Trust the Lord

“Be still and know that I am God” — Psalm 46:10

It’s sometimes difficult to see the Hand of God in my life.  Not because it’s not there, but because my eyes aren’t open.  I have been blessed throughout my life to be continually guided by a loving Heavenly Father.  I thought it appropriate to share the story of our move from Colorado to Illinois.  When the process began, I didn’t expect to have it be a testimony-strengthing event.  That is exactly what happened.  Here is the story of our move along with my observations regarding faith, prayer, obedience, and active participation.

In September 2009 I decided it was time to focus on the needs of my family rather than the desires of my Air Force career. Accordingly, I told my chain of command, I wanted to remain in Colorado Springs as long as possible. They obliged with 6 years. Somewhere around the summer of 2012, I received notice to deploy. I would be leaving in the spring of 2013 for 6 months. While I didn’t want to leave my family, a deployment meant that I would be able to remain in Colorado Springs until I retired from the Air Force in 2015.

Then one day, I was told that my General was canceling my deployment and was going to force me to PCS. I guess he was tired of people staying in Colorado Springs longer than 4 years. In doing so, he was breaking several Air Force rules, not to mention being almost vindictive. Regardless of my pleas, the deployment was canceled and I was offered the chance to request my new assignment.

Having spent the past 2 years working with a particular unit in San Antonio, Texas, and the fact that the main Air Force hospital is in San Antonio, I put Texas down as my first choice. The next choices were: Scott AFB, IL, Hill AFB, Utah, Wright Patterson AFB, OH, plus two others I no longer remember. I fully expected to go to Texas. That was not to be…I got orders to Scott AFB. The worst part was the report date: 17 Dec 2012.

We convened a family council and put forth a couple of options:

  1. everyone move before Christmas

  2. everyone move right after Christmas

  3. Dad move alone after Christmas (and the family join when school was over)

  4. write a formal complaint with Congress regarding the move

The votes were split. My oldest son wanted to write Congress, my oldest daughter and Mom wanted me to move alone, I wanted everyone to move. So, I talked with my new boss and asked him if he would extend my report date until after Christmas. Actually, in talking with him after the fact, I guess I kind of told him what to do. In his words, I told him I was either going to report in January for good, or I was going to report on 17 December then sign out on leave until January. He told me that he thought was gutsy…telling my new boss what was going to happen (I guess I never really asked).

The new boss agreed to a later report date and everything was set. I was going it alone and the family would join me in the summer. I started formulating great plans in my mind about all of the things I was going to accomplish while I was alone. Funny how we have great intentions that so rarely play out the way we see them in our mind.

Just after the New Year, I started out for Illinois with my truck and U-Haul full stuff and Daisy (the dog). We had a good trip out…discovered some neat places:

I was feely pretty crummy about moving. I didn’t understand why this General felt like he so ruled over the masses that he could just up end my family for no good reason. I was pretty bitter. Then I stopped at the Independence Visitors Center. I like it there and try to stop every chance I get.

The Sister Missionaries took me on a tour and I was humbled. When we got to the replica cabin, they played the audio and I realized that the pioneers were happy. In all of their suffering and trials, they were happy! Here were a people who had given up most of their worldly possessions, left the land of their birth, and were traveling to a mountain desert they had never seen…all on the words of a prophet and the prompting of the Spirit.

And they were happy!

Who was I to be so bitter and miserable? Who was I to complain about some minuscule general in the Air Force? I knew that Heavenly Father had moved us to each assignment for a specific purpose. I knew that my career had always been guided by his hand, not the hand of the Air Force. The Air Force was simply the means to an end for my Father. I had forgotten that. In Independence I resolved to be happy. I resolved to stop complaining about the Air Force and instead, try to discover what the Lord had in store for me and my family in Illinois. I left the visitor center with a new outlook.

I arrived in Illinois around dinner time on a Thursday. After I checked into billeting, I decided I was going to drive to the church just to see where it was and see who I could meet. I got there around 6:45 or so and met someone who told me it was high council meeting night and that if I stuck around, there was a realtor on the high council. I met him and we chatted, but it didn’t feel right. Just as the meeting was starting (and I was leaving) I met a brother. He seemed interested in me and my situation.

The next day I went to work and checked in at work. Sometime around lunch, the section commander tracked me down and passed a message to call Major Smith. It was odd and I didn’t put two together that this was the same person I met the night before. I ended up not being able to chat with him until Saturday.

