Friday, August 10, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-7

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-7

This set of verses is really packed with examples... and how extreme some of them are.  A six year-old watching his father being taken off by obviously violent men?  And imagining the elements or the winds against us, or "the very jaws of hell" trying to swallow us... Yikes.  Instead of "all things shall work together for your good," God here addresses the question of, okay, what if it seems like they don't?  What about when all things are working against us and trying to eat us for breakfast?  What about those rough patches in life... or the long, slow skids... or the pain that seems like it will never go away?  And I think that God's message here is clear:  No matter what we are going through, no matter how bad it gets, it will all give us experience, and shall be for our good.
Definitely not saying that it is all fun and games.  When the elements and the wind and the jaws of hell are after you, sometimes you struggle to come up with a good joke to lighten the mood.  ... But in all seriousness, God makes up for any strength we lack, and gives us the power to handle any situation we're in.  Sometimes it can't be solved, but only endured.  Sometimes it changes our very definition of who we are.  Sometimes it seems like it is unendurable.  But with God, everything can be overcome, and getting through the pain makes us into stronger, more compassionate, better people.
None of this is easy to see in the midst of the suffering.  And it isn't always much comfort to know that we're changing for the better, because it's a painful process.  But today, let's seek comfort in God, who never leaves us comfortless, and try to remember that all of it is working for our good... think of how amazing we are going to be. :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Psalms 15:1-3

"Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour."
Psalms 15:1-3

This is an interesting one.  Abiding in God's tabernacle or dwelling on his holy hill is probably a reference to heaven... or Millennial Zion perhaps.  Either way, definitely something to aspire to.  And how do we get there?  By speaking the truth in our hearts. :)  ... That's pretty cool.  I think if we all spoke more plain truth, the world would be a better place.  It seems like, so often, instead of just speaking the truth, we are on the defensive, trying to tailor our message to a hostile audience... or an audience that we would like to convince of something, or manipulate into doing something.  I like verse 3 added on here, making it very clear that speaking the truth in our hearts is not telling people that they have big butts, or that, yes, indeed, those outfits DO make them look fat.
So what *is* the truth in our hearts?  A good question, and I think it might depend on the heart, but what it makes me think of is Moroni 6:5, which talks about the people of the church meeting together "to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."  ...instead of treating life as a competition about who can outwardly look the most righteous... or the coolest, or have the most power, or get his or her way... or whatever it is that we are competing about, perhaps some straight talk about who we really are underneath, who we hope to become, and what our opinions really are is warranted.  How often in life do we feel like we have to hide our true selves, or only reveal the parts of them that work to our advantage?  Do people know who we really are?  Do they know of our faith, or our true motivations?  And again, verse 3 shows us that it isn't just about blurting out anything that crosses our minds... but after careful consideration, speaking what we think is true, in the proper context.  Focusing on the good in others, and helping and lifting each other.  ... Today, let's ponder the truth in our hearts.  Let's talk about those things with God.  And as we discuss them with him, and think about those truths in the context of other people.  Can we talk to other people about what we truly believe, in a way that won't harm others?  I think there is always a way.  And if not, perhaps we need to adopt some lovelier beliefs. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

This struck me today in a different way than I have read it before.  Today, the part that jumped out at me is "the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness."  ... I love the idea of a power that simply cannot be used for evil.  If you try, you lose it.  There is no dark side of the force. :)
... Not saying that temptations are nothing, or that evil isn't a tangible force sometimes... but only that God's power, which is the greatest of all, can only be used in righteousness.  If people want to be evil, then they're tapping into something lesser, by definition.  And if we've allowed ourselves to be in the power of evil, that God can always still deliver us, because his power is always greater.  What a massive deception it is to imagine God and Satan as equals in strength or dominion, or to imagine that the eventual resolution to the struggle is at all in question.  The end is known.  We're not here to choose sides.  We're only here to get a body, and to learn to choose between good and evil.  And God protects us from evil that is too great... he never asks us to do anything without giving us the power to do it.  So, not only is the end certain, but we as individuals... every single one of us... have the power to get to the happy ending.  Nothing can stop us, except ourselves.  We can choose to give up when faced with hardships.  We can decide that we prefer evil to good... although that would be insane, of course.  We get to make those choices.  But what we cannot do is blame anyone else for our failure to reach our potential.  That's on us.  We have everything that we need.  All of us do.
Today, let's tap into the good side... the only side... of the force.  Let's talk to God, and listen to him as well... and find our way to that happy ending.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Helaman 12:7-8

"O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God."
Helaman 12:7-8

There is an interesting balance in the scriptures between verses that say that man is of great worth, that we should value others, esteem them as ourselves, not cheat them or lie to them, that we have the potential to become like God, and verses like this, that say we are nothing, that we're inconsistent and slow to understand, etc.  ... Does this mean that there is an inherent flaw in the gospel or that God can't make up his mind?  I don't think so. :)  I just think that they are both true, and trying to teach us about different aspects of ourselves.  Is it true that we, and the people around us are valuable?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Otherwise, why would God love us and have sent us here?  We are of infinite worth, and we have immeasurable potential to improve and become more than we are.  Is it true that we're also less than the dust of the earth?  Yeah.  We have all that potential for good, and we also fall very, very short sometimes, accomplish little, or actually make things worse.  Instead of instantly responding to God, we mull it over, wonder if it is worth it, and sometimes do the opposite.  Dust is way better than that. :)  Dust doesn't have that huge potential for evil that we have going.  We should make T-shirts that say "Dust > me."
So, how does this apply to our lives, and what are the scriptures saying when they give us these mixed messages?  I think what they are saying is that we have the potential to grow up into amazing or horrible.  Right now, we're just that potential.  We haven't solidified into either one.  We're kindergartners trying to learn not to throw blocks at each other.  And some of us are going to grow up and discover new things, and raise families, and transform the world into something better.  And some of us are going to grow up and embezzle money, cause businesses and families to fail, and hurt other people.  When we grow up all the way, then we'll know our worth... and some of us might surpass dust, and some of us will still be well under that bar.  Today, let's be humble and accept that dust is better... but let's work on that potential.  Let's stick with God, and learn and grow so that maybe, someday, we can stand with Dust as equals. :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2

"O God, where are thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?"
Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2

Joseph Smith wrote these verses when he had been in jail in Liberty, Missouri for months, suffering unjustly.  And I think that we all have times like this in our lives.  Hopefully we won't get thrown in jail for our beliefs, but we will all encounter things that try us, that last far longer than is easy to bear, and that make us ask these same questions.  Where is God, and how long will he observe rather than save us?
God's answer to Joseph comprises most of the rest of this section, but the gist of the message is clear, and simple.  He has, already, saved us.
The trials that we encounter in our lives are temporary, and they require patience, and they require endurance, and prompt us to learn, but none of them are permanent.  It seems like whenever we go seriously wrong, it is because we get tired of waiting.  Our own impatience is our downfall.  Yes, there are times... days, weeks, decades... where it seems very clear to us that we have suffered enough, and that it is past time for someone to come and bail us out.  ... But we have to learn, or remember, that part of the goal of this life is learning to bail ourselves out.  And learning to find happiness in our current circumstances.  And lifting others and forgetting our own suffering.  So many things to learn... and if we stubbed our toes and were immediately relieved from the pain, we wouldn't learn any of it.
There are people who say that God can't exist, because if he did he would relieve all the suffering in the world.  Let's not get into that mental trap.  We're here to learn... to learn how to become more like God.  How could we possibly move from childhood to adulthood if our parents protected us from every lesson or saved us from all pain?  Growing up hurts sometimes, and it isn't always fun.  What our Father will do is help us bear it, talk it through with us, and be there to comfort us when it all goes wrong... he has to let us experience pain because he knows we need to grow up, but he also knows these trials are hard for us, and he loves us and wants to help us through it.
None of our sufferings are as serious or as permanent as they seem to us in while we are suffering them.  In the end, we will see them as they are... temporary setbacks on our road to reaching our potential.  Eventually we will all stand perfect and strong, and relieved from all suffering.  Not because God will *finally* save us, but because he already has.  Today, let's apply the atonement to our lives and be grateful for that greatest-of-all-gifts.

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