judge

I really want to tell you a story of what happened to me a few months ago. I had a conversation with a man that left me in a bit of a kerfuffle. We were talking and he asked me if I believed in God and I said “yes”. He was obviously pleased to hear my answer and asked what church I attended and I told him “the Latter Day Saint church, or Mormon Church” and he asked if I believed that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost were separate beings and I said that I did. And then he told me that I was wrong. He also asked if I believed that a man took the Golden plates out of a hill to be later translated into the book of Mormon and again, I told him that yes, I did indeed believe that. He continued to tell me “you are wrong.”

I was trying to stay calm thinking to myself “you’re representing your religion here, stay cool.” At the same time thinking “well this guy is representing his religion and not doing such an amazing job. I need to say something.” I really wanted to say something really cool like “well, that’s what you believe, so if you could keep your beliefs to yourself, I’ll continue to keep mine to myself.”  but I just kind of stood there and took it. He kept asking me questions and every time I said “yes, that’s what I believe” or “no, I don’t believe that” if it didn’t go hand in hand with his own beliefs he’d say “you’re wrong” and if it did he’d say “good” like I was a dog.

It was so frustrating! Here was this big man telling me if I was right or wrong like he was asking me maths questions, when in reality, he was insulting my way of life! He then hands me this card with his church on it and says something like “you should come here, we’ll tell you what’s right” and walks away. I wanted to throw a tantrum right there on the street I was so furious. It’s really hard when we’re told to be respectful and non judgmental around other people’s beliefs and then someone like that comes along. And what a way to promote your church! If I wasn’t religious, I think that’d put me off for life.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this down, I just remembered that it happened and I got angry again. When that happens sometimes it helps to write. And hey, maybe this can help any body promoting their church to be respectful of people whilst doing so.

Tell me a story

Jericho loved photography. He liked the idea of keeping a memory forever. Whenever his class was asked what they’d all liked to be when they grow up, Jericho would always answer “A photographer”. All his classmates would laugh at him and say “That’s impossible! You can’t do that!” And they were right. Because Jericho is a jellyfish.

Jericho is a “Turritopsis doohmii” jellyfish, an animal envied by all because of it’s incredible healing ability. These fish never truly die. When they become injured, or old, they rewind they’re ageing process and start all over again, a bit like recycling your own body.

One day, a man swam down to Jericho’s home and took a picture of him with a special camera. Jericho looked over the mans shoulder at the camera as he looked through the photo’s he had taken that day. Jericho wanted to do the same ever since.

See, being immortal like Jericho seems pretty nice to you and me but Jericho is pretty scared of it. He worries that he’ll never remember all of the things that happen over the many years of his existence. So, he began to take pictures of very important things. Things like, his first home away from parents and when he left school and the first time he saw a shark.

“How can Jericho take pictures if he’s a jellyfish?” I hear you cry. Well, Jericho takes them without a camera. He takes them with his mind. If he wants to remember things, he’ll look at them and say “click!” just how it sounded when the man took his photograph. Then at night, he’d remember the photographs he’d taken.

tell me a story illustration

Sometimes, he’d tell people about them as well and because he looks very hard when he says “click!” he can tell everyone who’s listening about the photograph in great detail. Soon, Fish, dolphins, turtles, even whales would come and visit Jericho to see his photographs. “Amazing!” they would cry when he was done, “I can see it so clearly!”.

So, Jericho became the first jellyfish photographer. And when you go swimming in the sea, you might just hear a tiny voice saying “click!”.

Listen

I did a talk in church today, I thought I would put it on here as well:

Today I will be focusing on the question “How can I recognise the promptings of the holy ghost, and be more courageous in following them?”

We are creatures of habit and I always start off my talks with a couple of definitions to help us first of all understand what I’m going to be talking about. I’m going to speak about revelation as well as promptings because I feel the two go hand in hand.

So, a prompting is “the action of saying something to persuade, encourage, or remind someone to do or say something.”
Revelation is “something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realised.”
And to follow means “to move behind someone or something and go where he, she, or it goes or, to do the same thing as someone else.”

