Saturday, December 25, 2010

To Know that Jesus is the Christ

I'm not exactly sure when I first knew that the stories were true, that Jesus was real. My parents taught me to turn to the scriptures when I needed answers, to listen to the promptings of the Spirit for comfort and guidance. My first clear memory of a personal experience with scripture helping me happened when I was six or seven years old.

According to witnesses (mostly my mother), I was a very gregarious child. One of her favorite stories is of me jumping into the arms of a complete stranger at the grocery store. But in growing up, somehow that changed. I developed a very strong sense of caution when dealing with other people. I learned not to trust smiles, that kindly old gentlemen might be predators and friendly children might only be looking for an opening to attack.

When I was in college, I began going through a very painful internal struggle with myself. I realized that I had closed myself off from human connections because of my fear. I remember one night when neither of my roommates were home, I was wracked with silent tears as I visualized peeling away layer after layer of emotional armor which I had built over the years. Literally shaking, I remember the distinct impression of arms being wrapped around me. I remember not wanting to move for fear that the sensation would leave.

Similar experiences have happened to me since then, and I have been impressed with strong mental and emotional inclinations at various times, which I believe are from the Spirit. There have been times when those impressions have quite literally saved my life.

I have been going through a hard time over the past two years. In the aftermath of escaping an abusive marriage to the one person I allowed to get deeper into my heart than anyone before my children were born, I have found myself fighting against layering myself once again with emotional armor and closing myself off to the possibility of being hurt that deeply again.

But I know it is important to remain open and vulnerable to pain because that is what my Savior did. The angel asked Nephi once, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" Like Nephi, I can reply that I know that God loves His children, but that I don't know the meaning of everything that has happened on this earth. More than two thousand years ago, a man who was God came to this earth, opening Himself up to all that mortality means; the pain, fear, discomfort, betrayal and sorrow.

Like me, He knows what it is like to be betrayed and rejected of those He loved most, those He called His "jewels". He knows what it is like to long for a place that feels like home. He knows what it is like to face His duty to the Father only to be afraid and wish that His life were something other than it was. And yet, He came. He came and He finished what He was sent to do.

I know that He is real as I know my own heart is real, for I have felt Him. I know that He is present in this great Mortality Play, and that He knows me. And for a God like that, I proclaim, "Hallelujah!" For a man like that, I will gladly fall to my knees and worship. For my Savior, I will continue to fight to remain open and vulnerable as my offering to an Almighty God, in the hopes of serving Him by serving His children.

I know He is, and He lives. Glory to God, Hallelujah!

Tochter Zion, freue dich!
Jauchze, laut, Jerusalem!
Sieh, dein König kommt zu dir!
Ja er kommt, der Friedenfürst.
Tochter Zion, freue dich!
Jauchze, laut, Jerusalem!

Zion's daughter, O rejoice!
Shout aloud, Jerusalem!
Lo, thy King doth come to thee,
Yea, He comes, the Prince of Peace!
Zion's daughter, O rejoice!
Shout aloud, Jerusalem!

Hosianna, Davids Sohn,
Sei gesegnet deinem Volk!
Gründe nun dein ewig' Reich,
Hosianna in der Höh'!
Hosianna, Davids Sohn,
Sei gesegnet deinem Volk!

Hail, hosanna, David's Son,
Be Thou to Thy people blest!
Thine eternal kingdom come!
Praise be sung to Thee on high!
Hail, hosanna, David's Son,
Be Thou to Thy people blest!

Hosianna, Davids Sohn,
Sei gegrüßet, König mild!
Ewig steht dein Friedensthron,
Du, des ew'gen Vaters Kind.
Hosianna, Davids Sohn,
Sei gegrüßet, König mild!

Hail, hosanna, David's Son,
Be Thou welcome, gentle King!
Firmly stands Thy throne of peace,
Thou, the Father's only Son!
Hail, hosanna, David's Son,
Be Thou to Thy people blest!

Tochter Zion, Freue Dich!
Heinrich Ranke (1798-1876)
Translation by H. Brueckner

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Of Course There Is Nothing Wrong With Porn

I have seen several arguments lately that pornography is a natural, and even beneficial behavior. I've noticed a few things about these comments.

First, they're almost entirely made by men.

Second, they make an age-old series of claims used by men the world over and from time immemorial to excuse their abuse of women. 1) That their sex drive is much stronger than a woman's, biologically, and that therefore a) a man can't help himself and b) a woman can't understand what it's like. 2) That because their drive is so strong, they must find an outlet for it (through porn or by guilting one's spouse into more frequent sex or uncomfortable sexual practices) or commit some other, "worse" sin. (In my personal experience, it was a threat of violence.) 3) That it doesn't hurt anyone. 4) That it's the guilt and shame that hurts, not the viewing of porn itself, and 5) that the porn can actually help increase intimacy in a real sexual relationship.

I've already written a post on what I think pornography really is (a realm where the person can be safely objectified and forced to perform to the viewer's fantasies.) With that in mind, I call baloney on the whole series of claims. First, I think it is more likely that men's sexual bullying techniques are more socially acceptable, not that their sex drive is generally higher. I also suspect that because women are a) more likely to be turned on by less visible things and b) not as often encouraged to be excited by visible things, and c) less likely to immediately betray their attraction, that their drives are less obvious.

Saying that men can't help it is selling their agency pretty cheaply. I'm a strong believer in personal responsibility. If they say they have to be either violent/promiscuous/etc. or sexual, they are threatening their partners and trying to shift responsibility for their behavior onto the partner. (Which is abusive, by the way.)

Also, pornography definitely hurts someone. It may not be the viewer in the most obvious ways, but it hurts those around them, particularly their partners. It is a not-so-subtle message that women are cheap, and that the partner isn't "enough" for the viewer.

Placing blame for the hurt on the guilt and shame is just another rather transparent attempt to avoid personal responsibility for the consequences of bad choices.

And there is no way that pornography (the objectifying of another person) can contribute to a spiritual, divine, intimate bond with a spouse. Just like the Spirit can't dwell in unclean houses, neither can respect for another live in the same place as pornography.

So I don't buy it one bit. And even though the easy topic is male-oriented porn, female-oriented porn (such as becoming sexually aroused by book characters) is just as objectifying and just as bad. So stop lying to yourself and take responsibility.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Endangered Species of Housewives

This is not about feminism, so please don't go there. It is a few thoughts about the value of having one dedicated stay-at-home spouse, and one dedicated work-outside-of-the-home spouse. Which spouse does which is not the topic I'd like to address here, because even though I believe in the guidelines in the Family Proclamation, I also believe in individual and familial adaptation and agency. (With my trust issues and other things, I do see value in having one gender primarily doing one or the other, but that is beside the point.)

I don't know many of my neighbors. No one in my family participates in community activities. I barely know anything about national political issues, let alone local ones. If I needed to borrow a tiller, I wouldn't know who to ask. If my neighbor needed to borrow my chainsaw, they probably don't have a clue that I have one. I don't really know if anyone on my street has kids my age, or what their names are. Very rarely does my family eat a meal that takes longer than 30 minutes to prepare. If I do take 30 minutes, I'm proud of fixing a "real meal". I have a few piles of things that need to be organized in my house, that I've just not found energy or time to organize. I don't decorate for Christmas beyond quick basics. My house is relatively clean and relatively comfortable, but not as much as I would like.

Of course, you might say that is because I'm a single mom. But if you examine my pre- and post-divorce schedules, that was just as much the case when I was married as it is as a single mother, probably more.

It is becoming increasingly necessary for two parents in a household to work. Strangely, it is a bit of a self-fulfilling problem. You don't have time to prepare meals from scratch, so you purchase quick-fix meals. You don't have time to decorate or clean, so you pay for others to do it. Rather than borrowing a tiller, you rent one from a home improvement store. All these things require money, so it becomes necessary to work in order to live the way you know how to live.

And meantime, we lose our sense of community. Interest and hobby groups take the place of geographical community. We are less exposed to things outside of our comfort zone. We live in our own isolated independent bubbles, spinning together briefly to touch on common interests. All those unseen, unsung contributions that the masses of stay-at-home housewives used to knit the community together have all but disappeared.

