Get a look into the mind of Josh and his experiences.

One thing I like about the Church is that it preaches the ideal, and recently I was pondering about why that is. I think that “the world” sometimes lowers expectations and how standards are defined (and people in the Church may be tempted to do so too) because of the “reality” of what’s reasonable or what most people actually do, and to not scare people away from even trying (which is something to consider, and I’ll explain). However, it may be blasphemous for the Church to represent God’s standards as any less than they are. And more importantly, the Church provides the ideal standard so that those sincerely seeking truth may know how to improve themselves and their lives. Because of “hard” standards some may be discouraged from even trying, or feel that the rules are unreasonable or unnecessarily strict, but all such thoughts come from Satan and a misunderstanding of how the gospel works.

 

Discouraged from trying

God sees our hearts, and forgives our sins, if we sincerely seek to keep his commandments and repent. Every effort counts and shows we care. Sincerely choosing limits for what we consider acceptable is much better than not having any limits. The goal is perfection, yet we know that we can’t be perfect in everything in this life, which is okay, because of Christ and repentance. At least we know what we can do to work toward the goal of perfection.

The Church does take steps to help people not be discouraged. Missionaries aren’t advised to teach all commandments and sins to avoid in the first lesson. We seek to focus on the essentials. The essential aspects of the gospel are the everlasting love of our Heavenly Father and Christ, who enables us to return to Him.

 

Feeling that the rules are unreasonable or unnecessarily strict

The standards exist, whether we follow them or not. What the world, most people, even the school or government, considers acceptable may very well not be acceptable by God’s standards. The commandments are for our benefit, and will help us find true happiness. Following the commandments grudgingly impedes our happiness. Loving God itself is a commandment, and such love would cause us to love to keep his commandments, do His will, and become like Him. We are seeking to become gods, and that is not something we can attain unless we eventually reach the highest standard.

If Church leader’s teachings or standards were to be lenient on sin, it would be more confusing, and it would be harder to trust such standards.

 

What do I do?

There are other factors that may come into play when deciding whether something is appropriate or not (such as media). The Spirit helps us distinguish and know what is edifying to us. By the Spirit, I don’t mean only a feeling of right or wrong (for example, feeling “uncomfortable” watching something). I also mean pondering and sincerely thinking things out in our mind, which the Spirit helps us to do. Consider, what is my motive for watching what I’m watching, reading what I’m reading, listening to what I’m listening to, etc.? Is it edifying?

Should everything that we do always be edifying? I believe so. Recreation and entertainment, since it is recommended by God, can be and should be edifying. Education should be edifying. Work should be edifying. Spending time with our family should be edifying. Our motives in all of these activities can be edifying.

Some things are good but not best, or not the best for the current situation or time. By the time we become perfect after this life, we’ll have gotten in the habit of choosing what’s best. The sooner, the better; now is best.

I think that when we are completely willing to do anything, forsake anything, and discipline ourselves in anyway, in order to follow God, is when we have truly turned our hearts over to God. It is when the Spirit can reach the center of our beings, and when we can feel true joy in the presence of God.

There comes a point where one must decide whether to simply be “okay” at keeping the commandments, or follow the “mostly righteous” crowd, or whether to go all the way in, and give oneself, without reservation, to God. If one gives oneself to God, “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:46).

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“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). Society has been given great power though technology, and with that power comes the responsibility to use technology well. Responsibility has been defined as ”the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management” (“responsibility”). Technology can be used to influence others for good, to educate, and to improve lives. As technologies become available, we have the responsibility to do what is within our power to use technology for good purposes.

Technology and beneficial human inventions are gifts from God, and as such are to be used for His purposes. President Brigham Young of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints described this idea: “Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan” (qtd. in Bednar). Because we received the discoveries and inventions we enjoy from God, we are responsible to him for our use of them. Those of us with these discoveries, then, have a responsibility to use science and art, including computer technology, to do God’s work and to influence others for good, in order to redeem the earth from the power of sin.

