Wednesday, December 21, 2011

a prophet's reward

"Before we even consider the question of whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet or not, the uniqueness of his position deserves respectful attention. Because, true or false, he was the first man since the days of the Apostles to claim the things that real prophets claim. The modern prophets who excited the laughter and contempt of the world exactly as the ancient prophets shocked and amused the friends of Justin were the first men since ancient times to talk of what they had seen and heard in the presence of God and angels. What could they expect but a prophet's reward?"  (Hugh Nibley)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How will it be when none more saith "I saw"?

I've been reading The World and the Prophets by Hugh Nibley and I'd like to mention a few points in the first chapter that stood out to me.

In describing prophets, Nibley quotes Justin Martyr (also known as just Saint Justin, an early Christian apologist) that "they do not need training speech or skill in controversy and argument but only to keep themselves pure to receive the power of the Spirit of God, so that the divine plectrum can express itself through them as on the string of a lyre, making use of righteous men and revealing to them the knowledge of sacred and heavenly things."

The music analogy there, of the lyre, is what I wanted to make a special point of. Nibley goes on to explain that "holy men can receive God's revelations because they are in tune to the proper wavelength, so to speak. God can play on them as a plectrum plucks the strings of a lyre because they are prepared to vibrate to his touch -- not by virtue of any special training, and not whenever they choose to respond, but whenever it pleases God 'from time to time' to move them from heaven."

Now of course, this analogy can apply to us. We must be in tune to the spirit and prepared to respond to the touch of God in order to receive the personal revelation that he has for us. That is how he works with us to accomplish his will, for example:
1 Nephi 18:1And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.
And, like Nephi, from time to time the Lord will enlighten our understanding and inspire us to action "precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10). This individual and intimate communication with our Heavenly Father is critical for our spiritual development, but is not the same as the revelation that comes to a prophet.

As touched upon in my first two paragraphs, a prophet is not someone trained to speak or skilled in his ability to argue. Unlike philosophers and scholars who seek to understand by their own minds and argue by their own skill "it was not their [the prophets] wont to build up a case by formal argument, but simply to report the truth as reliable witnesses, without any disputation at all" as it is only by "revelation from outside" that man can "be freed from his fearful confinement within the narrow cell of his own limited experience" (Nibley but this bit is from Ch 2).

After all, the wisdom/understanding/abilities of any man are nothing in comparison with God, and for all our efforts, quite often completely miss the mark. God himself said "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9) so how can we ever hope to know the mind of God unless He gives it unto us? We can only know through partially through personal revelation (as just discussed) AND through faith in the revelation received by the prophets.

Without the gift of prophets -- "of direct revelation from heaven such as is received only by prophets" we "would be no better than the heathen -- well-meaning but bankrupt" (Nibley). Seeking to do the will of God yet without the power to access the fullness of His will, and thereby worshipping him "in vain" and (be in purposefully or unconsciously) resorting to "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7).

Paul taught of the purpose and importance of the witness of prophets and apostles over and over again in Ephesians. He explained that they were given "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ"  (Ephesians 4:11-13). There is an edification, unification, and perfection of the Saints that can only be perpetuated through a prophet -- and this is because the body of the saints is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20) and there are revelations made known only prophets that we may hear from them and through our faith understand:
Ephesians 3
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 
The Jews had difficulty accepting this, as do many today. "God had visited the earth in remote times; he had spoken to Abraham and to Moses. Venerable traditions burdened with a magnificent weight of art, poetry, scholarship, and ritual attested the sincere devotion of the race to the memory of God's visits to men in times past. But to ask men to believe that that same God had spoken in their own day, and to a plain man who walked their streets—that was simply too much to take! That was the test that Christ's generation could not pass.

It was a test that few have ever passed: the humiliating test of recognizing a true prophet and taking instruction from the weak and humble things of the earth" (Nibley).

I add my witness that our age has NOT been "excused from taking the same test of authority" and that God HAS called prophets and they do speak to us words from heaven that we would do well to listen and obey (Nibley). It may be "unwelcome news to the world" that "the true church must and will always have living prophets" (Nibley) but it is nonetheless the case -- and I for one am grateful for divine precepts and direction that come from God through his appointed spokesmen, and address the needs of the saints in this day, in our complicated and increasingly wicked world.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thou gracious God, whose mercy lends

Thou gracious God, whose mercy lends
the light of home, the smile of friends,
our gathered flock thine arms enfold
as in the peaceful days of old.

Wilt thou not hear us while we raise
in sweet accord of solemn praise
the voices that have mingled long
in joyous flow of mirth and song?

For all the blessings life has brought,
for all its sorrowing hours have taught,
for all we mourn, for all we keep,
the hands we clasp, the loved that sleep.

The noontide sunshine of the past,
these brief, bright moments fading fast,
the stars that gild our darkening years,
the twilight ray from holier spheres.

We thank thee, Father; let thy grace
our loving circle still embrace,
thy mercy shed its heavenly store,
thy peace be with us evermore.

--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., 1869

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Adam and Eve

In an article about the divine nature and destiny of women, Glenn L. Pace states "I’d like to share a perspective from John Milton’s Paradise Lost that fully resonates with my soul." As I was reading what he shared it also resonated with me, (especially after reading a comment from a friend on a different post) so I wanted to share it here with you:

 Milton describes the beauty of the Garden and the variety of animals. In his account, Adam watches the interplay between the animals and communicates with them as best he can. However, Adam concludes something is drastically amiss. Milton wrote: 

They rejoice 
Each with their kind, lion with lioness; 
So fitly them in pairs thou hast combin’d; 
Much less can bird with beast, or fish with fowl 
So well converse, nor with the ox the ape; 
Worse then can man with beast, and least of all. 

In other words, Adam is saying, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Milton goes on to suggest that God delayed the introduction of Eve until Adam could fully appreciate her. Seeing that Adam is now ready for the introduction of Eve, God describes what is going to happen next. I love Milton’s description of what Eve would mean to Adam: 

What next I bring shall please thee, be assur’d, 
Thy likeness, thy fit help, thy other self, 
Thy wish exactly to thy heart’s desire. 

“Thy fit help”? No, this doesn’t mean she would be in good shape. It means she would be a match, a complement, a counterpart, even his “other self.” Finally, Eve stood before him, and she exceeded his highest expectations. He had never seen anything like her in the garden. Milton continues: 

Under his forming hands a creature grew, 
Manlike, but different sex, so lovely fair, 
That what seem’d fair in all the world, seem’d now 
Mean, or in her summ’d up, in her contain’d, 
And in her looks, which from that time infus’d 
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before. 

