Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Interviews

I decided to start a new feature at Wheat & Tares -- interviews of people I either really like or find interesting.

Well, I've got a great one line up -- for December of this year (it is May now if you are reading this sometime in the past).  Another who said "sure, just follow-up with me in a month when I'm not so busy." More of the same.  Lots of friendly, but very busy people.

The essence of the interviews is to ask the people the questions they would like to be asked and to let them give the answers they would like to give.  I know, it is a softball's softball type of interview, but it is also a type of interview that often gets surprising answers (at least that is my experience in real life talking to people).

However, that leaves me without anyone for the week I put as my deadline to get an interview up.

So, I'm interviewing myself.  I'm available this week.

What do you believe the gospel is?

  1. Faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement.
  2. Repentance  and making the atonement real in our lives.
  3. Baptism.
  4. The gift of the Holy Ghost.
What commandments do you think are important?
34Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. 35And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” 
(And yes, I like the NET Bible, even own print copies of it.  http://biblehub.com/net/matthew/22.htm)

What sermons (talks) or doctrines or church leaders made an impression on you?

When I was first at BYU working on my bachelor's degree (which I finished at CSULA) I heard Spencer W. Kimball speak.  He talked about how following leaders blindly would lead you straight to hell, buttressed with Brigham Young quotes. That talk had a very strong impact on me, even now, I believe that:
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel." 
The second was hearing my father talk about when Spencer W. Kimball came through Newfoundland.  He stopped and met with our branch.  

When I was just a kid (like first or second grade), Spencer W. Kimball came through Newfoundland where my dad was stationed.

We had a sister who was trying to get her husband to shape up.  She tried to enlist Elder Kimball’s help at that time as to how she could force him to do the right thing.  As an apostle he told her to focus instead on patiently loving him.  To put her family first and the love between the two of them first, even if it meant not attending meetings and not pushing him to improve.  The advice made a big impression on my dad who was in the branch presidency and who had expected something different.  
I had a similar experience on my mission.  A sister who had long been a member with a bitterly opposed husband asked my advice.  The spirit pushed me strongly to tell her that the Church existed to support her family, her family did not exist to support the Church, and that she should put her husband and family's harmony and love first.  Nothing else was important.
She followed my advice.  Amazingly (to me) he was reconciled to her and to her membership, before he died rather suddenly of a cancer that he had been unaware of.
As for the couple that Elder Kimball had advised, years later my dad encountered the couple in the temple.  They had been completely transformed.

Obviously I do not expect that sort of thing to happen for everyone, or for even most people.  But if families are forever, I think that what we should do is focus on loving and supporting each other, in patience and kindness.

The other part of the visit was a very strong outpouring of the Spirit and a small miracle.  Something that struck my father was that when he met people later, those who had treasured the moment and remembered it were all active.  Those who were not had also lost the memory.
I understand you used to ...
I used to do a lot of things.  For example, I started blogging on September 16, 1997.  One thing that I was involved in was FARMS before it was FARMS and was just a desk in John Welch's office.  Back then it was pretty much some reading lists and some photocopies of essays that were going out of print or about to be lost.  When I hear people who say "everything FARMS has said is .[redacted harsh statements]..." I think back to reading Eliade and Campbell and Nibley and others and the broader scope of thinking that introduced me to.

I was also involved with FAIR as a founding board member.  But apologetics tend to make me cranky, so I've stepped away from them.  Too often there is the following pattern:
  • [Other person] They've discovered "xyz."  It is irrefutable, new and ... etc.
  • [Me] Try to get enough details about xyz to figure out which of the several mutually exclusive xyzs they are talking about. 
  • [Other person] And it is all hard evidence.  [still without enough details for me to figure out which version they are talking about].
  • [Me] Probing (and trying to be gentle about it)
  • [Other person] you aren't listening.
  • [Me] Finally figure out which one they are talking about.  Look up the details.
    • often the details reflect huge jumps.
    • often the "facts" behind the details have huge gaps or are inconsistent. 
    • Etc.
  • [Other person] I don't care about that any more, what I really was trying to get to was "qrs."
  • Rinse and repeat.
I found it too annoying.  Though I did enjoy Was the Book of Mormon Plagiarized from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass?

 Anything else?

Too much.

If you could give one piece of advice?

I'm not smart enough to do that.  Maybe in a few more years when I have more wisdom.



 
Probably not the best example, but it will fill in the gap until I actually get an interview completed.




 



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lesson 6



    On April 4, 1986, in connection with his first general conference as President of the Church, President Benson presided over a special meeting for priesthood leaders. The brethren in attendance saw his ability to “cut through detail and get to the heart of the issue.” When he addressed the congregation, he mentioned many of the challenges that Latter-day Saints faced—such as temptation, family struggles, and difficulties with keeping the commandments and fulfilling Church duties—and he shared what he saw as the solution to these challenges.

    President Benson gave only a portion of his talk in that priesthood leadership meeting, so he requested that the entire sermon be included in the conference issue of the Church magazines. This chapter contains that talk in its entirety. Although President Benson directed his remarks to priesthood leaders, he taught principles that apply to all members of the Church.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson.


