Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Parable of the Swimmer

Today a friend and I were talking about what it would take to reach a level of serenity in our lives where we could be in the world and connected, but not brought down by all the trials of life or thrown into despair with every new problem we’re faced with.  It has been suggested by some in recent years that the key to happiness and serenity is to look to yourself to meet your own needs, placing a love for self above others.  The “teach others how to treat you” mentality.  While the commandment we’ve received from the Lord is to love others *as* ourselves, not more than and not less than.  As we talked round and round these ideas, I was struck by a vision in my mind of someone floating on water.  We will call this “The Parable of the Swimmer.”

Parable Overview

Imagine yourself in your favorite pool.  The water is warm, but possibly somewhat tumultuous because this is not just your favorite pool.  There are others in the pool with you.  Lying on your back, your body floats easily and comfortably to the surface.  Your body is completely surrounded on all sides by water, you are connected to your environment.  But you face and nose are above the water.  You are relaxed, letting the water gently caress you, but not overwhelm you.  This is the ideal.

Now imagine the panic rising in the pit of your stomach.  The fear of drowning takes over.  Your muscles tense, you retract your arms into your body, and you quickly start to sink.  The sense of falling and sinking triggers the natural instinct to flail your arms about.  You begin to fight to keep your head above water, but by doing so, a great deal of the water around you goes into your nose and mouth, and you begin to feel choked and overwhelmed.  This metaphorical drowning is more prevalent in the lives of those around you than you would think, and maybe more prevalent in your own life than you would like to admit.

So, let’s break it down.  How do we maintain the calm and serenity required to allow us to float in the trials of our lives while not being overcome by them.  How do we float without drowning?


Relax and Let Go

Lying in water, as soon as we tense up and try to grasp onto anything, we will sink.  The key to floating (and therefore to swimming) is to relax and let go.
In the New Testament we are taught this concept:  “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?  And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.  For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.  But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:27-32 italics added)

How often do we run here and there trying to control every detail and aspect of our lives?  We have been taught to be self-sufficient, but how much of that self-sufficiency should be a reliance on the Lord?  We cannot will ourselves into the kingdom of God by our actions.  And in more practical terms, it is the Lord who provides our daily sustenance of air, food, clothing, etc.  What more can we add to that?  Now, do we need to work and prepare and place ourselves in the position most conducive to be blessed?  Of course.  But serenity in life can only be reached by letting go.


Let go of the need to control everything.  Let go of the need to understand everything.  Let go of the pride of demanding an explanation from the Lord for everything He sees fit to allow into our lives.  He WILL lift us, buoy us up, and exalt us if we will let the love and grace of His Atonement surround us.  In fact, I would go so far as to say, He already has lifted us through the Atonement which has been wrought in our behalf.  All we have to do is accept it.  Accept His will, and let go.


Look Up

As we float, it is necessary in order to keep our mouth and nose above water to be face up.  Often, swimmers find that if they lean their heads back and look up at the ceiling or the sky, it is easier to float.  In Helaman chapter 8, the story of Moses and the brass serpent has a similar lesson for us.  It was a promise of God to the children of Israel that if they would only look upon the brass serpent, they would be healed of disease and would live.  Verse 15: "And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal."  We often hear the words "look to god and live."  But like the children of Israel, many do not because of the easiness of the way.  It seems too simple, too good to be true.
Elder Carols E. Asay has said: "We, like Israel of old, must rivet our eyes and minds upon...Christ is we hope to gain eternal life...Our looks must not be allowed to wander across the way or to become fixed upon the perishable things of the world.  The eye...must be trained to look upward.  We must look to God and live!" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 81; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 54)

Back to the pool analogy, if someone trying to float turns or lifts his head trying to look at others around him to compare how they’re doing or is distracted by all of the swimmers around him, or looks down into the tumultuous waters, he will sink. So we in our lives must not compare ourselves to others or allow ourselves to focus too much on the problems around us, being distracted by every new thing. We must stay focused on the Lord and continue to look up.
Jacob 3:1-2: “But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.  O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.”

D&C 88:67-68: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.  Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.”

That is not to say that trials will not be hard or painful.  But as Elder Carlos Arnado has said: “…there are tragedies that are so difficult we cannot understand them. We do not have an answer in this life for every adversity. When trials come, it is time to turn our souls to God, who is the author of life and the only source of comfort. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27.)



Heart Up, Arms Out

You’re in the pool, you’re floating in the most vulnerable position possible—heart up, arms out.  Remember at the beginning of this post I talked about how it’s often said among self-help gurus and psychologists that we have to take care of our own needs.  Imagine trying to wrap your arms around yourself while you’re floating.  It wouldn’t work.  You would sink.  Therefore, you must extend your arms.
What does this mean in your everyday life?  Be vulnerable.  Be open, honest, heart and arms ready to give and receive.  Curling yourself in a ball, throwing up a myriad of boundaries and walls will not protect you from drowning in the sea of life.  You must be able to love others, serve others, and allow them to do the same for you.

Elder Robert D. Hales has said about trials: “When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, he cried to the Lord for comfort, and the Lord gave it to him. He said that 'if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.' (D&C 122:7.)  Such trials give us the development of spirituality that we probably never would get if we didn’t have the experience where the very jaws of hell gape open their mouth wide after us. Not only must we survive, but we must develop the ability to have a concern for others while we are suffering. It is a key element in our spiritual growth. As we lose our lives in the service of our fellowmen, we find ourselves.”
So remember: heart up, arms out.

