Tuesday, January 31, 2017

God Loves His Children Even as They Toddle, Falter, and Fall

We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not…

Compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him… 

I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so He could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him. Even when we stumble, He urges us not to be discouraged—never to give up or flee our allotted field of service - but to take courage, find our faith, and keep trying. 

Pres. Uchtdorf, "Four Titles", April 2013 General Conference

Friday, January 27, 2017

Does God Really Direct Us Down "Wrong Roads" Sometimes?

Elder Holland gave a talk in General Conference a couple of years ago about what he learned when he and his father took a wrong road on the way home late one night. It generated a lot of discussion online about whether or not God really would direct us down wrong roads in our lives. 

My own take is that God allows us to walk "wrong roads" as part and parcel of mortality and our limited understanding (that he doesn't always stop us from walking the ones we are prone to walk), but I personally don't believe he proactively places us on or guides us to roads that truly are wrong for us. Thus, I don't believe he gives us incorrect answers to our prayers. I might be wrong, but that's how I see it. It just fits my own belief in the nature of God better.

Having said that, it makes perfect sense for someone who sees God as more of an interventionist God than I do - and it can be the only thing that would make sense for some people who thought they received answers to prayers that they followed into situations that caused pain and felt wrong to them. I also am completely open to the idea that God will do that for some people who need to learn from mistakes but won't choose them on their own - those, for example, who mare more inclined to put their head down and live a Law of Moses life, letting others tell them exactly what to so. I can see God directing them off that path in order to get them to the right one, even if that means they walk a hard road to get there.

However, I do believe that God opens doors to us at times and arranges opportunities that we can take or not take. That's how I see my own life, since I can't deny the incredible ways that the path of my life appears to be "directed" in various ways. There have been a couple of moments/periods in my life that I only understand in hindsight as what was necessary to get me to the next place my family needed to be, so, in that sense, I can understand the idea of being on a "wrong path" to get to the "right path" - even though I wouldn't phrase it that way.

I recently have come to phrase those experiences as being on the right track but the wrong train - or, perhaps more accurately, being on the only train at that particular time that would take me to the point on the track where I could catch the next "right train" for that particular time - usually with the core purpose being someone in my family or a personal connection, rather than a professional reason. In that light, I can see my life as a serious of trains connecting me to multiple tracks that made our overall destinations possible to reach - but I had to disembark from each train and climb on a new one each time to get where my family needed to be at each juncture in our life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Individual Exceptions Are between Each Person and the Lord

“There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.” 
- Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, June 2006, p. 16

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sometimes, Our Obsession with Proper Prayer Language Is Unhealthy

I have a friend who is convinced we are wrong to pray in modern formal language.

Personally, I have absolutely no problem with people using "thee" and "thou" and such language in prayer. None whatsoever. If it helps them feel more respectful and worshipful, I support it completely. I tend to use that type of wording simply because it is the prayer language of my upbringing, and I am totally fluent in it. It's easy, familiar and automatic to me.

Having said that, I also use "you" fairly often, especially in my personal, less formal prayers. I tend to use whatever fits my mood and the situation best.

The one thing I dislike intensely about the current model is that it tends to make us notice when the words are used "incorrectly" (as we perceive incorrectly to be), and that tends to lead to some degree of smugness, condescension, pity or some other sentiment that is not good and absolutely not necessary. I understand the basic Primary guidelines to address the Father, thank God, ask for what we need and close in Jesus' name, but when we start worrying about whether or not the specific words others use are "correct", we have crossed a line that shouldn't be anywhere in our sight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Revelation As a Process of Sifting and Winnowing

“The Lord uses imperfect people…He often allows their errors to stand uncorrected. He may have a purpose in doing so, such as to teach us that religious truth comes forth “line upon line, precept upon precept” in a process of sifting and winnowing similar to the one I know so well in science.” 
- Henry Eyring, "Reflections of a Scientist", p. 47

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Restoration Is On-Going, and We Can Be Restorers or Destroyers

According to Jacob 5, the tree will continue to be pruned right up until the end - and I see that as a pruning of incorrect traditions and misunderstandings, not as a pruning of people. It doesn't make sense to me, in the actual context of the allegory, to make it about people. Therefore, anyone who assists in proper pruning, undertaken at a pace and in a way that doesn't damage the root, is part of the Restoration, in my opinion.