And almost none of those things have anything to do with having children.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Domestic Violence: It Could Happen to You, It Happened to Me

Battering is the major cause of injury to women, resulting in more injuries to women than auto accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
Stark, E., & A. Flitcraft. (1988)
Violence Among Intimates, An Epidemiological Review,@ in
V.D. Van Hasselt, et al., (eds.), Handbook of Family Violence

Children witnessing the violence inflicted on their mothers evidence behavioral, somatic, or emotional problems similar to those experienced by physically abused children.
Jaffe, P.G., D.A. Wolfe, & S.K. Wilson (1990)
Children of Battered Women: Issues in Child Development and Intervention Planning
Newbury Park, CA: Sage

One study demonstrated that some fathers deliberately arrange for the children to witness the violence.
Dobash, R.E. & Dobash, R.P. (1979)
Violence Against Wives
New York: Free Press

One third of women in Utah (34%) have experienced Emotional abuse during the past year.
One in five women in Utah relate that their children witness or hear verbal abuse, while one in fourteen report their children witness or hear physical abuse.
Domestic Violence Incidence and prevalence Study
conducted for Governor's Commission on Women and Families
Dan Jones & Associates, Inc., April-May 1997

from DCFS Utah

I am an average LDS girl. I had a list of qualities I wanted in my future husband. I had a plan for a career. I graduated from BYU. I served a mission. I married after my mission. I had a child. I was abused.

If the statistics are even close to accurate, if it is true that one third of women are emotionally abused, the chances are stellar that there are at least 20 women in your ward or neighborhood who are emotionally abused. From my observations since being enlightened to domestic violence, I suspect there is at least one man as well, probably more.

My current point in recovery is a strange one. I mostly accept what happened to me. Now, I'm dealing with trust issues and a burning desire to never be taken advantage of again, and not to let anyone in my circle of influence let the least scent of emotional violence pass. I find myself extra sensitive to those who try to control by passing along little niggling comments. I'm not willing to let things like that slide any more.

One misconception about abuse is that spouse abuse is not necessarily child abuse. Wrong. Spouse abuse IS BY NECESSITY also child abuse, if there are children in the home.

Another big one is the thought that, "Well, if it were me, I'd hand him his head on a platter!" and other, less complimentary or refined comments.

It's not true.

The core of abuse, ANY abuse, is emotional. There can be emotional abuse where physical violence has not yet occurred, but there is no physical abuse that has not been preceded by emotional violence. And it's not like an otherwise decent spouse suddenly hauls off and hits you. He's worked hard to get you in an emotional state where you feel you deserve it or that you must endure it by necessity. An abuser's best protector is his victim. By design.

For those who have survived abuse, reading Brian Mitchell's trial transcripts or the account of Natasha who was taken for sex trafficking, can be a walk down memory lane. Unlike the physical abuse, they can seem quite subtle, those hints of emotional abuse, but they are there for those with eyes to see.

The main thing that most domestic violence victims have in common is a desire to do the right thing, to be a good spouse, child, or parent. It is not a character flaw that leads them to become abuse recipients, it is just wanting to be good.

That desire to be good is deliberately cultivated by abusers into a fear of being bad.

So don't think you're safe. Emotional abuse is different from rape, mugging, kidnapping, or other crimes mostly in that it is more difficult to prove.

The best way to fight against it is to learn about it and become aware of the signs of abuse that happen before they become physical. You could save someone, maybe your daughter or son . . . maybe even yourself.

Hide your heart from sight,
Lock your dreams at night,
It could happen to you.

Don't count stars,
Or you might stumble.
Someone drops a sigh,
And down you'll tumble.

Keep an eye on spring,
Run when church bells ring.
It could happen to you.

All I did was wonder how your arms would be,
And it happened to me.
—Frank Sinatra

No More Secrets, Utah

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Singles of a Certain Age, or What I Wish Church Leadership Would Understand

Since I can't write headquarters, and my local leadership either doesn't have the power to do anything, or doesn't listen, I'm going to vent my feelings here. Not that it does any good, but at least I got my thoughts out, eh? Blogging at its best.

As someone newly into the midsingles scene, I am finding a ever-flowing source of irritation at the current setup.

As they "graduate" from a YSA ward, most active LDS singles have a lamentable choice to make. They can join a singles ward, fade into a family ward or if they live in the right area, they can attend a midsingles ward.

The first choice, going to a regular 30+ singles ward, is Creepy with a capital "C", especially for women. What 30-year old wants to be hit on by 50+ men, unless they're gold diggers? And, quite frankly, most 50+ year old men in the LDS church aren't really the typical target of your average gold digger, get what I'm saying?

The second choice is lonely. Activities are family-oriented. Comments in church are inevitably unconsciously hurtful and condescending. And you are definitely cut off from chances to meet other LDS mid-singles in a real-life environment.

The last choice has its own plethora of issues. Firstly, midsingles wards and activities tend to be older versions of YSA activities. Well-adjusted midsingles, those with careers, houses, and possibly children of their own, are not as likely to be interested in a wash of dances and volleyball games. They have responsibilities, things that need doing. Being involved in thinly-clad excuses for flirtation games is not really that fun, once you've grown up. Would you, a married adult, like to have all your activities structured that way? Well neither do we.

The sort of midsingles who ARE attracted to those types of activities are not the type of people that well-adjusted midsingles are interested in dating or marrying, particularly those who have been in a serious relationship before. Qualities that make good marriage partners do not include playing volleyball or the ability to act like a fool on the dance floor. Those activities aren't bad, but they should not make up 99% of available activities. If I'm going to spend precious time away from my responsibilities to try to meet other singles, I want to be doing something real and productive, or at the very least interesting.

Secondly, a typical midsingle who attends these childish midsingles wards tends to see people of the opposite sex as a list to check on or off. Like internet dating, the focus is on quantity and speed. Are they active/financially stable/slender/unattached to children/tall enough/etc, etc, etc? Rather than getting to know a person for themselves, potential dates are all too easily checked off the desirable list by some quality they often can't help. (To be honest, I suspect this plays into why some LDS marriages fail, but that is a topic for another day.)

Treat us like people, not like marriageable objects. Do activities that married people would do. Set up kid-friendly potlucks or game nights. Coordinate community service projects. Hold mini-classes on various interesting topics like gardening, home improvement or gospel discussions. Throw in some fun and creative ideas to throw people together who wouldn't otherwise get to know each other, like occasionally offering babysitting for stake couples functions or organizing dating auctions for families in need. And schedule some things for earlier in the evening, or on Saturdays. Many of us have real jobs and have to get up early in the morning on weekdays.

And for our sakes, STOP telling us we need to be married. We know that. We know that more deeply and personally than you do. But we are people, outside of our unmarried state.

As President Hinckley said nearly 15 years ago, "Though you are so diverse in your backgrounds, we have put a badge on you as if you were all alike. That badge reads S-I-N-G-L-E-S. I do not like that. I do not like to categorize people. We are all individuals living together, hopefully with respect for one another, notwithstanding some of our personal situations."

Help us become worthy, contributing people regardless if we find a marriage partner. And know that for some, there are good reasons not to marry again, from same-sex attraction to emotional issues. Marriage is not an answer for life's problems. For some of us, not being married any more is an IMPROVEMENT on our previously married state.

And if we're going to marry, it will be because it is right, not because it is dutiful or convenient, and it will be to someone who is well-adjusted enough to have a life beyond flirting.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something to Talk About

Bookslinger makes a great point, and one of the reasons I've always loved that passage of scripture in Ether 12, along with the Lord making it clear that HE is the one to make weaknesses strong, not US.

For me, I think the reasons for not being more free with talking about my faith aren't that I'm worried about looking stupid or "uncool" (if I was worried about that, I think I'd have self-destructed years ago), but there are two things that feed into each other.

First, I take my religion very seriously, and hold it very precious. I spent 19 months parading my "pearls" out before people, testifying of things that I found so precious, only to see them trampled on. I come online and see them trampled on every day. So it's become harder for me to share as the years pass, unless I have some indication that someone really wants to know.

Second, I have developed a definite level of social anxiety. It takes effort for me to even look someone in the eyes, let alone talk to them about anything serious. Strangely, I have no problem performing in front of people. Then, it's the performance that is the focus, not me. I can pretend to be social, make small talk until the cows come home. But that isn't me. When it comes to sharing things face-to-face that actually touch on who I am . . . . Well, I'll just say it is also becoming harder and harder.

