The Shining of a Flaming Fire

Photo by Rick Satterfield

Photo by Rick Satterfield

We have all heard that the world is becoming increasingly dark – and it is true.  “The world and the wisdom thereof”1 is clamoring to become an even louder and more influential voice among us, and its “dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us and threaten our peace to destroy” yet we can rest assured that “there is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh”.

All over the world and “upon all the face of the earth”, we will find “the church of the Lamb”, and even though our “dominions upon the face of the earth [are] small” we can and will be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory”.3  

Symbolism is so powerful, and we have “the great symbol of our membership”4 that we can look to every single day to learn exactly how to live in these perilous times.  Every single day, and literally spread throughout the whole earth, there are beautiful temples standing firm, tall, and glorious as a symbol of “all we hold dear”. 5 And each night as the sun goes down and the darkness of night gathers around that temple – it begins to shine.  That darkness comes slowly, and as it does the soft light of the temple begins to glow and we may not even notice it until the natural light of the day is completely gone and darkness is nearing its peak – but each great edifice, each great symbol, stands as a magnificent contrast to the darkness surrounding it as it glows with “the shining of a flaming fire”6 for all to see.

We have learned that “Fire is a symbol for cleansing, purifying, or sanctifying, and that it can also serve as a symbol of God’s presence”– and nowhere is this more true or symbolically visible than in his own house when that flaming fire is against a backdrop of complete darkness – it is a reminder for each of us to “stand with brightness” in a world full of darkness – for the whole world to see. The temple is much more that just a building, and much more than just a sacred place – although it is that.  The temple as a symbol stands for everything that we as latter-day saints proclaim to the earth as unique truth restored through Joseph Smith and the whole reason for existence.  It is the one and only place on earth where eternal families can be forged, where we can learn about where we came from and who we really are.  Each mighty temple is “a standing witness that the power of God can stay the powers of evil in our midst”. 8 It is a constant reminder of the ideal and atoning sacrifice of our savior, how to be like him, and what he did for us.

The world is becoming increasingly dark – this is true – but the world is also becoming increasingly bright.  Each day and each month and each year, there are more and more people and families and homes that have started to glow brighter.  As that darkness becomes more intense, so must our brightness and when the natural light of the day is gone and darkness is found everywhere, we must be found standing tall and firm and true as “the shining of a flaming fire” as a very visible contrast to the prevailing darkness of the world.  Let us all stand with the light of the world, and the light of all truth – even Jesus Christ – and continue to fill the world with that light.

Notes

1 1 Ne. 11:35

2 Hymns, no. 196

3 1 Ne. 14:12-14

4 The Great Symbol of Our Membership, by President Howard W. Hunter, Oct. 1994 Ensign

5 Priceless Blessings of the House of the Lord, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (Chapter 13).

6 2 Ne. 14:5-6, see also Isaiah 4:5.  As Isaiah mentions, the temple is very much a “cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night”.  I think it’s also appropriate the point out that there are 3 places referenced where his glory shall be as a defense and a refuge; the first is “every dwelling place of mount Zion” (our homes), the second is  “her assemblies” (wards, stakes, meeting places), and the third is  “the tabernacle” (the temple).

7 The Guide to the Scriptures – Fire 8 Priceless Blessings of the House of the Lord, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (Chapter 13).

Prize Winning Humility

A little while ago (in November of last year), I wrote here about humility and my absurd lack of it as a character trait.  It was such a deficiency back then that I even wrote, “I think the lack of this trait (in it’s purest and truest form) really was and still is my biggest weakness – or at least one of them”.  Combined with that (my own) realization of non-humility was a conversation I had with someone whose opinion I value that told me (in a very nice way) “you need to become acquainted with real humility.  Not just to know what it is in general terms, but to really understand it and feel it”.  So, I made a personal goal to become the most humble person ever.  I vowed that there would be nobody better at being humble than me.  I wanted to be the best at being humble.      

Now it’s July, and coincidentally after quoting myself, I am happy to report that I have worked very hard on my humility over the past few months – and I think I have successfully become much more humble.  In fact, I might be eligible for the “most improved humility award”.  If nothing else, I am way more humble than I used to be.  Like…. way more.  In fact, my humility has increased to the point that I can look around and be confident that I am more humble than most of the people that I see.   I have come so far in so little time.

