Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Psalm 55: 22 Cast your Burden aside

A great thing dawned on me today. It relates to Psalm 55:22:

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."

I think it's common to carry things that prevent us from moving forward. Whether they are beliefs, feelings, pain, sin, etc.. To enter Heaven the scriptures teach there are certain burdens that must be cast off or purged out of us or we will not be able to enter in. We can't follow Christ and take His yoke upon us which is easy, and his burden which is light (Matt. 11: 30) and at the same time maintain and cling onto a bunch of other garbage.

A scripture in Isaiah has can have interesting meaning in this context. Isa. 13: 1 says "The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see." The burden of Babylon. What do you suppose that is? The footnote says it's the message of impending doom upon a people. Yeah... without a doubt. It's probably also the burden one has to carry when they know they are acting in ways contrary to the commandments and nature of God, and instead are embracing (or have become accustomed to) the darkness, beliefs, systems, and philosophies of Babylon.  What a burden.

What good use of words in paring Babylon and a burden. Babylon typifies everything Heaven is not. As I understand it's use in scripture, Babylon is the self centered, prideful vain symbol of a fallen wicked world and society. It's among the crap we breath in and carry around with us that Christ asks us to leave behind. The list is probably endless of what comprises the "burden of Babylon". It would take a while to identify the belief systems, needs, religions, philosophies, propaganda, trends, history, future (well.... we know the future of Babylon and its doom) and other behaviors that would fall into the category of "Babylon" and the resulting burdens. A friend and author Denver, goes in depth on such topics about our culture and it's context in living the Gospel in Nephi's Isaiah. Worth reading.

The Psalmist says "Cast thy burden upon the Lord". I think this is more than a mental exercise. You actually have to DO something as opposed to just thinking or philosophizing about theories.  We should take up residence in more Holy Spheres. To do that we should lay down our burdens, the errors, sins or whatever holds us back, and come follow the Lord instead. His promise is peace and rest, a yoke that is easy, and a burden that is light. What beautiful words. What beautiful promises. What relief and comfort Christ and the atonement provides from a world with individuals suffering with heavy, exhausting burdens. I have been no exception to the filth and errors. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of "the burdens of Babylon" in my own life and present society. What a stark contrast to the truth, yoke, and burden of our Lord. It really is true. I'm not repeating phrases from scriptures, this has been my own experience. How could we not want to obey and follow such a being? It's too much fun, too enjoyable when the Holy Ghost reveals light and truth to you. I can't help but seek Him always. Truly He has the words of Eternal Life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Initiation - The boy must die

One topic that fascinated me from some of my communication classes and related studies during college was this topic of initiation. According to social research, and just some common sense, every culture that has existed for any length of time has had initiation rituals. Often some sort of ritual for boys to become men. It seems as though it's an inherent rite of passage that has always called for some sort of outward ritual of sorts.  It seems built into our DNA.

Indian tribes had some really interesting initiation rituals. The chief and elders of the tribe watch the young boys carefully for the right moment. When the boy approaches the proper age, and the moment arrives, then the initiation begins. In one recounting, there's the story of how boys who arrived at this point were brought in front of the Chief and he would pronounce: "The boy must die".

Death must be faced, (at least in the minds of the boys), removal from a mother figure needs to happen, and distance from other nurturing influences. The process has begun and would include things like 'spiritual' experiences that were induced with hallucinogenic drugs, breathing in the smoke would give the individual a "elevated view" of life and his mortality. A new perspective. It usually also involved feats of bravery, or endurance, sometimes endurance of physical pain requiring stoic composure. Then there is the all important ceremony. But first: "The boy must die".   There is more to that phrase.  Upon completing the initiation the rest of the phrase is: "So that the man can live" But the second half is withheld from the initiate until he has passed and is ready to see it. But when he does, it's because he is a man. The transformation has begun.  In these cultures after the initiation the boys are then returned to their families no longer as boys, but with a new rank in the tribe. The wise men of the tribe then shared the "secrets and mysteries of life" the newly introduced male was then allowed to marry and the roles and functions were now as a man with increasing roles as maturity developed. Anyone who has seen the movie Avatar will recognize the same universal truths of initiation. I'm not making this stuff up, it's existed in all cultures in some form.

The question that comes up is what happens if a boy physically grows up, but never becomes a man? The Missing manhood is what some call it. Does this happen now days? I think these ancient rituals were designed to trigger innate and deep wiring inside the psyche that caused the transition into maturity to happen. So what happens if a technologically advanced culture looses these ideas? Looses the rites of passage? What if it's replaced by cyber personalities, mindless music, mentalities to do, wear, believe, whatever the hell you want in the name of self expression? What if there never really was a father figure around to teach his son? What then? Does the most well intentioned mother in the world have the tools to teach a boy how to be a man? This happens sometimes by no fault of any of the participants. I think another great reason the Church is key is because it provides male leaders, mentors, and figure to aid and help out when there is a need for a boy to become a man. That's another point on the scoreboard for organized religion.

