Gutter Water, Mud, or Steak?

I’m going to be a bit of a hypocrite for just a second. I usually hate it when people bring politics into… Well, pretty much anything, but I just have to add my two cents.

I am done being told that I have to choose between two terrible options for president. I will not choose between the “lesser of two evils”. If you tell me to choose between drinking gutter water and eating mud I am going to laugh and eat some steak. Because of this, I will be voting for Evan McMullin for president.

I realize that, with the corrupt system that we have, he may not have a realistic chance of winning, but for me it’s not all about who ends up as the 45th President. There are more important things than that. Besides, a bunch of farmers and colonists had just about a zero percent chance of beating the world’s strongest military, but here we are today in this, the greatest nation on Earth. No, for me, this election is a test of personal integrity and I will not allow myself to lose that integrity by putting my personal stamp of approval on any person that I disagree with on so many levels.

Clinton and Trump both believe themselves to be higher than the law and more important than the mere citizens of the country they profess to serve. In truth, they serve only their own egos. Given the opportunity, I would not associate myself with them in my own life, so why would I choose to put them in charge of this country that I love so much?

No, I will not vote for the lesser of two evils because that is, in fact, still voting for evil. I refuse to buy into the traditions that have been established for the personal gain of the few. We need a leader who will be an American president, not another politician who simply had the most buyers. I firmly believe that Evan McMullin is the best option that we have for president. I believe that he is the best option we have had for a very long time, not just this election. I am not “wasting” my vote, nor is my vote for McMullin a “vote for Hillary” or a “vote for Trump”. It’s a vote for McMullin. It’s me doing what I think is right and standing up for what I believe in. Think I’m being a fool? My conscience is clear.

https://www.evanmcmullin.com

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Frozen Fingers

Have you ever heard the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin? He talks about how, as the title suggests, we should stop letting the things around us stress us out and get us down. He tells us to just “Be happy”. This was not the song that described me even 3 years ago. You see, (and I have not told many people this) I have struggled with depression practically my entire life. I never allowed myself to admit this fact out loud as I saw it as a weakness that was to be ashamed of. As a result, I went through 19 years of my life not listening to the wise Mr. McFerrin. I was not happy.

There were many things that added to my overall misery. I was larger when I was younger and some people found it easy and fun to remind me of this fact on a daily basis, I spent much of my time indoors and on my couch, and being home schooled left me with way too much time to watch the depressing news with my grandma. It seemed that the more depressed I got, the more I would start to do things that only made it worse. I started eating more, sleeping far too much, and wearing pretty much only sweats.

As I rolled down this downward spiral of depression, loneliness, and misery, I began to hurt less and less; it may seem strange, but it is true. However, the hurt didn’t go away like taking a pill for a headache or a wound finally healing. No, it was nothing like that. Have you ever been in a walk in freezer? One of the really cold ones I mean. When you go in, initially, you are cold. This cold turns into REALLY COLD. Pretty soon, your fingers start to tingle, then sting, and, finally, you can’t feel them at all. It isn’t that the cold has gone away or that there is no longer any potential damage, but that your body has finally decided to stop feeling. This is what had happened to me. I guess you could say that my soul had become numb.

I didn’t really notice that I had lost feeling; it just kind of happened. I then stayed in this state for years. Yes, YEARS. I spent those years going through the motions. I went to church, spent time with friends and family, went to school, and watched TV. I remember looking back at this time and realizing that I hadn’t shed a tear, really laughed, smiled, or even yelled in multiple years. I was simply there, and that was it. I put on a show (probably not a very good one though) for my parents and other family, I had all of the right answers for Sunday school, and I always made sure I maintained a high standing with those in any position of authority.

Eventually, anywhere I went, I searched for feeling. I didn’t even care what the feeling I had was. I would have been fine with pleasure, excitement, nervousness, happiness, sadness, anger, or even pain. ANYTHING! But nothing came. The more I tried, the farther and farther down the spiral I went and the more numb my soul became. Until, eventually, I was essentially lost, gone, and nothing but an empty shell.

