Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mormon 9:14 -- On Finding the Happiness

"And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still."
Mormon 9:14

I love this verse, and I think that it has changed the way that I think about a lot of things. Often in life we're tempted to just "suffer through" something and come out the other side saying, wow, that was horrible, but at least I made it. We equate sacrifice with suffering, and feel like God asks us to suffer in order to pass whatever test we have to go through. I think though that when we think those things, we're getting it wrong. Men are that they might have joy (2 Nephi 2:25), right? ... I think that the whole purpose of life is to be happy, and this scripture says that he that is unhappy will be unhappy still after judgment day. That sounds horrible... and it means that it is up to us to find happiness now. We can't "suffer through" and wait for it... or learn to be happy tomorrow. We need to find a way in whatever we're going through now. And if we can't, then something needs to change. God does ask us to sacrifice, but he doesn't ask us to sacrifice joy. Perhaps trade an inferior or temporary happiness for a longer lasting and greater one maybe... but never any permanent choice of joy for sorrow, or happiness for pain.
One of my favorite books is called Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis, and in that book the main character is the ugly daughter of the king, and usually lonely and unloved. At one point in the book she is traveling to the place where someone she loved was allowed to die for a reason that makes no sense to her, and she's sad losing the only person that she really cared about, and sad to have to live through the loss more, and angry with her father for allowing it to happen... so filled with negative emotion that it's crazy... and then she rides over this meadow that is breathtakingly beautiful and she's surprised by a feeling of happiness struggling to get through... the thought comes to her "why should your heart not dance?" ... and I think that is what God is saying to us as well. No matter what is going on in our lives, and no matter how bleak things can sometimes seem... at work, at home, at school... joy is still there, waiting for us to notice. We can always choose it, though sometimes it is hard to remember.
At the judgment, we're going to be restored to what we've learned to be while here on Earth. If we've learned righteousness and happiness, then we'll be restored to that. But God can't restore righteousness and happiness to us if we didn't have them in the first place. We have to find a path to happiness... and God shows us his path, but sometimes we forget the happiness part along the way, and think that it is okay to just go through the motions without feeling good about it. And that's an okay way to start if we're struggling to be obedient, but if we don't eventually find a way to like what we're doing, and *want* it... God isn't going to give us something eternally that we don't want and don't value.
Today, let's find the happiness in what we're doing now, and work on finding the joy in God's plan that we can take with us into the next life. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Luke 11:42

"But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
Luke 11:42

This chapter is interesting, and this part of it is mainly talking about the differences between external and internal devotion. Not that either of them is unimportant, because we should be helping others and setting a good example... but in this verse Christ is talking to some people who were mainly focused on the external, and what their religious devotion looked like to the people around them. Here, Christ says that the internal things are important as well. We need to clean up our emotions and our mental decisions as well, rather than just trying to promote a certain image to others. Sometimes that is harder than working on the external stuff... internally, there can be a lot of accumulated dust and dirt because no one sees so we rarely bother to clean. It is amazingly important though, to know God and be devoted to him internally, where no one else can see. That's what really changes our lives and the lives of the people around us... not looking cool and righteous... but *being* good, and compassionate, and serving others. And we can't get there without being converted on the inside rather than just going through the motions. Today, let's work on ourselves internally, and talk to God about what needs to change and how to clean out all the cobwebs. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ezekiel 33:17-20

"Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.
When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways."
Ezekiel 33:17-20

This is interesting stuff. I think we do wonder sometimes whether God is unfair or biased. And it is cool that he explains some of it to us here. He really does reward righteousness and punish wickedness, but it isn't about being righteous, earning righteous points, and turning them in for the cool mansion in heaven, or the specific blessing on page 45 of the redemption catalog. It is about who we *are* ... who we become. Read an article a few months back about a woman who was around 30 and had been living the gospel, which requires no sex before marriage. And that was long enough for her. She felt like she'd done what God expected, and didn't get the promised blessing, felt she was missing out on what all the people around her had, and now it was time to take things into her own hands. The article ended with her buying some condoms. ... I think a lot of us have felt similarly about different things in our lives. We feel like we're the exception, and everyone else has something except us... and that we've suffered enough. I don't think life works that way though. It is impossible to get to the point where we've done "enough" for God, or have enough points for eternal life, so now we can do whatever we want, or slack off and not try. When we think of things that way, we're missing the point. God is trying to teach us and help us achieve our potential. We're thinking of him as a zookeeper or a dog trainer rather than a schoolteacher or a parent. He's not whipping us or offering us a dog treat to show off to the crowds or do tricks for his personal amusement. He's also not a prison guard. This is a classroom, not a cage. God is trying to teach us what we can become and what we have the power to do... and misbehaving in class or throwing a tantrum because we aren't learning at the same rate or the same lesson as someone else, or because we aren't getting what we want is understandable, but pointless... it just distracts from the growth that we could be making. Our rewards are long term, and just like the physical 7-year-old that thinks that it will be an eternity before she gets to drive a car or go to prom, we also have to wait as we slowly become adults spiritually. Things might not seem fair to us as spiritual 7-year-olds, but when we grow up, we'll see that it all works out. Today, let's work on becoming and staying righteous... on learning our lessons about who we are, and who it is possible to be and not distract ourselves with our very inaccurate view of equality.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Alma 60:13

"For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God."
Alma 60:13

This is in the middle of Moroni's letter to the government, telling them that they need to send more people to the army and protect their people better. Right before this verse he addresses two topics... the fact that we can't just sit around and wait to be delivered, and the fact that God doesn't only allow the wicked to be killed. Here, he goes on to explain a little more. It stands out to me today perhaps because we're always seeing bad things happen to people around us, and I like this reassurance a lot better than the conclusion that some other people draw... that because bad things happen that God doesn't exist. If we were all going to be saved from 100% of pain and hurt and anguish, then we'd be in Satan's plan, not God's. We have to experience good and bad in order to learn, become better than we are, and reach our potential. And no, the bad part isn't fun, and yes, people die. Moroni was on the battlefield watching people die, and he wanted to change it, and he wanted things to be better, but he also knew that the things he couldn't change didn't mean that God was angry or absent. Those people weren't dying because God had judged them evil... and he knew that because bad things happen in the world doesn't mean that God isn't there or that he doesn't care. Even in the worst circumstances... perhaps more so in fact... God is there, watching and doing what he can to help without taking away our freedom to choose. Maybe like an earthly father watching his daughter learn to ride a bike. She's getting scraped up and bruising herself in the process, but he knows that if he takes her inside and prevents the injuries that she won't learn. And it isn't just physical injuries either. Can we stop people from experiencing social disasters or romantic rejection? ... We could try, but there are things that we need to go through in this life that are painful. And those things help us learn. And death, seemingly, is the worst of all because we can't see past it or learn from it. The test is just over. But even then, we have to remember that God can see past death, and that he's teaching the whole world. He'll make it all up... even death. It is hard for us to see or understand, but God ensures that everyone can have a happy ending if they choose it. Beyond death, beyond pain... a place of rest and happiness. Today, let's work towards that happy ending and like Moroni, do everything we can to make things better along the way.

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