Sunday, January 27, 2008

President Gordon B. Hinckley

When I was in Hong Kong serving as a missionary, I had the choice experience of shaking hands with President Hinckley. He had stopped by the Mission Home while we were holding a leadership training meeting and decided to visit with us for a minute. As he walked in the room which we were sitting, President Ong immediately turned the time over to him. I remember I sat about 3 feet away from him, watching intently and listening to every word which he spoke. When a man whom you know talks with God speaks it's always a good idea to give him your full attention. I remember him sharing about his previous experiences in Hong Kong, how the Lord spoke to him about where the Hong Kong temple should be, how it's always hot and humid in Hong Kong and how amazed he was that we were all looking sharp in our suits. He expressed how much he loved us, and more importantly how much the Lord loved us, and then he flashed that smile of his, bore his testimony and went on with his business.

After President Hinckley left the room, our mission president, President Ong, spoke. He did not return to what he was talking about before our Prophet had entered, but shared some of his thoughts and feelings about being in the presence of the Lord's spokesman. He shared about how when you looked into President Hinckley's eyes you could tell that he was a man who loved the Lord. He was a man who you knew dedicated his life to serving his God, and those around him. He was a man who could light up a room just by walking into it, and his smile and attitude to those around him was such that it could melt away any bitterness or hate. President Ong then told me something that I will never forget. He said that even without the mantle of the prophet, even without being called as the President of the Lord's church, President Hinckley would still have had that look in his eyes, that effect when he walked into rooms, and that ability to make everyone feel at home. He said that if each of us would be willing to give ourselves to the Lord in the same way that President Hinckley decided to give himself to the Lord, that one day we might be able to have that same influence on people.

Although, the above experience is my only personal experience interacting with President Hinckley, he has greatly influenced my life. His example, teachings, demeanor, love for others, love for life, and prayers have been a great strength to me as I strive to develop a close relationship to my Savior. And although the prospect of not hearing his voice in this life again is quite saddening, when I think of his reunion with his wife Marjorie, I can not help but to smile. In addition, I know that the voice of the Lord will continue to come down to His people through the next prophet that will be called. The work on this side of the veil will continue to go forward, and the work on the other side of the veil now has another great leader to help its cause!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Greeks asked one question upon the funeral of a companion. Did he live with passion?

Last night I watched a movie that I do not think I would recommend to anyone. The only reason that I mention it here in my blog is that it reminds me of a book that I read a few weeks ago that I highly recommend to everyone, For One More Day, by Mitch Albom. Both the movie and the book focus on second chances. Basically, the protagonist is given a set amount of time to be with someone they love. I thought about how I would react if I knew that I was given a set amount of time to be with someone that I loved, and how that knowledge would affect the things that I did, the way I interacted with them, or even what I thought about them. It seems like any given person put in that situation would act differently... and as I thought about that, I decided that should not be.

The reason I say that stems from a conversation that I had with my mission president a long time ago. During an interview that I had with him, he shared with me a principle that has changed my life. Knowing that I played piano, he began to describe two different types of pianists. He described the pianist who plays without emotion, who makes sure that every note is played exactly how the sheet music dictates, with every crescendo and decrescendo occurring at precisely the right time. Then he described the pianist who also works hard at getting the piece as close to perfection as possible, but as he goes through the process, he makes the piece part of himself and puts his soul into playing the piece. He shared how the latter type of pianist is the type that can change the world through the music he plays because he plays the music with a passion. He went on to promise that if I would live my life with a passion, I could be successful in anything. I believe that promise is true and that it can apply to everyone.

The tough part then becomes defining how to "live with a passion." I have my own personal idea, which has been influenced by my membership in the Church and my understanding of the atonement of Christ. In fact, I do not believe that I could live passionately without the Gospel and the atonement of Christ, which I'll explain in a minute. But first, defining living passionately. For me, one aspect of living life with a passion means to be willing to take chances, to fail, to try something that is not a sure thing. Too often I find myself being comfortable with the status quo, comfortable with only playing with golfers I know I will light up, only taking classes I know I will ace; but with that type of attitude, I will never know my potential, I will never grow, and I will never experience failure. It may sound like a good lifestyle, to always succeed, but it's not. Another aspect is to be like the second pianist, and be willing to let people know that you put your heart and soul into the things you do. I think it's human nature to try and protect yourself, and not let people know how much you care about something because if you do, and you fail, you will look like a fool. Who cares? It is in those moments, when you put everything out there and still came up short that you learn something about yourself. And it is only when you put everything into something that the victory can be sweet. I am struggling to put into words some of the other principles that I feel are essential to living with a passion, but as they come I will add them, and I would appreciate anyone's comments about how you live your life with a passion.

