Tuesday, April 8, 2008

For What Do I Hunger and Thirst?

I view the purpose of THIS life as becoming like Jesus was in His mortal life - and the purpose of THE NEXT LIFE as becoming like Christ is now in His post-mortal life. Everything else (specific doctrine, intellectual understanding, nuanced discussions of exegesis, whatever) is secondary to that.

The core Josephism to which I cling is: "I teach them correct PRINCIPLES and let them govern themselves." "Principles" is not equivalent to "doctrines" or "intellectual understandings". That's important to me.

When it comes down to it, I base my core principles on three main statements of Jesus:

"Be ye therefore perfect," (Matt. 5:48) - "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt. 7:20) - "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21) -- (basically, the entire Sermon on the Mount, but especially those three verses)

When push comes to shove, I don't give a rat's hairy hindquarters exactly what someone says they believe - only what they DO and what they are BECOMING. If they teach Buddhism or if they claim atheism - I don't care one bit. I really don't, as long as they are doing the will of the Father and becoming perfected - and I believe religious denomination has RELATIVELY LITTLE to do with that pursuit.

To be clear and not misunderstood, I believe STRONGLY in the Restoration of the Gospel (the "Good News") - and that what constitutes the "Good News" is exactly what separates us from other denominations. I have served willingly in a Stake Mission Presidency and as Ward Mission Leader, and I am committed to the principle of sharing the Gospel with those who will listen. I believe deeply in the power of godliness mentioned in JSH 1:19 - and in the description of Christianity at the time as "apostate". However, I also believe (given our deeply embedded theology of grace) that perhaps the only over-riding, absolutely necessary, truly unique reason for the restoration of the CHURCH is to establish once again an organizational institution in which the "ordinance orthodoxy" can be practiced - explicitly so that the Buddhist and atheist can be exalted for their sincere efforts to be "just men made perfect". That is SUCH a more empowering, expansive vision of grace than anything that is taught in Christianity at large that I am baffled by those who claim we don't teach grace.

We teach that man will not be punished for Adam's transgression, and if that belief is to have ANY meaning whatsoever, it HAS to be established on such a principle of shockingly liberal grace. "I Stand All Amazed" is my favorite hymn, and it includes the following words to OPEN the hymn:

"I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me - **confused** at the grace that so **fully** he proffers me."

From my first post on grace here on this blog, I will excerpt the following:

A very insightful friend recently described the process of "taking my yoke upon you" as feeling the purity and power of His sinlessness. I love that construct, but I would add the following: Understanding and truly accepting God's grace occurs when you realize that all of your inherited weaknesses (your temper, your judgmental nature, your fatigue, your lack of self-worth, your never-ending battles with whatever drives you crazy) - everything that keeps you from becoming who you desperately want to become - has been bought and paid for already. He fought that fight for you, and He won. Yes, you were born with things that keep you from being perfect, but He paid for those things - meaning that you truly can take His yoke upon you and walk confidently at His side as a brother or sister with the same eternal potential. It occurs when you realize that, because of the grace that so fully He proffers you, you aren't required to pay for those things; rather, you are freed to pursue those qualities and characteristics you want to acquire to become perfect (whole and complete) - regardless of the tangible outcome of that effort. Understanding this truth makes you free in a very real way. Repentance becomes an exciting, forward looking progression toward wholeness, rather than a depressing, backward-looking, guilt-inducing attempt to beat the bad out of you and never again make any mistakes. Bad habits and painful characteristics will disappear as they are replaced by good ones, not as they are "subdued and repressed by sheer force of will."

I believe an understanding of grace is fully realized when one stops fighting God's grace - when he realizes that all God wants is his willing mind and heart - when he quits worrying about his individual worthiness and starts focusing on his contribution to communal unity - when he simply lays it all at His feet and says, in essence, "I know you understand my weakness; I know you know my struggles and pains; I know you know how I feel about myself; I know you love me and have bought me, anyway. From now on, I will trust your promise and, despite my continuing frustration and my continuing weakness and my continuing failures, I will bounce back each time and continue to grow. I will not despair; I will accept my weakness and imperfection and failure, knowing you don't care, because you love me, anyway. I will get back up each time I am knocked down and continue to walk toward you, until you embrace me and say, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' - knowing I don't deserve it and being eternally grateful for the grace that so fully you proffered me."

