The Value of Struggle

I want to talk to the rising generation. We live in a constantly changing world; one that can be difficult to keep up with. With change comes struggle and adaptation. This can be painful for those already set in their ways, but those who embrace change know how much better life can be when you become familiar with and take advantage of what is available.

A basic definition of struggle is to strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance. We all struggle with something.

Struggle helps inspire change

I recently heard a story about a young man who was living away from home and working in sales. After doing this for a while, he began to feel unfulfilled and wasn’t sure that this was the right career path he should take. One hot summer day it all came crashing down. There had to be some way to release all of these negative feelings. He got in his older model car, which happened to have a superb heater in it, cranked it up and started driving home. He immediately started sweating profusely and his suit was drenched in no time. The negative feelings started to leave. He got home, cut his suit up into pieces and flushed them down the toilet. The next day, he applied for a job at a local radio station and was immediately turned away. Day after day for about a month, he kept coming back and asking about a job there. Finally, they offered him an entry level position. Shortly thereafter, the host of one of the shows was fired and the young man was immediately promoted. Several years later, he is now successfully hosting his own show with literally millions of listeners each day.

Think for a minute about how the young man in the story must feel today. Do you think he takes for granted where he is, considering where he’s been? Of course not. Real appreciation comes out of the struggle. He earned his way to the top. Sure, he had help along the way, but his success was not just handed to him.

I don’t know the heart of the young man or if he realizes the plan God has for him. It is my personal belief that God has a plan for all of us; generally and individually. He truly cares about our happiness and has allowed us to experience mortal life in order to learn through our struggles.

Part of the Plan

In the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Lehi speaks about the necessity of learning by experience while speaking to his son Jacob:
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Nephi 2:11)

I believe an important part of God’s great plan of happiness for us all is dealing with personal weakness and imperfections. I can honestly say at this point in my life that I am grateful for these things. I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning from my mistakes.

The Lord spoke to the Prophet Moroni in the Book of Mormon about this:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

Lehi’s son Nephi taught:
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)

I still struggle and I’m still young, so I know there’s a lot left to learn. However, I find comfort in knowing that as I try to follow God’s plan for me and allow him to shape me through my experiences, I will grow. I will appreciate more. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know!

How has struggle and opposition helped you to draw closer to God?

Exercising Faith – by Carolyn Stout

Our Own Little World

This past summer we took a family camping trip up to Mirror Lake in the Uintah mountains. Our campsite was close to a running river, and someone had created a pool out of rocks so the grandchildren had a great place to play. We went hiking and sightseeing, and watched our three grandsons (ages 5-7) work together to build a path out of rocks so they could cross the river. We roasted hotdogs and made s’mores. It was a wonderful time being in our own little world where we were secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and we could build strong relationships and make wonderful memories.

The Outside World

The evening of our last day there we had a group of kids in their early 20’s pull in and start setting up camp a few yards away. At first we were concerned because they were intruding on our wonderful time together, second because it was a coed campout and we had sweet innocent little children with us. The ‘world’ had entered into our sacred space.
We went ahead and fixed dinner and had our evening ritual of s’mores and stories. As our children were getting the grandkids ready for bed, the music and laughter began getting louder from the neighboring camp, so our sons went over and politely explained that they had small children going to sleep and asked if they would keep the noise down. The other group was very polite and said they would.
As the evening went on and we were playing games inside the trailer, we could hear the drunken laughter and music get louder.

A Test of Faith

I was getting a little concerned but the thought kept coming to me to pray and everything would be all right. So before my son, Ben, went to his tent and my other son, Jason, went to his car where his two kids were asleep, we had a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to protect us through the night – that we would be in a protective bubble from the ‘outside’ world. We went to bed confident the Lord had heard our prayers. I even said another one after I got in bed and felt a peace come over me that we would be okay. But then I would hear loud laughter or someone walking around our tents and trailer, and I started to doubt my faith that Heavenly Father was protecting us. I would remind myself of all the lessons I had taught and learned about how if we pray in faith and trust that He hears our prayers he would bless us, like the scripture ‘Ask and it shall be given.’
When I remembered that and put my trust in Him I could rest, but when I allowed the ‘outside’ to come in again I couldn’t. It was a long night.

I couldn’t wait to talk to the kids the next morning to see how they slept. They both said they slept well and didn’t hear a thing, which was a tender mercy. Prayers had been answered.

