Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Be Valiant in Courage, Strength, and Activity

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Be Valiant in Courage, Strength, and Activity, by Gary E. Stevenson
Presiding Bishop

If you found a magic lamp, what would you wish for?

The other day I caught my self daydreaming about this very question. My initial thought was to have all the powers of Superman, without that pesky kryptonite allergy! As I imagined all that I would be able to do, I wondered how my life would change, how I would change. Would any courage I have now morph into pride or cruelty as fears disappeared?

In my wonderings on my new super powers, I started to think about courage. I questioned if Superman could be thought of as having courage in an environment without fear (except for that kryptonite thing). I imagined standing against foes and their weapons without being concerned over being injured, due to the effects of the yellow sun. Yes, I think of myself as Superman sometimes. Would I/Superman really have courage without the chance of being hurt?

In his remarks to the young men, Bishop Stevenson focused on courage. Instead of sharing stories of standing up to physical danger, he recounted an experience where courage was shown through walking away from danger—spiritual danger. (A young man left a party where illegal activities were about to occur just before police arrived.) He emphasized that the courage that counts is the courage to do—or not do—little things. In speaking of "digital peer pressure," he said:

The The demonstration of righteous courage will often be as subtle as to click or not to click.

So, does Superman have courage? I really wondered about this, but after reading Bishop Stevenson's talk, I know that he does (and I think I do, too). In my initial daydreaming of somehow getting the powers of Superman, I wondered if the good I think I have now would morph into something terrible with the limitless power that came. Courage is more than facing a villain in a dark alley; courage is standing for what is right, even when others don't.

Bishop Stevenson gave an invitation with a powerful question at the end (which I've highlighted):

I invite you to qualify yourselves as did the 2,000 stripling soldiers by being valiant in courage as worthy priesthood holders. Remember, what you do, where you go, and what you see will shape who you become. Who do you want to become?

It's true that I daydream about being Superman, but I don't really think I'll ever get his powers. When I'm not daydreaming, I still want to have the courage to do what is right, even—and especially—when others think it doesn't matter.

Who do I want to become?

If I can't be Superman, I want to be super, man!

But really, I want to become like Jesus.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Brethren, We Have Work to Do

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Brethren, We Have Work to Do, by D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Whenever we playfully talk about magic at home, my sweet daughter is quick to remind us, "Magic isn't real." Before accusing her of being an unimaginative realist (she does have quite the imagination), wait for her full message:

Magic isn't real; the priesthood is real!

When we go to the library we have to set limits on the number of books and videos our children can borrow; on a recent trip, the limit was five books and one video. The video my eldest son chose was of some Disney sitcom having to do with magic (not the priesthood). Being unfamiliar with the show, I told him that we could get it, but that we (the parents) would need to preview it first to see if it was appropriate for the children. When my wife and I started previewing it, we learned that it wasn't a feature-length movie, as I thought, but was a collection of episodes from the series. Nevertheless, we started watching.

Now, the overall message of the show was innocent enough, but what my wife and I got from it included:
  • Dads are idiots
  • Moms are always right (no argument on this one!)
  • Siblings need to be sarcastic to each other to get the laugh track

We ultimately decided to not have our children watch the show—turns out they forgot and were happy to watch My Little Pony instead—but I was reminded of the show as I reviewed Elder Christofferson's talk; particularly the message that dads are idiots.

In many societies today men and boys get conflicting and demeaning signals about their roles and value in society. . .

In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.

If my role in society, church, and the home isn't one of a nincompoop (at least not all of the time), what roles am I supposed to play? This is a semi-awkward topic to explore because my usual work at home and church may be seen as emasculating to some: my wife let's me cook (because I love it), I'm the Primary music leader, and the cub scout "den mother" (den leader).

Okay, I admit that some of the jobs I do fall into traditionally-effeminate categories, but I still try to be a man "that women can trust, that children can trust and that God can trust." Here is my response to the imagined questions that may come from the questionable roles I fill:
  • Family cook - I'm showing my children that a loving father serves in the kitchen as well as when mowing the lawn
  • Music leader - I model appropriate male behavior (even if while singing falsetto at times) and try to help the children—including the boys—learn and love the gospel
  • "Den mother" (Cub Scout Den Leader) - I work to help 8-9 yr-old-boys on their path to become men in learning new skills and loving service to others

The conclusion I draw from Elder Christofferson's talk is that despite the media's portrayal of men and fathers as simpletons, what I try to do is important—and it's important that I realize that the Lord doesn't want me to be an idiot, nincompoop, or simpleton: He needs me to "Rise up, O [man] of God!"

Or as Elder Christofferson put it:

The Church and the world and women are crying for men, men who are developing their capacity and talents, who are willing to work and make sacrifices, who will help others achieve happiness and salvation. They are crying, “Rise up, O men of God!”

(image origin)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Protect the Children

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Protect the Children, by Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

You're the best daddy in the world!

This is what I hear from my eldest child each night when I say goodnight to him. Each night it reminds me that he loves me, and it also motivates me to do better—after all, when I think of statistics and likelihoods, part of me things that I can't be the best daddy in the world, but the rest of me wants to try!

Saturday was a particularly hard day for me as a parent. I can't remember exactly why, nor can I cite specific examples (perhaps my wife can), but I know that by the end of the day I was imagining life without the stresses and disappointments of parenthood. NOTE: I wasn't thinking of abandoning my family or children, but playing a dangerous "what if" game.

After the children went to bed that night, my wife and I talked. Instead of just complaining about how hard things were—which is what my default mode is—my wife shared ideas of how we could do better. As we discussed, we each were reminded of a video, just not the same video.

To illustrate how differently we were thinking, here's what came to my mind:

It seems that my thoughts were along the lines that things only get better after some tragic unchecked-escalation—but they can get better (I threw that last bit in to try to make it look like I had at least one hopeful thought).

After we watched this video together, my wife carefully said something like, "Here's what I was thinking about," as she loaded the following video:

My wife's video choice helped cement our larger conversation together; I was actually looking forward to the next day: Sunday. (Sunday's have been recently hard for us as the children complain about going to church and often fight/argue because they're tired after a full weekend.)

I'm happy to report that Sunday was wonderful! Sure we still had to make some corrective decisions (hint: the corner wasn't empty for parts of the day), but the day had a spirit of love instead of conflict.

That was yesterday. Today Elder Oaks' address, "Protect the Children," was where my bookmark was in the Ensign I chose to read over lunch. Besides being reminded that terrible things happen to innocent children all over the world, I felt an increased desire to love and protect my children. I wanted to try even harder to live up to my son's nightly motivational assessment:

You're the best daddy in the world!