Then today something weird happened.  It was like someone changed the rules for acquiring humility without telling me; or at least someone tried to add something to the rulebook that wasn’t there before because what I read today was so different that it just sounded wrong.  I had spent the past several months focusing on my humility, my improvement, and my progress – including how the effects of my focus and improvement had further increased my humility – only to read that “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” 1

Because I had recently spent a lot of time thinking about myself and working on my own humility (which took a lot of time thinking less of myself), I knew that anything that told me to worry about other people in order to increase my humility must be incorrect; after all, how could worrying about or trying to solve other people’s problems help with my humility?  So, I read it again sure that I had indeed misread it the first time.  Then I read it again, and again, and again just to be sure I hadn’t suffered a mild stroke and lost the ability to comprehend sentences – because I am also a really good reader.

That was when I put 2 and 2 together to make 5 because there was no way that focusing and worrying and caring about other people, helping them with all their problems, making sure that they have everything they need, and helping them achieve all of their goals could help me at all – in fact, if I listened to that advice and spent all of my time doing things for others I wouldn’t have any time to worry about myself or work on my own humility, which means I would never improve myself or get to tell people how successful my quest for humility has been by writing a blog post.

So, in an effort to become yet even more humble, I will be spending all of my free time working individually on my own humility, because you never know when the Lord will need a super duper humble guy, and I for one want to be ready and operating at the peak level of humility for when he calls.

Notes

1 CS Lewis wrote this in Mere Christianity

Be a Man!

Artwork by Joseph F. Brickey, words by Colby Alexander

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Jason Bourne? No? Well, I have.  What would it be like to be on one of his against all odds, world saving important missions, and be completely unfazed by eminent danger? To hobble wounded through the streets, and face the constant threat of death at every turn? To fight off rival assassins with a ballpoint pen, and a toaster? I’ve wondered what I would act like if I were in that same scenario. Would I rise to the occasion, keep my whits about me, bear down, and miraculously get the job done?  Or, would I pee my pants, grab my blanky, and hide in the nearest corner and suck my thumb? Would I actually be a man, stand up, and try and fight for what I believed in? Hopefully.

 The thing is, Jason Bourne, however awesome, is unfortunately a made up fictional character. He really didn’t beat up the entire French interpol office with a pencil and a rolled up magazine. He didn’t actually escape in an amazing car chase while driving backwards in a mini cooper all through the alleyways and streets of Paris. That didn’t really happen. (Although it was totally awesome)
Does that mean that in real life, something equally as awesome cant’t happen?

Nope.

There are tons of heroic and amazing Jason Bourne type stories that are actually true. As in, they actually happened.  We have plenty of manly men to look to that show us how to be brave, courageous, loving, strong, and honorable in times that seem bleak and hopeless.

Here’s an example….

We all remember the 2000 stripling warriors of Helaman right? Of course we do. They are famous for being true and faithful to what their mothers had taught them. We learn a little bit about them in Alma chapter 53, verses 20 and 21 explain, “And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.” And later in Chapte 56, verses 47 and 48, “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”

These guys were heroes, and they were the way they were in large part because of their mothers, who had taught them and helped them to become Men. Their mothers get HUGE props for that.

But, have you ever wondered about the fathers of these 2000 warriors? Where were they? They aren’t mentioned in those chapters. If their mothers were completely amazing, did their fathers teach them as well?

I think we may have to go backwards to find out…

The Book of Mormon puts chapter 53 of Alma in about the year 63 or 64 B.C. This is the year that Helaman takes the 2000 boys, and arms them for battle.  They are described as young. Just for fun, lets assume they were about 17 or 18, maybe a bit older.

Now, lets hit the rewind button on our ancient Jason Bourne movie.  Lets rewind to Chapter 24 of Alma. The heading puts this chapter somewhere between 90-77 B.C. That means, we now went back in time anywhere from 13 years prior to about 26 or 27 years.