Life is a lot like getting a new piece of tech and the Holy Ghost is a lot like the instruction manual. Some people are very good at following the instructions, some don’t understand them at all, some ignore the instructions completely and sometimes the tech comes with the wrong instructions or just without any. After switching on the product and setting it up, some people put the instructions in a drawer just in case, loose them, throw them away or read them regularly so they know how to care for the product. Eventually, the instructions have a way of coming back into your life one way or another. Whether it’s because you need to know something about the product so you go and find the manual, ask a friend or download a new one. Sometimes it’s after the product is broken and you find the manual in your cupboard. What I’m getting at is, everyone will have the opportunity to feel the Holy Ghost and act on promptings. The Holy ghost always finds a way.

I was actually really pleased to get this talk as I have had quite a lot of trouble receiving revelation and recognising promptings from the Holy ghost in the past and it’s something that is even in my patriarchal blessing. The main trouble I have is actually knowing when the Holy ghost is giving me a prompting. I used to ask loads of people and they always say the same thing “you just know.” And I thought: but I don’t! It was incredibly frustrating for me as I was thinking “well if I don’t know if it’s the holy ghost, according to the people I’ve asked, I’ve never actually received revelation.” I once actually thought “what if I haven’t? What if I’m just not good enough to receive revelation?”

Now I look back and realise how silly I was to think something like that. I had forgotten one of the main lessons in recognising the Holy Ghost. It can be found in the title of Hymn number 143 but I’m just going to read out the whole first verse.

“Let the Holy Spirit guide;
Let him teach us what is true.
He will testify of Christ,
Light our minds with heaven’s view.”

In fact, the first line of the next two verses share this vital piece of information as well

“Let the Spirit heal our hearts” and “Let the Holy Spirit guard”

If I didn’t let him in first, how on earth was I going to recognise if it’s Heavenly Father speaking to me or not? I had been so busy questioning why I didn’t ever receive revelation that I hadn’t noticed that I HAD been receiving it, I had just been completely ignoring it by saying to myself “well that’s not Heavenly Father, it’s just in your head.”

I was actually managing to convince myself that my prayers weren’t being answered by the huge amount of doubt clouding my mind. With this new information I was ready to start trying to recognise promptings. Here’s where the last line of the Hymn comes in

“IF we listen to his voice.”

I still didn’t know how to recognise revelation, I just knew that I had to be willing to listen. So with that in mind, I did an experiment; the next time I thought -in the slightest- that I had received revelation or a prompting I would immediately act on it, no matter how trivial. So I did. And it worked. I felt really good about almost all the things I did and in time I came to understand that the things I didn’t feel good about weren’t from the spirit. Through those experiences I then slowly started to recognise which promptings were real and which were in my head. As always, I have a Harry Potter quote that goes well with this when Harry is having trouble figuring out if something extraordinary that just happened to him is imaginary or real and Dumbledore said

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Things like recognising promptings are really tricky because it does happen in your head and sometimes we might think it’s not real because of this but where else would it happen? Heavenly Father isn’t going to descend from a cloud and have a conversation with us from wherever we happen to be at the time. There are rare individuals who might have amazing experiences but unfortunately for the rest of humanity, that is extremely uncommon. Sometimes I still have trouble with it and most likely always will but that’s what I like about the gospel, the fact that everyone is always learning and growing, no matter how old they are and no matter how long they’ve been in the church. Even when we live with Heavenly Father again, we need an eternity to learn all the things he has to teach us! Neil L. Anderson said

“This is at the very heart of our sacred work- to feel a spiritual impression and be willing to follow it.”

the experiment kind of forced me in a way, to be willing to follow the impressions I got. It was a very freeing experience for me and now I know that Heavenly Father actually speaks to me all the time, even when I haven’t asked a question, sometimes right after I’ve said “Dear Heavenly Father” he’ll answer my question before I ask it as if he can’t wait. Even when I feel like I don’t deserve it he will speak to me.