Daisy and I were out driving looking at neighborhoods when I finally got ahold of Br Smith. He told me that he and his wife felt they needed to offer me a place to stay until the family arrived. They had a room in their basement with a small kitchen. They also had 4 kids, a dog and a cat. We agreed that I would come to dinner on Sunday with the dog and see how things went.

The next day after church, Daisy and I went over to the Smith’s for dinner. The dog and I had a discussion in the car. All I really told Daisy was that under no circumstance was she to pee in their house. We got there and everyone said hi. Daisy walked around a bit, then she went into their front room…and peed. Great, I thought. To Sister Smith’s credit, all she said was “John, go get the carpet cleaner.” Then she handed it to me and said, here you go.

Dinner went well and we agreed that I would move in. What a blessing to have a place to stay so quickly. Over the next six months, I joined them in family scriptures and dinner nearly every night. They really accepted me as part of their family.

The real work though, was just beginning…finding a house. My realtor, Nikki, and I went out and looked at homes. I found one pretty quick that I liked. 5 bedrooms, walk out basement, good size yard. It was a foreclosure and it needed work: a new kitchen, new flooring, painting, etc. The price was right, ~$150k and it had been on the market nearly a year with no movement. I made an offer. I was really surprised when my realtor called me and told me that someone else had made an offer the same day and the seller went went with their offer.

I shrugged and moved on. Later, I found another house we liked: 5 bedrooms, walk out basement, 1 acre, a little more country, foreclosure on the market for a year with no movement, ~250k. I made an offer. I was a little more surprised this time when Nikki called me and told me someone else had made an offer the same day and the seller took their offer.

We kept looking. I found another house we liked: 5 bedrooms, foreclosure, no work needed, ~$200k. I made an offer. I was really surprised when Nikki told me someone made an offer to lease it the same day and the seller took the lease offer.

And we kept looking. Found another house…same thing only this time, it was rented before I made an offer.

At this point, months had gone by, nearly 5 months and I had nothing to show for it except lots and lots of visits with my realtor. She was surprised because it was a buyers market right now. The market was flooded with homes, especially in the price range I was looking.

Around this time I decided I needed more guidance. I emailed the stake president, explained the situation to him, and asked him where he needed my family to live. I got no response from him (his clerk said his house was for sale). I took this as the answer “it doesn’t matter to me where you live.”

Then I found the perfect dream home. Built in 1865, 3 acres, beautiful. It didn’t really have enough bedrooms—one of the kids would have to live in an exterior office, but we loved it. It had just come on the market. ~$200. Nikki told me there were other bidders so I needed to make my bid appealing. Evonne and I agreed we wanted to offer $17,000 over asking price (we were willing to pay out of pocket the difference between the appraised value and the purchase price). I told Nikki we wanted that house…period. Well, you can guess what happened, the seller took another offer.

Now I was sitting about 1 month from when the family was going to show up. We had sold our house in Colorado…it was on the market for 24 hours, 9 showings, 3 offers, all over asking price. I went home for Easter and came back with a new prayer in my heart.

I essentially told the Lord that I had done everything I could to find a house. I was diligent in my search. I made offers. I prayed and fasted. I asked the Stake President. I told the Lord “you obviously have a plan for me. You moved me here, you got my house in Colorado sold in a day. Please show me the house I need to purchase for my family.”

Nikki and I went out one last time to look at houses—today was the day I had to have a house or my family would have no where to go when they arrived. We looked at the first house. It was a lot more than I wanted to pay, but I told Nikki I would make an offer. She said, let me show you one more house, just down the road. It wasn’t on the market, but the owner had indicated an interest in selling. We looked and I loved it. Plenty of bedrooms, no updates needed. Fenced yard, flat driveway, pond, an acre, quiet neighborhood. It was perfect. Nikki told me they what they wanted. I told her that was too much. She said make an offer-because it wasn’t listed, I couldn’t offend them with a low offer. So I offered $50,000 less than what I knew they wanted. We dickered back and forth and the seller finally said “a house in the neighborhood just sold for $xx, surely our house is as nice as that one.” I agreed and offered that amount. They took it. Then I told the mortgage broker I had to close in 3 weeks. He told me it was going to be next to impossible, but he’d try. Turns out we closed a day earlier than we planned.