So, what was happening at that time?  This was the year that the righteous Lamanites buried their weapons and promised and made their famous covenant they would never fight again.  They became the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. These fully converted Lamanite men and women, were those who in those next few years, would teach the future stripling warriors.

In Verse 19 it says, “And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.”

These faithful Lamanites would eventually be those who would instill commitment, honor, and faith on those stripling warriors. They taught this in the most meaningful, and permanent way- by example.

At that time, the future stripling warriors  may have been just born, or maybe were quite young. But, their mothers would have been there. And, Im willing to bet, that the ones that were among the most vocal in this covenant with the Lord were those boys fathers.

What an example to their young boys they must have been. They had been converted, fully.  They showed their sons how to act, how to take action to show faith, and be a man, how to be brave, honorable, and ultimately, how to trust in God. Maybe, the only memories these future warriors had of their actual fathers, were those humbling and honorable moments of their ultimate sacrifice.

So what happened to them? The wicked Lamanites happened to them. Alma chapter 24 verses 21 and 22 explain, “Now when the [Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s] saw that [the Lamanites] were coming against them they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord; and thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them, and began to slay them with the sword. And thus without meeting any resistance, they did slay a thousand and five of them; and we know that they are blessed, for they have gone to dwell with their God.”

Those men, went out to meet their attackers, knowing they would die.  They put honor and commitment first, they led by exampleshowing perfect faith in their God.  These were the examples set for those young boys who may have physically witnessed this sacrifice.  Is it any wonder they were so strong and faithful themselves? They had either personally watched, or learned about this sacred event from their mothers. That was their heritage.

Today, there aren’t massive Lamanite armies a few miles away from our houses bound and determined to kill us simply because of our beliefs.  We aren’t constantly living with threats to our lives because of merely who we are…..or are we?

Are we, as the men of today,  living our lives with the same amount of commitment to our faith as those men of Anti-Nephi-Lehi?  Increasingly our faith will be challenged. Every facet of our religion will come under scrutiny, and we will either have to stand up and defend it, or cower, and shy away. We show our strength, honor, and commitment by living and showing, not by saying and telling. Do we remain strong, honorable, and faithful in the face of evil and wickedness? Our posterity will learn from us whichever way we choose.

If we want our sons (and daughters) to be like those stripling warriors, then we need to act like their fathers (and mothers) did- and show them how to live, and even die for what we believe.

Elder Marion D Hanks had the same advice in April of 1974…..

A Trip Across the Ocean

There is a story – a true story.  About a ship, a family, and their journey to a better place.  This story is much more than just a nice story about a trip across the ocean, which is why it was selected among the thousands of other stories written long ago to be included in the “most correct of any book on earth.”1

Nephi and his extended family had gone through many afflictions and struggles in order to build a boat (not after the manner of men) from scratch that would allow them to cross the great waters.  This was no easy task, yet together they persevered, built the ship, gathered many provisions, boarded the ship and then set sail for a better world.  During this sailing trip they were “driven forth before the wind towards the promised land”2  and things were looking up.  Struggles and sacrifice had created strong familial bonds, humility, gratitude, and hope, and traction to move forward to another new beginning.

On this journey, after they “had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days”3 a portion of his family on the boat “began to make themselves merry… to speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither, yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.”  Happiness and prosperity and progress had given way to rest, which led to complacency, which always results in forgetfulness.

Fearing that this rudeness and forgetfulness would incur the displeasure of God, and because he knew that this whimsical merriment and exceeding rudeness would no doubt have detrimental consequences to everyone aboard the ship, Nephi “began to speak to them with much soberness; but rather than pay attention to his words, “they were angry with [Nephi]” because they did not enjoy him to telling them what was right. Nephi warned them that their behavior was inappropriate.  He even warned them “with much soberness.”  Much soberness is code for “he told them in very plain terms that what they were doing was a bad idea and that they should stop.”  We might even say that he used words like ‘declare’ or ‘warn’).  These people thought and assumed that it was their right to have a little fun, and to decide what was okay and not okay all by themselves, and therefore paid little heed to his words.  In fact, they became angry at Nephi because of his words, and rather than give heed to his warnings they let their anger lead them to action.