Use Your Core Strength

There is a strength in the center of your body that allows you to adjust the extremities as necessary to compensate for changes in the environment around you as you float on the water.  You can lift your core muscles or use them to gently kick your legs, allowing your body to stay afloat and adapt to change.  In order to do this, you must strengthen your core muscles.
What are your core beliefs that strengthen your testimony?  How can you develop a more complete testimony that will allow you to adapt to whatever life may throw your way?
May I suggest a place to start be with the Articles of Faith?  These are the over-arching, general beliefs of the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Added to these could be a testimony of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and the temple. 
When life throws things at us unexpectedly, or the waves splash in our faces and remind us that the waters of our lives will not always be smooth, the tools we have to combat those things are at the core of our beliefs.  Faith in the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  Strength from baptismal and temple covenants, the teachings and revelations of the Lord through scriptures and a living prophet. 

We have not been left floating alone.  The Lord will lift us.  If we stay focused on Him, He will not allow us to sink.  The only serenity to be found is in His loving arms.

The Lord bids us as He bid Peter to come onto the water with Him in the midst of the storm (not after the storm is over).  Peter had faith and was able to stay above the water until he began to fear.  Only then did he sink.  Even still, he called to the Lord, who reached out His hand to save Him.  In the words of Isaiah, “Fear … not; … I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; … I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Poem, A Poem, Who's Got A Poem?

Well it feels like years since I've written a poem, but I found one in me today.  I got so excited about it that I decided to post it.  So, here you go.  And no, it's not about religion. :)

When Your Noon is Dark

When your noon is too dark to walk
and your midnight too bright to snore,
I will see you and hear you screaming crazy talk
and feel the sand between your toes on the shore.

The wind hasn’t carried all the seeds that will ever grow.
Your heart hasn’t buried all the love you will ever know.

Of course the days will pass,
the tears will burn,
your troubles last
longer than a night of tears can
cover you.

But in the morning when you gasp
for breath and see the light
of your children’s eyes parting the clouds,
I will still be there, putting away the umbrella,
changing my rain boots for skipping shoes—
of course they make skipping shoes—

And we’ll wear them in the dark noon,
in the bright midnight,
and taking a giant step for womankind
on the shadow of the moon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kindness and Forgiveness: The Greatest Gifts

I've been thinking about this blog post for a long time, wondering how to put my feelings into words or how to write about something I know I still have a great deal to learn about.  It's December.  Another Christmas season is upon us.  Many people have been gearing up and gathering presents for months in preparation for Christmas day.  (I must confess, I am not one of those forward-thinking people.)  The stores start earlier and earlier with advertising, deals, and other incentives to get us to but the perfect gifts for our loved ones.  But can the greatest gifts be purchased?

In my mind, the best gift is one which your loved one could not or would not get for himself/herself.  A person can buy the perfect shirt, or the perfect CD for herself.  While it's true that we can/should be kind to ourselves, it's a completely different thing than receiving a kindness from another person.  What it the only gifts we were allowed to give this Christmas were the actual things we have in our hearts, rather than all of the outward show?  What would be there under the tree?

I would venture to say the greatest gift is to be kind to a person who has not been kind to you, to continue to forgive someone who has completely spurned your attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, to love someone you like is easy.  There is no virtue in that.  But to love someone it is difficult to love, therein lies the virtue.

But don't let us be kind out of obligation or duty.  That is not true kindness and will feel false to the one receiving it, like a knock off of the original.  Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  But the kindness and forgiveness must be genuine and borne of the love of God within us.  It can't just be outward show.

What if the other person won't forgive or accept forgiveness?

It is extremely difficult and painful to continue to be kind and forgiving to someone who perpetually feeds a grudge or widens a rift between you with more offenses.  Although we've been counseled to turn the other cheek, I am not suggesting that you repeatedly throw your face in front of someone's fist.  Nor am I suggesting that you try to force a friendship on someone who may not want it for whatever reason.  I am simply asking the question, what would it look like if you met someone's cruelty or meanness with kindness?

Joseph B. Whirthlin has said, "kind ness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known.  Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends.  It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes."

What if you could gain or regain a friendship just by enduring in kindness?

"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed.  AS in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." ~James Boswell

So, while we're rushing around this Christmas season, getting the decorations, food, and last minute gifts, don't forget to bring the gifts you have within you to those you love: your kindest thought, the benefit of the doubt, understanding, patience, and forgiveness.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

One Ugly Shade of Grey

(Warning, this post will talk about sexual topics in a very open manner.)

Ok, my friends, I usually try to avoid discussions like what I'm about to open up because they just usually become uncomfortable for everyone involved.  But as we watch the media sinking to lower and lower depths of depravity and trying to pander their filth as "mainstream" and "normal," I cannot remain silent any longer.

As you may or may not have heard, the 50 Shades of Grey book series has been turned into a movie and will be released on Valentine's Day 2015.  What is 50 Shades of Grey, you may ask.  My answer: it's pornography, plain and simple.  Others may try to hide behind cleaner sounding words like erotica or even romantic fiction.  But it's all the same thing, really.  And this series, both in book and movie form, is worse than most.


It might help the layman, who is not versed in the world of sexual perversion, to have a few definitions before I begin. 

1) Pornography:  Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings. (from the Oxford Dictionary)

2) BDSM: a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics.  Specifically, the BD refers to bondage, discipline, and dominance.  And the SM refers to submission and sadomasochism.

Synopsis and Writing "Credit"

The 50 Shades Series was written by E.L. James, a British "soccer mom" who is trying to bring the dark world of BDSM into the mainstream.  It began as poorly written "fan fiction" based on the Twilight books.  Ridiculous stories like that don't usually make it offline in hard copy form.  No publishers usually take it seriously.  But for some reason, this one did.  Basic premise of the book: A young college student, Ana, meets an older business man, Christian.  He lures her into his BDSM fantasy and turns her into his own personal sex slave.  There is no romance.  Not even good writing.  The only thing that's making this book fly off the shelves is the old adage, which sadly remains true today: sex sells.  There is nothing loving in the way Christian talks to Ana.  Many have said the reason for his behavior is later shown to be that he was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  While that may be the case, herein lies my problem: rarely before have writers or the media tried to romanticize abusive behavior (and what could be called pedophilia) as something to be desired by the victim.  There is nothing romantic or loving about abuse, sadism, and physical "discipline."