    •    What is the greatest difficulty you face?
    •    How have the challenges in your life changed with time?











    As we face the great challenges of our time, we need to hold fast to the word of God.

    My dear brethren, what a thrilling sight it is to look out over this body of priesthood leadership and to know how many thousands of Saints you serve and how much dedication and faithfulness you collectively represent! There is no other body anywhere in the world today that meets for the same righteous purpose as does this group, nor is there any other group—political, religious or military—that holds the power that you do here tonight.

    We live in a day of great challenge. We live in that time of which the Lord spoke when he said, “Peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.” (D&C 1:35.) We live in that day which John the Revelator foresaw when “the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 12:17.)


Consider what President Benson said was “an answer to the great challenge of our time”

    •    What did he say was the answer?
    •    In what ways can this answer help us meet the challenges we face?


    The prophet Lehi also saw our day in his great visionary dream of the tree of life. He saw that many people would wander blindly in the mists of darkness, which symbolized the temptations of the devil. (See 1 Ne. 12:17.) He saw some fall away “in forbidden paths,” others drown in rivers of filthiness, and still others wander in “strange roads.” (1 Ne. 8:28, 32.) When we read of the spreading curse of drugs, or read of the pernicious flood of pornography and immorality, do any of us doubt that these are the forbidden paths and rivers of filthiness Lehi described?

    Not all of those Lehi saw perishing were of the world. Some had come to the tree and partaken of the fruit. In other words, some members of the Church today are among those souls Lehi saw which were lost.

    The Apostle Paul also saw our day. He described it as a time when such things as blasphemy, dishonesty, cruelty, unnatural affection, pride, and pleasure seeking would abound. (See 2 Tim. 3:1–7.) He also warned that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13.)


    •    Share a favorite scripture.
    •    Why is it a favorite of yours?


    In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mists of darkness. He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod. When Laman and Lemuel asked, “What meaneth the rod of iron?” Nephi answered, “It was the word of God; and [note this promise] whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne. 15:23–24; italics added.) Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries.

    •    What does “neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness” mean to you?
    •    What power is in the word of God?

    When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures, other aspects of Church activity automatically come.

    Now to you priesthood leaders we say, look to the prophetic counsel of Lehi and Paul and others like them. In that counsel you will find the solution to the challenges you face in keeping your flocks safe from the “ravening wolves” that surround them. (See Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29.) We know that you too have great anxiety for the members of your wards and stakes and expend great time and effort in their behalf. There is much that we ask of you who have been chosen for leadership. We place many loads upon your shoulders. You are asked to run the programs of the Church, interview and counsel with the members, see that the financial affairs of the stakes and wards are properly handled, manage welfare projects, build buildings, and engage in a host of other time-consuming activities.

    While none of those activities can be ignored and laid aside, they are not the most important thing you can do for those you serve. In recent years, time and again we have counseled you that certain activities bring greater spiritual returns than others. As early as 1970, President Harold B. Lee told the regional representatives:

    “We are convinced that our members are hungry for the gospel, undiluted, with its abundant truths and insights. … There are those who have seemed to forget that the most powerful weapons the Lord has given us against all that is evil are His own declarations, the plain simple doctrines of salvation as found in the scriptures.”


    “We are so wound up in programs and statistics and trends, in properties, lands and mammon, and in achieving goals that will highlight the excellence of our work, that we have ‘omitted the weightier matters of the law.’ … However talented men may be in administrative matters; however eloquent they may be in expressing their views; however learned they may be in the worldly things—they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)

    That same day, Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke to the stake presidents and regional representatives. He said: “Buildings and budgets, and reports and programs and procedures are very important. But, by themselves, they do not carry that essential spiritual nourishment and will not accomplish what the Lord has given us to do. … The right things, those with true spiritual nourishment, are centered in the scriptures.” (In Meeting with Stake Presidents and Regional Representatives, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)

    I add my voice to these wise and inspired brethren and say to you that one of the most important things you can do as priesthood leaders is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles that are found therein. There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling. There are few other ways to gain greater inspiration as you serve.





    The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Book of Mormon, Introduction, italics added.) Isn’t that what we want for the members of our wards and stakes? Aren’t we desirous that they get nearer to God? Then encourage them in every way possible to immerse themselves in this marvelous latter-day witness of Christ.

    You must help the Saints see that studying and searching the scriptures is not a burden laid upon them by the Lord, but a marvelous blessing and opportunity. Note what the Lord Himself has said about the benefits of studying His word. To the great prophet-leader Joshua, He said:

    “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Josh. 1:8; italics added.)

    The Lord was not promising Joshua material wealth and fame, but that his life would prosper in righteousness and that he would have success in that which matters most in life, namely the quest to find true joy. (See 2 Ne. 2:25.) In a First Presidency message in 1976, President [Spencer W.] Kimball said:

    “I am convinced that each of us, at least some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again. …

    “The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for ‘unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ (Luke 12:48.) Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment (see 3 Ne. 23:1–5); and we must let them govern our lives.” (Ensign, Sept. 1976, pp. 4–5.).

