Sunday, February 14, 2010

'That they might have joy'

I’m catching Olympic fever.
It happens to me every two years. Six months before the games begin, until the Closing Ceremonies, I start to feel immensely patriotic, and even so for the Italian, British and Canadian blood in me, as well. My TV is constantly tuned to coverage of the world’s events, from swimming and wrestling in the summer, to skiing and speed skating in the winter. I'm even a fan of figure skating (which might explain why I'm still single).
Which got me thinking about something toward which I gravitate every few months:
Does God care about sports?
Athletes talk about their faith all the time. Latin American footballers regularly cross themselves before matches; Super Bowl winners thank God and Jesus Christ for their help that night; and Olympians claim they can feel God’s presence as they race down the mountain, luge or oval.
But to think that God actually cares about something so trivial as the outcome of a football game, soccer match or Olympic trial is blasphemous, right? After all, God, the Creator of the Universe and Father of all Mankind, should be too concerned with so much going wrong in the world, right?
The unity felt by athletes, fans and spectators, whether of a national team at a World Cup or Saints fans at the Super Bowl, is remarkable. And one of God’s purposes of building his kingdom is to see a people “one heart and one mind.”
If the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi would counsel his children to “be united in all things,” why would God the Father be against that counsel? And what greater instance of unity is there than on a sports team?
Man’s purpose is to have fun. After all, “men are that they might have joy.” And sports are fun.
So does God care about sports? Yes. Because he cares about us; he wants us to have joy; and he’s willing to help us in any endeavor, if that’s what makes us happy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Introversion and Institute

I'm usually lumped with 'the YSA crowd.'
Maybe it's because — technically — I'm young, single and an adult (hence, a Young Single Adult). But I don't feel like most of my peers.
For starters, my colleagues are usually college students. All of the guys I know, and many of the girls, still have at least one or two years left before reaching a BA or BS degree. I don't.
Worse yet, I'm incredibly introverted. I've lived in Las Vegas since September, and I don't know many people. I guess "I tend to keep to myself" is an understatement.

I'm not sure how I got so far through school. I served a mission at 19, as most Mormon guys do; I didn't start college until I had graduated from high school; I took my time through school, despite taking classes every semester (two majors makes that happen). But I finished in five academic years, and decided it was time to be done.
That was six months ago. Now, I'm a 24-year-old YSA Male living in Las Vegas ... and I don't know what to do with my life. My internship at the Review-Journal is going well, but it's just that: an internship. So I don't know where I'll be this summer, and it scares me.
But there's one place with which I'm starting to fall in love, and I feel like I belong, even if I'm not the most social kid on the block: Institute.

I started taking classes at the local UNLV Institute building, just one on Tuesday/Thursday, as a way to pass the time, meet some kids my age and start studying the scriptures a little more (plus, the free pool table in the rec room makes me feel like a bonafide pool shark). And I'm loving it.
I may not fit in with these kids; after all, they're still college students, and I'm not. But it's a social outlet. And it gets me out of the house.
But the CES sponsors these things called "Institute Dances:" a weekend party-like atmosphere where young Latter-day Saints, get together to dance, chat, and try to hook up (hey, if you're not going to admit it, then I will). Not to mention, where else can you find a bunch of mid-20's rocking out to Miley Cyrus? (I know; we Mormons ARE a weird bunch).

I started out the evening as a wall flower. I didn't know many of the songs, and even fewer of the "popular crowd" on the dance floor, so I just observed. Then, I found a 'few fine honeys' that caught my eye. But I felt my chances with them were about as good as the Saints' chances at beating the Colts and hoisting up the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Then I thought it through. And a lot of my thoughts can be summed up pretty well here. I realized that even underdogs have their day. So I got a little more active, pretended to dance a little, and even had some semblance of a conversation with one of these girls that was "out of my league."
I don't know what these experiences will bring. But I put myself out there, and even stretched myself more than I thought possible this weekend. Most importantly, I listened to the Lord, did what I felt inspired to do, and let him take care of the rest, even when I felt incredibly awkward and embarrassed.

It's the simple pleasure in life, like going to Institute, napping on the couch with your children, or seeing the temple as you walk out of church every week that often make us the happiest. The Lord knows that, and makes the Gospel simple so we can see that; too bad we mortals keep muddling it up.

In honor of this post, I think the only true video I can post this week is this one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hoppin' the Wards

I found a great article on "ward hopping" in today's Mormon Times. Maybe it's because I'm a recovering ward hopper myself, but I'm enthralled by this practice.

It seems innocent enough; a Latter-day Saint (most often of the young, single and college-student variety) doesn't enjoy his/her ward and begins to "shop around" to find a place where they can participate. They'll try a ward for a week or two, then move on to other ventures if they don't "enjoy" that ward, or request for the Bishop to transfer their records if they do. Often times, this "hopping" can take months, or even years, to find a "suitable home ward," and these ward hoppers will only attend one or two meetings, rather than the full three-hour block, to avoid "being noticed" by the Bishop, Elder's Quorum Presidency, or Relief Society President. Eventually, they find someplace, though.

Think of all the blessings they've missed out on in the meantime.

If you don't regularly attend the ward in which your records reside, you can't serve. You can't receive a calling, temple recommend, or pay tithing. So, if you want to "visit" another ward for "prospects," go ahead. But please, do it after you've fulfilled your obligations to your ward.

I know it may sound harsh to some people, but the Gospel isn't just there to serve your every need and desire. The church needs you, to serve and be served. And if you aren't regularly participating, with a calling and responsibility, you aren't fulfilling your responsibilities as a member.

Remember when you were baptized? What promises did you make? Something involving "mourn with those that mourn," and "comfort those that stand in need of comfort"? In other words, magnify your calling. The more you do that, the more you will feel the Spirit in your weekly interaction and church meetings. And that will help you to love your ward, no matter where you are serving.

But to do that, you need to have a full-time ward; this isn't a process that happens by hopping.

I tried ward hopping, and found a fabulous ward. I had heard the rumors of "the sucky ward" in which I lived, and decided to "try out" the wards where my friends attended. I went to a few, never staying for longer than two weeks, and eventually found a ward whose boundaries were only a block away from my house; I didn't think much of it.

Until the Bishop found out where I lived. He told me that he had talked to the other bishop, and that I needed to attend my own ward. He even promised that I would be blessed for it. I was angry, but decided to follow his counsel.

It took a few months, namely because of my extreme introversion, but I fell in love with that ward, too. Because I went with a purpose, involved myself, and served the other members. I served in that ward, in various callings and capacities, for two years, until I graduated from BYU. And I loved every week of it.

When I moved to Las Vegas, I immediately set out to find the local singles wards. I went to the bishop of the ward that covers UNLV and downtown Las Vegas. Then, I found the ward in which I lived; the chapel was only two miles from home, so I attended for a few weeks.

At first, it was boring, even painful, to go to church with so many strangers, few "interests" in the Relief Society, and an Elder's Quorum that didn't even have room for me to receive a home teaching assignment.

But I kept going. And now, after six months in that ward, it feels like home. And I am considering finding a job in Vegas that will keep me in the ward even after my current internship lapses.

By the way, I still don't have an assignment; or a calling. And I only have a handful of "friends" or "clique-mates" in that ward. But I've attended with purpose, trying to participate in class discussions and study the lessons well enough to be active as far as possible in my ward.

And I love it.