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Wind hit me and rain pelted down on my frozen skin like a pellet.  Shivering and shaking like a leaf on a tree, I looked up and watched as all of the
people in my heat of the race continued on without me.  My dream of finishing a triathlon seemed to diminish with every gust of wind and drop of rain.  Minutes before, I had made the decision to swim to the side of the shore.  The three foot waves may as well been a tsunami because with every breath I tried to breathe, I swallowed in more water.  As I sat shaking on the rock I pondered 3 questions:

Who am I to think I could finish a triathlon, especially under these circumstances?

I could easily just climb up from the rock and walk back over to my car.  Why am I still sitting here, and why am I even here in the first place?

Finally, questions such as where am I even going and why is it important to me?  Lingered in my mind.

Six months prior to the race, I was a recent college graduate working a part-time job.  I had an extra 20 hours per week on my hands and had started reading about triathlons.  The event seemed like such a monstrous challenge, especially since I had never had swimming lessons and was a very poor swimmer.  Furthermore, I hadn’t really pushed myself to the limits necessary to physically and mentally endure such a race.  The more I read about it, the more I wanted to do it, so I set forth a game plan.

First, I purchased “The Triathletes Training Bible” and studied it religiously.  I learned how to track my work-outs and eating.  Part of this included getting rid of foods that were bad for me and wouldn’t give me proper energy like fatty and sugary foods.  I cleared my house of bad foods and started keeping close watch over what I ate.  I learned from expert athletes about how to mentally and physically prepare for the race.  I put up charts to track my progress and stay focused and every day as I read, I would focus on my vision during each stage of the race.  I could see myself confidently swimming gracefully through the water, churning 20 mph on the bike and running like the wind.  Over time, I gained complete confidence that I could not only finish, but do well in the race.

Next, I assessed my weaknesses.  I noticed an obvious flaw in my swimming and cycling abilities.  I had participated in running races previously, and saw some slight areas of improvement there as well.  After analyzing my weaknesses, I decided that I needed more hands-on guidance in swimming and cycling.  I turned to two experts in each area: a girl in my church who was on the BYU swim team, and my roommate, who was on the BYU cycling team.  As I approached them asking for help, they graciously obliged to coach me.

A few times each week, I would meet with my coaches and they would help me with technique and encourage me.  Over time, I became much more efficient in both swimming and cycling.  For example, when I first started swimming, I couldn’t even go for ½ a lap.  By the end, I was swimming laps for 45 minutes without stopping.

Finally, I turned to other experts such as people at the pro-shops who were seasoned racers.  I would ask them questions about the proper equipment, techniques, and strategies.  I learned about how to properly eat before, during and after the race, what swimming, biking, and running gear are essential, and how to mentally prepare.  One word of wisdom that I wished I would have heeded was that I should purchase a wetsuit for the race.  The athlete who told me this strategy said it was helpful for a number of reasons: first, to provide buoyancy, and second to keep me warm in case of inclement weather.

As I sat shivering on the rock with my swim goggles pulled up over my head, watching as countless athletes swam past me with their wetsuits, I realized that I had made a serious mistake.  However, I thought about all of the time and effort I had put into preparing as well as the time and effort my coaches had put into me.  They believed in me, and I also believed in myself.  I also envisioned how dejected I would feel by quitting without reaching my goal of finishing the race.

I realized that over the course of 6 months of training, I had become an athlete as well.  I was in the best shape of my life and I was there to prove to myself and others that I could overcome a challenge and meet a goal I had set for myself.

A picture came to my mind that I had seen nearly every day for 6 months as I had trained.  It was a picture of a strong athlete finishing the race with hands held high in triumph.  As my mind caught hold of the vision of finishing the race, I pulled my goggles back down over my eyes and jumped back into the frigid water.  I didn’t want to let myself down.

When I stumbled out of the water, I had only one focus and that was to get to my bike.  However, I was very, very cold and shivering almost uncontrollably.  My friend, who was waiting for me instantly ran over to me and helped warm me up, gave me some food for energy, and helped me get my shoes on and onto my bike.  He gave me some words of encouragement and a big pat on the back as I started to ride.

I was so far behind that the next heat of racers was already getting onto their bikes.  I was the very last one in my heat.  Competition started to kick in and I pedaled as fast as I could.  Within a few minutes, the blood was circulating and I was thinking clearly.  I could clearly picture in my mind me running across the finish line.  However, that event was another hour or so down the road.  I realized that I needed to focus on a shorter goal.  What I chose was targeting the racer right in front of me and trying to catch up and pass him.  This strategy worked because I ended up gaining ground and finishing about in the middle of the pack once I ran across the finish line.

The Race of Life

When the huge and cold waves of the lake washed over me and I was overcome in the triathlon, I took time to swim over to a rock and re-focus on who I was and why I wanted to finish.

