Friday, April 25, 2008

Polygamy, Blah, Blah, Blah . . . .

Okay, I know it seems beneficial to many to have something to complain about in regards to the Church, but please, please, PLEASE shake it up a little. There are only so many ways a person can answer a question and be told the answer isn't good enough before they get bored and move on. All a person can say is "Here is my answer, but why don't you ask the Lord for one of your own? I'm not nearly as good at answering questions as He is." Just because you don't believe a point of faith doesn't mean someone is an idiot for believing it. They also have no need to prove anything to you. If it could be proven, it wouldn't be faith. Just remember, you have the burden of proof to yourself. Finite.

If you absolutely insist on hashing something out, whatever you do, pick a topic that is new. There is nothing like a little freshness added, especially in the spring. Talk about the horrible lack of environmental awareness exhibited by the Mormon MobileTM. Discuss the bad fashion sense in wearing a tight shirt over a long sleeved shirt. Talk about the lack of culinary discernment necessary to put vegetables in a dessert. Maybe a discussion on how plain a typical Mormon face is could liven up your dinner conversation. I don't care what you gripe about so long as it is new. Give the right side of your brain a chance to shine. It has been oppressed by the Church for far too long.*

Useful List of Verboten Topics:
  • Polygamy

  • Blacks and the Priesthood

  • Women and the Priesthood

  • Proclamation on the Family

  • Julie Beck's Talks

  • Family Size/Sexuality/Birth Control/Abortion

  • Patriarchy

  • Republicanism in the Church

  • Gay Marriage

  • Dress Standards Anywhere

*Aha! A new idea!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When the Bright Flame Dies

There are times in the lives of every person when they feel the light of testimony flicker and even die. Things they once knew with perfect conviction become tenuous and distant. Knowledge gained through the Spirit departs with the Spirit. Those newly converted and baptized, whether eight years old or older, soon discover that the spiritual euphoria of covenant making can wear off if one does not work at keeping it.

I once had a learning experience with a truly great man and Apostle of Christ. I remember much of the feeling of what was said, though very little of the actual words. He spoke of how Christ taught people, addressing them at the level they could understand, and then lifting them higher. It was an exhilarating lesson, and one that truly illustrated what missionary work should be. It also answered many of my questions as to why the Church does things they way they do. He also spoke of Gethsemane and the time Jesus felt abandoned on the cross. The only phrase I remember word for word is this, "No matter what happens, no matter the times you feel abandoned, never give up. Never give up."

When I went to shake his hand afterwards, all I could say to him was "I won't." That promise has carried me through times in my life when I was deeper in feelings of abandonment than I could stand. "Never give up," and "I won't," echoed through my mind, cutting through the myriad voices which pummeled my testimony of God and of my relationship with Him. I knew it was a promise made before God and before the witness of His servant. It was a personal covenant with Him. It was the lifesaver thrown from the hand of a servant of God. I am certain I will be in need of it again.

Covenants are meant to be those lifesavers. Some will be completely personal, as the experience I have just related. Others are given by God to all His children who are willing to take them, as with baptism and the endowment and sealing in the temple. Every genuine seeker of truth will sooner or later find themselves making covenants. Not only is it inevitable, it is necessary. Part of genuinely seeking truth is being willing to act according to the truth. When we make covenants, we are promising the Lord to act according to the truth we know. Additionally, those promises can help us through times of spiritual darkness.

When you go through times when you feel alone, and everything seems to be on you, cling to the covenants you have made, whatever they may be. For me, the only thing that has kindled the flame of testimony again has been to remember the feelings I once had and the promises I once made. Inevitably, those have returned, though it has at times taken years. Be patient. The Lord will be there in His own time and way, which time and way is always for our eternal benefit.

Remember He loves you, even if you can't feel it right now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Visions and Blessings and Glories of God

A recent conversation about the second anointing and receiving the second Comforter has me formulating some things into words that I haven't before. I apologize if I'm awkward trying to get my meaning across, I'm not sure how to say what is in my heart right now.

Sometimes there is so much pain and discipline in the Gospel of Christ, we forget about the blessings and glories. Because the blessings come after the discipline and pain, some people never see them. How I wish I could show them! It's amazing to me how things which were only words can be magically transformed by the Spirit of the Lord into profound teachings. Even the simple sentence, "I know God lives!" can seem trite, empty, and even controversial on the surface, but when communicated through the Spirit receives inexplicable dimension and beauty.