I went out to Colorado just before Memorial Day to pack out the house and get the family here. The packers packed on Monday and Tuesday, loaded the truck on Thursday. We closed on our Colorado house Thursday and drove out of town to Utah on Friday. Spent the weekend in Utah, then the youngest son, the (3) dogs, (2) birds and I drove to Illinois. Got here on Wednesday, closed on Thursday, and they delivered our house hold goods on Friday. They finished unloading the truck at 1230 and my wife and the other kids showed up at 1300 hrs. It was perfect.

The house is wonderful. The neighborhood is great. We love it here. I don’t fully understand why the Lord was so specific in where we live. He has always guided our moves, but never to my knowledge has he been so direct in the specific house in which we live. I’m grateful for this house and I’m grateful to a Father in Heaven who guides my life.

Fast forward 2 months to July 2013…the Air Force announced an early retirement option for selected personnel.  I was one given the choice.  Had I been deployed, that choice would not have been available.  It was only because I had moved that I was permitted to submit my package to retire early.

And so it was that on 1 Nov 2013, I officially retired from the Air Force. By the 11th of that same month, I had a job as a defense contractor in St Louis.

This experience showed me that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. He knows me and my family. He knows our needs and desires. He will do amazing things (by the world’s standard) to get us where he needs us to be.

We must show faith. We must trust in him. We must pray and fast and be doing. It isn’t enough to ask him for things, we must ask, then do everything we can to make things happen. He’ll let us know if we’re going down the wrong path if we are listening to the spirit.

The Power of One Spark

I took my family on a hike through Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs, Colorado around the spring of 2010. It was a great day to go hiking–even though the scrub oak had no leaves, there was a beauty of the canyon that I really enjoyed. We stopped and had lunch overlooking Colorado Springs.  It was on this hike that my youngest son (who has difficulty walking) was able to walk 3 miles on his own before asking to ride in his buggy.

Waldo Canyon & Pikes Peak.JPG
View of Pikes Peak from Waldo Canyon

About a year later, I took my oldest son’s scout troop on a 10-mile hike through Williams Canyon…one of my favorite canyons in all of Colorado Springs. It was a tough hike for an 11-yr-old, but he made it without complaining.  I loved hiking with my son through an absolutely gorgeous canyon.

Williams Canyon
In Williams Canyon

Just a few years later, in June 2012, one spark started a small fire in Waldo Canyon. Within days that small fire had become a raging wildfire. By the time that one spark was extinguished, 346 homes were burnt, 2 lives were lost, and 18,247 acres of forest were gone.  Gone was the beauty of Waldo Canyon. Gone was the beauty of Williams Canyon. Gone was the beauty of Queens Canyon. Gone were entire neighborhoods. One spark had awesome power. The power of destruction embodied in one spark is almost unfathomable.

The Fire.JPG
Waldo Canyon fire as it burns down the Front Range into Colorado Springs

We likewise have a spark inside of us…the spark of the Spirit…the spark of Jesus Christ. As we nurture that spark inside of us, we will witness an amazing result. That spark can grow to become a burning testimony of Jesus Christ. It can grow to be an unquenchable fire of faith and testimony. Brigham Young referred to this as the “Fire of the Covenant” (Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 28 Sept. 1846, 5).

Furthermore, the fire from that spark can be seen by those around us. If we allow that spark to become what it can become, we will be walking examples of the Savior. Our actions and words will shine as an example to all we come into contact with. Just as a single spark in Waldo Canyon caused such great destruction, a single spark inside of us can lead to great blessings, even life eternal with our Father in Heaven.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that a set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

See Also

Like a Flame Unquenchable, M. Russell Ballard

Communication…the key to successful relationships

“A soft answer truth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.” Proverbs 15:1-2

So many books have been written about relationships–you could spend a lifetime reading each one and learn a million different things to do in order to succeed at relationship building.  I believe the most important thing any two people can do in a relationship is communicate.  In my life, most of the arguments and disagreements I’ve been involved in were caused by a failure to adequately communicate.

This is true in marriage, in the workplace, in the community, and among friends.

The first principle of communication is to listen more than you speak.”  Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). So many people in today’s world listen to respond instead of listening to understand.  It is impossible to listen to understand if you are already preparing your response in your mind. There are times when you must be ready to respond immediately, but in general, the thoughts in your mind can wait.. “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).

