The Introvert’s Guide to Black Friday

Both my wife and I generally avoid crowds, prefer quiet and stillness, and need time alone to renew and refuel every day. If charged with the crime of introversion, we would both be easily convicted on multiple counts. We recognize that there may be a few others out there like us that likewise have an aversion to kamikaze shopping on Black Friday. We, therefore, offer the following suggestions.

1. Shop your local grocery store (not the big box grocery stores with toy sections, though). The day after Thanksgiving is often one of the quietest days of the year for a regular grocery store. They’ll be surprised to see you! Buy a Christmas tree at Harmons like we did today and a very nice clerk on cold duty will tie it to the roof of your car and ask you all about your Thanksgiving while he’s at it. Because there’s no one else to talk to.

2. Go to the dollar store. Everything will be the same price that it was the day before Thanksgiving, the same price it is every other day of the year. This sales strategy does not attract a lot of shoppers on Black Friday. Ask them about their door busters (I did today): they’ll look back at you as if you asked them a question in Aka-Bo. Only two cars were in the parking lot this morning. Ours was one of them.

3. Get an oil change and a car wash. We will admit, things were hopping there. One car was in front of ours in the garage bay. And the free car wash that came with the oil change? I think we had to wait five minutes to get on the car conveyor. Yes, there were actually other cars going through the car wash in front of us. Most of them were dirty.

4. Fill up your car with gas at Costco where every day is Black Friday. Same crowds as any day. Four-minute wait, but at $1.89 per gallon, completely worth it. No gas pump rage today.

5. Go to your favorite health and supplement store, Dave’s Health and Nutrition, where they’re having a two-day sale. We did. More sales clerks than shoppers in the store when we got there. I will admit we got there late. Like 5:00 p.m. Everything was 20 percent off. Thinking of going back tomorrow.

6. Fill up your three-gallon water jug at the local artesian well. One other guy there. Pleasant conversation. Room for three people. There less than five minutes.

7. Oh, and shop on the Internet. Big crowd there but you likely will not run into anyone you know. In fact, you won’t run into anyone, unless you have Facebook open on one of your tabs.

8. Write a blog post, alone in your study, about being an introvert on Black Friday. 

It’s okay to maintain a low-pro on Black Friday. Or any other day of the year. It’s not that we don’t like people. We love people. It’s just that we’re not very interesting (or fun) to be around in large, noisy groups, where we run out of emotional fuel, fast.

A Different Kind of Thankful

Mike Fitzgerald, Thankful 13 5K, Nov. 26, 215

Of all my blessings, I am the most grateful for my trials. I just heard you ask, “Are you crazy?” Yes, crazy enough to see my trials in a redeeming light.

It seems like I have about a dozen trials going at any given time (don’t you, too), but I’ll only mention one here in particular. I have an illness—actually, a spectrum of impolite symptoms, all related to a single illness—that I have been working with since 2001. Never mind what it is. It’s my “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). You probably have one, too: that daily, gnawing reminder that you are temporarily mortal.

I have plead with it, wrestled with it, fled from it, begged it to leave, pounded it with mortar fire, all for nearly 15 years, and yet I often wake in the morning, and there he is again, “the messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7), back for round 5,343. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s not leaving me anytime soon. Yes, he’s very devoted, whether I like it or not. That said, while I won’t call him a friend, I will venture to call him a partner.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving morning, against all reasonable odds, I ran a 5K, in spite of my partner coming along. We just had to work together this week to make this happen. We each have to make compromises and yield ground to each other. It’s a marriage of sorts.

Over the years, I’ve discovered—by prayer, the guidance of the Spirit, and good health care—ways to manage this partnership: careful diet, regular exercise including running, of course, supplementation, various medications, and timing. This disease almost always has my attention, but that attention keeps me pondering, searching, wondering, praying, and planning. A good place to be.

What if you and I didn’t have any afflictions of any kind to keep us humble? What sort of people would we be if we spent our time moving between satin and velvet pillows? I think we’d all atrophy, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’d all be spoiled, spineless wimps. I don’t think God wants any of us to be wussies. We’re His children, for heaven’s sake. He wants us to grow up to be like Him.

Yesterday’s race was my seventh official race since I began running again last year. Four 5Ks, one 6K, a 10K, and a half marathon. What seemed impossible at one time is now possible again. It’s a miracle.

It seems like I’ve always needed a challenge, an adventure, to look forward to and to work towards. I have an illness that gets in my way (plus a very busy schedule) so it’s a bit of a steeplechase. But I beat 15 runners yesterday for the third spot in my age group, and I finished in about the top 20 percent overall in a field of 1,200 runners. Such achievements, as modest as they seem, were unthinkable a few years ago. My time wasn’t my best, but I feel good about it. I am already plotting ways to crush my next race.

Christ said that His “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). One thing I have a testimony of is that I’m a perfect candidate for that promise. I can’t make myself perfect, not alone. No one can. I need help. Tons of it.

