Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pride of Faith

Last night during a long drive home, a girl told me that she was thinking of leaving the Church because of how women are treated. And she is right. In many ways, women are afterthoughts at best. Especially among the midsingle men of the Church, women are a mystery who don't perform according to plan, a challenge to surmount, a problem to solve. Whether it is the men who are baffled by women and want to learn the rules so they can push all the right buttons to get what they want, or the ones who think they know the right buttons to push boundaries as far as they can, we women are objectified. Benignly and not-so-benignly.

I supported one of the teenagers in my Sunday School class in teaching a lesson on how we can teach of the importance of marriage and family. It is not an easy lesson for me, so I was mightily glad he chose it. But as I studied, I realized how strongly I feel about the importance of marriage between a man and a woman, in part BECAUSE my husband did not, as my daughter phrased it "treat me well."

When I asked the teens why marriage is important, their first answer was "to make it to the celestial kingdom." And that isn't wrong, exactly. But it's not the important part of the answer, either. "Making it" to the celestial kingdom by checking items off your list, a wife only being one item of many, is nothing but an illusion. A lie...or, at least, an embarrassingly dramatic oversimplification.

I propose a somewhat radical thought: We can't "make it" to the celestial kingdom. That will never happen. Nothing we can do, no amount of repentance, covenant-making, or 100% home teaching will get us there.

I've read a few discussions about the difference between "mature faith" which is resilient faith, faith that doesn't flinch when strange new ideas are Joseph's seer stone. Or the priesthood ban. Or polygamy. Or Joseph's financial ineptitude. Or any number of other things.

I've seen people comment about how they knew the Church had the seer stone "all along" and others comment about how they were told not to ever read anything but Church-approved literature. Some who claim to know all about divine seership, and others completely turned off by it. In all of that back-and-forth, I detect a common thread of smugness.

Now, I don't know everything about things like seer stones, divination, divine revelation, etc. But I have had some experience with such things. In my experiences, the Spirit taught me that the mysticism and air of superior knowledge was not of God. In contrast, God often uses tools to aid people in focusing and opening their mind to Him, but those tools are easily counterfeited by the Enemy. Opening your mind to divination-type experiences inevitably opens your mind not only to God, but to diverse other powers and influences. As such, without the direction of the Spirit, it is unnecessary.

Yet some who claim knowledge of such things feel they are superior, that their knowledge of God and His ways are at a higher level or plane than others. But that flavor of superiority is a sure and unmistakable proof that the powers being accessed have nothing whatever to do with God.

In fact, the more I access God's power, the more humble I feel. The more His understanding distills in my heart, the more glorious and uplifted I see my brothers and sisters. Rather than feeling like they know less or are beneath me, I am filled with a desire to lift them towards God, and the less my position compared to theirs becomes any kind of consideration.

True faith is not "mature," in the sense that it is more developed or steadier than the faith of others. True faith, rather, is flush with immeasurable charity! When you come to know and trust God, your work gradually becomes HIS work. Your mind, heart, and focus turn to His children. The importance of "making it to the Celestial Kingdom" utterly fades away. It doesn't even matter any more.

I suppose this is hard to understand. We are so used to fighting for our rights, eking out a place for ourselves in this world, that contemplating the total loss of that paradigm is nearly incomprehensible. But it is exactly what happens.

The closer I get to God, the less it matters to me what will become of me. I don't worry about "making it" so much any more. Getting me back to God is Christ's problem to solve. But ministering to His children here on earth, THAT is something that I can do something about. I can be His hands on this earth.

It doesn't matter how I'm "treated" in the church by others of His children. It doesn't matter how God saw fit to train Joseph to receive revelation. It doesn't matter whether or not I can weather possible future shocks to my faith. The exact checkmarks to salvation and exaltation are mere markers, indicators of the real journey. Because my faith isn't in the details. The history is almost irrelevant. Rather, the more knowledge I gain, the more important channeling God's love and power to His children becomes. In fact, it's the only truth that really matters. And there is no comparison.

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