Ephemeral Beauty and Eternal Beauty

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There is a harsh set of scriptures in 2 Nephi 13 (Isaiah 3) that stood out to me as I read them recently:

“Moreover, the Lord saith: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet—Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and cauls, and round tires like the moon; The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers; The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; The rings, and nose jewels; The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty.” (2 Nephi 13:16-24)

If these verses are not applicable today, I’m not sure what in the scriptures is applicable to us. We have a world in which many live and die according to fashion. We place a premium on outward appearance – not that there is anything wrong with looking beautiful or handsome or taking care of our bodies; in fact, those can be important. What is condemned by Isaiah in these verses is covenant women placing external beauty above that of internal beauty, being “haughty, and walk[ing] with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes.”

What happens when the time comes that “the Lord take[s] away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments“? Is there bravery left without makeup and fancy clothes and accessories? Is self-worth tied to external looks? What happens when an accident disfigures or the aging process strips away some of the beauty of youth? Can the world still be faced with bravery? Do we merely have ephemeral beauty or do we have eternal beauty?

One of the problems with basing our self-worth upon the evanescence of fashion is that it is a changeable and weak foundation. It cannot and will not last. Eternal beauty is unchanging and lasting. Those who have true inner beauty, while they might or might not be physically lovely, recognize their value in the eyes of God. They understand that true beauty comes from goodness. True beauty comes from righteous living. Someone who understands her relationship to her Eternal Father, the Living God, faces life with confidence and with a bravery that does not come from fashion accessories; she faces life with a bravery that comes from the radiance of the Holy Ghost.

There is nothing more beautiful than one filled with the Spirit of God. Whether or not we are blessed with physical comeliness in this life, if we hold true to the gospel, we will be truly lovely, radiant beings in the life to come. We will be filled with God’s Spirit and power. Then, we will be truly, eternally beautiful both physically and spiritually.

2012 Mutual Theme – Arise and Shine Forth

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The theme for Mutual (Young Men and Young Women weekly activities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) this coming year comes from the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord told Joseph Smith: “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C 115:5). In the following brief video, Elder L. Tom Perry introduces the Mutual Theme for the year:

“Arise” can be applied in many ways but the most important is to pray day and night and then arise and go forth unto the temple. “Shine forth” means being a good example to others – those within and without the church. It means to encourage others to read the scriptures daily.

The Church put together a nice music video with the theme song for the year – Arise. Pay attention to the lyrics, they’re inspirational. For the lyrics I tried to include all the parts when possible. Lyrics of background singers are in parentheses ().

We are the voices.
We are the rising sun.
We are the children.
Last of the fearless,
We are the light and love
Shining in darkness.

Reaching out to all places,
Calling out to all nations.
If your heart is changing
Now your chance has come.

Arise, arise, arise!
Arise, arise, arise!

We are all travelers
Looking to the sky
Destined for glory.
Here on this journey
We are all sure to find
Those who are wandering
And show the way.

Reaching out to all places,
Calling out to all nations
(Arise, arise)
There’s promise on the horizon
Now’s your time to
Shine!

Arise, arise, arise!
Arise, arise, arise!
Arise, arise, arise!

Praying day and night
We will all kneel down.
Raise our voices
Up!
If we humble ourselves,
We’ll be lifted!

Arise, arise, arise, arise, arise, arise, arise!
(Arise, arise!)
(Arise)
Arise and bring in the new day!
Arise and bring in the new day!
(Arise)

Reachin’ out to all places (arise)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Calling out to all nations! (arise)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Now’s your time to shine! (arise)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Now’s your time to shine! (arise)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Now’s your time to shine! (arise)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Now’s you time to
Shine! (arise)

Arise, arise, arise! (arise)
(Now’s your time to shine!)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Arise, arise, arise! (arise)
(Now’s your time to shine!)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)
Arise, arise, arise! (arise)
(Arise and bring in the new day!)

You can download a PDF of the piano/voice sheet music for Arise from the LDS Youth website. The Church has many other resources available for the youth and youth leaders at the LDS Youth website. I’ve enjoyed the videos and music (including many of the now classic Seminary video songs). Take time to navigate the website and learn what the Lord hopes for the youth and for all of us, for we were all young (or still are) at some point.

Learning Discipline

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During my first semester of college I was enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) with the eventual goal of being a fighter pilot for the Air Force. While this goal did not materialize because of feelings that my life needed to go in a different direction, I learned valuable lessons in ROTC; I look back on my time in it as including some of the best experiences in my life.

The military is very structured. As part of our training, we were required to learn our chain of command (link is a PDF of a sample chain of command) up to the Commander in Chief – Pres. William Clinton at that time. Knowing this information was important because it was our line of authority from us as cadets (who had no authority) to the person ultimately in charge of the military (the President). Knowing the chain of command taught us the structure of the Air Force and helped us feel part of a greater whole.

This is a part of the discipline of the military. Another component of discipline is saluting your superior officers. Anyone who holds a higher rank is to be saluted and your salute will not end until after theirs has ended. This discipline teaches respect for those with greater authority than what you have, even if the superior officer has no direct authority over you. This reminds me of an experience I had that taught me about respect and leadership. One time we as cadets visited Hill Air Force Base. We were dressed in our ROTC uniforms (which are just like standard Air Force uniforms but we have AFROCT epaulets instead of commissioned officer shoulder marks). What was a little funny to us at the time was how we were treated by enlisted airmen. Some people saluted us, not realizing we did not need to be saluted (we were dressed like officers), but most recognized that we were just ROTC members and did not yet have rank. Anyway, we were at the base early enough for breakfast. I was eating with one of the other cadets when a Colonel came and sat with us. We talked with him for a while. Then another Colonel came and sat with us. One happened to be the commander of Hill AFB and the other was in charge of part of the operations of Hill AFB. Having this experience impressed me because here were two of the top men in command of the base sitting and having breakfast with two ROTC cadets. I was slightly self-conscious during the experience because I wanted to leave a good impression but I was also moved by their concern for us as individuals. That taught me much about leadership.