Now, I am not writing this to make you feel sorry for me or to talk about the darkness’s of this world. Yes, the world can be dark, and yes, I was immersed in that darkness. But, you see, all darkness is is the absence of light and, if given a strong enough light, can be dispelled. I was given access to a portion of that light and, where there was once darkness, there began to be light. I began to feel. My cold, numb hands began to thaw.

I am not unique in my experience. I had my trial and you have yours. I cannot even begin to understand how another person feels in their darkest times, just like I would never expect any of you to know exactly how I have felt. However, for every single one of us, there is a common light extended. I am not ashamed, nor will I ever be, to say that Jesus Christ is my light. He lives. He guided me through my personal damnation, my numbness, and my darkness and brought me into His light. Sure, I still have my dark days and sometimes I get a little cold, but He is always there to bring me back, and will always be.

Just as I am not the only one to feel the darkness, I am not the only one that can feel His light. He calls to you. He will forever shine His light for you. Allow His light to dispel the darkness that may be holding you captive and forever feel the warmth of His love.

 

I Couldn’t Sleep

young man in bed with eyes opened suffering insomnia and sleep disorder thinking about his problem

Wow, it has been quite a while since I have written on here. A lot has happened in the year since I last posted. I finished my LDS mission, I have done some school at BYU, and I have had quite a few… learning opportunities.

You see, near the end of my two years serving in Florida I had become comfortable with my situation. Most people would call a bunch of 18-21 year old kids crazy for leaving the comforts of their lives to live in a new area simply to teach people about Jesus. Most people DO call us crazy. I, however, grew to like it. I loved knowing exactly who I was and what my role was. I knew the material I was to teach and I had fun. I was confident, which was something I had never been before.

Well, the inevitable day came on September 18th of last year. I came home. I sat on the plane, waiting to be thrust back into a world that I thought I was ready for. I remained confident. Those first couple of weeks were great. It was as if nothing had changed. I woke up at 6:30, went for a run, got ready for my day, studied my scriptures, and spent the rest of the day telling stories of my wonderful years as a representative of Christ; my “Glory days”.

The problem, however, is that my “Glory days” were gone and life hit me like a ton of bricks. And then it happened. I couldn’t sleep. This was something that I had dealt with for years before my mission but I hadn’t had much of a problem with it during those two years. To be perfectly honest, I was terrified that first night since coming home that I couldn’t sleep. To me it was as if my entire mission had been wiped away and my past had finally become my present once more. I believed for quite some time that I was a lost cause and that I could never be the confident man I was while I wore the suit and tie. I was done for.

It’s amazing how incredibly alone and tired you can feel when you truly believe that you will forever be stuck in the same place, never to move on or progress. I’m just going to assume that you have felt something similar. Most people have. The bright spot comes when you realize that you are not as stuck as you have led yourself to believe.

It has taken me a while, and I doubt that I have finally grasped the full concept, but I have begun to realize just how silly the idea of being stuck in the past is. In fact, it is quite impossible to be stuck in the past. The past is gone. It is old news, behind you, over. You cannot bring it back and neither can anyone else. For better or for worse, it is gone.

It is true that I can attempt to get myself stuck in the past, but even then, I am simply choosing to do now what I did then. It is a choice I am making now.

One of the most wonderful, and terrifying, things I have learned is that I cannot live in the past. Wonderful because I know that I can make new decisions today to change the course I decide to be on. Terrifying because I know that I cannot rely on good decisions of the past to get me through the decisions I face today. As Rafiki says, “It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.”

Overall, however, I believe this knowledge to be some of the greatest knowledge a person can learn, and not just because you can realize that you don’t have to go back to being an insomniac. I think most of us have a past that we have tried to live in or run from. We have a future we are trying to make a reality. However, none of these really matter now. The future is for goal setting and the past is for learning from. It doesn’t matter if I have made the mistakes of ten men yesterday, as long as I am willing to change my decisions to reflect a good man today. On the other side, serving a mission and being a good man yesterday will mean nothing if I do not live up to the standards from here on out.