There’s a great puzzle game that I sometimes play called “Professor Layton” in which they solve mysteries and in it the Professor says this to his apprentice when they’re not being successful on a case: “The answer is always out there Luke, we just need to find it.” I feel like this applies to us when we’re finding receiving revelation or recognising promptings difficult. We get so discouraged when we’re not getting an answer, but we forget that Heavenly Father always has the answer, we just need to find it. In Doctrine & Covenants section 42 verse 61 it reads:

“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things- that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

I’m going to review that first line again “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation” You need only ask. I used to think that the Holy Ghost will give you revelation from Heavenly Father only when you’ve been “so good”. Like I had to fill a quota of goodness. Now, I know that he has to be able to reach you even in the darkest times, otherwise how will he be able to lift you back up again? How will he be able to guide you back to the path of righteousness? Now, this isn’t to be used as an excuse to step off the path of righteousness as I know we all are tempted to do sometimes but as a reassurance that if our mind is in the right place and we are willing to try, Heavenly Father will help us.

Sometimes Heavenly Father will reveal through the Holy ghost something for you to do that you feel you don’t need to do. But the things that seem trivial to us probably aren’t trivial at all. All the things that the Holy ghost reveals to us are from Heavenly Father and are important and relevant from “should I pick up this snail from the middle of the street and put it on a leaf?” to “should I make a life altering career change?”

On the lds.org site there’s a page devoted to explaining the Holy Ghost. One of the first things they explain is “The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ”. So if it does seem like the tiniest thing to us, it’s from Heavenly Father and we need to trust him no matter what we think.

A good story to illustrate this is one my Granddad told me a while ago. He was driving relatively fast down a lane without a care in the world and he suddenly had a prompting that he should slow down. He thought that this was silly, the weather conditions were perfect, there was no ice on the road, it was free of cars and he couldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary so he carried on at the same speed, the prompting came again and he ignored it. The last time the prompting came, it was just before a curve in the road and the prompting was so strong he slammed his foot on the break whilst turning the corner and stopped just in front of a big fallen tree on the other side of the corner that was previously out of his view. Heart racing, he was able to safely drive off the road on the grassy verge around the tree.

If my Granddad had listened a little sooner, it wouldn’t have been such a close shave. But if he hadn’t have listened at all, I wouldn’t have a granddad any more. Or at least, he wouldn’t be the same. Although it was a terrifying experience, my Granddad took something useful from it and was able to pass it onto others. Another thing I love about our Church is that we believe truth is truth wherever you find it and with that in mind, I’m going to quote Pope Francis, who said “The Holy spirit gives us joy! He is the author and creator of joy.” And I condone that sentiment with no doubts. Every time I act on a prompting, or ask for comfort, or advice, the first thing I feel is peace and joy.

I bear my testimony that the Holy Ghost is truly a gift from Heavenly Father, to be used, loved and trusted. And if we learn to follow his promptings and receive revelation through the many resources available to us, we will feel the blessings promised to us on a regular basis. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Look

Today I watched a movie called “Now you see me” about magicians performing televised heists but with an ulterior motive behind them. In it there’s a phrase and idea that’s repeated quite a lot that I’d like to write about today.

“The closer you look the less you see.”

In the film, the idea behind this was that magic is all about misdirection and slight of hand. If you’re looking closely at what the magician has planned for you to be looking at, you miss the bigger picture of what’s actually happening. For example, in one instance a magician got his trick wrong on purpose so he could steal someone’s wallet.

What I related this to was what I see a lot in my church and actually just in general when it comes to religion. For those of you who are reading who don’t know, I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints and it’s got a lot of variety in terms of members and a lot of the different members have different opinions about teachings in the church. It’s something that I really like about my church, the fact that we freely admit that we don’t know a whole lot about -to quote Douglas Adams- life, the universe and everything. So it automatically creates all these different view points, apart from it being really interesting, it can also get quite confusing.

I know of quite a few people in my church who get really bogged down in what’s true and what isn’t and start asking questions like ‘what exactly happened to this person’, ‘when and where exactly was this’ or ‘why is this doctrine the way it is’. They get into the what’s and the when’s and the why’s so much that they’re missing the bigger picture. They’re looking too closely, so they’re seeing less.

