Come Follow Me: Jan 26 – Feb 1

Photo I took in Provo, UT

This week in studying for Come Follow Me I had so much on my mind concerning my future. Sometimes even when we find a direction there is still shadows of doubt and uncertainty which come. I also have thought so much about entertainment value and the media’s powerful influence in my life.

Throughout this week there were several principles which stuck out to me.

I. If we keep the commandments, God will nourish us, strengthen us and provide means to follow those commandments

Artist depiction of Bilbo Baggins,

I have begun to see all of God’s commandments as an invitation. But it is the kind of invitation which brings about change, oftentimes through much trial and sorrow. Take for example Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. Concerning this infamous character, Dieter F. Uchdorf commented in last General Conference,

However, when Bilbo is presented with the prospect of a grand adventure, something surges deep within his heart. He understands from the outset that the journey will be challenging. Even dangerous. There is even a possibility he might not return.

And yet, the call to adventure has reached deep into his heart. And so, this unremarkable hobbit leaves comfort behind and enters the path to a great adventure that will take him all the way to “there and back again.”2

-Dieter F. Uchdorf, “Your Grand Adventure” October 2019

Curiously enough, Bilbo could have chosen to stay home, enjoy life’s comforts and not have to face the sorrows and death threatening experiences ahead of him. But he does leave. And he was never the same.

He wasn’t the same because he had seen the world, that it was wide, beautiful and full of promising experiences and precious knowledge. He made meaningful relationships with great elves, dwarves and people. He conquered evil and faced temptation and overcame its deception. He also grieved at the death of his friends.

Though he faced so much, Bilbo changed and was grateful for it. Life is simple Hobbiton never seemed the same because of everything he had witnessed and experienced.

The same could be said of Lehi and his family. He and Nephi could have done a lot of good in Jerusalem, yet the Lord called them another way to raise up a righteous people.

What do these stores have to do with us? I’d same EVERYTHING. Just like Bilbo and Lehi’s family we accept the invitation to follow Christ. This takes courage, but when we follow Christ we gain the greatest, kindest, and most loving care taker we can ever have. He gives us trials and asks us to leave the comforts of an easy life, but never without the promise he will “prepare a way for (us) to accomplish the thing which he commandeth (us).” (1 Nephi 3:7)

Lehi said in 2 Nephi 1:15. “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell: I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.’ It is the same for all of us who have chosen the path of discipleship. We don’t just face hardship. We find God and come to know of his love for us. And THAT is worth any trial we could ever face in this life.

II. The difference between righteous and unrighteous dominion

Depiction of 1 Nephi 18

When I watched the video showing Lehi and his family crossing the ocean I paid special attention to Nephi and his older brothers. In this story, Nephi sees his brothers being disrespectful and rude towards God. The moment he goes to them to ask them to stop, they tie him to the mast in terrible anger.

At the head of this terrible misfortune was Lamen, the eldest son. There are several things Lamen can’t overcome. First, how he had to leave behind their land and inheritance. Staying in Jerusalem would have provided Lamen a rich life as the eldest son. Even after reaching the Promised land he couldn’t let it go. He also couldn’t shake the feeling Nephi wanted to become ruler over them.

In tying Nephi to the mast, Lamen established unrighteous dominion over his family. In his anger, pride and foolishness he cut his whole family off from the Lord’s influence. A storm came and threatened them. Yet for over three days Lamen, followed by Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, kept their families in the midst of a tempest. They caused so much suffering but couldn’t see beyond their pride.

Lehi, the patriarch of the family couldn’t sway them. Nephi’s wife and children’s tears couldn’t change them. It wasn’t until “they could see the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent” that they freed Nephi.

In his exhaustion, Nephi prayed to God and led his family from their impending destruction. I would say this destruction was both physical and spiritual. This example shows very profoundly what happens when men in anger and pride rule over others. They become past feeling and will sacrifice almost anything to be right.

In contrast, Nephi did not give in to anger, but humbled himself before God, steering, with God’s help, his family away from danger. When faced with trial he chose faith over fear. He chose to seek knowledge, to look forward and to honor his parents. He became a righteous leader out of example, not because of misplaced ambition.

What intrigues me is this idea. Lamen could have been like Nephi. He was faced with the same tests, saw an angel, heard his father’s visions and had access to the scriptures. But when faced with trial he couldn’t see beyond a future he had left behind. This does not make him evil. It makes him obstinate and because of his pride an influence of harmful behaviors.

III. The things of greatest value we must hold onto with faith

Art by Walter Rane

One of the strongest messages from this reading concerned how I stand fast in the truths I know. Be cautious of giving your heart or time to sources which lead you very subtly away from God and the light of his gospel.

This becomes increasingly hard as the world shifts farther and farther away from God and his gospel truths. Sometimes it feels easier to give n or even pretend we don’t see the wrong around us.

But giving in does not change the infinite, eternal value of our knowledge of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of happiness. We can’t find enlightenment in accepting easy answers of the day. Uchdorf also said,

The third thing we strive to master in this journey is to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and not be ashamed of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

We do not hide our faith.

We do not bury it.

To the contrary, we talk about our journey with others in normal and natural ways. That’s what friends do—they talk about things that are important to them. Things that are close to their heart and make a difference to them.

. . . Sometimes your stories make people laugh. Sometimes they bring them to tears. Sometimes they will help people to continue in patience, resilience, and courage to face another hour, another day and come a little closer to God.

-Dieter F. Uchdorf, “Your Great Adventure”, October 2019

My favorite scriptures from this week is in 1 Nephi 19.

