Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Remembering President Hinckley

(I apologize for the crappy formatting. Much to learn I still have. :/ )

So a brief intro for those of you reading this who are not members of my faith: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by living apostles and prophets. They lead the Church based on direct revelation from God. The current prophet and president of the Church is Thomas S. Monson. Today’s blog post is about the fifteenth president of the Church and President Monson’s predecessor, Gordon B. Hinckley. President Hinckley’s teachings are the course of study for Priesthood and Relief Society classes in the Church this year. Reflecting on President Hinckley’s life has caused me to feel, how shall we say, a little nostalgic. But personal blogs are for reminiscing, so let me put it to use.
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A Leader During a Time of Change

Technically Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet when I was born. But I don’t remember him. Or President Howard W. Hunter. I don’t remember when President Hinckley became the prophet. He was just always there.

Gordon B. Hinckley made a huge mark on the Church. His administration was a time of growth and growth requires a lot of energy. So I remember his energy, and the energy that everyone in the Church felt at that time. He did a lot in bringing the Church into the public spotlight and representing us to the media. He brought the Church into the age of the Internet. When I was a little kid my family had to go to our chapel to watch General Conference, but by the time President Hinckley passed we were staying home for 3 or more sessions and watching or listening to it on the internet.

During his time as prophet, membership in the church passed 11 million worldwide and then accelerated (Today we’re past 14 million). President Hinckley made long, arduous trips across the globe to visit as many of the Latter-day Saints as he could and to meet with world civic leaders.

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And he built temples. Dozens of them. President Hinckley had a deep reverence for the temple. It was mentioned at his funeral mentioned that every time he reached the underground parking entrance to the Salt Lake Temple he would remove his hat as a sign of respect. With such a reverence for the temple, it’s not surprising that he made such an effort to bring the blessings of the temple to the saints around the world.

While Gordon B. Hinckley was the president, the Church went from under 50 temples in the early 90s to 124 or so in the late 2000s. The San Antonio Texas temple was one of these temples. I saw him in person twice in my lifetime: when he came down to Texas in June of 2001 I think to announce the temple and in May of 2005 when he came for the dedication.

He held a special meeting for the youth right before the Heart of Texas Jubilee, the cultural event we had slaved putting together to celebrate the temple. He told a lot of jokes, I recall, but I can’t remember exactly what most of them were. He did say to the adults that this meeting was for the youth: “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” He gave us four of his nine “Be’s” but I can’t remember which ones. President Hinckley put a lot of emphasis on the youth, in his ministry. He taught us to stay true to our values, no matter what.
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I remember at the dedication he made a joke about green bananas and advised against growing old. He also apologized for his husky voice due to the superior air quality of San Antonio to Salt Lake. That’s some serious shade right there.

He was just so COOL. But more importantly he loved all of the members of the Church. And everyone who met with him felt it.

A Wry Sense of Humor

One thing I loved President Hinckley for was his humor. He was known to share funny anecdotes in his conference talks. And he could crack good one-liners occasionally.

But one way he made people laugh, though, was how he surprised them with his personality. Mike Wallace’s introduction to Standing for Something is one of the most hilarious things ever written, mostly because it is about how taken aback he was to interview President Hinckley, and about how agog everyone else was that President Hinckley had the nerve to go on Sixty Minutes. Nerve. That’s a great word to describe president Hinckley.

President Hinckley didn’t let old age slow him down from doing the Lord’s work--or being his usual exuberant self. I remember at his funeral, President Monson told this story. He and President Hinckley went to the same doctor. One time at a doctor’s visit, the doctor told President Monson that President Hinckley didn’t actually use his cane to support himself while he walked. More often than not, he used his cane to wave at people. The doctor politely asked President Monson if he would intervene and tell President Hinckley to actually use his cane like he was supposed to. But President Monson replied, “You’re the doctor. You tell him.”

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When he rededicated the Tabernacle on Temple Square, President Hinckley informed the congregation with some regret that, although many improvements had been made to the historic structure, the benches were still just as hard.

On humor, he said, “In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.”

He saw humor as a better way to handle life’s difficulties than anger or despair, and that was part of his overall philosophy.

Gordon B. Hinckley and Optimism

Gordon B. Hinckley was an apostle and later president of the Church in times when the world at large was undergoing political, economic, and social turmoil. An address he gave to BYU in 1974 came right on the heels of Nixon’s resignation. He commented on how he had read in the newspapers about Gerald R. Ford pardoning Nixon, and more disturbingly how public opinion at the time criticized Ford for doing so. President Hinckley said to himself, “Surely, this is the age and place of the gifted pickle-sucker.”
“I come this morning with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey and blossoms. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated.
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What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.”
Gordon B. Hinckley was President of the Church when 9/11 happened. In the General Conference that followed--the very weekend that the war began in Afghanistan--President Hinckley gave an address that, in my opinion, reflected his teachings on the need for hope and optimism even in times of distress.
I do not wish to be an alarmist. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I am optimistic. I do not believe the time is here when an all-consuming calamity will overtake us. I earnestly pray that it may not. There is so much of the Lord’s work yet to be done. We, and our children after us, must do it….