I hope Milton will forgive me for adding my opinion that the “sweetness” Adam felt, which was “unfelt before,” was much more than that which was generated by Eve’s physical appearance. Those feelings flowing into him had as their source her wellspring. His feelings were the direct result of standing in front of one of the daughters of heavenly parents who had a divine nature different from, but complementary to, his own divine nature.

 I think God also does the same for each of us, delaying our introduction to our "fit help" until we are each prepared to fully appreciate the other. I believe that in that moment we will each experience that same sweetness and complimentary power.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

the signs of the coming of the Song of Man

We read this quote in institute:
"There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving themselves beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east (Teachings, 286-287)."  
"When the sign is given however it will be known to and identified by the prophet of God on earth" (Teachings, 279-280) 
And we briefly discussed what the sign might be and ultimately decided that whatever it is, will be BIG and, to anyone who is looking for it, obviously IT (though it won't hurt that the Saints will also have it pointed out by the prophet!).

And of course I couldn't help but start thinking about those prophecies of the last days, and how ALL of them are happening... the signs have ALL started -- and not only started but increased!

Isaiah 24:20
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

how about all those recent earthquakes? (the chart to the left was published in april of this year so that number may be higher...)

Doctrine and Covenants 88:90
And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

Tsunamis having been making the news a lot lately too. the chart to the right seems to indicate consistent increase.

An article by NOAA scientists stated it the abstract that "Analysis of the database revealed that while the total number of magnitude 7.5 earthquakes per decade since 1901 has remained consistent, the last decade has experienced some of the most devastating geologic events in history.

But back to that one grand sign of the coming of the Song of Man... It's hard not to wonder every time I read about an approaching comet or planetary intrigue if this is going to be IT... it certain puts Matthew 24 into perspective, especially versus 46-48:

46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
47 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
48 Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My witness

I have sacrificed to be sanctified. 

D&C 101
3 Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall
come to make up my jewels.
4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham,
who was commanded to offer up his only son.
5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be

Monday, November 7, 2011

a Chronicles of Narnia quote

This is one of my favorite quotes, from the mouse who is trying to get to the king's country (very applicable to us...)

"My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise..."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

a very personal experience

i have to tell you about the fireside i went to.

i almost didn't go. i was planning on going but then a phone convo. went right up to 6:55 and the fireside was at 7 and i almost just stayed home... i am so so so glad i went.

when i got there, they were just singing the opening hymn. there was a prayer and a musical number and the speak got up and started telling us about when he received the phone call asking him to speak at the fireside. he said he felt a little overwhelmed at the request because he knows we often go to firesides with expectations. we have problems or questions - and we go to firesides hoping to find an answer or some direction in what the speaker says. that's a lot of responsibility and our speaker tonight said it was really important to him to make sure that we were able to be taught by the spirit tonight, and whatever it was we came looking for, we would find answers. 

i got feeling really hopeful at this point. 

he asked us to write down one questions or issue we were struggling with and pray that the Lord would bless us with the spirit to find an answer tonight. so i wrote down a concern of mine (having to do with my future - i won't get into specific detail but i wrote that i was looking for added hope and guidance). he told us that he wanted us to "get out of the boat" -- the way peter did when he saw christ walking on the water towards them. he got out and put his feet onto water that every time up until then he had sunk in...and this time he didn't sink. this time he walked on water towards the savior. he put himself in a vulnerable situation and received enabling power. (we need to learn to do the same.)

the speaker then proceeded to explain that he wanted to teach us tonight that whenever we had a difficulty in our lives we can immediately turn to the Lord -- and that we can immediately access the Lord's guidance in the Book of Mormon. he went on to explain that he had a lot of struggles as a single 29-year old mormon living in provo. there were often times when he felt there was something wrong with him, or that he was just doing all the wrong things somehow and was in the wrong place. he felt he was often attacked for being unmarried and he shared with us a couple instances of this. he explained that these experiences, as hard as they were, helped him learn to -- in those moments when he felt like "where do i go from here?" and was enveloped by frustration and at times despair -- turn to God and turn to answers in the book of mormon. specifically he said to us that when we are struggling we ought to pray and ask God "will you show me what story or experience in the Book of Mormon can help me with this problem?"

he explained that he hoped to show us tonight how the book of mormon could help us, then shared three stories from the book of mormon.

first, the story of nephi -- how he and his brothers had been commanded to get the plates and they tried the logical thing - asking for them - which failed. then they tried the next logical thing - trying to buy them - which failed as well and it wasn't until after the failure of all their ideas/plans that nephi just went into the city "not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do. nevertheless [he] went forth" one thing followed another and nephi was able to acquire the plates -- the speaker (i wish i knew his name... i missed the part where they announced it) explained that sometimes we reach a point in our lives when we have done all the sensible things we can try to do, and that for all of us there comes a time when we must learn to faithfully turn over our lives to god so that we can reach the end goal we are working towards. 

he went on to remind us of the story of abish in alma 19 -- how she had long been converted to the Lord but for reasons we don't know about had stayed in a hostile land. she may have wondered at times what she was doing there, since in so many ways she did not fit, she didn't belong there, but the time eventually came when the lord said to her "abish, NOW!" and the reason for her being there became apparent. (when ammon came and preached and converted the people) we often find ourselves in places we didn't expect, working jobs we may not have anticipated, living in a place we love and hate (he said living at home!) but we have to ask ourselves, in spite of this... in spite of all the ways this isn't what i expected or want or see the point of -- do i nonetheless feel this is right? am i at peace with this generally? can i wait and see what the Lord's purpose is for me here?

lastly he spoke of moroni -- of how everyone moroni knew and loved was killed. how he said in Mormon 8 that it basically didn't matter where he went from there. and so he wandered and it wasn't until years later that he writes the book of moroni and says, well i'm still alive so let me say a few things -- and it was that time that he spent wandering that prepared him to say the things he then said, to testify of christ is a personal and powerful way. his "hopeless" situation was not hopeless, and he learned from his struggles, and it led him to be able to say "And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise" (moroni 7:41).   

he ended by referring back to "getting out of the boat" -- that like peter we need to step out, and even when our faith falters, when we struggle -- we can cry to the Lord and know that the lord will catch us, IMMEDIATELY.

Matt. 14:29
 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

And holding our hand the Lord will walk us back to the ship, where -- once we are back IN the ship -- the winds will cease. And not only will they cease, but they will make sense. Why our plans didn't work out, why we found ourselves in situations we didn't expect/understand, and why we had to struggle for so long. 