Laman and Lemuel took it upon themselves to enforce their opinions by constraining Nephi.  Nephi explained; they “took me and bound me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness”.  As this was happening, Nephi demonstrated no amazing show of power, called down no “signs” from heaven to thwart the mutiny, and likely just calmly yet unmistakably made his position known.   Essentially, Nephi allowed Laman and Lemuel to make their choice and to practice their agency.   The Lord (and Nephi) – just like he has in many other instances, and just like he does today – “did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken.”5  The Lord provides agency to everyone, and everyone means everyone, even when what those people are choosing is harmful.

At this point, I imagine that those individuals who bound Nephi with cords, and who treated him or spoke to him with much rudeness were quite pleased with themselves.  Their actions may have even been met with cheers and applause from others who were tired of Nephi preaching to them about Gods expectations and their behavior – and more importantly about the age-old promise of punishment for disobeying the commandments.  Perhaps they thought that now that Nephi was bound and captive they could be at peace, or that Nephi would change his mind about what is acceptable behavior when he realized and watched their seemingly innocent merriment had not brought forth immediate negative consequences or even when it was explained to him that exceptions should be made to laws while traveling on a boat, after all – times were different now.  It wasn’t the golden days of Jerusalem or the old world any more; they were in a new world on the ocean, they had grown up and things had changed.

There is a critical detail that Laman and Lemuel either didn’t consider, or didn’t think was important enough to worry about in their celebrations.  Nephi was the navigator of the ship.  He was the one that could read the compass.  He was the one that knew where to go and how to get there.

As soon as Laman and Lemuel had tied Nephi up, “the compass that pointed the way whither they should go”6 – “did cease to work”. 7  These two (Laman and Lemuel), and all of their followers – in their haste to be comfortable with their own merriment and by attempting to silencing any naysayers by force – had forfeited their navigational capabilities all in the very same act for which they were celebrating victory.

At this point in the story, a tragic observation is captured in the record.  A simple yet profound truth that reads “they knew not whither they should steer the ship.”8  It wasn’t just that they couldn’t steer the ship – although it was that too. These guys knew the hopeful destination existed but they had no idea how to get there.  These are the guys that wanted to be in charge of the ship and wanted to tell everyone on board that despite what Nephi was saying, that everything was going to be fine, and as a side note they didn’t want anyone else making things difficult for them along the way.  This was okay for a little while; a few hours, maybe even a few days, but some time after their we-tied-Nephi-up party “there arose a great storm, yea a great and terrible tempest, and [they] were driven back upon the waters.”9

As with all decisions to disobey God’s law and/or to ignore the warnings of the prophets, at some point unfavorable consequences are guaranteed to follow.  As soon as this storm came around some of the other passengers on the boat likely  started to see that Nephi had been right all along, and were became uncomfortably aware of the situation.  The only way to peace and safety was to do exactly what Nephi had told them; obey to the Lord, be humble, repent, and keep the commandments.  Everything else is the opposite of that law and will eventually end up in pain and regret.

As this storm worsened, and the situation became dire, Laman and Lemuel “began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless, they did not loose [Nephi].”10  They continued in their ignorance and likely shouted loud enough for everyone to hear that Nephi was still the crazy one and promised that the storm will pass soon enough.  They probably even told everyone that the storm had nothing to do with Nephi being bound and that it was just a coincidence.

It wasn’t until these two brothers understood that “the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish” that they realized the mistake they had made.  They finally understood that despite their hopes and dreams, they really had no idea what they were doing.  They didn’t know how to steer the ship.  To make matters worse, during this tempest, “they (Laman and Lemuel) did breathe out much threatenings against anyone that should speak for [Nephi]”11 or who shared Nephi’s values.  They didn’t show any concern for the other passengers on the boat or how the very real consequences of their actions affected all of them.  They didn’t do what was best for the entire group.  They did what they wanted to do and demanded that everyone allow them to do it – and threatened them to stay quiet about any reminders to the contrary – even if it meant death by tempest for every single person aboard the ship.

