Sunday, January 1, 2017

Introduction to the new blog

     Man, it's been a long time since I wrote here; a little over four years, actually. This is also the third rendition I've arranged this blog into:

     The first version was a place for me to write random thoughts, whenever they came to mind.

     The second version was a more focused blog for a beginning writer to post his projects.

     And this third version, according to what I've felt directed to do, is for me to practice explaining my own thoughts and intentions more clearly, especially pertaining to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

     It's an interesting scenario, how this third version began. I had just come back from my Home Teaching appointments (I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints/LDS/a Mormon, and Home Teaching is when we visit other members, discuss Scriptures and Doctrine together, and offer to help each other in any way we can), and I hadn't done a good job in preparing the lesson beforehand. It reminded me that I can't (or at least, shouldn't) guess my way through a lesson, but should do better at studying the topic and seeking to understand what people need to hear or learn. While thinking and praying about it, I felt like I should get my thoughts on the Gospel out of my head to somewhere that others can discuss and altogether come to a better understanding. That was when the Lord suggested a blog.

     I'd already had this one set up, unused for years and gathering digital dust, but I didn't actually want to use it; mainly, so that if something good comes out of this, the middleman could be cut out and the praise go directly to God, since "all things which are good cometh of God" (Moroni 7: 12). Personally, I don't like praise, because it usually inflates my pride and ego, and leads me to say what sounds "clever" instead of what's actually helpful or thoughtful. (St. John 12: 43, for example; saying whatever generates more praise instead of what the Lord directs). I suggested that, but that wasn't best; for some reason, the Lord directed me to use this blog, with my name attached and everything. I'm not entirely sure why, but I am anyway. Maybe there's something I need to learn in this . . .

     So anyway, there we are. As far as I know, I don't have a very regular writing schedule; it might just be whenever the Lord needs me to write something, or whenever a topic comes up of special interest to me. I don't know the plan for this, or even the purpose, beyond sharpening and preparing myself.

     I feel like this is, for me, an opportunity to learn, similar to how Joseph Smith described: "I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, . . . all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty" (TPJS, pg. 304) (By the way, if you don't have a paper version of the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS), I would recommend either browsing the internet, church stores, or the D.I. for a copy, or even going HERE to download it for free; it is an amazing record.)

     And as far as the name goes, that was the name that felt best to me while thinking of new names for the blog; it's gone from The American Knnneget to Pen 1; Sword 0, to now Of One Heart and One Mind. However, that's not what I'll be posting. That's still the hope and goal of this blog, but since I'm not yet "of one heart and one mind" with the Father and the Son, the best I can post here is of my heart and my mind, explaining how I understand the Gospel. The way I understand the distinction compares pretty well with some of the functions of light (which can also be found HERE and HERE):

     For starters, white light contains within it all the colors of the visible light spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Likewise, all things were created by the Lord, and ultimately came from Him. When white light shines through certain objects, like prisms, it breaks down into its separate colors, where we can actually see them. In turn, when God teaches mankind Truth of any kind, it becomes broken down into whatever we're able to comprehend or accept. (D&C 1: 24) The ideal is to be like little children, because they accept new truths much better than us grown-ups tend to do (which is probably why it's so often mentioned to be like little children in the Scriptures: Luke 18: 17, Mosiah 3: 19). Some of us more readily receive the more aggressive or active truths in life--the "red" aspects of Truth, if you will--while others can better grasp the calm, peaceful and subdued truths--perhaps "blue" aspects of Truth.

     So now that we're all separated in what we all understand as Truth, how are we supposed to return to Pure Light/Truth? It won't happen by joining with only "green"-minded people while rejecting the other "colors" as closed-minded or idiotic. Instead, you make your own light brighter; you be the brightest "green" you can be, and point yourself where the Master Architect originally planned for you to point (3 Nephi 12: 16). From there, your light can mix with the "reds" and the "oranges" and "indigos," as the Architect had planned all along. When all the colors in light shine together, it actually becomes white again, as opposed to mixing colors in paint form (which creates a darker and darker color with every color forced into it). To compare to humanity, we need to grow in the knowledge and understanding we already have, while also learning and growing from the other mindsets around us. Forcing opinions together, whether by refusing to speak of certain topics (i.e. politics or religion) or asserting that our opinion is the only correct one, usually leads to contention  (3 Nephi 11: 29), hardened hearts, and closed minds, and the public dialogue only gets darker and darker.