The second principle of communication is to always speak with kindness and empathy. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I once was responsible for counseling with a young couple who were having marital challenges.  One of the issues the husband brought up was that he felt like his wife said mean things to him–things designed to hurt his feelings.  In my naivety, I commented that I’m sure she didn’t mean to say things to hurt his feelings.  When I looked at the wife, she replied that she intentionally said things to hurt his feelings.  This shocked me. How can two people ever expect a relationship to thrive (or even survive) when things are said to drive a wedge in that relationship? I made a vow long ago that I would never say anything to intentionally hurt my family’s feelings.

The third principle of communication is to always speak the truth. I’ve had numerous discussions with people about this principle.  Some have told me that it’s ok to lie to people depending on the situation.  I’ll walk down that line for a bit. There have been times when my child brought me a picture they drew and said “look what I drew, Daddy! Do you like it?” To be honest, sometimes I couldn’t even tell what it was. Did I like the picture, no. Did I like that they drew something and are excited about it? Yes. Therefore, my answer was “yes.” This principle really goes back to the 2nd principle.  If you always speak with kindness and empathy, then you will know how to answer the tough questions.  There are certain things you should never lie about: money, improper relationships, intimate feelings (to list just a few). A relationship built on lies is exactly like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:27).

The fourth principle of communication is to avoid profanity and don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. “The commandment says, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.’ (Exodus 20:7.) Except in prayers and proper sermons, we must not use the name of the Lord. Blasphemy used to be a crime punishable by heavy fines. Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.” (Spencer W. Kimball, God Will Not be Mocked). There have been times in my life when I used profanity, but as I look back, it wasn’t necessary. I could easily have expressed the same emotion, conviction, and seriousness without resorting to profanity.

The fifth principle of communication is to never raise your voice in anger. President David O. McKay once said “Let husband or wife never speak in loud tones to each other, ‘Unless the house is on fire’” (Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1971], 294). One of the worst rebukes I have ever received was from my first Commander in the Air Force.  He had given me a task to collect phone books from around the base so we could donate them to a local radio station. I didn’t follow through as I should and, when the day came for me to deliver the books to the radio station, I discovered someone had already taken all of the books.  When I told my boss, he looked at me and very calmly said “Cort, you’ve really let me down.” Nothing else needed said.  Another example comes from my time at Osan Air Base in South Korea. One of my troops broke the radar by accident.  When I told my boss, he yelled, he berated, he wanted a name so he could hang someone. After he was finished with me, we went to his boss, followed by his bosses boss, the General. I expected to get drilled by the General.  I didn’t.  All he said was “that piece of equipment is very important to me.  I need you to get it fixed.” I was far more motivated to fix the equipment for the General than I was for my boss.

The final principle of communication is speak as if the Lord were part of the conversation. This helps me to keep my words clean, my thoughts pure, my intentions honest. If what I’m saying can’t be said to the Savior, then I probably shouldn’t be saying it. You’ve all probably heard the saying “What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)?” Take that phrase one step farther and ask “What would Jesus say?” If He wouldn’t say the thoughts forming in your mind, then it would probably behoove you to refrain from speaking them.

Communication is the key to successful relationships (both personal and professional). If you remember these 6 principles, you will be more successful:

  1. listen more than you speak
  2. always speak with kindness and empathy
  3. always speak the truth
  4. avoid profanity and don’t take the Lord’s name in vain
  5. never raise your voice in anger
  6. speak as if the Lord were part of the conversation
Communication-Cartoon-Dolighan
http://www.dolighan.com

Following His Footsteps

In December 2014, I went hiking in the mountains of Colorado. It was a beautiful day to be out in nature (but then I think any day is a beautiful day to be out in nature). There were several inches of new fallen snow on the ground and it was still snowing. The temperature was a brisk -2º F with a slight breeze. As I started the hike, I was quite warm…so much that I was tempted to remove layers, but that changed after an hour or so when I left the shelter of the trees and was exposed to full force of the blowing wind.

The first part of the hike was along the road (which was closed for the season). The next part stretched across a large meadow covered with small willow trees. I had read about the willows—“stay on the trail or you will end up in snow up to your chest.” Herein laid the problem…I couldn’t see the trail. I had never been up this mountain before and I was completely unfamiliar with the trail. Fortunately for me, I met a man at the trailhead, Ryan, who had hiked this trail 7 times previous. He left before me and I was able to follow his trail.

I could clearly see Ryan’s footprints and therefore could tell when the snow was soft. There were places Ryan broke through the crust and sank into nearly 3 feet of snow. I still had to go through the same deep snow, but I was warned. 