So What Exactly is This?

Some will argue pedantically that 50 Shades is not pornography.  However, I submit my answer to that in the form of a quote from the film's producer, Dana Brunetti.  In discussing the film's possible X-rated material, he said he would like to see two versions of the film released: one R-rated, and one NC-17.  "This is just my opinion, and this doesn't mean this is going to happen, but I always thought it would be really cool if we released the R version and then we had an NC-17 version that we released a few weeks later."  He further added, "What we're kind of hearing from the fans is they want it dirty, they want it as close as possible [to the book].  We want to keep it elevated, but also give the fans what they want."

Side note: may I address the fact that this sick person just called an R rating elevated?  In what fruit bat world would an R rating, which allows HUNDREDS of F bombs and full nudity on the screen, possibly be seen as elevated?  In what sense?  In the sense that you're just standing in the poo rather than shoving it down your throat?  Don't make me take my earrings off.

But moving on, based on the definition of pornography given earlier, and the fact that the producer wants the movie of 50 Shades to be as dirty as the book, I'd say that's exactly what this film and the books are.  So now, not only have we allowed this filth onto book shelves accessible to all ages, but we have allowed it to become "mainstream," grossing the author hundreds of millions of dollars.  And now we're about to let it into our movie theaters.

Gone are the days when those who wished to view pornography had to hide in dark corners and keep their addiction somewhat under wraps and under control.  We're now trotting it right out into the open.  Let's scream our perversions loud and proud, and ask for "more dirt" no less!

What's the Harm?

In college, I had a professor who had done his dissertation on Victorian prostitutes in England.  At that time, prostitution in England was legal.  I suppose voyeurism was as well because there were store windows where the "merchandise" could be perused before purchase.  Harsh?  Absolutely.  But true.

As a society, we are sailing perilously close to that line.  In Victorian England, a mother would most likely have known which streets to avoid traversing in order to protect the innocence of her children.  But in today's society, we are not even allowed that level of protection.  Because the sad truth is that the trailer for this horror premiered on the Today Show at 8 am to appeal to the mommy types, as this has jokingly been dubbed "mommy porn."  8 am, a time when many children could have been watching TV over breakfast with their moms and could very easily have been exposed.  The trailer itself is pornographic in nature.  How could it not be when that's all the movie is about?  And now it's being served up as proper breakfast fare.  This is beyond ridiculous.

Some may say, what's the harm?  You don't have to read the books or watch the movie.  Why get all up in arms over it?  First, let's address the pornographic nature of it.  What's the harm in pornography in general?  It objectifies women and men.  My friends, you and I are daughters and sons of the living God.  We have greatness running through our spirits and our very cells.  Pornography invites and entices people to forget their birthright to greatness and get down on the level of the animals, following only the basest desires, forgetting the spirits housed in these temples.  It shuts out any and all possibility of light and allows the darkness to come rushing into the void.  It kills good and virtuous feelings, making healthy relationships nearly impossible.  And I propose it is a form of adultery.  Christ tells us in the New Testament that to lust after a woman is the same as committing adultery with her.  What is pornography if it is not a lust generator?

It is addictive in nature and changes the very structure of the brain of one who is constantly exposed to it, making him/her want more and more, and becoming less and less satisfied, unable to stop the impulse to do it just one more time.  As such a powerful addiction, it destroys families, hurting all in the sphere of the one caught in the trap.  Here is a simple to read article about the effects of pornography.

I've heard some women say 50 Shades is not pornography because it's a book and not pictures or video.  Well, that's just not true based on the Oxford definition of pornography.  Besides the fact that women are much more affected by the power of suggestion and words than pictures.  And now it is a film, so now what?

The Nastiest Shade of Grey

Now, all of the above would be true of these books/film if they were just portraying graphic sex scenes.  But that is not all.  This is not consensual sex between two equal parties.  From the beginning of the story, the BDSM nature of the relationship has Christian grooming Ana to be his slave, accountable to him for everything from what she eats to what she says, even going so far as making her sign a contract giving him full control of her.  He is an older man, a powerful business owner.  She is a young 21 year old, with no experience in the world.  She is portrayed as even an extremely juvenile 21 year old, with no cell phone, no ability to do anything on her own, never been kissed.  She is the essence of naivetĂ©.  Christian takes her innocence and throws it right in the dirt.  There are vivid scenes of the violence he perpetrates against her.  I will say here and now that whether or not she has a physical reaction, violence is still violence, and still severely damaging to the one who is the recipient of the violence.

The author of this book is sadly trying to say that Ana's "inner goddess" thrills and responds to this type of behavior from Christian.  I'll call bull on that.  Anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about the nature of the spirit and the exalted realms from which we came could never say that an inner goddess of any sort would want to be humiliated and forced into submission the way Ana is.  Those two ideas of goddess and submission to anyone other than the Lord God simply do not go together.

What to Do About It?

Well, the books and now the movie are out there (though the movie is not yet released).  So, now what?  What can we do about it?  It's not enough to stay away from the movie or the books.  It's past time when we can hide our heads in the sand and pretend that the sewers are not overflowing into the streets and our homes with all manner of filth.

It's time for us to make our voices heard as people of faith, as children of God, that we will not accept these products to be shoved in our faces.  I, for one, will be boycotting the production company Focus Features.  I also call on all who will to picket the theaters that show this film.  Please don't say to yourself that someone else will do it.  When society is pouring dirt into your home, will you wait for someone else to come clean it up?