My trials have taught me Who to turn to for help. With His blessings, you and I can make wonderful things happen. Sometimes incredible things. That’s why, above all, I’m grateful for my trials. There’s just no other way to grow in a lasting way. It’s the “bomb” of blessings.

Lucifer’s "Facebook Page"

Those who were once good friends are now mocking you on social media for your steadiness in your faith. It’s troubling to you. It is to me, too. Those who were once active in your faith have found a new form of activity. It’s disturbing but this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Imagine with me for a few minutes how it might have began in the premortal world.

Courtesy LDS Media Library
Lucifer had a very popular “Facebook page.” His posts were smart and often funny, his assertions well-reasoned, his arguments, pointed, persuasive, well-researched. Though he sometimes demonstrated a fiery self-righteousness, he was generally revered as one of the sons of the morning. He was very confident in his arguments and gave the impression that he was always right and that everyone else was wrong, including his Father, Elohim, and his older brother, Jehovah.
He often made bold claims to his rights and the rights of all of God’s children, and that God was ignoring those rights. Before long, things started getting out of hand. His contempt for our Father grew and he became more and more negative and disrespectful towards Him—and His rules and laws. On any given day, you could read a lot of clever put-downs on his timeline, posts dripping with wrath, indignation, and even threats. 
Imagine his power to convince and persuade others, and his finesse at positioning himself as a hero, full of hard-won wisdom. He had found what he termed as truth—important facts that our Father had overlooked—and he felt morally obligated to spread it to everyone who would listen. He had millions upon millions of friends and followers. How could someone so smart, so popular, so persuasive, so respected, so handsome, so clever, and so “with the times” possibly be wrong? 
Not everyone believed him, I’m happy to report. These had a quiet confidence and bided there time. They knew a war of sorts was about to break out and they were prepared for it. They responded to every one of his event invites with “not going.” They spent a lot of time talking and listening to Elohim and Jehovah and to their heavenly mother. They used no coercion, no mocking, no jarring justifications. They didn’t need to. They followed Father loyally, in spite of some fierce opposition and mounting public scorn. 
Jehovah didn’t have a “Facebook page.” He was very well known without having to rely on social media. He was always respectful of others and of their developing opinions, but He never let there be any doubt about where He stood on the issues. He was not shy about what and Who He stood for. 
Despite Jehovah’s pleadings to the contrary, war soon began, a war fought with words, ideas, convictions, and testimony. It was a spiritual war. It was a dangerous and stressful time for the children of the kingdom. Many rose up in open rebellion against our Father, though they claimed they were actually in support of Him. He just needed to rethink His policies, they claimed. He needed to ask the right questions, come to His senses, and then all would be well.

Millions lost their spiritual lives in the ensuing battles, but the Father’s warriors of light defeated the enemy in battle after battle, though many of them suffered deep wounds. Father wept over those who defected to the “other side” as did His followers.  

In a last ditch effort to make himself out as the actual victor, Lucifer announced to his millions of followers that they were gathering together at a big public park near one of Father’s houses and publicly declaring their resignation from heaven and from Father’s family. Lucifer’s event was reasonably successful and got a lot of press attention. Billions followed his lead.
After an unsuccessful and rather embarrassing coup attempt, Lucifer and his minions of opinion were marched out of the kingdom and sent to a new world, far, far away. And here the war continues. 

Second Coming: In the Last Days

I’ve compiled posts from this blog on the Second Coming into book form and called it In the Last Days: A Brief Guide to Christ’s Second Coming for Latter-day Saints. The book is available on Kindle (free to Prime and Kindle Unlimited users) and as a free PDF download.

You can also buy a copy in paperback. Both the Kindle version (if you don’t have a free option) and the paperback are offered at the lowest possible prices that are available through Amazon and CreateSpace. (I’m not in this for money.)

The guide examines a wide variety of scriptural passages that cast light on the Last Days, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Millennium, and the end of the world. It retells events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ, mainly through the Standard Works—the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—but also through archeological, historical, and statistical sources.

The original posts appeared on this blog between September 2014 and November 2015.

As always, thank you for reading.

The War of Words Continues

There was a war in heaven. I don’t remember it well, but by accounts it was a war of words, a war of ideas. It didn’t end there; the war continues on earth. Like many of you, I’ve been fighting that war for a long time and have picked up a few lessons along the way.

The apostle John tells us that we overcame Lucifer, “the accuser of our brethren,” in that war through the blood of the Lamb—the atonement of Christ—and by the “word of our testimony” (Revelation 12:11). That’s also how we can overcome modern accusers.

I gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ when I was 17 years old. It has never left me. Perhaps I should say I’ve tried hard to never leave it. I have treated it kindly and have been as loyal to it as I would be to a dear, trusted friend. It has never let me down, in spite of my being frustratingly mortal.

The path of discipleship is not an easy path, but it is simple. I love the path. If I could give you a visual idea of a testimony, I’d say it’s like a kayak. It’ll keep you afloat in the roughest of waters, as long as you keep paddling. Even when you’ve been upside down and under water, if you just keep paddling, you’ll stay alive and safe and find your way back to the surface. Drenched, but safe. Paddling is like discipleship.