God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God….
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Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.

He told us repeatedly that even though there is political and economic turmoil in the world at large, we should rejoice because of how the Gospel is spreading and how medicine and technology are improving every day--in other words, how God is pouring out blessings for humankind. It is a message that is reiterated in General Conference as recently as last October, and it is a message that needs to be heard more than ever today.
President Hinckley urged Latter-day Saints to remember the Savior, Jesus Christ, who said on multiple occasions to the followers in His day, “Fear not.”

Things Will Work Out

It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don't worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.
(Quote pulled from Positive Thinkers Journal)

I was in the middle of a personal crisis in late January of 2008. One Sunday night, I asked my dad for a priesthood blessing. He was in the middle of giving it when the phone rang. My mom got up to answer it. When Dad had finished blessing me, Mom told us that the call was from our grandma up in Utah. President Hinckley had passed away.

President Hinckley "knights" President Eyring after his promotion to the First Presidency, about ten years ago. From an article written shortly after President Hinckley's death
(Deseret News)

I was kind of stunned by the news. Stunned enough that the next day at school I was too dazed to pay much attention to my thorn in the flesh. Sadly, I wasn’t one of those cool teenagers who had a cell phone with a texting plan and I never got the memo that said wear your church clothes to school in honor of President Hinckley.
I was still working on getting my drivers’ license at the time and that Saturday I drove on Interstate 10 for the first time when I went out to help Dad with some errands. In the afternoon we went home and watched President Hinckley’s funeral over the computer.
Even after his passing, he made a big impact on my life. That fall, due to my increasing personal stress, I moved to Arizona to attend school for a year at Snowflake High School. My art teacher there had one of President Hinckley’s quotes on optimism on his desk. But I kind of didn’t believe in it. Optimism hadn’t fixed my social situation back in Texas.

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Aggieland Mormons via Pinterest

Then in April of 2009 I went to Disneyland for the first time. Sure, it’s the happiest place on earth, but there were some stressful moments on that trip. Like how I started my period when we pulled over for a break in Flagstaff and I didn’t have any feminine supplies. And then my friends and I were running late to an event with our group and we had to almost run all the way from one side of California Adventure to backstage at Disneyland. And then the morning of the second day I woke up and threw up.
The second night for some reason I didn’t want to ride on Space Mountain. What was more, I made a fool of myself by talking my friends out of not going because we were trying our best to stay together in groups. I felt really bad afterward, and to this day I think it would’ve been smarter to just go on the ride with my friends even if I didn’t want to.
But if we had gone on Space Mountain, we would never have emerged onto the main square at Disneyland right in time for the most amazing fireworks display I had ever seen. Fireworks so big and bright that they made it look like daytime.

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When I look back on that trip, I think of everything that went right: the nice hotel we stayed in, riding The Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean twice each, the Aladdin musical, goofing off with my friends, and going to the beach before we headed back to Arizona.
And the fireworks. Especially the fireworks.
And I think of President Hinckley.  Things did work out. Some things went wrong and some things were less than perfect, but the way everything went, it went for the better.
Looking back at my life, things did go wrong, but they also did work out in the end. Leaving the only school I had known was a disappointment, but going to Snowflake for a year was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And then having to leave Arizona and go back to Texas to finish my senior year was the worst, but it wasn’t really so bad. And I was rewarded with tenfold blessings when I got to BYU.
President Hinckley was, in fact, right when he said that things do work out for the better. So I can have the faith that, no matter what bad things I’m going through right now, or will have to go through in the future, someday I will reach a better place, and I will be able to look back and see that everything that I went through happened for a reason.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

8 Snakes that Describe Me as a Slytherin

Two months ago, if you follow me on The Geeky Mormon, you will recall that I took the Pottermore sorting quiz and got Slytherin for my Hogwarts house. And I have decided to roll with it.

Now most people don't like snakes because in certain cultures they are associated with evil. In the Judeo-Christian tradition especially, the snake is associated with the Devil, and Satan is often referred to as a serpent.

But today I am here to point out to you that I am not that kind of a snake, neither as a Slytherin nor as a person. Not all snakes are evil, nor do they represent such.

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The ideal snake I wish to be associated with? The Brass Serpent, which, of course, represents Christ.

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Scriptural references: Numbers 21: 6-9Alma 33:19-21

Here's another thing to consider: I am not a huge fan of venomous snakes. Heck, no. Growing up in Texas we'd get big rattlesnakes sometimes. Summer of 2007 Dad spotted a rattlesnake in the barn. For a month when I'd go out to feed the rabbits I wore tennis shoes instead of sandals, and I was mortally afraid for our cats. I take venomous snakes seriously.