Reflections On Faith

That morning happened to be Sunday and our son got permission from his church leader to have our own Sacrament Meeting. As I sat there under the covering, surrounded by family and the beautiful trees, and listening to the river flow beside us, I couldn’t help but think of our pioneer ancestors who held all of their meetings outside as they crossed the plains. I thought of their unwavering faith as they listened to the early prophets and embraced the gospel and then of their courage to set out for an unknown place so they could worship in peace.

As I looked around at half of our beautiful family and especially our sweet little grandchildren who were there and how reverently they partook of the sacrament and listened to grandpa speak to them, I thought of their faith and how it is growing and developing daily, then I thought of my own faith and how I had let it waver throughout the night. Why couldn’t I be like my ancestors and my posterity?

I just have to remember my favorite thought ‘Faith is not believing God can. It is knowing God will.’ I have seen Him bless us in the past when I have asked in faith, so I need to remember that He will bless us in the future IF I am trying to live righteously and IF I ask in faith and put my trust in Him.
I know He is there and loves me.

“Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.” – President Thomas S. Monson

What I Learned about Parenting at a Wrestling Match

Recently, I was at a wrestling tournament to watch my 14-year-old son. Wrestling tournaments usually start early in the morning and take up most of the day. On this day, I had left my other three children at home, and I was sitting in the gymnasium thinking of my to do list that was a mile long. I love wrestling, and I love being with my son, but this day, the commitment to a long day in the gym seemed a little too much.

Motherhood Low

After a lot of waiting, my son finally wrestled his first match and got pinned in only 15 seconds. I thought he hadn’t given his all and was a little annoyed he lost because if he lost the next match he was out of the tournament, we would be heading home and all of the time and effort I had put into getting him there would be a waste.

After his match, he came and found me in the stands as he always does. I told him he didn’t do his best and to get out there and try harder. It wasn’t my finest mom moment. He went to rejoin his team, and I felt ashamed I hadn’t been more positive. I had let my frustration get the best of me and I felt bad.

Scripture Changed My Perspective

The gym was full of people. There were five wrestling matches going on at once, parents were cheering, wrestlers were warming up and music was blaring. Since I knew I had a long wait until my son’s next match, I reached into my bag and pulled out my Kindle. I had planned to read a novel I was in the middle of, but instead I clicked on the button to read in the Book of Mormon. I started reading in the place I had left off at the day before. Despite the chaos around me, I got completely engrossed in the verses.

I read about a great leader named Captain Moroni. He was a leader everyone wanted to follow. He had integrity and even though he was fighting a war, his motives were pure. This is how the the verses I read described Captain Moroni:

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

(Alma 48:11-13,17)

A Softened Heart

I finished the chapter, looked up from my Kindle and instantly saw my son in the far corner of the gym warming up for his next match. What I read about Captain Moroni changed my perspective on what I was doing that day. My heart was softened. I was being taught what was truly important for me to show my son.

I knew it didn’t matter if he won or lost his next wrestling match. I didn’t need to pray for that. I needed to pray he would be like Captain Moroni–someone the Lord could depend on no matter what. Suddenly, I wanted my son to be “strong and mighty” not so he could beat his wrestling opponent, but so he could be who God wanted him to be.

Parenting Lesson

My son lost his second match, which meant he was eliminated from the tournament. When he came to me in the stands this time, my heart was full of love for him. I told him I knew he had done his best and I was proud of him.

We headed home, and the day was not a waste because I learned an important lesson about parenting in God’s way and not the world’s way. I had learned what God wanted me to teach my son. His value is not based on his worldly accomplishments. He isn’t defined by winning a wrestling match. He has value simply because he is a child of God.

How have you learned to parent in God’s ways? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Need for Human Connection

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the quantity and quality of my use of technology. I’m asking myself how much time I’m spending online; what it’s doing for me and how it’s helping me serve others. I invite all who read this to ask themselves the same questions.

Consider for a second, the following: Timothy D. Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, led a team that explored our capacity for solitude. People were asked to sit in a chair and think, without a device or a book. They were told that they would have from six to 15 minutes alone and that the only rules were that they had to stay seated and not fall asleep. In one experiment, many student subjects opted to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit alone with their thoughts.

