Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Love and Sacrifice

Typically, I write a blog post when I feel moved by the Spirit. Having a deadline and structure to what I post is not my natural practice. But I felt that I should participate in the General Conference Odyssey, and it has been good so far. But this week, I had a hard time connecting to any of the talks from this session. Not that none of them spoke to me, but they spoke to me in ways I'm not entirely comfortable sharing. So I apologize if this post is a bit stilted. I'm sure it won't be the last like that.

While my children have never gotten along perfectly, as they age there seems to be a certain level of viciousness in what they sometimes say to each other. Few things break my heart as much as hearing one of the people I love most in this world being cruel to the other. It doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong as much as the viciousness.

I can't imagine it's much different with the Lord and His children. While it does matter who is right and who is wrong, I believe He must feel about His children's discord the way I feel about the arguments between my children. The talk "By Love, Serve One Another" by S. Dilworth Young was written decades before our current political and ideological battles, but as I read it, I was deeply impacted by how clearly he challenged us members of the Church, particularly those of us who don't have significant or time-hungry callings, to spend greater time serving the poor and those who mourn. "...Those who are not given great responsibility in the organizations have more time to seek out the poor, needy, and helpless. And this help is badly needed. All about us are those in need of encouragement, assistance, and help...."

"...There are many lonely people, people whose loneliness is hidden...." Is this not just as true today as 1971? The demographics of those who don't feel like they belong to the Church may have shifted a bit, but there are hosts of people who do not feel welcome. It is up to us as baptized members to reach out to them, no matter their circumstances. There is nothing that says "mourn with those who mourn for reasons we would mourn," or "comfort only those whom we perceive as victims," or "stand as a witness of God unless it hurts someone's feelings." I'd like to share a parable. Don't read too much into it, I'm just trying to illustrate a point.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sustaining Failure

"But as for me and my house...."

This is a refrain I've read often recently, mostly from people who support the Brethren of the Church to those who are struggling with recent policy changes and the claim that those policy changes are revelation from God.

While I resonate with that sentiment: to "claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege..." I can't help but feel that it is a way to shut down discussion, to draw a line in the sand, and to condemn those who are wrestling with this concept. In that I have no interest.

It is with this in the back of my mind that I read again the words of Brethren from over forty years ago, and prayerfully ponder what I should write. I am very grateful to be invited to participate in the General Conference Odyssey, but I admit to feeling a little out of water. I do not write the great analyses that others write. I don't tend to place things in historical, doctrinal, or philosophical context. My blog is very personal, just as the name suggests. It is about two things which are really one thing: publicly sharing parts of my struggles with God in the hopes that seeing me try to shore up my house against the storms of mortality will encourage others to do the same, to build their house on the rock of my Redeemer. My relationship with God is not all that I am, but it is the part of me that I most want to share. It is the best thing I have to offer the world...or the tiny part of it I can reach. I know that I am nothing, but I will write of the miracles of God in me as best I can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Unborrowed Light

In some ways, my testimony has come easily. I was taught from childhood to question and to turn to scriptures and the Lord for my answers. Ever since I first read the Joseph Smith story, one thing became very clear to me: that if Joseph could see God and talk with angels, so could I. At that moment, my testimony became something influenced almost entirely by my observations and by my relationship with God.

While I have not seen angels nor spoken with God face-to-face, and despite there being no evidence in scripture (outside of Mary) that a woman could even do such a thing, I still believe that God could speak to me that way, should He choose. And should He not choose to send me angels, I know He has spoken with me—at times quite strongly—in other ways.

But I have had deep discussions with many people for whom it hasn't been so easy. They don't feel what I have felt, or they don't put the same significance on their feelings as I do. For them, testimony is more academic, more reasoned. It is something to be understood more than it is felt. For others, testimony lacks both logic and feeling, and is rather something that they do, living their lives in God's service without the emotional or mental assurances of His literal existence.

With such varied experiences with Diety, the question remains: what is a testimony?

Liminality And Shaded Areas

In Elder William H. Bennett's 1971 Conference talk, "Help Needed in the Shaded Areas," he compares color blindness to a person who is seeking truth, but will not humble himself, exercise faith, or live the gospel. You might expect that a conference held that long ago would be largely irrelevant, but of all the talks that day in Conference, this was one of two which I needed to read.

Because in many ways, I am in my very own "shaded area." The magic numbers hidden in the shaded area are the promised blessings we get for being righteous and doing the right thing.

Religion and faith to me has largely meant fighting to hear and understand the Lord's will for me. It's been a struggle to learn submission, to understand my place in God's plan, if any. I have placed that struggle, that fight to submit, at the center of my life. I'm not any better at it than anyone else, but I thought I knew what it meant to be in tune, to hear the voice of the Lord, and to be His disciple. It was a feeling of warmth for me, a brief sense of belonging...of sudden balance. Like the sparkle of sunlight through storm clouds, or the thrill of sliding on a sled after tugging it up the steep hill.

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