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This story is a little exceptional but you get my point

I'm more of a non-venomous kind of snake person. Maybe not anaconda/python huge. But I am a sucker for baby ball pythons.

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Also, HATS

Here's another snake to consider: in the story Mufaro's beautiful daughters (it was on Reading Rainbow once), the younger sister befriends a little snake that lives in her garden. She welcomes it because it will keep away the pests. The snake is one of the many forms of a shape-shifting character that tests the two sisters.

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An internet meme that has thrived lately is the Snek meme. The snek is adorkable and sweet and pokes fun at its own ferocity. It is a good mascot for a Slytherin who is nice and cute and recognizes her own awkwardness.

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Tiny Snek Comics, Facebook

The Daily Dot: The Snek Meme

Yes, I am a Slytherin. And you can boop my snoot anytime.

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The Daily Dot

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Trip Down to Texas

I got to go home for Christmas. For those of you who don't know me, home is in Texas, just outside of San Antonio. 

Hill just outside of New Braunfels, Texas

I don't care if my Christmas is white or brown. It's not really Christmas unless I'm with my family.

Dad put up lights in our front yard this year--this is the biggest light display we've ever had

It was a fun break. We played board games and watched season 3 of Clone Wars and went to the theater to see Rogue One. But that's how my family is: we love Star Wars.

My brothers Carl and Rex

Some of you probably wonder why I still call Texas home if (A) I've been living in Utah for the last six years and (B) I have no intention of going back to live permanently. I think the fact of the matter is, Texas is home because it shaped me. It's where I had the experiences that defined me as a person. There are people there that I know and love dearly even if I don't get to see them much anymore.

A country backroad

Living in the country is frustrating because you have to drive to get anywhere. But on the other hand, I loved growing up in the country because I was surrounded by wide, open spaces with lots of animals and few people--prime spots to be filled in with the imagination.

I also got to spend quality time with our family's cats. We have four. 

Jaguar, aka the Goo, on Christmas Morning

And of course, I will always be enamored of the culture and history of my home state. I've visited the Alamo and the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio more times than I can count. And I always love going back.

Horses grazing outside of Seguin, Texas

So Texas can be a great place for some people to live, but for where I am at in my life right now, it's not really a good fit. I have better job opportunities and more of a social life up here in Provo, even if I get frustrated with it sometimes. Plus, I hate the humidity down there. It was 80 degrees and humid the whole time I was down visiting last month. However, I am always happy to go back to Texas and visit. It's definitely a wonderful place. I always get excited when I meet someone else from the San Antonio/Austin area. Even if I end up spending the rest of my life somewhere else, I will always be proud to be Texan, because it's part of who I am.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Was 2016 Really That Bad?

I look on Social Media, and everybody says that 2016 was the worst year ever. Everybody is SO GLAD it is over. Even on Facebook, friends of mine are saying that they had a tough time.

I have to say that I agree on a few points. Although we narrowly avoided electing Lady Palpatine to the office of President of the United States, we did get Jabba that Trump instead.

There were a lot of celebrity deaths, and that was hard to swallow for the fans of those celebrities. But I have to admit I wasn’t affected by this trend until the very end.

This year was also really cruel to fictional characters. I won’t name names. *coughingattackBuckycoughcough*

It was a hard year personally. I had some real struggles with my depression and self-esteem and there were some scary moments. Even the things that were good to me, my mental issues turned or tried to turn into bad things. You could say that this was the year I realized that I was in trouble and I needed to do something about it.

But in reality, my 2016 was not a complete disaster. There were a lot of good things that happened this year. It is important in any reflection to remember the positives. So here are 16 reasons my 2016 didn’t suck (completely):

  1. The Martian--Seems like a good place to start. First thing I did when I got home from Christmas vacation last year was walk up the street to the Dollar Theater to see The Martian (and that fact is probably one of those things I will never get tired of mentioning). I have seen it three times since. I know I’m going to watch it one more time at some point in the future because I need to introduce my best friend to it. It is a fun, uplifting movie based on a fun, uplifting book. And now that I’ve read the book and seen the movie I get to be in the fandom and make contributions to it. The 70’s mix was a great jam for this year and probably deserves a category by itself. And The Martian is a movie I actually enjoyed that stars Matt Damon so now I can’t say I don’t watch his movies without lying. (I can also say that I’ve seen a movie that Sebastian Stan was in that wasn’t Marvel. ;’) )