I think I always had a touch of that, but in recent years it's become almost a full-blown phobia. I suppose at the root of it all is fear, and I've not yet developed the perfect love that will cast that out. At least, not in the sense of random encounters to hand out Books of Mormon. So I post online, where there is a buffer between me and other people. This is where I bear testimony, pour out my heart.

There has to be a balance where my love for the gospel feeds into my love for other people. Obviously, if I truly got the Gospel, it would come despite my social fear of being a nuisance to people.

I know that "perfect love" doesn't mean trusting someone who is untrustworthy. I've done that, and know for myself that it is not of God. What does "perfect love" even look like? Is it possible to love perfectly when I have children to protect? To take Christ's example, perfect love is allowing others to have their way with you, assuming it is God's will. But without a clear conduit between me and divinity, how am I to know what is God's will and what isn't? I thought it was God's will for a person to keep peace with their spouse, that it was God's way to allow people room to change and grow and make their own mistakes. But again, I can testify that that doesn't really work.

So how does one begin to develop that perfect love for all men, as well as for the Lord? How does one get galvanized to share the Gospel with people who probably don't want to hear it, especially when many of them are predators waiting to strike at the least sign of vulnerability?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growth of the Church in Germany

I am not the best attendee of mission reunions, but I did attend last October, and I'm very glad I did. We had a segment presented by a German on how the missionary work is changing in Germany. I'm sure most of you are aware of the consolidation of missions and reduction in missionaries sent there and in other places.

But what I (and I assume most) didn't know is that the number of convert baptisms and retention is actually growing rapidly, especially among the "target ages" of twenties and thirties.

The burden of missionary work has been shifted from missionaries and put squarely on members' shoulders. And in true German fashion, the members have risen to the occasion.

Many have assumed that the missions are being consolidated from lack of interest and conservation of resources. But what the numbers are showing (according to the presentation I heard) is that when members begin to realize their own responsibility for teaching and nurturing converts in their own areas, you get more conversions and more baptisms. People take care of each other. Missionary work becomes more personal and more real. The wards and stakes become more Christian. And those who convert are serious about converting, and stay with it.

So the Church is not shrinking because of fewer missionaries in developed areas. It is growing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Don't Get Sports . . . or Politics

Perhaps it is a product of moving around so much, but I really don't get sports. I just can't conceive of being so emotionally tangled up in what is, in the end, JUST A GAME. Maybe I don't have enough emotional real estate to spend it on that.

If I or one of my loved ones were playing, I could see getting excited about it. But not when I'm supposed to be rooting for a team which has nothing to do with me except it is nominally residing in the same place I am. (Not that ANY of the team members have any loyalty to that same place, it's all about the scholarship or the money, right?)

Same goes for politics. Do people really think a vote makes much of a difference? Even if I were able to slog through all the detritus that makes up political "commentary" (I prefer the word "kvetching") to sift out whatever grains of Truth Gold might be lurking beneath the manure, I believe that our system is deliberately organized to keep any one person from making all that much of a difference, even the President.

Perhaps especially the President.

And I don't believe that there are more than a handful of politicians out there who really want to do good. But I admit I've become a rather vehement cynic.

Does it really matter which color shirt you're wearing? It's all the same game, right? And the players in either game don't switch sides based on loyalties, believe you me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All

Do you ever wonder what to do or say when someone you know, whether bosom friend or barely-met acquaintance, is going through a terrible life-changing event?

There is no one good answer, but to be guided by the Spirit.

However, I know that the times I've been helped the most are the times when I've been just been listened to, hugged, and then simply told, "I'm so sorry." No one expects you, as a friend, to make it all better. But acknowledging the pain, being willing to "mourn with those who mourn," to help weather the pain even for a brief moment, is one of the most powerful things any human can do. It lets a person know they're not alone. And that's what most feel in times like this, even when it's not true.

It doesn't matter how a person got to their point of pain, whether their circumstances were preventable or not, what matters is that they hurt. Don't let anyone hurt alone. Put aside whatever personal beliefs about their situation or self-consciousness you might have, and just be with them.

That is what the baptismal covenant means, when we become members of His church. That's exactly what Christ would do, if He were here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exaltation Isn't Graded on a Curve

Which is a great thing to keep in mind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Enemy to God

There is a lot of talk and buzz about Elder Packer's talk. I'm not really going to address the thrust of all that, but there is one related aspect which I would like to address.

There is a claim that teachings such as those in Elder Packer's talk cause innocent children to kill themselves, that by teaching that certain behaviors are sinful, we teach that people are disgusting and enemies to God, and therefore they kill themselves. (Specifically according to many people's interpretation in this case, homosexuality, but I don't wish to address that specific. I want to re-broaden the principle to ALL sin, whatever you might consider to be sin. I believe that's really what Elder Packer's talk was about, and that homosexuality is only one example.)

As I first heard these claims, the scripture came to my mind, "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord . . ."

Sin . . . all sin . . . makes us enemies to God. When we teach a person that their behavior makes them an enemy to God, we bring their attention to their behavior and give them a choice "to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good . . . ." In other words, we elevate their behavior from simple animal reasoning and reactions to conscious choice. We take ourselves out of the dust and reach for the divine within ourselves to act rather than to just be acted upon by our environment, by our genetics. We are no longer helpless victims of circumstance, but true children of the Most High God.

Teaching the commandments of God does not drive people to kill themselves, or leave the church, or turn into Church-active automatons. When we give commandments as God gives them, in an environment of charity and love, we make ourselves more than our physical, scientific bodies. We then have the chance to umkehren . . . turn around . . . repent. God created us to act, not to be acted upon. To Elder Packer's amended rhetorical question, "Why would Heavenly Father do this to anyone?" The answer is He would not. He would never create a person incapable of action, unable to fight against that which takes them away from Him, and then turn and hold them accountable. Some may have fewer opportunities for action than others (such as babies, the mentally damaged or others) but where there are fewer opportunities to act, there is less accountability.

So the answer is not to back down from the morality taught by God, whether it be homosexuality, anger management, or obsession with worldly possessions. It is to make certain that morality is taught in a framework of love.

And I think the Church does a great job of teaching that we make ourselves into enemies of God, and we likewise have the power to no longer be His enemy. Hopefully more people will get the knack of it before more children feel so unloved they choose to take their own lives.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A God of Pain

Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul,
and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53

Who can be surprised that His discipleship also brings pain?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Conditional Love

A discussion over on FMH really got me thinking about some of the choices I've made in the last decade, as well as how relationships and love work. They began talking about unconditional love in conjunction with some discussion on marriage and divorce. Some thoughts came to me which I felt were worth reproducing here.

Everyone’s love is conditional in one sense or other. True unconditional love in the sense that most people mean it—that I can do anything I want and not suffer loss of intimacy—CANNOT exist. That’s one thing I learned from my experiences in my marriage. I stayed with my ex-husband through some pretty scary times over the years because I believed in unconditional love like that.

But true unconditional love does not exist without boundaries or limitations. Conditions on love are different than boundaries. To set a condition on love means, “I will only love you if you do this.” That was something I experienced up close and personal in my marriage. Unconditional love really looks like, “I will always love you, but I’ll not be close to you if you engage in behavior that is destructive.”

I still love my ex, in the sense that I want what is best for him. I would love it if he would repent, become a good father and maybe even a good husband some day to someone else. But to the extent of my power, I will not let him hurt me or the children any more.

So I love him unconditionally, but I will not stay close to him unconditionally.

I think most of us have a pretty twisted sense of what real love is. I imagine this is what makes it hard to understand a God who wouldn’t just forgive all and let us all come back to live with Him no matter what we do. We conflate love and intimacy. I imagine that God will always love us, but we cannot be close to Him if we engage in destructive behaviors.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9/11 and the Mosque: It's Not About Religion

I know there's a great deal of furor about the Mosque overlooking Ground Zero. I don't get it. I don't get it for a few reasons, some less noble than others.

First, I don't get 9/11. I know that is borderline unpatriotic, but I just don't get why it was so monumental. Maybe it is because as I was growing up, bomb drills were as much a part of the school practice as fire drills. Except, I never experienced a fire at school. Two of the "bomb drills" I went through were real. I had to carry an identification card around with me to get to my house. I've waited in line for over an hour just to get home so the bomb dogs and guys with the oversized dentist mirrors could go through every single car queued up to get on base. I lived as a child knowing that my house could be bombed, that my dad could be killed. That I could be killed in a heartbeat. It wasn't frightening, it was just how life was. 9/11 didn't carry the same punch for me that it seems to carry for most people.