Technology’s great capacity to accomplish good or evil implies a great responsibility to use technology for good, and to avoid the evil. President David O. McKay expressed it this way: “Discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings, as to make man’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. … This age is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities” (qtd. in Bednar). It is mankind’s duty to consider and act on the possibilities of technology to the best of their ability. As far as discoveries or technology have power to do good, and as God’s gifts of technology come upon us, we have a responsibility to use these gifts to benefit mankind and to fulfill God’s purposes.

Included in the responsibility to use technology well is the responsibility to discover the best ways to use technology. A guide for “promoting responsible and ethical digital citizens” published by Education World includes this charge:

There’s always a purpose for technology use. Think of how, when, why, and for what purpose you’re using it. Think of ways to be creative and innovative. Think about communicating and collaborating with others globally to learn about another country. Think about how much students can learn via the Internet. Think of using it to prepare today’s learners to be successful citizens of the 21st century. Think of all the possibilities. (McGilvery)

As it is within our power to think of the possibilities of technology, we have a responsibility to seek out these possibilities and then to act on them. We can influence others. We can learn. We can create. These types of possibilities when used for good are in align with God’s desire for “the ultimate triumph of truth and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin” (qtd. in Bednar), as we encourage righteousness, learn truth, and create tools to accomplish God’s work. These possibilities for technology have been given us in this age, and consequently we are responsible to discover ethical possibilities and bring them to fruition as far as we are able.

Family history is one way in which we can responsibly use technology. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead” (qtd. in Nelson). And as Elder Nelson said, “New technology makes it easier than ever to fulfill that responsibility” (Nelson). As technology increases our capacity to do family history, our responsibility to do family history increases accordingly.

A recent article by The Daily Universe describes how new family history YouTube videos and other technologies aid in family history work. These videos provide students with easy opportunities to learn how to do family history work, leaving them with less excuse to not work on their family history (McBride). Family history technology also significantly improves the efficiency of family history work. Jill Crandall, professor of family history, notes the significant gains technology creates for family history: “The technology helps us find things faster. We will have microfilm for many years to come, and we will always need to travel to record [those] that have not been imaged, but the volume of what needs to be done is significantly reduced by new technology” (McBride). The efficiency and ease that technology adds to family history encourages participation, as one student described: “Seeing the technology we have, we are able to do things that weren’t there before, and that’s what got me motivated to do it … Because this is the Lord’s work, I know there will be progression and technology will continue to grow” (McBride). Technology can be used not only to increase efficiency but to teach and to encourage people to do good. Because available technology creates these possibilities for family history, which affects generations past, present, and future for good, using technology for family history is an ethical endeavor for which we are responsible.

Another example of the ethical possibilities and responsibilities of technology is bringing the Internet and information to less-developed countries. Still less than 50% of the world’s population have access to the Internet, though the United Nations and Facebook are striving to increase the availability of internet in less-developed countries (Collins). Providing people in less-developed countries with access to the Internet will give them access to information that they can use to improve their living conditions and to make more informed, ethical decisions (“Transforming Our World”). For similar reasons, translation technology also has the potential to benefit society, as the non-profit translation organization Translators Without Borders expressed: “There is a huge need for people in poor countries to be able to access global knowledge in their own language” (Glass). Translators Without Borders uses technology, including a web-based translator workspace, to carry out translations (Glass). Our ability to use technology to improve the lives of people all over the world means we are responsible for doing so, as far as it is within our power and control.

Influencing others for good, learning truth, doing family history work, and providing information to the poor in less-developed countries to improve their lives are ethical ways to use technology. Not only are they ethical possibilities, but they are responsibilities that we owe to God for the gifts of inventions and technology that He has given us. How we should fulfill these responsibilities depends on our ability to do fulfill them. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent” (Mosiah 4:27). Let us be diligent in determining and acting on the best ways we can use technology to perform God’s purposes and to benefit mankind.

