Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thoughts and Intents

As I was researching a few scriptures for a post to Mormon Momma, I came across this scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 6.
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth; Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

Suddenly, I had one of those epiphany moments, where you feel that the Spirit has been a bird, waiting for you to read those words so He could swoop down on you and testify that they are meant for you. I have been having a really rough time for several years, now. The details are far too personal, but I have been wracked with self-loathing and -uncertainty because I feel that a major decision I made - despite feeling that it was of God at the time - was wrong.

But this verse and the Spirit have testified to me. I did ask of the Lord. I thought he did "enlighten my mind." Though I had had doubts, I can't deny that I felt the classic lightening of the mind when I asked if my choice was the right one. I feel that the Lord is promising me that I was indeed enlightened of the Spirit, and not my own desires.

I have been struggling especially lately with a feeling of worthlessness to the Church and to the world at large. Many people have corroborated this feeling. I still don't understand why people are so intent on telling me how and why I am a failure. But here, the Lord is telling me that no one knows my thoughts and intents save He. Whatever my social skills, whatever my behavior, He knows how I intended to be. He knows my desires. Therefore, only His opinion can count for anything.

I really need to get myself back to the point where I commune with Him. This distance is tearing me apart. Perhaps this verse is the key to softening my heart. Perhaps I can cast off the shackles of popular opinion and learn once again to serve the Master of my heart.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Spider Story

I promised I would share my Spider Story at Janet's baby shower last night. (Don't read, Janet, you have been warned!)

I've never been particularly scared of spiders, per se, but I am highly allergic to their bites. One small spider bite on my ankle, for example, can cause it to swell to the size of a softball. Though I've never been afraid of spiders, I've never liked killing them, either. At different times in my life (usually relating to how recently I've been bitten) I have wavered between the catch-and-release-outside methodology and the get-it-before-it-gets-me. Several years ago, I rented a basement room. Unfortunately, spiders and basement rooms are friends. One might even say they are deeply intimate. I became very good at killing spiders without batting an eyelash.

Despite being a very deep sleeper, I awoke in the middle of the night one night with a sharp pain on the back of my knee. I had been bitten by yet another spider. I shook out my sheets and, finding nothing, returned to sleep. The spider bite was a doozy. It ached. The back of my knee swelled enough that it was painful to sit properly on a chair.

A month and a half went by, and still the bite was painful. (If you think watching a dog chase its tail is funny, you should try to look closely at the back of your knee.) Eventually, I was bit again by a very small spider on the finger. Minutes later I began to sting and itch on my lower belly. It hurt badly enough that I went to the restroom to check out the problem. It appeared that I had been bitten by ants. After about ten or fifteen minutes of acute pain, the symptoms vanished.

The next day it happened again, but this time it was over my belly and legs. To make a long story short, it eventually spread down my arms and over my neck and face, appearing as whitish ant bites, fading to red and finally disappearing only to appear again some time later. The problem became frequent and painful enough to begin interfering with my work. I decided it was time to go to the Urgent Care clinic. The symptoms happened again on my way to the clinic, but by the time the doctor saw me, the bite-like marks were almost gone.

The diagnosis was systemic allergies. Apparently, my body had been so overloaded with some allergen that it could no longer handle it with a localized allergic reaction, hence the tiny bite-like marks that some would recognize as hives. Upon examination, it turned out that the spider that had woken me in the middle of the night was a hobo spider. I had been walking around with a bulls-eye bite on the back of my knee for nearly two months. After few test samples of Claritin (which was new at the time) everything was fixed.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that I was sitting on my floor, working on my computer when a thick-legged spider about the size of my thumb scuttled along my wall and behind my computer. I was armed with spider-killer. After a few missed shots (the bugger was fast) I hit it squarely on its furry little head. It was the first and only time I have enjoyed watching one of God's creatures dissolve into a puddle of goo.

Rest in peace, little hobo spider, but I regret not thy passing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Do You Believe in Evolution?

An interesting question was brought to my attention in a recent interview between the media (Reuters) and an LDS member. "Do you believe in evolution?" I would have to say, as a trained scientist and a believing member of the LDS Church, "NO!" I find it incredibly disturbing that such a question even exists.

