Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our Second Estate

In some ways, our second estate, in relationship to our first estate, is like agreeing in advance to surgery. Then the anesthetic of forgetfulness settles in upon us. Just as doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient in the midst of authorized surgery to ask him again if the surgery should be continued, so, after divine tutoring, we agreed to come here and to submit ourselves to certain experiences; it was an irrevocable decision.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

God Left the World Unfinished

In the March 1998 Ensign magazine, Thomas S. Monson made the following statement:
God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.

As I try to seek and understand God according to my experience and my religion, signs point to Him being at the crossroads or the balance between opposing concepts.

Christ is a loving, healing, helping, and saving God. Yet there are so many instances in life when God seems distant, absent; when He does not heal or help according to our pleas and fervent prayers.

According to our record, Jesus quite consistently affirmed that His blessings and healings were contingent upon faith. I wish we had a record of a time when someone came to Jesus seeking a blessing, where Jesus said, "no." The only instances that come to mind are in the case of the Canaanite woman (whose petition He eventually granted), and in the case of Paul:

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Great Article on the Power of the Atonement to Heal

I just read an article in the December 2015 Ensign magazine entitled, Returning Home Early From My Mission. It's an article I want to remember and review. It interests me because it is about someone who is trying to do all the right things, but encounters trials and illness that prevent her from doing the "right things" she wants to much to do, and which - according to Church leaders - the Lord wants us to do too.

Our faith must mature in order to know how to feel and think about God when the harder we try, the worse things seem to get. It is a wrestle to know when it is time to do more and push harder, and when it is time to loosen our grip, back off, and leave things in the Lord's hands. The first thought that comes to mind is: "the Spirit will tell you." My experience so far is that, either the Spirit doesn't always tell me, or I don't always know how to listen. We are on this Earth to have experiences and learn from them. How often I have wished that the Spirit would always guide me, and how hard I have tried to always be worthy of that guidance. I'm still struggling to understand the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Satan Can Tell the Truth

Satan is known as the "Father of all lies," but it is important to understand that he will sometimes tell the truth. But he will speak a truth at the wrong time, in the wrong context, for the purpose of pursuading someone to do something foolish or harmful to themself or another.

A good example of this is when he whispers, "You are your own person. You can make your own choices. You don't have to listen to what anyone else says." All true statements, but usually whispered to someone on the verge of making a foolish choice. And he does not add things like, "others who care about you and have more experience are encouraging you to make choices that will lead to your health and happiness. You can make your own choices, but you cannot choose the consequences of the choices."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Secret of True Happiness

The secret of true happiness is to discover, decide, pursue, and stay true to the deepest desires of your heart and soul.

Perhaps you should think a bit longer/deeper if-
  • the deepest desires of your heart are material, e.g. money, things, stuff.
  • the deepest desires of your heart do not include meaningful relationships with other people.
  • the deepest desires of your heart are changing from day-to-day, or even year-to-year.
  • you are not willing to make long-term commitments that require sacrifice, which you are determined to keep despite trials and challenges.
  • you've achieved the deepest desires of your heart, and are still not happy.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Following the Liahona to the Promised Land

The prophet Alma taught:

For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land (Alma 37:44).

What would Lehi's journey have been like without the Liahona? Much like our lives would be without the words of Christ: purposeless, aimless, wandering. Certainly in our meanderings we could find interesting things to quell the boredom. We can even establish empires of our own - even ones with good and enlightened principles, but not without forgetting that God's intent is to lead us to the "promised land."

The "promised land" is an interesting thing to contemplate. I doubt there has ever been a paradise on earth where "troubles melt like lemondrops," and people were free from all toil and care. After reaching the promised land, Lehi's family still had to face the continued labor and losses of life.

One of the potential pitfalls of religious faith is the expectation or notion that if we are only devoted and obedient and faithful enough, God will spare us pain, difficulty, and trauma. (Do we not recite, "The Lord is my shepherd... He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters" [Psalms 23]?) But God promises redemption, not exemption. A prophet has said, "before we can comprehend the Atonement of Christ... we must first understand the Fall of Adam." I interpret this to mean: before God can save us, there must be something to save us from. That is the purpose of the Fall. Before we can appreciate the help, grace, and salvation of God, we must first have experiences that cause us to cry out for help and saving.

It is so difficult to teach this truth. In religious philosophy, it's called the Problem of Evil or the Problem of Pain. Basically, it's the question of "if there is a loving and all-powerful God, how could He allow such evil and suffering in the world?" Or, more personally, "If God really loves me, why did (or didn't) this happen to me?" Is it really God's will for pain, fear, despair, tragedy, and even terror to come into our lives? and if so, for what purpose? There is no better answer to this question than the one given by President Spencer W. Kimball in chapter 8 of his book, Faith Precedes the Miracle. Most of it is quoted here.

God is not mean. He does not toss His children into deep water just so He jump in and save them right before they drown. But I think He is a little like the mother bird pushing her young out of the nest when the time is right. A parent knows what its child is capable of, and they also know that, left to itself, a child would never reach its full potential. In some ways perhaps God is like a fitness trainer who meets us at the gym to lift weights and exercise. We were born on earth to grow and become stronger and wiser - not necessarily physically but spiritually. The spiritual is a different dimension that we do not fully comprehend.