Written for CS 404, a Computer Science Ethics class at BYU.

Works Cited

Bednar, David A., Elder. “To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood.” To Sweep the Earth as With a

Flood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Collins, Katie. “Zuckerberg Aims to Boost Internet Backbone in Developing World.” CNET. CNET,

22 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Glass, Jamie. “Welocalize Increases Support for Translators Without Borders.” Marketwired.

Marketwired L.P., 6 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“Luke 12:48.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-Day Saints. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

McBride, Madison. “YouTube Videos Make Family History Classes Easy for Students.” The Daily

Universe. The Daily Universe – Brigham Young University, 25 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

McGilvery, Christopher. “Promoting Responsible and Ethical Digital Citizens.” Education World:

Help Kids Become Responsible Digital Citizens. Education World, 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“Mosiah 4:28.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-Day Saints. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Nelson, Russell M., Elder. “Generations Linked in Love.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day

Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Apr. 2010. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“responsibility”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 07. Web. Apr. 2016.

“Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Sustainable

Development Knowledge Platform. Division for Sustainable Development, UN-DESA, 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Why Cantr II?

As today Cantr celebrates it’s 5000th day, I wanted to describe what makes this text-based game what it is, and why I still play it after 11 years.

It’s the only game I keep up with anymore. I don’t watch shows, watch movies, or play video games except for social reasons (unless it’s something like a new Star Wars movie), and rarely if that. What makes this different?

I stayed because of what I gain from it, in knowledge and experience. You write stories and create societies with other people, according to physical limits set by the game. All of the game’s history and objects are created by our own characters. By interacting with others in this way and leading towns for many years, I gained valuable leadership experience and gained new perspectives. It’s like I’ve lived many lives (and I have some of the oldest characters in the game). Also, in this game, death is permanent.

As it’s also available in 16 languages (and characters of all languages exist in the same world), it’s a nice way to learn languages, and there are also many opportunities for volunteer translators to gain real translation experience. The game is completely run by volunteers.

In my case, as I’ve helped in Cantr staff, I’ve gained experience in Internet marketing, translation, and programming. I’m currently the chair of the Public Relations Department, over the Cantr Forum, wiki, IRCWebzine, languages, marketing, and social media accounts.

Why not give it a try? Let me know if you have questions!

Cantr_5000

 

Question

I understand that trials are a necessary part of our life, and often, we can learn something from these challenge. However, some trials just seem to be unnecessary or not meaningful at all. Why would those trials happen?

Answer

Almost by definition, trials are not completely understood at the time. They are also often a natural part of life that is simply a part of our mortal existence. However, all trials can be to our benefit, and for all trials the righteous will be recompensed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The scriptures contain examples of trails that are not understood even by righteous people or prophets. In Doctrine and Covenants 109:49, Joseph Smith asks the Lord how long the righteous will suffer without direct aid or recompense (“a display of thy testimony on their behalf”), but with an eternal perspective, the time of deliverance is of little importance. Similarly, it is okay if we do not understand our trials now, or even in this life. An understanding of the role of all trials in general, however, may aid our understanding and peace of mind.

Job also suffered great afflictions which he did not understand at the time. After losing his property, children, and good health, he asks, “Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” (Job 3:11). Despite his lack of understanding, he remained faithful. After great trials and some time, Job did receive a great vision, revelation, property, and children. However, even if these rewards were not to come until the next life, Job’s experiences hold great meaning for us and for him as an example of righteous trust in and love for the Lord while passing through trials that come despite righteous living.

Heavenly Father provides a possible answer to the suffering of Job and others in Doctrine and Covenants 98:14: “I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.” Have we yet been proved in all things? I think only Christ has truly been proved in all things, and his trials hold perfect meaning for Him and for all of God’s children. No matter what the trial, we prove to the Lord our faithfulness as we continue to love Him and keep His commandments.

