Maybe you know the definition of the word hyperbole, maybe not. In fact, if you’re like me, you may be struggling with its pronunciation, let alone its meaning.
It is kind of a strange word. Do you know what it means? You could check the dictionary to be certain. (An unabridged English dictionary has 470,000 words; you probably can’t memorize it completely. There is nothing wrong with trying to learn them all, but if that is your intention, get started quickly. That’s one new word a day for more than 1000 years.)
Another idea for finding the definition of hyperbole is checking the internet for help. That is a pretty good strategy. Google has become if not the best query tool, at least the most frequently used search engine of all time. But even with all its specialization and wealth of information, we can’t be sure about everything we read there.
Of course you want to use the best resources available when a question arises.
Why wouldn’t you?
Our times today are fraught with tough decisions and information overload. Confusion is the order of the day. Talk politics or world affairs or gender identity, and expect diverse opinions and passionate disagreements. Leaders and pundits have been discussing many of these topics literally for ages. Try to tackle the global health crisis or current diet craze and you will get just as many opinions with passionate appeals and severe consequences. Or just mention the social controversies of pornography, gender discrimination, homelessness, bullying, hunger, drug abuse, child exploitation, or unemployment, and you will make both friends and enemies all at the same time.
So what is one to do?
It can feel pretty lonely out there, like you have to do everything on your own and that nobody has your back. It seems like a misstep today is akin to failure. Where are the days of charitable tolerance, preparation, mutual respect, and congeniality? The peace of yesteryear is only a memory. Forgive me if I climb up on my soapbox for a minute, but the simplicity of childhood is gone. No, it is not just that I am past my peak and on the other side of the mountain (or over the hill, as they say). The hill has changed into a cliff. Carefree days of childhood don’t really happen anymore. The influence of blatant disregard for parents, acceptance of irreverent comedy, and allegiance to that which defies common decency and the principles we have held dear for centuries is not just at our doorsteps—it is inside our homes, sitting on the couch with its feet on the chaise and a hand in the fridge.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Is it too late?
Admittedly, times are tough, but we are meant to do hard things! Hey, when I was young, I had to walk 15 miles to school, uphill, in the snow, both ways. (I hope you looked up the word hyperbole!) So if you at times feel overwhelmed, it’s okay. That will pass. The Savior is already victorious, and as we align ourselves with Him, so are we.
There are a lot of smart cookies out there. I know. I work with a number of them every day. They frequent our neighborhoods as friends, mail carriers, doctors, pilots, construction workers, and any number of other honorable professions. The words seasoned or charming don’t just have to do with a barbecue or your significant other’s starry-eyed glances. Today, we have access to people and resources with collectively dozens of years of experience, talented personal relations skills, tactics, and tools that make the most of these qualities. In fact, if you think about trying to learn all of these skills on your own in order to get through life’s obstacles, it can be intimidating to say the least. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone.
Granted, it seems difficult to focus on tomorrow when you are struggling just getting through today. But we were never meant to get through life all on our own.
People are placed in our path for a reason.
One day when I was walking in the mall, I ran into an old friend from school. You could have knocked me over with a feather. He was literally the last person on Earth that I expected to see. As we caught up, I learned that he had gone into the military and has a home and family that I am dying to meet. It changed him. He was no longer the shy, timid, and unsure high school student that I remembered. My take is that he is confident, strong, and certain, with a host of opportunities in his future.
The military changed his life.
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon nowadays. I personally think that advice is given for a host of reasons that are far beyond the topic of this message, but there is one reason in particular that I want to mention today: military strategy.
Why would that be such a prevalent topic in the Book of Mormon? I don’t know all the reasons, but I expect the authors saw our day and knew of the challenges we would face. Surely they realized the wars and conflicts that would be scattered throughout the world in our time, but I also personally believe they witnessed the depression, addictions, temptation, broken marriages, infidelity, and illicit struggles that seem to blanket our society.
With military backgrounds themselves, they knew of the strategies necessary to overcome these obstacles.
Challenging encounters are not just waged in the battlefield of life—they find refuge in our homes, amid friends, coworkers, peers, and family members. But we have not been left to wage the war against these vices alone. Like Moroni fortified the Nephite lands from their enemies, we can fortify our homes, families, and individual lives. Perhaps one of my favorite chapters in all of holy writ is Alma 50. Why do I think it is worthy of such accolades?