President Monson has said:

In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation—even thoughts of timeless truths?… when sickness enters the house of good health, when life’s candle dims and darkness threatens. Our thoughts become focused, and we are easily able to determine what is really important and what is merely trivial…In our times of deepest reflection or greatest need, the soul of man reaches heavenward, seeking a divine response to life’s greatest questions…

One of the main purposes for our life, if not the main purpose in life is to develop charity, or Christ-like love for ourselves and each other.  In the Book of Mormon Moroni wrote:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray 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 followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

Clearly developing the gift of love is one of the greatest purposes we have in this life.

Whatever our situation in life is, if we pause to pray and reflect on how we can love more deeply, we will be blessed with a closer relationship with God and our fellow men.  Like a triathlon, it takes patience and preparation and daily focus.  As we read our scriptures, pray, and surround ourselves with things that will bring us closer to God, it is important to realize that we can not endure the journey to the end without the help of Jesus.

Because Jesus Finished, We Can Finish

One thing to keep in mind as we do everything we can to develop the gift of Charity and endure to the end of our “race” is that were it not for Jesus there wouldn’t even be a race for us to run.  If Jesus hadn’t already won the race by suffering for our sins and dying on the cross, we would be hopeless and unable to obtain eternal life.

Not only has Jesus provided us hope through the Atonement, but He is also there to help us in our daily walk with God.  We need to realize that, like me stumbling out of the water, weak and exhausted and needing help to be lifted up onto my bike, we cannot move forward and be lifted up without Jesus.  Daily, we need to call on him and He will provide us with the strength we need to continue on.

Whatever trial we are facing, I hope we can find the energy to reach within ourselves and get back into the race by calling out to our Father in Heaven for help.  I know that if we do this, God will provide us support and strength to continue on and it is my hope that if we do this, we will eventually enter into His presence.

I teach a class to new Mormon converts and people investigating joining the Mormon church called Gospel Principles.  The past few weeks we have been discussing the LDS perspective of a pre-existent life where we had freedom to choose and make decisions prior to coming to earth.  Our discussions have included the LDS perspective of a council held in Heaven and a War in Heaven happening prior to our earthly lives.  For those not familiar with this doctrine, it is included below (as per the LDS Bible Dictionary):

War in Heaven. This term arises out of Rev. 12:7 and refers to the conflict that took place in the premortal existence among the spirit children of God. The war was primarily over how and in what manner the plan of salvation would be administered to the forthcoming human family upon the earth. The issues involved such things as agency, how to gain salvation, and who should be the Redeemer. The war broke out because one-third of the spirits refused to accept the appointment of Jesus Christ as the Savior. Such a refusal was a rebellion against the Father’s plan of redemption. It was evident that if given agency, some persons would fall short of complete salvation; Lucifer and his followers wanted salvation to come automatically to all who passed through mortality, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication (see Isa. 14:12–20Luke 10:18Rev. 12:4–13D&C 29:36–38Moses 4:1–4). The spirits who thus rebelled and persisted were thrust out of heaven and cast down to the earth without mortal bodies, “and thus came the devil and his angels” (D&C 29:37; see also Rev. 12:9;Abr. 3:24–28).

The warfare is continued in mortality in the conflict between right and wrong, between the gospel and false principles, etc. The same contestants and the same issues are doing battle, and the same salvation is at stake.

Although one-third of the spirits became devils, the remaining two-thirds were not all equally valiant, there being every degree of devotion to Christ and the Father among them. The most diligent were chosen to be rulers in the kingdom (Abr. 3:22–23). The nature of the conflict, however, is such that there could be no neutrals, then or now (Matt. 12:301 Ne. 14:10Alma 5:38–40).

Democrat Party is Satan’s Plan?

After we covered some of the key points to this doctrine, especially that of agency, some people in the class started talking politics.  One lady, who is a relatively new Cuban immigrant, emphatically declared that Satan’s plan was like the Democrat Party in the United States because that party tries to take away our agency.  (Her comment reminded me of an article I had read declaring the Democrat Party to be from Satan because of the people who booed at the Democrat Convention this year when asking if God should remain on the platform.)

At that point, I had to reel in the comments and nip the political conversations in the bud so to speak.  Despite me telling them that discussing politics was off limits, like little children trying to push a parent to the edge, I had to keep reminding them throughout the class to keep it focused on doctrine, not politics.

Points to Consider

Her comments caused me to reflect on some things.  Obviously, she has had much more troubling experiences with dictators since she is from Cuba.  Is she just overly sensitive, or does she have some evidence that the Democrat Party is taking away agency from the citizens of the country?

If the Democrat party is indeed Satan’s plan, then there are many Christians, Catholics, and at least 15% of the Mormon population (including some Church general authorities) who are all on the highway to Hell, so to speak.