When Lucifer was cast down, the Book of Moses tells us that “he became . . . the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:4; emphasis added).

How does Satan lead us captive? He is more able to deceive us when we don’t hearken to—listen and obey—the Lord’s voice.

How do we hear the Lord’s voice? Through the voice of the scriptures, the voice of His prophets, and by the still, small voice of the Spirit to our hearts.

Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (D&C 1:38.)

1 Corinthians 13 teaches about the character of love and, quite honestly, I don’t feel obligated in the least to listen to any voice that doesn’t match that character. There is no need to heed a proud, defiant, mocking, flippant, contentious voice, for the spirit of contention is of the devil (3 Nephi 11:29). If it’s contentious, it’s driven by pride (Proverbs 13:10). And if it isn’t love, it’s probably coming from “the great and spacious building [which is] the pride of the world (1 Nephi 11:36). So, no. No, thank you.

Where there is darkness, there are torrents of contention and doubt; where there is light, we find “living waters” (1 Nephi 11:25)—and love and patience and unselfishness and humility and a willingness to listen and be wrong—for “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (NIV 1 Corinthians 13:4). Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (NIV 1 Corinthians 13:7).

Love is our true home. It’s where we find true peace. Everything else is a two-star motel.

Second Coming: Angels Sounding the Trump of God

Courtesy LDS Media Library
Statue of the Angel Moroni atop the Nauvoo Temple

At or just before His Second Coming, seven angels will sound the trump of God to the inhabitants of the earth, preparing them for the appearance of Jesus Christ. All nations on earth will hear these startling messages of judgment and destruction (D&C 88:94) and “fear shall come upon all people” (D&C 88:91).

Seven is a sacred number representing perfection or completeness. These angels will have a lot to say and do to finish their work of preparation. Following is a recap of some of their messages as recorded in the Book of Revelation, chapter 8 through 18 and in the Doctrine and Covenants chapter 88 verses 87 through 116.

In the Book of Revelation, beginning in chapter 8, John writes of “seven angels which had the seven trumpets [who] prepared themselves to sound” (Revelation 8:6). This chapter reveals that these angels will bring destruction to the earth:

• “The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up” (v. 7).

• “And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed” (v. 8–9; compare 16:3).

• “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter” (v. 10–11; compare 16:4–7).

• “And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise” (v. 12; compare 16:8–9).

The first 12 verses of chapter 9 speaks of the fifth angel who has the key to the bottomless pit and who will send forth and hurt “those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (v. 4; compare 16:10–11). Verses 13 through 31 talk of the sixth angel. If my math is right, this angel foretells the appearance of 200,000,000 mounted horsemen—when or where was there ever an army to compare—who go forth to destroy many of those who will not repent. (See also chapter 16:12–16).

In chapter 10 of Revelation, the seventh angel (v. 7) comes down from heaven (v. 1) and “in his hand [he has] a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices” (v. 2–3). John was forbidden to write what the seven thunders uttered but upon ingesting the little book in the angel’s hand was promised that he would yet prophesy “before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings (v. 11). (See also chapter 16:17–21).

Then again, in the 14th chapter of Revelation, we read of “another angel fly[ing] in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6–7).

Then another angel speaks saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (v. 8). Then the third angel speaks: “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb . . .” (v. 9–11).  And several others followed, one saying: “Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (v. 15–20).

In Revelation 15, John tells us that the seven angels will pour out the last plagues on the earth.

And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled. (Revelation 15:6–8.)

Chapter 16 recounts the plagues and their effect on those who “repented not of their deeds” (v. 11).

Doctrine and Covenants 88:92–106: also speaks of seven angels, angels crying with a loud voice: “Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (v. 92).

• Though not named, the first angel will sound with these words: “That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned” (v. 94; compare Revelation 17).

• The second angel: “Then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh” (v. 99).

• The third angel: “Then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation; and these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth” (v. 100–101).

• The fourth angel: “There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still” (v. 102).

• The fifth angel: “Committeth the everlasting gospel—flying through the midst of heaven, unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people; and this shall be the sound of his trump, saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth—for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying: Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come” (v. 103–104; compare Revelation 14:6–7).

• The sixth angel: “She is fallen who made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; she is fallen, is fallen!” (v. 105).

• Finally, the seventh angel: “It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (v. 106; compare Revelation 16:17).

Then the first through the seventh angels shall sound again, revealing “the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God” during the first through the seventh thousand-year periods (see D&C 88:108–110).

What are we to learn from these accounts? That God will send seven angels at or near Christ’s coming and these angels will both pronounce and execute secret acts, woes, judgments, and destructions that will come upon the earth at the time of Christ’s Second Coming and also, it seems, at the end of the temporal world, which will occur after the Millennium.

To the faithful, the trump of angels will be welcome, glorious, and joyous; for those who are not faithful, no so much.