I can not begin to emphasize how strongly I felt this entire talk was directed towards me. it was like God had told the speaker what was going on in my life and he stood up and looked right at me and talked right to me. i HAD gone in with questions. i have been struggling with that issue i wrote down for a while now, but i've felt it pulling me down especially strong these last few weeks. i have cried to the Lord for answers and for help... and in a VERY real and meaningful way I had every question answered and every concerned addressed. not just in the manner of the talk, but in the actual stories and scriptures. i felt the spirit so strongly. i have had this happen in bits before -- having a little thing here or there stand out -- but i've never had it happen so completely... i've never felt that an entire talk was so directly meant JUST FOR ME.

The young man who gave the closing prayer prayed that we would remember these things, and remember to write them down so that they could help us in the future. (that is part of why i am writing this.) 

i hope that you find things in here that bless you. 

i know that God hears our prayers and in HIS time, when the timing is right and we are ready, he answers them. i walked out of the chapel feeling SO LOVED. I am so grateful to know and feel he is aware of me and that he loves me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Why I believe"

The following is an excerpt from the testimony of Clayton M. Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School. I think this is a remarkable and inspiring story of personal conversion -- and beautifully and poignantly written (I really recommend reading his entire talk).

...I was born into a wonderful Mormon family, and as I grew up I found few reasons to disbelieve the teachings of the church.  My parents had deep faith in its precepts, and their example and encouragement were powerful – I believed in my parents, and I knew that they believed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was not until I was 24, however, that I came to know these things for myself. 

I had been given a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.  After I had  lived there for a few weeks, far away from the supportive environment in which I had been raised, it became clear that adhering to Mormonism in that environment was going to be  very inconvenient.  In fact, doing the sorts of things I described in the first part of this essay within the Mormon congregation in Oxford would preclude my participation in many of the things that had made Oxford such a rich experience for prior recipients of my scholarship.  I decided, as a result, that the time had come for me to learn for certain and for myself whether Mormonism was true.  

I had read the Book of Mormon before – seven times, to be exact.  But in each of those instances I had read it by assignment – from my parents or a teacher – and my objective in reading it was to finish the book.  This time, however, my objective was to  find out if it was a true book or a fabrication. Accordingly, I reserved the time from 11:00 until midnight, every night, to read the Book of Mormon next to the fireplace in my chilly room at the Queen’s College.  I began each of those sessions by kneeling in verbal prayer.  I told God, every night, that I was reading this to know if it was His truth.  I told Him that I needed an answer to this question – because if it was not true I did not want to waste my time with this church and would search for something else.  But if it was true, then I promised that I would devote my life to following its teachings, and to helping others do the same.  

I then would sit in the chair and read a page in the Book of Mormon.  I would stop at the bottom of the page and think about it.  I would ask myself what the material on that page meant for the way I needed to conduct my life.  I would then get on my knees and pray aloud again, asking the Lord to tell me if the book was true.  I would then get back in the chair, turn the page, and repeat the process, for the remainder of the hour.  I did this every evening.

After I had done this for several weeks, one evening in October, 1975, as I sat in the chair and opened the book following my prayer, I felt a marvelous spirit come into the room and envelop my body.  I had never before felt such an intense feeling of peace and love.  I started to cry, and did not want to stop.
I knew then, from a source of understanding more powerful than anything I had ever felt in my life, that the book I was holding in my hands was true.  It was hard to see through the tears.  But as I opened it and began again to read, I saw in the words of the book a clarity and magnitude of God’s plan for us that I had never conceived before.  The spirit stayed with me  for that entire hour.  And each night thereafter, as I prayed and then sat in that chair with the Book of Mormon, that same spirit returned.  It changed my heart and my life forever. 

It was as if I had been looking out as far as I could see toward the horizon, and had been quite satisfied that I could see everything that there was to see.  When I undertook to read the Book of Mormon in that manner, however, I discovered that so much more beauty and truth about who we are and what God has in store for us, lies beyond that old horizon.  I did not know what I did not know.

I love to go back to Oxford.  As the beautiful, historic home of the world’s oldest university, the town is filled with students and tourists.  To me, however, it is a sacred place.  It is there that I learned that the fundamental message of the Book of Mormon is in fact true – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  It is there that I learned that God is indeed my Father in Heaven.  I am His son.  He loves  me, and even knows my name.  And I learned that Joseph Smith, the man who translated the Book of Mormon and organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a prophet of God in the same sense that Peter and Moses were prophets.  I love to return to Oxford to remember the beautiful, powerful spirit that came to my heart and conveyed these messages to me. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

quote on praise

"I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise--lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game--praise of weather, wines, dishes...I had never noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least...except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible." (c.s. lewis, reflections on the psalms)

Thanks nate!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

a report on a chapter

I know i've written a lot of posts based on my reading from The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister, but it really is a remarkable book. Plus, the Atonement is the most important thing that has ever happened and i believe that our efforts to understand it will bring more blessings of knowledge and spirituality than the study of any other principle ---- because everything in the gospel is really just an appendage to the atonement after all.

Today i was reading the chapter (Ch 24) on how the ordinances of the gospel relate to the Atonement. This is my report on that chapter (mostly paraphrased). Callister wrote that without the atonement, all ordinances no matter what they are, would "be like a check written on an empty account" (278). He explains that the atonement is what gives life and power to gospel principles and ordinances for salvation -- because of what the atonement is and has done for us, the ordinances we participate in can direct our thoughts to that event; they are meant to be mechanical efforts that focus our "spiritual, emotional, and intellectual efforts" on divine meaning (279). If they are done without this focus on the mind and heart on the savior, then they are meaningless (280).

Callister goes on to explain that ordinances are to be symbols that we feel and understand through spiritual means (281), to remind us of "the cost of salvation" that "could be paid only in the sacrifice of a god" (283) -- yet they are nonetheless JUST symbols, albeit powerful ones (284). It isn't the performance of baptism that saves - it is the atonement that saves - and baptism only has meaning and spiritual substance to it because of the atonement of Jesus Christ (285). The symbolism of the ordinances is meant to serve as a reminder of that sacrifice; to help us understand and not forget something that we are liable to forget in the hustle and bustle of life (286). Participating in the ordinances meaningfully "draws, channels, and focuses our spiritual thoughts on the essence of the gospel -- the Atonement" and we have the chance to remember it (287)  -- "Somehow the very act of remembering the Savior and reflecting upon his life is, in and of itself, a catalyst for goodness" (289) -- as well as to reflect on the condition of our lives and where we ought to be -- and through that, gain new resolve and commit ourselves to the Lord (291). 