Every day is an opportunity to change; to become better than I was the day before. Every choice a chance to decide what kind of man I will be right here and right now. Sure I will make more mistakes. Sure I’ll have more sleepless nights, dark days, and  cold nights, but those days will not define me. I will, hopefully, be remembered as someone who never gave up, who didn’t live in the past but who fought to make himself better now. And, hopefully, you will be too.

I know it is possible to leave the past behind and create a better now. I know it is possible to change. completely. A mistake of the past does not have to define the direction of our future, but only if we are willing to change. Christ makes that change possible. He has gone through your past; every second of it. He knows what future you can have. He is there with you and with me every step of the way.

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

Is God Really Just A Placebo?

 

Have you ever heard of the placebo effect? I have surprisingly heard many different definitions for it, even though it is something talked about by most anyone at one point or another. For the most part, however, when someone brings it up they describe it as wanting to feel something badly enough, or telling yourself something long enough, that it eventually happens. The most prominent example and use of placebo is in medicine and medical studies. Often times doctors will give a patient a placebo medication to see if they can help them without having to use the medication itself. They might give a patient a sugar pill instead of vikadin or a saline solution instead of some other medication. All in all, the placebo effect has become quite useful and quite successful as the body heals itself without the actual drug.

I have talked with a wide variety of people over the last two years, all with their own beliefs and stories. I have talked to the multi millionaires, the homeless man on the side of the street, the people in between, a man claiming to be the reincarnated James Dean, and a man that called himself “Rastamahn” who just walked around with his rasta beenie and sunglasses telling people about his visions. I have talked with Catholics, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, Baptists, Methodists, Wickans, Pagans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Rastafarians, Pastafarians, and members of almost any other religion you can think of. They all have their beliefs and I am fine with that. That is our God given right. With most religions the basics tend to be the same; a belief in a form of deity, basic morals and values, an so on. I expected this, coming on a mission. However, there is one question that was posed to me that I was not expecting and have been thinking about since my first weeks on my mission. “Is God really just a placebo?”

I was sitting in a family’s living room talking to them about their beliefs, when out of nowhere the wife asked the question, “is God really just a placebo?” I don’t really recall what my companion and I said, but it ended up turning into this battle between science and religion that got nowhere, as in all battles between science and religion. It was a great, sincere question that this woman asked and I have been fighting to find out how to word the answer ever since. I cannot promise that my answer to the question will be the answer that will change the world’s perspective; however, I pray that, at least for some, it will help.

In order to answer the question I need to set one thing straight; science and God need not fight against each other. In fact, they go hand in hand. The Lord uses science to fulfill His will; He just knows a lot more about science than we do.

So, are the feelings that we claim to be the Spirit of God really just a simple placebo effect? Are we asking to feel The Savior’s love so much that we eventually feel it because that is the way our body works? Some will say yes and will proceed to explain to you the inner workings of the mind and body. Others will say no and explain the inner workings of the spirit. I say, using the old adage, “A rose by any other name is still a rose.”

An apostle once wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) And again, a prophet wrote, “For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.” (Alma 5:40). To put it into today’s terms, good comes from God. ALL good comes from God. Whether it is a thought that you should stop and help someone push their car, a feeling of peace or happiness, or any of the other countless ways you can do, feel, or think good, it is from God. Call it placebo if you want, just know that “placebo” is simply man’s explanation and term for God’s miracles.

Some may claim that the life saving cures and procedures that are used today were simply scientific breakthroughs by intelligent men and women. I have an immense amount of gratitude for the brilliant doctors, scientists, and others who help with these breakthroughs. They have saved lives of those I know and love. However, even these breakthroughs, whether or not the men and women who made them believed in God, were inspired by the One who created us all.

So, is God really just a placebo? No, my friends, He is not simply the result of the placebo effect. He is very real. I have felt the power of His hand in my life. I have felt His redeeming love. I have been lifted out of a darkness that nothing of this earth could have brought me out of. He is real. The feelings of peace, joy, love, faith, and so on as you read scripture and honestly pray to your Father in Heaven are very real. Of this I testify, and will continue to testify of until I shall see Him face to face and see Him as He is.

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If Only Everyone Could Be Like My Mom!

