Welcome! I am Samuel Young, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This website, previously a blog about my experiences as a missionary, is about my post-mission life. If you have questions about anything, feel free to ask me! You can send me a Facebook message or leave a comment. The things that I write or post here are my own views and are not authorized or official statements of the Church. Make it a wonderful day!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Becoming As a Little Child

In the last few months, I've become a Sunbeam teacher in my church. What that means is that I'm in charge of teaching and watching over the three-year-olds for two hours so that their parents can attend Sunday School and other Church meetings. It has been an amazing experience, a roller-coaster ride at times, and has made me really think about what little children mean.

When I was on my mission, I was on exchanges once with our zone leaders. The zone leaders covered a young single adult ward, and they had a dinner appointment that night with a family I didn't know. When we got there, the whole time there was this very friendly six-year-old girl named Katie who would come up to us and ask us questions and tell us how her day at school was and show us her stuffed animal and so on. At first it was a little annoying (you could see her dad with a tired look on his face sighing as he hopelessly tried to stop her from "harassing" us), but slowly the persistent, impetuous annoyance turned into something different.

At another time, Elder Camerone* and I were visiting a new family who had just moved into our ward. While we were sharing a spiritual thought and asking if they knew anyone we could teach, their little three-year-old walked in, laden with toy cooking utensils and necklaces that she wanted us missionaries to hold so she could play some sort of game. At one point, Elder Camerone jokingly said, "She wants to play make believe? Her entire world is make believe!"

At yet another time, I was in the car with a family that had a little three-year-old boy that was known for being rowdy and hard to manage. I'm pretty convinced his mother is an angel for dealing with him, his younger sister, and being pregnant with another one on the way. It was near Halloween, and Dad points out, "Cameron, look at that pumpkin. It has hearts for eyes!"

And Cameron says, "That means he loves somebody!"

Mom says, "Who does he love, Cameron?"

After thinking for a few seconds, Cameron says proudly, "All of the other pumpkins!"

I have no idea exactly what raising kids is like. I've never been married and I've never had a kid myself. But I'm starting to get an idea of the joy they bring, and that it is worth the labor and headaches and frustrations. Something's changed over the last few years, and I know that I really want to be a dad someday and have kids of my own. I want to be their best friend and their ally, their Superman, the guy who scares off the robbers at night, the one who tells good bedtime stories and who makes time to be there for them, and so on. A tall order for sure, but not a problem with God's help.

I sometimes wonder what the multitudes were thinking when Jesus told them they had to become as a little child to enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Some of them might have been thinking, "That child?! Those little brats? What qualities of a puking child qualify someone to make it to Heaven? Why not someone educated, certified?"

Then again, the Savior doesn't slap us for trying to take a few baby steps and failing. He only asks that we try again. He doesn't lambaste us for the dirty diapers we leave Him to clean up -- He just asks that we try harder not to make those messes in the future. He understands that our prayers are often filled with the mindless drama and complaints arising from our very limited and presentist perspective of life -- in fact, He wants us to pray about those mundane details.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that as I grow up, I more and more enjoy being a child of God, and I want to give that to my own children. Kids are amazing, and I hope our societies and governments realize the importance of families because children have so much to teach us. As I learn more about how to raise children, I come to feel how much God loves me and those around me -- not because I deserve it but because I am His child. Kids are amazing because they remind us of our own identity, especially when other people, philosophies, governments, or media try to redefine it.

When I see myself and other people as children of God, it's very liberating. I don't have to berate myself for judging them or focus on their faults. I don't have to be ruled by social norms that define ingroups and outgroups, nor do I have to be part of them. De facto inclusion in God's family at all times is not restrictive to me; it is the one thing that connects me with other people when so many forces want me to push them away. It truly is the only connection that survives all divisions of race, color, intellect, economics, politics, and spatial geography. And I'm grateful I never have to lose that.

* Names have been changed.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What makes you a mother or father? [Part 1]

I grew up in a pretty average family—I have a mom and a dad and a sister and a brother. We each had our share of family challenges, and overall I think we’ve turned out okay. Not everyone is as lucky, and many of my friends don’t have a father living in their home. Others have a father, but he doesn’t love them or care for them.

When I started serving my mission, I was assigned a trainer—another missionary who had enough experience and trust to show someone new the ropes. My trainer, Elder Alderman,1 was from southern Utah and was a lot different than I was. We didn’t share a lot of the same interests. But he loved me and helped me learn how to be a Christlike missionary.

Sometimes, elders and sisters refer to their trainers as “dad” or “mom,” respectively. Though these terms are slang and not encouraged, they made me think about what really makes a father a father. I’ve believe that the term “mother” or “father” is more a functional term than it is descriptive of a biological relationship.

Like my trainer, parents have some of the the same responsibilities of a missionary trainer. My parents were here to train me how to be successful in the world, specifically by teaching me about Jesus Christ and how to follow Him. They are responsible to provide for my needs and ultimately want me to grow so that I can provide for myself and my children.

Similarly, I am here to love my children and help them come to know that God loves them too. Sometimes that happens quickly, and more often it takes some time. Ultimately, part of my measure of success as a parent will be the kind of people my grandchildren and great-grandchildren turn out to be.

Fortunately, we can show love and care to all children, whether or not we are their birth father or mother. There are many men and women who remarried after a marriage ended in death or divorce and cared for their spouse’s children as if they were their own. Conversely, becoming someone’s biological parent does not automatically grant you the qualities that make you a successful parent.