Plus, I was in Germany when the attack occurred. Not only did I not live through the national panic, I experienced the anti-American rallies in the aftermath. I even suggested to my companion once or twice that we take off our missionary name tags so we could travel incognito and not start a riot. I worked hard to improve my accent in German rather than worrying about vocabulary so I could pass as British or Dutch in a pinch. I never had to use that, at least, but I was trained by life as a child how to blend in when necessary and knew it didn't hurt to be careful. I don't think all military kids learn these things, but my dad always encouraged us to immerse ourselves in our resident culture.

Which brings me to second: 9/11 wasn't about religion. It was about politics first and culture second. A good part of my life was spent in a first-world country that is not America. I lived a couple of years on a third-world island. I have seen for myself the range of emotions towards Americans ranging from excited interest through disdain to contempt. I have seen what we Americans do that justifies those sentiments.

If the attacks were about religion, there are many better religious sites that could have been destroyed. But there were no attacks on the Vatican, nothing against Notre Dame. The targets were 100% political and 100% American—a country which theoretically professes no religious alignment.

So why not let them build a Mosque near Ground Zero? Even in a worst-case scenario and the alarmists are right, that it is mockery of our culture and the Christian religion, so what? Why indulge ourselves in the self-centeredness which the rest of the world despises instead of celebrating the parts of America which make us great—our tolerance, our open arms to conflicting ideologies and points of view? We can always reclaim that mosque as a badge of honor, reform it into the gesture of mutuality they claim it is. And if the alarmists are wrong, and it really is intended as a gesture of goodwill, it is churlish and hypocritical of us to refuse it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Patiently Wandering in the Desert

"Out in the desert they wander,
Hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens,
Bringing them back to the fold."
LDS Hymns #221, "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd"

But as much as He is hastening to rescue, it can feel like an eternity to the foolish, lost sheep.

As a student of pre-veterinary medicine, I once had the privilege of knowing a real-life shepherd. Not just a sheepherder, was Warren, he was a true shepherd. Even in an academic field with many colorful personalities (my friend and I used to joke that missing a body part was a prerequisite), he stood out. He was quiet and awkward until he stepped into the sheep pen, where he became a blaze of decisive ovine-oriented charisma. I found his personality utterly compelling, and I still wish I had a chance to learn more about him.

I competed once in a lively contest between my university and a rival for the honors of knowing which school was smartest in animal matters. There were several parts to the contest, once of which was a series of practical tests with a wide variety of beasts. One test was to catch and draw blood from a sheep while Warren looked nervously on. After our job was done, we asked Warren how the other teams had done. I vividly remember the pained look on his face as he mentioned that one team, cattlemen mostly, had attempted to draw blood from the tail. I realized at that point that Warren saw these rather stupid, belligerent animals as precious. He saw something in his charges that eludes me to this day.

Whenever I think of Christ as the Shepherd, I think of Warren and I try to remember that the Lord's sheep have value that I might not see.

Even the sheep that is me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

God Conforming to Men

Something keeps coming up in the discussions of polygamy I see wandering about the web. I have heard it said that polygamy probably wasn't God's commandment because if it had been, the Church would not have discontinued the practice.

My question is why?

Why is it not possible that God could have the Church conform to legal laws when the tension between legal and spiritual laws becomes so tight, the Church as a whole faces extinction?

Wouldn't the Lord prefer we follow the laws of the land than have His authority and restored gospel lost from the earth again, especially when He promised that would not happen?

Isn't God adapting His laws to men what most of the Old Testament and Law of Moses is about?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Many Ways Can We Think of To Put Down Utah/the LDS Church?

Just in case you missed one. Here.

What other things can you think of that are SO MUCH WORSE in Utah?

I just hate the way Mormons grow their trees. Why so many treeless parks? Seriously! If they really were the true church, they'd have been contributing more to the ozone layer decades ago. Just goes to show how much that "revelation" is worth.

And Utah's enterprising LDS/Republican heritage has obviously led them to capitalize on the high demand for weed. They're so depressed and fat, obviously they need to self-medicate somehow!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Value of a Woman

I am a mother who has worked outside of the home by necessity. Part of me has resented the fact that I've not had a choice. As I look at the current climate of women's issues, an intriguing thought occurred to me.

Historically, there has been an undeniable lacuna between the value of a man and the value of the woman. Men have been valued by how robust they are, by how much money and how many decisions they can make. Women have been valued by their domestic skills, taking care of others. By their very natures, both have ideally been about putting others needs above their own, but for men that means being assertive, even aggressive to protect the interests of his family, for women it means being passive, yielding and gentle. For ease of reference, I'll call the stereotypical male values as "hard" and the stereotypical female values as "soft".

Over the course of time, intelligent women have looked around and noticed that soft values allowed those more "assertive" to take advantage of them, leading to abuse. Whenever someone is of a giving nature, there is always someone else waiting to push the boundaries of that giving, to strip as much advantage out of it as possible. So, those intelligent women saw a need to become more assertive, to adopt the harder qualities and prove that they, too, could be hard.

As a result, they have elevated the worth of those values even further. By looking at the difference in perceived value, and deciding that in order to become more valued, they must adopt hard qualities, they have essentially bought into the myth that the hard qualities are of more value than the soft ones. In a way of speaking stereotypically, women have sought value by becoming more like men.

I think this is addresses the symptoms of the problem, and ignores the real problem, which is that historically speaking, women do not feel valued.

Interestingly, the gospel teaches us the exact opposite: that the softer qualities are more valuable.

We see in scripture, however, that there are times which softer qualities are in danger of being completely wiped out by those willing to take advantage of them. In such cases, it is appropriate to take a stand. In other words, when abuse threatens, those harder qualities of assertiveness and even aggression have value.

So my thoughts are summed up like this: I think that women (and men) will be more benefited by lifting the value of softer qualities, rather than continuing to support the value of the harder ones. Let submission be seen as praiseworthy, let avoidance of the limelight be valued. Let those who sacrifice their own interests to clean house, take care of kids, serve in the community behind the scenes, be honored equally with those who gain educational achievements or business success.

The trick is knowing how to do it without being condescending. They have to be honored with more than lip service.

And, of course, by honoring those values loudly and publicly, perhaps their worth would be compromised.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Covenant of Charity: Mourning With Those Who Mourn

Last week, part of our Sunday School lesson addressed being cheerful and happy. It quickly became clear that most people subscribed to the "fake it 'til you make it" theory of life.

This didn't sit quite right with me, perhaps because despite being a naturally cheerful person and inclined to look on the bright side, I've not been particularly cheerful over a big chunk of my life.

As I was sitting there, pondering over this concept, the baptismal covenant found in Mosiah came to my mind.
". . . as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing . . . to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death . . . what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him . . . ?
As I thought of these words, I experienced an enlightenment.

Charity is not dispensing something from a heightened position. It is getting down in the trenches. That is why it is the "pure love of Christ". And that is partly why the Atonement had to happen.

By atoning the way He did, Christ demonstrated that He would get down in the dirt and grime with us. He showed that even though it was not His actions that brought about mortality, He would suffer it with us. He is not a God of dictum from on high, He is a God of the trenches.

I always knew that, I just needed to be reminded. And the question came to me, who needed me to get down in the trenches with them, "that [Christ] may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [me]?"

Sure, the gospel is not a gospel of sad faces and flashy weeping and wailing. It is certainly important to be of cheerful countenance in the right times and right places. But it is also a gospel of mourning with a person who needs you, of being genuine and empathetic.

That is charity.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Religious Bully?

Interestingly, the court in a recent court case in Utah ruled against privately-erected memorials for deceased highway troopers shaped like crosses, saying that they connoted an endorsement of Christianity.

I find it interesting because the predominant religion in Utah, although Christian, does not use the cross to symbolize its religion, and by telling private parties that they can't use certain symbols when erecting memorials, the state is interfering in church. From what I understand of history, the point of "separation of Church and State" was not to keep any person from mentioning religion, but to keep the government from subsidizing a particular religion preferentially. The only ways that would cause a problem is if someone desired to erect a memorial for a state trooper in another religion's symbol for death and was refused, or if the government was somehow paying to have a religion promoted.

To me, this is clearly a case of drawing boundaries around the law which interfere with other core legal principles. By refusing the right to put up memorials with any sort of historically religious connotations, the government is controlling a party's right to religion. But I'm neither a lawyer, nor a historian.