To those who say that this type of "entertainment" harms no one, I ask you to think about your daughter entering into a relationship like the one portrayed in 50 Shades.  Imagine that she comes home beaten and bruised, her head bowed.  Or worse yet, imagine that she doesn't come home at all because the boy who tried to tie her up tied the knots too tight and she's now been strangled.  Do I overstate the case?  I don't think so.  Whether or not you read the books or see the movie, this type of "sexual revolution," as it's being called, will have a profound effect on all of us if we don't stand up for the right, and follow our true "inner gods and goddesses" as sons and daughters of God.

Thirteenth Article of Faith: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.  If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Leave to thy God to order and provide..."

"In a profound way the solution to our community problems, which we call social conflict, lies not in better understanding and better programs of repair and improvement, but in the depth and sublimity of our thoughts and affections, in deeper living and holier values." ~ Thomas Moore

As I sit down to write this post, I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed about the enormity of the issues I am about to address.  I’ve been mulling over the news articles, press releases, scriptures, my own thoughts, and so many things in the past week.   Then today the news came out that Kate Kelly, the founder of the Ordain Women movement, has been excommunicated from the LDS church.   I feel that we, as a society and as a church, are on a dangerous precipice, but with the opportunity to find a better way.

On the one hand, in the United States, we are firm believers in the democratic process.  We are proud of founding fathers who fought so hard to bring to pass religious freedom, the right to worship as our own consciences dictate.  We even believe that they were divinely led to set up the constitution the way it is, paving the way for new churches to develop unhindered, including the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days.

On the other hand, it should be stated that the LDS church is not a democratic entity.  It is, in fact, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is His church, not ours, and so must function under His direction and wisdom, not ours.  Therefore, protests, demonstrations, candle-light vigils, etc. have no place in this religious setting.  And any attempt to force policy or doctrinal changes by these means must be categorized as apostasy, as apostasy is defined as a rebellion, turning away, or falling away from the church, coming out in open opposition to the church, and trying to convince others of the doctrines you’re purporting.

Questions vs. Demands

In a recent press release from the LDS church’s public relations department, we were assured yet again that we are encouraged to have “civil online dialogue…and discuss ideas with one another.  Our whole Church was founded on the basis of sincere questions asked by a 14-year-old boy. Having questions and seeking answers is normal. Within those earnest questions may lie the seeds of faith.”  I believe this whole-heartedly.  I have always had the space within my religion to have questions, even doubts, and to find the answers.  Loving leaders have encouraged me and pointed me in the direction of the scriptures and prayer to find the ultimate answers in my relationship with the Lord.  I recognize that this is one experience among many, and that others have not always been this fortunate.  The truth is that while the gospel is perfect, people are not.  I have heard (and believe) other people’s stories of having their questions dismissed or even silenced by a well-meaning, though mistaken, leader.  From the anecdotal evidence I have found, these situations are few and far between, but do occur.

To that point, I will offer this solace from President Joseph Fielding Smith: “I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.  An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be…”

Friends, we must go back to the source.  Seek and ponder the scriptures in prayer, read past and current conference talks, surround ourselves with the truths we are taught and not let one or two bad experiences color our views of the gospel.

In reference to the “questions” being posed by Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women movement, they are not questions, but demands.  “Non-negotiable” demands as they have themselves stated.  This is the behavior that becomes apostasy and leads people away from the truth into confusing and thorny paths.  May we question?  Yes.  May we demand?  No.

Society vs. God's Kingdom

What we must remember as we hear more and more stories of people voicing their dissatisfaction with the church or its leaders, is that the Lord’s Church is not society, nor a corporation, or any other entity that can be governed by common consent or democratic vote.  It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In this crazy society we live in, we are dictated to by those who preach sameness disguised as equality.  We have to know that the two things are not the same.  A society that shouts a plethora of contradictions, including: "Embrace my differences, but I demand to be like everyone else."  They use the democratic country we live in, founded on the religious freedom of differences to try to force a change to complete sameness across the board in every sphere, not realizing that "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light."  (D&C 93:30-31)
Think on those verses for a few moments.  “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it.”  The Doctrine and Covenants also tell us just a few verses before that spirit is made up of light and truth.  Therefore our spirits are independent in the sphere in which God has placed them.  What is right and good and required of men, may not be so for women and vice versa.  We have separate, but equally important roles.  Also, what may be relevant and good in a discussion of societal organizations, may not be so within a religious context. 
Ask yourself why the adversary works so hard to damage society’s view of women and their roles in the home.  Could it not be that women have a tremendously important job in the raising of the children and shaping generations?
And why would we as women dare say that our roles and the beautiful gifts we’ve been given are not enough?  By so doing, we are putting ourselves down, in essence acting as our own oppressors.  In the letter which Kate Kelly wrote to her disciplinary council, she cited one of her reasons for dissatisfaction in the church as being that “adult men are treated as the standard mold in the church and everyone else is an ‘other.’”  I disagree wholeheartedly on this point.  To say so is to negate the very real and powerful women I’ve had to look up to in the church my whole life from Lucy Mack and Emma Smith to Eliza R. Snow, Sherri Dew, Bonnie D. Parkin, and so many others.  So many strong pioneer women who helped lead the church members to the amazing group we are today.  I will not allow their efforts to be defamed or pushed aside.  Their contributions are real.  Their lives are real.
The problem I see with Kate Kelly’s stance in this matter is that she’s trying to view spiritual matters through the limited eyes of this world and the constructs of our less than perfect society.  She’s lost sight of the big picture and been blinded by the here and now.  She's let society tell her that she is "less than," and brought that mentality into a world where God tells us our potential is unlimited, that we can indeed be goddesses, queens, and priestesses.  We cannot place the limitless capacity of God’s kingdom into the imperfect mold of society.