    The scriptures are replete with similar promises about the value of the word. Do you have members who long for direction and guidance in their lives? The Psalms tell us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105), and Nephi promises that feasting upon the words of Christ “will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.)

    •    What are the results of immersing yourself in the scriptures regularly and consistently?
    •    Why do we get those results?











    Like Alma, I say unto you, “It [is] expedient that [you] should try the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5).5

    •    Can you think of a time you tried using scripture study to overcome a problem?



    “Many find that the best time to study is in the morning after a night’s rest. … Others prefer to study in the quiet hours after the work and worries of the day are over. … Perhaps what is more important than the hour of the day is that a regular time be set aside for study” (Howard W. Hunter, “Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).

    •    Are there other things you do in order to study the scriptures?
    •    How do you make studying the scriptures not a burden?

   

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Priesthood lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer

_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 1

The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:

1.    Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
2.    Repentance;
3.    Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;
4.    Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    What does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ?
























_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 2


    What is faith in Christ?

    “Faith in Him is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief.
   
    Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Because He descended below all things (see D&C 122:8), He knows how to help us rise above our daily difficulties.
   
    Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does. We, therefore, must look to Him “in every thought; doubt not, fear not.””

    But what does that mean?

    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.







_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 3


    Why does faith in Christ begin with repentance?
   
    “Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things, see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:9–10; italics added.)
   
    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.


















_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 4

    There are two great commandments:

    •    Love God with all your heart mind and strength.
    •    Love your neighbor as yourself.

    God gave us Christ to save us.

    But who is Christ and why did he save us?

    How does repentance fit in with Christ saving us?

    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.















_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 5


    What is a testimony of Christ?

    What does it mean to have a testimony of Christ?  What does that mean that you know?

    Ask each class member to explain what it means to them to have a testimony of Christ and what that includes for them.





















_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 6


    How do we show faith in Christ?

    Faith in Him is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief.

    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.





















_________________________________________________________________
Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 7


    How do we live for the Savior?  More important that being willing to die for the Lord, is being willing to live for him.  How do we do that?

    Ask each class member to explain what it means to them to be willing to live.  Does the resurrection play a part in being willing to live for the Savior?

    What else does it mean to live for the Savior?



























Saturday, April 11, 2015

Gaslighting and you

Preface.

I've written about communicating with general authorities and others in a hierarchy, and about understanding people who have spent most of their lives spending most of their time deferring gratification and caring for others. The last significant post in that series was "On Being Heard."

This post takes up where that left off, years ago, when I hit a writers block in trying to address the various things that will cause the people to tune you out when you try to talk to them.

This is a summary, in bullet points, of what to avoid (I'll explain each at length later).

  • Leading with a litany or a check list.  Litanies are generally used to self-identify a speaker as superior.  E.g. "I'm an xyz, and I'm concerned with -- check list of things that identify you as a member of a group -- and [at this point  you've been tuned out.]"
  • Sounding privileged or petulant.  Leading off with the language of entitlement is a powerful negative.
  • Sounding mentally ill. 
  • Coming across as critical rather than caring.
  • Seeming not to care how anyone else is affected. 
Introduction.

When there is a large amount of emotion or pain, or a real feeling of a need to communicate, one of the greatest risks is that the speaker will gaslight themselves.  While "gaslighting" was originally referred to as a process others do to someone to make the victim feel that the victim is mentally ill, the term has evolved.

Gaslighting now is often used to refer to a process by which a speaker is made to look defective, either from imputed mental illness or other incompetence.  "Gaslighting yourself" occurs when the way you present a point causes others to include that you are incompetent, either from mental illness or some other reason.

This essay is about how to avoid doing that when you are trying to communicate and addresses ways people do that without realizing it.

There are two different ways to "Gaslight" yourself.
 
One is to come across as entitled, the other is to come across as incompetent or meaningless.  Those are the various mannerisms or approaches that are in the bullet points.

Litanies

  • "I'm a dittohead and concerned about the way feminazis seem not to be challenged ..." or
  • "I'm so concerned about social justice and the way that ..."

As Nate Oman has written, a litany serves as a social and status marker.  You will often see people lead off with a litany before they get to the point.  In general, anyone who leads off with a litany had identified themselves as both entitled and incompetent, and that whatever they say will be meaningless background noise.  Starting with a litany is a good way to cause the listener to decide to move on to the next person or speaker with their attention.

Agendas and litanies are so close to each other that it is hard to distinguish between them without taking significant time.

Privilege and petulance

A number of writers have noted that there are two child rearing strategies in America today.  One is cultivation, the other is natural growth. While cultivation leads to improved outcomes as measured by wealth or social status, part of it involves creating a sense of entitlement. This sense of entitlement becomes important in institutional settings because American middle class children question adults and consider them relative equals. However, it also creates a sense of entitlement without any basis for it being earned.

It results in behavior that some may consider courageous, but that looks more like the petulance of the privileged.  Acting or being perceived as petulant or privileged will get you noted rather than engaged (regardless of what you are really doing, if you create a perception of petulance or privilege it will block communication).