I also find this interesting because I have lately come to realize that fears have become a part of my life which could potentially cause the very things I fear.

By being so afraid of any tint of religion in government, we are giving the government a religion: atheism. Shouldn't the point be to celebrate/tolerate all religions which do not interfere with life, liberty or property, not forbid them? Isn't the point to keep the state from becoming a religious bully?

Odd that the Founding Fathers' attempts to prevent religious bullying are now being used to create it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Five Selfish Virgins

"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."

Matthew 1

When I was a little girl, I had a bookmark like the picture above. I remember studying it for hours, along with the description on the back by the artist, Gayla Prince, during various Church meetings.

It wasn't until lately that I began to understand the parable of the ten virgins in a different way. Now I understand better the pain that both sides must have felt. Now I see that the parable is not one of five who are righteous and five who are wicked, but about ten righteous people, five of whom believed they understood and could control their circumstances. It wasn't just a matter of not being prepared, it was a matter of feeling that someone else would solve their problems for them.

I am naturally inclined to what I've come to call a "Savior complex" in that I attempt to save everyone. I want everyone to be happy and enjoy blessings. In the past, I have been willing to neglect my own salvation in favor of others, feeling that I was selfish or self-centered for not focusing on others' comfort. Yet, I have since been strongly taught by the Spirit that it is not my place to try to save others.

That place belongs to Christ and Him alone.

It is a nuanced form of pride to believe that I can stand in His place, replace His work in others' lives. I don't yet know entirely what my place is in His kingdom, but I know that "Savior" is not it. The wise virgins cannot save their companions, no matter how much they might wish to. The relationships between Christ and each of His disciples is His responsibility and the individual's.

And unfortunately, that means that those who believe in Him without being willing to do what is necessary to be with Him may not be recognized by Him when the time comes. The five who were wise were not only wise because they were prepared, they were wise because they knew they could not give others salvation.

"Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost . . . ."
Moses 4

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gay Marriage?

I recognize that some are going to want to attack me for these thoughts because they don't agree with them. Before you do so, know that such aggressive behavior has already done more to hurt your cause than help it.

I'm not entirely at peace with either side of the gay marriage debate. What I do know for certain is that I don't want anyone unable to live without physical or undue emotional harm because of their moral decisions unless those moral decisions directly hurt another person's ability to live without physical or undue emotional harm. Hurting someone in any way just because they don't agree with you is inexcusable.

This is rambling, because rambling is exactly how I feel about this issue. I can see good and bad to both sides of the argument. Originally, I supported legalizing gay marriage. But, as I've listened to the debate, the pro-gay-marriage side has made me a lot more hesitant to support it. Their arguments for gay marriage have done more to frighten me about the possible ramifications than the arguments against have convinced me.

"Sexual orientation is not what I do, it's what I am. Either accept what I do, or you are rejecting me, and are my enemy."
For me, sexual orientation IS a choice. I choose as a woman, not only to be attracted to men, but to be attracted to a certain type of man. For me, having sex is even more of a choice. Sometimes it is a more difficult choice than other times, but it is always a choice.

I believe sin is anything that turns us away from God and His purposes. I believe homosexuality is a sin. So is extra-marital sex between a man and a woman. So is incest. So is sex with a minor. The last two are punishable by law, the first two are not. If I suspect the latter two, I'm going to get involved. The former two, I am not. I'm not going to avoid anyone just because they don't agree with me. I am going to avoid people who tell me I either have to agree with them, or I'm their enemy. That gets scary, and reeks of fanaticism.

As much as some people would like to make it so, this is not a simple decision between being homophobic or accepting homosexuality. Homosexuality is ALREADY tolerated by the majority of people, even if they don't like it or agree with it. There are shades of gray between toleration and condoning.

"Marriage is a right. You are denying us our basic rights."
Marriage is not a right. It has nothing to do with basic survival. I don't have the right to marry whomever I want. I have no right to marry a family member or a minor. I don't have the right to marry multiple people. Marriage by law is a privilege. Some think it is a privilege that should be extended to same-sex couples, some do not. Some think it is a privilege that should be revoked entirely.

"If you don't let us marry, it is because you hate us."
Sometimes I don't give my children what they want because I love them, and I think that what they want will hurt them.

I have made many decisions that were unpleasant for both me and the other person because I loved them. I choose to see homosexuals as more than just their homosexuality. I see the person, not just the orientation.

"People should be allowed to do what they want to do. It's not hurting anyone else."
There are some moral decisions that are not compatible with society. That is a given. That is what law is for. Whether or not gay relationships should be sanctioned by society, whether or not each individual believes them to be compatible with living in a society, is the issue. It is not just a matter of allowing gay relationships, it is a matter of believing whether or not it is something that government funds and support should be given to the same way as heterosexual relationships wherein future citizens, children of both parties, could potentially be given life. It's also a matter of convincing the general populace that it really won't hurt anyone else.

Marriage is not an island. It affects law and society in a myriad of ways that can't all be foreseen. Any great societal change should be done with caution. In order to change how marriage is done in society, we should be careful. The burden of proof always rests on those who agitate for change of any kind.

I believe that children benefit by having a good role model of each gender. I don't think that having two parents of the same gender immediately harms a child. But if I had a choice between two sets of equally great parents, one gay and one heterosexual, I think there is an advantage in a child having access to both gender role models. I reject the notion that the male and female genders are the same. I think that biology gives each uniquely different ways of coping with the world that are often strengthened by cultural bias (at times strengthened too much). But I still believe there are differences in general, though they vary from individual to individual. I believe they are differences that can complement each other as a parental unit seeks to teach a child ways to cope with the world.

"This is no different from segregation."
The civil rights movement came after a majority had already voted in favor of emancipation, after a war was fought over it. Some people were disobeying law that had already been decided by the majority and the outcome of the war. So far, the majority has decided against (not for) gay marriage, so far, the war is not yet won by either side. At this time, the analogy is not a good one.

Once the legislative body creates a law requiring the extension of marriage to gay couples, until gays are forcefully kept from drinking at certain water fountains, patronizing certain public establishments and sitting in certain seats, the analogy does not hold up. If that does happen, there should certainly be steps taken to punish those who instigate it. That is unequivocal in my mind.

"You can't use your religion to vote."
You have no right to tell me what can and cannot factor into my voting decisions. I have every right to let my religion affect my votes, just as you have a right to let your sexuality affect yours. More than anything, this argument irritates me the most and makes me want to vote against merely to prove I can. It is my vote for a reason, not yours.

All of these rantings make me nervous that those who want to marry are not truly trying to help gays or society in general so much as they are wanting to win. It feels like they think that all who disagree with them are closed-minded bigots, and they just want to crack their heads open both figuratively and literally. Their goal seems to primarily be to force others to agree with them, not to win something tangible for themselves. It is almost like the marriage itself has become a side note.

And an actual quote:
"We hope you’ll change. You might not, but we hope you and the church will. This is why we insist on calling your stance homophobic and bigoted, so that you don’t feel comfortable about your positions."
Which sums up perfectly what I mean by this post. This openly admits an attempt to manipulate through shame, to control another person's behavior. While I understand the same can be said in the other direction, that still makes me suspect the motives. I don't call you names, please try to extend the same courtesy to those who are genuinely trying to understand.

I know a lot of people have been hurt because of things that other people have done to them, and want to lash out. Understandable, but not reassuring. Not calculated to persuade me to change my mind back to what it was.

I hurt most of all for those who are caught up in the crossfire: those who are truly wanting to follow God's will, but struggle with feeling inadequate or intrinsically deficient. I know how that feels, and I'd not wish it on anyone, no matter why you feel that way. I wish we could all have a good cry on each others' shoulders.

So I've saved for last what I think is the most important part of this whole debate. Know that even though I'm confused and conflicted about the various points, and I definitely don't understand all the ins and outs and possible ramifications of one decision or the other, even though I most definitely do not agree with certain tactics and attitudes on both sides of the fence, there is One who knows and understands it all. It doesn't matter who you are, He understands you and loves you. He wants your eternal joy, not just your immediate happiness. It doesn't matter if I ever fully understand how you are feeling, because He does.

And that is all that really matters, in the end.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Leave Utah Alone

This is not a spiritually uplifting post. This is a rant.