Our culture now days seems to lack initiation rituals.  We are the lesser for it. I  mean there are initiations of sorts, college fraternities, the military. As a kid me and my guy friends instinctively held mini initiations to gain entrance into our dirt bike club, our tree house club, or whatever private group we happened to be creating at the time. Some test had to be passed to gain entrance. Becoming "blood brothers" was an instinctual thought that occurred to us. This stuff is inborn and there are threads floating around every culture. For Mormons I think a mission is a type of initiation for boys to become men. They leave their family, they are provided with spiritual insight, learning, and an ordinance literally called "Initiatory". They are paired with other men and given a task to perform that involves them being leaders and teaching higher principles to others. I think sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. If the environment is too controlled or there is no "de-briefing" afterwords, some of the initiation value is lost. So there are some obvious problems if a boy's body matures but the person inside does not. What effect do you think that would have on the persons dating life? Think about that for a minute. What would be different about his attitude, confidence level, and general appeal to others before vs after? Now this REALLY starting to get interesting. What effect does it have on his job/career?

The picture I put at the beginning of this blog post I thought was especially appropriate. It's from the movie Gladiator. Maximus (on the right) is chained up, the emperor Commodus is on the left.  One acts the role of initiated male, the other acts like a little power hungry boy in a grown mans body. He has a look on his face that he deep down knows Maximus has something he lacks. His manhood, and true inner character. The emperor is jealous of it and wants it so bad he will do anything to get it, kill anyone, sink to any low or use any amount of money or bribery. Yet it cannot be gained that way. He tries to compensate with his fine clothing, and status in the government. Although Maximus is chained up, wearing clothes of a slave, the look on his face and his presence shows he is without a doubt the more powerful one, the boy has died, and the man is alive. Maximus has a family, the emperor in contrast has some sort of twisted incestuous dysfunctional relationship with his sister. One has become a powerful man, the other is still playing little boy games, trying to manipulate, uses fear to get power, and get what he wants by whining or being a tyrant.

Initiations are part of the Gospel too.  To the initiated, the scriptures say different things.  The message is different.

I think following the Gospel personally, not as just a member of a mainstream church, will provide all the experiences God sees are necessary for that individual. It's deeply personal between a person and true and living God. Initiations are common place in religious texts, and spiritual messages of many faiths including my own. Whatever a person lacks, I think he will find in living what Jesus teaches, taught, and still teaches Himself, by His spirit, in the scriptures, or through His messengers. When done correctly it produces an initiated individual.

Now I don't think this all happens in an instant, maturity develops, but entrance onto the path is marked and clear and there is NO turning back. The butterfly cannot decide life is too hard and crawl back into his caterpillar body. Mother nature shows the truth of the principle that when you begin, you cannot go back, you must press on. But first, begin.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mark 9: 23, 24, 29 and Fasting

It's difficult to fast when you want food more than the purpose for which you would be fasting. Therefore it makes sense that fasting is easier when the purpose for which you fast is more important to you than the food or drink you would consume during the fast.

I think it's good when you find those things, events, time or circumstance or just internal desire that prompts a person to want to fast. It's probably healthy to have things more important than food and drink, and there fore willing to be sacrificed for a period of fasting.

A scripture that I think talks about fasting in a very inspiring and interesting way is:

Mark 9: 24 A father came to Jesus with a child who was possessed of a devil. Christ's disciples had been unable to remove or evict this particular spirit. So now the father implores Jesus. Vs 23: "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are apossible to him that bbelieveth. and then vs 24 "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine aunbelief." A few profound lessons from this. The father of the child did believe, but there was that part of him that couldn't. That part of him that wanted to believe and exercise great faith but was coming up short. So he humbly acknowledges his unbelief, and asked Jesus for help. Since Christ is the "Author and finisher of our faith" This pleading to the Lord seems very appropriate and in a sense this situation represents all of us.

After Christ did remove this "foul" spirit, the disciples asked him why they had been unable to. His response is in vs 29 "And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and afasting.". (if you rest the mouse pointer over fasting in that last sentience the topical guide reference will pop up and makes a very interesting connection. Fasting is perhaps God's suggestion for problem solving.

Happiness is found when the flesh is subordinated to the Spirit. Fasting is one way to do that. It's a call to proceed personally and remember what lies beyond the veil, something we all once knew but only a few can now remember. Fasting is a way to begin to remember, and a way to find guidance back home.

From verse 29 it appears that fasting not only helps the individual, but also has an effect on others, and has an effect on the adversary and those with him. Prayer and fasting causes some types or forms of evil to "come forth".