Mental illness

Mental illness often does several things.
  1. It drives people into behavior outside the social norms.
  2. It drives behavior and belief not tied to reality.
  3. It drives people to attempt to communicate directly with "celebrities" (including social group celebrities or leaders).  President Obama gets a flood of crank letters.  So did every president before him. 
Again, the four most common patterns are:

If you communicate in a manner that fits one of the four patterns, above, you will be drowned out by the mentally ill people who communicate in those patterns.  You will not be able to easily distinguish yourself from the background noise.

Critical Cattiness

Harshness and critical communication, especially constant critical communication, is the specialty of gadflies -- people who seem to exist to criticize. The difference between a critical lover and a constant critic is that one starts as someone you know and whom you know loves you.  The other is just hostile noise.

It is easy to frame things in a critical fashion.  For example.  Children who are subjected to severe discipline are much more likely to lie.  In a very real way, harsh and strict disciplinarian upbringings train children to lie, first and foremost.  What you do with that fact, that reality, in communicating with those who are responsible for disciplining children can cover a huge variety of styles.

But if you are just caustic or catty,  you are likely to be perceived as a source of attack rather than a source of help or advice that should be followed.

Narrow pictures

I had a friend, FreTag, whom I blogged with.  I still miss him, though he died some time ago.  But one thing we discussed was the issues his church (The Communities of Christ) had with having a large African membership and having a very liberal American membership.

In Africa, belonging to a church that supports gay marriage means, in some areas, you are not entitled to be considered one of the peoples "of the Book."  [If you check wiki, you will not see 12 apostles listed.  He assured me that they have twelve apostles, but that for reasons of the personal safety of some of them, they are not publicly listed.]  Such a determination means that you are subject to slavetaking (there is a steady slave economy in Africa), and not entitled to having a number of your civil rights respected by very significant portions of the population.

There are many other "narrow picture" vs. "wider picture" issues like that where a change in one location can affect the lives and safety of those in other locations.

Even something simple like paying bribes, and what kind of bribes you pay, in order to implement charitable projects can have huge effects.

Engaging from a frame of a narrow picture will often cause you to be noted, but not listened to.

Conclusion

Communication is difficult.  It becomes more difficult when you are trying to communicate with people who are very busy and who have a flood of people trying to contact them.  If the Church had only three million members, and only one in thirty tried to say something once a year directly to a leader, that would be about a hundred thousand messages to filter through.

If you are seriously trying to communicate, it doesn't hurt to avoid gaslighting yourself.   


  



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lesson 5


1.

    Why did God tell the early church “say nothing but repentance unto this generation”?

 2.

    Why is repentance “the only panacea [cure] for the ills of the world”?

3.

    Why do some people think that they “need no repentance”?

4.

    Why does Christ consider “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” (D&C 10:67)?

5.

    Why will Christ do this?

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.

 6.

    Why will Christ do this?

41Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

7.

    How do you integrate the following?

    The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me” (Ether 12:27).


8.
   
    How do we come to understand the following point?

    “If we wish to truly repent and come unto Him so that we can be called members of His Church, we must first and foremost come to realize this eternal truth—the gospel plan is the plan of happiness.”


9.

    Why does it all come back to faith in Christ?

    “A second concept that is important to our understanding is the relationship of repentance to the principle of faith. Repentance is the second fundamental principle of the gospel. The first is that we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this so? Why must faith in the Lord precede true repentance?”


10.

    Why is repentance change?

    “Alma states: “And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

    “And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:25–26.) …”


11.

    In our efforts to repent, why is a change of behavior not enough? (See section 2.) Why do you think we need to look to Jesus Christ in order to truly repent?


12.

    “What can we do to help others experience this change [“a mighty change of heart”]?”


13.

    Why do some lose hope?  How do we avoid losing hope?

    “[The] final point I wish to make about the process of repentance is that we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

    But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life.”


14.

    What is a Christlike life like?

    “They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)”


15.

Recap.

[Six principles.]

First, the gospel is the Lord’s plan of happiness, and repentance is designed to bring us joy.

Second, true repentance is based on and flows from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

Third, true repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior.

Fourth, part of this mighty change of heart is to feel godly sorrow for our sins. This is what is meant by a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Fifth, God’s gifts are sufficient to help us overcome every sin and weakness if we will but turn to Him for help.

Finally, we must remember that most repentance does not involve sensational or dramatic changes, but rather is a step-by-step, steady, and consistent movement toward godliness.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Lesson 4 (rough draft)


“Happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small.”


What experiences have you had with suffering?


One of President Ezra Taft Benson’s early assignments as an Apostle was to help bring relief to the Saints in Europe after World War II. While traveling in Germany, he met faithful people who were able to rise above the devastation all around them. He recorded in his journal:

“The worst destruction I have witnessed was seen today. … As I rode through the streets [of Berlin] and walked through some impassable by auto, I … saw half-starved women paying exorbitant prices anxiously for potato peelings. … I saw old men and women with small hatchets eagerly digging at tree stumps and roots in an effort to get scraps of fuel and then pulling those home for miles on anything that would roll—from two little wheels of a once baby carriage to small wagons—as beasts of burden.