     It's often a natural impulse within us (which seems to be missing in little children, by the way) to assume that topics and understandings we don't already agree with are false, flawed, or even evil in some way, and therefore avoid it at all costs. There are two quotes I've found that seem to counter that impulse for me: "One of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism' is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may." (Joseph Smith, TPJS, pg. 313, emphasis added) "It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale." (Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender [TV show], season 2, episode 9)

     Once we get out of that rigid mindset, we begin to realize just how much we don't know, or as Socrates said, "As for myself, all I know is that I know nothing." From there, we begin to learn from the others around us, the "purples" and "yellows," while still shining our own color as brightly as we can. We do need to rely on the Lord, though, in order to recognize what really is Truth in what we study; just about everything on Earth is a mixture of Truth and error, sometimes with more Truth and sometimes more error, so it takes a lot of Discernment [a vital gift of the Spirit--D&C 46: 23] to separate the two. (However, we also have a book these days that contains the highest concentration of Truth out of any book on Earth; namely, the Book of Mormon. That's a big help in understanding Discernment.) If we actually do that, however long and confusing it may seem at first to get there, we will finally begin to approach living "of one heart and one mind." It would be small, but it would still be something better than we have right now. Joseph Smith had this to say about what needs to change in order to get there, which I'll quote at length because it's so good:

     "A fanciful and flowery an heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
     "How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now. Some have tasted a little of these things, many of which are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, upon the weak, obscure and despised ones of the earth. Therefore we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female; let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity crown our heads in every place; and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile or hypocrisy." (TPJS, pg. 137-138; that's part of the letter he wrote from Liberty Jail, from which D&C 121, 122, and 123 are excerpts from. The full letter runs from page 129 to 148.)

     I've still got a long ways to go in improving toward what Joseph outlined, but this is my intention in order to get there: to let "this little light of mine" shine, and learn from all the other "lights" around me who are also seeking to come closer to the Truth. I don't even know if this will reach very many people; it might just be my friends and family, which I would be completely fine with. A smaller group is easier to learn from and unite in understanding with than a huge group, anyway. But if the Lord leads more people to it, than so be it. I hope they come away from this with a better understanding than they approached it with, whether from the posts, the discussions in the comments, or better yet, from the inspiration to read the scriptures themselves and ask God what they mean. He's the Master Teacher. This blog, in comparison, is just the ramblings of a spiritual preschooler. But if it helps anyone understand the Gospel better (whether that's others who read this blog, or even me helped by this blog and its readers), then thanks be to God for it.

     I'd hoped to have this ready by Christmas, but even though I'd changed up the blog's appearance by then, this post wasn't ready yet. I guess it makes for a good first post of the new year, though. Again, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave that in the comments below; that way I can help clarify anything that didn't make sense, or correct whatever needs correcting. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. :)

     May the Spirit of the Lord be with you all, always.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Weekly writing post: A Son's Honor

     It's a miracle. I've posted twice in the same week.
     Just kidding.
     Anyway, I've decided to participate in this "weekly writing" thing. The point of this contest is to give writers a picture with five random words, and the writers then come up with a short story (500 words or less) that incorporates these items. The blog that started this is right HERE. Lots of writing blogs join in this contest, and you can find the other stories by following the above link. It's my first time doing this, so I hope to hear some critiques about improvement.

     Anyway, without further ado, here it is!