Only when Laman and Lemuel saw that “they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” and they finally understood that they had willingly forfeited the right to proper navigation by trusting in themselves and in their own judgment rather than the Lord and his compass did they truly see.  In other words – after being driven backwards upon the waters, and after experiencing a mighty tempest that threatened to destroy the entire party, it wasn’t until they came to the point of their own imminent death did they “hear” the words and warnings that Nephi had spoken.  It is a sobering fact indeed to realize that they really may have only been in it for themselves all along.

Yet, in a flash of long overdue wisdom, these two repented, loosed Nephi from his cords, and he (Nephi) ”took the compass, and it did work whither [he] desired it.  And it came to pass that [he] prayed unto the Lord… and the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.”12  Following that, “Nephi did guide the ship, that [they] sailed again towards the promised land.”13  Problem solved, crisis averted, lessons learned, and they were back on course.

The solution to surviving the great and terrible storm was so simple, and the solution to our great and terrible tempest is still so simple.  Follow the prophet, because “he knows the way.”14  The prophet and his apostles are the ones that can use the compass and that “know whither to steer the ship”.  If we try and put ourselves in charge, by discounting their words or their counsel, ignoring them, or becoming angry with them (essentially binding them), we run the risk of veering off course and being driven backwards.

The last note about this story that I feel is important for us all to remember, is the fact that everyone in the story – both the people who were listening to Nephi and the people who were not – were in the same boat – literally.   They were all experiencing their own individual journeys within the group journey.  The interaction between the two groups was necessary, because after all, “it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things”15 and that includes opposition in opinion and the use of our agency.  I highly doubt that Nephi and his immediate family reacted to his being bound by cursing Laman and Lemuel or calling them names, shunning their families, throwing their hands in the air, losing hope, or asking to take the emergency raft to the nearest island where they could live by themselves – even if that’s what they wanted to do.  I am positive that Nephi and his family didn’t begin to “speak with much rudeness” towards Laman and Lemuel.  I like to think that they fervently prayed and continued to exhibit faith and even let Laman and Lemuel know of their love for them as members of their family and boating party, all while continually declaring and enforcing their values and where they stood on the issue by their quiet yet powerful examples of faithfulness and humility to the Lord.

We are all on a journey.  We have someone who is steering the ship and even better than that; there is someone that is causing the wind to blow – which drives our boat towards the promised land.  The Lord is in charge, and we do not need to doubt that fact.  Let us follow his enticings, be loyal to him, and act like him to be quiet yet powerful examples and demonstrate where we stand by shining with brightness, love, kindness, and hope.

Notes

1 See the Introduction to the Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ

2 1 Ne. 18:8

3 1 Ne. 18:9

4 1 Ne. 18:10

5 1 Ne. 18:11

6 1 Ne. 16:10

7 1Ne. 18:12

8 1 Ne. 18:13

9 1 Ne. 18:13

10 1 Ne. 18:13

11 1 Ne. 18:17

12 1 Ne. 18:21

13 1 Ne. 18:22

14 Children’s LDS Songbook, 110, “Follow the Prophet”

15 2 Ne. 2:11

Not Papaya Juice

Something awesome happens when you squeeze an orange.  Juice comes out.  It doesn’t matter whether it is sliced in half and then squeezed with hands directly into a glass or chopped up in big pieces and thrown into a juicer, or even if it is peeled and then ‘juiced’ by my teeth and they chomp up and down, the fact of the matter is that regardless of the particular method of squeezing involved, the juice that is inside that orange is going to come out under pressure.

How strange would it be if we squeezed an orange, only to find something other than orange juice?  Perhaps it could be apple juice, pear juice, or if you are really unlucky it could be guava or a papaya juice – or worse still a glob of black goo.  That’s when you just throw it in the trash (papaya and goo).  We would label it as a Pharisee fruit and shake our heads in disgust wondering what on earth went wrong.

Fruit is a product of a tree1, and rightfully and literally is called the fruit – not just because that’s its name, but also because it is a literal product of, or the end result of the growth process of that tree/vine/bush.  In this sense, the juice that is inside the fruit could be considered the fruit of the fruit – or the end result of that fruit’s maturity – or in other words, what it ultimately has to give at the end of it’s life cycle (when its time to be squeezed).