Callister stated that Christ is "the master teacher and the master leader, but he is also the master psychologist. He knows that in our weakness we need to commit not just once at baptism, but frequently thereafter. Each week, each month, each year as we stretch for our hand to partake of his emblems we commit with our honor, for whatever it is worth, to serve him, keep his commandments, and put our life in harmony with the divine standard" (292). it isn't  the act of partaking the sacrament that changes us, but rather the reflective moments thereby when we catch glimpses of the meaning of christ's sacrifice and love that then empowers us to turn to him "there is a certain gravitational pull from spirit to Spirit that draws us heavenward"  -- there is enabling power/grace in ordinances (292-293).

the atonement is always the focus of any "saving" ordinance; they are sacred acts that Christ has commanded us to perform so that we would be pointed to him, reminded of him, think of him and understand him, and be recommitted to him -- and thus changed by him. As put by Callister, they are symbols of the atonement and the "floodgates" that open up the very blessings and grace of the atonement (297).

it's a fantastic chapter. i hope you'll read it. (as well as the rest!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the resurrection

My thoughts about the resurrection this week all started with a quote from Hugh Nibley (Any Underlining of text in this post is done by me for emphasis!)
      The only real justification for the Christian Easter is the proposition that the resurrection of Christ actually took place—not as a symbol, a myth, a hope, a tradition, or a dream, but as a real event. The Lord himself after the resurrection took the greatest care to impress the literalness of the event on the minds of all his followers. Having risen from the dead, Christ came to his disciples and found them confused, perplexed, incredulous. He "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen" (Mark 16:14), and showed them in detail how the ancient prophets had actually predicted what had happened. He ordered them to feel him and see for themselves that he was not a spirit, but that the flesh had been resurrected; he ordered food to be brought and ate it in their presence, inviting them to dine with him. He told them that whenever they met after his departure they should continue to eat real bread and drink real wine to remind them that he had been with them in the flesh.
      There was need to make this lesson perfectly clear, for men have always been reluctant to believe it. Matthew concludes his gospel with the report that "when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted" (Matthew 28:17). The Apostles had to rebuke members of the church who simply would not believe in the resurrection, and John noted with alarm that "many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (2 John 7). "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead," writes Paul to the Corinthians, "how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:12.)  (Nibley)
I started thinking about why Christ was so careful to emphasize the "literalness" of his resurrection, why so many resisted believing in it, and what we can learn from this.

I was reading The Supernal Gift of the Atonement for and institute class and found a clue. In this talk President James E. Faust explained that "in all human experience" something like the resurrection "had never happened before. It was completely unprecedented."

This really stuck out to me. It starts to explain why it was so difficult for so many to believe, and why Christ's own testimony of his own resurrection and his showing himself to the apostles -- and their testimony of that -- is so important. It TRULY TAKES FAITH to believe in something that was so inconceivable and, in many ways, illogical.

And this is important because, as stated by Hugh Nibley, the "moral and social teachings [of Christianity] are by no means unique" --
It was those teachings that were not common to the schools and not discoverable by the use of reason [the literal resurrection!] that set Christianity off from the rest of the world. As Clement says, if these things could have been discovered by human wit, there would have been no need for Christ to come to earth in person, and on the other hand, if human philosophy cannot discover them, then human philosophy has precious little to contribute to the study of the gospel. The unique value of Christianity lies in those things which would never in a million years occur to men if left to themselves (Nibley).
To me this makes sense. Our mortal perception, our ability understand, is TOO LIMTED to come up with everything we need to know/believe in. We can't just think "hard enough" and think of everything; we HAVE to have communication from God (who's thoughts are above our thoughts, Isaiah 55:8-9) and that's why He sends special witnesses (prophets and apostles) of his important messages -- and the Spirit to confirm those messages (Romans 8:16).

I think this is what Nibley meant when he said that philosophic thought is limited in what it can help us perceive and the truths it can help mankind reason out, and therefor doesn't help much in understanding the gospel. Some ideas aren't discoverable by mortals -- due to their complete foreignness to this mortal sphere or our inability to comprehend them -- they can only be gained through revelation that God grants to his prophets, who then testify of it to us, who then must believe in faith. That is part of why the discovering of truth through logic (philosophy, etc.) doesn't have the same power as discovering truth by faith -- in the testimony of those who God has called to be witnesses of that truth. That has been the purpose of prophets and apostles since the beginning:
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
The spiritual understanding the Apostles gained came because of their personal experience in seeing the resurrected Christ and the witness of the Spirit. Anyone who has followed, has based their understanding on their own personal witness by the Spirit of the testimonies of the Apostles WHO CHRIST SHOWED HIMSELF TO IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT BE THE BASE FOR THE TESTIMONIES OF OTHERS.
Ephesians 2:19-20 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles an prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
This, to me, is spirituality -- is knowing by spirituality (knowing because of PERSONAL experience with the divine). And like it says in that paragraph ("Clement says...") if these things could have just been figured out by logical study/use of reason/etc. then why would Christ have come and said them/shown himself to the apostles? I think he did it because he knew this was the only way to set into motion the process of faith on the testimony of others and the witness of the spirit of an event (the atonement and resurrection) that we all need to know of in order to believe on him and repent. 

And it makes sense because only personal experience with the divine is strong enough in the face of doubt. It is what gives us moral strength to stick to what we believe. President Faust quoted President David O. McKay as saying:
The world would never have been stirred by men with such wavering, doubting, despairing minds as the apostles possessed on the day of the crucifixion. What was it that suddenly changed these disciples to confident, fearless, heroic preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It was the revelation that Christ had risen from the grave. His promises had been kept, his Messianic mission fulfilled.  In the worlds if an eminent writer, 'The final and absolute seal of genuineness has been put on all his claims and the indelible stamp of divine authority upon all his teachings. The gloom of death had been banished by the glorious light of the presence of their Risen, Glorified Lord and Savior.' On the evidence of these unprejudiced, unexpectant, incredulous witnesses, faith in the resurrection has it impregnable foundation (Faust).
The striking change in these men, the thing that gave them power to do and be Apostles of the Risen Christ, was the personal intimate involvement that each of them had as a witness of something beyond their mortal experience -- of something divine. Because of this OUR "faith in the resurrection has its impregnable foundation" on the evidence their apostolic witness, confirmed personally for each of us by the Spirit.

Elder Faust went on to say, "Like the Apostles of old, this knowledge and belief should transform all of us to be confident, settled, unafraid, and at peace in our lives as followers of the divine Christ."