I once read a book titled, “Surrounding Yourself With Greatness” written by a football player named Chad Lewis. He was a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. He spoke of his family life, his LDS mission, and his football career, among other things. I love football and so the cover got me instantly hooked. It had a picture of Chad walking off of the football field wearing his uniform and gear after a game and the words “Surrounding Yourself With Greatness” written in large letters. I read the book at a very important time in my early teenage years and it was not what I expected. I was thinking it was going to be about his football career and how he surrounded himself with the best players around. The message I got, however, was much more important than how to win football games. From the book, I realized that we, as human beings, are influenced a great deal by our surroundings. From the social atmosphere and culture, to the people, we become more and more like our surroundings and because of that, it is extremely important that we surround ourselves with greatness. Great people, great morals and values, great ideas and leaders and all the other “greats” you can think of.

I have been extremely blessed to have been surrounded by many of these greats. Many of the most influential of these have been the great women (and their husbands) in my life. Women like Sister Lyon, who was a teacher, a friend’s mom, a great cook, and a great example. Or there is Sister Hansen, who has been like a second mother to me (I’m not sure how she put up with me at her house most days for more than ten years). Then you have my brothers’ wives who have been very close friends. On my mission I have also come across some of the other greatest women I have met. I have met great mom’s to their children, wives to their husbands, and servants of The Lord. Some (but certainly not all) of these women are people like Sister Aven, Sister Rodrigues, Sister Egan, and I cannot forget Sister Barry and Sister Craig. All of these women have taught me something in their own way. All of them are excellent examples of the “Greatness” I have mentioned. With all of I have, I express my utmost gratitude to these wonderful women and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day.

However, there is one woman who stands out above the rest. That’s right, it’s Mom. From birth to the present, my mom has been the greatest example of “Greatness” in my life. I cannot begin to tell you how many fights she has stopped, meals she has made, rooms she has cleaned, hospital trips she has made, life lessons she has taught, dishes she has washed, and lives she has changed. She has helped me and five of my brothers get our Eagle Scout awards, taught us how to cook, clean, learn, study, keep peace, love, listen, and gain testimonies for ourselves, among a host of others things. She has taught me and my brothers how to gain a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, who my mom exemplifies so well. If only all of us could be like my mom, the world would be near perfection. In behalf of myself, my brothers, and all others who have been touched by the life of my mom, Melodee Herrick, I say with all my heart, thank you, love you, and Happy Mother’s Day!
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Want to know what all of these wonderful people I have mentioned have in common? Check out Mormon.org and find out!
Also, Check out this great video on motherhood!