A Son's Honor
     Elraz, Crown Prince of Melorna, ran for his life through the castle halls. Laser blasts drilled into the walls, narrowly missing him.
     For the first time, he was grateful for his pocket deflection field.
     He turned the corner and hid amongst the row of pillars, picturing himself invisible to any view, mechanical or organic. The invaders ran across from him, completely oblivious.
     Relieved, Elraz let out a breath he didn't know he'd held. This was probably the first time a Royal ever used his powers to run. . .
     The realization struck him like a dagger to the chest. He ran away. He, a member of the Royal family, turned coward to save his own life, preferring to loaf his life away in obscurity.
     He looked down at the pillars he'd hid among. Each one bore the symbol of Telora-Mime, the Unspoken Divinity. He touched the cold marble, activating the hologram picture of his father above the pillar. He looked so proud and strong here, determined to do his duty as King, not run to save his skin.
     But even he couldn't stop the invading Teralmins from breaking through the wall, crushing him and his Melornian army like so much chaff. He couldn't stop them from destroying all he held dear.
     Except for me, Elraz thought. He was probably the only Royal left alive in the kingdom, maybe the only living Royal at all. Maybe this was for a reason.
     He looked back at the holy symbol. The first tenant of his faith proclaimed “All things happen for the greater good, according to Telora-Mime.” What seemed unjust and terrible could be part of a greater plan from the Bringer of Creation. But what's my part in this? he asked himself, offering a silent prayer of guidance.
     A thought entered his mind. Against all odds, against impossible foes, his father had died to defend his people. He sacrificed himself for the protection of the kingdom.
     Elraz clenched his fist. He would not allow that sacrifice to be in vain.
     Imagining himself invisible, he walked through the halls of the castle – his castle, now – to the balcony, passing by the enemy's new security cameras. From there, he saw the Teralmins break into the peasants' homes, stealing anything they wished. He unsheathed his sword in righteous indignation.
     This must stop now, he thought, raising the sword to the sky. Even if they kidnap these people – my people – I will fight to free them. He activated the sword, sending lightning streaking across the blade, striking the roofs below. The Teralmins stared at him, obviously shocked at seeing him alive. I will fight until my last breath to keep my people free. May Telora-Mime view and support me now.
     “For the honor of my father,” he shouted, his voice ringing against the inner wall, “for the honor of Melorna, and for the glory of the Unspoken Divinity, you shall not prevail!”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Original story (finally); Chapter 1

     Well, if punctuality is a fundamental aspect of writing, I've still got a lot of work to do. I mean, Three weeks since my last post?! (Although, in my defense, the Olympics were on during those days, so. . .)
     Anyway, here's the first chapter of my original story. It's only the third rewrite, so comments are greatly appreciated!
     A note to my critique group (who may or may not be reading): there are a few slight changes made here, but not of much importance. Or is it. . .? :)