Or, as stated by Joseph B. Wirthlin in Sunday Will Come :
      After the Resurrection, the disciples became renewed. They traveled throughout the world proclaiming the glorious news of the gospel. Had they chosen, they could have disappeared and returned to their former lives and occupations. In time, their association with Him would have been forgotten.
      They could have denied the divinity of Christ. Yet they did not. In the face of danger, ridicule, and threat of death, they entered palaces, temples, and synagogues boldly proclaiming Jesus the Christ, the resurrected Son of the living God.
      Many of them offered as a final testimony their own precious lives. They died as martyrs, the testimony of the risen Christ on their lips as they perished.
      The Resurrection transformed the lives of those who witnessed it. Should it not transform ours? (Wirthlin). 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the divine law of economy

God sends his children into a world that will provide for their needs:
D&C 104:17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

It is the work that we were "cursed" to do that allows us to access these resources:
Gen. 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

And yet, we seem to take this injunction to work to feed ourselves too far when God himself has promised to feed us:
Matt. 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
This is because we do not seems to understand the Lord's divine law of economy, which provides sufficiently for the wants of his creation, but no excess. This is abundantly visible in the natural world, where "waste" of one creature becomes the food of another - nothing is ever actually wasted - and an animal or plant only takes what it needs.

Of course mankind has always struggled following this principle. The "curse" of industry is one that many stumble on because we devote so much time and energy to acquiring excess, rather than focusing on and learning from the examples all around of divine thrift.

I ought to spend more time studying/discussing this, but what I want to actually get into right now is a little bit of a twist on this basic idea of economy because like all of God's laws, it has it's temporal application AND a spiritual one, and the spiritual application leads into further clarification of grace and works!

In The Infinite Atonement Tad Callister gives the example In John 11 where the Savior has come to the grave of Lazarus, who has been dead for 4 days, and instructs those with him to move away the stone closing up the grave. He calls out "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43) and "he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin" (John 11:44). Callister states that upon reading this we might ask, "why didn't Jesus remove the stone with a show of power? Why didn't Jesus unwrap the revived corpse?" This is where the "divine law of economy" comes in, "namely, that we must do all we can, and when we have reached out limits, when we have asserted all our mental moral and spiritual energies, then the powers of heaven will intervene. Man could remove the stone and unwrap the corpse, so he must do it, but only the power of God could call the dead to life" (265).

It is the same idea, that God extends his power only as necessary, never in excess.

And it is part of how we become involved in the learning process necessary to become like him. When my mom taught me how to make cookies, she left as many steps as possible for ME to do - because that is the best way for me to learn - yet even though I may have "made" the cookies, they aren't really mine since the ingredients we used were hers, the steps we followed came from her knowledge and experience, and I never could have done it without her. But, in letting me do all I COULD do (the steps for mixing, etc.) she put me into the process of becoming like her.

Which does a lot to explain 2 Nephi 25:23 "We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." It isn't our "doing" that saves us, but it IS what God steps back and allows us to participate in, in order to enable us to learn -- following the law of economy to provide sufficiently for us but NOT IN EXCESS. This illustrates "that God will use his heavenly powers to exalt us, but only if we have done all within our power to accomplish that end" (Callister 264). Not because what WE do has ANY POWER AT ALL to exalt, but because as we do what we can, enabled by the grace and power of Christ, we little by little - grace for grace - are moved "from a small capacity to a great one" (Callister 267).

Saturday, October 15, 2011


i think her story - all of it - is inspiring.
(& more women need to hear it!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

spiritual identity

i was thinking about peter, james, and john. i was thinking
about where they came from and how they were just these rough
fishermen/laborers and not well educated.

in fact, even while following Christ they misunderstood things he said and the
roll he was to play, and at times contended with the other apostles. at one 

point peter even denied knowing Jesus. they were these really imperfect men, 
yet, by knowing Christ, they were changed.

Their weaknesses humbled them and the Lord made them strong. they
became the amazing leaders and apostles that we think of today when we
hear their names.

God knew that despite the earthly challenges of their upbringing, rough lives,

and culture who these men really were - the strength of soul they really 
had - would come through/come out. As they were reacquainted with the 
spirit and with the Lord himself, they "remembered" who they were and 
tapped into the strength that was waiting there for them.

these were not ordinary men......they were men God had ordained -
before they were even born - to do more than most, and to be intimate
witnesses of his mortal ministry and atonement -- then guide his
church and spread his gospel as apostles.

i think this is a really empowering concept.

that there is so much more to us that our earthly background.
that we really aren't defined by where we came from, how we were
raised, our education, our genetics, our tendencies, or our 
weaknesses. these are all the ways the world defines us. 
in all reality we are children of the almighty God and we are meant to
be so much more than our often limited perspective of ourselves 
allows us to understand.

there is a depth and spiritual strength to the soul, and like the
apostles, it can come bit by bit to the surface. making out

our spiritual identity OUR TRUE IDENTITY and not all that 
earthly/mortal stuff.

there's a scripture in hebrews that talks about how through the
struggles of our lives god provides better things for us -- we are
refined, all the mortal weaknesses, etc. burned away, and we are left
as who we truly are.

i hope you see that in yourself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the ability to choose

I always thought our ability to choose came as a result of the fall, that because adam and eve partook of the fuit, their fall brought sin/evil into the world, and therefor a choice between evil and good since knowing good from evil -- "the eyes of them both were opened" (gen. 3:7) made choosing evil possible. And I still think this is true, but what I had never considered before today was that, yes, without the fall there would be no choice, BUT WITHOUT THE ATONEMENT THERE WOULD BE NO CHOICE EITHER.

In The Infinite Atonement, Tad Callister states "Were it not for the Atonement, there would have been no choice between eternal life and eternal damnation. The Fall would have opened the gate to one road and one road only. 'Our flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to tis mother earth to rise no more... Our spiritus must become subject to...the devil to rise no more' (2 Nephi 9:7-8) -- a bleak picture, to say the least. Without the Atonement everyone would be compelled to participate in this no-option program. The Fall, without the Atonement, would lead us to a downhill plunge from which there was no escape" (254).

This is why the prophets so often remind us to be at peace/happy because we are FREE -- we are free, from death and hell, because WE CAN CHOOSE to escape them through the Atonement which has overcome them. We can choose between good and evil because of the Atonement, which offers us the opportunity to choose good as opposed to the inevitable, it offers "another road, another choice, another option" (Callister 255).

The atonement not only gives us the option to choose good, it is also what gives us the power to choose good. But that is a topic for another post!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the meaning of words

two little additions for your collection:

"Elohim" is the Hebrew name for God and appears in the Bible over 2,000 times. "El" translates to God and the "im" is a pluralization, yet when it is used to refer to the God of Israel it is grammatically singular.