Yes, it’s great fun to think about all these things but when does that stop being innocent curiosity and start being frustrating inquisition? The people I mentioned above all too commonly seem to get so worried about the tiny minor details of the church that aren’t quite black and white yet that they ignore the faith that they have experienced first hand and start to focus on what information the church can’t offer us just yet and then eventually start to fall away from what they used to know was right.

Some things about our church don’t make the slightest bit of sense to me -I can freely admit that. Sometimes I and many others get weighed down with what we don’t understand  but it’s okay because you know what? We can overlook those things and remember what is actually important. We can take a step back and say “you know what? I don’t get this, I might never get this, but it’s okay because it’ll all make sense when we move to live with Heavenly Father and we can ask him all these questions then.” Until that happens, we just need to accept that we simply aren’t able to know everything.

There’s a popular metaphor in the church that compares feeling the spirit to being full of food. If you’re starving, you wouldn’t stay clear of food, you’re going to need to eat. It’s the same with the spirit. Thinking about the starvation scenario, if you’re having a tough time feeling the spirit, the logical thing to do wouldn’t be to come away from Church, it would be to keep attending, keep praying, keep reading the scriptures until you can feel that raw passionate emotional feeling that we refer to as “the spirit” when we know of something to be true or good.

Well, I’d like to add another layer of the metaphor. We’ve all had that ‘too full’ feeling just after you finish a meal and you think ‘if I eat another bite I’m going to be sick’ and you actually need to loosen your belt or undo the button of your jeans just you can stand up. If we knew all there is to know about life, the universe and everything it’d be like that too full feeling but much, much worse. There’s a reason why we’re not able to find out all those tiny details -and in some cases big ones- and that reason is that the our brains are too fragile to hold that much information. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the word “eternity” it makes me dizzy and gives me a headache. We simply can’t comprehend the entirety of the universe because it’s just to big and too much to handle.

So, let’s strive for that feeling of comfortable fullness. The kind of fulness you have when you could eat more but you make the smart move not to because you know you can’t handle it. And when you’re at that comfortable fullness, let’s be safe in the knowledge that the food you didn’t get to eat will be available to eat at some other time. Let’s be okay with not looking closely, but looking broadly so we can see the slight of hand behind the magic trick and learn to share with others the joy of magic too.

Persona

I’m told that reading my writing is very different from actually interacting with me. I heartily agree with this but because people happen to say this to my face, I then have to think about how to explain it with speech which I’m not nearly as good at so I’m going to write about it instead.

When I write it may sometimes seem like I’m sharing opinions of another person and in a way I am. Sometimes I don’t see my personality as being one person and often in my inner monologue I’ll naturally refer to myself as “we”. For example, if I’m making plans to go to a shop and then do some cooking when I get back, I’ll think “So we’ll go to a shop later and then we’ll cook”. This is way more common than and very different from multiple personality disorder – a condition  which is often a side effect of a traumatic experience in which someone has two or more different personalities with their own memories, gestures and thoughts residing in one body- it’s much simpler than that.

Everyone has things that they think about saying and then they stop themselves, what you think and what you say are very different. My inner self is opinionated, out spoken, proud, loving, easily annoyed and passionate whereas my outer self is still all of those things but on top of them it is a lot calmer, quieter, more excitable and more empathetic. All of these qualities my outer self possesses form a strong filter so that I don’t go and say or do something that might hurt someone or make them feel uncomfortable. Again, something which a lot of people have. Unfortunately, this makes me so conscious of other people that I’m afraid to do a lot of things that I want to do and it makes me miss out on opportunities and experiences.

This is where my writing comes in. I love to write because I can look back on what I’ve written, so even if I’m expressing an opinion or saying something that I think might not be popular, I can explain things in a way that people can easily understand me and not be offended. This isn’t to say that my opinions are so controversial that they would be likely to offend people, it’s that my outer self is just always worried about that whatever the subject may be from “I like jam” to “I believe in God”.

In some of my posts I do use an “in a perfect world” kind of scenario to express feelings which may seem like I’m enforcing ideals that I actually don’t agree with, for example “I wish we could all just wear sheets instead of clothes because then we wouldn’t have to worry” in this sentence, I wouldn’t actually like to wear sheets instead of clothes, I’m just using an extreme example to maybe illustrate my annoyance of clothes shopping, or that it’s silly that people judge based on clothing. I do get that these examples can be a bit hard to follow in terms of working out what actually is my opinion and what isn’t which is maybe something I need to work on but more often than not it is obvious what my meaning is so I don’t tend to worry about those so much.

