Tuesday, March 16, 2010

bread or stone?

In the Sermon on the Mount Christ teaches an important principle about the gifts God gives us.

Matthew 7:7-11
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

We know that God ONLY gives good gifts. He would never give a stone or serpent. He ALWAYS gives bread or fish -- he gives us what we need to live and does not give us things that hurt us. However, how often do we perceive what we have received to be a stone or a serpent? Or in our minds and hearts turn it into a stone?

In Genesis 37 Joseph, a free man, is sold into Egypt to be a slave by his own brothers. Bread or stone?  In Genesis 39 Joseph refuses the advances of his master's wife and is thrown into prison. (He's THROWN INTO JAIL for doing the RIGHT thing!) Fish or serpent? In Genesis 40 Joseph is still in prison but interprets the butler's dream and asks to be remembered -- however, when the butler is restored to his position by Pharaoh he totally forgets about Joseph. Bread or stone?

It isn't until Genesis 41 when Pharaoh has his dream that the butler finally remembers Joseph. Joseph is brought in and interprets the dream and Pharaoh is so impressed that he makes Joseph a ruler of all Egypt. Now this one is OBVIOUSLY bread and not stone -- but the others were not stones either. They may have seemed that way to Joseph, but they were all leading up to great blessings.

The Lord sees the bigger picture. He loves us and will give us bread. We just must remember that it IS ALWAYS bread and it is NEVER a stone, no matter how much we think it might be. That is part of faith. Trusting that whatever it is that God gives us, it is WHAT WE NEED.

Monday, March 15, 2010

make dating less painful

This article on making dating a more worthwhile activity in your life is worth reading. Hope you like it!
(Even if it IS from Oprah's magazine...)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

it connects so many dots...

This is a rough draft of my efforts to connect some ideas... any input is welcome.

So in my reading of The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life I came across the following in Chapter VII: "the decisions of our will are often so directly opposed to the decisions of our emotions, that, if we are in the habit of considering our emotions as the test, we shall be very apt to feel like hypocrites in declaring those things to be real which our will alone has decided."

This connects with my earlier post about emotions being a bodily thing. Our emotions are not happening in "US" -- our inner self, or "will" -- but in our body, our "flesh." Me = me my body AND me my spirit (or inner self or "will")

C.S. Lewis said in The Ego and the Self that while our inner self is "God's creature" it is also "that one self of all others which is called I and me, and which on that ground puts forward an irrational claim to preference" and that this is Christian "war against the ego as ego"Elder F. Enzio Busche states in Truth Is the Issue that "during our mortal life our agency is tested through the inseparable connection of our spirit with the elements of this earth, “the flesh,” or the “natural man” (see D&C 88:15)."

He teaches that it is through our understanding of the gospel and the plan of salvation that we begin to "to see that our life means that the “real me,” or “the spiritual child of God,” created in innocence and beauty, is engaged in a fight for life or death with the elements of the earth, the “flesh,” which, in its present unredeemed state, is enticed and influenced by the enemy of God."

But that "flesh" is the ME and wouldn't that make ME the enemy?

Well yes it does, in a sense, because we have to fight against our present state of being -- which is what keeps us from seeing "the original “real me,” the child of God, in its innocence and potential in contrast to the influence from the other part of me, “the flesh,” with its selfish desires and foolishness" (Busche).

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity that "the battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other" and that there always comes a time when our "emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on [our] beliefs." This is when faith comes in -- choosing to believe; willing to hold on to "things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods." Substitute "will" or our inner selves for reason and you can see why it is so important for us to always be reminding ourselves what we know is true. Our inner self has been taught truth, and yet in the barrage of emotion i.e. doubt we can loose sight of what we once chose.

Busche says that "This war is a war that has to be fought by all of Heavenly Father’s children, whether they know about it or not. But without a keen knowledge of the plan of salvation, and without the influence of the divine Light of Christ to bring us awareness, this war is being fought subconsciously, and therefore its battlefronts are not even known to us, and we have no chance to win. Wars in the inner self that are fought subconsciously, with unknown battlefronts, lead to defeats which also hurt us subconsciously. These defeats are reflected in our conscious life as expressions of misery, such as a lack of self-confidence, lack of happiness and joy, lack of faith and testimony, or as overreactions of our subconscious self, which we see then as pride, arrogance, or in other forms of misbehavior—even as acts of cruelty and indecency...One of the great tragedies we see in our lives is that the adversary, through the influences of our “flesh,” can cheat us into establishing images of truth or perceptions of truth. Our brain, the great computer where all the facts of life’s memories are held together, can also be programmed by the “flesh,” with its self-centered ideas to deceive the spiritual self. Without the constant striving through prayer and contemplation to reach the ends of self-awareness and honesty, our so-called intellect can, therefore, based on look-alike truths, play many games of reason, to impress, to get gain, to intimidate, or even to manipulate truth with the vain results of deceit."