Knowledge is indeed power.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Truth has a Familiar ring

There have been a few experiences that stand out to me when I think of the idea of Truth. One is the familiar feeling it has. It's unmistakable when I'm reading something, or hear something, or ideas come to my mind, the truth sounds familiar. It reminds me of something, some place, or some inner sense that I know, but have forgotten. It may be the exact words I hear or read or it's "between the lines" but it's as though I've literally heard it before. Sometimes I can't tell if I've actually read or heard the same or words or concept recently or just recognizing a truth and it's confirmed by the Holy Ghost. There are times I can't tell the difference.

On the other hand I can contrast that to things that sound familiar just because I've heard them a thousand times. "Don't count your chickens before they ______" We all know how to fill in that phrase because it's familiar to almost everyone. Big difference. One is familiar because of the truth resonating in it, the other just sounds familiar because of repetition. They are very different. Not to be confused with each other.

Familiarity based on repetition doesn't necessarily qualify it as truth. But when you sense something inside you, something just so familiar you know you've heard it before but not sure when or how......that in my view is worth some investigation. I've also learned things that are true that were very new to me, things I had never before considered. Those tend to fill my mind with light, or understanding or refresh my soul with a fresh zeal towards God.

These were just a few thoughts I had today about truth and the variety of ways to recognize it. We're taught the Gospel in it's fullness encompasses all truth. Light and intelligence indeed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The deep learning process

Seven steps when learning any really important lesson.

First we always start out at idealistic, we have the way we’d like the world to be, the way we see things. And something then happens to open our eyes or violate our idealism, then we get frustrated. All of us on the inside have a part of us that is immature. So we act spoiled and get frustrated. And then frustration when we don’t get what we want even more, it turns into defiance, we become defiant. Some people even get to the point when they get righteously indignant. Have you ever seen someone who is frustrated and defiant and as you were trying to deal with them they turned righteous? By damn they were right about how wrong everyone else is? Where not only were they emotionally out of control and frustrated they were more right than you, better than you because of it?

After you keep doing that from anywhere between seconds and….your whole life…. You usually hit that critical moment, that inflection point, that decisive moment when you become resigned. This is the critical point, this is the point when everything changes. Complete paradigm shift, and so when you’re resigned you can really either accept…. or you can try and push it off. You can try and prevent it, or accept it and invite it. You can either surrender and say “ok I was doing my little idealistic defiant frustrated thing again. .I surrender….I surrender to my little learning process I’m going through." Or you can turn passive aggressive when you get resigned. Some maybe even try and pretend that they are trying to make progress but they are passive aggressive. Nothing you do or say can help them because their inaction is their getting back at you. Their cutting off their nose despite their face.

Well if you surrender and you successfully get resigned and you get to the next phase this is where awareness happens. Once you’ve gone through these first steps all of a sudden you start to see new possibilities you become aware that there’s a whole range of things that you never considered before than you can do. Then you start to get excited, you pick one, and you become decisive. You decide, ok this is what I’m going to do and then….you get committed to that and your commitment takes you to the next level. When you’re the most committed to something you’re the most idealistic so the spiral starts itself again. This is the evolving and learning process of life. Personal trick. Is to stick between awareness and decisiveness.

Idealistic Frustrated Defiance Resigned aware decisive committed

To sum up:

1 Idealistic
First you get influenced with an idea, and you become excited about it, you commit with your whole heart and mind to it and begin to work hard to accomplish it.
What does this mean in the context of Internet Marketing? Well…you read a report or listen to a seminar and start with a certain idea about ….how a successful Internet business should be, and once you work long enough and face reality online, someone comes along and violates your idealism with other seemingly good and persuasive ideas and then you get frustrated.

2 Frustrated
Yes you are feeling that way because you started with a “tightly held ideal” in your head and as you encountered more confronting ideas, your frustration then turned into defiance.

3 Defiant
You begun to question whether the teacher, mentor, guru, society is right at all and then you started blaming them that they are wrong etc.

4 Resigned
Your defiance then turns into resignation, you throw it all away, you say to your self this stuff doesn’t work, and you go look for some other idea. But if you become aware, interesting things will begin to happen in your mind.

5 Aware
Once you realize there is no such thing as the ideal business, which you first imagined and you let go of your ideals that some guru sold you, all of sudden you start to see new possibilities. Then you start to get excited again and become decisive as you see reality and a world of infinite opportunity.

6 Decisive
You are filled with resolve and enthusiasm, you know what you are going to do and the direction you are going.

7 Committed
And you become committed again to go to the next level. And the evolving and learning cycle repeats it self.
If you are not aware of this learning process, you are likely to be going around in circles like a hamster that knows only one track. And this of course means you don’t stay long enough to follow through and pass the resignation stage to the awareness stage.
Here’s what you can do to get a fresh perspective, start moving ahead and enjoy more success with what you are learning.
To make this process work for you….(step 1) aim to stay aware of possibilities and (step2) decide to commit to one, test it out, make it work for you and move on to the next one without being too idealistic about it. The key is to let go of your ideals.
As you can see the more you let go of your ideals and ground your self in reality, the more likely you are to avoid being frustrated and succeed faster in mastering your subject.

