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The View from Here: Faith and hope breed optimism in a negative world

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, you learn at an early age that even the slightest bit of snow is enough to shut down an entire city. As infrequently as snow falls west of the Cascade Mountains, there's just no reason for cities to invest in fleets of trucks to plow the streets and spread salt or sand on frozen roads. Much better to close the schools, cancel the meetings and wait for the snow to turn back into rain.You can imagine my surprise, though, when the same thing happened this week in my new home, New England. Really, guys? Seriously?Now, in defense of Boston, I must admit that the forecast was not for a slight bit of snow; meteorologists started out predicting about 8 inches, then 4-6 inches over the city. And I must also confess that as a relatively new transplant to the area, I have yet to see one of my new home's fabled nor'easters, so perhaps I'm underestimating what last week's storm might have been.But even with all that said, I still can't believe how quickly the city fell to its knees and cowered at the forecast. The evening before the storm was predicted to arrive, schools across the region declared a snow day, and several college campuses followed suit.Even the next day, when the morning passed with only a few brief snow flurries and nothing sticking to the ground, some chose to stay home from work in anticipation of a messy commute home, and even a few businesses in my neighborhood called it a day well before closing time.Now, I'm all for emergency preparedness, wise planning and prudent decision-making, but the simple fact is that by the time I went to bed on the day the storm was supposed to have hit, there wasn't even an inch of snow in my back yard, and nothing was sticking to the roads. In short, the storm was a bust.I can't say whether such pessimism in the face of predicted storms is typical around here; perhaps it was just a product of all the images we've been seeing lately of the "Snowpocalypse" down in Washington, D.C., or maybe the meteorologists around here simply don't get things wrong very often. Or perhaps everyone was just primed for a snow day and jumped at the chance to call one.Whatever the reason — and whether the response was right or wrong — my point in mentioning all this is it made me think of a much larger, sadder truth: It certainly is easy to expect the worst, isn't it? From the weather, from each other, from life in general.Maybe it's a defense mechanism; after all, if we always expect the worst, much more often than not we're going to be rather pleasantly surprised. But as the loss of a Wednesday's worth of productivity in Boston shows, expecting the worst can also be a costly proposition.And that doesn't even touch on the gospel view of cultivating optimism over pessimism — a point on which anyone who ever heard the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley speak could hardly be in doubt.That point was driven home to me even further a few weeks ago as I read Ether 12 in the Book of Mormon. When I came to the oft-quoted Verse 6, my eyes stopped on a familiar clause a bit earlier than they normally do: "I would show unto the world," I read, "that faith is things which are hoped for." Faith is things which are hoped for? Doesn't that sound as if, as it's explained here by Moroni, faith is — by its very definition — optimistic? It absolutely doesn't expect the worst; it expects the best.All teasing of a curiously winter-wary New England aside, there's nothing wrong with preparing for the worst — as long as we continue to expect the best. And I'm not just talking about the weather here; this has to do with promised blessings, both individually and collectively. After all, it's one thing for us to say we believe good things are on their way, but it's another thing altogether to wait patiently for them, fully assured they'll be here soon enough.But that's precisely what the gospel teaches: faith and hope — and, by extension, optimism. As President Hinckley taught: "I do not know how anybody can feel gloomy for very long who is a member of this Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes. Stand on your feet. Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive. Think of what great things are occurring as the Lord brings to pass his eternal purposes. This is a day of prophecy fulfilled."