Beware Of Dog

The other day, Elder Rockwood and I were thinking of what we could do or who we could go see. I don’t recall exactly what we were doing beforehand other than that all of our plans had fallen through. We looked through a list of members of our church in the area and chose a name that was close by. As we pulled up we noticed that the house was fenced off with a “Beware of Dog” sign… A couple of them. Well, we’re missionaries in the South where EVERYONE has a similar sign. Usually the signs end up being for a “ferocious” ankle biter like a Pomeranian or a Chihuahua. We weren’t too worried. We rattled the chain link fence to get any dogs that may have been there to come out. Nothing happened.

As we entered the fence, my heart began to pound slightly as we heard, from underneath the house, the clanking of dogs’ choke chains. My heart dropped. Out from under the house came two HUGE pit bulls. I’m not lying when I say that I’m pretty sure that their heads were bigger than mine. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but still, these dogs were huge. They cornered us on the stairs of the porch, teeth showing and ready to make minced meat out of us. I said a silent prayer and braced for the pain of dogs eating me just as Elder Rockwood knocked on the door. Thankfully and miraculously, the owner came and shooed the dogs away and we received no harm; although, my legs were still shaking when we got back in the car. I literally thought I was going to die.

Every day we are faced with things that are just as dangerous, if not more so, than two pit bulls. True, the danger is of a different sort, but it is still danger. The danger I speak of is that of temptation, sin, and all other things that draw us away from our Heavenly Father. You see, each time we are faced with any sort of adversity it is like coming up to a fenced off yard. We have already been warned. The warnings are all over; the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the words of the living prophets today, and a host of other ways. My plea to you today is this, BEWARE THE DOG OF SIN.

Oftentimes The “fenced off yard of temptation” seems harmless. We may say, “Ugh, it’s not like this is a BIG sin.” (Assuming it is a “Chihuahua of sin”) and walk right in, only to later find that what we thought was a chihuahua was actually two large pit bulls. Those things don’t like to let go once they have you. You cannot run. When you alone go head to head with Satan, he will outrun and overpower you every time. Besides, when you realize the mess that you have gotten yourself into, you are frozen with fear, leaving yourself feeling completely and utterly alone.

May I just say that it does not have to be this way. The yard is fenced off with signs all over it for a very good reason. It is not because your Heavenly Father had a couple of extra commandments that He decided to throw at us just to give us more rules. The sins and transgressions we face each day are VERY real, VERY dangerous, and they are NOT chihuahua sized. Listen to the signs that warn you of harm. They are there to protect us from the dangers that we cannot see. They come in the form of loving parents, teachers, friends, the scriptures, Prophets of God, and the Still, Small Voice that is the Holy Ghost.

My plea to you today is this, if you have found yourself facing one of these spiritual fenced off yards, obey the signs and turn away. Turn the other way and walk back to your Heavenly Father. He is waiting with arms outstretched. If you have made the mistake of entering that yard, dogs cornering you and all, do not fear. You are still a child of a loving Father who ALWAYS wants you to be safe in His care. Turn to Him, rely on Him, and I promise you, He will lead you to that safety.

Ebeneezer Scrooge, The Grinch, And Elder Herrick

Christmas for most people is one of the happiest times of the year. It’s full of presents, Santa Clause, Singing, and goodies, that, I’m sure, are made completely out of sugar and food coloring. Houses are decked out with colorful lights and those giant blowup decorations, and in every window you can see a Christmas tree which, if they’re anything like my family’s trees, are decorated with a lifetime of memories, lights, and mismatched tinsel. During the Christmas season everyone is practically floating they are so happy and excited. Everyone, except for Ebeneezer Scrooge, The Grinch, and me.

I didn’t always hate Christmas. Up until I was about ten or eleven I was one of those “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow” that found it hard to sleep on Christmas eve. After a while thought, it started to become for me what I now see it becoming for others.It was a chore. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved getting the presents and sugar; I just hated everything else. Caroling was simply singing songs that I hated to my parents friends, and freezing my face off while doing it. Buying gifts seemed like a waste of money, and, worst of all, my family would come into town and somehow someone would offend someone else, causing a four hour all out war. Not my idea of “The most wonderful time of the year.”