For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at anaught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men btrample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and chearken not to the voice of his counsels.

And behold he acometh, according to the words of the angel, in bsix hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.

And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they aspit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving bkindness and his clong-suffering towards the children of men.

– 1 Nephi 19:8-9. The Book of Mormon

Though sometimes it feels like we are drowning in a sea of knowledge, music, noise and facts, we still have the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can, if we look and hear beyond all these things, feel God’s love. My life goal is not to let toxic ideas shift my focus from what I know is right. I pray to remember Christ, that he did all “because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” (1 Nephi 19:9)

The Hobbit or There and Back Again (1937)

The Hobbit  I remember reading this book when I was thirteen and I don’t recall being impressed by it. This was most likely because I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Tolkien’s other complicated works like The Silmarillion. The book probably was too simple for me to fully appreciate at such a young age. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense but that was what I was like when I was a child. I read the book again about two weeks ago after watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. So many fans of the book have criticized the new movies because supposedly Peter Jackson made it too dark or has taken too many “creative liberties”. I will give my reviews on the Hobbit movies later but for now I want to focus on  the original first novel of J.R.R Tolkien who, in my opinion, is the greatest fantasy author of all time.

the-hobbit-image-maurice-sendak-sketch-02

The plot for this novel follows the literary pattern called “The Heroes Journey” or the monomyth. Many stories have followed this cycle, some you wouldn’t even think of. Some examples that I can think of from the top of my head include The Odyssey  by Homer, George Lucas’s Star Wars , the Mesopotamian written work The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko’s Avatar the Last Airbender (the animated series not the movie). There is a fairly flexible pattern that the story must follow, the three most important aspects being Departure, Initiation and Return. A more simplified model of the monomyth looks somewhat like this:

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call To Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting With The Mentor
  5. Crossing The First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. Supreme Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The Road back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return With Elixir

(If you are interested I have left multiple links for any questions you may have.) Moving on, I believe that The Heroes Journey represents progression or a needed change, either for the hero, for those around them, or both. I think in the first movie the conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo before they started their journey best embodies this idea.

Gandalf:  You’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.

Bilbo Baggins: …Can you promise that I will come back?

Gandalf: No. And if you do… you will not be the same.

The hardest part of life is learning to change and, more importantly, to take the steps necessary to allow that change to happen. Wisdom and understanding then come depending on how we react to the challenges and opportunities we are presented with. Bilbo was content at the beginning of the story to never change and live a simple life separated from what was away from the shire and the comforts of his home. However, that changed once he SAW the world, became a part of something bigger and stepped up as a leader and motivator.

There are other elements of the story that are equally important, such as the nature of greed and the corruptible effect the treasure hoard had on those who were exposed to it. I found it compelling to see how in the end all the armies who were about to fight each other over the treasure united when they were faced with destruction by a fifth army of goblins and wargs. Evil was shown then to come from within as well as in a tangible physical force. Each needed to be fought and defeated in order to find peace and contentment.

SmaugsFury

I find the characters in this story to be intriguing and real. Some are there only to help Bilbo and the others on their journey, like Beorn the skin changer and Elrond from Rivendale. Bilbo, our hero, learned and grew possibly faster and better than his companions. Though he was the most inexperienced, Bilbo became the one who led the group and made the important decisions (after Gandalf left) and he remained unaffected by the treasure, though it seemed to corrupt almost all who looked upon it. Tolkien wrote “All the same Mr. Baggins kept his head clear of the bewitchment of the hoard better than the dwarves did. Long before the dwarves were tired of examining the treasures, he became weary of it and began to wonder nervously what the end of it would be.” (Chapter 13).

The other characters like the dwarves, especially Thorin, took a lot longer to learn from their mistakes and see things clearly. Thorin allowed himself to become consumed by his greed, going as far as to banish Bilbo from the company though Bilbo had saved his life and the the lives of the others many times. Though he was the heir to the throne he didn’t become the leader he needed to be until it was too late. In the end he learned from his mistakes but it cost him his life.

Smaug has intrigued me the most since I watched the second movie and read the book. He represents evil, of course, and is possibly the embodiment of the evil that is born from greed. To me though, he shows the true nature of evil. Evil isn’t stupid. It is conniving, intelligent, malicious, and well aware of its nature. That is something that I have come to appreciate in Tolkien’s works. Not only does he show the true nature of evil embodied by creatures who have become consumed and controlled by its power but also that good men can change by willingly choosing to follow it. Along side it though are those who are willing to fight against it like Bard from Laketown and those who don’t allow themselves to be controlled by it like Bilbo.

HOB_13499493082

There is something so endearing about this story. Many have called Tolkien’s writing style boring or overbearing but I think that he is one of the few who was able to write so thoroughly and yet retain a feeling of enchantment in his stories. The Hobbit is different then his other works however, because it was originally written for children. It is a story that takes them on an adventure, where they fight against evil, defeat it, and return to the comforts of home. It also teaches important lessons like change and overcoming temptation. I will say this often but just because a work is written for children doesn’t mean that it is childish. It merely simplifies things and makes it easier to understand the story, its characters, and the lessons that are meant to be learned.

I finished this book in less then two days. I couldn’t put it down. I find it somewhat amusing to think that I enjoyed this book more when I became an adult then I did when I was a child. It is a shame. Despite my lack luster opinion of the book as a child, I look forward to reading this book to my children. I want to them to experience the same enchanting world presented in this book that I have experienced and now come to cherish. Even if they are like me and don’t absorb this story in childhood, hopefully they will come to appreciate its magic in time.

Masterpiece

 

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit