Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chastening

Chastening isn't a popular topic.  But I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

Proverbs 3:11
My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Hebrews 12:5-11 

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
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".

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