I grew up in the small town of Kennewick, WA. Kennewick has a population of 75,000 and is part of the Tri-Cities metropolitan area of roughly 250,000. For being outside of the Book of Mormon Belt (Idaho-Utah-Arizona), it has a large Mormon population. The population is so big, that all the high schools in the area have release time seminary with actual seminary buildings.
Lacking the many options provided by larger communities, most activities or outings were social events that the majority of the community attended. Football is huge. Every Friday and Saturday night growing up I remember going to the games and cheering on our team with the rest of my family and friends. Games were always a community event, so I would frequently see teachers from school, classmates, and people from my ward.
Living in a small town with a close knit Mormon community, people always tended to be up in each other's businesses. Whenever I was with a girl or group of friends at one of these football games, a member of my ward or community would see and make a comment sometime later to my mother or to me. It wouldn't be "Oh hey I saw David at the football game," it would be more along the lines of wondering who I was with and why was I with them.
A lot of these people I had known since I was in grade school and it bothered me that I couldn't go anywhere or do anything without people making comments or expressing their opinion. I felt my privacy was often invaded, I didn't understand why people were so fascinated by me.
Post high school, Facebook really took off. At 18, I was a rebel without a cause and didn't understand that Facebook was not a place to share every detail of my life and every emotion that I was ever feeling. I specifically remember my friend's mother telling me she always knew what was going on in my day and what emotion I was thinking. (FYI, there is such a thing as over-sharing).
My freshmen year of high school I began seminary. We were required each year of seminary to memorize 25 Scripture Mastery scriptures. Freshmen year we studied the New Testament. The very first scripture I ever learned was Matthew 5: My Light's Alive (Matthew 5:14-16).
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
It took me a long time to figure out that I am different. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am one of the noble birthright. Born into this generation purposely in a time of the fullness of the gospel. I have been born into the covenant. I have received both priesthoods. I have been endowed in the temple. I am an example to the world, whether I like it or not.
President Thomas S. Monson once said "I leave with you a code of conduct to guide your footsteps safely through mortality and to the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father. I have divided my code of conduct into four parts:
"You have a heritage; honor it.
You will meet temptation; withstand it.
You know the truth; live it.
You possess a testimony; share it."
What I didn't understand growing up is I was watched by so many people because of who I was. I am an example. I am supposed to a "light" to the world. This world is extremely covered in darkness, light is needed all that much more.
I may not have generated a ton of likes or comments on my negative or angst-ridden posts when I was 18, but they were seen. People watch whether they say anything or not.
The very first post on my blog received over 300 views in 24 hours. I say this not to brag but to make people aware.
“Just so you know it's not only Ally you motivated. I have been working out since after Matthew but over the past month watching your posts you inspired me to kick it up a notch. I have lost those last baby pounds. I wore a skirt to church Dan bought me when we were engaged. Thank you for the inspiration even when I was tired I knew you were doing it so I got up and did it too. You’re awesome! Love you!”
“I love your posts so much!”
“For real David Todd Hanna I love everything you post!!! So positive and inspiring, don’t stop, you never know who you could be influencing for the better... like me!”
"I enjoyed reading your new blog. Keep writing!"
“It is incredible to watch you support and stand up for what you believe in even though you are going through such emotional turmoil. I don't know what I am really saying all together... but you are my hero.”
It took me till a year after my mission to realize that happiness is a choice and a way of life. People will care more and be uplifted if you are happy, positive, and optimistic. I still have my bad days, but I (usually) don't take to Facebook to rant about them and further spread negativity. I try to exude happiness and laughter whether that be on Facebook or life in general. In uplifts people, it makes me feel better about myself, and it's just a better way to live life.
The Savior lived his life through meekness, charity, and example. That is something that we should all be doing, something that I am trying to do.
Remember who you are. Remember the example you set. You are different.