Because Moroni successfully fortified the cities of the Nephites, they were able to withstand the attacks of the Lamanites. Do you recall how he did it? Let’s defer to his own words to see how he prepared.
1 And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
2 And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.
3 And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high.
4 And he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets, and he caused places of security to be built upon those towers, that the stones and the arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them.
I am not sure how those reinforcements apply exactly to us in our day, but I imagine that the fortifications of the Nephites could be related to our circumstances in the following ways:
- Heaps of earth: Brothers and sisters in the Church, Sunday worship, commandments
- Timbers: Gospel principles applied in our lives and truth implemented in our families
- Pickets: Daily habits of prayer, scripture study, gospel learning, and temple attendance
- Towers: The prophets and leaders of the Church who see our struggles long beforehand
These are just examples. Your particular application may vary according to your circumstances and needs. The important part is that we begin applying our weapons in the battle against vices. A form of the word commence was used three times in the first verse alone. I think that means he was trying to emphasize that we need to get started.
More questions than answers?
The solution may not be evident, so an alternative strategy is accessing the smart people that are already all around you. Now, I understand that spending all your time seeking help from others that seem to have it all is not by itself an appropriate plan of action. Skill and wisdom in a particular area are blessings that comes from experience. You need to be able to stand on your own as well. But refusing to accept the help that is right at our fingertips is neither a good strategy nor the intended design. The people that will assist us stand to benefit themselves by helping you and me, just as we will profit from their assistance. I have written about dozens of occasions in my life when circumstances were bleak and we had no way out of our predicament, yet somehow, with the help of others, we reached our goal or eliminated the obstacle that seemed immovable at the time. When we are obedient to the commandments of the Lord, we don’t have to face challenges alone. I can say this with surety because I do so with hindsight. I have seen numerous instances of this in my lifetime.
Nowadays I wear little readers on the end of my nose because my sight is slowly failing, unfortunately. Yet in my old age with my failing eyesight, my “vision” has never been better. It’s said that hindsight is 20/20, and I believe it. That phrase comes from the sentiment that we have a better understanding of past events. Most things I see today are with retrospect, which is to say that the elderly have lived long lives and thus have uncanny wisdom because of hindsight.
Like you, I meet weekly with a handful of inspirational people in Sunday meetings. I could take any one of these folks on a given Sunday and learn an incredible, life-changing lesson in just one session. I have no doubt that these people are some of the best, most faithful individuals on the planet when it comes to following Christ and solving the challenging times that come to all of us.
The critics of the Church often say that our beliefs are ludicrous—subjugating oneself to a higher power with a list of guidelines that we do not always understand does not make sense, or so they say. In response to that claim, I would have to say that I agree. It doesn’t make any sense. How can I get so much good from simply applying a few principles and just trying to be obedient? It helps my whole family.
I didn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. But I constantly get more than I bargained for because I simply try to be obedient. I am not excluded even when I make mistakes. There is a way prepared for that as well. All I have to do is try.
Imagine with me for a moment that you could invest in a business venture that would bring phenomenal financial returns—better than anything else out there. That’s how much you know. The stipulations of this venture are that you try to do your best and that you stick it out to the end. “Well, how much do I have to invest?” you ask. The answer is that you have to give it your best shot. “What if I mess up, get depressed, or default on my loans or other financial responsibilities?” It’s okay. Just do your best. “But how long is this going to take? When do I start getting the returns of this venture?” Benefits start immediately with a balloon payment sometime in the future, guaranteed. So would you do it?
I am as leery as the next guy when it comes to get-rich-quick schemes. That’s not what the gospel of Jesus Christ is. You see payback immediately. Every investment in the gospel is a privilege. How do I know? Hindsight.
I guess what I am saying is that it would be a shame to take on the everyday challenges of life without using the best resources available to us. And however you apply the fortifications of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its solutions—like Moroni—the important part is that you do it. That is always easier and more worthwhile than the alternative. But hard facts will never replace the seasoned advice and wise counsel of those who are experienced at following the word of God. Using mentors in touch with the Spirit is perhaps the best strategy of all.
It is a win-win situation; you can’t lose. And that’s not even the best reason to invest.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
That is exactly why we make the choices that we do. Our lives are cast from the good examples of those living the gospel and, in particular, the example of Jesus Christ.
Our love for Him is our beacon. Then we repeat this investment a million times over.
And that is not hyperbole at all.
“We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see” (Boyd K. Packer, “Agency and Control” with added emphasis, April 1983).
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.