A little about myself
I was born in 1982. I grew up in the 80’s, but the 90’s probably influenced me the most. High school years usually have the most impact on a person and is the era you can claim. The 90’s was an interesting decade. Prior decades all have their unique and specific fashion, music, movies, etc. The 90’s was the beginning of a lot of change. Rapid change. Technology has absolutely exploded since the 90’s. Things are constantly changing, unlike any other era in the past.

A history lesson
A common question I hear is, “How did we survive without cell phones or computers?”. Well, how did we? Sure, everything moved a little bit slower back then and often required more patience to wait for a response without email and text messaging. For those who were born after landlines became ancient history, if you wanted to get a hold of somebody or give them a message you had a few options. Call them and hope they are home, if not, leave a voice message and wait for them to return your call, not knowing if they are home or when they will return. Then, once they get back to you, you may or may not be home, further delaying the connection. You could always go to their house or send them a letter via snail mail. Sounds fantastic, right?

Both sides of the coin
I don’t think society was fully prepared for the changes that took place during and after the 90’s. Although it was an incredible time to be young, we had no idea how much we would miss the power and necessity of face to face communication and connection. Honestly, I can’t blame anybody for not seeing that coming. No doubt, these advances in technology are in and of themselves a good thing. I don’t think anybody could argue with that. There is so much good that can be done using technology and the world relies on it heavily in so many ways. There’s nothing wrong with this. On the flip side, technology also provides a way to escape reality. Yes, we all need a break every once in awhile, but escaping isn’t the answer. As human beings, we will always have personal imperfections to deal with. Things don’t always work out as we plan and we are susceptible to injury, illness and death. These things are natural! We are given two options when faced with adversity – become bitter and angry, or try to deal with the problem the best we know how. If we choose the first option, the problem won’t just disappear. While the second option is easier said than done, it will ultimately bring peace, despite the fact that it will require a lot of work.

By nature, I am typically not one to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I usually keep to myself as long as I don’t need help from anybody else. I am very comfortable being alone and disconnected from the rest of the world. However, having been married for almost 12 years now and with 3 kids, most of my adult life has not been quiet! I don’t really have the opportunity to be on my own for very long. Before I go on any further here, I want to make it known that I am incredibly blessed. My wife and children are the reason I am the person I am today and I can’t imagine life without them. Okay, well I guess I can imagine it, but the price I would be paying for dealing with the challenges of life on my own might be too much for me to handle. They have literally saved my life, especially my wife. I feel very fortunate to have known her in high school and then to later be married and start a family. I didn’t have to experience the challenges young single adults face in today’s world. I didn’t have to wonder who I would spend the rest of my life with, or if I would even be able to find that person.

As an adult, I have experienced depression and anxiety. When I look back on my youth, I’m sure I had those feelings growing up but I definitely didn’t recognize them for what they were, nor did I know how to deal with them in a healthy way. I’m grateful that I surrounded myself with friends who uplifted and supported me. There’s no doubt that they helped carry me through those difficult times. Now that I have a family of my own, it is they who are my support. My wife loves me despite my many imperfections and my children love me because I try to be a good father. I have also been blessed by those outside of my family who have helped me to find positive outlets and have given me opportunities to connect with those who understand how I feel.

Dealing with adversity
We all deal with adversity, nobody is exempt. No matter where you live or how much money you have, there will be challenges. Sometimes these challenges come from our own choices we make and sometimes they are the result of somebody else’s choices, whether they intended to drag us into it or not. We can’t control the choices other people make, but we can certainly control our own choices.

How do you deal with your challenges? How often do you turn to something other than a friend or loved one for relief? I’ve admittedly been guilty of this many times. The alternatives are endless and the options ever growing. Whatever your problem is, there’s an app for it! Think about it. More than ever before, connecting with another person face to face has almost become obsolete. Most communication is done over social media, text or email. Most of our “friends” are online. While this is an incredible convenience, if we don’t take the time to talk in person, openly and honestly to somebody who cares about us, we are missing out! Although technology is powerful, it is nothing compared to the power of real person to person conversation.

From the hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth:

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Never forget
As life becomes more automated and distractions become more readily available, don’t lose sight of what’s most important. When the Savior Jesus Christ walked the earth, he spent his time with other people. He listened to, served and taught them. His last and final sacrifice was for us all. His perfect example of love shows us all the way to live.