If we were looking at God’s kingdom like a corporation, think of this…God is the owner.  The prophet and the other leaders are middle management.  They take their orders directly from Him.  So, why do some feel the need to have a “middle management” level human being give them value in the world’s eyes when the Lord (whom we have the ability to have a personal relationship with) has told us how much He values each and every one of us.  What more could we want?  Why not try to make the most out of the role He’s assigned to you rather than trying to usurp someone else’s role?   Our value lies not in the callings we hold.  It lies in who we are inside.

Inside or Outside

These people rallying for change within the church are also missing another important point.  It’s not about the outside scaffolding, it’s about what’s inside.  When we come upon something we feel is a problem, or something which we don’t understand, the first thing we must do is turn inward.  Listen in the quiet confines of our hearts for the Lord to speak to us on the matter.  We’re invited to approach Him in faith and humility.  “Knock and it shall be opened.”   The Ordain Women movement cries, “Change the church, fit it to my wants and desires.  Reconcile the church to me.”  When the scriptures teach us the opposite, that we are to “reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” (2 Nephi 10:24)  We must go to Him and ask Him to help us to understand and to change our hearts to be reconciled to Him, not the other way around.

We are asked to be obedient with exactness, nothing wavering, not veering by even a few degrees from the path.  That requires faith and trust in the Lord.  One to trust the commandments He gives us, two to trust that the Atonement will make up for our weaknesses.  We can go to the Lord with our broken bodies, broken spirits, broken hearts, broken lives, and even broken faith and He will make them all whole again.  If we are fitting ourselves for the Celestial Kingdom, we must follow the Lord’s way with exactness, to make ourselves one with Him, like calibrating a machine so that all the parts fit together.  He will help us.  We don’t have to do it alone.

"Stubbornness is Idolatry"


Recently in a Sunday School lesson I was teaching, we learned about Saul and how fell away from the Lord one degree at a time.  After he’d given up his last chance to obey, the prophet Samuel tells him that “stubbornness is idolatry.” (1 Sam. 15:23)  I thought and pondered on that for a time.  How could stubbornness be idolatry?  But in talking and reasoning things out with a friend, we realized, It is idolatry because to put our wisdom, desires, will or anything before the Lord is to commit idolatry.  Questioning the Lord’s judgment is idolatry because we presume to know better than the Creator of the universe who sees and knows all things.  Who am I to dictate to the God of the universe?  How could I possibly say that I know better than Him with my limited vision?  How could any of us presume to tell Him how His kingdom should be run with our petty non-negotiable demands about anything?

Beyond that, think of things from the Lord’s perspective for a moment.  He’s given us commandments to live by.  Ask yourself how well we’ve done on that.  We as a human race have always struggled with obedience.  In this regard, we are lower than the dust, as one brother in Sunday School stated this past week.  Even the dust obeys the Lord's commands, but we struggle to do the same.  We stand in all our prideful assurance that we are right and just in our outrage over perceived slights, yet will not humble ourselves to ask for Him to change our hearts and our perspective, or to ask Him to "guide our futures as He has the past."  We cannot even consistently keep the basic ten commandments.  What makes us think we are even remotely ready for a higher law? 

"Believe in God"

I would urge all of us to follow the admonition in Mosiah 4:9: “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”  We cannot possibly comprehend all that God can comprehend.  And we’re told often that His ways are not our ways.   Only He can see the end from the beginning.  We don’t even have to know the whys and wherefores of an issue.  Faith requires that we step out a little into the darkness and wait for His greater light and knowledge, usually not knowing the why or the how of what we’re asked to do.   
Those whose souls are harrowed up by this and other issues, I would like to leave you with the words of one of my favorite hymns, which gained deeper meaning for me today.  Follow the guidance in these verses.  Seek the Lord to still your soul, and know that He is God.

Be Still, My Soul

1. Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
 With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
 Leave to thy God to order and provide;
 In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
 Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
 Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
 To guide the future as he has the past.
 Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
 All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
 Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
 His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"To touch can be to give life..."

The title of my post today is a quote from Michelangelo.  It is a subject I have thought a great deal about in the past few years, more so recently.  Touch is one of the five basic senses and provides some very real needs for our bodies.  Sadly, it is one of the most neglected senses as we live in an extremely touch-deprived society.  More so every day as new technological advances move us, in many ways, farther away from our humanity as they claim to be constantly "connecting us."  Ask yourself when was the last time you gave a long and generous hug to someone else or reached out a hand to touch a friend during a conversation.

The Shockwave

It's time for me to get a little personal.  I thought about keeping this post in the abstract, but as I am trying to convey the need for greater human connection, why not tell a personal story?   Even as I write this, I wish I was talking to you face to face, maybe placing my hand on your hand.

Anyway, I am single, as I've stated before.  I live with one roommate, but our schedules often keep us from seeing very much of each other.  I've found myself in the past months spending increasing amounts of time alone.  And I realized that I sometimes go for days without touching another human being.  The loneliness and depression started again about a month or a month and half ago.  So, I started trying to find the causes.  Then something happened at my new job (which I love) that had a profound affect on me.  Two things really. 

First, my new boss is an amazing woman.  She's full of life, energy, ideas, and has an uncanny ability to foster greatness in others and help them find and build their strengths.  She's also a "touchy" person.  Meaning, she touches people when she talks to them. She'll reach out and touch your arm, or give you a gentle pat on the back or even a high five.  But I've never had a conversation with her in person in which she didn't reach out in some way.  The first time this happened, I felt a shock wave go through my body (no exaggeration), because it was then that I realized how long it had been since I'd touched another person, and how touch-deprived I actually was.  At that point it was about a week since I'd touched someone else.  I also started to realize how much more connected I felt to my boss than I usually do in a work situation, and how much more like a team our office staff felt, and how much more easily we worked together.  We are all thriving under her influence.  Then yesterday, my co-worker simply laid her head on my shoulder for a moment, a gesture of trust and connection, and I was reminded of all these things again.

