Monday, March 28, 2016

The blessings of discipleship

I've been to a lot of YSA events—both spiritual and not, but I'm talking about the spiritual ones at the moment—and you can almost always count on the M word coming up at some point. For a church that focuses so much on marriage and family, there sure are a lot of us who can't figure out how to get one of our own.

The advice from bishops, stake presidents, and other church leaders is always the same: live a righteous life, and the blessings will come. Be the kind of person you want to marry.

For most of my single years, I've used that promise as motivation to incorporate the Sunday school answers into my life (you know what they are—scripture study, church/temple attendance, etc.). Aside from being social, being a "good Mormon" was the only way I knew of to boost my chances of getting married.

At the face-to-face event for Young Single Adults Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at a few weeks ago, we all waited with bated breath to hear his answer to the question all YSAs struggle with at some point: Why am I not married yet? What am I doing wrong? I'm doing all the things I've been taught to do—why haven't you fulfilled your end of the bargain, God?

I know I wasn't the only one who half expected Elder Holland to give new revelation on the subject. Surely he knows some trick the rest of us haven't figured out yet. But his answer, along with that of Elder Hallstrom's and Sister Stephens', was the same one we've always gotten, one that seems too simple to be of use all the time.

Just be a disciple of Christ, and stop worrying.

Maybe it's because of Elder Holland's eloquence as a speaker and powerful testimony of the gospel, but I started to think about that counsel a little differently. Being a disciple of Christ isn't like buying groceries. You can't just pick the blessings you want and ring them up at the cash register. You can't hand over your credit card, knowing exactly what you'll get out of the transaction. Discipleship requires a lot of faith, and the "exchange" doesn't always feel like it goes in your favor.

Which can really be a bummer, to put it lightly.

Until you remember one thing: being a disciple of Christ is in and of itself a blessing, one that is almost always immediate. If I didn't put forth the effort to study the scriptures, I wouldn't get my daily dose of peace. If I hadn't made an effort to be a regular temple goer, I never would have come to understand the atonement the way I do now. If I didn't pray, I wouldn't be able to feel God's love and assurance. If I didn't walk this path of discipleship, I don't think I would have progressed in any way that's meaningful.

Growth, peace, and happiness—that's all any of us wants, right? Maybe they're not the specific things we asked for, but God finds a way to sneak in extra blessings, even when we're focused on something else.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A short(ish) rant

Sometimes people make me tired, and I really don't like them very much. This week it's been because of the backlash against J.K. Rowling's Pottermore updates on the North American wizarding community. You'll have to read those updates yourself, but people have been extremely irate about the content. They're accusing J.K. Rowling of not doing her homework and using sweeping generalizations about a country she knows little about, and, of course, they keep bringing up the bitter, unoriginal argument that this is just another cash grab.

Maybe the critics are right (except for that last point)—American history is a lot more complex than those mini-essays suggest.


J.K. Rowling gave the world an incredible gift when she shared Harry's story with the world. She has every right to craft that story however she wants. Fans (and haters) have no right to demand that new details conform perfectly with their hopes and politically correct agendas. Personally, I love hearing about any details she releases, but with the loud voices of easily offended Americans cluttering, well, everything, I wouldn't be surprised if J.K. Rowling kept things to herself from now on.

Is there a spell you can cast over an entire country to help people lighten up? That should be in J.K. Rowling's next update.