I don’t believe we are supposed to shun technology or entertainment, but use it when it is needed and when you disconnect from electronics, or whatever is distracting you, take the time to connect with a human being. Spouses, parents and children, siblings, coworkers, even strangers need to see and hear our true selves. You never know what somebody else is going through. You could be just the thing they need to get through a difficult time. God often answers our prayers through another person. Be that person that somebody is praying for. Look for opportunities to serve and uplift. You will find those opportunities if you look for them and it will do so much more for you than you can imagine.

Can video games hurt relationships?

As someone who has spent a lot of time both playing video games and interacting with gamers, I feel pretty qualified to say “Yes, of course they can.” Not all video gaming behavior is bad, but I’ve seen people and families get anywhere from a little to way messed up by too much screen time.

My sense is that as a society we’re still not entirely sure what to think about people who play too much. If it’ll help someone out there who is wondering about this, I’d like to share my story:

My story:
As a teenager, my video game behavior could definitely have been classified as an “addiction,” although I definitely didn’t see it that way at the time. I played the occasional Nintendo game as a kid, then progressed to computer-based strategy games during junior high. In High School however, I started playing a new kind of game called an RPG (“role playing game”) where you control a character who lives in a world of his/her own. In a short period of time, the game completely consumed me. I would play from the minute I got home to the minute I went to bed, and I would often get up later in the night to play again after my parents went to bed. When my parents cracked down, I’d get up really early to play for a few hours before school.

There was no meaningful purpose behind the gaming, but I felt compelled to get to the next level, find the next item or score the next kill. It didn’t help that this was the kind of game that allowed you to interact with other gamers, so I soon felt like all of my friends were in the virtual world too. My parents (bless their hearts) probably didn’t know what to do. Knowing how I was as a teenager, they probably didn’t have a lot of power to stop me anyway. But I do remember them explaining to themselves and to others “Well, there’s worse things he could be doing,” and I think I kinda used that story as a way to justify my behavior to myself as well.

I pretty much continued to play day-in and day-out for 3 or 4 years. The game kept a log of how long you had played for, and I remember it saying near the end that I had logged the equivalent of over 180 continuous days played during that short time period. At the height of my addiction, I actually turned to caffeine pills to keep myself awake during class. That’s crazy to think about now, but that’s where I was at at the time.

How did I finally quit? It’s pretty simple — I got a job. With the new job came a desire to make money and do different things, and I just didn’t have time to play anymore. Also randomly (or perhaps by divine providence), the first person games started making me dizzy/sick after 10-15 minutes of play, so I couldn’t really do those anymore either. But it’s not like I came to some realization — like I said, it wasn’t until much later that I realized I had been addicted, so really it’s just lucky that life got me out or I’d probably still be playing :).

The cost of playing
I try not to think about it, but sometimes I wonder what this addiction ultimately cost me? For sure, I can’t say I had a very good high school experience. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I didn’t do ANYTHING extracurricular. I got good grades, but I suspect that was more about knowing how to beat the system than it was about actually learning anything. I didn’t think about college or scholarships until it was way too late to apply to anywhere prestigious. I didn’t have much social skill (in fact, I think I was in my mid 20s before I really started to care what others were feeling). I wrecked a few high school friendships, but I think I regret even more than that the close relationships that I never developed. I could’ve been much closer to my siblings, my parents, my teachers and my friends. It hasn’t been a total tragedy, but I’d say I probably only reached 50-60% of my total potential coming out of high school and it has taken me years to recover. That’s an incredible price to pay for an experience that gave me so little in return.

I hear people say they are just playing video games to “blow off stress” or “relax” and I get that. I think the shorter, offline games are better. At work, we play a quick game of soccer on the xbox at lunch time to bond as a team and to get our minds off work for a bit. I still enjoy playing the occasional strategy game with my brother too, but I’ve noticed something different about my gamer behavior now — I play to spend time with people I care about, not to avoid them. I also feel like I’ve developed enough self control to say confidently “It’s just a game” and turn it off whenever I need to. Perhaps most importantly though, I’ve got enough other stuff going on for me in my life (my wife, my kids, my business, my ministry) — stuff that honestly just blows any video game out of the water — that I don’t feel nearly the desire to play that I once did.

I can’t tell you whether or not you (or someone you love) is addicted or simply playing too many video games. But it’s scary stuff and unfortunately it seems like the kind of problem they just have to realize and get out of on their own. For me, having to face the realities of life did the trick. It wasn’t painful at the time, but I can tell you that it’s painful now. Be careful out there!!