Why do I share that in this context? It is to say that, while I enjoy the intellectual stimulation I find in the Bloggernacle (LDS-focused blogs), it does not define my discipleship. That is defined by my realization that I am no better in God's eyes than any other child, and that, no matter how my brain defines my doctrinal understanding, all he wants is my love and obedience - in order to take my ugly caterpillar and make it the butterfly it can become. He wants me to understand and know him, but He cares much more that I love and obey Him according to what I feel I understand or know - even if I don't yet understand or know Him fully. My "faithful effort" (actions done despite things not seen) is MUCH more important than waiting to act until I see "face-to-face".

I engage in internet conversations specifically to find ways to hone my discipleship - to plumb the depths of others' understanding to find new ways to bring me closer to my Father. I bristle occasionally when others beat on each other, because that is opposed to the outcome for which I yearn - because it is one of the only things, if not THE only thing, that makes our Father weep. (seeing His children reviling and hurting each other)

Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor, and I will give you rest." He didn't say he would give them heartburn or scorn - or intellectual superiority; he promised rest. That's what I long for in the discussions in which I engage - a place of refuge and rest, where I can drink deeply from the cup of perspective and insight - no matter the theological or denominational affiliation of those with whom I converse. I don't want to fight and argue; I want to share and sup. That is the sustenance for which I hunger and thirst - the soothing sips of spirituality that restore and reaffirm my resolve for righteousness. I don't hunger and thirst after insight for itself; I pursue it for the way it will help me live righteously - to be filled with the Holy Ghost - to do the will of my Father - to bring forth fruits meet for repentance - to become therefore perfected (whole and complete).

Everything else is meaningless if it isn't involved in getting there.


adamf said...

re: "plumb the depths of others' understanding to find new ways to bring me closer to my Father."

I had not thought of blogging in this way before, but I agree with you here. My religion related posts are almost always written with the intent of furthering my understanding by interacting with others. Often, I have found that doing so is challenging, but enlightening as well... if we can endure the occasional attack.

Elder Samuel Bennett said...

Interesting that you should frame this discussion in terms of "principles." Much of cognitive behavior training focuses on the idea that all of us function based on deeply held principles that often go unexamined. One of the opportunities of the gospel is to bring those principles into the light and prove their worth.

Patty said...

I love the opportunities that blogging has given me to enlarge my understanding. Not only have I gained great insights from other people's posts (yours is definitely included in that!) but I also welcome the comments when I put down my own take on things. I like hearing other viewpoints and getting the chance to realize that my "ah-ha" moment isn't necessarily the only light bulb that can go on.
I couldn't help but laugh at "When push comes to shove, I don't give a rat's hairy hindquarters exactly what someone says they believe - only what they DO and what they are BECOMING." Not only is the mental image pretty priceless, but this sums it up pretty well. I've gained a greater appreciation of "becoming" from reading your posts.
Thank you for sharing!!

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ANTSYLLI said...

Papa, I have missed reading your blog and learning from you. You always uplift and strengthen me. Thank you for daring to put your thoughts into such meaningful and useful words so that others may be blessed.
Not to trivialize what you do, but I must say, "You have filled my spiritual Big Gulp today."

Christy said...

I must admit that you communicate at a higher level and some of what you write escapes me - but I'm going to keep trying! One thing does hit home, though, in a very painful way. I learned this past weekend that I need to get off my high horse because there are many, many people out there that know the Lord much, much better than I, regardless of their religion.

Papa D said...

Christy, that is a powerful and life-altering lesson. The Gospel is true in the deepest sense specifically because it recognizes that insight and gives us a way to "get off our high horses" and focus on just loving and serving and becoming. God's grace is broad and deep enough to accept us wherever we are, as long as we are sincerely trying to find Him and do His will - including us in our measly, pitiful efforts.

Thanks for sharing your insight. It goes to the very heart of what I was trying to say.