Last night as I was mulling all this over in my mind, I was watching Anne of Green Gables, an old favorite of mine.  I noticed the friendship between Anne and Diana, and the way they interacted with each other.  In every scene when they were together, they were either holding hands, had their arms linked, their arms around each other, were kissing cheeks, or some other form of physical affection.  Every scene.  Then I noticed Anne's influence on Marilla, a touch-deprived soul if ever there was one.  At first, any little gesture of trust or affection from Anne seemed like a shock to Marilla's senses, and she doesn't quite know what to do with it.  But gradually, she loosens up, and by the end, they too are hugging, touching hands, walking arm in arm.  And Marilla is happier and healthier for it.  As I thought of my own relationships, I could see a lessening of physical contact with my friends in direct correlation with somewhat of a loss of connectivity.  The less I touched my friends, or allowed them to touch me, the less connected I felt to them.

Science of Healthy Touch

So, what's the big deal?  Why do humans need physical touch from other humans?  At times in my life the human connections I've had have been unhealthy and even traumatic in nature.  You would think I would want to cut myself off from all human touch.  But my skin literally aches for human connection daily.  The scientific name for this in psychological corners is "skin hunger."  It's a real thing.  You can read about it here.   Basically, in the same way that your body hungers for food, water, and other physical needs, it also hungers for the NEED of human contact.

There has been a great deal of research about the positive effects on health and emotions from healthy human touch.  To name a few of the benefits:
  • An increase in oxytocin levels (the love hormone), healing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger
  • An increase in serotonin
  • Lower stress
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Fosters a feeling of trust and safety
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Balances the nervous system
One of the best articles I've read about for its scientific basis is this one by Dacher Keltner.  He talks about our touch-deprived Western culture and some experiments that he's done in his own lab as well as other studies.  One study from the 1960s fascinated me because of its relevance to friendships.  In the 60s, many different friends at cafes in the United States, the UK, and Puerto Rico were observed.  To quote from the article:

"...Pioneering psychologist Sidney Jourard, who studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a cafĂ© together... observed these conversations for the same amount of time in each of the different countries. What did he find? In England, the two friends touched each other zero times. In the United States, in bursts of enthusiasm, we touched each other twice.  But in France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour. And in Puerto Rico, those friends touched each other 180 times! Of course, there are plenty of good reasons why people are inclined to keep their hands to themselves, especially in a society as litigious as ours. But other research has revealed what we lose when we hold back too much."

There is much documentation about the development of pre-mature babies who have touch therapy vs. the lack of thriving in babies with no touch therapy.  But what of adults?  Can we survive without human connection?  Absolutely not.  Think about the country we live in.  The list of diseases and ailments (along with accompanying medications) seems to be growing by the day.  What if we could literally heal the world with a hug?  That's not too far from the truth. 

The Counterfeits

It's not a coincidence that these diseases are growing almost at the same rate as our technological advances.  More and more time online or with our many devices, and less and less time in the real physical company of other people is literally killing us.  From face to face to conversations, we went to phone calls, then emails, then online chats and texts.  With each descending level of communication, something is lost.  We receive less of the other person and give less of ourselves for the sake of brevity and convenience.  We can do more things at one time: have a chat window open while putting up a status on Facebook, and sending a text, and writing an email, but how much of ourselves are we sharing in each of those instances?  How much are we holding back, closing off, abbreviating for the sake of time and space?  Are we not abbreviating our very souls?

The Lord gave us bodies because there were very real lessons we could not learn without them.  Our progression was stopped until we obtained bodies.  Those bodies unite with our spirits to create the soul, the very essence of who we are.  Satan's progress has been eternally stopped or damned because he gave up his chance to obtain a body.  Because of that, he wants to do everything in his power to deprive us of the positive experiences we can have with our bodies. Even if that's just by distraction or counterfeits.  One counterfeit for real relationships is online relationships (friends or otherwise).  Facebook and other online social sites can be fantastic as a supplement to real relationships, but as a replacement, they are seriously lacking.  We must nourish every aspect of both the body and the spirit.  Just as man cannot live by bread alone, neither can he live by the spirit alone, or the mind alone, or the internet alone.  We desperately need healthy human interaction.

Even the horrible epidemic of pornography in our culture, I believe, can be traced back to our lacking enough healthy touch, which leads to depression, and anxiety, and a seeking for other things to fill the hole.  Then the pornography usage causes more secrecy, isolation, and depression, perpetuating the cycle.

Healing Hands

Now the question I would like you to think about is this: Why do you think healing through the use of priesthood power comes by the laying on of hands rather than with just a spoken word?  What about the gift of the Holy Ghost or ordination or setting apart for callings?  Why the laying on of hands?  Because "to touch can be to give life."  The power of the priesthood can be transmitted through this wonderful gift the Lord has given us, our sense of touch.  He did not place us here to live out our mortal days in isolation.  My last post was about manna, and the daily tender mercies which link us back to the Lord.  What if this healthy human touch is another form of manna?  It's another one of those things we need daily, that cannot be stock piled for future use.

I'm currently reading a wonderful book called The Hiding Place about a wonderful, strong, and loving woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp.  For the first few weeks of her imprisonment, she was kept in complete isolation in a small gray room only big enough for a cot and a bucket.  She saw no one, heard no voice, touched no one, and was not even allowed to sing quietly to herself.  She was horribly ill.  After several weeks of this, one of the kinder Nazi officers came in to speak to her.  There were little bits of color on his uniform which delighted her eyes.  She was thankful to see any human face, even that of an enemy.  Later when she was finally allowed to be with her sister in the prison and concentration camp, she started to get better and was able to endure a great deal because of the strength she gained from being in close proximity to her sister.

