Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Believe in Virtue

Articles of Faith #13
[I] believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, [I] may say that [I] follow the admonition of Paul—[I] believe all things, [I] hope all things, [I] have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, [I] seek after these things.

This is the last of my series on the Articles of Faith, and perhaps one of the most poignant for me right now. I have thought on this Article since I first began writing these statements of my personal faith just short of a year ago. I little knew at the time how my testimony of this particular statement would change from beginning to end. If I had realized how my hope and strength would be stretched to the breaking point as I found myself in a situation seeming to have little to do with beauty and purity, I don't think I would have had the courage to go on.

There has been some talk over the past year about virtue, in particular, as it has been added to the Young Women Values. When I once thought of virtue, I thought of a white knight, standing ready to defend the helpless at sometimes great personal sacrifice, never wavering in temptation. Now, the image is more along the lines of the Little Match Girl, cowering in a corner and lighting her own personal testimony to keep her warm, trying to share her matches with others who do not have time or interest to buy.

Virtue is something that keeps you standing tall, tattered, ragged and besmirched with mud thrown from misunderstanding hands. It is an inner loveliness that surmounts all other forms of beauty and ugliness. It makes the "most beautiful" women in the world look stale. It incorporates integrity, faith, duty, dedication, the Spirit of God, seeking everything praiseworthy, and all the things mentioned in this Article.

More than anything, I think it is the power derived from all these things.

Several times in scripture, the word "virtue" is used almost interchangeably with "power". When the woman touched Jesus's hem, he perceived that the virtue had gone out of Him—that some sort of power had gone from him to her, healing her. In Alma, they try the virtue of the word of God—preaching had more power than any other source of power they knew to change the hearts of men.

In one final example, Joseph Smith tries to teach us the secrets of Priesthood power, that it comes from virtue. I believe that this is the key misunderstanding to those who covet and misuse the Priesthood of God. There is no true power in the Priesthood except that which is gained through virtue: through the power gained in integrity, faith, and pure charity.

In the situation I find myself now, it is easy to feel as if I am cheap and used, without virtue. Yet, I am slowly being taught by the Spirit that by doing my best to follow God's will, to live true to my faith in Him and my covenants, and to do my best to be a blessing, despite my failure I come closer to a virtuous life than I was before.

I believe that true virtue can only come through the cleansing fire of the Atonement and of the Spirit. When we understand Christ and His eternal connection to us, we become purified, sanctified, and eventually exalted. How grateful I am to be drawn into the filth of this life so that I may understand the virtue and power of God.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"As All Have Not Faith"

Among the reading for Gospel Doctrine this week, is this passage from Joseph Smith to the School of the Prophets:
"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."

I have often heard this scripture, but never before has the phrase "as all have not faith" struck me the way it did today. It adds a whole new depth of meaning to this passage. Not only are we to learn by study and by faith out of the best books (not just good books), but we are to do it because not everyone has faith. It is not only for our own personal advancement, but to teach others who do not have faith to understand.

There are many who find themselves constantly questioning, unable to, as they put it, "just believe". Constantly beset by crises of faith, they begin to doubt themselves, perhaps even to despise themselves or others when they compare their experiences to what others claim to feel. Yet, by the import of this passage, perhaps they demand too much of themselves. It is not given to everyone to have the conviction and/or faith that some are blessed with, and that is according to the will of God.

For those who are blessed with that burning light of faith, there is a special charge on them to go out and seek for the knowledge they, personally, may not feel they need. As they do so, they will be guided by wisdom in how to nurture, protect and love those who are not given the particular Spiritual gift of faith they are given. When they study the history and the "big issues" with an eye of faith, they can nurture the strength of the gospel not only in themselves, but also in others who cannot, no matter how they may desire, "just believe."

As far as I am concerned, this is at least part of the holy and divine purpose in blogging. Only online can so many reach towards each other, and in forgiving themselves and others of their faults, clasp hands in the Gospel. When we have weakness, we learn to rely on God and each other, and by so doing, accomplish the truest purposes of God.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Where, When My Aching Grows?

The funny thing about hard times is that it tends to clarify what you truly believe and what is most important while muddying up everything else. I really have no idea what to do or where to go from here. I can't think of anything I can do to improve my situation and protect my family any more than I am doing. That is a rather desperate feeling. Yet, I am learning what it means to turn my life over to God.

May He craft some good out of the mess I have made.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Believe in the Law

Articles of Faith #12
[I] believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

One thing that always mildly interested me as a foreign missionary in Germany was that, although two large religious groups made a habit of knocking on doors and interrupting people on the streets to share their religion, only one had a license from the government to do so. We were instructed to keep this license, a gray passport-like pamphlet, on our persons at all times.

Because we are painstakingly compliant to local laws wherever we go, the LDS church has been granted many freedoms that other religions have not always enjoyed. Countries in the Middle and Far East have welcomed us in as service missionaries when we were not allowed to proselyte. We were one of few religions allowed practice in Cold War East Germany. Doors have opened to us multiple times in multiple places because we show respect to the law.

Historically, the LDS Church was persecuted for practicing polygamy and laws were created to end it. Moving outside of US legal jurisdiction, polygamy was practiced until Utah was swallowed up in Manifest Destiny, and it was clear that there was no legal way to make it permissible. Then, the Church bowed to the law. Many are conflicted by this, feeling that if a doctrine is of God, the Church should never have submitted. But as Wilfred Woodruff asked in the footnotes of Official Declaration 1, "Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people . . . or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law . . . ?" In the case of polygamy, the eternal principle of plural marriage was temporally opposed by the principle of this Article of Faith. Eventually, a time came when the cost to the Church in not obeying the law of plural marriage was overshadowed by the cost of continuing its practice under legal opposition.

Joseph Smith also found himself arrested multiple times, but preached one of the most powerful sermons on worldly law found in religious texts. This entire section of the D&C ought to be read and pondered, particularly in the light of recent political unrest. It has given me many things to think about.

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