Paul taught, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”. 2 Peter added, “beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful”.3

Mosiah and Alma were almost identical in their descriptions of the qualities that we should posses (as enticed by the Holy Spirit), being “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, and all long-suffering”.4  Then, the Lord himself indicated that power (the only real kind) must gained and exercised by “long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge”… and that our  bowels should be “full of charity, and that virtue should garnish our thoughts unceasingly”.5  By my count that’s a list of at least 31 traits (at least 13 are duplicates) that should be “in us” if we have the spirit and if we are to be good fruit.

The next question then, is what comes out of us when we are squeezed?

Regardless of what method of squeezing is used, or who (or what) is doing the squeezing; if we experience pressure (and we do), our fruit juice will start to come out.  Squeezing could be things like pressure at work,  juggling the various demands on our time, busy schedules for everyone, church callings, high expectations, unfair and perhaps uninformed judgments, words, thoughts, or actions towards us by anyone and everyone, and really every other thing in the whole world that has been specifically tailored to our individual lives, or products of living in a fallen world to see how we respond individually to being squeezed.  After all, that’s why we are here isn’t it?

When things get hard (they will and they do), and the light seems to be fading, and sometimes when the lights are bright and everything is fine, you can bet you’re being squeezed – and what comes out of us (how we treat others, how we turn outward in that moment, how we act, etc.) is a really good indicator of what is really inside of us.  Let’s all hope that when we are being squeezed we have more to offer than a pile of black goo or papaya juice – because this world already has enough anger, resentment, vengeance, un-forgiveness, lack of patience, short-suffering, harshness, contention, vice, vanity, pride, selfishness, and insubordination.  There is enough and to spare of that black goo.  Instead, let’s hope that when things are the hardest, the toughest, the gruesomest, the darkest, and the most difficult – when we are really getting squeezed – that sweet and flavorful fruit juice of the spirit is what people will see coming from us.  Things like patience, charity, long-suffering, kindness, temperance, goodness, faith, joy, meekness, humility, and love.  Let’s match the world and provide enough and to spare.

To come back to the center of everything, let’s think about the time when the best of us all was squeezed beyond anything that you or I can even imagine.  Then realize that during those excruciating moments of absolute pain and anguish, the fruit that was “in him” was literally squeezed right out of him, and was left for all to see – and it was the purest of all love.  Pure, humble, constant, amazing love.   His squeezing was so intense, that it caused him “even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit”. 6 Yet there he was, all the while worried about you and me, and making sure that we had a way out.

Let’s share goodness, even when we don’t think anyone deserves it.  Maybe especially when we know they don’t deserve it, because after all, we are all in the growing process of becoming fruit, and the juice that is inside of us is what we ultimately have to give during every step and leading up to the end of our life cycle.  And fortunately for all of us, a loving father has provided us a strong and beautiful tree (and vine) that provides nourishment, love, and encouragement through his grace to help us be the best fruit we can be.

Notes

1 – I realize that there are some fruits that grow on vines, bushes, or in bogs as well, but the principle is the same (they grow on some type of plant).

2 Galatians 5:22-23

3 2 Peter 1:5-8

4 Mosiah 3:19 and Alma 13:28

5 D&C 121:41-45

6 D&C 19:18

We all Scream for Ice Cream

Once upon a time, I was super smart and knew everything. I pretty much ruled the world, which, in fact, revolved around me. I was obviously the most important kid in the universe, and no one could do anything about it.  My kingdom, during this era of enlightenment, was Payson Junior High School.  I was in 8th grade.

My co-rulers and I, who also happened to be equally as smart as I was, made it a daily occasion on our lunch break, to walk the quarter mile off campus to take our lunch at the local Dairy Queen. Now, this Dairy Queen was known throughout all the land as the most delicious, for it served the greasiest fries on the earth and the best pink sauce ever. Anyone familiar with this prize winning establishment can vouch for the authenticity of this statement. An enormous grocery bag of these things could be purchased for a mere 80 cents. But, the prize of the Dairy Queen lunch caravan wasn’t the greasy fries, it was the jumbo ice cream cone. People would travel from all around just to partake of its hugeness.