To be in ROTC I had to take military science courses as well as Leadership Lab (learning about the structure and function of the Air Force) and physical education. We also spent a lot of time learning to march. We learned to march in formation and follow commands instantly – “Present, ARMS! Forward, MARCH! Right shoulder, ARMS! Column right, MARCH!” and so forth. As part of our marching for parade practice I was my squadron’s guideon bearer (I carried the squadron flag). This means that when the commander was present, my job was to be out in front with him (or her), carrying the flag. As part of our training we also learned all the proper etiquette and protocol. We had frequent inspections of our uniforms. We had to have our shirts tucked in (and held taut with shirt garters – which, by the way, were really nice to use), our shoes always shined (I spent about an hour a week shining my shoes), our clothes ironed and starched, and everything lint free. We were expected to be groomed appropriately and looking our finest. We always had to be on time and ready to go. Offenses were potentially punishable by having to drink the grog (at Brigham Young University it was usually composed of punch with a mixture of cookies, whipping cream, soy sauce, crackers, and whatever else seemed distasteful to include in the mix) at the AFROTC ball held every semester.

We had to learn to remain composed when under pressure. We had to answer questions – even ridiculous ones like, “What sound does Tarzan make?” And be able to reply, “Ohhh-ahhhhh-ohhhhh, sir!” without laughing or breaking our composure. I used to have my roommates try and see if they could get me to move or smile or laugh as practice for remaining composed while standing at attention. I learned a way to remain aware of my surroundings but not allow them to affect me. When you are at attention (and even “parade rest”) almost nothing should result in you moving your eyes or turning your head or smiling or moving at all. This was a learned skill. All of this was done as a matter of discipline.

Our exercising in the morning (early morning – 6:00 AM, which is really early in college) was intense. We ran, did pushups, did pullups, jumped, and performed other physical activities so that we would be in good condition. Some of the days were particularly difficult. I never threw up during or after any of my track and field workouts in high school but I threw up twice after ROTC workouts because of the physical strain. Was this healthy? Certainly more healthy than not exercising! I had this physical training twice a week. We trained intensely both mentally and physically so that we would have discipline under pressure. I also learned that when there were times that I thought I could not go farther, I did.

Not being content to just be part of ROTC, I joined the Honor Guard. We were a drill team that were ostensibly training as the elite of ROTC. We had special additions to our uniforms of a beret, a shoulder braid, an ascot, and taps on our shoes. This was so we would stand out in public performances. A group of 12-16 of us worked together to perfect our marching skills. In my journal from the time I wrote my first entry about Honor Guard: “Honor Guard practice was interesting. We are marching around and practicing our moves. We did some minor rifle work…. [Written at a later date] We just learned how to do some cool spin movements and a little toss thing [with our rifles]. We split into four-man teams…. We practice 5 days a week for one hour at a time. We do little throw [moves] and some other fancy moves we are learning.” It was sometimes daunting to have a 10 pound rifle flying and spinning through the air at you but we learned to trust our training and trust the other members of our team. I found a video (I’m not in it) of the type of stuff I did in Honor Guard.

Here’s another video of the AF Academy Honor Guard (ignore the heavy breathing and sniffling at the beginning of the video – it gets better; of course, by telling you to ignore those you’ll pay more attention to them. :)).

What is the point of all of this show? Is it just about doing something that looks cool? It does look cool but at it’s core, it’s an activity where you learn how to work together as a single unit. You learn trust and precision. You learn that by practicing over and over you can do things automatically. In my training I learned discipline. My group could move and think as one (well, we were at least working towards that). The things we can accomplish with discipline and unity are great.

This experience only lasted four months. After that, I felt that it wasn’t right for my life, even though making that decision was hard. I did not want to stop ROTC but I felt that I needed to. Now I’m not doing anything similar to ROTC but the experiences I had still affect my life in positive ways.

What are the spiritual parallels for all of this? Just as physical discipline can be and is learned, so is spiritual discipline. I worked for at least an hour five days a week for more than three months to learn how to march and carry and throw rifles with precision. I had other classes and practice sessions to increase my discipline. What effort do we put into training our spiritual discipline? Do we spend an hour a day studying the gospel, praying, meditating, talking about the gospel, or doing other things that can enhance our faith and faithfulness? Do we practice the gospel or do we merely attempt to go through the motions? Gaining spiritual strength occurs in the same way as gaining physical strength does – through exercise and dedication.

What about leadership? At Hill AFB the top commanders of the base took time to talk with me and ask and answer questions. If we are in positions of leadership in the church (or elsewhere), do we make time for the individual? Do we go out of our way to talk with others and let them know that we are interested in them? Are we really interested in them? Do we follow the Master and minister instead of just administer?

Discipline gives us strength when we are vulnerable. Discipline allows us to act appropriately without thinking when faced with temptation. Physical and spiritual discipline are interconnected. This is why physical commandments such as the Word of Wisdom are also spiritual. Also, principles we learn from obtaining physical discipline apply to spiritual discipline. Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated, “Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard.” (October 2009 General Conference). Why do we choose the right? What is the end goal of spiritual discipline? To become better disciples of Christ. Discipline is all about discipleship. If we have not chosen Christ and disciplined ourselves to Him, who have we chosen to follow instead? Whose disciples are we if we are not Christ’s?