We go to school to learn what we do not know. We exercise and push ourselves to become stronger and healthier than we were. I believe that our spirits can grow by facing life challenges - both small and large: unfulfilled hopes, loneliness, the loss of a loved one, prolonged physical or mental illness, bad habits and addictions, forgiving someone who has wronged us (and continues to do so), providing special - perhaps unappreciated - care for a loved one with special needs, discouragement at repeated self-defeating behavior despite numerous resolutions to live otherwise. These are but a small sampling of what life has brought and can bring to us. If we will believe it and receive it, these experiences are what God gives us to develop patience, fortitude, humility, compassion, and love. This is often a prolonged wrestle for us. But hopefully we come to have faith and trust in God - that He is there and does not leave us alone, but strengthens us and helps us as we develop our divine potential

As trite as it sounds, this is what I conclude the "promised land" to be: pressing forward amidst all that life brings - both "good" and "bad" - with faith that God loves us, feels our pains Himself, and is shaping us and bringing out in us our divine potential as His children; helping us to come to know Him and become more like Him. I'm not convinced that this is "easy," but maybe by "easy" Alma meant that it's not complex or difficult to understand, not for the believing heart, anyway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Obergefell v. Hodges

I still have a lot to process regarding the recent Supreme Court decision. A blog post I read today helps both sides understand the viewpoint of the other. Can we all really learn to get along?

Here is a famous poem by Alexander Pope:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

To many of us, homosexuality is a perversion distasteful to think about. (To be fair, there is plenty of heterosexual behavior that is just as perverse and distasteful.) But in recent years, popular music and media have exposed us to gay and lesbian acts and imagery. We are becoming accustomed to it. Now that it is legally sanctioned by our highest court, we will be exposed to it more and more. But it’s not us adults I worry about—it’s our curious and impressionable children. They are growing up in a world where gay, lesbian, and transgender lifestyles are not only permitted but celebrated. For some reason, mass media loves to follow whoever is pushing the envelope, titillating us consumers with the new, the strange, and the shocking. This has had and will go on to have more of an effect on the rising generation.

What should I do? Should I be afraid? I am concerned, but I think fear, hate, and anger will not help anything but rather make matters worse. Those of us who believe in God should trust in Him. We should follow the example of Jesus and be magnanimous. But we cannot compromise the principles He has taught. There is a reason Jesus said what He did in Luke 12:51-53. God calls us to walk a challenging line: to be in the world, but not be of the world. It is not easy, but we can learn to disagree without being disagreeable. We can hate the sin, without hating the sinner, but only if we remember that we are all sinners in our own ways. Although we like to rank ourselves as more righteous than others, in God’s eyes, we are all pretty much the same. We are all in equal need of His forgiveness and grace.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

    "When [people] are not united in striving to keep the commandments of God, there will be divisions. We do all that we can to avoid impairing... relationships, but sometimes it happens after all we can do.
    "In the midst of such stress, we must endure the reality that the straying of our loved ones will detract from our happiness, but it should not detract from our love for one another or our patient efforts to be united in understanding God’s love and God’s laws.” (Source)

Thank you all for listening as I work these things out in my head.

Monday, May 18, 2015

When The Infinite Fulness is Poured Forth

Referenced by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in his April 2013 talk, "Lord, I Believe":
"When the infinite fulness is poured forth, as it ever is in Christ, it is not the oil that is stayed, but the vessels which fail. He giveth richly, inexhaustibly, but not mechanically; there is only one condition, the moral one of the presence of absolute faith."
-Edersheim, Alfred (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, Chapter II - On the Morrow of the Transfiguration

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Motivation to Climb

Your goal is to get every one of them to climb to the top of Everest.

A rare few have so much faith in you that telling them you're going to help them be able to climb to the top of the world will be all the motivation they need.

But for most of them, if you tell them what your ultimate goal is for them, you'll fail before you even start. Just get them to the top of a hill. Then a higher hill. Then climb to the ridge of a lower peak. Before they know it, they will appreciate your companionship more than enough to compensate for the fatigue and hardship. Once you leave, they will go on to scale higher and higher peaks, just for the thrill of becoming like you, and remembering what it was like to climb with you. And the ones who don't make it to Everest you will find either at the summits of other mountains or else helping others to climb just as you helped them.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Questions and Answers

Nothing is more exhilarating that realizing the answer to a question you've had for a long time, except maybe realizing the question to an answer you've had for a long time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Don't Be Paralyzed

If you determine to sit still, paralyzed until every question is answered and every whisper of doubt resolved, you will never move because in this life there will always be some issue pending or something yet unexplained.
-D. Todd Christofferson
You have more choices and more opportunities than ever before. Like so many things in life, this is both a blessing and a curse. Too many choices and the fear of making bad decisions often lead to decision paralysis, which is one of the challenges of your generation.
-Randall L. Ridd