Monday, April 13, 2009

That They Might Have Joy

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden for their choices, the Lord speaks to them in outwardly-harsh words, often referred to as the curse of Adam and Eve:
"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

I have thought about this lately, especially in light of the oft-quoted scripture: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."

I have felt the weight of this verse lately, guilty because I am not as joyful as I would like to be. But as I went back and read this scripture again, I saw that as it goes on, it becomes clear that joy is a choice. It is the Atonement which has made it possible for us to choose joy.

That being said, however, the words of Christ himself are the most poignant: "ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. . . . ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."

That is, after all, the message of Easter. It is not that Christ suffered and died for our sins. It is that He lives. It is that He lives so that our sorrows and sufferings, even our death, might end. Because of Him, there is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of mortality. Because of Him, there is hope for healing. Our choices may cause pain for others, others' choices may cause us pain, but the Savior sealed this promise with His life: that pain has an end, that death itself has no power, and that we may be free from the hatred and judgment of Satan and those who listen to him.

It is true that this life is ordained to be a life of sorrow, but as a daughter of God still held in this mortal existence, I need not feel guilty for not now feeling the joy I long to feel. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

May the morning come soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cafeteria Mormonism

I have heard this term quite often, and don't think I understand it. From what I understand, a "cafeteria" belief system means that you pick and choose the doctrines and concepts you believe to be right for you out of a set of beliefs and doctrines.

Yet, I've heard the term applied to situations that don't quite seem to fit. Instead, many of these situations seem to describe a simple search for truth, and the adoption of ideas as a testimony is born from the search.

My question is, what is the difference between being a cafeteria Mormon, and a Mormon in search of truth, willing to seek after all that is "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy"? Is there a difference?

I think there is, in method if not in effect.

To me, it seems that in order to be a cafeteria Mormon, you have to be picking and choosing what seems good to you, the things that appeal to you. A search for truth, in contrast, contains the willingness to choose some things that do not appeal to you because they are good. To extend the analogy, it would be like picking all the tasty foods from the cafeteria in the first case, and picking foods you feel are healthy for you in the second. In this sense, the Spirit would be the nutritionist at your shoulder, instructing you on what you should choose for optimum health.

Perhaps I am wrong in this viewpoint, and I don't understand the term "cafeteria Mormon" properly. But it seems to me that we ought to be rather careful in applying this term to anyone else.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Plea to Forgive

Shortly before conference this weekend, as I prayed and struggled to be healed from the pain in my heart, I was taught that I need to refocus on what I can do to bring my life back to Christ. At first, I was filled with resentment and fear. I resented being asked to find one more thing for me to work on, to change. I felt exhausted and drained, heartsick and weary of trying to see my behavior through others' eyes, to see what I needed to change. I was afraid that if I gave up the anger which had been lending me strength to get through the lot I have drawn, I would collapse. I was drowning in the knowledge of my weakness, and my mistakes, in feeling all the blame and guilt of the route my life has taken.

It came to me that I need to stop trying to see myself through the eyes of others, but to rely on God and His Spirit to tell me the things I need to change. Clearly and strongly, the message came to my mind that I need to replace the strength of anger with the strength of the Spirit. If I continue to let anger or fear be my support, they would fail me, but the Spirit would not.

I have faced danger for myself in the past with relative peace and faith, but now I feel that my faith was only so peaceful because my own life and safety was not as important to me as my children's. In practice, I have found that I gladly would focus any possible danger to them on myself. Through listening to Conference this weekend, I perceived the fear that has eaten a cancer into my heart, blocking my ability to commune with my Savior. I have allowed the need for stability and safety for myself and my children to override my faith in God. Only this morning, the Lord has chastened me, teaching me that my safety and even the safety of my children is not my responsibility. I have been told in clear terms that I am to cease fearing for my welfare and the welfare of my children, because so much of it is beyond my control.

Also in listening to Conference and praying afterward, I have been chastened with my lack of forgiveness. I have forgiven things in the past that I did not know I could forgive, and yet I am now against something greater than everything I have faced in the past. I need to forgive! When I first realized I was to forgive, I was resistant. I did not want to forgive. I am tired of forgiving. For once, I wanted to throw a few stones in return. So, I applied Alma's principle of faith to forgiveness. I could not pray to forgive, but I could pray for the desire to forgive.

How great the mercies of God! I have already felt the beginning desire to forgive, and found in me the ability to sincerely pray to forgive.

Pray for me, that I might reach lasting healing. That my cycle of finding strength in anger and action only to crumble again in fear might be broken, and I can be led to the Spirit for my strength. Pray with me, that I can forgive and welcome the Spirit of God back into my heart, that I can be made whole and again commune with my God, no longer fearing the changes that life brings.

I have been so blessed, and continue to be blessed. I already have so much cause to thank God, I hardly have the courage to ask for one more miracle in my life. I hope that I am following where God leads, that I can once again find peace, and that I can find a way to bless the lives of others in the way mine has been blessed by so many caring friends and strangers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Biology vs. the Bible: To Have Joy

Wow. Just wow. Rarely has a blog post left me so glad to have read it as this one from Nathan Richardson. Something I have always known is suddenly given words and thought.

Thank you for a most powerful insight into the nature of an eternal perspective.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Spirit of Fear

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."—2 Timothy 1:7

I have had reason to be very afraid, particularly in recent months. My father gave me a blessing, and in that blessing the Lord told me not to be afraid, that there was no reason to be afraid because He was with me. At the time, I was afraid, more afraid than I have ever been in my life. There have been many times since then that I have felt the paralyzing, cold fear, and I have had many reasons to think over the words of my blessing, and to struggle to overcome this fear. Well have I understood the words of David,
"Be merciful unto me, O God . . . . Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. [But] what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they await for my soul. Shall they escape by iniquity? . . . When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. . . . For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?"

Well have I had cause to view my own powerlessness and unworthiness before God. I have had ample opportunity to repent and be humbled. Truly, wisdom and discretion have saved me, though I struggle daily against the desire to defend myself, to lash back.

It amazes me that the Lord God, so powerful and good, should comfort me. I know that despite the immediacy of my fears and problems to me, that they are truly small when compared to the sorrows of so many others. Yet, He finds time to succor me, to send me help and comfort.

How glorious my Savior! How worthy of praise and worship! There is nothing I would not do, should He ask it of me, because I know that He loves me and protects me, that He wishes only the best for me. How marvelous have been His gifts and comfort! How safe I can feel, knowing that even my suffering shall be turned for my good!

Sometimes it feels as if I might burst with the desire to show everyone what a marvelous God He truly is. How small the many concerns of mortal life become in light of His great peace. I hope and pray that I am found worthy to sit at His right hand and learn of Him and His ways. I would worship Him forever, and long for the power to show others of His children the truth of His glory—what it means to be glorious as He is glorious.

May I forget fear in the worship of Him, amen.

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