So, God's name describes him as having a singularness AND a plurality. Makes sense right?

To me this seems to indicate the necessity of one being "as one" in order to be like God. Which fits with the commandment Christ gives that we be one as he is one with the father. But I think it also goes a step further, that to be like God and have a fullness of glory and increase there is another pluralization that has to take place...
D&C 131:1-3 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
and so:
1 Corinthians 11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

Which all gives more light to this verse of the hymn "O My Father" by Eliza R. Snow:
I had learned to call thee Father, 
Through thy Spirit from on high, 
But until the key of knowledge 
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single? 
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal 
Tells me I've a mother there.


When the saints who settled in Salt Lake City applied for statehood they were told they had to name the state "Utah." The two theories for the name:
  • That it is taken from the Ute indian name, which means "people of the mountains"
  • That it was a word taken from the native Ute indian language and comes from an Apache word
    (yuttahih) which means "one that is higher up"
Either way it is REALLY interesting to note Isaiah's prophecy concerning the building of a a house of the Lord (a temple) in the last days:
Isaiah 2:2-3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Walls of Stone

Go read this little post. It is about our need to prepare for spiritual conflict by building "walls of stone."
(It also summarizes this person's reasons for starting a blog and I share similar feelings.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teaching Part 2

Jesus is the Master Teacher. If we want to become like him it is logical to assume that we must take on this attribute with the goal of becoming a better teacher the same as we take on patience, love, etc.

We've also been commanded to teach. 
Deut. 6:5-7
 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
D&C 88:77-78
And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
And Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said that "Every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, or will be, a teacher" (Gospel Teaching).

As I've taken the time to study it, I have discovered that there is an enormous opportunity in the scriptures to learn about the Savior, to know who he is, just by focusing on the methods and love behind the way he teaches. And I can also say, from personal experiences, there is little in the world that can compare to the feeling of having been a part of inspiring someone to live and love the gospel. 

Yet, despite all of this I hear people complain about having to teach in church, I see great opportunities for the teaching of vital doctrines squandered because of laziness or simply lost because of self-centeredness. 

Most of us have been part of class at one time or another where the Spirit was clearly present and we were taught and lifted in life changing ways. Most of us have had teachers we will never forget, and always be grateful for the impact they had on our lives. All of us will at sometime BE a teacher, to a formal class or friends, co-workers, and our own families ...and I think the role of teacher should be treasured much more than it is. So, I've decided that from now on in the lessons I have the opportunity to teach I am going to try emphasize this. I guess it will be my new mini-mission -- to help those around me appreciate and love teaching the way I do. (Starting with you! Learn to love it! You can do it!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Learning by FAITH

If you haven't yet read Elder David A. Bednar's address Seek Learning by Faith you NEED TO.
(and if you have... read it again! phenomenal!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I wrote this post in response to this video:

Watching this has really helped me understand my issues with vulnerability.

I don't numb with beer or food, but i do numb with anger. when i feel vulnerable i try to squash those feelings by getting mad, by running over in my head why whatever/whomever is "making me feel vulnerable" is the worst for doing this -- how dare they?! and like she explained, you can't numb the bad without numbing the good. my anger overpowers me and keeps me from the "whole-heartedness" that only comes through the essential connections that come from vulnerability.

she explains that vulnerabily is where "shame, and fear, and our struggle for worthiness" come from and but it is also "the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging and love." when i use anger to avoid feeling the negative, i keep myself from the "joy, gratitude, and happiness" that can come.

and the anger doesn't help. it makes me severe and upset, which only leads to more shame, fear, and struggle for worthiness. i fall into the negative cycle of it.

anger is part of how i make the uncertain certain -- when i don't know why someone hasn't called, for example, i push the vulnerability of that away with reasons that allow me to be angry, to put them in the wrong. to take my uncertainty (and the vulnerability of it) and give myself some answer, that they don't care or are selfish or rude, so i can again push away the vulnerability -- so that my worthiness is not at stake here, it's THEM not ME.

i blame in order to "discharge pain and discomfort."

Of course, this doesn't really work because sure i get angry but then there's always that thought that if i were just a little bit better, they would care enough...

and so i try to perfect - i try to figure out what is wrong with me, that i could change so that i am worthy of love and belonging - so i'm enough.

i need to better learn to let myself be seen, and trust i will be loved even with my weaknesses. i need to better learn to love with my whole heart, even when that love might not be returned, and trust that my loving can be a positive enough force to justify itself (even though it makes me vulnerable). I have to stop "catasrophizing" what could happen and BE GRATEFUL for now, and that I AM ENOUGH.

This is a big part of what the Atonement is for - it teaches us that we are loved despite our weakness, in fact, that we are loved because of our weakness:
Alma 7:11-12
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Because the Lord has experienced all these things, he knows us: every physical and emotional pain, every temptation we've succumbed to, every weakness we struggle with, and because he has felt them and understands us so perfectly he is filled with mercy towards us -- he is filled with love for us. The word "succor" comes from the word "succurrere" which means to "run to the rescue, bring aid" (MW). He knows every bad thing about me and runs to me to love and lift me.

Understanding the depth of that love helps us understand how to love like that and lose our fear of loving.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:
When I struggle with insecurities and for feeling of worth it is because I am not seeing myself as I really am.

1 Corin. 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

The pure love that Christ has comes from knowing us perfectly. I am enough for Him to love me, and someday I will see myself -- and others -- as He does, I will "know even as also I am known." Until then I choose to trust the love of God.

I hope in the future, in moments of vulnerability, I will remember to rely on the Savior -- rely on knowing He loves me and I am enough -- and not fall into the trap of numbing myself with anger and blame. I'd never realized this about myself, to this extent, before today. Nor had I thought about how the Atonement can bless me with joy, peace, a sense of belonging, and pure love in my moments of vulnerability. I pray that I will remember. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the affirmative aspect of the atonement

I'm reading chapter 21 of The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister and it's INCREDIBLE.

In this chapter, he explains the atonement's power to exalt. I knew the atonement was to help exalt us, but I guess I'd always kept it in simple terms -- that it cleansed us and enabled us to do good -- never really thinking beyond that, never fully realizing how absolutely necessary its exalting power actually IS. Which seems kind of dense of me, of course grace is necessary right? ...But not just grace, mercy as well.