Before I go further, let me make a few things clear. I love science. I graduated with a degree in pre-veterinary medicine. Zoology is fascinating to me. I trained in the scientific method. I trained in writing theses. I've analyzed experiments and reproduced them in lab. I miss my scientific field with a hunger that has made me consider cutting my earning power in half just to get my latex-wrapped fingers around a test tube filled with blood agar. I. Love. Science. I love science almost as much as I love animals, which is why I find the question of whether or not I "believe" in evolution so dismaying. It has nothing to do with my sincere and deep religious conviction. In fact, the religious side of me leaves far more room for a "belief" in evolution or its like. My scientific reason, however, cannot accept that science is being formed into the Church of the People.

Science is nothing more than a method used to break down the workings of the world and find out how things are. It was never meant to define the great "Why" that religion addresses. By its very nature, science has nothing to do with belief. In the scientific method, one 1) observes. Through those observations, one drafts a 2) hypothesis. One then 3) tests the hypothesis in as controlled an environment as possible. During the testing, one 4) observes the results. Then one 5) adjusts the hypothesis and begins again. Once a hypothesis has been refined and is provable in multiple experiments at multiple times, it graduates to a 6) theory. Theories are hypotheses with the weight of reproducibility behind them. If a theory becomes so provable (and so concise) that it becomes a law, it has become as assured as possible under the tenets of science and other hypotheses and theories are built on that law. (Bear in mind that even laws can change, though rarely, in science.)

Nowhere in the scientific method (the basis of science) is there room for belief. There is room for guesses, there is room for educated guesses, there is room for reason, but there is no room for faith. Therefore, one cannot by the very nature of science "believe" in a scientific theory, such as the Theory of Evolution.

What is more galling is that the theory of evolution (bearing in mind that I am speaking of MACROevolution, or the change from one species to another, and not microevolution, or the adaptation of existing traits) is not even truly developed to the point that it can honestly be called a "theory." Macroevolution has not been proven in the lab. Macroevolution has not even been satisfactorily observed in the natural environment. The evidence for macroevolution is sparse and largely circumstantial. Although microevolution is perhaps consistent enough to be elevated to the status of a theory, it has not been quantified, has not been refined and cannot be called anything more than a theory in its fledgling state, not having moved into the power of a scientific law. Macroevolution is little more than extrapolation built on the observable evidence of microevolution. Unfortunately, the term "Hypothesis of Evolution" doesn't sound nearly so titillating as "Theory of Evolution."

So, my answer to the question, "do you believe in evolution?" is a resounding "NO!" I like the theory of evolution. I think it is very probably accurate. I think both the concepts of micro- and macroevolution are fascinating. I can't wait to see what more is discovered about evolution, but my interest in evolution is not a matter of belief or faith. The media has fastened upon Darwin's concept and turned it into a weapon in the science-versus-religion smackdown. Sadly, for the media, there is nothing that science could ever do to disprove or prove the existence of God. But then, that is not the purpose of science. Nor is self-verification the purpose of God.

I love science, but it is not a religion and never can be. It is tragic that people are so afraid of faith in the unknown that they turn to a discovery process like science for their self-affirmation. It is tragic that people need to lean on the seen so heavily they mock or ignore the unseen. However, if people insist on venerating the God of Scientific Theory, they should at least have the decency to recognize that the Religion of Science requires just as much faith as orthodox religion. At least, according to Reuters it does.

Perhaps this is the "great and abominable Church" spoken of in scripture. Move over, Catholics, here come the Scientists.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Pain of Charity

I've stayed away for a couple of days because I've been hurting. I'm still hurting, but I feel ready to write again.

