Chastening isn't a popular topic. But I thought I'd share a few thoughts.
It's not common for people in the LDS church to really share experiences involving God or the Spirit. Often due to the sacred nature of them, but other times it's because they are not occurring very often. It's interesting to ponder on which might be occurring. And how easy one would be tempted to explain away the absense of spiritual experiences by calling them "too sacred" to talk about. The lack of something can be easily clouded by just putting it into a genre of things not to talk about.
What's even less common in the LDS church is to share or speak of our "chastening" experiences from God. There's little doubt why. Chastening is not something you put on facebook. Being chastened by the spirit would do such things as reveal our pride and errors, and cause sometimes abrupt changes in a persons life. Not something you'll likely hear in fast and testimony meeting. But you will see it in scripture.
A few noteworthy accounts of chastening are found in the Book of Mormon. We know the brother of Jared got chastened for a number of hours prior to the account in Ether where the Lord appeared to him. Chastening is one way to know God cares about you (Helamen 15:3). Lehi is another example. In Helamen it says that unless the Lord chastens his people, they won't remember him. (Helamen 12:3). So the Lord does this similarly to how parents interact with growing children. And we residents of earth very much tend to be wayward children. So God chastens us so we don't forget him. Because that seems to be a default setting.
An experience of my own comes to mind that I remember made me want to hide. Without sharing too much, my (mis)understanding and need to change became obvious. I needed to repent. What I'm referring to was unrelated to morality, but curiously that is often the first and only thing members think of when words like repentance are used. Despite the pain of the chastening I learned a lot. Reason I share it is I think others can benefit from the challenges and learning experiences of others.
Not every single mistake or error needs to be repeated in full force by every person to learn the lesson. The experience Joseph Smith had with the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon comes to mind. We can continually ask God for something which previously received a no answer, and if we persist we may in fact get permission to then proceed. But it may turn out to be a painful learning experience. Why repeat that? Is it required to repeat that? Or can we just start being more intelligent?
There was a time shortly after a profound experience in my life where I was super gung-ho about sharing all my new found conclusions and new found realizations about the Church, the Gospel, the world we live in, the scriptures etc..... I was blurting out stuff left and right. Almost never got a positive response. But that didn't stop my enthusiasm, which of course felt very righteous to me at the time. Looking back I was probably coming across as a jerk who loved being right about how wrong others were. Needless to say.... I felt one day a very clear chastening came. In a very clear and direct manner. I couldn't understand at the time why what I was doing, and how I was interacting with others was all that bad. Among the communication were the words dogmatic, impatient, and uncharitable. I wanted to hide and not reveal my shame when that message came to me. But as Hebrews says, we are not to lose heart, or faint when we are corrected.
What I learned was that I needed to take seriously the statement by the Lord in D&C 121 about how no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood. The only tools we are to use are persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness patience, pure knowledge, meekness etc... I've since found I have the greatest success by lovingly and warmly sharing things with people through a line of reasoning, when they are interested. Rather than dogmatically stating conclusions, or ambushing people with new information they may not have previously had and which they are in no position to suddenly ingest. My own mind is not always ready for every conclusion or idea, so I had to conclude in my own heart how foolish it is to expect others to respond to something that I myself needed time, and reasoning, and scriptures, and patience, and long-suffering to understand.
Not every topic or idea, especially in the Gospel can be explained or understood in a few minutes. Much less a soundbite.
Anyway, such was this particular event in my life. Stating conclusions or ideas people are unprepared for, that have no foundation in something they do understand, and doing so at the wrong time, is in fact uncharitable. People may reject something they may have otherwise listened to. It shows little patience, and can come across as dogmatic, which usually ends peoples interest. Those types of tools don't work. God's tools do work. Meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, patience, love unfeigned, pure knowledge, gentleness patience.
I still err, and continue to learn, but am grateful to be corrected. Also grateful to learn from others who have gone before me, or who know live who have wisdom to impart. The Book of Mormon says in Mormon 9:31 that we should be grateful that the weaknesses of these ancients people in scripture were manifest unto us so that we "may learn to be more wise than we have been". Seems they care enough about us to help us not repeat their errors.
The Book of Mormon has great wisdom in it. But too often the Book of Mormon is not used for it's wisdom, it's used as a measuring stick with which to puff up our pride, which leads to feelings of superiority over other people of other religions. Being in possession of, or owning the copy-write of the Book of Mormon is not the same thing as receiving it's message. The book does very little unless the message does something to the inner person. There are some stern chastening words found in 2 Nephi chapter 28. I appreciate them. Only a friend would tell people the cold hard truth. With some radical candor. I believe we should accept the chastening hand of God however it shows up.