I wish all you non-Utahns, especially, would quit knocking Utah like you know something about it. I grew up in the military. I've lived tons of places, mostly outside of Utah.

And I can testify right here and now that, while Utah culture has its quirks, they are no worse or better than any other place. So leave it alone, already!


Friday, July 30, 2010

The Benefits of Red Wine, Without the Alcohol

I thought this product has fascinating possibilites, though I've never tried it. Perhaps there is an alternative to alcohol when cooking that keeps the flavor?

There are also sherry and Chablis versions, besides the Burgundy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why I Still Belong to the LDS Church

I hear so many accounts of people leaving the LDS Church because they found more spiritual growth outside of the Church, rather than inside with its "boring meetings", "dreadful art", "horrid music" and lack of spiritual stimulation. Other people leave because they can't reconcile the divinity of the Church with its mundane, careless, insulting people. Others leave because the Church asks too much, or too little, or gives too little or not the right way.

I had an experience recently where I was sitting in the foyer of someone else's ward building, waiting for the sacrament to be brought out. I felt very alone and unwelcome.

As I was sitting and fretting about my place in the Church and what others thought of me in it, I had one of those rare unmistakable messages from divinity enter my mind.

"This is not their Church, it is mine. And I say you have a place here."

I had forgotten.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Abuse and the Spirit

A recent comment on another blog got me thinking about something that I hadn't really been able to put my finger on properly before.

Emotional abuse, at its core, is the systematic destruction of a person's self confidence. Whether it is by ridiculing and name calling, or by more subtle comments made over the course of years, the effect is to weaken a person's ability to trust themselves and their perceptions.

An abuser must destroy this self-confidence because it softens the recipient of abuse for what will come next: the exploitation of self. By the time the exploitation occurs (physical violence being one of the most flashy forms of exploitation, though by no means the only one), the recipient is convinced that they either deserve what is happening to them, or they are unsure that it is happening at all. Usually, it's a strange combination of both.

The horrible aspect of this, especially for members of the Church, is that loss of self-confidence also means loss of ability to listen to the Spirit. The abuser's methods quite effectively cut a recipient off from the Spirit and the Lord before the recipient is even aware of what is happening.

And the effects can last a lifetime.

This is important to understand for any member of the Church seeking to help an abuse recipient through recovery. Often in decision-making and healing processes within the Church, the Spirit is appealed to as a source for inspiration. For a person trying to heal from abuse, the suggestion to follow their heart or follow the Spirit does little but cause frustration, desperation, and increased feelings of worthlessness.

It is vital, therefore, to help a recipient first learn to trust themselves to feel the Spirit again. If that broken relationship can be healed, the rest will come in time. This takes constant reassurance and validation. Try not to lose patience. There are changes being made that you won't be able to see for a very long time.

If you are the one recovering from abuse, you must expect that those around you who care about you will not understand your need for validation. They may get frustrated with it. Remember that they love and care about you or they would not be trying to help in the first place. They may just not know how long your road to healing is, nor realize that you are making progress that seems vast to you, but small to them.

Learn to validate yourself. Praise yourself for every time you try to listen to the Spirit, and for every step you make in overcoming fear. No one else knows what you need as much as you do. It will be frightening, terrifying to make decisions and take action based on little more than the hope that the impressions coming into your head are from the Lord. But it is vital that you do so. Start with little things, like going up and talking to someone or simply smiling at a stranger.

In time, you will be able to reforge that bond of trust in yourself that you so desperately need.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Simply a Choice"

I was loosely following a discussion over at Times & Seasons about homosexuality (great job, Alison!) when a phrase jumped out at me. The commenter, whom I have not seen before, said this in comment 18: "It is simplistic in the extreme to think that sexual orientation is simply a choice."

My first thought was "of course it's not SIMPLY a choice! Choice is never just a choice." Which sobered me.

In my search to serve the Lord, I have come to understand that sometimes decisions which are counterintuitive and extremely uncomfortable often need to be made in order to be a true disciple.*

True, it is not a hard decision for me to decide to be heterosexual. It comes naturally. Nor was it a hard decision for me to reject drug or alcohol usage. Nor, with my physique, has modesty been a huge issue. But I have other things which I have fought against. As a teen and young adult, my temper was a really tough one. I was born with a fiery temper. My dad had a temper, my grandfather had a temper and my great-grandfather had a temper (records are scarce before that.) It is a natural trait. Yet, it is not acceptable in society to allow one's temper to rage out of control. So, I have gradually, slowly, with painstaking effort, learned to control my temper. Now, I rarely get angry, and when I feel my emotions rising, I know enough to take a time out.

Learning to overcome my body's chemical response to such stimulus has been a complicated and uphill battle. I've only overcome it through extensive divine help. And, although it is overcome, much like an alcoholic, I will always struggle with it to some extent.

Granted, homosexuality is not the same thing, but physiologically speaking, sexual desire is analogous to the desire to fight or flight in intensity. So, yes, I believe that homosexual behavior is a choice . . . but not JUST a choice. Never that.

*This is not to countenance "God told me to do it" rationalization for things such as the Inquisition, but it is relatively easy to determine the line between the two. Using God as rationalization harms others and benefits self. Discipline in the Lord's service most often seems to harm the self and benefit others. I have reason to know for myself this is true.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why the Church is True

I love this essay by Eugene England. It's an old one, but it deserves to be read periodically.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Divine Characteristic: Silence

I have a generally expressive social style, which means that I often open my mouth before my brain decides what to say. I therefore have a tendency to speak whatever is on my mind. As I read scripture, however, I cannot help but notice that while we often speak of the ability to open our mouths to speak, the ability to be silent is also important to a disciple of Christ. Sometimes, the prophets of the Lord have been commanded not to write some great thing.

Perhaps the easiest example of this is Christ, himself. When He stood before His Pharisaical accusers, He spoke not one word to defend Himself. Can you imagine what it is like, to stand silent while others rage and taunt you, knowing that your silence will lead to your death?

Because this is a divine attribute I am in dire need of developing, I don't understand it completely. One thing is becoming clear to me, that the most common time to be silent is in the face of willful ignorance. There is no point in speaking, then. Once testimony has been borne, there is nothing more to say to those who are so embroiled in their own illusion of reality, they will afford no room for another opinion.

My time spent on LDS blogs has helped me learn this balancing trait. When I first began commenting, I often thought that people presented problems online because they wanted a solution. I naively assumed that they were looking to change themselves, to understand a little more of the Gospel of Christ. I still think that many seek understanding, but there are mostly times and places online where the true goal is to find camaraderie, not solutions. At times like this, it is sometimes better to be silent.

There have also been times when I have heard silence from the Lord in answer to my pleas to Him for understanding. It is at these times when I have had to accept His silence before I could feel His presence at my side. I have come to realize that sometimes I am not ready for an answer, and that an answer would sometimes harm me more than it would help me. I find this also true with my own daughter, at times. There are just some things she has to work out on her own, and all I can do is sit beside her silently.

To take this one step further, I have found that occasionally in scripture, the Lord grants a person the ability to bind or seal in earth and in heaven. Often, this is connected to the Priesthood power, but it seems to be more than the Priesthood as we commonly understand it. The best recounting of this, and one of my favorite scriptures, is the moment the Lord declares His utter trust in Nephi, son of Helaman. The Lord says to him:
"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
Helaman 10:4-5, emphasis added
What I would not give for such a declaration of faith! This is God Himself telling Nephi that He trusts him!

And how did he obtain that trust? By seeking the will of God, by putting Him first without wearying. (And oh, how I weary!) He declared what the Lord wanted him to declare, no less . . . and no more. He knew NOT to ask as much as he knew to ask. Sometimes I wonder if the Lord could trust him because he knew when to speak and when to keep silent.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Divine Characteristic: Vulnerability

". . . The God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying, 'How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?' And Enoch said unto the Lord, 'How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever . . . and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?"
Moses 7:28-31, emphasis added
I find it humbling to know that the Lord weeps alongside us in our pain. Most of the time, when we are suffering, it is all too easy to feel utterly alone. It is easy to decide that He must not exist if He is capable of witnessing such pain, or that He must be impotent if He can stand by and do nothing, or that if He does exist, that He is not worthy of our worship.

But we are not alone.