“Later I faced in a cold half-wrecked third floor auditorium off a bombed street 480 cold half-starved but faithful Latter-day Saints in a conference meeting. It was an inspiration to see the light of faith. … There was no bitterness or anger but a sweet reciprocation and expression of faith in the gospel.”1

What can a good attitude help with?  What can it not solve?   

“Not a single member registered any complaint about their circumstances in spite of the fact that some were in the last stages of starvation right before our very eyes.

“… Our Saints … are full of hope, courage, and faith, and everywhere they look cheerfully forward with expressions of deepest faith for the gospel and for their membership in the Church. It was one of the greatest demonstrations we have ever seen of the real fruits of the gospel in the lives of men and women.”2

President Benson also saw examples of hope and optimism close to home, where many of his fellow farmers remained cheerful even when they faced severe difficulties. He said:

“I remember attending a meeting near Bancroft, Idaho. … We’d had a wonderful meeting, and after it was over, I was greeting some of the wonderful farmers who were there, and among them was a man by the name of Brother Yost, and I said, ‘Brother Yost, how are things out on the farm?’ Brother Yost said, ‘Oh, things are fine, Brother Benson, but I’m about 20 thousand dollars worse off than I was three days ago.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter—another frost?’ He said, ‘Yes, it hit the wheat just in the dough stage, and you know what that means.’ He said, ‘We’re starting the mowing machines in the morning, but everything’s all right. We’ve still got a little wheat in the bin, and we’ve got at least part of our year’s supply laid away. We’re not going to starve, and there’ll be another crop.’ As we left him, I said to my wife, ‘What a wonderful spirit.’

What responses to suffering work well for you, what responses do you think do not work well?

“We drove on down to Logan [a city in Utah, about 80 miles, or 130 kilometers, from Bancroft]. We had our children with us, and we stopped on Main Street to go into a grocery store to pick up a few cookies for the kiddies. And who should I meet on the sidewalk but Brother Yost. I said, ‘Well, what are you doing way down here?’ He said, ‘Brother Benson, it’s our day to go to the temple.’ And I said, ‘Well, reverses don’t dampen your spirits any, do they?’ Then he taught me a lesson. He said, ‘Brother Benson, when reverses come we need the temple all the more.’”3

Should we be clueless or aware?

President Benson’s own responses to adversity lifted those who knew him, just as the example of other Saints strengthened him. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described President Benson as a “careful watcher of events, [who] maintains a certain buoyancy and cheerfulness we would do well to watch. Such buoyancy,” Elder Maxwell said, “comes not from ignoring enveloping events, but from noticing these and yet looking beyond them to promises having to do with how the kingdom will finally prevail.”4

Does anyone avoid disappointment or discouragement?


We will all have disappointments and discouragements—that is part of life. But if we will have faith, our setbacks will be but a moment and success will come out of our seeming failures. Our Heavenly Father can accomplish miracles through each of us if we will but place our confidence and trust in Him.5

It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul-satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him.6

Prayer, Faith, Hope and Action.

How do these four principals work together?


Prayer—persistent prayer—can put us in touch with God, our greatest source of comfort and counsel. “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror.” (D&C 10:5.) “Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me” is how the young Joseph Smith describes the method that he used in the Sacred Grove to keep the adversary from destroying him. (JS—H 1:16.)7

Faith

Without faith in our Heavenly Father, we cannot be successful. Faith gives us vision of what may happen, hope for the future, and optimism in our present tasks. Where faith is, we do not doubt the ultimate success of the work.8

Hope

Of all people, we as Latter-day Saints should be the most optimistic and the least pessimistic. For while we know that “peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion,” we are also assured that “the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst.” (D&C 1:35–36.)

Action

With the assurance that the Church shall remain intact with God directing it through the troubled times ahead, it then becomes our individual responsibility to see that each of us remains faithful to the Church and its teachings. “He that remaineth steadfast and is not overcome, the same shall be saved.” (JS—M 1:11.)9

Why does happiness have to be earned every day?


We have no cause to really worry. Live the gospel, keep the commandments. Attend to your prayers night and morning in your home. Maintain the standards of the Church. Try and live calmly and cheerfully. … Happiness must be earned from day to day. But it is worth the effort.10

When George A. Smith was very ill, he was visited by his cousin, the Prophet Joseph Smith. The afflicted man reported: “He [the Prophet] told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I were sunk into the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I should come out on the top of the heap.” …

There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.” (D&C 121:7–8.)

How do we earn happiness every day?


Pressing on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine. Even our master Jesus the Christ, while facing that supreme test of being temporarily left alone by our Father during the crucifixion, continued performing his labors for the children of men, and then shortly thereafter he was glorified and received a fulness of joy. While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.)11

Be cheerful in all that you do. Live joyfully. Live happily. Live enthusiastically, knowing that God does not dwell in gloom and melancholy, but in light and love.12

“To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection.”

