Saturday, July 18, 2009

True Prayer

I am finally getting around to reading June's Ensign. For some reason, until Friday morning, I felt little desire to read Elder Uchtdorf's message meant to be used for home teaching. That morning, however, I felt drawn to it. His messages often speak to my heart, and this one was no different.

It never ceases to astonish me how the things I have been taught by the Spirit often come into concrete description as I read scripture. Once, I read to learn. Lately, it seems I read to cement knowledge in my mind and heart. As I read this article, one phrase in particular stood out to me: "Our prayers should spring from our deepest yearning to be one with our Father in Heaven."

As I read this, the thought came clearly that not only should prayers spring from our desire to be one with God, but that our prayers are that desire. When Amulek taught that we should "let [our] hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for [our] welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around [us]," he was referring to this desire to be one with God, and to be one with His other children.

In Luke, Jesus teaches that if we pray always, we "may be accounted worthy to escape all [the] things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." In other words, if we are able to make the desire to be one with God, and one with His other children (which may be called charity) part of our deepest yearning, part of what imprints our very souls, we will be worthy to escape the consequences of sin and unite ourselves with the Savior.

I do not think that this is a fringe doctrine. I believe it is the doctrine around which everything in the Gospel hinges. It is this yearning to not only be one with God the Father ourselves, but to be one with all of His children who also yearn to be one with Him, that caused the greatest spirit of us all to humbly and meekly submit to spiritual, emotional and physical pain beyond imagining. It is the pain He suffered—which He did not need to suffer—which enabled Him to offer us freedom from that pain, to offer the cancellation of that debt we incur when we sin.

"And [this] remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love (the desire to be united with our brothers and sisters), which love endureth by diligence unto prayer (the desire to be united to God), until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God."
Moroni 8:26

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rated "R" for "Rather Not, Thank You"

Thank you to those of you who have posted feedback in my previous post. I'm working my way up the comments, because of the complexity of some of the topics. Know that I'm not ignoring them, just having to ponder more deeply. My view on media watching, however, is something I've had to exercise many times and therefore it is rather well formed.

Originally, I had a rather loose view of movie-watching. I saw one or two R-rated movies, and several PG-13. When I was about 15, I discovered that I was somewhere I did not want to be, spiritually, and decided that I wanted to change my life. After prayer, fasting and pondering, I felt impressed to offer a symbol to the Lord of my desire to change: I would not watch any movies rated PG-13 and above.

In the years after that personal covenant, I forgot why I had made it, though I did not forget my resolve. Most of my friends ridiculed me for that decision at first, but eventually came to uphold it, generously changing their plans to accommodate my oddity. There were a couple of times I was told a movie was PG, only to find it rated PG-13 after beginning to watch it. At one point, I remember going home from a night out because I knew Monty Python and the Holy Grail was most certainly not a PG movie once it got to the Castle of Anthrax, despite what I had been told.

At any rate, despite feeling stupid on multiple occasions, I managed to live by my decision. It wasn't until a few years later while I was serving a mission that someone asked me why I did not watch PG-13 movies. It set me back for a few minutes, because I did not remember. Then it came to me, the moment I had covenanted with the Lord that if I did this, He would help me change my life.

The feeling was incredible as I reviewed my life and the direction it had taken since I chose to make that small offering to the Lord. Although I had not remembered the covenant, the Lord had upheld it so richly. I knew I had been blessed beyond measure for this comparatively tiny effort.

In addition to no longer watching PG-13 or above movies, I no longer had the desire to watch television or listen to the radio much. Movies themselves were not even that important to me. I still enjoy a movie now or then, or the chance to relax in front of the television, but the media in general were not nearly the hub of my schedule the way they had once been.

All that being said, I think that the choice to watch or not to watch is entirely between an individual and the Lord. For me, the things I was watching were taking me away from Him one chip at a time. Another person may not be so affected. I have no desire to preach my way as the right decision to make for everyone. In fact, I find it interesting that the new Strength of Youth pamphlet makes no specific recommendation for ratings-watching. It summarizes by giving the One True Standard of Discernment:
[I]f you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don't see it, don't read it, don't participate.
This is the key, in my mind. As I have lived this principle, I find myself better able to discern what media brings me down, and what is uplifting and/or productively instructive. I have even found myself walking out of PG movies, at times. The Lord has blessed me beyond all expectation for using this standard in conjunction with my own personal covenant, and that is all I can say.

Now, I find so many wonderful things to do, even average-to-good television and movies often seem a waste of time. Even my reading has been tempered by my gradually growing dislike of time-wasting through various media (and I'm a confirmed bibliophile.) There is a time, place and purpose for entertainment, but it is a relatively small one when seen within the framework of all the productive, creative, beautiful things there are to do. How much more wonderful is it to stand over a weeded garden, share my testimony in blogging, admire a completed quilt block, or listen to my daughter flawlessly recite her colors when compared to switching off the television before going to bed?

There really is no comparison.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plea for Feedback

I have finished my series of posts on the Articles of Faith and how I have gained a testimony of each of the principles, and wanted to know if there are any topics that anyone wants me to address. All suggestions will be considered, and if none come than you will all be at the mercy of my whims.

You have been warned.

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