It is one thing to see Christ in vision and another to receive the second Comforter, to come to the point where you are truly communing with Him as a friend. There are those alive today who have that glorious relationship with Him! How I long for that. How I ache after knowing Him that way again! How I wish I were not so full of sin as to still be separated from my Redeemer! When we are commanded to receive Him every week in Sacrament, we are being pointed towards this great experience. Not only do I believe it possible to receive this in this life, I believe it is God's true goal for us. Everything else builds towards that true communion with the One who snatched us from the depths of separation from Him. What could be more glorious than to conquer Satan completely and fully while still under influence of the Fall? If we do not receive it in this life, I believe that God is merciful and we will still be able to receive Christ in the next life, but I believe that is our truest goal.

Those who have seen visions from God and received the second Comforter so often find themselves weak in communicating. All we have objectively are words. It takes a subjective quality in the receiver and in the teacher both to truly communicate these things. Even I, who have not yet received anything of such import, find myself struggling to define the things I have been given. No one can teach it to another any more than the virgins could share their oil because the same words undergo such a indescribable transformation once a seeker is ready to understand the deeper meanings. That can't be taught, only invited.

I want to be with Him again. If He sees fit to grant that to me in this life, I will be even more grateful than I already am. But if not, still I will never give up trying. I will never set my sights lower than communion with my Savior. Flashes of the Spirit are not enough for me. It is not enough for me to taste the bounty of the Gospel, I want to feast upon it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blogging by the Spirit

When speaking in Sacrament meeting or teaching a class, I subscribe to Gene R. Cook's method described in his book "Teaching by the Spirit." My mission president gave me this book early in my mission, and it changed the way I teach. To sum it up, it is essentially focusing on self-preparation rather than speech-preparation. In it, the speaker reads, ponders, lives according to the commandments and prays, then stands up to teach and lets the Spirit take over. It is a slightly frightening way to teach, especially at first, and I've had a few times where my confidence overreached my humility and it didn't go well.

Nevertheless, I've found it highly effective both to teach and to learn. This year, I've applied it to Sunday lessons, though I've only taught once. I find the lessons are far more meaningful, and the scriptures are merging into one in ways I never before understood. It is also highly effective in less formal teaching/learning moments in life, such as when a friend needs help, when driving . . . and when blogging.

Although I once found debating points of opinion scintillating, I have progressed to a point where I no longer enjoy it. Discussion is still enjoyable to me, but it is easy to discern between the two. There is a certain level of hostility absent in discussion. The Spirit departs from debate. In blogging and commenting on blogs, I have tried to apply this method. If what I am saying has any significance at all, if I cannot feel the Spirit flowing through my mind and heart and into my fingers, I refrain from "speaking." I've mentioned this once before.

I have found that I spend a lot less time reading and writing on blogs (a blessing, since I don't have much time to spare) and more time away from the computer, pondering on the "things of eternity". My understanding and heart has opened more to the things of God.

I try to no longer engage in debate of any kind. The part of me that once found it intellectually stimulating now realizes that it was just a disguised attempt to prove how smart/intelligent/wise/spiritual I was to myself. Moreover, I don't really want to be intellectually stimulated in that way nearly as much as I want to be spiritually stimulated. There is no way for the "natural" or intelligent man to understand the things of God. There is no way for an intellectual discussion devoid of the Spirit to bring us to better understanding of God's ways.

Intelligence is good when it submits to the Spirit, but if it doesn't, it is better not to be intelligent. What is more, if you write by the Spirit, nothing anyone says against you matters. You know you were doing your best to follow the Lord's will for you. If you write when filled with the Spirit, though you may be frightened of the judgment of men, you are a prophet of God.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How to Find Insult in General Conference

I thought this would be a timely piece of advice. Prepare now for best effect.

1) Pick an agenda. The more one-sided reasoning the agenda has, the better. It doesn't matter what that agenda is, so long as its properly opinionated and preferably set in the "against" terminology rather than "for". Some easy topics to choose if you can't find one of your own include: the Oppressed State of Women in the Church, Obedience, Utah Culture, Heavenly Mother, Excommunication, Gay Marriage, Eating Meat, Protecting Children from Worldy Influence and Sister Beck.

2) Listen to every session of Conference, including Women's Conference. If you can't attend a session for whatever reason, be certain to read or watch it online as soon as possible. Watching is better. Body language is rife with opportunity for misinterpretation. If you miss a session, you may miss a Golden Opportunity for insult. Then you will have to wait until someone else is insulted by it. Frankly, it's embarrassing to be insulted second-handedly.