What does God want of us?

Heavenly Father wants us to be happy, and He will bless us as we follow His will for us.

“Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. He expects us to be happy. But there is no happiness in a letting down of standards. There is no happiness when you fail to live according to your convictions, according to that which you know to be right. It is so easy to form the habit of taking it just a little easy on certain things. It is so easy to form the habit of faultfinding, or criticizing, of carrying in our hearts reservations regarding certain things in the Church. It is so easy for us to become a bit bitter, and then dwell on that, to become sad and carry a sad face with us. A sad face never won a battle in war or love.13

How do we turn our lives over to God?

Do we realize that happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small? To live perfectly is to live happily. To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection. Every action performed in accord with God’s will is part of that growth. Let us not partition our lives. Let us unify our lives, being contemptuous of fictitious honors and glories that do not come with God’s approval. Let us remember that the real source of our strength and happiness is beyond the reach of men and circumstances.14

We must learn and learn again that only through accepting and living the gospel of love as taught by the Master and only through doing His will can we break the bonds of ignorance and doubt that bind us. We must learn this simple, glorious truth so that we can experience the sweet joys of the Spirit now and eternally. We must lose ourselves in doing His will. We must place Him first in our lives. Yes, our blessings multiply as we share His love with our neighbor.15

“Brethren,” said Paul, “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philip. 3:13–14.)

What should we meditate on?

Let your minds be filled with the goal of being like the Lord, and you will crowd out depressing thoughts as you anxiously seek to know him and do his will. “Let this mind be in you,” said Paul. (Philip. 2:5.) “Look unto me in every thought,” said Jesus. (D&C 6:36.) And what will follow if we do? “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” (Isa. 26:3.)16

We will never be alone if we live as we should, because our Father will always be with us to bless us. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to achieve the good goals we set. He will do His part if we do our part.17

How can we use this lesson to help ourselves and to help others? 

How do we avoid being trite or overly simplistic when applying these principles?      

Philosophy mingled with scripture (rough draft)

When people talk about philosophy mingled with scripture they generally mean one of two things.

First, when Greek Platonic Idealism (sometimes called realism) replaced the non-Platonic parts of the gospel. (Somewhere around the third century AD).

Second, when Aristotelian Nominalism (the competing Philosophy) came in and replaced Idealism for some. (Somewhere around the twelfth century).

Third, any popular philosophy they encounter in the Church that they don't agree with.

For an example:

  • Idealism: beauty is a property constructed in the mind, so exists only in descriptions of things.
  • Platonic realism: beauty is a property that exists in an ideal form independently of any mind or description.
  • Aristotlean realism: beauty is a property that only exists when beautiful things exist.
  • Anyone who is famous has beauty (neo-calvinism/popular culture).
What is interesting is just how these frameworks can be applied to almost anything.  Sociology,  popular Marxism, and, of course, religion.

Platonic thought is found every time someone reads scripture and assumes that any particular concept refers only to a specific ideal form, that can be discovered without regard to the context of the person doing the discovery.  Thus the discussions about faith (which is used in several different ways) where every use of it is treated as fungible and the same as any other.

Aristotelian thought is found every time someone says there is no meaning outside of context.  Even better, modern, popular versions of Aristotelian thought are not the same as the "real" thing (as a philosopher would see it).

You can think of the one as black and white thinking and one as endless shades of gray.

The relevance is that there are two movements in the Church.  One is to strip everything of context -- to the point that while John Taylor may have used the word "Priesthood" in multiple different ways (as a replacement for the term "brotherhood" and other times as an inherent quality and other times as "authority") any time he uses the term is treated as being properly switched for any other time as if his uses were fungible.  I doubt that Plato would identify with this descendant of his thinking.

The other movement is to reduce everything to context, combined with the assumption that modern popular context is superior.  Thus anything that opposes the popular culture is evil and meaning becomes very fluid, depending on the needs of popular culture.  This leads to the words of Christ being used to justify violent aggressive war, free love and sex without responsibility, and the idea that we are now beyond sin.  Aristotle would not recognize this as his thought.

But both of these trends pull us away from Christ.  When asked to choose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Christ did not embrace one over the other.  He was neither, in the popular parlance, a Liahona or a Iron Rodder.  Instead he gave commandment to go beyond those dividing lines, to embrace charity and devotion, and to take upon us the name of Christ.

I think we learn something when we choose to do that rather than mingle philosophy with scripture.





Sunday, February 08, 2015

I like how Andrew S and Brigham Young actually reach a parallelism on deconstruction (so that they do not reach the same place but they both realize that the current paradigms in the Church are social constructs).

Without taking too much time on deconstruction as it is in philosophy ("any given concept is constituted and comprehended linguistically and in terms of its oppositions, e.g. perception/ reason, speech/writing, mind/body, interior/exterior, marginal/central, sensible/intelligible, intuition/signification, nature/culture") the essence of deconstruction is that a concept is defined from its context,  a concept is constituted, comprehended and identified in terms of what it is not and self-sufficient meaning is never arrived at because context can never provide that.