Pruning to maximize production can be tricky, as anyone who has lived in orchard country knows (or even in application to business organizations), so it generally can't be done through radical surgery or, often, by removing every bit of infection all at once. "Here a little, there a little" works far better in many cases. There have been a few times in Church history when radical surgery was necessary (ending polygamy and the Priesthood ban, for example), but there was extensive collateral damage, as well. It was necessary, but risk management includes minimizing damage and maximizing recovery - not just eliminating infection.

That is a long-winded way of saying I believe many who agitate, to varying degrees, are part of the Restoration - while others (those who insist on too radical changes too quickly) are part of the Destruction. I can't always know exactly where that line lies, so I tend to err on the side of allowance and care - but if I believe someone is firmly over the line, I don't mind the pruning shears being taken away from them. Above all else, I believe in pruning my own tree to the best of my ability and not insisting on pruning others' trees for them or being in charge of the overall pruning of the orchard.

I'll express my views to the directors and managers of the orchard, but I won't try to grab their shears and start pruning for them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We Must Be Open to People Outside Our Usual Circle of Friends

In this Church our wards and our quorums do not belong to us. They belong to Jesus Christ. Whoever enters our meetinghouses should feel at home. The responsibility to welcome everyone has growing importance. The world in which we live is going through a period of great upheaval. Because of the increased availability of transportation, speed of communication, and globalization of economies, the earth is becoming one large village where people and nations meet, connect, and intermingle like never before.

These vast, worldwide changes serve the designs of Almighty God. The gathering of His elect from the four corners of the earth is taking place not only by sending missionaries to faraway countries but also with the arrival of people from other areas into our own cities and neighborhoods. Many, without knowing it, are being led by the Lord to places where they can hear the gospel and come into His fold.

It is very likely that the next person converted to the gospel in your ward will be someone who does not come from your usual circle of friends and acquaintances. You may note this by his or her appearance, language, manner of dress, or color of skin. This person may have grown up in another religion, with a different background or a different lifestyle.
So, my brothers, it is your duty to reach out to anyone who appears at the doors of your Church buildings. Welcome them with gratitude and without prejudice. If people you do not know walk into one of your meetings, greet them warmly and invite them to sit with you. Please make the first move to help them feel welcome and loved, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

After your initial welcome, consider ways you can continue to minister to them. I once heard of a ward where, after the baptism of two deaf sisters, two marvelous Relief Society sisters decided to learn sign language so they could better communicate with these new converts. What a wonderful example of love for fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel!

I bear witness that no one is a stranger to our Heavenly Father. There is no one whose soul is not precious to Him. With Peter, I testify that “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
- Gérald Caussé, "Ye Are No More Strangers", October 2013 General Conference

Friday, January 6, 2017

Some Excellent, Practical Advice to Help Us Find Peace

I almost never share things here that I find being forwarded on Facebook or other similar sites, but I came across this one today and want to share it with everyone here:

1. Make peace with your past, so it won't screw up your present. 

2. What others think of you is none of your business.

3. Time heals almost everything, so give it time.

4. Don't compare your life to others, and don't judge them. You have no idea what their lives are all about.

5. Stop thinking too much; it's okay not to know all the answers. Many of them will come to you when you least expect it.

6. No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.

7. Smile. You don't own all the problems in the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The LDS Church Also Evolves in Its Understanding and Its Recognition of Past Mistakes

"Seventy years ago this Church was organized with six members. We commenced, so to speak, as an infant. We had our prejudices to combat. Our ignorance troubled us in regard to what the Lord intended to do and what He wanted us to do … We advanced to boyhood, and still we undoubtedly made some mistakes, which … generally arise from a …lack of experience. We understand very well, when we reflect back upon our own lives, that we did many foolish things when we were boys … Yet as we advanced, the experience of the past materially assisted us to avoid such mistakes as we had made in our boyhood. It has been so with the Church. Our errors have generally arisen from a lack of comprehending what the Lord required of us to do. But now we are pretty well along to manhood … When we examine ourselves, however, we discover that we are still not doing exactly as we ought to do, notwithstanding all our experience. We discern that there are things which we fail to do that the Lord expects us to perform, some of which He requires us to do in our boyhood. … While we congratulate ourselves in this direction, we certainly ought to feel that we have not yet arrived at perfection. There are many things for us to do yet.” 
- Lorenzo Snow, General Conference, April 1900