3) Take notes. Even though the entire talk is available online later, it is important to record your very first impressions. Usually these are more emotionally charged and therefore more articulate. Passion is paramount when finding insult. A little logic in favor of passion is a worthwhile sacrifice. Make sure to write a few catch words in the margins of your notes. These will help you listen for further opportunities of insult without actually having to pay attention. Try to keep your catch words to three or under. You don't want to diminish the impact of your insult by diluting it across too many fronts.

4) Blog about it. Do not overlook this essential step! The sooner you get your opinion on cyberpaper, the better. If you are fast enough, you will be the first one to take umbrage. Hopefully, this will add to site traffic. Make sure to title your entry with something catchy. Don't stint on punctuation. Exclamation points and question marks are vital when trying to express your high passion through the digital word. The more you blog, the more likely it is someone in the higher Church echelons will notice you and see the error of their uninformed ways.

5) Don't backpedal. Whatever happens it is important to keep a united front. Defend those who agree with you with unmitigated vitriol, particularly if they use plenty of punctuation. They will be useful allies in future bloggerary skirmishes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lifting the Burden of the Depressed

Again, read the disclaimer from my last post. I'm not trying to write definitively, just illustrate a perspective.

1) Find out all you can about depression. Learn about the various types and how to recognize them. Realize that most depressed people hide it very skillfully, only letting hints peek out occasionally. (Often through self-depreciating humor.) Try to be aware and sensitive to those hints. If you are living the commandments, the Spirit will help you here.

2) Stay calm and rational if you begin to suspect someone is depressed. Otherwise, it will only show them you can't be trusted. This includes suppressing wild suggestions of obtaining therapy or medicine. Suggesting therapy is a great idea once the person is ready for it. Chances are if a person is depressed, they've already thought about therapy and rejected it for some reason. Listen first, make suggestions later. Sometimes a person just needs a listening ear before they will be ready to take action.

3) Tell them good things about themselves every chance you get. This doesn't mean fawning all over them, that's pretty transparent. But any time there is a real, positive attribute, emphasize it. Often depression fills your thoughts with worthlessness and self-criticism. It helps to have another external voice telling you that you're not so bad. Minimize the negative. Depression will fixate on any hint of criticism and expand it way out of proportion. Reinforce any negative that must be communicated with a dozen positives.

4) Make yourself slightly annoying. Push yourself into their lives (just a little). Depressives often shut out friendships, wanting to distance other people from their problems. If you can demonstrate friendship through the bad, you will seem like a real friend. Be ready for possibly harsh rejection at first. Realize that they are probably trying to protect you. If they harshly reject you, meet it with equanimity, an attitude of "No problem. Sorry I overstepped my bounds. I love you. You're a good friend. I am here for you as soon as you're ready."

5) Once they are ready, once they have verbalized their realization of a problem that needs fixing, suggest counseling. Offer to go with them as silent support. Counseling can be scary or embarrassing. It's a big step for someone to make.

6) Realize that you can't fix their problems, you can only be a support for them. Chances are, the boundaries of friendship will be pushed a little. It is a way for a depressive to test genuine friendship. If someone is violating the boundaries of friendship by coming over too often, taking over your life or refusing to leave when they ought, remember it is because they are afraid and you might be the only person they feel they can trust. Treat them gently. Rather than rejecting outright with a "go home", try to give them a "go home, but come back at [an appropriate time] tomorrow. I can't wait to see you again." Leave the door figuratively open after they leave.

7) Replace "I understand" with "I'm so sorry about that." No one - not even another depressive - really understands what it is like for another person suffering from depression. Even the depressive doesn't understand themselves fully. Show compassion, not understanding. It can be frustrating to feel that everyone around you understands you when you are lost in confusion.

8) Be ready to give support during some (often crazy) changes. Recovering from depression often means completely revamping your life. Thought patterns change, lifestyles change, even friendships change. Be there as a constant through the rough seas, and things will settle down again. Be encouraging through the changes and make sure you don't take them personally. Sometimes a person has to try out different things before finding what works.

9) Be honest. If a depressed person is becoming too much burden for you to carry and they don't seem to be doing anything about it, tell them. Tell them they have a problem you would like to help solve. Tell them you enjoy their friendship, but for this one thing that doesn't do them justice. Reinforce the limits on friendship with love. It might hurt them in the short term, but if you show that "increase of love", they will realize you are a true friend through good and evil.

10) Get counsel for yourself. Go to your bishop or look for help online. Try to find a "friends of depression" type support group in your area. Being friends with someone so needy or so solitary may be hard, but it is worth it. Get help through the rough spots. You may need it.

At any rate, I hope these ideas help someone. I welcome any other ideas out there.

Popular Posts