So when I’m writing, it’s coming from my inner persona – my core persona if you like –  in a form that it can easily express itself so that when those quiet, empathetic parts of me layer on top of those core feelings I’m not feeling like the world will turn on me because I’ve just said something awful, I’m feeling free and comfortable because I’ve successfully expressed an opinion in a nice understandable way.

Just for you

Hello, how are you? Please find the appropriate reply in the list below, if you can’t find one please use the space provided to write one yourself:

  • I’m glad you’re doing well!
  • Oh no, what’s wrong?
  • Good 🙂

Now we’re done with the pleasantries, let’s get down to a nice new blog post. Right now, I’m sitting on my bed because it’s cold, I’m writing this blog post, I’m thinking about the soup my Mum has made and hoping it’ll taste good but it probably won’t because I hate soup, I have the tiniest headache and I’m planning what I’m to do after I finish writing. I sometimes worry about the future, whether I’ll ever get to be a published children’s author and illustrator. Harry Potter makes me happy. I have a religion, two loving parents who share that religion and two loving brothers who don’t.

What you might be experiencing now is known as “sonder” or, the realisation that everyone has a story. It’s easy to think about your friends and family having stories but it’s hard to think about everyone on the planet having one. It’s one of my favourite topics to explore. The fact that everyone on this planet right now is doing something, has memories from the past and plans for the future.

To easily illustrate this, let’s think about a bunch of grapes. Picture them in your mind, you might have one in your fruit basket, you might be eating grapes right now. Let’s say these grapes came from the south of France. This bunch of grapes was picked, cleaned and put into some kind of vehicle to come to you. But on the way, one grape falls off. It falls into the ocean and is picked up out of the sea by a bird and eaten. Another grape falls and is stuck with a different bunch. One grape grows to be small and is seen by a young girl who thinks it’s really cute. Each grape has a story, some are sweet, some are sour, some are big, some are small. Some fall from the bunch, some travel the world.

Today, around 353,000 people will be born. That’s a lot of grapes. And right now, you’re the main character in your story. Have you ever wondered what books would be like if they were about other characters? Have you ever thought that in Hermione’s experience of “Harry potter”, she was the main character? And that she sometimes had worries and concerns that didn’t involve defeating Voldemort or having an evil Aunt and Uncle? Hermione had her own story, just like you have your own story and I have mine.

I often like to think about where you are now, what dreams you have, whether you enjoyed your dinner, what you are going to be thinking about in the morning, what you are thinking about now, what your bedtime routine is. You’re smaller than the size of a pin prick on a map of the world, yet imagine how long your story would be if someone were to write your entire life’s history, with every thought, feeling and move you’ve ever made, every breath you’ve ever taken, every job change, every blink, every smile. You are important. So this is just for you.

Rinfern

Please take a seat,

pull up a chair.

We’re going to Rinfern,

we’re taking you there.

 

Rinfern is good,

there you are free.

Do what you want,

do as you please.

 

See the Haloofas

see them sway.

Wave goodbye,

they’re running away.

 

Ride the Bobas

feel the breeze in your hair.

Their fur is fluffy,

they jump without care.

 

Stergs are next,

we need to meet those.

They fight and play

they wear funny clothes.

 

Please be aware,

that you are happy in Rinfern,

you can sing and dance,

nobody is stern.

 

Here is a Gloob,

he is big and green.

he eats lots of grass,

and keeps himself clean.

 

Play with the Draff,

it likes to climb.

Climb up the trees,

have a nice time.

 

Swim in sea

with it’s sparkly blue waves,

splash in the waters

and explore all the caves.

 

You’re very tired,

let’s have a nap.

we’ll sleep on the Shlew,

it has a comfy back.

 

Now you are finished

we are all done.

You are leaving Rinfern,

in the orange sun.

 

Remember Rinfern,

for we had a good time

we weren’t sad or confused

there’s no rules in this rhyme.