Thursday, March 28, 2013

Protect The Children

Yesterday I listened to this talk above by Elder Dallin H. Oaks.  Read it here.  A very timely talk for our day and age.  Two thoughts:

First - I thought it was amazing that he said "one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth."  A powerful warning.  I hope it is not an abuse that members of the Lord's Church are guilty of. 

A personal story that I won't share much of here, but my husband and I got married over President's weekend in 1999.  No time for a long honeymoon cause we were both in college at the time.  The week after our marriage, we both had research papers to turn in on a class we took together called "Teachings of the Living Prophets" (we went to school at BYU).  The assigned subject of our research papers: "The Position of the Church on Birth Control".  That paper was such a blessing in our life together.  And our first child was born 11 months later.  I don't think we would have all of our precious children in our life today if it weren't for that homework assignment.  I'm so grateful for that class, for our teacher Dale LeBaron for that inspired assignment and what it taught me to do.  The prophets truly do point the way to true happiness if we will follow where they direct us in this maze of life on earth.  As we've sought to follow the truths that we learned, we've been blessed abundantly.  I'm so grateful for my husband and children and for who I've become by being a wife and mother.  I have not kept many of the papers and assignments from my college days, but I do still have within easy access those two reports Corey and I did.  A quote by President Spencer W. Kimball is the one I remember most and have sought to live by:

"I have told tens of thousands of young folks that when they marry they should not wait for children until they have finished their schooling and financial desires... They should live together normally and let the children come."

So grateful that I was willing to let these angelic blessings come into my life.

My second thought on Elder Oaks talk - I thought this quote below from his talk was of particular interest concerning that the Supreme Court will arguments in a high-profile case on gay marriage this week.  

"We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.” 
I agree that same-sex marriage is a social experiment and that it has implications that we are not aware of. Here is a really long but excellent post I read here today about Marriage that explains what might be some of the fall out of redefining marriage, written with good examples of past public policy changes - source here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Disciples Journey

I enjoyed this talk -

The drawing he showed at the beginning reminded me that I want to create artwork around or home that is symbolic and reminds me and teaches my children eternal principles.  Gave me some artistic inspiration.  :)

I also really liked the idea near the end of how the Atonement doesn't just bring us back to God, but unites us once again with each other, with our spouse and family, like how it united President Hinckley and his wife Marjorie.  The way Elder Hafen described it helped me understand it in a new way.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

God Makes No Apology

Another incredibly beautiful post today on "Mitchell's Journey" ~ my favorite part: " It would seem that in all religious texts, no matter your religion, God makes no apology for pain and suffering. In fact, I have come to understand there is a sacred relationship between suffering and spirituality, if we learn to listen and endure it well."  Amen.  I pray we can all learn what the Master Teacher is trying to teach us.  He knows what He's doing, let us trust in Him and His goodness. 

Entire post below ~

The night before Mitchell passed away we sensed that time was running out. As the sky quickly darkened the air grew eerily cold … and with each breath we felt a heavy, somber feeling grow within our hearts. That abyss that was inching to devour our son had its mouth stretched wide and was beginning to swallow up my son.

We were preparing to cuddle with Mitch in his room and read him stories and comfort him when we received a call from his best friend and next-door neighbor who wanted to see if he could play. Unaware that Mitchell was already slipping away and was coming in and out of consciousness (mostly out), we asked this young boy if we could speak to his mother … which we did … and described what was happening. We quickly learned that Luke wanted to come over and say goodbye to our baby, his best buddy.

What I then witnessed in the quite of Mitchell’s room was the most tender interaction between two young boys I have ever seen. It was a sacred exchange between two boys made of clay – each being shaped by experience, hardship, sacrifice and love.

Lying on the bed was our young boy much too young to die, standing next to him another young boy holding his hand, bearing his young soul … much too young to say goodbye. It was not my place to ask God why such heavy things were required by hands of these two innocent souls. Rather I began to ponder deeply and pray in my heart to understand what we were meant to learn from this hardship. These aren't the only two children to experience this, and they won’t be the last. But they were our kids … and we love them so. And it hurt so very much to see.