Now the reason that I could not live life with this attitude without the Gospel boils down to the fact that I fail a lot. I put myself out there a lot, and get rejected; I come up short on a countless number of goals that I set for myself; I shoot for the stars and end up in the same place I started. Sometimes it's quite discouraging, especially when I feel like I failed in the only chance that I would ever have. That's where the atonement of Christ brings great comfort. Everytime I fail, I sit back and evaluate myself on two principles. First, I ask myself if I had pure motivations. If I was trying to accomplish something to better myself, to reach righteous goals, then I move on to the second principle. I next ask myself if I tried my hardest. If I can answer positively to that question, then I know I did all I could do, and I am ready to try again. If I am able to answer yes to both those questions, then I know that I am qualified for the grace of Jesus Christ. That basically means that if accomplishing that specific thing is important to my eternal progression, meaning if it is necessary to me returning to live with God, then Christ will provide a way to overcome my inadequacies and achieve what I need to. And if it is not essential, then there's no harm in failing, or coming up short. By living with a passion, and by understanding the atonement of Christ, I have found that I can live without regret, always looking forward to the next time that I can wear my heart on my sleeve and see what happens.

Returning to the book and the movie. If I was told that I only had a short amount of time left to be with someone I cared deeply about, I guess that I might change my schedule around, to ensure that my time was spent wisely. However, I hope that the way in which I had been living my life and the way in which I would interact with the person would be the same; which I believe could only be the case had I been living my life fully, with passion.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Creator of Circumstances

Life is good... or is it? Today I was listening to Quinn teach Sunday School and we talked about the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon. The story is basically about a family who is commanded by the Lord to leave Jerusalem and embark on a journey through the wilderness. All members of the family go through the same hardships, some complain and others don't. For those who complained, they probably thought life stunk and eventually it did. For the others, they simply went about making the most of their situation, and life ended up quite lovely. It's funny how much our perspective and attitudes can affect us.

Considering it's getting late, and I have started this post over like 3 times and haven't liked anything I have written, I am going to keep this fairly short. And instead of trying to come up with my own thoughts I am just going to share someone else's thoughts. Although this is directed specifically to missionaries I think it applies to any situation. Elder Ballard said:

Success does not depend on the message, but on the messenger. We each learn that failure and excuses go together, so we must learn to get away from excuses. Dull or slow months are for dull missionaries, so remember that sharp missionaries don't have any.

Do not be a missionary who complains about his unreceptive people, his constant refusers, his companion, his leaders, and his burdens. Instead be a missionary who can be placed in any area and in any set of circumstances, and be relied on to set things right. Become a CREATOR OF CIRCUMSTANCES instead of a creature of circumstances.

This is why SUCCESS is not LUCK. It can be predicted and followed each day into a successful week, year, and mission. Live one day at a time as though it were a building block. Do each day what should be done that day, and do not under-work, because that brings on the "bad luck" and slumps.

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve... A desire does not come from practical knowledge, but it comes from compulsions and obsessions. Desire leads to a goal, and it is the starting point of all achievement. The power of definite desire is beyond all practical goals that USE NO EMOTION. We need to get involved emotionally in our goal to baptize. Who will baptize next? The mission field is successful only to successful missionaries.

Live life with a passion. Only by doing so can you see your true potential. Only by going for something you might fail in can you ever achieve something special.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Beginnings

I'm back in Provo. After a few week stint in both San Francisco and in Arizona, I have returned to what my friends and I often refer to as P-town, the Provs, and sometimes when we are speaking Chinese "Po-vo." When I walked into my room and realized what a pig-sty it was, it dawned on me the wisdom of my mother who always cleans before vacation, thereby buffering the harsh return to reality. One day I will learn.