Joseph Smith remarked (from liberty jail no less)
A frank and open rebuke provokes a good man to emulation, and in the hour of trouble he will be your best friend, but on the other hand it will draw out all the corruption of a corrupt heart, and lying and the poison of asps shall be under their tongues, and they do cause the pure in heart to be cast into prison because they want them out of their way.
How do we respond to chastening? What does our response indicate about us?
I'm afraid many of the chastening cycles of the Book of Mormon are going to repeat, perhaps sooner than we'd all like. But I hope to do all in my power to learn from them, and thank them for their message, and be wise that it might "yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness".
Monday, May 23, 2016
(This is a hand out given to the Primary Children of my Ward in Utah by the Stake Primary Presidency. I assumed it was a pretty big no no to use Kool-Aid in religious settings but perhaps not all are familiar with the history)
Brigham Young, October 6, 1855, JD 3:45. Says this:
Some may say, “Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am.” I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, “If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,” this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
I don't agree with a good portion of things Brigham Young taught or did. But I do agree with that statement above. I've found however in our day almost no one agree with his statement anymore. In fact I can't go hardly 1 week at church without hearing the exact opposite. I've lost count of how many consecutive weeks I've heard the opposite at some point during the 3 hour period. It's as if that's the primary teaching now days. As it was again yesterday during church. There came a moment when I either needed to excuse myself from the room, or else I was going to say some thing which would have likely landed me in the bishop's office. Not wanting to disrupt those who were content with the copious amounts of koolaid being offered, I opted to join the growing group of transients in the hallway comprised of young dads.
My faith in God is the reason I attend church. I think in order to develop certain characteristics and understandings you need to be around a diverse group of people. It's good for the soul to interact with and come to love and appreciate those who come to a faith based organization to worship who are different, and those who may believe and view life in very different ways. I believe this. Where my faith in God leads me once I am already at church however has only dawned on me in hindsight. It's to those ward members who do not fit in. Which to my surprise is a larger group than I expected. The ward members who's views are shut down, the ward members who don't look the part, won't ever be called to leadership positions, or the ward members who are so bored they would rather stand in the hallway and play with baby toys than attend some of the classes. It's to those I'm drawn, those who's souls may be hungry, but who may lack the words or courage to express it openly for fear of consequences. These are the people I find more comfort in being around. I think this too is related to my faith in God.
I had no idea how many of the ward members felt or what they thought about Church, the Gospel, and their 3 hour block. One unmistakable and undeniable indication was a few weeks ago when there was massive windstorm. 60-70mph winds Sunday morning lead to Church being canceled. This announcement of no Church caused what seemed universal happiness and joy around the neighborhood. Fellow Ward members I hadn't seen smile in a long time were cheerful. Despite the damages to homes, missing shingles, and downed trees, there was a feeling of lightheartedness and joy.
The ward leadership organized a ward cleanup to pick up around the neighborhood. There is typically not any measurable enthusiasm surrounding manual labor projects. But not this Sunday. Church having been canceled, there was a buzz. There was a new motivation towards service and helping clean up the neighborhood that was uncharacteristic. It caught my attention. There was a feeling of relief. I had to ask my self why is that? What is it about our worship services that causes relief when they are canceled? Relief to pretty much everyone. Has church become mentally oppressive?
Now I've heard and am very familiar with the idea that you only get out of church what you bring to the meeting. Which in some senses is absolutely true. Sometimes what I get out of church is limited to the scriptures I brought with me. My point is not to find fault with anyone, but to just speak openly about some alarming trends.
There is a rapidly growing number of people who are bored. And having been taught that any lack of the spirit during those 3 hours is their own fault, many people continue to drone on, play on their phone, or skip the meetings altogether to help pass the time. There are a few core topics which we would only accept like we do because of having heard them so many times our minds presume the concept must be true. It darkens our minds to the point where participation stops, engagement stops, thinking stops, and the Gospel becomes a lifeless bore. We presume if we needed to know something, we would be taught it from the pulpit, and mistakenly conclude that our duties with the Gospel end there. The side effect being that since we don't hear about certain things from the pulpit, we can safely set them aside and minimize their importance.
There is so much I want to say to my fellow ward members. So much joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I want to talk about. But I'm often shut down, and silenced, sometimes with conviction. Interestingly, it's not by the people at church who I'm drawn to. They respond very differently.
There are so many people I think who are spiritually hungry. They aren't satisfied with hearing the same correlated material, and watered down gunk year after year. They are tired of endless opinion sharing in Sunday School, and have noticed that 6 months can go by in Elder's Quorum without reading from the scriptures more than an isolated verse which happened to be embedded in the lesson manual text. They sense that the Gospel has something to offer them, which the current trends simply will not, and at this point cannot deliver to them.
I think there are people to reach out to. Who want to be reached out to. They just need someone willing to. "We can touch the world when we meet them all at their need". - Earth, Wind, and Fire.