This young boy, who had loved Mitch like a brother and faithfully served him with all his heart told Mitchell how much he meant to him, that because of Mitch he learned what it meant to be a true friend and that he would never forget him. Luke struggled to hold back the tears, his voice was broken with emotion, as Mitchell lay unable to move or speak as he listened to tender words of affection and friendship. My wife and I wept as we witnessed love and friendship in its purest form.

I knew that Luke, Mitchell’s faithful little friend, was breaking inside. I hugged him and told him how much my wife and I loved and appreciated him. I told him that I was sure if Mitchell were awake he would tell Luke that he loved him like a brother and that he appreciated how he was always there to help him when his muscles were too weak, and to cheer him up when he was sad. I told Luke that he taught Mitchell and his parents what it meant to be your “brother’s keeper” and that we were so grateful to him.

Later that evening I couldn't help but think of that tender experience between these two young boys who were forced to grow up much too fast. I pondered the meaning of human suffering and the difficult experiences we are sometimes required to endure. I have learned to appreciate an old Jewish proverb that basically states "Don't pray for lighter burdens, pray for a stronger back". It would seem that in all religious texts, no matter your religion, God makes no apology for pain and suffering. In fact, I have come to understand there is a sacred relationship between suffering and spirituality, if we learn to listen and endure it well.

I admit the burden of losing my precious son has my knees trembling and hands shaking and my soul in tremendous pain. There exists no word in the human language to describe this pain. It is simply, utterly, bewilderingly heavy. But, like all suffering, the sting of that pain can make way to a deeper compassion toward others, a greater capacity to love, a stronger desire to reach toward God and understand His purposes.

The truth is we are [all of us] no different than these two little boys. We are all made of clay. And with each choice we make, each reaction to events in our life, we carve out something beautiful or something hideous – something that loves or hates. We need only look at our own life experience to know this is true … we have all seen some let the clay in their hearts harden and become brittle or unmovable. Others allow the tears of suffering to keep their clay soft and pliable.

Today my clay is soggy. But the tears will eventually dry and I will do all that I can to remain pliable.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Book of Mormon - At Face Value

I have really enjoyed reading Grant Hardy's book "Understanding the Book of Mormon."  I am not finished yet, but one great thing about it is that he doesn't set out to prove or disprove the books authenticity, such as whether it was written by Joseph Smith himself or if it is an ancient text given to him by God ~ Hardy takes apart the book at face value for what it is by just looking at the text of the book itself.  From page 11 and quoting Daniel Walker Howe:

"True or not, the Book of Mormon is a powerful epic written on a grand scale with a host of characters, a narrative of human struggle and conflict, of divine intervention, heroic good and atrocious evil, of prophecy, morality and law.  It's narrative structure is complex.  ...  It tells a tragic story, of a people who, though possessed of the true faith, fail in the end.  Yet it does not convey a message of despair; God's will cannot ultimately be frustrated.  The Book of Mormon should rank among the great achievements of American literature, but it has never been accorded the status it deserves, since Mormons deny Joseph Smith's authorship, and non-Mormons, dismissing the book as a fraud, have been more likely to ridicule than to read it."

page 27:

"Rarely is the divide between communities as great as the one that separates insiders and outsiders when they pick up the Book of Mormon.  To non-Mormons, the book is obviously a fiction or a hoax.  The idea of reading it as an actual history of a lost Christian civilization in the ancient Americas is so preposterous that it is hard to imagine how otherwise educated and rational people can take it seriously in this way (tales of angels, gold plate, and seer stones do not help).  for Latter-day Saints, accustomed to a community that unquestionably accepts the text as history, the complexity and beauty of the book--in addition to what they see as profound religious truths--would seem to make it impossible for thoughtful, open-minded people to doubt (especially those willing to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit).  My goal is not to move readers from one side to the other but rather to provide a way in which they can speak across religious boundaries and discuss a remarkable text with some degree of rigor and insight."