To close here is a related scriptural topic.
D&C 93: 11-13, 20.

Christ didn't receive a fullness at first. He went from Grace to Grace. From one degree to the next. Since we follow Him, we too need to learn to learn, to go from one degree to the next.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Deeper meanings

The opposite of faith is fear. Joseph Smith taught faith and fear cannot coexist.
The opposite of hope is despair.
The opposite of Charity is hate or anger or selfishness

They all seem to intertwine. I think it's helpful to know what words mean, instead of just relying on definitions learned from childhood or definitions given to us by others. Those definitions can so be very limiting.

Repentance: Is it really the R's you hear so often... recognition, remorse, restitution, reformation, resolution? That definition of the word to me is a tragedy. It makes repentance into a self help mnemonic that isn't even all that good. I think the Gospel is not just another self help book. Definitions such as those don't help me understand the scriptures, does not produce light and makes the issue almost divorced from the Lord because its focus is almost entirely on you and what you should stop doing. It doesn't focus at all on positive things to do instead. If all you focus on is the negative that is probably all you will ever hit. My opinion anyway.

Other definitions of repentance include such things as "a mighty change of heart" "Return to God" "To turn around, change course" "Recognize the true light" "An opening of ones eyes to see the truth and feel righteousness flowing through you" "To grow in light and understanding" "Humbly seeking the Lords will."

Ok, a few more helpful definitions.
Faith: This next part is from a great book discussing the Book of Mormon. "Faith is more than belief. It is a principle of action, and requires you to do something about your belief before you can have faith. The lecture on Faith, Sixth Lecture is a study worth reading. In the Book of Mormon context, faith involves heavenly visitations.

Hope is more than a wish, ...Hope requires you to secure a promise form God. It requires you to be at rest - Secure in the knowledge the Lord has promised you a glorious resurrection. Hope is waiting for the tiem of the Lords promise to be fulfilled As sure as God's word cannot fail, your hope is secure in Him. But you must obtain that hope from Him, by getting him to make a promise to you.

Charity is a gift from God. It allows you to love others unconditionally. When resting secure in your own future state, you can love and hope for other sin a way you could not if you still worry about your own eternal welfare (Enos 1:11). " (Eighteen verses pg 312-313)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

religeon and prophets

The Sunday school lesson today was about the organization of the primitive church of Jesus Christ. The lesson also touched on the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The teacher went through various scriptures showing the inspired organization which includes prophets, apostles, teachers, evangelists, pastors... we also read the 6th article of faith which reads : 6 We believe in the same aorganization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, bprophets, cpastors, dteachers, eevangelists, and so forth.
Then the traditional hierarchy got written on the board, starting with the president of the church which has come to be synonymous with "The" Prophet. This hasn't always been the case in history, it's a recent (past few decades) development.

Anyway so up on the board we had the chart that somewhat resembled the typical leadership organization of a large business. From the back came an interesting question: "Is there such a thing as a prophet that is independent from the church organizational hierarchy?  Does such a thing exist?" The room was silent for at least 10 seconds. A few "huh.." sounds came from a few people in the audience. The discussion then changed as this question bounced around inside our heads. One person raised their hand and talked about how the bible did in fact mention "prophetesses" who obviously are not part of the organizational priesthood leadership... others raised their hands and talked about how people are indeed blessed with the gift of prophecy who don't happen to be part of the Quorum of the 12, or First Presidency.

Then the Elder's quorum president commented that both exist but that there is a difference of role. One has the role to receive revelation for the church, and to administer the affairs, the other's role is more of a spirit of prophesy gift. A distinction I really liked. Evidence that the Elders Quorum is acting in line with his calling and teaching truth to the quorum.

The teacher and the person that asked the question talked about it afterwords. One exchange I heard was that when Church people are ONLY willing to accept God's words from JUST the people in the organizational hierarchy they in effect deny the spirit of prophecy from coming from anyone else.

I found that fascinating.  To do such things would in effect be to tell God to "shut up" because we only want to hear from one man, or 15 as the case may be and no one else.  What an interesting discussion.

More on Ether 12

A few follow up thoughts from the post the other day titled Faith Hope and an Anchor.

I think here the story of David and Goliath applies. If we don't view the situation, challenge or problem of our life in the light of faith and Gods presence, it will be difficult if not impossible to gain from the experience what is possible to gain from it. Speaking of David from the Old Testament.  David did not see the encounter with Goliath as a battle between himself a mere boy and a giant. He saw it as the Lords battle. (1 Sam. 17: 45) Our job is not often to move the mountain, to move the trial or fix the circumstances. Often we need to use our agency and be wise but our job is to have faith in the Lord. The rest is the Lords problem. Our job is to persist in faith. So what do you do when you've exhausted all options and still feeling horrible? Then is when a truly humble prayer yields further light and knowledge. (D&C 112: 10) The Lord keeps his word. But it has to be obtained personally.