Similarly, many married couples who are not able to have children despair that they will never be parents. But they are able to provide love and care to nieces, nephews, those they babysit, and others.2 In a lot of ways, Elder Alderman was more a father to me than many biological fathers I’ve seen.

Our modern scriptures give us one of the most succinct definitions of a parent’s purpose:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents” (D&C 68:25).
I think following this simple scripture as a governing guideline can be simpler than the mountains of parenting guidebooks available today.

1. Name has been changed.
2. Of course, this does not excuse married couples who are able to have children from bearing and raising children.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Scriptures help us remember.


Many times in the scriptures, God commands His people to remember things:
  • "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)
  • "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation..." (Helaman 5:12)
  • "But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:17)
  • "I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old." (Psalms 77:11)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, "The scriptures also enlarge our memory by helping us not forget what we and earlier generations have learned. Those who either don’t have or ignore the recorded word of God eventually cease to believe in Him and forget the purpose of their existence" (see "The Blessings of Scripture", Ensign, May 2010).

King Mosiah and the Jaredites

One Book of Mormon story shows how scripture saved an entire kingdom.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Some thoughts about God

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as
They appeared to Joseph Smith in the
First Vision
I thought I would share some of my beliefs about God that are really special to me. I know that God is our Heavenly Father and that He loves us so much, more than we can imagine. I know that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son and that it is through Christ's Atonement that we can live with Heavenly Father again. I know that the Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to teach me truth, comfort me when I am feeling down, and warn me of ways I need to improve myself.

Through sincere prayer and through reading the Bible and Book of Mormon, I have come to know that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate Beings that are one in purpose. That purpose is to help us be saved and return to live with Heavenly Father as part of His family forever. These three Members of the Godhead work in such perfect unity that the scriptures sometimes describe them as "one God." I know that I can have a personal relationship with each of Them.

I know that God's purpose is to help us achieve "immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39). I am a child of Heavenly Father and thus I have the potential to become like Him. I know that He has placed us in families to learn and practice the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know these things are true, but more importantly, you can know for yourself that they are true. I promise in the name of the Lord that if you sincerely read the Book of Mormon, ponder its teachings and pray to know it is true, you will receive a spiritual answer from our Father in Heaven. You will know for sure.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Addiction recovery

We visited someone who had overcome an alcohol addiction and recently been baptized but then fell into his old habits and stopped coming to church. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is so important because many of us fall even after we make sacred covenants and promise to live the commandments.

A stake president in my last area said that life is like a single tennis match. The outcome of this match decides your destiny forever. You have been playing for three or four years, but on the other side of the court is Satan, who has been playing for twenty trillion years (figuratively). You cry out to Heavenly Father for help because there is no way you will defeat Satan on your own. Heavenly Father promises you two things: first, he will send Jesus Christ to be your partner on the court (like a doubles game). Jesus Christ will catch all the hits you miss. Heavenly Father will also send the Holy Ghost, which can tell you where the tennis ball will go before it gets there. If you use this help, you cannot fail.

Two ways Heavenly Father helps us become free include:
  1. Avoiding addiction in the first place, or preventing it from happening again (the Holy Ghost).
  2. Recovering from addiction if you mess up (Jesus Christ's Atonement).
After we repent from sins, we often sin again and again. Heavenly Father understood and planned for this possibility! He gave us commandments knowing perfectly well that we would sometimes surrender to temptations, be weak, and rebel against His commandments. Just as Satan's temptation isn't turned off in this life, we also must not turn off our efforts to repent each and every day. While the Atonement doesn't give us license to sin, it can help us recover.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints runs an Addiction Recovery Program for anyone who is struggling with any kind of addiction. It is based from the Twelve-Step Alcoholics Anonymous program but includes gospel principles from the scriptures and prophets and apostles in our day.

Friday, February 7, 2014

"Master, the Tempest is Raging!"

One of my favorite musical numbers in the October 2013 General Conference was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performance of what is maybe a lesser-sung hymn, "Master, the Tempest is Raging!" My experience with discouragement makes this hymn personal to me. The setting is from Matthew 8:23-27:
And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
The beautiful chorus shows Jesus' assurance that with His help, we can be calm and overcome any tempests in our life.

The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

I know that Jesus Christ is far more powerful than Satan will ever be. Through His Atonement, we will overcome all challenges if we follow His commandments, just as Joseph Smith and Jesus' Apostles did.

Faith precedes miracles

In the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni talks about how we must exercise faith in God before receiving His promised blessings. In Ether 12:6, we read:
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Underline added.)
When we talk about Joseph Smith's First Vision, we focus a lot on the fact that Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ both appeared to Joseph Smith and not as much on the intense tribulation that immediately preceded Their visit. Joseph Smith had decided on a time and place to ask God about what church was true, the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York being the place where "the place where [he] had previously designed to go" (JS-H 1:15). After beginning to offer his prayer, Joseph Smith was attacked by Satan, who did everything possible to prevent Joseph from asking God the question that would lead to us having Jesus Christ's true Church on the earth again (JS-H 1:15-16):
...I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God...just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
Only after enduring Satan's trial did Joseph Smith see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I too occasionally have experiences like this on my mission. I will feel terrible and discouraged in the morning, which leads to feelings like those of depression. Often I won't want to do any work at all but will still feel horrible sitting in our apartment. Many missionaries (probably most of them at some point) will experience serious trials of faith. But by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, praying for strength through His Atonement, and getting up to work anyway, we can and do overcome these discouragements sent from the devil. Once I start working, I always feel much better. First exercise faith, and then the blessings follow.