However, if the Democrat party isn’t Satan’s plan, then thoughts and comments like this are very divisive and do not cause unity, but enmity between people of the same faith, which is not productive.

Is it right to combine religious belief with political views?

Is it right to compare the Democrat Party to Satan’s plan?

If you do believe the Democrat Party is Satan’s plan, how is the best way to help others “see the light” so to speak?

If you are a Democrat and you hear that your party is from Satan, how do you help those telling you this to “see the light”?

There are so many points to consider.  What are your thoughts?

For me, as a conservative Mormon guy living in Washington state, the 2012 elections were rough in a number of ways, starting from the top down:

  1. Romney lost the election.  I had spent a year volunteering for his campaign and truly thought he had a good chance of winning.  He nearly pulled it off, but him losing was like me watching the Seahawks lose in Super Bowl 40.  Not fun.
  2. Washington State legalized marijuana.  Not only for medicinal purposes, but also for daily use.
  3. Gay marriage was passed in our state as well.

All of these things hit me like a tidal wave on election night and I had a hard time sleeping as I considered my children and the hearts of people around me in society.  I wondered where we are as a society in putting God first.  Obviously, we’re not where we need to be and it scared me.

As I saw what my friends and family members where writing about on Facebook the next day, I saw quite often comments such as “I’m moving to a different country” or “I like the idea of living like the Amish do” and “Let’s move away from society and have a compound”.  These were written out of frustration and not in complete seriousness (I hope), but it caused me to think.

Do I want to raise kids in this environment?  If not, where and why would we run?

How can I support my new leaders of the country, even though I do not hold the same political views?

What do we do Now?

Other concerned citizens provided great examples of how we should unite as a nation and make the best of the situation.  Also, the scriptures have excellent recommendations too.

2 Examples

My first example is Mitt Romney.  In his  concession speech, he set a very good example of being a gracious person.  He discussed his love for country and the people who had supported him.  He gave some advice and most importantly, he told Obama that he would pray for him.

When he said this, I was very impressed.  This man (Obama) had slandered his (Romney) name up and down and painted him as a beast to the American people for most of 2012.  Obama had attacked Romney as a person, not his policies.  Romney showed what we as citizens should always remember to do and that is pray for our leaders of the country.

The next example I have is a less-known citizen in my state who was running for Congress.  His name is John Koster.  I had supported him in the elections as well.  I’ll quote some of what he said in an email I received from him today:

Like many Americans, I am stunned at the tough night so many on the conservative side had around the country on Tuesday, and that Barack Obama was re-elected as President. Sean Hannity remarked yesterday that he wondered if the “allure and appeal of socialism and redistribution of wealth has taken hold.”

I hope he is wrong.

I am equally stunned that we have legalized marijuana right here in our home state of Washington; and if the slim margin favoring the pro Referendum-74 vote holds up, we will have legalized same-sex marriages as well.

It seems obvious to me that we have swung wildly in the wrong political direction and that we are now at a point where our society WILL suffer the consequences inherent with bad law and liberal representation.

Ben Franklin challenged future generations of Americans when he said “we have given you a Republic if you can keep it”. To heed Franklin’s wise words, it will be important in the coming days that each and every one of us continues to do our part in defending the Republic – as we are likely in for some difficult times!

We must, however, keep the faith and keep our chins up. We must dig down deep and continue the battle for truth wherever possible, working to defend our values and way of life through our community involvement, church outreach, clubs and social gatherings. We must remain in the battle if we intend to win the war.

Hard as it may be at this moment, we must also pray for our leaders at all levels of government as we are commanded in the Holy Scriptures. Pray that they would govern with honesty and integrity; that they would understand and implement justice through constitutional law as endowed by our Creator.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” -1 Timothy 2:1-3

Again, I humbly thank you for your loyal support as well as your continued friendship. It has been an honor to have run for the United States Congress intent on representing people such as you. May God continue to bless this great nation and may we as a people remain worthy of those blessings for many generations to come.

Both of these men are excellent examples of how we as concerned citizens should support our leaders.  I intend to heed their advice and pray for our leaders, even if I do not support all of their views politically.

The Scriptures

As I pondered things on election night, my thoughts were turned to the scriptures.

Although society is not even close to the events that happen in the Book of Mormon, during the prophet Mormon’s life, I thought about him.  His whole society was collapsing and his people were being wiped out.  He was tempted to leave them, but he chose to fight with them and pray for them and he even gave his life along side them, never giving up hope that they would repent and turn towards God.

I also looked up scriptures in the Bible and there are numerous scriptures that talk about our role as citizens is to support our leaders of the nation, yet continue to lead moral lives and be a “light on the hill” as Jesus says.