Hardy examines the Book of Mormon through seeking to discover the thoughts and intents through it's three main narrators: Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni.  It's been a fascinating read and has brought many ideas and insights to my attention.  Such as noting things that are omitted.  Did Nephi receive a blessing from his father, Lehi, before Lehi passed away?  I believe so, and if so, why is that not in the record?  Lehi's greatest desire was for the family to be united, and perhaps he left that charge to Nephi in his blessing.  To Nephi, who had already seen the separation of the family and his own posterity's eventual destruction in a prophetic vision, might have found this charge too painful to record, given his failure in achieving it.  So details and thoughts like that - it's been so fun to read, I highly recommend it!  I'll try to write up other of my favorite parts in future posts.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Book of Mormon Shows Us The Way

This subject is on my mind after reading from some books which I'll reference below and from reading this post quoting a Stake President's talk where he shares his thoughts of the troubles of Babylon in our world today and that a goal we can make to protect us from these troubles and bring us closer to the Savior in our own lives is to "spend time each day reading and studying the Book of Mormon..  So, exactly how can reading the Book of Mormon help us?  From "Triumph of Zion" by John Pontius, page 170 -

As a matter of record, we are to this day laboring under a divinely imposed condemnation for taking lightly the things which we have received.

54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
 55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

 56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
 57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—(D&C 84:54-57)

Even though this condemnation will remain until we remember the Book of Mormon, the solution isn't in reading the divine word within, but as verse 57 notes, in doing "according to that which I have written."  The Book of Mormon's opening pages records Lehi having a personal visitation with God and receiving his commission to call the people of Jerusalem to repentance.  The next big account is of his son Nephi having a similar experience.  The Book of Mormon is a graphic witness to the vastness of our privileges in the priesthood, of seeking the face of God, and obtaining these grand blessings, from page one onward.  So, if we do as "I have written" in the Book of Mormon, we should be seeking the face of God.  

For more on this subject of seeking the face of God, read "Following the Light of Christ into His Presence" by John Pontius and "The Second Comforter" by Denver Snuffer.  Specifically for more on this condemnation we are under because of our treating lightly of the Book of Mormon, see pages 328-343 of the Second Comforter, a chapter titled "Fleeing Babylon" - he shares great insights there about how Babylon of old is still with us culturally and how it is to be ground to dust per King Nebuchadnezzer's dream, by the latter day church through the Book of Mormon, which does not have any Babylon influence since Lehi and his family left Jerusalem before Israel was destroyed and the Jews taken captive.

So, continuing from this subject of the Book of Mormon and seeing the Lord's face and how it relates to building Zion in our day, Pontius continues in "Triumph of Zion" on page 171:

Why could our inability to become a Zion people be a part of this condemnation?  It is because Zion was to be our greatest accomplishment as a people--and thus has the potential to become our greatest failure.  As the language aptly defines, we haven't built Zion because our predecessors ("in times past") for whatever reason, failed to do so, and we in this generation are continuing to take lightly our privilege of building it.  We have received the priesthood and the promises, and yet we continue in the wilderness, even while myopically proclaiming our exile habitation to be the very Zion which we were expelled from for not building.  

Once again, only the living prophet can command the construction of the city and society of Zion.  I completely believe that when we are ready as individuals, and when the timetable of the Lord has matured, then the Lord will speak, and only then will we build the New Jerusalem.  Until then, we are only speaking of the personal quest of building Zion within our own hearts.  Becoming a Zion people can only open the doors and hasten the time when the actual city will be built. 

I just ordered another book by Denver Snuffer "Removing the Condemnation" and look forward to reading more of his thoughts on this subject.  I'll try to post more of Snuffer's insights regarding Babylon and the Book of Mormon in another post soon.
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