gave up could have turned to successes.

"I can do this!"

While each of us may have had past experiences on giving up, we can move forward with faith that things can happen. Sometimes our resolve may fail. Sometimes we may face unexpected challenges or concerns that cause us to think we may have tackled the impossible; however, I can testify, that if you are trying to do what is right, and put your faith in Christ, it can be done. I also testify that having faith in Christ is central to your success. No matter how much you think you can or can't do, He is capable of making your efforts shine. All you have to do is involve Him.

You may also need a simple mental reminder of "I can do this". Envision success, not failure. Take time to pray, study the scriptures, go to church, remember who you are, and remember why you started on your journey. As you do so, I know that progress and success can be made. As President Monson has said, "The future is as bright as your faith" (2009 Ensign, "Be of Good Cheer"). I testify that it is true in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.