The "HOW" is an important question to consider.

C.S. Lewis also said in Mere Christianity that there is love that is just a feeling, what we call "being in love" and that it is "good for us." However, there is a second sense where love "is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other" (109).

I believe that all positive emotions are the same way. They exist as feelings and as something deeper in our selves that we CHOOSE and must work to maintain. We can feel hopeful or BE hopeful. Feel gratitude or BE a grateful person. Feel joy or BE joyful. etc. We also must work to overcome the negative ones which come our way. We have to stop giving so much time/energy/importance to negative emotions "for they are only the servants; and regard simply your will, which is the real king in your being" (H.W. Smith)

The important thing is that Christ has promised to help. All we have to do is put ourselves... our WILL in God's hands. This means, says H.W. Smith, you must do so "making up your mind that you will believe what He says because He says it, and tat you will ot pay any regard to the feelings that make it seem so unreal" You must say to God: "Until now my emotions have had the mastery; but now I put my will into thy hands, and give it up to thy working. I WILL NEVER AGAIN CONSENT IN MY WILL TO YEILD...work in me to will and do of thy good pleasure."

Bruce D. Porter said in Searching Inward that "man simply cannot perfect himself, by himself'" The only way to "self-knowledge" is through Christ. “… if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.… my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27.)

In that sense we truly place the only thing that is ours on the alter of the Lord. We turn our will, our SELVES over to Him. After all, "it is not the feelings of the man God wants, but the man himself: (H.W. Smith) And by doing so He promises us the help and power to CHOOSE. That our will is stronger than our emotions. That our real self is stronger than just the "me" we are. That our spirit is stronger than the flesh. Then we are truly endowed with power. Then we can actually begin to change and win the battle. When our will becomes His Will and overcomes the world.

p.s. I don't mean to make it seem like feelings are completely horrible things however. God communicates to our spirits through beautiful uplifting feelings.

President Boyd K. Packer reminds that "The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a “still small voice.” And while we speak of “listening” to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, “I had a feeling ….(lds.org)

The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; … those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151)

The point is, that we must come to understand personal revelation in order to understand these feelings.

And we still have to be wary. In a church lesson from lds.org on recognizing revelation it teaches that sometimes Satan is able to give us strong feelings, which we may confuse with revelation from God. President Boyd K. Packer taught that “There can be counterfeit revelations, promptings from the devil. … As long as you live, in one way or another the adversary will try to lead you astray. … If ever you receive a prompting to do something that makes you feel uneasy, something you know in your mind to be wrong and contrary to the principles of righteousness, do not respond to it!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 78–79; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 61; italics in original). In a situation like this, it is the feeling of uneasiness that is the actual revelation. This uneasiness is the Holy Ghost warning us that what we are considering is wrong.

A portion of that difficulty lies in our confusion about personal revelation; “How do I know if an impression is really from the Lord or if it is just my own emotions?” Elder Gerald N. Lund expands on this issue in his address Is it Revelation? by stating that "one of the most important challenges of our mortal probation is learning to hear, recognize, and then follow the voice of the Lord."

(This is a great article and I recommend it!! Elder Lund answers these three questions about personal revelation: 1. What is the voice of the Lord like? 2. How can I distinguish between true and counterfeit revelation? 3. What can I do to enhance my ability to hear, recognize, and follow the voice of the Lord?)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Old Testament

I read Genesis 34 and it's a terrible chapter. The deceit and violence is terrible and it caused me to wonder about other examples of violence and sin in the Old Testament... I know that it's all scripture and in the Bible for a reason... but why so crude?

I found an article, The Unchanging Gospel of Two Testaments that address this. Ellis T. Rasmussen explains that the principles of love taught in the New Testament are just as much a part of the Old.  I won't cover that here -- it's better if you read it yourself. But I do want to discuss how he starts out:

Some persons believe that the Old Testament teaches and demonstrates some rather crude theological concepts and ethics. This may seem logical to those who believe that religions are mere social institutions that have evolved and developed over the centuries. But to those who see religion as revealed theology and a divine code of ethics with absolute truths and eternal rights and wrongs, such an estimate of the Old Testament is neither logical nor acceptable.

“Bad examples” do exist among the characters of the Old Testament and are found there simply because there have always been bad as well as good people and practices. Certainly the writers of biblical records were very frank about people and deeds, good and bad. In a way these accounts are disheartening, but on the other hand they enhance the credibility of the whole biblical account. The writers truthfully told both the vices and the virtues of heroes and villains, people and kings, prophets and priests.