It has been proven that children learn better in environments of healthy touch.  It saddens me to think that in this society of fear which we are perpetuating, teachers cannot even hug their students or give them a pat on the back anymore without accusations flying.  I weep to think of the hugs from my teachers and guidance counselors in guidance counselors which literally saved my life on several occasions.   We cloak ourselves in an armor of fear, only to wilt in isolation.

Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, has said  “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”  This article explores that idea further and points out some of the benefit of hugs specifically.

My challenge to you is to open yourself up to more human touch, more affection, more connection.  The next time you're talking to a friend or walking with them, touch their hand or arm.  Give a longer embrace.  And don't be alarmed if the next time you see me, I do the same.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Manna in the Desert

Well, my lovelies.  It’s been so much longer than I wanted it to be between blog posts.  I got a new job that I love, but which is taking up a lot more of my time.  So, I’m having to learn how to parcel out my time again and stay organized.  In the meantime, I would like to post some insights I came across as I was researching and preparing my last Sunday School lesson.  If anyone wants to follow along in the Gospel Doctrine manual, it’s Lesson 14 “Ye Shall Be a Peculiar Treasure Unto Me.”

We Are More Alike Than We Are Different

When I was putting this lesson together, I came across a blog of another Sunday School teacher.  Normally, I appreciate his insights, but in this case, he was pretty annoyed with and rather judgmental of the children of Israel.  Therefore, I would like to ask that we take it kind of easy on them, mostly because we’re not so different from them in our own lives today.  At least I’m not.

Now, before you get all up in arms and offended by what I just said, let me set up the story for you.  These people had been slaves for a long time.  They’d been promised a deliverer.  Though they were most likely uneducated in a lot of ways, most, if not all, of them surely knew of Moses as the son of Pharaoh.  They’d seen him disappear into the desert, seen his name erased from the stone walls.  Then here comes this man back into Egypt, saying he would lead them out of captivity.  After plagues and horrors, then a miraculous deliverance, the Egyptians let them go.  They travel back out into the desert as Moses did, with this man they don’t quite understand.  His brother, Aaron, is his spokesman, and brings the people the word of the Lord.

They come to the Red Sea and Moses parts it before them, and they walk across dry land before the Pharaoh's men are swallowed up in the sea.  For generations these people have suffered and plodded along, only being able to do as the Egyptians tell them, barely being allowed to practice their own religion, constantly bombarded by the worldliness around them.  Then suddenly miracles start to appear before their very eyes and they're not sure what it all means.  I can imagine some of them saying, "We've never seen the Red Sea before.  Maybe it's always like that this time of year."  Surely it would have been difficult for them to know what to believe.

The Lord Provides for the Children of Israel (Exodus 15:22-27)

Three days after leaving the shores of the Red Sea, the murmuring begins, and goes in a cycle for some time to follow.  They murmur, the Lord is merciful and blesses them, they forget and murmur again, the Lord is merciful and blesses them.

So, let’s think about murmuring and what that actually means.  A little complaining, especially in the face of so much trial, may not seem like much, may even seem justified.  But it can be a hindrance to developing faith, both in ourselves and in those in our sphere of influence.

How many of you have seen miracles in your lives and been lifted up on a spiritual high?  How long did it take before you settled back down to the grind of “real life” and maybe forgot the miracle?  The thing is: freedom is a hard business.  When everything has been provided for you and suddenly you’re “free” to fend for yourself, how frightening is that?  Yes, they were out from under the harsh yoke of Pharaoh and his guards, but how would they eat? What would they drink on this trek through the desert?  Who would provide for the millions?  Can you understand their fear and reservations?

Even if they truly believed that they’d been led out of Egypt by the Lord, change (even good change) is hard.  Couple that with physical hardships.  What if Pres. Monson asked us today to take off into the desert?  What about “lesser” things that we’ve been asked to do by the prophet of the Lord?  Think of a time when you know you were prompted to do something in your life, make a big change.  You followed it.  Did things immediately run smoothly?  If not, what was your reaction?  Even if it wasn’t full on murmuring, maybe it was just an attitude of, “Seriously? After I followed you?  THIS is how this is going to go?”  Rather than humble acceptance.

Short story:  When I first moved to Utah from 1700 miles away to go to college, I was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was where I needed to be.  But the first year was REALLY hard financially.  At one point, I was working three jobs, plus going to school full time just to make ends meet.  But before I got those three jobs, I had one little part time job that paid less than $8.00 an hour.  One day, I got home to my dorm, looked in the refrigerator, and realized I had no food and no money.  It was at least three days until I got paid.  Needless to say I was scared.  Did I murmur?  You bet.  I had followed the answers to my prayers and leaped out on faith, and THIS was how things were going to go?  “Did Moses lead us out of Egypt just so we could die of hunger in the desert?”  Then I humbled myself and prayed for help.  After a tearful prayer full of confusion and worry, I called my sister for help who lived a couple of hours away.  She fed me for the next six months.

So, let’s think about our immediate reactions to the trials that come on the heels of a concerted effort on our parts to follow the Lord.  Do we feel entitled to an easy time if we’re doing what’s right?

Manna (Exodus 16:2-3, 4-6, 8, 19-21, 35)

“Then the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.”

What were some of the purposes of manna?

  • To show the Lord whether His people would obey Him (to give them the OPPORTUNITY to obey)
  • To give the people daily reminders of the Lord’s power and love.
  • To teach the people that they do not live “by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

How is manna a representation  of Christ?
How is gathering nourishment daily likened to what we must do for spiritual nourishment?

