Thursday, December 25, 2014

5 Star Stable

Sharing a Christmas blog post has been on my agenda since Black Friday, but for the majority of the month I couldn't think of anything unique to write. I knew that the birth of the Savior in and of itself was fit to print, but I also wanted to share a message that wouldn't be lost in the monotony of ritualistic Christian gratitude. The commercialization of Christmas is overdone, as is a narrative of Christ's birth (Luke beat us all to the punch with that one). To be honest, I don't have any moving Christmas tales from my own life, so I am settling for a post about something I learned from my personal study of the Savior's life this year that I could apply to my own circumstances.

I have lost track of the number of times things haven't gone as I planned and in turn lead to much better results. I have gone through my own personal version of the pride cycle many a time.The Poppe Pride Perennial has been known to go through the following steps:

1. I create a meticulous plan that generally spans from the moment I pen it until approximately the end of eternity. 
2. Shortly thereafter, something doesn't go as I said it should.
3. I get frustrated and begin to believe that nothing will ever go right.
4. I pray and have a one sided rant session with Heavenly Father.
5. I feel guilty and repent for my lack of faith and slightly angry mental tone in step 4's prayer.
6. I decide to live life and see what happens now that things are going Heavenly Father's way and not my own.
7. I always come to find that Heavenly Father's plan allowed for my wishes as well as His.
8.1. I feel more guilt because I realize that I am happier than I would have been if my life followed my plan... I repent some more and add in a lengthy gratitude list.
9. I rededicate myself to trusting Heavenly Father and promise that I will never doubt His hand in my life again.
10. Repeat steps 1-9.

The largest examples of this have been when I moved to Minnesota in high school, went to BYU, and came on a mission. All were things I didn't want to do at the outset and turned out to be the biggest blessings in my life. As I have been serving a mission I have made it a goal to leave the field with 100% faith in Heavenly Father's plan for me. I have worked very hard to cut out steps 2-8.1 of the PPP and instead focus immediately on being grateful for the path my life has taken. A part of this growth cycle has included looking for the hand of Heavenly Father in other people's lives in the scriptures. This lead me to a unique observation while viewing a Nativity film this year.

As I watched Joseph lead a swollen and fatigued Mary through the crowded street of Bethlehem I started to day dream because the story was so familiar. Luckily I snapped back to attention as Joseph knocked on the door of an inn and was immediately shown the crowd of people and told that there was no room. For the first time in my life I found myself thinking that it was a blessing that they weren't admitted into an inn. I'm sure that delivering a child in a stable was not in Mary's birth plan, but it sure beat delivering the son of God in a rambunctious and over occupied hotel. How often do we think of the humble circumstances of the Lord's birth without associating it with the blessing it turned out to be for Mary and Joseph? They were able to privately absorb all that was happening to them. It isn't mentioned in scripture, but I imagine Mary's heart brimming with gratitude that her plan was exchanged for something better. No awkward onlookers, no Roman tax collectors, no nosy women trying to give unnecessary advice. Nothing. Nothing but two new parents, a host of angels, a handful of quiet livestock, and the spirit. It wasn't ideal, but it was exactly what the young couple needed to peacefully start their lives as the earthly caregivers of the first gift to humankind. It wasn't the Marriott, but Mary did deliver the Prince of Peace in a 5 star stable and that quiet delivery has given all of us the opportunity to return to our own 5 star mansions above.

Merry Christmas all! If you haven't already, explore this great Christmas website. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Leap from Laman to Nephi

A brief introduction of the Book of Mormon will be necessary for this post to make sense.

In 600 B.C. a prophet and his family left Jerusalem and set out for the American continents. As is usually the case, Heavenly Father saw fit to try the family during their already stressful jump from one hemisphere to another. As such, they spent eight years being lead through the wilderness before they set sail for a land of promise and opportunity. This prophet had a quiver full of children, but we are only going to focus on three of them; Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel. Nephi was, and continues to be, the poster child for exact obedience and faith. Laman and Lemuel were just punks. Whenever the Lord asked the boys to do something, Nephi willingly obliged and Laman and Lemuel muttered, cursed, and published angsty tweets and insta posts. 


Children who grow up in the LDS faith are told to be like Nephi more times than anyone else, save Jesus himself. Every parent wants a Nephi, every child thinks they already are a Nephi, and every girl wants to marry a Nephi. One of the most quoted (and sung) scriptures in all of Mormondom accurately encapsulates Nephi's perfection, "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them." (1st Nephi 3:7).

As I have studied the Book of Mormon throughout my life I have always aligned myself with Nephi. I obey the commandments and I have an affinity for strappy sandals. I had a thought while studying one day on my mission though; Laman and Lemuel follow most of the commandments and adore strappy sandals too. The real thing that sets Nephi apart from them is his attitude. My mind continued to ponder the significant differences between the brothers and I slowly started to realize that I should have been aligning myself more closely with Laman or Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel went back with Nephi to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates and lady friends.  They also wandered in the wilderness and embarked on the transoceanic journey to a new land. On their chore chart, they had a sticker for completing all of the same tasks that Nephi did.

I mean, my pedicure is nicer than his, but we both have a sandal fetish.

Not a lot of insight is given as to why Laman and Lemuel were generally obedient. They clearly never wanted to do what was asked of them, but frequently they did it anyway. Perhaps fear motivated them (they were visited by a threatening angel after all), boredom, or even a very small desire to actually do what is right (though this is unlikely). Perhaps a part of them hoped that if they would obey they would actually get what they wanted (as has been my motivation far too often in life). Selfishness likely lined their motives and weaved itself between the mumbles, groans, and foot stomping. In this respect, aren't we all a little like Laman and Lemuel? How many times have sighs and grumbles been the precursor to a visiting teaching appointment? How often do we accept callings because we feel like we can't say no? Do we give fast and tithing offerings out of obligation or devotion? I know I've been guilty of going through the motions in the hopes that blessings would greet me on the other side. I am Laman on occasions and Lemuel on others. I whine, ignore, and doubt.

Perhaps the most recent example of my Lamanitis was when I hesitantly entered the MTC.  It is no mystery for those who know me (or those that read this previous post) that a mission was never in my life plan. Even after I entered the MTC I spent sleepless nights contemplating if I really wanted to follow through with the 18 month decision I had just made. There were things I genuinely enjoyed about my mission, but really I kind of just wanted to be back in Provo in the comfortable environment I spent nine semesters creating. With doubt overshadowing my small pinprick of desire, I continued to do what I knew I needed to do and attempted to fan the delicate flame of devotion alight in my heart.  It wasn't until I had been out a little over a month that I actually wanted to be on a mission. I started the transition from Laman to Nephi at this point. It took a lot of study and prayer to actually develop a relationship with Jesus Christ that enabled me to want to serve him. I didn't realize how selfish I was until I came on a mission.  It had always been easy to follow the commandments and promptings of the Lord because his will didn't vary from mine. In my first real attempt to put the Lord's will before my own I was failing miserably. Did I truly love him? I think that I did, but I was experiencing the pains of outgrowing my childlike reverence for his name and actually getting to know the brother I had never spent much time with.

Sister Laman Poppe. January 29, 2014; her first day in the MTC
At times the cavity seems wider than it is. It takes a mighty leap to get from a Laman-like attitude to one like Nephi's, but it isn't impossible.  Essentially we just have to develop a relationship with Christ that leads to enough love that we follow his example because we want to, not because we feel like we have to.  Perhaps following Nephi's example is a stepping stone on our journey to becoming more like Jesus Christ.