As time went on I started to hate Christmas more and more. It got to the point where I resented anyone who liked Christmas. I hated receiving gifts. I was “an angry elf”. Every time I would watch any of those “real meaning of Christmas” movies where they say that the real meaning is to give not receive, I would want to gag. When my family would go caroling I would hide in my room and pretend to be asleep until they left then go watch something like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.

You see, things like getting presents and singing about a reindeer with  red noses never seemed like much fun to me. It never made sense why we celebrate a fat man who sneaks into children’s homes and gives them presents after eating their cookies and milk, no matter how jolly Old Saint Nick was. I had this mindset for quite a while. Each Christmas would ware on me until one day not so long ago.

Strangely enough it didn’t happen during the Christmas season at all. There were no “Yuletide carols being sung by a choir” or carolers singing merry Christmas wishes. In fact, I was in a class on the New Testament one day in the spring just before Easter. Fitting really. You see, my problem with Christmas, when it came down to it, was that the “reason for the season” had been lost. There was no meaning. So, the teacher of the class was talking about the final days of Jesus Christ. His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, His Crucifixion, and finally, the resurrection on the third day. Something hit me that day. Something very real and very powerful made me realize the meaning of this time of year.

I know it’s Christmas time now and everyone likes thinking of Christ as a babe lying in a manger, but when it comes down to what is truly important nothing compares to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Without it His birth would have simply been a pretty cool birthday party. I know that the parties, presents, and songs about magic snowmen are fun, and I no longer hate them, but I testify that the reason for the season is, and should be, Jesus Christ. Not just His birth, but His life, sacrifice, and resurrection as well. THAT is what Christmas is about. He made it possible to be with our families, Him, and our Father in Heaven for eternity. So, have a good time. Carol, eat an enormous amount of food, and have fun doing it. Don’t be like I was, that’s definitely not what Christmas is about. Have your traditions and the stockings and the lit up trees, but when it comes to the true meaning of Christmas, it isn’t Santa, Rudolph, or presents under the tree, but Jesus The Christ, Lord and Savior. Our True, Redeeming friend.

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The Weak Man In the Gym And The Nonexistent Six-Pack

Have you ever gone to the gym and seen that man who you know only comes in MAYBE twice a year? He’s benching roughly sixty pounds, grimacing and grunting while he does it. He might then go to the treadmill and do a painful three minute jog at an exhilarating twenty minute mile pace, sweat pouring down his face. Last, but not least, he goes to the dumbbells and pumps out a solid seven reps with fifteen pound weights. Thoroughly exhausted, he walks out of the gym, having been there for a grand total of thirteen minutes and thirty four seconds, including the three water breaks. You know what the crazy thing is? The next morning, that man looks in the mirror and wonders why he isn’t as “ripped” as Thor or his friend who is at the gym every day.

Yeah, that man was me. I used to think, in some twisted way, that because I “worked out” every now and then I should look like the cartoon superheroes. You know, the ones that have the muscles bulging out more than humanly possible. Well, to my disbelief, I found that twice a year won’t get you a six-pack, and neither will once a week. You know what the hardest part for me to fathom was? You can exercise EVERY DAY and not eat right and you STILL won’t get a six-pack. It blew my mind. It takes diligence, discipline, determination, and a healthy diet.

Now, this isn’t going to be Elder Herrick’s workout and exercise blog; that wouldn’t be a good idea. The point I want to make is simple: To gain the greatest reward, you must put in your greatest effort. This is true for anything. In sports we always say “Practice makes perfect.” The same can be said for musical talents or any skill or hobby. So what about when it comes to things of a more personal, spiritual nature? How does one go to the spiritual gym? I will share three o the ways I have found.

The first way of going to the spiritual gym is through prayer. To keep the analogy, I guess you could say that prayer is like talking with your personal trainer and nutritionist. However, in reality it is so much more than that. God is more than some unknowable, unreachable being who is everywhere and yet nowhere, merciful yet indifferent. THAT is not God. God is your Father. He loves you and wants to hear from you DAILY. Yes, He is all powerful, all knowing, unchanging, merciful, and just. He is all of that and more, and yet, He wants nothing more than to hear from His child, namely, you. When you pray it is like a child going to his or her father and asking for help on his or her homework. He stands ready to bless us, if only we ask. Just like any parent though, He wants to hear from us more than when we are just in a time of need. What better way to get a spiritual six-pack than by prayer?

The second way of going to the spiritual gym is by reading the scriptures. I have always been told, “If you want to talk with God, say your prayers. If you want God to talk to you, read your scriptures.” Reading the scriptures can be compared to studying the exercise and nutrition plan given to you by your trainer. The scriptures are not just here to tell you what to do or what not to do. They are here to show us how to reach our fullest potential.

I had a personal trainer for about two weeks. I thought he was trying to KILL me. What he was really doing was trying to show me HOW to kill my lazy personality and reach my potential. It’s the very same thing with the scriptures. No, it’s not easy; neither is getting ripped.

The third way of going to the spiritual gym is just that, going and doing it. Talking with your trainer and studying the workout plan are fine and dandy but how long and how much will your trainer help you if you don’t actually go exercise? Here’s the thing, Heavenly Father will always love His children. However, that doesn’t mean they will always have His trust. Building that trust is like building your spiritual muscles. Simply put, we build His trust as we DO what He asks of us, whether that be repenting, going to church, helping those in need, or simply being a good example of a Christlike life. In short, we gain our Father’s trust as we become more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that no matter who we are or what our past may be, as we do these three things daily; pray to our loving Father in Heaven, Read the scriptures, and strive to do our best to become like His Son, we can build that spiritual six-pack and we will eventually be able to stand confident at the judgement bar of Christ. This I know and leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Time To Make A Choice

The other day Elder McCarthy and I were biking around Ocala, Florida, trying to find people to teach. We don’t usually bike but this day we decided that biking is what we needed to do, and I think I found the reason. However, let me just say, I’m not the best cyclist in the world.

Well, as we set out on our little adventure things were going alright. My legs weren’t burning yet, I wasn’t hungry, and we knew where we were going. We were heading to go do some work on the computer when we realized that we didn’t have the key to the Family History Center in the church. We decided to wait for a little bit and hope that someone would get there. Luckily they did. As we were leaving we realized our second concern: we didn’t know the area (Still don’t) and we didn’t bring my GPS. That wasn’t too big of a problem because Elder McCarthy had a little map and we could kind of guess where we were going.

Four hours into our day we found ourselves lost numerous times, out of plans, and out of energy (I think that one was just me). It got to the point where Elder McCarthy, who is in much better shape than I am, was quickly going farther and farther ahead of me. At one point I remember trying my best to bike up a fairly steep hill and thinking I didn’t really have the power in me to make it to the top. I angrily said (either out loud or in my head I can’t recall), “I hate biking. This is stupid.”

After I spent a good 30 seconds pouting I remembered something that I had grown up hearing, “Happiness is a choice.” Finally, it clicked in my mind that this was completely and utterly true. Now, I realize that there are people who go through things much harder than biking up a hill that make this a very difficult choice, but regardless, it is still true. You see, no one could have come up to me and said “Hey there Elder, I rode bikes on my mission too, I know how you feel.” The answer at that time to that would have been something to the effect of, “Get out of my face!”

However, there was one man, one perfect man, who DOES know how we feel in EVERY instance. Not only does he know how we feel, he has taken that pain upon himself so that we don’t have to bear it alone. He has said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Why is happiness a choice? Because Jesus Christ has made it possible. He has suffered and died for us. Not just for us but for YOU, personally, and for me. He has suffered so that You and I don’t have to suffer to the fullest degree. I have felt that power in my life, and not just when my legs were burning on a bike. I know that the cleansing and healing power of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and Atonement are very real and has been the best choice I have ever made. May we all choose to allow Christ to help us when we are all biking up our own hills. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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I went on a hike when I was a twelve year old boyscout. Let me just say, I hated hiking. It never made sense to me. Why would a person leave their comfortable home, their comfortable couch, and their amazingly comfortable air conditioning or heater, and go walk up a mountain in the extreme heat or cold. Crazy. So, being the lazy, out of shape, spoiled person I was, I went on this hike very unhappy.

The hike started out alright. It wasn’t too steep and the steep parts that were there were going downhill. No, it didn’t click in my brain that when you hike down you usually have to hike back up. So as we went along I started to complain. My complaining intensified (You can ask any of the other scouts). I fell something like four or five times, and the last time I scraped my leg pretty bad which made it pretty painful. The only thing, in my mind, that could have made it worse was exactly what happened. My scoutmaster said something to the effect of, “Oh shoot. I thought this hike was shorter than this.” It turned out that our “five mile hike” was really about eight to ten miles with a steady incline on the way back.

Well, after about 30 minutes of keeping up with everyone else on the way back up I fell behind and my dad fell back with me. We hiked for about ten minutes and stopped, hiked for ten minutes and stopped, and so on. this went on for pretty much the whole time, me complaining the whole time. Finally I had had enough. I sat down on a rock and said, “I can’t make it. Call a rescue helicopter or whatever but I can’t go on.” You should have seen my dad’s face. He stuck his walking stick in the dirt and said in a “tough love” type of voice, “Get up and get over it. You can make it. All the stopping and complaining is just making it last longer.” I got up and sure enough, three switchbacks later I was sitting in my comfortable car on my way home.

Now, I realize that that was a long story but it has a point other than just to make fun of Elder Herrick’s past. The point is simple enough. This life can be hard. Just like the steepness of the mountainside, we have to fight uphill battles, sometimes on a daily basis. Sometimes we fall and scrape ourselves. Sometimes we get left behind by our friends and we feel like we’re all alone. Sometimes we mess up and have to face a longer road than expected. However, We are NOT alone.

Just like my father was there every step of the way, OUR Father is there with us always. Yes, the road is steep, rocky, and full of roots that want to trip us up, but we can make it. We can make it if we just get up. I’ve been there, both literally and figuratively. More important, there is a Man that has been there with us. He has been there every step of the way and he is willing to help us make that next step.

He said, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I testify that our Father and His Son Jesus Christ know the steepness and roughness of the hike that is our lives. they will not leave us behind but will be there to help us stand strong and finish the course. I testify that They are ready and willing to help us as long as we go to Them. May we ever be mindful of the reward that comes when we endure to the end and finish the hike strong. I promise, it will be better than a car ride home.

None Were With Him

A Casserole and Some Dish Soap

One day, my roommate and I were given a casserole. I have to be honest, it was gross. We both had one serving and then wanted nothing to do with it. The next day went by just like the rest, then the week, then the next three weeks. We started to notice that our apartment started to smell a little funny. It was getting to be a mess so we decided to clean it up. Everything was great until we found the casserole. We had failed to put it in the fridge or throw it away and now we had to deal with the consequences. The consequences being mold, the worst smell imaginable, headaches and sickness, and a competition deciding who would clean it up. It was something that I still have nightmares about.

Believe it or not, we have all had moldy, smelly dishes on our counters at one point or another. Maybe not literally as in this case, but I’d say they are much more damaging. The moldy dishes I am referring to are the “moldy dishes of sin”. We all do it. Unfortunately, we, as humans, tend to mess up and leave a proverbial casserole on the counter. The natural result being smell and mess. in the case of sin we call it Guilt. When we sin we are doing something contrary to the will of God which leaves us feeling, honestly, pretty horrible. Again, that casserole smelled HORRIBLE.

However, we are not doomed to a life of mold,smell, and guilt. There has been a way provided for us to overcome the effects of sin. Just as dish soap and air fresheners were able to overcome the smell and mold of that casserole, the Atonement of Jesus Christ has been provided for each of us to overcome sin and find the happiness and peace that comes from using the gift of repentance.

It is my personal testimony and witness that there truly is a way to find true and lasting peace and happiness in the chaotic world that we live in. That way is Jesus Christ. I know that he is my personal savior. He has suffered and died for me. He lives. He is there with me, and with you every step of the way. That dish soap was always there, but I had to USE it for it to work. It is the same with repentance. We must take full advantage of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is my promise that those who do this will feel the wonderful effect of His Redeeming love.