Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Yu-Gi-Oh, Destiny, and Judgment Day



n. pl. des•ti•nies

1. The inevitable or necessary fate to which a particular person or thing is destined; one's lot.

2. A predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control: “Marriage and hanging go by destiny” (Robert Burton).

3. The power or agency thought to predetermine events: Destiny brought them together.

I’ve been struggling a lot over the years with the argument over what determines who we are. What is it that determines our “Destinies”?

I’ve heard basically four arguments.

Nature “I’m born this way”

There are a lot of people that think that they do the things they do because they are genetically pre-determined to be. Alcoholism, homosexuality, even violent crime are all things that many have attempted to explain based on genetics. For good or ill, our DNA determines who we are, not just how we look.

Nurture, or the Environment “My parents/my neighborhood/my upbringing made me this way”

I think parents are great. Everyone should have a set! It sure makes it easy as I go through life to have people I can blame my shortcomings on! I mean, if my parents had been stricter/looser/meaner/nicer, I wouldn’t be in the mess I’m in right now, right? Others grew up on the mean streets of (insert your home town here), and so it’s obvious why they act the way they do.

Our experiences, our environment shapes us. There are some who have some legitimate claims to the harshness of life. Victims of abuse. Those that survive the horrors of war. The truly mentally ill.

Divine Will
“God made me as I am”

Good or bad, we are children of our creator. And He, being omniscient, knows what our life’s path will be. Some take this to mean that He has already made that path for us, and that we’re merely walking down it, facing what is pre-destined to happen to us. He, the great puppetmaster, is in total control of everything, and therefore is responsible for me. Convenient, since that means I don’t have to be…

Freewill “I choose what I am”

This is the idea that we determine our own course in life. The effects and consequences of our choices shape us and we can become anything we determine to be. This is the only choice of the four that puts me in control of my life, which is a double-edged sword, to be sure.

Part of the challenge that faces us as we try and study this all out is that the proponents of each of these four options often tend to look at them in isolation. Each one seems, in their minds, to be the sole cause of all the good and ill in the world.

I don’t see it that way. I think all four elements play into our lives. And since our lives are the basis of our judgment and eternal reward, ultimately all four will play into that as well.

My son is starting to love playing Yu-Gi-Oh. For those that have been living without children for the last few years, this is one of the many “collectible card games”, where you buy these packs of cards and you collect them and you use them to play your games. As you collect them, you can do a certain amount of “stacking your deck”, meaning that before each game, according to certain rules, each player can choose which of their cards go in their decks. Then they shuffle them, and play, not knowing which cards will come out first. Each card has a unique impact on the way the game progresses, and some cards interact with other cards to create some very interesting strategies. Winning the game is very much a combination of what cards you have and how well you play them.

As I’ve been learning how to play this game with Brendon, I’ve noticed that in a lot of ways, it’s resolving these issues that I’ve had with these four elements on a metaphoric level.

See, it’s like in the pre-mortal life, God gave us each a big deck of cards. And each one of those cards is a facet of our life. That I have certain traits and habits and knacks to do things (like music) is each represented by a card. The challenges I face with having a special needs child, or my inability to manage my money well are also cards in my hand and in my deck.

See, here in this life, we are NOT all created equal. We want to believe that we are, but just take a look around. Some are born into amazing wealth. Others are born into abject poverty. Some are raised in fine schools. Others grow up where school is a daily risk of life.

We are given a deck of cards, like it says in Ether 12:27. God gives us weaknesses for us to be humble. He also gives us gifts.

In the parable of the talents in Matt 25:14-30, each servant was given a different amount to begin with. One received one coin (talent), one received three, and another received five. We are not all equal.

And yet, I find it to be really interesting to note that while one servant returned with ten talents, and another with only six, they both received the same reward! They started out inequal, but they ended up in the same glory! Why is that? Well, it’s because the one judging them knew what they started with, and knew what they ended with. The One with full omniscience knows pure justice.

What that means for me is that I’m going to be judged based on how well I play MY hand of cards. How well did I overcome MY challenges. How well I handled my strengths. And Ether also tells me that I’ll have help doing that. God, who gave me those weaknesses, will help me overcome them.

That also means that I have no right to judge someone else. I have no right to look at someone’s actions and say that they’re going to rot in the flames of the eternal abyss, because I don’t know what cards are in their hand. I don’t know what they’re dealing with. I think in the final hour, we’ll be surprised to see some people in the celestial kingdom because WE thought they’d never make it. Well, that’s what the atonement’s for. You play your hand of cards the best you can, and have faith in the One that gave them to you, and that’s how you’ll be judged.

So, why am I all on about this? Well, over the last few years that I’ve been mulling this over, I finally finished the song that is based on this whole concept. It’s called “Play the Cards” and it’s now live at my website!

Mark Hansen


  1. Thanks! I work for the company that produces the Yu-Gi-Oh card game and it was great to read your thoughts on it and the ideas it's spawned.


  2. How fascinating! What do you do for them?

    Are you a member of the LDS church? Your name (Hyrum) is a popular mormon name, and many of my readers are...

    Please use the "Email Me" link up under my picture, and we'll correspond!


  3. Very good post. This vocalizes my thoughts exactly. Excellent points made.

  4. This is well done.

    My kids play Yu Gi Oh too, but I have not really joined in.

  5. I goofed. The song is no longer up on my website. Here's the lyrics:

    Play the Cards
    By Mark Hansen

    Somewhere in my head or maybe deep in my heart
    It feels like my life is a big game of cards
    And I was dealt a hand long before I was born
    Some cards leave me smiling others tattered and torn

    But I thought I heard before I left home
    A kindly voice that said what I need to know: You got to…

    Play the cards that you've got in your hand
    Play your cards the best that you can
    Whether your life is happy or hard
    Depends on how you play your cards

    This card’s for my little boy who struggles to walk
    It's also for his smile that lights a whole city block
    This one's for my nasty habits holding me down
    When I want to smile they keep bringing me frowns

    But for all the time I’ve spent here on earth
    The best advice that I’ve ever heard is to…


    And I don't know what you've been playing
    How can I know the cards you hold?
    They don't show by the life you're living
    I can't judge the heat until I've felt the cold

    Some cards are good, some cards are bad
    The best advice that I’ve ever had is to…




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