Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Beauty through Suffering

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. 
- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Friday, November 25, 2016

Personal Revelation Can Be Powerful Even When It Is Not Unique

I want to share something that I learned a while ago that has meant a lot to me since then.

There is a phrase in my Patriarchal Blessing that has meant a lot to me over the years, since it applied so amazingly to my life in a way that couldn't have been seen when I got the blessing. In talking with my siblings over the weekend of my father's funeral, I found out that one of my brothers has the exact same phrase in his blessing - given by the same Patriarch. That phrasing might have been unique to us, but it might be a stock phrase he used in lots of blessings.

What hit me when I heard my brother mention the phrase relative to his life (after the initial surprise wore off), and when he talked about how important it is now in his unique situation, is that I don't care if it is unique to us or part of thousands of other blessings. It doesn't lessen what it has meant to me in the past either way, and it would be stupid of me to throw away real meaning and power simply because it might not be unique wording. The "revelation" (understanding) I have received from contemplating that wording has been special - far more special than the wording itself.
I don't believe the heavens part and the Patriarch always speaks, comprehensively, exact words dictated by the Holy Ghost. I do believe, however, having had some really good discussions with Patriarchs whom I respect and admire, that they often get impressions of things they then put into whatever words make sense to them - exactly as has happened to me occasionally when I'm giving Priesthood blessings. Sometimes those impressions are somewhat ambiguous, but sometimes they are so clear and different that I have been surprised to hear what I'm saying. Thus, I see a Patriarchal Blessing as the best approximation of revelation possible given the avenue / conduit / speaker involved.

It's a lot like I see scripture - not infallible, often wrong and sometimes filtered almost completely through personal prisms that hide nearly all of the pure message, but meaningful and inspired to various degrees.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

We Too Often Confuse Belief with Truth

The “truths” we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these “truths” are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives.

Part of the reason for poor judgment comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between belief and truth. We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true. Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it - because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often, truth is rejected because it doesn’t appear to be consistent with previous experiences.

When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict our own, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and augment or complement what we know, we often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed, mentally challenged, or even intentionally trying to deceive.

Unfortunately, this tendency can spread to all areas of our lives - from sports to family relationships and from religion to politics. 
- Pres. Uchtdorf, CES Devotional, Jan. 2013

Friday, November 18, 2016

Testimonies Don't Have to Be Provable - or Even Accurate - to Be Valid

Testimony has the same root as testament and testify - which are legal terms for an official record and to make an official statement. Thus, a testimony can be about absolutely anything and is nothing more than saying, writing, or doing something in an official manner that reflects whatever is said. "I know" - "I believe" - I feel" - "I saw (witnessed)" - "I assume" - etc. all are legitimate forms of testimony - and the only false testimonies are ones that are not consistent with the belief of the person providing it  - or, to say it more clearly, the ones that the testifier knows to be inaccurate.

For example, if a witness in a trial says, "I know . . ." that person is unable to be charged with perjury even if it turns out that they are wrong (meaning they didn't know what they claimed to know), as long as it is believed that they were sincere in their expression of knowledge.

Thus, spiritual experiences are a perfectly acceptable foundation for religious testimonies, whether what is believed is true or not, objectively - or, in many cases, inadequate to prove accuracy in an objective way. After all, most people base what they believe or believe they know on what they feel, to one degree or another.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It's about Loving People, Not Solving Problems

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. 
- Thomas S. Monson, "Finding Joy in the Journey"

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Only Way I Can See Life As a Test

I have no problem with the idea that life is a test - but I define "life" as "eternal life" or "existence", and I define "test" as "learning process" or "growth experience".

 In that sense, I'm okay with seeing the events in our lives as tests - but I do so more in terms of "evaluation-providing (for correction and growth)" rather than "grade-producing (for final status)".

As an educator, I don't like the traditional model of instruct, test, assign grade, move on. I prefer the newer model of evaluate, design instruction based on evaluation, re-evaluate, modify instruction (if necessary), continue process until mastery is reached.

That version is how I see eternal life, and I think it continues until each person reaches their highest level of mastery possible.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

People Are More Important than Problems

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. 
- Thomas S. Monson, "Finding Joy in the Journey"

Friday, November 4, 2016

Spirituality and Spiritual Health, Like Physicality and Physical Health, Varies for Each Individual

Wisdom is to know when to take which kind of treatment. There is no one pill for all situations or all people.

I saw this quote regarding the various ways to treat similar ailments, but it applies to faith, as well. 

Using this analogy, I would say that my faith is all kinds of substances: entrees, appetizers, desserts, snacks, liquids, painkillers, antidotes, vitamins, nutritional supplements, some junk foods, some fast foods, etc. - and, at different times, I need each of those things, to varying degrees. "Man shall not live by bread alone" has application to faith, as well.

Just like my physical health and what I eat, the key to my spiritual health is finding the balanced faith that produces the healthiest outcome for me - while understanding that different diets work for different people. In general, however, it's as simple as ingesting more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, then making sure I burn as much as I consume.

It's when things get out of whack and imbalanced, whatever that looks like for each individual, that things get wonky and unhealthy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Rainbow Is Better than an All-White Wall

“Diversity is a strength, not a division. 

I attend a lot of meetings where I’m the only woman. And I attend many, many meetings where I’m the only Oriental woman. You can perhaps imagine how that feels. Have you ever had the feeling that you’re the odd one, the different one? Maybe even too odd or different for this church? The truth is that you’re not odd; you’re special. 

When white light falls on a wall, it makes a white wall. But when it passes through a prism, that same light makes a rainbow on the wall.”

-Chieko Okazaki, "Lighten Up", p. 4