Conclusion

While it is tempting to through up our hands when we see our society choosing paths that are not consistent to what we believe to be true, the scriptures and others around us give us good examples of what our roles truly are.  I believe that we should do all we can to raise our children up in truth and we need to do all we can to keep ourselves in line with the Lord.  At that point, we can then be used as an instrument in God’s hand to provide light and guidance to those around us.

 

While I was talking with one of my family members, they mentioned that some Mormons were baffled with the fact that Romney had lost.  Especially since signs had been pointing towards the fulfillment of some parts of the “White Horse Prophecy”.  (For those of you not familiar with this prophecy, it is described in detail here).  They felt our constitution is “hanging by a thread” (as do I in many respects) and all signs were leading towards Romney winning.

Since the “White Horse Prophecy” is so en grained into Mormon culture, it seems that any time a Mormon does anything significant in politics, many Mormons jump on the bandwagon of wondering if the prophecy is about to be fulfilled.

I feel that there are flaws with this way of thinking.  First, the prophecy has not been cited as something definitely prophesied by Joseph Smith.  Secondly, there is not a clear definition of what is meant by the “constitution hanging by a thread” and how the elders will participate in saving the constitution.  I get a feeling that Mormons assume it means a Mormon in the White House, but the prophecy does not state this and is rather vague in defining exactly what role the elder will play.

Even though there are flaws in the prophecy, and LDS public affairs has even publicly denounced the prophecy, I’m sure that many Mormons will still hold this “prophecy” to be true merely based on the fact it has been told so many times and become a part of Mormon culture.

That being said, let’s have a little fun.  Now that Mitt Romney is out, who do you think will be the next Mormon politician to be dubbed as the Elder who will fulfill the White Horse Prophecy?

I’m having a hard time coming up with anyone.  Jon Huntsman is probably out of the picture.  Marco Rubio was a Mormon in his youth, but is now a Catholic….is there anyone in the foreseeable future that you can think of?

Please share.

 

I read a recent study called “Why Marriage Matters” that listed 30 key findings supporting the institution of marriage.  Since my parents were divorced when I was young, I can personally relate to many of the key findings.  In fact, I noticed that many of the findings outlined in this study such as mental and psychological distress, delinquent behavior, etc. were ones I experienced personally and wrote about in a recently published book: “Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication“.

I’ll outline 10 of the findings that I was either surprised about, or personally experienced.

Ten Findings Supporting the Institution of Marriage

  1. Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality
  2. Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
  3. Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
  4. Cohabitation is associated with higher levels of psychological problems among children
  5. Family breakdown appears to increase significantly the risk of suicide.
  6. Boys raised in non-intact families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior
  7. Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.
  8. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers, and cohabitation is less likely to alleviate poverty than is marriage.
  9. Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
  10. Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.

While I’m not saying everyone needs to go running out there and get married to solve the world’s problems, I do believe that if a man and a women have a loving relationship that it is most beneficial for society if they get married rather than live with each other, which we see very often today.

What are your thoughts on these findings?

A former LDS prophet and president of the church, George Albert Smith, stated the following:

We might learn a lesson from the ant. He harvests his supplies when they are available and stores them up against the day when it would not be possible to obtain them. The result is that his larder is usually well stocked. The grasshopper, a much larger insect, does not operate that way. He does not lay up anything in store for hard times, but depends upon providence to provide him what he needs, and the result is that most grasshoppers starve to death.

I fear that some human beings are like the grasshopper and do not take advantage of the opportunities that are theirs in a reasonable way. If they would take a lesson from the ant, they would lay up the food that they need and always have some on hand.

Smith is obviously discussing the need for preparing ourselves temporally against life’s challenges and there are scriptures that support doing this.  As we discussed the need to store things up and prepare for a rainy day in Elders Quorum (Men’s Group), some of the ways we should prepare included:

  • Eliminating debt
  • Having food and water storage
  • Savings account and also money on hand
  • Investments
  • Insurance
  • First Aid education
  • A way to protect or defend family
  • Having a Will
  • Self Reliance such as knowing how to repair, raise a garden, etc.

These are all good, but I can see where people could interpret scripture to mean that we should be grasshoppers instead of ants.  For example, Jesus teaches in both the Book of Mormon and Bible to “take no thought for your life what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body what ye shall put on…” (the Book of Mormon shows clearly that He is talking to the apostles and not disciples in general.  However, the Bible isn’t as clear about singling out the apostles). 

According to that scripture, it would seem that Jesus is admonishing us to not worry about worldly things and all we really need to worry about is following Him and He will provide us with what we need.

I can see a benefit of both.  For practical reasons, it is good to prepare for the future.  However, I can see why people think doing so is a lack of faith since the scriptures seem to show a case for doing it either way.

What are your thoughts?  Are you a grasshopper or ant, and why?

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