So, my understanding of what Callister explains is that the atonement isn't just a redeeming power, restoring what was lost in the Fall of Adam & Eve, it is also an affirmative power, a positive process of exalting, that absolutely requires mercy. Paying justice is not enough to be perfected, we need the affirmative process of "becoming a saint" "through the atonement of Christ the Lord" (Mosiah 3:19). We need mercy! Justice "is neutral, always neutral" and we only pay the balance of a debt to justice, so there is no positive outcome. That's why repentance and mercy are ESSENTIAL. Repentance involves "the internal desire of man ([which seems to come as a result of mercy being extended]) combined with the external power of God, so merging in miraculous harmony that it enlarges, endows, and enlightens the human spirit" Yes, it satisfies justice, but by a POSITIVE process that actually adds to our souls. We don't simply endure the payment of a debt but instead open a humbled heart to the Atonement, to the mercy of our Savior, which changes our nature for the better and "gives us the capacity to live the celestial law."

I guess I knew this, but I'd never really put all that together that way, that "if we decline the Savior's invitation to let him carry our sins, and then satisfy justice by ourselves, we will not yet have experienced the complete rehabilitation that can occur through a combination of divine assistance and genuine repentance."


p.p.s. C.S. Lewis said that the atonement "would have occurred for Glorification and Perfection even if it had not been required for Redemption."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Bad in Life

Broken, uncompleted lives are the best possible reason for a hereafter in which the scales of justice are balanced by a just God. To believe otherwise is to attribute to God a lack of sensitivity that we find regularly in good men.      -Henry Eyring
It's perplexing how often we question the existence, perfection, or love of God in the face of the bad that goes on in the world and in our lives.  I guess because it's so much easier to write Him off than to seek to understand Him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

sabbath observance

I read this quote today by Mark E. Peterson (from the 1975 Ensign talk "The Sabbath Day")
Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us.
 I had never really considered it before, but any given Sunday God could look down at the earth and know quickly and easily who of his children were really HIS.

Ex. 31:13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
To "keep" the sabbath is to show the Lord that you are His. And it's amazing the kind of condensed power exists in this one day to be reminded of and recommitted to God. If we "keep" it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

mormon bloggers

I like how these two ladies responded to this question:

So, what are your thoughts on the nature of the relationship between your faith and your church upbringing and the way you engage in culture, the world, style, fashion, design, etc?


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections of a Scientist

Henry Eyring is a prize-winning theoretical chemist and member of the church. I need to bring up the last part of his book, Reflections of a Scientist. When I read it, I was overcome by its sensibility and honesty, and I really connected to his feelings and ideas about the church.

He explained that:

I could leave the Church and abandon its teachings if I could figure out some way to do so honorably and consistent with my desire to know the truth, no matter what the source. I find myself unable to build out of my experience an acceptable case for disbelief. In fact, the case favors belief. It goes something like this:
     1.The physical universe exhibits striking characteristics: the complexity of the nucleus, the exactness of the atom, the unity of life, the predictability of the everyday world, and the enormity and longevity of space.
     2. Not only is the universe complex, exact, orderly, and predictable, but it is also running down. The second law of thermodynamics indicates that since a closed system can only run down and can never get wound up in the first place, either there are some exceptions to these natural laws we don't know about or the physical universe is not a closed system. That is, there is something or someplace outside the physical world from which energy was obtained to fire the "big bang."
     3. The combination of intelligence and power that assembled the materials and energy, set off the "big bang," and provided order, complexity, exactness, and precision in the physical universe is called the Creator, the Supreme Being, God, and so on.
     4. As scientists believe that nature is not capricious, and therefor we can expect things we can't measure to behave in ways similar to things we can, it is reasonable to assume that the Creator's world is also a place of order, complexity, exactness, and precision. This is an example of the importance of postulates in science and religion. In order to see to learn truths about the physical world we must assume some things we can't prove. (An example is uniformitarianism -- the proposition that the rules as we now observe them were the same in the past and will be in the future and that therefore we can understand the past and predict the future based on what we observe now.) Similarly, in order to see for truth in spiritual things, we must adopt some basic assumptions or postulates that also can't be proved.
     5. Basic spiritual assumptions or postulates might include: (a) God exists; (b) God has curiosity and interest in what he has created; (c) God knows me; (d) God is at least as compassionate and just as the good people I know.
     6. The truth of these postulates are determined by seeing if the resultes of "experiments" can be best predicted by their adoption. That is, as we experience life, study history, and seek communion with God, is what we find best explained by the acceptance of our postulates?
     7. God is tolerant of our efforts, He's willing to have truth discovered "line upon line, precept upon precept." That is, he doesn't mind that we don't yet know everything about science and religion.
     8. The gospel is truth. All truth is part of the gospel regardless of how the truth has been learned.
     9. The safest course is to work like the dickens and do even more than is required to be done. That's the way I get the most freedom to maneuver.
     10. Most important, the foregoing nine points don't answer ALL the questions. If I take everything I know from the scriptures and the prophets, and everything I know from science, and reconcile them, I still have as many unanswered question as I have ones with answers. No intellectual approach nails down everything. In this life there will always be unanswered questions. In fact, each answer seems to raise more questions. That's the way it is in science too, and I don't apostatize from science for that reason. Actually, that's what makes science, and religion, fun. Faith is feeling good about myself, feeling good about God, and muddling along after truth as best I can.
     11. Finally, perhaps a believer never does more disservice to religion that to support the truth with bad arguments. The listener spots the obvious errors, becomes impatient, often "throws out the baby with the bath," and turns away, even from true religion.


The truth of 1-5 has been confirmed through my life's "experiments" and the church has helped me accomplish this. 6-11 come across to me as an effective philosophy for continuing on and the church supports me in doing so. So I can agree with Dr. Eyring when he states "I am certain that the gospel as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is true. It's a better explanation of what I observe in science that any other I know about. There are still lots of things I don't know, but that doesn't bother me. I'm a happy muddler. The gospel simply asks me to find out what's true as best I can and in the meantime to live a good life. That strikes me as the best formula for living there could be." Me too!

Monday, August 22, 2011

"the unexpected life is no less a life"

I had a conversation today at lunch that got me thinking about a book I read earlier this year, A Single Voice by Kristen M. Oaks. Five years ago, when I was a young little 21-year old, I was in a YSA ward with another girl who had just turned 30. I thought she was very intelligent and wise because of the comments and insights she would share during classes and the lessons she gave in Relief Society. One Sunday she shared some of her feelings about being "old" in a Young Single Adults ward, i.e. being 30 and still single. I can't remember exactly what she said, but I do remember feeling the Spirit, as well a deep admiration for her. She casually mentioned having read A Single Voice and recommended it to us.