Here are some of my personal thoughts on manna:  After the huge miracle of being taken out of bondage and saved from the Egyptians by the Red Sea being parted, the Israelites were roaming around the desert.  They had run out of food, and were crazy levels of scared about the future.  Of course they were praying for miracles and praying for their circumstances to change, praying for the big miracles (which did eventually happen), but in the meantime, they got manna.  At first they found it miraculous and delicious, like honey.  Their daily bread, falling like dew on the ground.  They had very specific instructions for its use as well.  They couldn’t store it up, but had to gather it daily.  Eventually, though, they started to get tired of it.  The same thing day after day.  They tried to dress it up and prepare it in different ways, but eventually, it didn't taste like honey to them anymore, it tasted like oil.  They remembered back to the delicious food they'd had back in Egypt (when they were slaves), and they began to be dissatisfied with their daily bread.  (Numbers 11:5-8) I'm sure they wondered why they were just getting enough for one day.  They couldn’t see into the future and know how long this would last.  Why wasn't He saving them once and for all and leading them out of the desert?

Our whole lives are made up of all kinds of "manna," situations when we receive just enough to get us by for the next moment, the next day or the next week.  The air in our lungs can only sustain us until we take the next breath; the food we eat can only sustain us until the next meal; the sacrament we only take on a weekly basis.  We can't do any of those things in one lump sum to sustain us for all time.  So we receive here a little, there a little, grace upon grace, because by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
I think back over my life in the past few years since I moved to Utah.  Nothing has turned out like I thought it would.  But I can look back and see the small tender mercies, the little pieces of manna that got me through to the next day.

Bread or Stones

S. Michael Wilcox gave a beautiful talk at BYU Hawaii a while back in which, among other things, He discussed how the Lord deals with us when answering our prayers or pleas for assistance. Rather than paraphrase, I would like to quote a chunk of that talk here:

“Sometimes we don’t understand the Lord’s answers because the answers that we are getting may not be the ones we particularly want. And so we go to another letter I call Bread or Stones.

“In Luke, the eleventh chapter, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about prayer, He introduced it with a parable, and then He said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, (meaning being human, imperfect) know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give (good things, give) the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (9-13)

“Now the Lord’s prayer is introduced with a phrase; the Savior says your father in Heaven knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8). We are also counseled in the scriptures to tell the Lord our desires. Now that may cause a problem. I know what I desire and God knows what I need. I am always hoping that those are the same. But what if what I need and what I desire are not the same?—and the Lord says, “Mike, you get to choose what you need and what you desire.” I’m afraid in my worse moments I may say, ‘Well if it’s just the same to you Father, I’d like what I desire, rather than what I need.’

“C.S. Lewis calls the desired need the ‘expected good’; and, the needed good he sometimes called the ‘given good.’ All things given from God are good; and, sometimes if what I desire is different from what I need, if what I expect is different from what I’m given, I may, if I’m not careful, turn the given bread into a stone. I may turn the given fish into a serpent. I may view the given egg as a scorpion because it is not what I anticipated, what I asked for, what I hoped for—what I desired.

“What we must understand about our Father in Heaven is that He only gives bread; He never gives stones. He only gives fish; He never gives serpents. He only gives eggs; He never gives scorpions…A stone, when you want bread, is something useless. God does not give useless things.”

Let me reiterate: the Lord NEVER gives stones, only bread.  In thinking about that, why then would we turn away from the Lord whenever we feel like things “haven’t gone our way”?  Why wouldn’t we turn to Him in gratitude, knowing that somewhere in all of it, there is bread, and “all things shall work together for our good.”

Tie Back To

Not too long after the beginning of the manna years, the Lord wanted to create a covenant with His people.  He wanted to establish again His religion among them.  The word religion originally meant “to tie back to.”  So, the Lord literally wanted to tie His people back to Him through covenant because He loved them so much.  The original commandments and laws given to Moses also contained the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, those things which would lead to eternal life and exaltation.  But after seeing the truth gleaming in the golden calf, Moses and the Lord realized that the people were not yet ready for a higher law.

So, new tables of stone were written with the ten commandments and the law of Moses, excluding any ordinances of the higher priesthood.  The people would have to prove themselves worthy of the higher law.  But in the meantime, they were protected from committing more grievous sins by only being given the lesser law.  These basic ten commandments went on to become the basis of most of civilized society.

Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith said: "...Israelite jurisprudence, formulated and proclaimed by Moses through divine guidance, has had a greater uplifting power upon the nations than the combined influence of all other ancient nations. Greek and Roman influence and culture have given to the world much in the arts, but the moral and religious influences, the love of right and justice over wrong and oppression, the love of home and the unity of the family have come from the inspired teachings of the prophets of Israel and these would have been abundantly greater had the people remained humble and obedient to these inspired teachings and had they been fully willing to forsake the pleasures and evils of the world." (The Restoration of All Things, p136)

The Take Away

So, what’s the take away from this lesson?  How can we apply the experiences of the children of Israel to our own lives?

President Eyring said: “It won’t be easy to remember. Living as we do with a veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to be with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premortal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives. Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost. And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companionship in a wicked world.

“That is why forgetting God has been such a persistent problem among His children since the world began. Think of the times of Moses, when God provided manna and in miraculous and visible ways led and protected His children. Still, the prophet warned the people who had been so blessed, as prophets always have warned and always will: 'Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life.'

“And the challenge to remember has always been the hardest for those who are blessed abundantly. Those who are faithful to God are protected and prospered. That comes as the result of serving God and keeping His commandments. But with those blessings comes the temptation to forget their source. It is easy to begin to feel the blessings were granted not by a loving God on whom we depend but by our own powers.” (President Eyring, “O Remember, Remember” October 2007 Conference)

The Lord gives us direction because He loves us and wants us to be with Him forever.  He gives us multiple opportunities to remember Him and remember where we’ve come from.  The time that the Israelites spent in the desert was not a 40 year “time out” or punishment.  The Lord doesn’t deal with us that way.  It was a means to teach them to rely on the Lord for their daily bread and to allow themselves to be tied back to Him.

I’ll leave you with one final scripture in Romans 8: 35, 37-39:

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He will provide us with the daily bread we need to become the strong and valiant sons and daughters He’s always wanted us to be.