Sunday, February 24, 2013

#100: The Last of the Human Freedoms.

I have always loved movies (hopefully that is obvious, as half of my blog is dedicated to a 7'4 furry movie character from the fictional planet of Kashyyyk). I remember one Friday night as a teenager going to see a movie called "Life is Beautiful" with my older sister Amy and her best friend Alicia. I was completely unfamiliar with the movie, although Amy said the reviews were great (and I figured that no matter what the movie was, it was guaranteed to be better than Jurassic Park 2, which came out a few months earlier).

 Velociraptor Gymnastics: not a great moment in cinema.

When "Life is Beautiful" began, I quickly noticed that it was in Italian and featured English subtitles. Although that was a little frustrating at first, it soon became easier and I didn't even notice that the actors weren't speaking English. The movie started out as a 1930s comedy about Guido, a Jewish-Italian shopkeeper, and his wife Dora, a beautiful school teacher. The movie was funny, light-hearted, and very enjoyable. 
Then suddenly the movie took a very dramatic turn, as Guido, Dora, and their young son Joshua were taken to a World War II Nazi concentration camp. Shortly thereafter, all of the Jewish children in the camp were taken from their parents and killed. Guido was able to hide Joshua from that point on by pretending that he and Joshua were playing a game in which Joshua needs to stay hidden from the guards. If he wins the game, Joshua will win a tank. In the end, Guido ultimately sacrifices his life while protecting Joshua for one final night. 

"Life is Beautiful" struck a powerful chord with me. After watching the movie, I became very interested in learning more about the Jewish people who were forced to endure so many hardships and lost so many of their lives. I soon read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom, "The Diary of Anne Frank", and "Man's Search for Meaning" by Dr. Victor E. Frankl. Just like "Life is Beautiful", these books were more than just stories of suffering and tragedy--they were stories of love, sacrifice, and the power of the human spirit.

One particular quote from Dr. Frankl's book has always stayed with me, and today it is my all-time favorite quote because it shows that no matter what may happen to us, we always have one choice left:

"We who lived in concentration camps remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

I think of this quote often when I am having a bad day, when things don't seem to be going my way, or when I feel a bout of self-pity coming on. It reminds me that no matter what may happen--the loss of loved ones, the loss of worldly possessions, the loss of health and comfort--if we have keep our faith in God, we always have the last of the human freedoms--to choose to keep fighting for one more day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#98: The REAL Reason for Alma's Testimony.

As I have mentioned once before, I love the story of Alma the Younger. In a nutshell, when Alma was a teenager in ancient America, he went about trying to destroy the Church, much to the chagrin of his father, Alma the Senior. Anyway, on one of Alma Jr.'s escapades, he and his friends were suddenly visited by an angel of the Lord who basically told them to knock it off or be damned (read the Book of Mormon for the full story--you'll totally dig it!). After the visit from the angel, Alma's life took a 180 degree turn as he went from "zero to hero, just like that!" (thanks to Disney's "Hercules" for the catch phrase).
Now available on VHS!
One interesting thing about Alma's story is that many years later while teaching the people about the reason why he has a testimony of Jesus Christ, he actually DOESN'T mention seeing the angel at all! Instead, he says this:

Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me (Alma 5:45-46).

To me, this is very interesting. Alma could have chosen to say, "Hey folks, I gained a testimony that Christianity is true because I saw one of the Lord's angels. I experienced an awesome miracle that changed my life. If you want a testimony, this is the way to get it." But that is not what he says! Instead, he says that he REALLY gained his testimony by praying and fasting for many days. Did he see an angel? Indeed. But does that mean he was fully converted at that time? It does not. Alma knew that a true testimony is nurtured over a lifetime of daily obedience and faith in God.

For me this is a good reminder that we can ALL gain (and maintain) a testimony by doing the little things that invite the companionship of the Holy Ghost into our lives--praying, fasting, studying the scriptures, and serving others. As cool as it would be to have a miraculous visit from an angel, it is not something that we need to experience in order to live a righteous life and have a sure testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. If you don't believe me, just look at Laman and Lemuel, two other men in the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel had many miraculous experiences (seeing an angel, hearing the voice of the Lord, being physically shocked by the power of God, etc.), but ultimately they both rejected the truth and tried to kill their righteous younger brother Nephi because of his unwavering faith in God. This gives me hope that even if we never see an angel or hear the voice of the Lord during our mortal lives, as we commit to doing the little things, we will  be able to gain an undeniable testimony through the power of the Holy Ghost--just like Alma the Younger.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

#97: The Mona Leia.

We went to Disneyland this week (I know, I know, it's only been seven months). Man, I love that place! Besides all of the great memories, I also brought home one other souvenir: please allow me to introduce you to "The Mona Leia".
The rest of my T-shirt collection now pales in comparison.
It is TRULY a work of art.