LDS versions of the same concept conclude that there is a reality, but no description can properly define it because all descriptions are in our language and limited by what we have for language.
When God speaks to the people, he does it in a manner to suit their circumstances and capacities…. Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings
and
When the Lord reveals anything to men, he reveals it in a language that corresponds with their own. If you were to converse with an angel, and you used strictly grammatical language he would do the same. But if you used two negatives in a sentence the heavenly messenger would use language to correspond with your understanding


In discussing that point, I agreed to revisit the topic for a post at Wheat and Tares.

Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both taught that we see the world through a lens of our own experience, language and knowledge and that it creates filters not only for what we see and know, but for what God is able to communicate to us and what and how revelation works in our lives. (e.g. http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/As_the_most_correct_book#cite_note-2).

It is important to realize that in that framework, our viewpoint is not superior to the framework of Abraham or Moses or Peter or Moroni, it is just different.  Each framework has its own selection of weaknesses and follies.  The best way to understand it (rather than the morass of philosophy and outside of just reading Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the topic) is the linguistic relativity hypothesis.   


Large differences in language lead to large differences in experience and thought. They hold that each language embodies a worldview, with quite different languages embodying quite different views, so that speakers of different languages think about the world in quite different ways. This view is sometimes called the Whorf-hypothesis or the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, after the linguists who made it famous. But the label linguistic relativity, which is more common today, has the advantage that makes it easier to separate the hypothesis from the details of ...
This is easily seen in the three ball experiment.  In dealing with people whose language does not have a word for the color orange, if they have three balls (orange, red and yellow), are allowed to handle them for a while, then told to remember the orange one, when they are asked to choose the ball that was identified, they tend to pick the red or the yellow one.  If their language has a word for orange, they pick the orange one.  They literally remember the ball as the color they have a word for, rather than the color it is.

In religion, it is not only if five people without inspiration read a scripture that they will have five different interpretations.  If if five people with inspiration read the same scripture they also will have five different inspirations. This applies even if the five "different" people are the same person, just at different stages of their life experience, different vocabularies and different connotations with the vocabularies.

Notably Brigham Young was very clear that if Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon at 30 it would have been a much different book than it was than what we have now.  "And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation."

This begs a number of questions and should serve as a warning that anyone who writes down a spiritual communication is not writing down what the Spirit communicated but their construct of it in the language they have at the  time.  Anyone reading it or hearing it has to escape both the frame of the sender and their own frame to come closer to the truth.  I touched on this on the older essay on God being a Quantum God (viz. http://www.wheatandtares.org/7938/our-god-is-an-awesome-quantum-god/ ) -- the idea that the views of God that we have are like the blind men and the elephant -- except if you are someone who can see you would see that there is no "elephant" just the differing views of the blind men.

The difference between Brigham Young's deconstruction and many modern deconstructionists (who could use a lot more real science in their backgrounds) is that Brigham Young believed in not only a physical reality, but that there was a pure spiritual reality that we could someday grasp and that should inform the way we faced life.  He believed in an ultimate meaning that we all approached, and that had many different valuable approaches (thus his famous sermon about how other religions had truths that we lacked and how we need to go out and bring back those truths for ourselves).  He realized that his vision of that spiritual reality had holes in it that were inevitable.  cf Joseph Smith's discussions of a perfect language and similar matters on language.  (e.g. http://chaunceyriddle.com/courses/philosophy-110-byu/joseph-smith-and-the-ways-of-knowing/)

 Which, surprisingly, Joseph Smith combined a theme, a note, where "no note is more frequent in his private and public statements than that each can come to know for himself."

Thus, just because there are many socially created paradigms does not mean that our paradigm is the one true paradigm untainted by human error, instead it means that our paradigm and our filter necessarily has error and mistakes. It means that we believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things and that we, at present, go through mists of darkness in the Church, with only Christ's core principles that he gave us to hold to.

In addition, we believe that the parable of the Iron Rod reflects that those who have entered into the way and who have the truth will experience "mists of darkness" and find themselves unable to know which way to go from logic and intuition alone.

So where does this leave us in our own quest for truth?  What is "really" true?

I begin with the Book of Mormon's two key doctrinal points:

  1. Jesus is the Christ.  The true love of Christ is the heart of what it means to have a testimony that Jesus is the Christ.
  2. Cleave unto Charity (be kind).
 13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
 and
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.










Everything else flows from this, and for everything else there is always more time.


Lesson 3


Preface:

    Discussions in small groups “give a large number of people the opportunity to participate in a lesson. Individuals who are usually hesitant to participate might share ideas in small groups that they would not express in front of the entire group”

_________________________________________________________


    “Agency has been given to all of us to make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation. Those decisions affect our happiness in eternity.”