This ice cream cone only cost around 65 cents, and contained roughly 19 revolutions of ice cream carefully swirled on top of the sugar cone. It was massive. Just for kicks, because we were the collective kings of the jungle, they also placed a plastic monkey toy on top of the Everest cone as homage to our greatness. This tower of sugar, milk and deliciousness kept us coming back day, after day, after day.

You have to imagine in your mind, our group of 14 year old geniuses in those days. There was Myself, Brad, Anthony, Mark, Mo, Josh and others, after purchasing our delectable diabetes cones, would play Street Fighter on the arcade console for the 5 minutes before we had to make our trek back to reality.  The distance from the school would only allow this short time to be enjoyed inside the Dairy Queen, the next 10 minutes or so would be spent trying diligently to consume the entire cone which we had just purchased.  Frequently teetering on the brink of brain freezes, this was no small feat. Oft times we would fail in our attempts, and would sadly, and with much dismay, have to dispose of our remaining cone in the trash can just outside the doors of the school.

One day, Mo, one of the eldest of our company, came up with one of the best consolation prizes ever. In his experienced wisdom, he showed us that it was ok if we didn’t finish our bucket of ice cream upon our return to school.  If we did have a cone left, we could, in our last moments of an enjoyable lunch, throw our remaining frozen treat projectiles “toward” the garbage can.  If the ice cream and cone somehow smacked the brick wall 14 feet above the garbage can, and slowly trickled down, inch by inch, leaving a snails trail of vanilla in its wake, all the better!

Again, we were a group of very smart and brilliant kids.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with 8-10 kids throwing ice cream cones in the general direction of the garbage can everyday after that right?  Pretty soon, in our wisdom, we would actually purposefully eat less ice cream to save most of our cones to make a more dramatic ice cream explosion. Oh man, we had so much fun!…..for about 4 days.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Apparently,the custodians at Payson Junior High School didn’t really like scrubbing down the ice cream war zone everyday. On the 5th day of our ice cream disposal system, after the first 3 missiles were fired at the wall, the sweet little custodian lady burst out from her secret hiding place and we were busted.  The worst part about this whole thing is that it wasn’t until I actually saw her, that I even realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea to chuck ice cream at a wall.  Maybe I wasn’t so super smart after all?

Needless to say, myself, Mo, Brad, Anthony, and a few others were blessed with the privilege of spending a week after school washing lockers, and being servants to the sweet little custodian lady who had the last laugh.  And that is where my life of crime began and ended. Sorry again Mrs. Franz.

I spent a week cleaning after school because I didn’t see the big picture.  I couldn’t see past my own cheap entertainment.  My own selfish desires to watch ice cream cones slowly trickle down a brick wall, took precedence over worrying about who would have to clean it up.  I was blinded by my own indifference.  I didn’t see the big picture.

In the Book of Mormon, Jarom, the son of Enos, was explaining the mindset of the Nephites during his time which was only about 60 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.  These Nephites were supposed to be the righteous ones, they had been separated from the Lamanites, and had the scriptures, and the prophets. But, just as always, something got in the way. He says in Jarom 1:3…..

“Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks; nevertheless, God is exceedingly merciful unto them, and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land.”

It is our natural tendency to become complacent, to see only what we want to see, and to forget about everything that isn’t directly effecting us. We don’t pause to look at the big picture. We tend to separate, and contain God into a small 3 hour window on Sundays, and forget Him the rest of the week. We cant let this happen to us. 


When we see things happening in the world around us what do we think?  Do we brush it off as something that is only happening halfway across the world, or in some other country, or state?  What about our own community? Do we see attitudes and behaviors that remind us of any societies in the Book of Mormon? Do we involve ourselves with any of them? We need to take the time, and open our blinded eyes, soften our hardened hearts, and start to listen with our spiritual ears.  Its part of what we need to learn here in this life. Lets look at our lives through the lens of the Book of Mormon. If our people had a chapter, what would it read like?

Hopefully we can all learn from my ice cream shenanigans that we need to stop and look at ourselves, and how we are living, to see if there are any ice cream cones that we are chucking at the wall. After all, someone is always watching.