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

I have been thinking a lot about phrases that our parents say to us as we are growing up. Phrases such as,”there are starving kids in [enter country here] that would love to have this food! now eat it!”, “don’t stick your lip out, a bird might come and poop on it!” (My grandma said that one to me. It scarred me for life.), and, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” So, these phrases keep going through my mind and each time, I realize, more and more, just how profound our mothers and fathers really are. See, I never understood why my mom was telling me that there were starving kids in other countries. How did that apply to my needing to eat my food? I would always think to myself, “man, if there are starving kids, why would I eat this food? I thought you’re supposed to be teaching me to not be selfish. We need to send it to them!” I think what my mom was trying to teach me was that I needed to be grateful for what I had by comparing my situation (a cranky, spoiled kid who didn’t like Lima beans) to kids that had less, and sometimes had nothing at all. Profound. However, I want to talk about another phrase today, and no, not the bird pooping on your lip one (I still don’t see how a bird is going to be able to do that. That is one skilled bird). No, today I wanted to talk about the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. I love reading. I grew up in a house where watching the tv was the last thing my parents wanted me doing. We didn’t even have tv for the first few years of my life. Instead, we read books. All kind of books; fantasies like “Harry Potter”, “The Inheritance Cycle”, and “Lord of the Rings. Historical fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, and all the other good reads. I even read a cookbook once, and not to try to cook something out of it. I simply needed something to read and the food on the cover looked good. I always chose the book that had the coolest cover. Some had pictures of dragons, some with army men, and, my favorite, pictures of Jedi. (How can you turn down a book with a Jedi on the front?) Whatever the book may be, if it had a cool cover I would read it. Sometimes this way of picking books didn’t end up so well. I started one book at least six times just because I liked the cover, however, I couldn’t get into the book. It was boring, didn’t have a very good plot line, and the characters seemed stiff and cold. On the other hand, I was once searching for a good book to read when my brother suggested a book with probably the most boring cover I could think of. It was a smaller book with a burgundy cover with a bird on the front (something like that). I finally decided to give it a try and from page one I was captured by the greatness of the book. It had a good plot, great writing style, and the characters were real to me. I felt like I was in the story itself. From these experiences I have learned that the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover” can be taken literally. On that note, I have read a book that I believe to be the number one most judged book, possibly in the world, simply because of the cover and it’s title. Every day, I go out and try to tell people about this book. Every day, it am told that it is not worth their time, even though most of them have never even read a page. It’s terribly frustrating. See, this isn’t just some book that I enjoyed reading. This is the best book. A book that literally changed my life forever. It continues to change my life today. It is called “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ“. I’ll be the first to admit that the Book of Mormon doesn’t have the most exciting cover. It’s just a simple blue book with gold lettering. No pictures or crazy designs on the front (some editions might have a different cover), no extra creative title. Nothing about the cover itself would make you want to read it. However, I can promise you that our parents are wise when they say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It is the word of God, just as the Bible is the word of God, and it will change the life of anyone who reads it, as it has changed mine. That is the promise of the book and it is my promise to you. Don’t judge this book by its cover or by the words of men. Give it a try, read it, ask God if it is His words and find out for yourself. I promise you that you will never regret it! man-giving-book-of-mormon-225221-gallery (If you would like to learn more about this AMAZING, FREE book, check out Mormon.org, ask any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “Ask the missionaries! They can help you!”)

You Cannot Force Zion

I have been thinking lately of the “Perfect society”. I think of the movies and TV shows in which someone is taken from an imperfect world to a seemingly perfect one. I don’t know if you have seen anything like that but they never end up quite right. Here’s my reasoning as to why they are all failures. It’s forced. It’s fake. Here’s why that is bad. You CANNOT fake perfection. You CANNOT fake charity or politeness. You cannot and you should not. What is forced is not genuine and, therefore, will not last

Let me give you an example. Let’s say, there is a man who is walking down the sidewalk and he sees a beggar or a homeless man on the corner. Well, at this point this man does not feel like giving the homeless man any money or aid of any sort. Perhaps he is greedy. Perhaps he has never been taught charity. Well, what if I came up to this selfish man and pulled a gun on him, telling him that he must give the homeless man some aid. Sure, he might dish out a few bucks at that point in time, but does that really change the man’s perspective? Perhaps for a time. However, that change comes because of fear and fear fades. Eventually, this man will see yet another homeless man or beggar and will walk right by him.

Think, on the other hand, about what would happen if this man had been taught, and learned (Two different things) charity, the pure love of Christ. Maybe this man would help the homeless man with his next meal, find some more clothing, or simply be a friendly ear. He would do what he could. It is the simple concept that we have all heard: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” So it is with building a “Perfect society.” We will call it “Zion”

I believe that creating Zion can be possible. How? It will not be microchips that force us to do good, laws that demand it, or military force that compels cooperation. All of these things are man-made and, therefore, are flawed. There is but one way.

During Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, a lawyer came to Him and asked a question, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Then came Jesus’ reply, “…Thou shalt love The Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” What Jesus says next is very important to our topic today, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I believe that one of the things Jesus is saying here is that if we truly love God and our fellowmen, there is no use for war, violence, homelessness, poverty, etc. If each one of us truly loved The Lord and our fellowmen, would there be any need for the commandments to not kill, lie, steal, cheat, or any of the other commandments we have been given? Would there be a need for a police station? If our number one desire was not for power, to get gain, or to gratify our pride, but instead was for the welfare of those around us as well as pleasing our God, we would not speak of Zion or a “Utopia” as a “What if?” It would be the natural consequence of our love.

My friends, I am still a very imperfect man. I still fail in the aspect of which I have written today. But it is my vision, my personal quest, to become a man who will bring this world one step closer to Zion. Care to join me?