    Living and working on a farm, Ezra Taft Benson learned about the consequences of good decisions. He recalled: “I grew up believing that the willingness and ability to work is the basic ingredient of successful farming. Hard, intelligent work is the key. Use it, and your chances for success are good.”1

    At a young age, Ezra learned that he and his family would have more to eat if they chose to take care of their garden. He learned that if he wanted the family to be successful in their dairy business, he had to decide to get out of bed early every day to milk the cows.2 He saw that when he made the choice to work hard, local farmers hired him to thin their beets and pitch their hay.3 He saw that trials come even to the faithful, but he also saw that individuals and families could decide to respond to trials in a way that would help them be happy and successful.

    *    How do some professions reflect the effects of effort and attitude better than others?  Which are based mostly on hard work and effort, which on social connection and personality?

    *    What choices do we have in dealing with trials?  What choices do we not have?

    With this experience as a foundation, President Ezra Taft Benson frequently reminded Latter-day Saints and others of the importance of agency—the freedom “to choose the course they should follow.”6 His teachings about the principle of agency included more than just a reminder to “choose between right and wrong.”7 He spoke of agency as the ability to “make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation” and that will “affect our happiness in eternity.”8 He encouraged Latter-day Saints and others to use their agency to “act on their own,” without waiting to be commanded in all things.9 The principle of agency, he said, “runs like a golden thread throughout the gospel plan of the Lord for the blessing of his children.”10


    *    How easy is it to think of “free agency” as only choosing between right and wrong? 
    *    What do we miss when we don’t think of other choices we make in the same way?

Ezra Taft Benson’s testimony:

    I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father. He has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys.

    I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation. He is the captain of our salvation and the only means through whom we can return to our Father in Heaven to gain that fulness of joy.

    I testify that Lucifer was also in the council of heaven. He sought to destroy the agency of man. He rebelled.) There was a war in heaven, and a third of the hosts were cast to the earth and denied a body. Lucifer is the enemy of all righteousness and seeks the misery of all mankind.

    The central issue in that premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed Him stood for the former proposition—freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter—coercion and force.

    *    Have you ever considered the concepts above as things you would bear testimony of?
    *    Are there other gospel principles that might fit into areas you might have a testimony of?
    *    How often do people try to govern by coercion and force?

    Abraham was shown the spirit children of our Heavenly Father before they came to earth. He, too, was shown the creation of the earth, and the Lord said to him: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25.) In that divine statement is embodied also the right of choice.16

    This life is a probation: a probation in which you and I prove our mettle, a probation that has eternal consequences for each of us. And now is our time and season—as every generation has had theirs—to learn our duties and to do them.17

    That the Lord is displeased with wickedness is true. That He desires that it not occur is also true. That He will help those who oppose it is true. But that He allows wickedness to occur at all through His children here in mortality is proof of His having given them their freedom to choose, while reserving for Him a basis for their final judgment.18

    There is no evil that [Jesus Christ] cannot arrest. All things are in His hands. This earth is His rightful dominion. Yet He permits evil so that we can make choices between good and evil.19

    *    How important is choice?
    *    What happens if there is no choice?

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION:

    *    In what ways have you seen that “the war that began in heaven … is not yet over”? What can we do to continue to stand for the principle of agency?

    *    People often wonder why God allows evil to exist in the world. How do President Benson’s teachings help to answer that question?

    *    Why or why not?

    *    What can we do to help those younger than ourselves understand how the decisions they make (and the decisions we made) have affected our happiness and our lives? What can we do to help children and youth understand the impact of the decisions they make?

    *    How can we teach from our own lives?



[We ran out of time before this point, but]

More reading and large group discussion:

    If we are to make proper, Christ-like decisions, we must first of all live so we can reach out and tap that unseen power without which no man can do his best in decision making.

    The Lord said, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you” (3 Nephi 14:7; Matthew 7:7). In other words, it requires effort on our part.30

    Wise decisions are usually arrived at following work, struggle, and prayerful effort. The Lord’s response to Oliver Cowdery’s ineffective effort makes this clear: “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8.)

    Let us begin, therefore, by saying that earnestly seeking our Father in heaven, having faith that he will answer our prayers, is a comforting base on which to begin. … The Lord will not take water from a dry well, so we must do our part. Sometimes attempting to find a correct decision takes great amounts of energy, study, and long-suffering.31

    In decisions of crucial importance, fasting combined with prayer can bring great spiritual insight.32

    *    In reviewing what the lesson manual refers to as President Benson’s counsel about making “proper, Christ-like decisions” what have you learned about combining prayer with diligent effort in making decisions?

    *    What else do you consider part of a proper, Christ-like decision?

    *   What does it mean to you to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause”?
    *    How does your life change when you do good things “of [your] own free will” rather than waiting to be commanded?

    *    What would you consider a good cause?

In 1831 the Lord said this to his Church:

    “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

    “But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” (D&C 58:26–29.)

    The Lord wants us to use our agency to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27).

    The purposes of the Lord—the great objectives—continue the same: the salvation and exaltation of his children.
 
    Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded “in all things.” This attitude prepares men for godhood. …

    Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on his children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward.33

    We should be “anxiously engaged” in good causes and leave the world a better place for having lived in it.34

What does it mean to you to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause”?


  *   Any final comments?