After an hour of following Ryan’s footsteps, I began to get very tired. The fresh snow up here was at least 6 inches thick…every step required lifting my feet 6-10 inches depending on how far I sunk. Many steps required lifting my feet 2-3 feet. I began to be very thankful to have a trail to follow. I was thankful to have footsteps to follow. By having a trail to follow, I was able to expend less energy. If I had been forced to blaze my own trail, it would have been a much more difficult hike.

Sometimes I would try stepping just to the left or right of where Ryan fell through to see if I could avoid the depth…it generally didn’t work. Most of the time, I sank deeper in–once or twice I ended up on snow up to my chest.  It took great effort to crawl out of the deep snow and get back on the trail. One time I could see that Ryan made a wide turn.  It was only about 20 feet across to the other side of the turn and I figured I would leave his trail and cut across.  Again I ended up in snow up to my chest.  I wasted valuable energy trying to get back to the trail.

That’s when it hit me.

The scriptures are replete with the phrase “Follow me.” I’ve read the story of Peter being called and always admired his faith to put down his nets and follow the Savior. I have read the poem “Footprints” and thought “how nice.” What I never realized is that the Savior really has blazed the trail for us. He has walked through the willows—broken through the drifts—identified the safest path through this adventure called life. He hasn’t always blazed a trail that was smooth and easy—sometimes the safest trail is through deep snow. He has, however, always been the Trailblazer.

If we have Exaltation as a goal, then we need to be on the trail to Exaltation. There is only one path leading to Eternal Life. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

We must follow him.

What I like about this is that the Savior doesn’t require we follow him. We aren’t forced to take a certain path through this life. We are, however, presented images of two destinations: eternal life or eternal damnation.

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27, emphasis added)

That’s it, there’s only these two choices. It is then up to us to decide which path we take. One of the challenges in this life is that there are many paths leading to eternal damnation. So many that it is hard sometimes to stay on the right path. Fortunately for us, our Father placed an Iron Rod beside the path leading to the Tree of Life. Lehi tells us that the Iron Rod passes through a mist of darkness. It is when we are passing through the mist of darkness that the real value of the Iron Rod is clear. Our eyes won’t work in this mist of darkness, but our hands can hold fast to the rod.

One time in particular on my hike, as I was cresting a small rise, I paused and looked at the trail ahead. I saw clearly a set of footprints in the snow and knew that was the safe path for me to take. It gave me hope. It nudged me further. It enabled me to continue my hike. If we are to return to our Father in Heaven, then we are “to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). His path is clear. His way is sure. His trail is “the strait and narrow path” that leads to life eternal (1 Nephi 8:20, Matthew 7:14).

In His Footsteps.jpg
photo by Cort Hacker – Mt Bierstadt Trail, Colorado, 29 Dec 2014

Media & the Mind

To poorly paraphrase Karl Marx: “Media is the opiate of the masses.”

 

This past week, I asked my daughter if there were any topics she would like for me to share my thoughts on.  She looked thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment, then said “yes, could you write about the effects of media on a person.  Where is the line between good media and bad media.”  I gladly took on her request, but I will state up front that I will not say where the line is between good and bad in the way she wants me to.  I will, however, clearly explain how to see the line between good and bad.

For the purposes of this article, I will use the word “media” very broadly such that it includes:

  • books & magazines
  • TV
  • movies
  • music
  • Internet
  • art (paintings, drawings, etchings, etc)
  • video games
  • mobile devices (a source of media worthy of their own dissertation)

Let’s just hit this topic squarely in the head.  One of the most destructive and evil things to come at us through the media is pornography. Anything that portrays the sacred act of procreation in a light other than as God intended is awful. Specifically, the tendency for TV and movies to portray rape and infidelity desensitizes our minds and spirits to the sacred. It teaches us that it’s ok to have sex anytime, anywhere, with anyone.

That is wrong. It is not ok to have sex anytime, anywhere, or with anyone.

Let’s take this a step further.  Characters don’t need to have sex in order to violate standards of decency.  The gratuitous showing of private body parts is insane.  I firmly believe there is a serious problem with a society that begs to see movie stars breasts while at the same time upends itself in a tizzy when a mother tries to breastfeed their child.  Truth be told, the breast is closer to an infants play toy than a man’s play toy.  Perhaps men today are so infantile that they can’t leave their mother’s breast.

Unfortunately, the freedom with which the media lowers the standards of decency are clearly seen throughout real life. Yoga pants, short skirts, tight fighting clothes, low-cut blouses…they all mimic what is shown in the media, and they all devalue the human body.