I think one of the most powerful scriptural images for me is in the parable of the olive grove told in the Book of Mormon. In it, the Lord of the vineyard and His servant go to extraordinary lengths to try to preserve the delicious fruit of a dying tree. It seems to work for a time, then when the two return to the garden, they see that the delicious fruit is being choked out by unpleasant fruit.
"And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: 'What could I have done more for my vineyard?'"
Jacob 5:41
I have had much occasion through the course of my life to feel the vibrancy of this plea for understanding. Despite doing my best, I often see my efforts come to nothing. Granted, I am not as powerful as the Lord, but I think I feel at least a small part of how and why the Lord can sorrow over us so poignantly and yet remain God.

Read carefully the answer the Lord gives Enoch. Perhaps by studying it, we can come to understand God a little better.
The Lord said unto Enoch, "Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood; . . .

'Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also. Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren. But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? . . . . And That which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment; Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands."
Moses 7:32-40, emphasis added
God is eternal and endless, yet he can still suffer alongside us for the pain of mortality and temporary suffering.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Divine Characteristic: Doing Nothing

". . . And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: 'How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.'

But Alma said unto him: 'The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.'

Now Amulek said unto Alma: 'Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.'

And Alma said: 'Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.'

Now it came to pass that when the bodies of those who had been cast into the fire were consumed, and also the records which were cast in with them, the chief judge of the land came and stood before Alma and Amulek, as they were bound; and he smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: 'After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone? Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith. And the judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?"

Alma 14:10-15, emphasis added

In my current personal journey, this seems to be a lesson the Lord is trying to teach me with a vengeance! I have so many concerns in my life, so many problems that either do not have an answer, or do not have an answer I am willing to accept.

I am not good at doing nothing.

Yet, it is increasingly obvious that doing nothing despite being capable of doing something can be a divine characteristic. Obviously, sometimes doing nothing causes us to sin by omission. How do we know the difference? How can we discern when is the time to act and when we should stand by, watching the train wrecking and doing nothing?

The only real answer to that is to depend on the Spirit.

This can be a tall order for someone who has tried with all they have to rely on the Spirit, only to see the effort come to nothing good, to see friends and family hurt by your attempts.

But this is no different than Alma and Amulek above, watching the innocent die because of the words they preached and because of the men who meant the prophets ill. How agonizing it must have been to allow them to pay that price!

I pray that the Spirit will be able to guide me truly as I try to better develop this divine characteristic and learn to simply. Sit. Still. And Wait.


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Yellow Wood

Often, I find myself presented with a choice that doesn't seem to make much difference either way. I think perhaps the most often encountered choice of this kind is whether or not to be offended by something someone does or does not do. I have ample opportunity in my life to think ill of certain individuals. But I have found, as time goes on, that if I think of people as if they care, as if they have good intentions at heart, I feel lighter and happier in life. It doesn't change them often; chances are good that they will remain as rude and self-absorbed as ever, but to me, it makes all the difference.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

~Robert Frost

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me

I have found myself carefully picking my way across the battleground of what I believe. On the one side is what I know in my heart to be true, on the other is what the evidence demonstrates is true. Before I became a survivor of emotional abuse, I thought, like many, that recipients of abuse were weak. I think sometimes I still feel that way, deep underneath the things I have learned from councilors and books. I have been working for a long time on faith: on evidence of things I can't otherwise sense.

Neither of my two councilors used the word "abuse" at first. It wasn't until I read a book called "But He Never Hit Me" that I began the emotional metamorphosis necessary for me to label what had been happening to me. There is still a part of me that feels faintly ludicrous when I say it. So I still, from time to time, think about what got me into that situation . . . and how I can avoid it happening again. Statistics are not on my side. (But the Lord is!)

This story could almost be mine, except I was blessed to get out of it sooner. Unfortunately, I still deal with the effects within myself and my children on a weekly basis. (At least it isn't daily any longer.) I can't imagine where I would have ended up if the Lord had not blessed me to escape now.

One of the most consistent threads through all levels and types of abuse is the recipient's need for three things. As the story above says,
"Individuals caught in abusive situations are seeking three primary things: a voice, a sense of value, and validation. While our voice may be most easily found, our sense of value must be most consciously fought for, and vindication, we must understand, may never be forthcoming."
One thing I have found is that no one can validate my choices. Though it helps, it is all too easy to counter-argue. The sense of value must be built grain by grain, through building a thorough and real understanding of God and how He sees me. A lack of this sense of intrinsic value is what led me to becoming a recipient of abuse. I thought I had to prove my worth.

As for the voice, well, here I am. I will not be silenced any longer.

Part of the reason most recipients of abuse have difficulty escaping is because it is impossible to avoid the truth. As the woman in the above story relates, "[He] may have been abusive, but I enabled his destructive behavior." There is a feeling of guilt that is impossible to describe. Hope that things will change wraps you in chains, binding you to the "relationship". As she said, "Instead of living in reality, I held out for hope . . . ." Hope that there is some power, some magic combination of actions that will make the lie of happiness he gave in the beginning become true.

Part of the difficulty is reconciling the reality of abuse with the gospel. The scriptures teach us to turn the other cheek, to give the cloak with the coat, to walk the extra mile. They teach faith, hope, charity: the exact things an abuser uses to entice and entrap. He uses them deliberately, whether consciously or not.

How does a person who believes in those things reconcile them with the evidence that they do not work, that they, in fact, make things worse?

There is a message of submission in the scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, which seems to advocate utter inactivity when it comes to those who would harm you. The Old Testament teaches the opposite: to be the aggressor when the Lord commands it. So where is the balance?

That is where the Book of Mormon completes scripture. The truth is that both the Old and New Testaments are right. The point is not violence or lack of violence, it is following God's will. And, at certain times and places, it is appropriate to defend and, rarely, even take the fight to the aggressor. It is up to us to not use "God's Will" to justify actions that are anything but.

So how does this apply to abuse? One thing I have noticed, as I've gone back and read these scriptural teachings, is that they apply to enemies, not to family or friends. They are not applied to those who are held close to your heart.

Only the Spirit can truly teach each recipient of abuse when the time is right. Those who love someone who is a recipient of abuse must realize that leaving immediately is not always the best answer. It is wise to be careful when making the decision.

To those who wonder if they are a recipient of abuse, there is something important to understand about the psyche of an abuser. He "will do anything to keep you, but nothing to take care of you." He is a psychological stalker, all the more dreadful because he is someone you ought to be able to love and trust. Like the trapped unicorns in the Last Unicorn, you, the recipient of abuse, must discover that what traps you is not the Red Bull, it is not the covenants you have made nor the expectations of those around you, nor is it Haggard: it is you and your fears. You do not understand yourself, that you are strong and beautiful and free by definition.

Like many true stalkers, the abuser's purpose is to destroy you. He did not find you because you were weak, he found you because you are strong. You possess qualities that he, himself, desires. Somehow in his twisted mental outlook, he longs for what you have and believes that if he can own you, he can own the strength he sees in you. He finds, over time, that he can't own it. And when he realizes this, he tries to destroy it. Just like Haggard, he doesn't realize that he destroys the very thing he values when he tries to bottle it, and that he can never possess what makes you beautiful by trying to trap it.

There is one major difference between you, the recipient of abuse, and the one who abuses. You approach life with the feeling that it is somehow you, that you can somehow change to control the world around you. He does the opposite, he will grab anything he can affix blame to. He knows he has no control, and he is afraid. He believes that everyone around him has power he does not. If he can't blame you, he will blame psychological illness that he needs medication for (and the nature of the "illness" often changes over time), or some physical problem: no sleep, constant pain or other ailment. Perhaps he will blame his childhood (and it was terrible), or some vast current misunderstanding that made him act the way he did. He will always say, "It's not me, it's ________," because he can't afford to face the truth.

It is him. He is the captain of his ship. No one can grab the helm but him. He must realize that, and most importantly YOU must realize that.
"The ideal victim is a conscientious person with a natural tendency to blame herself." Stalking the Soul, Marie-France Hirigoyan
A recipient of abuse must find a way to say, "Yes, I have my problems. But "it" is not me. It's you."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Poverty, Charity

There was a time not long ago that because of a couple of months of bills that I had thought were paid but were not, and the immediate loss of half of the family's income, I had to make use of the Bishop's Storehouse in order to feed my daughter and my pregnant self. It was humiliating. When I filled out the sheet, I put the bare minimum I needed to get by, with help from the little food storage I had left. My bishop added more to the sheet before he signed it and gave it back to me.