In some cases wherein evil deeds were done, the writers pointed out immediately the bad results that came from not following the ways of the Lord. In other cases, results and reactions were recorded months or even years later, as they became apparent. Naturally, readers of single episodes do not always discover such accounts of delayed consequences. Even researchers sometimes fail to follow through and discover whether the end of the Tale is told farther on; as a result, they may make wrong judgments.

The story of violence committed by Levi and Simeon, as told in Genesis 34:25–31 [Gen. 34:25–31], is a case where the reactions of responsible people are not completely revealed until later. Some of Jacob’s feelings about their deeds and some indications of their eternal consequences are given to the reader many chapters later, in Genesis 49:5–7 [Gen. 49:5–7].

And right there he addresses Gen. 34 -- and the rest of the story in Gen. 49.

I think perhaps we're too quick to ascribe perfection to scriptural figures. We're too quick to expect the Bible to be full of lovely things. We forget that just as in our day the world is filled with imperfect people -- the world then was as well. I tried to blame "the times back then" for the violence and craziness illustrated by stories in the Old Testament when the SAME sorts of things STILL happen today. Just like Rasmussen said, not everyone in the Bible is a "good example" -- because it's a history of real people... who sometimes do terrible things. But they have (and will) suffer the consequences -- the same as us. And we can learn from their mistakes. And in that sense the chapters of the Old Testament can give us an even clearer picture of the importance of the divine and eternal principles of the gospel in our fallen world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

what to do with feelings

In The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life Hannah Whitall Smith states the following about sin, but I would like to apply it to negative emotions: "We must not dwell on it, and examine it, and indulge in a luxury or distress or remorse. We must not put it on a pedestal and then walk around it and view it on every side and so magnify it into a mountain that hides God from our eyes."

However, this doesn't mean ignoring feelings. While talking with Amber about emotions she said something I think is very important: "If you don't feel the feelings you have, they will make you explode later. Its just a matter of not reacting based solely on them. If you arent exploring your emotions, you don't know how you feel. Why would we have emotions if we shouldn't feel them? We can definitely work on them. It doesnt mean we have to be controlled by them." 

It's that "working on them" that I am interested in. I think there IS a balance between knowing and understanding our feelings -- and that is what helps us know WHAT to let ourselves feel and WHAT to push out of ourselves.


The gospel is a process of learning and understanding and doing and changing. I'm always impressed by how there is always more to learn/understand/do/change in regards to any given doctrine. This one is no different. 

Colossians 1:9
"...that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;"

we learn i.e. KNOW and then comes understanding. NOT the reverse. I "know" a lot of things about the gospel -- but I don't yet fully "understand" them. it's a process and that explanation comes with the next verses:

Col. 1:10-11
"That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness."

We know the things we are to do to "walk worthy" and be "fruitful in every good work" -- those are the commandments and the learning that we get. That is what WE are able to do. That is our part. The understanding comes as we are "strengthened" and blessed to do and change. That is what HE does. That is His part. 

We can know, in a sense, on our own -- through our own efforts using what's been given us. But we can never understand without His help. 

Connecting to what I've been talking about feelings -- we can know about our emotions -- what they are and where they come from, etc. But we can never truly understand them without God. If we try we just fumble around and never get anywhere. But we also mustn't rely on God to do everything. Our part is to recognize and label things for what they are but to then turn things over to God to help us actually do what we are supposed to do with the situation. (Does that make sense?)

Stubbornly trying to do His part ourselves is as much following after our "own carnal wills and desires" as disobeying commandments and accepting His part is equal to calling on the "Lord while the arms of mercy [are] extended" to us. (Mosiah 16:12)

With the fall of Adam and Eve mankind became "cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord" and therefor we are all able to follow our own will (Alma 42:7). With the Atonement of Christ we do not have to stay spiritually cut off -- we can set aside our own will in favor for His. I've always been aware of this doctrine but i don't think I ever put it in context of my feelings. My work here on earth is to learn all that i can, to know and do, in order to submit my will to His so that I can actually begin to understand and change. Which includes doing His will in regards to my inner life as well as my outer life. My thoughts/feelings as well as my actions. And NOT rebelling against him by allowing negative thoughts/feelings to gain hold of my mind and spirit. 

I don't think i've given my inner life the attention it deserves. I turn to God so easily for outer things... but rely too much on myself for inner. The same as I turn my sins and weaknesses to Him, I need to turn my emotions to Him as well. Not so that I don't have to deal with them, but so I am feeling them with His guidance. Or pushing them out of my life with His blessing.