I forgot about it until my 26th birthday in January. All my childhood and adolescence I just sort of assumed I'd get married at 25. Of course, as I grew into adulthood I understood that marriage would happen "when it was supposed to" and that having a definitive age number in mind was silly... Yet, when I completed my twenty-fifth year and began "the downward slope towards 30" I felt a clear and strong sense of panic. Irrational panic, I knew it was irrational... and yet...

That's when I remembered Renee, and her recommendation. So I hopped online and ordered a used copy off amazon. I began reading it the day it arrived in the mail and I have to tell you, it changed my life -- it changed my life, by helping me change my perspective. I've never felt more at peace with my "singleness" and age as I have these last few month. (Not that I still don't experience moments of grand alarm about being single-with-no-prospects and/or depression and loneliness... but my perspective of it all REALLY is very different so the frequency of these moments is low, and I cope differently. But that's a post for another day!)

So, without further ado -- let me spend a few paragraphs sharing some of my favorite parts from A Single Voice. At the least perhaps it will motivate you to read it yourself! (Even if you aren't single, I still recommend it. It gives excellent advice on how to be your best self).

One of the things that Sister Oaks did in her book, was put into words the feelings that many single people experience. In my opinion, that, in and of itself, was enough of a reason to validate the writing of the book. It can sometimes seem like no one understands what it feels like to be single. Especially during a barrage of "why aren't you married yet"s and "helpful" advice. Reading how other people describe their experience and relating to it so completely, really helps to validate your own feelings.

Near the beginning of her book Sister Oaks pointed out something very insightful, that many people "believe marriage is proof that they have worth. It is the ultimate game of choosing sides for teams. It is hard to be picked last, but not to be chosen is unbearable -- especially if you know you are a good player and can help the team. Not only are you excluded but you also have to stay around and watch the game. The members who were chosen wonder why you were not chosen. A multitude of reasons is invented, whether voiced or not. What answer do you give when someone dares to ask why you are not playing in the game or why you were not chosen to play? The answer is that you do not know" (30).

She went on to describe this confusion and pain: "Rather than the continuous loss experienced after a death, the hurt of singleness may ebb and flow over time and be triggered by circumstances like weddings, births, weekends, holidays, or family celebrations. Because of this noncontinuous process, it never feels quite legitimate to grieve. Confusion, loneliness, sadness, hurt, and hopelessness are grief feelings, however. And with each passing year, the loss feels more potent and painful" (31).

But even despite this, the pain, embarrassment, confusion, loneliness, and harassment of a whole lot of unsolicited advice, Sister Oaks affirms that "You should only consider marriage with someone that you love and respect with all your heart. Anything less will be inadequate eternally." And, "Never let the opinions and pressure put on you by others unduly influence your choice of a marriage partner." She then quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "I believe that the most important single thing that any Latter-day Saint every does in this world is to marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority" (27). I think that "the right time" fits in there, and ought to go without saying... but sometimes we all have a tendency to forget that part. Timing IS important, and when you think about it, can be the ultimate test of FAITH because you have to trust that even when you are doing everything right, everything may not come together... it may take time. Joseph Smith himself taught that "There is no pain so awful as that of suspense" (TOTPJS 220).

Throughout her book, Sister Oaks addresses how to successfully navigate this unique trial of our faith, and I think at the heart of all her suggestions is the idea that "we make ourselves happy or miserable by how we respond to our circumstances and the expectations we set for ourselves" (75) and that "marriage or the lack of marriage does not make us happy, faithful, and steadfast" because "there are no perfect circumstances, only perfect faith" (125). For that reason, we have to learn to take the experiences of whatever phase of life we are in and use them to make us "stronger, kinder, and more devoted followers of Christ" (130).

Sister Oaks went on to explain how to do this as well, that it means we must live an examined life - where we "constantly ask ourselves what a godly identity means" and through that "we come to know who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe" and thus we can stand true to those beliefs and gain greater personal integrity, which brings along with it a greater "ability to cope with difficulties and find happiness" (157).

To get the full depth of coverage she gives these ideas and "how to"s, you'll have to read the book yourself. But I want to end with a few of Sister Oaks careful warnings. As anyone who has had to struggle with some unexpected years of singleness (be the few or many) can attest, "Loneliness and our hearts' longings may create great problems for us" (242) and lead us to stray from what we have always wanted; to set aside principles and eternal goals to somehow escape our singleness. Sister Oaks cautions against seeking for a relationship with someone outside the church, or even those inside the church who are not worthy. Such relationships will ultimately bring unhappiness. We diminish our ability to do what is right when we are so consumed with our "lack of blessings" -- as opposed to focusing on and rejoicing in what we do have, and faithfully waiting for what we don't -- which can lead us to make choices that bring "profound sorrow, remorse, and despair" (243).

There IS a cost for peace and happiness in this life. That is what the Lord's law of sacrifice is all about. But, Sister Oaks testifies that "Every person I know who has made this journey told me that in the end the struggles brought an inner peace and joy never experienced before. The sacrifice was well worth it" (244).


"As we wait upon the Lord for the desired blessings of love and family, we have a choice to make. Do we turn to Him, keep His commandments, pray to Him to direc our actions and ease our burdens or do we give up? How do we handle ourselves when our desires and expectations do no come to fruition in the way and at the time we desire?" (258). It will be a process. One of acceptance, grief, and moving on. We must learn to trust the Lord's timetable, and to depend on him. Our lives may not be as we expected, but they can be very beautiful (258) -- and through them we can become sanctified and filled with the joy that President James E. Faust taught of, "a habitual inner joy learned from long experience and trust in God ("Voice of the Spirit" 3). Because ultimately, all blessings will be ours.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A story from Matthew Heaps

I will always be grateful to a woman in Kenya, Africa, who taught me about willingness to work to obtain water. I met her at a celebration following the installation of a well in her community. With gratitude she told me that the new well would cut her daily nine-mile (14 km) trip to get water to a one-mile (1.6 km) trip. She was overjoyed at the opportunities that would now be hers.
I couldn’t help but think how I would feel if I had to walk a mile to get water. I was impressed that she put everything—from housework to gardening—aside while she made her journey to fetch water. She knew she couldn’t complete the other tasks without that water. I thought about how heavy her burden was. Carrying water takes strength and endurance. Yet, for the sake of her family, she was willing to walk nine miles every day to get it.
I wonder if we who get clean water from taps in our homes sometimes expect to come unto Christ with the same ease as turning a knob to get a glass of water. Or are we willing to put aside other tasks, even important ones, to seek to know Jesus Christ and His Father?
I know that the well of living water the Savior offers us never runs dry and is pure and life sustaining. When we come to Him with an empty cup, He will fill it, often beyond our capacity to receive. He is truly living water, a manifestation of the love of God.