I think the events of Christ's life were easier said than done. I think He and we knew about the challenges that would confront us during our earth life. But actually experiencing them in a mortal body with all the doubts, challenges, pains, and problems of life is quite a different thing that on paper, or in theory. But it does give the opportunity for faith hope and knowledge.

To realize the worth of the anchor,
We need to feel the stress of the storm.

For a more complete discussion of this topic, and the David and Goliath part I talked about and paraphrased see The Second Comforter.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ether 12. Hope, Surety, and an anchor

4 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with asurety bhope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which chope cometh of dfaith, maketh an eanchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in fgood works, being led to gglorify God.

So many things in life are unsure, it's the nature of our world. Entropy is part of life. Yet here is a prophet of God, telling us there is something available that is very sure. Something eternally sure. How inspiring. It uses the word steadfast; meaning firm, not blown about by what people say or do, winds of doctrine, or the opinions of men. As I read this verse it becomes one of my favorites.

He says "whoso believeth in God MIGHT with surety hope for a better world". Why might? I think "might" because we have a choice. God offers, but we are allowed to choose to accept or just go along with mainstream. We can do what everyone else does, believe what they believe, do what your told, and sit smug in our beliefs that all is well. Or there is hope available, something real and connected directly to God. Hope that is far beyond mere wishful thinking, hope that is beyond a positive expectation. The hope he is talking about is an actual substance that is sure. It's the waiting period between the time of a promise from God (which is sure) and the final fulfillment of it. It's the waiting period, but the outcome is assured. (Eighteen Verses Chapt 4). Such hope the scripture say is an anchor. What a beautiful image of something strong holding a ship in place amidst waves, currents, or storms. An anchor goes deep, rests on the bottom. Implying the hope a person has is deep, it's restful, it goes to the core of a persons soul and provides stability, it's sure and steadfast just like the verse says. This is all ended with the word "would". It "would" make people such things as the verse says, were people to obtain it.

So what is a hope that causes people to abound in good works? That is some good hope. And not just a few good works either, but abounding. Interesting. It doesn't say that I'll do good works because I'm trying to be a good person. It doesn't support the belief that "if I'm just good enough for long enough I'll get there". It says the good works abound because of the hope within the person. To me this suggests the good works are the fruit of the inner life that is being altered and anchored. It's not forced or done to earn something. This hope "comes of faith" the verse says. But the first of the verse says this all begins with belief. Belief in God. It progresses, faith grows, hope and knowledge follow.

Then the verse ends with more interesting news "being lead to glorify God". Yes! How awesome. All these good works, hope, faith, leads a person to glorify God. In other words the persons natural response is anything but pride, selfishness, self gratification, and prideful ambition, it's humble, it's beautiful, it seeks to glorify God. There are few other appropriate response for certain events than to bow, worship, and glorify God. (Alma 36: 22) (Rev. 1: 17) (1 Ne. 1: 14) How comforting that this verse's content is leading us to such a place. A place where one glorifies the being who is Light itself.

In this world of uncertainty there is an anchor. There is love and hope in Christ, enduring as the returning waves of the sea. Gods longsuffering and outstretched merciful arm is extended. We choose what we do with it, and how we respond.

We should respond with repentance, seeking all truth, and obtain like this verse suggests an anchor to our soul. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Faithful in Christ

Moroni's words really speak to me. Verse 25 of Chapter 9.

25 My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.

There has been a horrific scene of savagery unfolding before this families eyes. Hence the first line of this verse. Some watch R rated movies, others have to live inside them. To me it says despite the fallen nature of this world, despite the decisions of others, despite the condemned awful state of some, it does not prevent the individual from being lifted up by Christ. Faithfulness is to Him. In spite of all the barbary, Moroni was still able to commune with God, to receive inspired revelation, experiences, (Ether 12: 39) and write scripture. Mormon who is writing has an alternate set of thoughts he would like his son to have in his mind, as opposed to all the garbage in front of his eyes. It's interesting what vocabulary prophet to prophet communication has. The talk between them is very focused, very direct and very beautiful.

This father son moment, when father shares his life long wisdom, his ultimate wish for his son uses words such as "May Christ lift thee up... mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever." He wants such thoughts resting in his mind. Not post traumatic stress thoughts from war and savagery, which can weight down unto death, but thoughts of our Lord, hope, mercy, long-suffering, eternal life. He says may those things "rest in your mind". Such thoughts in my view put the mind at rest. What a thought rest is. To me it implies deep peace and tranquility. Eternal life is equated with knowing God. Having thoughts of eternal life resting in your mind no doubt is connected to thoughts of knowing God. I don't think rest is a vacation or retirement, or sitting around doing nothing. That gets old real fast anyway. But true rest. Rest that in chapter 7 He invites listeners to enter. What kind of physiological responses would such thoughts resting in ones mind have on the body? I think it would bring harmony, and peace. So we must calm our minds, let our fears and anxieties pass over us, make some room in our lives, hearts and minds, maybe evict the inner tenants, pride, or worry, or thoughts that do not belong. And instead ponder on truth, on light, on the Lord and His goodness, being ever willing to repent. I bet Mormon would have similar advice for any of his readers. He knows such thoughts can bring a soul ultimately to rest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dumb Idols

Alma 31: 1

1 Now it came to pass that after the end of Korihor, Alma having received tidings that the Zoramites were perverting the ways of the Lord, and that Zoram, who was their leader, was leading the hearts of the people to abow down to dumb bidols, his heart again began to csicken because of the iniquity of the people.

Dumb idols.... that phrase sometimes strikes me as funny. In the scripture above it was because of their leader. One comment in Sunday school last Sunday was "Historically if the King was wicked, worshiped idols, the people tended to, if the King was righteous, the people tended to be too".  I thought the commentw as worth sharing.  Pays to always know when the Holy Spirit confirms a leaders words, or if they are just words of a person. Assuming is not an acceptable alternative.  "It was asked of the Prophet Joseph Smith and answered by him. He writes in his journal, "This morning . . . I visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet'; but I told them that a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such" (Joseph Smith, _History of the Church_, 5:265).

But back to the dumb idols. This phrase shows up a few times in scriptures. Last week in Sunday School we read some scriptures from Second Chronicles that show again and again and again that people fall for idols frequently.  It's one of the most common scriptural errors and consequently warnings.  Idolatry of these people in the scripture quoted was enough to make Alma sick.

Hugh Nibley gives some great insight on dumb idolatry:

"There is the famous story of the Eloquent Peasant from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt that tells how the rascally manager of an estate, when he saw a peasant passing by on his way to the market with a load of goods, cried out, “Would that I had some idol that would permit me to rob this man’s goods.” A dumb image would offer no opposition to any course he chose to take. That was the beauty of idols: they are as impersonal and amoral as money in the bank—the present-day as well as the ancient equivalent of a useful idol."  Get it?  An idol will not correct you.  But it will appear to get you off the hook while allowing you to appearing religious.  It will lead you astray all the while claiming such things aren't possible.  

Idolatry in the Hebrew Bible typically gets defined as either:
  • the worship of idols (or images)
  • Worship of something or someone other than God.
  • Excessive or blind adoration, reverence, or devotion 
  • the worship of animals or people
  • the use of idols in the worship of God.
Do we have idols?  We latter day saints don't sit and reverently stare at statues do we? Or honor images of historical men/women of God do we?  Scriptural speaking the Lords people find themselves falling for idols all too often.

Do we sometimes idolize leaders?
Is it ok to treat the Lords servants as almost celebrities? Do they ask us to to do this? (no)
Do we sing: "Praise to the man"?
Do we build statues to honor dead servants of God? Do any scriptures support this?
Do we put gold leaf around a fiberglass statue of a man and put it on top of hundreds of buildings?
Do we love sports teams in excess?
What of the show "American Idol"?
Do academic achievements and degrees become objects of such desire and ambition they become a false God?

To quote one of my friends when I asked if he thought Moroni liked being on top of the temples: "he's probably as embarrassed as hell being up there" haha.  Sometimes we miss things because they are so intertwined into our culture.  You almost have to go somewhere otherworldly and then come back in order to notice how we too may have fallen for idols.

"Lord, if thou will, thou canst do all things. Thou canst show me things I had never before considered, Lord may I humbly trade any error I may possess for the light of truth, for thy eternal righteousness." Amen

Wounds and vindication

I think everyone has wounds. Some caused by our own poor choices, some caused by wrongs done to us by others. Sometimes it's something we did that we regret, other times it wasn't us.

Christs teachings become more clear I've noticed as one lives them. Each of us has a unique ministry that can by a type of Christ. "You have a sphere and element too. You are not required to live your life as if you were anything other than what you are, living where you are, among the people of your own family and neighborhood. Within your life's context, you too can be full of light and truth. You too can drink the cup given to you, without regard to attempting to swallow an ocean never given to you to drink." (The Second Comforter, pg 321). What good news. Each of us has a sphere, each of us can bring honor to our Heavenly Father by what we say, do, and are. Friends, family, spouses, coworkers, employees, bosses, animals, mother nature...etc. Each of us has daily opportunity to behave and treat people as Jesus taught.

I got to thinking today about wounds. Especially those caused by others. It's so easy to want vindication, to sue the hell out of people who legally do wrong, appeal to those with more power or influence to vindicate us of our hurt feelings and wounds. Revenge. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. That however is not what Jesus taught. He taught us to forgive those who have wronged us, and to then intercede on their behalf, to pray for them, to love them. This is what a son/daughter of God does. Jesus did not want others condemned, even for killing Him, even while they were in the act (Luke 23: 34). He came to save the world, not to condemn it. (John 3:17) He did not appeal to His father for vindication from those who opposed Him. We should do likewise in our own circle of life. Leave others free from judgment, what a gift that would be, and one we can give so many people. Is it really so satisfying to want to see justice served? Is it so fulfilling to do what is within our rights? Would it be every bit as satisfying to want to see mercy served? Hum...

So what do we do with our wounds? Do we go to court? Do we go to our superiors? Do we hold resentment deep inside? Bury our anger, and or live hurt? No.... we go to Christ with our wounds, allow the healing power of the Atonement to heal us, make use whole again. We repent, as in a change of heart, direction, and orientation. God promises healing. (3 Ne. 17: 7) Then we can go back to those who have wronged us and do good to them, love them, pray for them. Show them what living the Gospel of Jesus Christ looks like. Taking upon us the name of Christ is very simple, it's doing as He did and taught. We become like Him by doing that.

The wounds will heal, light will come, joy results and the world will no longer be the same place, nor will you.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A prayer worth reading

A short humble prayer as quoted on Donna Nielsen's blog:

"I seek truth and do not want to be limited by my own narrow-minded conception of what it should look like.  I will open myself to new teachings with one condition: Whatever is true should enter my life and take root; whatever is false should pass through and leave no impression.  With Thy help, Father, I trust that it will be so. Let me embrace truth and deflect falsehood. "

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Crisis of Faith Symposium

Went to a very interesting Sunstone Magazine symposium today in downtown Salt Lake City. The topic of the seminar was "Navigating an LDS Crisis of Faith". The Sunstone theme was "Reflections of Maturing Faith".

The opening line of this seminar was "Destination Agnostic".  An interesting destination for a seminar about maturing faith and navigating a faith crisis. Destination agnostic is nothing like the destination the scriptures speak of. The first speaker wanted everyone to feel comfortable and have their experience and feelings validated, which I agree with. He wanted to create a safe environment. So I get why they may have begun with such defining statement.  It was intended not to alienate anyone.  My intent with this post is not to judge the speaker. I support the good the speaker had, and any search for truth and light

The seminar began by describing a relatively accepted "convert" equation that the missionaries teach and implement. That of how religion and specifically the LDS faith satisfies basic human needs for structure, hope, a charismatic leader, morals, and a sense of purpose and afterlife. (I'm quoting the speaker who's thought included slides with little graphics). He said basically the missionaries establish a positive emotional connection to the church and that is what comprises a convert.  He prefaced all this with "setting aside any divine origin of religion".  He removed the divine from any conversion experience, and made it about emotion and filling human needs and instincts.  I think that is exactly what happens to some folks.  However I don't think that is the only option.  And certainly not the "conversion" the scriptures speak of.  To remove the divine from conversion.... leaves what left over?  If I had the chance I would have spent a good chunk of time helping people see the difference between faith in God, and faith in an institution.  One will save you, and give you direction, the other will not.    

An underlying assumption throughout the seminar was that "faith" equated to confidence or belief in a church or institution.  Faith in a Church and Faith in God had become so intertwined that for the purposes of the seminar they weren't separated.  No attempt was made to distinguish the two.  In my view to not distinguish the two begins the discussion on a foundation of sand.  On the one hand Jesus made it possible for man and God to be reconciled, through the Atonement.  Jesus has saving power. He never taught nor asked that an institution take His place as Savior and become the object of our faith.  But not everyone views it that way.  and how you view that topic will determine how the person proceeds in faith and subsequently how they then interact with the church.

I wanted to contribute to the discussion so I went to the microphone and asked if he could explain how it is he equates an emotional connection or an emotional experience to a spiritual experience and becoming converted. The comment included my view that emotion and spiritual things are very different. His response was one of validating my point of view, and how it's often difficult for people to distinguish between emotion and the Spirit. He didn't offer any clarity, nor even claim to have any insight on the topic.  He just said there was difficulty when dealing with matters of emotion and the Spirit.  He later claimed to not understand much of anything about God. God had become intangible and unknowable, he at another point said he wasn't sure he had 10 fingers or 10 toes.  The destination agnostic did seem to be on track.

The seminar went on.... views were shared, people told stories about how they have worked through their crisis of faith and various struggles with going to church, sticking it out, and or up and leaving the organizational completely due to holes in the history, leaders that weren't perfect etc.... They also discussed how to leave the organization calmly without causing harm or offense to others if that is what the person chose to do. They also discussed how to remain in the organization and get along with others while working through personal challenges or being disaffected. Some of the points were good. The speaker was non judgmental and gave people a listening ear. I appreciated that and thought his approach was kind and understanding.

I wish I had been more vocal during all of this. The desire to keep an open mind and act appropriately for the setting almost made it hard. Aside from 2 comments, I wish I had spoken more freely. So many of the things taught I saw as downright false. The fundamental paradigm was one of navigating a crisis of emotion, because that is all a conversion was said to be. There was NO mention of "Jesus Christ" or including Him as part of the navigation process besides maybe one comment. The scriptures were not used at all. The pattern in the scriptures for growing faith was not really part of the discussion. How can anyone navigate a crisis of faith without Jesus Christ, and without holy writ? Yet every other alternative was explored.

I was dumbfounded by most of what was said. Philosophies of man on how to navigate religious disappointment. Without scriptures being referenced, some other philosophy is the only other option.

Many of the comments were questions or comments on how to teach or approach or answer children when a parent is having a crisis of faith, doubting, questioning the religion, or finding historical facts that don't add up. A very good question, and I was excited to see how people responded to the question. I believe there is room for questioning in the church.  There were some good points made here.  Allowing others to chose from among major beliefs when the appropriate age arrived.  The points were pretty good, but none of them spoke of higher things.

My main concern was the speaker attempted to speak of "navigating" a crisis of faith without Jesus Christ, or any mention of any scripture. With that as the guide, where are we going to end up?  When Christ referred to people as blind, in pretty much every case the person did not recognize Christ for who he was. This was the blindness to which he referred.  To me this is very important. There wasn't any claim about Christ or his doctrine in the symposium. LDS folks claim to be Christian so I assumed this would not be missing. But I shouldn't assume. I had to ask myself what path then was being taught/advocated as a means of navigating a faith crisis?  "Destination Agnostic" I guess.

A few themes stood out. This was one of them.
"What to do when you realize your testimony was of an organization that turned out to not be what you thought, may have historical holes, or imperfect people inside it or leading it"?  I liked that question, however it was never answered in a way that leads on to further understanding.  It had more to do with emotion, and feelings, rather than light and truth.  I admire the speaker for his attempt to support those dealing with a crisis of faith.  Although I would have done it differently, I'm glad there are those wanting and trying to help others who struggle.

It was clear many people have a testimony of an organization, a man or men, family traditions, or what they were told and taught as youth.  That's not the testimony that will stand the test of time.  Nor is that a testimony that will save a persons soul.  So in a sense having a crisis of faith about an organization might end up a very good thing.  It can point you to God, to then base your testimony and knowledge on things form heaven.  My main disappointment was how the workshop didn't point anyone towards Christ, or how to gain further understanding.  Christ was not even on the radar screen although some people probably felt understood, felt validated in their challenges and struggles to find faith again. So hopefully from there, the speaker did a lot of good and people can take it further on their own.  Yes some people do struggle with their testimony of Christ.  It just seems hard to navigate a crisis of faith if your destination is agnostic.  But then each person gets to choose what and who they follow.  

I learned a lot from today.  Who you choose as your guide and teacher is about as important as anything we do in life.  We are in the middle, and get to choose. Thankfully there are inspired messengers sent from Father for those seeking. A testimony of Jesus isn't as common as I had once imagined, nor does it appear many religious folks are even seeking one. Scriptures say the testimony of Jesus, and being valiant in it,  is what counts, and I agree with them. For me I'm a Christian, and to me that foundation will bring light and truth and happiness.  But others have a different destination.  To navigate a crisis of faith it's helpful to know where you want to end up.   My view is Christ is the alpha and Omega. You can't begin without Him who is the beginning. He is the beginning of our faith, the author, and the finisher of our faith. I suppose "our" in this case should be just me speaking for myself.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Joseph Smith Family Bible.

On the way home from work the news on the radio reported that the Joseph Smith family bible is available, and is going for 1.5 million $.


It's paper, a binding, ink, and maybe some old dust. I can get a bible for free at probably any number of churches.  So it's not the content that is suddenly worth more than a few dollars at a local book store.  So then is it the ancient artifact value that this item presents, as opposed to it's utility value that is worth 1.5 million?  Is it the historical significance due the humans who touched it?  I guess I can see how ancient artifacts are valuable, like for example artifacts from ancient Egyptian tombs are valuable. But those have value because they are NO LONGER AVAILABLE! But a bible? Because of who owned it? Hum.... it must not be the content of the bible which is worth that price. The same content is available for free. On a interesting note very few people showed up to see this display at the book store selling it.

So it must be something else that is valuable to people. Is it merely a historical item that makes it worth 1.5 million? Artifact value? How ironic. When Joseph Smith acquired the gold plates he was informed that it WAS NOT to be used to make money, or get gain. The content was more valuable than the gold upon which it was written. God made that VERY clear.  Interestingly contrary to everything Joseph Stood for, contrary to Gods own words about not using His Word for such things, the family bible is now being used to get gain. To make money. Kinda funny really. I wonder if anyone will buy it.