Getting the food was an experience I don't ever care to repeat. I went into what looked very much like a grocery store, checked in at the desk, and filled my cart with the amount I needed, my Scandinavian skin burning the entire time. The workers there were gentle with me. I think they must have seen how uncomfortable I was.

I packed the hamburger, sausage, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, flour, cheese, apples, bananas and oranges into the trunk of my car. I still remember every item. I felt an odd, pointed mix of shame and gratitude. When you get food from the storehouse, they offer to let you work there to pay it back, as much as it can be paid back. I knew that my work there would have to be done in the far future because, as a newly single working mother, barely out of the first trimester and still suffering from constant "morning" sickness, I had as many balls in the air as I could juggle. Rather more, actually, but I didn't want to look too closely at that for fear I'd drop the ones I had.

I stretched the two weeks of food out with some small purchases ($10 or $15/week!) of my own to last a month. By then, I received some unforeseen help, and gotten my feet under me again. Things were tight, but they were not imminent-starvation tight.

As I said, I hope to never have to do that again, to never have to be at a point where I have to worry about how to feed my children.

However, I now have a great deal more compassion for people on the street than I once did. It doesn't seem to matter to me any more whether they spend the money I give them on booze or on food. What matters is that I give. And when I don't have money to give them, I can at least look them in the eyes and smile. I can always give them respect. Even if they squandered their means foolishly, I can still empathize with where they are now. I only wish I could help them all.

Perhaps this is the beginning of charity. I don't think we can know God until we understand charity. Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe my experience, however difficult at the time, was more humbling than humiliating.
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
Moroni 7:47-48

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jauchze Laut, Jerusalem!

There is an amazing Christmas Hymn in the German hymnbook, named "Daughter of Zion".* (And you can blame Ray for getting me thinking about German Christmas hymns in the middle of spring.) It goes:

"Daughter of Zion, rejoice! Jubilate, o Jerusalem!
See, thy King comes to thee,
yes, He comes, the Prince of Peace.
Daughter of Zion, rejoice! Jubilate, o Jerusalem!

"Hosanna, David's Son, may thy people be blessed!
Establish now thy eternal Kingdom,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna, David's Son, may thy people be blessed!

"Hosanna, David's Son, be greeted, gentle King!
May thy throne of peace stand eternal,
Thou, child of the Eternal Father.
Hosanna, David's Son, be greeted, gentle King!"

Like many hymns, I think it should be sung at about twice the typical tempo. After all, it's talking about rejoicing! And it uses many exclamation points!

When I sing it to my daughters, I sing it with joy and when I sing, I feel prayer. What hymns make you want to jauchze**?

*all translations are loose. I'm hardly a professional.
**Rejoice or jubilate . . . but the word "jauchzen" feels so much more like it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Naming the Rose

One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle, explored the concept of Naming in her book, A Wind in the Door. To summarize, Naming is a process by which a Namer understands a thing and Names it what it truly is. Like so many of the spiritual ideas in L'Engle's work, this one resonated with me. Scripturally, it would explain why God and His messengers so often name the people they speak with before they deliver their message.

There is also an immense social power in the power of naming. That is why stereotypes will always exist to some extent. Names are symbols. When you name something, you bring with it all the connotation and symbolism inherent in that name. Perhaps this is why we so often try to define the people in our lives by certain names. This is the jock. He is the geek. She is the cheerleader. They are the Mormons.

Sometimes names mean slightly different things to different people, which is why miscommunication happens. Names act as a mental shorthand, allowing us to mean far more than we actually say. The Church's struggle with the name "Mormon" makes perfect sense in this context. Some people think "Mormon" and think plural wives, devil horns and child molestation. Others think of charitable works, the MoTab and temples.

If we accept a name that might not fit us with all its connotations, we find ourselves explaining a lot. Yes, I'm Mormon. No, I don't have any sister wives. Yes, I go to the temple. Yes, I believe the Bible.

Yet, perhaps there is power in explaining a name as well. So long as we don't let ourselves be defined by the name, but choose to define the name itself, we can accept it. As we do this, we have to be careful that when we are Named, we are truly understood. That means taking a Name upon us which we keep sacred by the way we live, the way we treat others.

Sure, "Mormon" is a name which can apply to us, but "disciple of Christ" should be the ultimate Name by which we are known. That should be the name that He Names us.

And remember, according to L'Engle, in order to be Named, the Namer has to understand the core of who we are. To be Named Christ's disciple, we have to truly be His.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Evidence Against Evolution

Everything that is "bad for you" tastes good, and almost everything good for you tastes bad. You would think that we would have developed a better taste for things that are healthy. On top of all that, why is it that in order to extend our life, we have to do something that leaves us flat-on-our-back, every-inch-hurting the next day? Wouldn't survival of the species mean less cosmic retribution for trying to be healthy? Wouldn't propagating the species lead to better physique and survival traits?*

I'm just sayin'.**

*Can you tell I'm starting to try to lose baby weight?

**No, this is not a serious post. If you truly feel the need to argue the pros and cons of faith in evolution, however, you may use the comments below. Just don't expect me to respond. I'll be over on the floor, whimpering in pain, begging for Cold Stone.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recreating a Testimony, Recreating Oneself

Once upon a time, I was completely sure of my testimony in God. My eyes were on the celestial goal, I knew where I was going. I knew how to get there. My life wasn't easy. I battled with various temptations and sins, but I believed that if I just worked hard enough, tried hard enough, it would be enough.
"Now and then I confess you cross my mind.
Now and then I guess I have a little too much time.
I've changed my way of thinking.
I've tried hard to separate
what came too soon
from what came too late."
But I ended up throwing all my effort behind a series of ventures that not only failed to move me closer to my goal, but threw me backwards. They crumbled my beliefs in myself, made me realize that I was nothing. Literally nothing. All my years of effort to become what I wanted to be, all my sense of accomplishment was nothing. I had failed. Giving it my all was not enough. Was once again not enough.
"I don't think about me in terms of you.
I don't think about you in terms of us.
I don't think about us in terms of love."
Did I ever fail to believe that God was there? Did I ever doubt His existence? No. But I doubted my place in His eyes, doubted that I had what it took to join Him again. I looked at my life, my mistakes, and thought myself irredeemable. Surely I was not worth rebuilding from the dust of my dreams and hopes. Surely the Atonement could not heal this.
"I don't think about then in terms of now,
I found a way to start again somehow.
I don't think about what we thought it was
in terms of love."
Frantically, I tried to hold everything together, to allow my failure to make as little impact in the lives of my friends and family as possible. But I knew somewhere deep inside that I was as hollow as a dead cocoon, full of expired potential. I had spent everything foolishly, and now it was gone.
"I'm countin' on heaven to understand.
I didn't mean to go and mess up all the plans.
Sometimes you know where you should go
Before you know the way."
Gradually, without feeling it or seeing it at first, I came to realize what the Atonement really means. It means continuing forward even though I can't see how to go where the Lord wants me to go. It means realizing that I'm nothing, yet believing that God, the master potter, is powerful enough to create beauty from the dust of my soul.
"I'll bother with tomorrow
Once I've made it through today."
It means not looking forward any more than I have to, but enjoying where I am right now. It means fully and literally handing over the responsibility for creation back to Him. It means forgiveness, forgiveness of debt. It means letting Him hold the debt that others owe me, and allowing Him to pay me what I might be owed. It means no longer worrying about what should have been or could have been, or even what will be, but simply trusting Him.
"But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children."
Isaiah 49:25
Letting go.
"I don't think about black in terms of gray
Or revelations in the light of day."
Letting go, but no longer making excuses for others. Not automatically assuming that others' opinions and viewpoints have more merit than my own. Trusting myself, as well, to be a good person. Allowing myself to do my best without expecting perfection. No longer craving constant revelation and guidance because I don't trust my own ability to discern and choose.
"I don't think about cold in terms of ice
Or second chances happenin' twice."
It is total reliance on God for the outcome, constantly seeking His guidance, yes, but not waiting on it. It is moving forward with faith. Forgiving myself for not letting other people stomp me to the ground one more time. No longer making others' problems my problems. Saying good-bye, even if they can't. Allowing them to take their own salvation in their hands so that I can work out mine. Maybe it isn't "happily ever after," but someday it will be.

"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?

"Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

"And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen."
2 Nephi 31:19-21

*lyrics from SheDaisy, "In Terms of Love"

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