But now I’ve digressed…this wasn’t supposed to be about the downfall of society because of our reckless attitude toward sex…it was supposed to be about the media.

How do we approach media in a way that is fun and safe? I use one simple question to help guide my media decisions:

Does it bring me closer to God?

If the answer is yes, then it certainly is worth my time and effort to dive into whatever the media is.  If the answer is no, then I have to go to another set of questions.

  • Does it have bad language (for me that includes the typical 4-letter words with very little acceptance of the f-bomb and words belittling women)
  • Does it portray graphic violence (why, and how. There’s a difference between Normandy Beach and bloody gore just because)
  • Does it show nudity
  • Does it have a sex scene
  • What message is the media trying to portray
  • Does it portray illicit drug use

Based on the answer to these questions, I will either partake in the media or not.

Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, remember the scriptural injunction “Be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.” (3 Ne. 20:41D&C 38:42; see also Isa. 52:11.) Remember the story of Joseph in Egypt, who hearkened not to the wife of Potiphar and maintained his purity and virtue. (See Gen. 39:6–20.)

Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, “Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.” (Alma 39:9.)

“The lusts of your eyes.” In our day, what does that expression mean?

Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd.

Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.

We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.

President Ezra Taft Benson, To the Youth of the Noble Birthright

I wish there was more time in the scriptures and less time on the Kindle. I wish there was more time on Duty to God & Faith in God and less time on Minecraft.

We all have the same amount of time given to us: a gift from Heavenly Father. I believe we will be held accountable for what we did with our time.  Do we remember the words of Jesus to the Nephites? “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).

I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong enjoying a video game, movie, or magazine.  I am suggesting that we often become overly engrossed in the mundane while setting aside the holy. It is so much more convenient to pass an hour being fed images from a screen than it is to read and ponder the Scriptures.

Perhaps a parable will help illustrate the caution we must exercise around media.

As two men walked across an eastern university campus, they were attracted by a crowd of people surrounding a large maple tree. As they approached, they noticed that the crowd was being amused by the antics of a fox-tailed squirrel circling the tree, climbing it, and running back down again. A red Irish Setter dog crouched nearby, intently watching the squirrel. Each time the squirrel ran up the tree out of sight, the dog would slowly creep towards the tree. The squirrel paid little attention as the dog crept closer and closer, patiently biding its time. People watching this entertaining drama unfold knew what could happen, but they did nothing, until in a flash, the dog—catching the squirrel unaware—had it in the grip of his sharp teeth.

The people then rushed forward in horror, forcing the dog’s mouth open to rescue the squirrel. It was too late. The squirrel was dead. Anyone could have warned the squirrel or held back the dog. But they had been momentarily amused and watched silently while evil slowly crept up on good. When they rushed to the defense, it was too late.

We see around us daily that which is portrayed in this parable. We sit idly by watching as an insidious stream of profanity, vulgarity, demeaning behavior, a mocking of righteous ideals and principles, invades our homes and lives through most types of media, teaching our children negative values and moral corruption. We then become upset when our children perform differently than we would wish, and social behavior continues to deteriorate.

Dallin H. Oaks, quoted in Successful Living of Gospel Principles

How can we allow ourselves to be filled with images and words of hate, anger, violence, and infidelity and expect the opposite to come out of our mouths? Consider the Carnations you buy in the store…the ones that are white with red, purple, or blue fringes.  They don’t grow naturally that way.  Instead, once the flower is cut, it is placed in a dish of water and food coloring is added.  The flower then absorbs the food coloring which changes the petals. Our minds work the same way! Whatever you take into your mind is what you begin to become. I find the following quote to be very applicable when I ponder the media (the origin is a bit convoluted):

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from Quotesgram.com

In the end, where is the line between good and bad media?  It is where you no longer are drawn toward God. Remember Moroni’s comment: “that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God…but whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil” (Moroni 7:13, 17).

Be wary of the media you allow to influence your life.  It should be a tool you use to build yourself up–make yourself a better, smarter, more able person. If it brings you closer to God, then pursue it.  If it chases away the Holy Spirit, then you should make another choice. It’s time for us to decide what we are going to watch and read instead of Hollywood deciding what we are going to watch and read.

See also:

Violence in the Media

How Violence in Television Shows Desensitizes Children

Movie Ratings

For the Strength of Youth: Entertainment & Media

To the Youth of a Noble Birthright

The Parable of the Sower

Protection from Pornography