Chapter 1
     Astin peered down at the roads, watching for anyone to approach. The branch he stood on swayed in the wind, but he kept his gaze steady. If he fell from here, it'd take forever to climb back up. Not even the vines took people up here.
     “All right, Limb 8, what's out there?” called a member of the Limb Watch command. Astin couldn't see who, since he couldn't turn around. The gruff voice seemed reminescent of Captain Harisheth, though.
     “Nothing over here,” called a voice to Astin's right.
     “Empty from my sight,” Astin replied.
     “All is peace,” said a man on the left.
     “Very well,” The captain responded. “As you were.”
     The captain marched away to check the next limb, a thick thump accompanying every other step. Yep, that's "Peg-leg" Harisheth, Astin thought, remaining motionless. Any movement could be seen by an intruder, or so they said. How an intruder can see into the thick of a mile-high tree, I'll never know, he thought. And who attacks forests, anyway?
     Somewhere behind him, children swung around from the tree's vines, shouting and probably chasing each other in a game of Seekers. He allowed himself a small smirk. It was only two days ago that he enjoyed the same life, running around without a care in the world. But now that he'd turned sixteen, he needed to join the responsibilities of the other adults. I still don't know why, he muttered to himself. I’m not even a true adult yet. Father needs to finish the ceremony, and he won't be back for. . .
     A movement in the distance caught his eye. It looked like a box on wheels pulled by a horse, but Astin recognized it immediately. I can't believe he's here, he thought excitedly. He said he'd be busy for weeks still!
     “Unknown approaching from the North-East,” called the man on the right.
     “No, that's my father!” Astin shouted, grinning as he jumped off his branch.
     “Oh. Hey, where are you going?” the man said, barely in earshot now.
     “Tell the captain I’m going to see my father,” Astin hollered back, grabbing a vine. He loved traveling by vine, the air rippling his mottled-green Watch uniform, the smell of the forest so fresh and vibrant. This was life, not squatting on a branch for hours on end.
     He reached for another vine and closed his eyes, concentrating on the entrance to the forest and trusting the tree to send him down to where he wished. In seconds, or what felt like seconds, the vine became slick, and he landed softly on the tree's second-level platforms. A sizable crowd already gathered around the entrance platform, everyone eager to hear the news and see the wares Astin's father brought from around the world. Astin made his way to the front to watch the Stiota at work.
     Two people in flowing white robes stood at the edge of the platforms, with two others standing in the tree across from them. They removed the white gloves from their hands, revealing a large emerald imbedded in the back of their hands and smaller ones along their fingers. They closed their eyes and extended their hands, emeralds glowing as the vines followed their movements. The vines shot down to the wagon, wrapping around it and the horse. The wagon crept upward as the Stiota struggled against the weight, beads of sweat forming on their brows.
     Once the wagon came to eye level, the Stiota in the other tree started their work, forcing the tree's platforms to grow and spread beneath the wagon. The vines unwound themselves and slithered back into the treetops, and the Stiota stepped back amid cheers from the crowd.
     Dozens of children ran up to the wagon to view the exotic treasures while Astin's father climbed down to greet the adults, his gold Trader's sash glittering against his dark brown clothes. Everyone in the crowd shouted questions about the happenings of the world outside.
     “Has the feud in the west calmed down yet?”
     “What was the jousting tournament like?”
     “Delrith, did you see the dignitary from overseas? What was he like?”
     “Settle down, everybody,” Delrith called out, raising his arms. “I can't answer your questions right now. That'll have to wait until tomorrow.”
     Most of the crowd nodded at this, but a few people complained. “Why can't we hear it now?” someone asked.
     “I have family business to attend to,” Delrith replied. “My son's Sixteen-Year ceremony isn't finished yet, since I couldn't be there to finish the rites. I think it's best I do that as soon as I can.”
     Now everyone nodded, and a few were walking away, getting back to their lives. Delrith smiled and strolled over to Astin, scratching his gray-streaked brown hair.
     “You didn't mention that the last part of the ceremony takes place at sunset,” Astin remarked with a smirk.
     Delrith threw his hands in the air in mock exasperation. “After all these years, I still can't fool my own son.” He grinned again and pulled Astin into a bear hug. “It's good to see you, Astin.”
     “I still can't believe you're here,” Astin said, releasing the hug. “How'd you get here so soon?”
     “Let me tell you, it took a lot of rearranging,” his father replied. “Had to cut most of my appointments short in the rest of the country, and I still only have two days to spend here. So we'd better have a great two days, all right?”
     Astin nodded with a smirk as they leapt off the edge, grabbing a vine as they fell. Astin closed his eyes and focused on his cube-shaped home on the first level. This time, a minute seemed to pass until he landed on the house's platform, followed by his father. He seemed worried for some reason. “Is something wrong, father?” he asked, confused.
     The worried look vanished, replaced with another smile. “No, of course not. So, have you felt different being a Sixteen-Year so far?”
     “Definitely,” said Astin, walking through the door of the house. He explained yesterday's ceremony and how the Limb Watch signed him on to their team immediately after the Stiotan leader, Father Magun, finished his sermon of the Ancestors' acceptance.
     “Really? They didn't even wait for me to finish the ceremony?” Delrith asked, resting on the feather down sofa from Traelsing.
     “No they didn't. It was literally the instant I finished there I had to report to Captain Harisheth to start Watching.” Astin sat next to his father, who nodded as he fell asleep. Astin nodded to himself. He's been riding for hours, he deserves some rest, he thought.