My grandfather passed away June 1st, 2007. He was a pillar of the community, often giving succor to those in need. He was a great man. One of my earliest memories of him was down in his basement. He had a container of black walnuts and taught me how to crack them so I could extract the nut whole. In that same visit, he took me across the street to his neighbor's house and let me help him pick apricots. In an even earlier memory of him, I remember going to his flower shop. I remember little of the sight and sound of that shop, but I remember the sharp tang of moisture, roses and greenery. That smell means beauty to me. I believe it has something to do with my affinity for green, growing things. I remember wanting to design a flower arrangement, though I couldn't have been more than five years old. I remember wanting to emulate his artistry. Perhaps that is what helped me discover my love for color and form. Though my grandfather was a somewhat more distant figure than my grandmother (who passed away in 1999,) his paradigm of service and duty has shaped my life.

I attended the funeral yesterday. Grandpa was surrounded by grieving friends and step-family. It was clear he would be sorely missed in the community. Observing this and listening to the eulogies, I began thinking of myself. I came to some hard realizations. The first was how very selfish I am. Through much of the funeral, I hurt because I wished I had had some part in it, something to give the man who contributed to my life. As I analyzed my own feelings, I realized I had very little place in Grandpa's life, so it was only fitting that I would have no place in his death. Unlike my grandfather, I do not connect with people. At my funeral, there will be many fewer grieving faces.

As I thought about it, I also realized that I do not connect with people by choice. I have actively destroyed any but the most superficial ties to anyone. I'm not sure why I do this. I know I am afraid, but I'm not sure of what I am afraid. I think it may be that I am so afraid of hurting someone - I am so afraid of failing - that I minimize my connections. The ironic aspect of this is that the isolation hurts me. I know that I am hurting myself more than rejection and failure would hurt me, but I don't know how to change. This is what brings me to the topic of this post.

In The Princess Bride, the Man in Black tells Buttercup that "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something." In my estimation, charity is pain. There are two types of "charity." The first is characterized by "alms to the poor." It is simply giving because you know you should give or, in other words, because you gain something from it. I believe it is this brand of charity to which the world subscribes. It is giving because you feel you will gain a reward, whether heavenly, socially or financially. This sort of charity is not evil per se, but I don't believe it is the sort of charity of which the Lord or His prophets speak in the scriptures. It is not this sort of charity that is the "greatest of all" virtues. It is not this sort of charity which "suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." It is not this sort of charity which, as the Relief Society motto states, "never faileth."

The type of charity Christianity teaches is much more difficult because it inevitably leads through pain. This charity is the "pure love of Christ" which "caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink . . . ." It is the charity that enabled Christ to atone for the sins of all mankind. It is the charity that is a cause rather than a symptom. It is love, not for glory, reward or honor, but for the cruel, beautiful, glorious children of God. It is love that gives, knowing that it will be hurt. It is continually building relationships despite the pain, despite the fear, despite the loneliness of rejection.

I know in my heart that God has granted me a great capacity for this kind of charity, but I am too terrified, too bound up in the cords of Satan to utilize it. I feel that this is my purpose on the earth, to love God's children, to be a place where "The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety." I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to let go of my fear of pain and give. I don't know how Christ continued ministering, knowing the pain He would suffer at the hands of the ignorant. I know I need to learn.

Perhaps when I do, I will be happy.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Final Farewell

I wrote this poem when my grandmother passed away. Now, her beloved eternal companion has joined her at last. Bis sp├Ąter, Opa.

Think of Me
Dedicated to Ruth & George, who together have gifted us with a legacy of forgiveness and the sacrifice of love.

I sat on my bed and remembered the day
that your soul was bonded to mine.
How the look in your eyes held tenderness
that was matched by the love in your smile.

And then my thoughts drifted away from the now
and to all of the years that we shared.
The good times and bad ones all marched through my mind,
and I realized just how much you cared.

Then he entered, like so many friends that I've known,
without even a knock at the door.
And though he was pale like the legends say,
no golden sickle he bore.

So I rose to greet him, I knew it was time.
And he hugged me close and said,
"There is no need to fear me, your time was well spent."
And the regrets that I had held, fled.

So I stepped forth to enter the passing way
My heart feeling lighter, and free.
But my head turned and saw you alone near my bed,
and again I felt how much you loved me.

So think of me, though my bones are now cold.
I wait for you in mansions above.
Know that not even death, so friendly and pale,
could hope to sever our love.

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