  2. I Started This Blog--Not only that, but I’ve written in it almost every week--I mean, 49/52 is PHENOMENAL. This is a new record for me. I am proud of myself.
  3. I became the weekly correspondent for The Geeky Mormon. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to handle that with writing weekly for this blog, but I did it. It was great to have more space to write geeky things about. I was even able to keep it going when I got a job and my life got even more busy.  I have even used TGM as a platform to spotlight my other friends in the geek community.
  4. I got an actual job--they say you’re not supposed to talk about your employers on social media, so just to be safe I won’t mention names here. I will say it is a thrift store, in Provo. If you know me personally then you know what I’m referring to. I got hired in the middle of May and I’ve been working there since. That’s the longest I’ve had a job since I got out of college but that’s partly because my supervisors have been very flexible with my personal needs. But it’s something else to feel good about. I have an income. I can buy my own rent and groceries. I’m able to pay for my own cosplays with what’s left over. My supervisors are great and willing to give me time off to go do volunteering, and my coworkers are wonderful to work with.
    Mark Loertscher Photography
  5. It was an excellent year to be the Scarlet Witch--ahhh, yes. The Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced Scarlet Witch to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015 and so at the following comic-cons Scarlet Witch cosplays were everywhere. But that didn’t stop me from putting on the arm warmers and black nail polish whenever I got the chance, especially for charity work. And seeing Wanda Maximoff kick butt in Captain America: Civil War was one of the highlights of that film. #TeamCap #TeamWanda
  6. I resumed regular visits with a therapist--I did say this was a rough year for me mentally, didn’t I? Well, thankfully I had a therapist to help me talk through the harder stuff.
  7. There was a Cole Family Reunion--Basically we rented a huge resort cabin in Duchesne and chilled for a few days, which was fine by me. It’s kind of hard to want to be around all these people when you’re an introvert but it does pay off when you make an effort. You love these people for a reason.
  8. Also a Cole Family Wedding--I didn’t get to go to the Fourth of July in Taylor this year due to work, which was a travesty. But I did get to sneak down to Mesa for my cousin Hannah’s wedding. I went down with her brother Cole and helped pay for gas and slept in the car like an adult. I had fun fixing flower arrangements, celebrating my cousin’s marriage and seeing my relatives again.
  9. My best friend got married and I got to be a bridesmaid--Right before I went home for Christmas this year (so only a couple of weeks ago, but still it was last year) I got to be a bridesmaid. Abby and I met the first day of Freshman orientation at BYU and we’ve been tight ever since. She and her hubby Bryce are so sweet together. I am so happy I got to be a part of her special day, even if it was on December 16th ;) 
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    Photo courtesy of Abigail Prince

  10. Jeremy Renner came to FanX--Hawkeye never looked more like a hawk in his life. I mean:
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    The Salt Lake Tribune
    Mark Hamill came to Comic Con--That was a treat. Salt Lake Comic Con rented out the Vivint SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake and while I was afraid it was going to be a hassle it really wasn’t. I got to sit for about an hour and listen to him tell stories about his career, about being the Joker but more importantly (to me) being Luke Skywalker.  And the pre-show with my fellow Star Wars fans? Worth coming early for!
  12. Everything Cosplay--Last year, one of my New Year’s resolutions, along with this blog, was to step up my cosplay game. And I did it. I’ve made at least fifteen cosplays, most of them from casual clothes but a handful from scratch. I’ve gone out and done more with my cosplays this year, too--in addition to comic con, I’ve also done fan videos and photo shoots. My resolution this year? Keep going. I have at least fifteen more cosplay ideas in my head, and some are already in the works.
  13. Kids Heroes--The trick with all of those costumes I have is to have a use for them. Some of my more kid-friendly or popular characters I have a niche for with the Kids Heroes Foundation. But while going out and being a character is fun, it’s been even more special to go out and serve people, to actually make a difference by being someone they know and love.
  14. I ended this year right by getting a new smartphone that I can actually use--Yes, you heard that right. I now have a Microsoft Lumia 640. I can now use social media and internet on my phone. I now have apps on a phone that is appropriate for using apps. I HAVE A CAMERA THAT TAKES QUALITY PICTURES THAT I CAN POST DIRECTLY TO THE INTERWEBS. TO SAY I’M EXCITED WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT.
  15. BLOODLINE--I don’t consider myself a judge of Star Wars books since I didn’t read the EU. But I have read a few other titles in the new Star Wars canon, some of them are great and some of them are meh. But none of them are as amazing as Bloodline. I can't say enough about how great this book is.
  16. I made an abundance of wonderful new friends--Some of these friends were in the singles wards I was in, but most of them were cosplayers like myself, and a good share of them are in Kids Heroes. Some of them I won’t get to see again or I’ve only met once or twice, but I love them just as much. Some of them I’ve only friended on Facebook and met in person if I was lucky. To all of you, thank you for this wonderful year we’ve shared together. Thank you for the memories we’ve made together and the fun times we’ve had. You were the best part. You made 2016 worth it.