     He let his eyes wander around the house, at the things his father brought from his travels. The windows came from Traelsing, made of fragments of multicolored glass. A steam-powered stove stood in the kitchen, beside a cabinet with Ikanoran spices and cured meats. Each one gained through adventure and trials, each bringing a tale worthy of legend. At least, Astin believed they were legendary. And I’m stuck here, he thought, drifting into sleep. Standing guard against no-one-knows-what while he gets to travel the world. What kind of life is that?
     He vaguely noticed himself slipping into sleep. That's not life; it's slow death.
     Astin jolted awake from a thunderstorm outside, shaking uncontrollably. His hair felt wet from cold sweat, and he almost couldn't breathe from his rapid heartbeat. Why am I so scared? he wondered, trying to remember if it was something he dreamed. He couldn't remember a thing, though, except that he'd been in some sort of danger.
     Oh well, he thought. Just a dream.
     “So you're finally up?” called his father from the kitchen. “Then how about you help me in here? I need a few vegetables chopped for the sauce.”
     “Yeah, I'll do that,” Astin replied, trying to calm himself down. A difficult feat during a thunderstorm.
     As he got to his feet, someone knocked on the door. “Actually, could you get that?” his father asked. “It might be Father Magun.”
     “Sure,” Astin called back, a little confused. Everyone knows you shouldn't go outside during a thunderstorm. It cancels all the safeguards the Stiota create against lightning strikes. Maybe he can work it out since he's the leader of –
     His explanation stopped when he opened the door to find Cadell, an old friend of his, standing in the pouring rain. “What are you doing here?” Astin asked.
     “The rainstorm started in the middle of my Watch time,” Cadell replied, brushing his chestnut hair away from his eyes. “This was the first house I thought of, so the vines took me here. Do you mind?”
     “Uh, no, come on in,” Astin said, stepping to the side as his friend entered. He felt a little embarrassed that Cadell would be there during his Sixteen-Year ceremony. Usually these only took place between the boy, his father, and the Stiotan leader. Even though the Stiotan leader didn't do anything except write down that the boy has technically become a man.
     “Is that Cadell?” called Astin's father.
     “Yes it is, Mr. Delrith, sir,” Cadell answered. Astin started to close the door, but stopped when he saw someone else outside. A flash of lightning lit up the outdoor branches, revealing the square jaw and wooden leg of Captain Harisheth. He stood on one of the waving branches, never losing his balance. He seemed to stare directly at Astin.
     Whoa, Astin thought. That's. . . kind of creepy.
     He closed the door and went into the kitchen, where his father shared a few stories with Cadell. “. . . I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I did. And not a drop of blood on the blade!”
     “Wow,” said Cadell, glancing at Astin. “Your father's telling me about a tribe of sword-swallowers who made him swallow one in order to trade with them. It's amazing!”
     Astin almost replied, but a foul smell reached his nose. “Um, father, I think your dinner is burning,” he said.
     “No, I finished the dinner,” his father said, sniffing the air as well. “So what is that smell?”
     There it is again, Astin thought as he searched for the odor; the feeling that I've seen this before. He couldn't tell where the smell came from, but it certainly smelled burnt.
     A crack came from his father's bedroom. “No,” shouted Delrith, racing past the living room into his own room. Astin stayed out with Cadell, who seemed thoughtful.
     Multiple rough voices shouted from the bedroom, and his father ran back into the kitchen, clutching a small box. “I've closed and barred the door to my room,” he explained, breathless. “That may not hold him back for long, so we need to leave.”
     Another flash of lightning streaked against the windows, throwing fragments of color against the walls.
     “No,” said Cadell. “You need to finish the ceremony, Delrith. And now.”
     Delrith looked at Cadell, his face a mixture of anger and confusion. “And who are you to tell me –“
     “I'm a Seeker,” Cadell replied, rolling up his sleeve. A blue compass seemed tattooed on his wrist, pointed at Astin. “This is what must be. Now, pronounce the blessing. Finish the ceremony.”
     Astin stared at the compass in utter disbelief. He'd always been told that Seekers weren't real, that they were only figments of hopeful daydreams.
     Because the Seekers were sent to find the Warriors.
     Astin's father looked flustered as well, but a crack from the bedroom door brought him out of his reverie. “Yes. Of course.” He took Astin's hands into his own and closed his eyes. “ 'I, Delrith, son of Fristin, do name you Astin, son of Delrith. At the sixteenth year of your life, I proclaim you ready to serve the Ancestors in all they require of you. Whether as Stiota to exercise authority over the elements of their choosing, as a soldier to fight for the lives of those you love, or another path beyond our vision at this time, I proclaim you ready.' ”
     Another crack sounded at the door, louder this time. His father went on. “ 'My son, the Ancestors know you well. Know that they will guide and strengthen you to accomplish your purpose, in the way best for you to grow. The road ahead will be hard, but know that the Ancestors will be with you to support and protect you. In the name of Axolbah, the High Ancestor, may this be as it shall be.' ”
     “It will be as it shall be,” Astin muttered, echoed by Cadell. Astin's father released his hands, as Cadell placed his own hands upon Astin's.
     “I, Cadell, a Seeker of Axolbah the High Ancestor, do proclaim you Astin Sarethon, after the Ancestor of –“
     A burst of fire broke through the barred door, and Captain Harisheth ran into the kitchen. Flame cloaked his arms as he glared at Astin, hatred radiating from his eyes.
     “It shall not happen!” he roared, throwing balls of fire at Astin. Cadell jumped between them and held out his hands, releasing a wall of light against the flame.
     “You must leave now,” Cadell said, sounding calmer than he looked. “The location doesn't matter, just leave. Another must finish the work I've begun.”
     “Take this with you,” Astin's father said, holding out the box. “It's a family heirloom, passed down from father to son. You might need it.”
     Astin absently grabbed the box and ran for the back door, utterly confused. What is going on? Why is this happening to me?
     He reached for a vine as he jumped, but a trail of fire followed him, slicing the vine. Flailing, he fell through the tree's smaller branches, unable to catch any of them. He glimpsed a small wagon on the ground before landing hard, collapsing into unconsciousness.