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, for all our trails we will be recompensed. As D&C 98:13 states, “And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal” (See also D&C 101:14-15). The Atonement of Christ makes up for our losses, pains, and trials in more than an abstract way. Today we can understand that God loves us and allows us to suffer trials for our benefit; someday we will understand all things.

“Merry Christmas”

Español

Past one-o-clock as I began a run, I saw an older gentleman walking alone, and as I passed him he said, “Merry Christmas!” Even though I smiled and nodded as I passed, I didn’t think to respond until it was too late. It caught me off guard, in fact, as we had opened presents seven hours earlier, and I hadn’t yet received that greeting; I thought, oh, today is Christmas, isn’t it? Suddenly my perception of the already sunny 40-degree weather day brightened as I thought, this is the day we especially remember Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thought. For the rest of the 6-mile run I similarly greeted every family I passed by: “Merry Christmas!”

I loved to see the families walking on Christmas day, enjoying each other’s company. Some similarly replied, “Merry Christmas!” Others, like I, didn’t have time to respond the same way, or said “hello.” In any case, each time my own greeting encouraged me as I ran. I don’t know what religion these Michigan neighbors may have, though just that they were walking as families on Christmas day means they likely celebrate the birth of the Savior.

I thought of the older gentleman again. He was the only one I saw walking alone. I hope he knows that his greeting was reciprocated.

English

Hoy después de la una, al empezar a correr, vi a un señor mayor caminando solo, y cuando lo pasé me dijo: “¡Feliz Navidad!” Aunque yo sonreí y asentí mientras pasaba, no pensaba responder hasta que fue demasiado tarde. Me tomó por sorpresa, de hecho, como ya habíamos abierto nuestros regalos siete horas antes, y todavía no había recibido ese saludo; pensé, oh, sí que es la Navidad. De repente mi percepción del día ya soleado se iluminó aún más al pensar, este es el día en particular en que recordamos a Jesucristo. Qué maravilloso pensamiento. Durante el resto de la carrera de 10 kilómetros saludé a cada familia que pasaba: “¡Feliz Navidad!”

Me encantó ver a las familias caminando el día de Navidad, disfrutando de la compañía del uno al otro. Algunos respondieron de manera igual: “¡Feliz Navidad!” Otros, como yo, no tenían tiempo para responder de la misma manera, o dijeron “hola”. En todo caso, cada vez, mi propio saludo me animó mientras corría. No sé cuáles eran las religiones de estos vecinos en Michigan, aunque sólo el haber caminado como familia el día de la Navidad quiere decir que probablemente celebran el nacimiento del Salvador.

De nuevo pensé en el señor mayor. Él era el único que vi caminando solo. Espero que sepa que su saludo reverberó en otros.

Giving Your Heart to God

I realized how much writing in this blog has influenced me (particularly this post), as I think back on my own words, even though I haven’t posted very often. Writing in my journal daily has influenced me even more.

Today my roommate and elder’s quorum president gave a talk about gratitude, and one thing he emphasized was that we show gratitude by remembering the blessings we’ve been given, and by recognizing the hand of the Lord “in all things” (D&C 59:21). Consequently, writing in our journal is a way to show gratitude and remember the blessings we’ve been given. Ever since the beginning of my mission, with a break of a few months, I write three things I’m thankful for in my journal every day, with very few days missed. I’ve done this so many times now that when typing without thinking, the first thing that comes out is “I’m thankful for” (I type my journal). What a good thing to have ingrained in your head, no?

Yesterday as I was reading in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, it impacted me what he said about giving our hearts to God. He quoted Psalms 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
“I would recommend that [every person] adopt this prayer of David, and see how near he can live according to the light that he has, so as to make it in all sincerity part of his devotions to God.”

Even though we have improved, there are more spiritual blessings and gifts we could have, if we search for them. Don’t stop improving!