Church today was quite uplifting, as usual. As is the tradition in the Church on the first Sunday of the month, the time in Sacrament meeting was open for anyone who desired to stand up and share with the congregation principles of the Gospel. Typically, these meetings are very spiritual as people share the thoughts and feelings that have been close to their heart. With today being the first Sunday of the year, much of the meeting centered around the fact that after reflection on 2007, New Year's resolutions had been made in order to bring in more growth and development in 2008. One comment that I especially liked was that the New Year is basically a time that society has built in the calendar for us all to repent, make changes and commit ourselves to a higher standard.

This past week I have been trying to reflect upon 2007, trying to see the areas I need to develop, to change and to strengthen. I decided that I would make my goals today, which I have done. But during this process I have wondered why human nature is such that we wait until the New Year, or new semester, or a new season to reflect and set a new course. I recently read Tuesday's with Morrie, in which I found this quote:

Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.
Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi seems to have a better idea about our potential to change, and our potential to have new beginnings than we have in society today. Why do we think that change will be easier tomorrow than it will today? Why do we believe that after we graduate, or after we get a promotion, or after we get married life will somehow become better, we will be happier and we will just be the person that we want to be? Maybe I am the only one who has thought like this, but over time I have realized that I have never been changed by an event in my life. I have only seen a change in myself that comes because of a decision to change. The way I see it, the best time to make that decision is in that moment when the epiphany comes to you. So although I am excited to begin working on all the goals that I wrote down today, the goal that I am most excited about is to be constantly accountable to myself and the Lord and be willing to follow the promptings that come when I least expect it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gilbert with the Garners

I don’t think I have ever had to defend the state of Utah as much as I have had to this past week. Arizonians seem to think their state is better than mine. Although I gave my best effort to shut them down by talking up the great state of Utah, I don’t think I got through to anybody. And now I am sitting here at the airport wondering why I booked such an early flight home.

Sunday night I arrived in Phoenix and got to see Arizona’s version of Temple Square. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, freezing, wondering if Quinn lied to me about the temperature. I soon figured out he didn’t lie, he just didn’t tell me about the chilly nights. After the temple, we went back to Quinn’s place where I was introduced to his family, and quickly learned about one of Brother Garner’s passions – board games. We had a pretty big group together and played a couple games. By the end of the night I had made a number of enemies en route to my title as the “Best Bean Trader.” I woke up the next morning to an invitation to go to dim sum with the Garners. With the exception of Quinn’s knack for ordering way too much of the same dish, the meal was great.

The rest of the day was a blur. It was New Year’s Eve, so naturally, we watched football and partied. In fact, we went to the Insight Bowl which also got us into the “biggest party in AZ,” the Tempe Block Party. The highlight of the night had to be the Bare Naked Ladies concert; not because we knew the music, because we didn’t, but because we were by far the biggest idiots in the crowd. That’s quite a feat considering that there was a lot of booze there, and we were some of the few not drinking. The next day, after losing half of it because I had to get caught up on sleep, was a good encore. We went to see I am Legend, which I loved (although I recommend going with people who don’t laugh when they get scaredJ) and then packing as many people into Quinn’s hot tub as we could. To finish off the week, I got to play some golf and go to the Mesa Temple with Quinn and Cameron for a session.

After my week with the Garners, I realized that his family is quite different than my own. In fact they are unlike any family I know. Then again everybody’s family is unique in their own right. The thing that struck me was that despite all the differences between our families, the feeling I had in their home was one of love, respect, faith, compassion, work; basically all the qualities found in the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” a document put out by the leaders of my church on the importance of families. With the world deemphasizing the importance of the family, with divorce rates increasing, and with fewer kids having a set of parents to raise them, this document becomes increasingly more important. Regardless of a family’s situation, the proclamation outlines many key principles that if applied will bring great blessings of peace and unity to a family. And so as I finish this post from my home in Utah, I realize that although we are watching basketball instead of playing board games, although I’m the only child home, although my parents are from two cultural backgrounds we can have the same feeling and spirit within our home by trying our best to live the principles taught by today’s prophets.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's 2008!!!

Happy New Year!

Apparently blogging is in now... So much so that Elder Ballard, a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member, talked about the possible positive consequences that can come from blogging in his commencement speech at BYU-Hawaii. Elder Ballard happens to be someone I trust, hence the birth of "phil" good.

And so this year will begin, with me trying to tackle one of my many New Year's resolutions. Although I do not know what will be the fruit of this blog, moving forward with one of my resolutions has already helped me to feel good this 2008.

Elder Ballard's comments