Friday, April 29, 2011

"The rich rewards come only to the strenuous strugglers."

See The Teachings of David O. McKay, comp. Mary Jane Woodger (2004), 300.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


When I take a step back from whatever is going on at a particular moment in my life, I recognize how my circumstances and sense of spirituality fluctuate and progress. I think that's necessary to keep me growing, but I still struggle during the thinner times. I found Paul's reassurances to the Romans really comforting this evening.

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but he Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered... And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose... He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?                          
Romans 8:24-26, 28, 32

Sometimes I feel like the reality of the Gospel and the purpose in my life are easier to see than at other times. But if it weren't so, I wouldn't have to have faith or hope or patience. It is enough to know that God loves me and gave His Son for me, and that He will give me all that I need, regardless of whether I know what exactly that entails.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Faith and Confidence

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck, p. 12:

     It wasn't very long until all the land in the barren hills near King City and San Ardo was taken up, and ragged families were scattered through the hills, trying their best to scratch a living from the thin flinty soil. They and the coyotes lived clever, despairing, submarginal lives. They landed with no money, no equipment, no tools, no credit , and particularly with no knowledge of the new country and no technique for using it. I don't know whether it was a divine stupidity or a great faith that let them do it. Surely such venture is nearly gone from the world. And the families did survive and grow. They had a tool or a weapon that is also nearly gone, or perhaps it is only dormant for a while. It is argued that because they believed thoroughly in a just, moral God they could put their faith there and let the smaller securities take care of themselves. But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond a doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units--because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves any more, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An help meet.

The other day I was out looking at my in-laws' fruit trees, and naturally I started thinking about Adam and Eve (hahaha- non-sequitor much?). In Genesis 2 and Moses 3, we read that after Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, and before Eve was created, he received this instruction: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

I love the next part, and it's something I've never really heard anyone talk about. The Lord had Adam give names to all of the animals--the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air--"but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." I imagine this was somewhat poignant for Adam. All of the animals had their mates, but he was alone in the garden. So I can imagine the joy when at last God created Eve. He proclaimed, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." In other words, he finally had someone meant for him, and that was worth forsaking everything else.

And Adam did forsake everything else. When presented with the fruit, he refused to transgress God's commandment and would not eat. But when it came to choosing between cleaving to his wife or remaining in the garden's idyllic conditions, he chose to leave the presence of his Heavenly Father and cleave to his wife. 

Someone once pointed out to me that when we are sealed in the temple, the wife agrees to give herself to her husband, but the husband doesn't make the same agreement. They then pointed out that when we learn about the creation we see that the husband, Adam, had already done so. He gave everything in order to remain with and love and protect her. So Adam's example of how to do that is instructive not only for husbands, but for me as a wife. What kinds of things do I sometimes put before my husband? They usually aren't so obvious as a job or a hobby or time away from him. They are usually subtle things like the desire to be right or to do things my way or to let my bad mood run its course. Sometimes they involve lacking courtesy on the excuse that I'm tired or have had a bad day or am frustrated. And always they involve me thinking of my own feelings before his.

I recently read a couple of books by Dr. Laura about marriage. The main gist was that, although men certainly are at the root of plenty of marital problems, the more common culprit is the woman. Women have huge power to make a happy marriage. Because our moods and feelings tend to be more complex and ever-changing, we tend to set the tone for the home. A good man generally has pretty simple needs: he wants to feel like a man, which involves going out every day and "slaying dragons" for his family, then coming home and being treated like the knight in shining armor that he is. And, miraculously, if he is treated with that kind of courtesy and respect instead of with nagging exasperation, he'll be a lot more likely to do whatever it is we would have nagged him to do. I can attest that this is true. 

So for a while now I have been making more of an effort to put my husband's feelings ahead of my moods, show appreciation for everything he does to provide for us (which involves getting up at 4 in the morning to commute to a miserable job, spending more than a decade in school, and putting up with me! What a guy!), not dump my stress on him as soon as he walks through the door, not ask him to do things that are just as convenient for me to do myself, and let him do things his own way (recognizing that my way may be different, but isn't necessarily better). Admittedly, I am not great at this yet. But I remind myself that this is how I can give myself to him and be the kind of woman to whom he will want to cleave.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Tempest.

I was reading a couple of days ago in Acts 28. Paul was aboard a ship that was caught in a severe tempest for many days. The men lost hope that they could be saved. They worried and fasted. At one point, Paul got up and exhorted them to "be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship" and he recounted how an angel had visited and reassured him. He then said again, "sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."

They continued on, and the passengers continued fasting in spite of Paul's counsel. After 14 days, "Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you." They ate, and were cheered, and they were able to get to land and were cared for hospitably by its inhabitants. God's promises were realized.

I have been a little stressed lately. Or maybe a lot stressed. At least once a day I stare blankly at the computer with a giant knot in my stomach. I am currently agonizing over decisions we need to make about med school and moving. I would probably be fasting if I weren't nursing Caleb. I keep going over and over the options in my mind to try to make some sense of them so that I can figure out which one is best, but trying to figure out what is the very best can be paralyzing sometimes. It's impossible to know for sure.

I am realizing that the time is coming when I need to give up the agonizing and enjoy the blessings that Heavenly Father is giving me. Our circumstances are far from tempestuous--they are everything we have been hoping for up to this point. Once I've done my best and sought the Spirit's guidance, I need to stop fretting, be of good cheer, and trust in the assurances I receive from Heavenly Father. And if I'm living the Gospel, I can always know, like Paul did, that even if the boat is lost, the people in it with me will be cared for, and that is really what is important.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Deep Doctrine

I was thinking some more about my last post as I was rocking Caleb to sleep yesterday, and thought to myself that I sometimes don't feel like I'm at the point yet where I'm teaching my children any great scriptural truths or deep doctrines - or even simple docrtrines. Right now our scripture study consists of pulling a picture out of the Gospel Art Kit and telling Ethan the corresponding story, then singing a song from the Children's Songbook.

But almost as quickly as the thought came, I knew it was wrong. Right now, in their infancy, I am teaching them some of the deepest realities of the Gospel that will shape their lives in ways I can't now know. They are now learning things like love, trust, and faith from our daily interactions. Granted, they don't understand now how to love, trust, and have faith in God, but their relationship with John and me is going to have a huge impact on how they view God later in life. If they feel unconditional love from us, it will be easier to believe that He loves them unconditionally. If we demonstrate Christlike attributes in our dealings with them--things like patience, kindness, longsuffering, and sacrifice--they will have a better understanding of how Christ feels for them and how they can be like Him. And if we fail in those things (which, to some extent, we most certainly will, but on the whole we hope we won't), it may make it more difficult for them. So although they are not profound in the hard-to-understand sense, the things we are teaching them are profound in the sense that they are deep and far-reaching in shaping spirituality.

And I think that it is easier to tell myself the erroneous thought that what I am teaching now is somehow less important than what I'll have to teach them in the future, because it implies that the teaching only consists of what I tell them. It's a bit weightier when I remember that what I do and what I am are going to have a much greater impact on them. And being is a lot more demanding than telling =)

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Cross before the Crown

"The cross comes before the crown, and tomorrow is a Monday morning."  -C.S. Lewis

A friend of mine wrote a post on his blog not too long ago about crying babies in church. It got me thinking about our usual Sunday routine and how these days we often leave church thinking "We survived," rather than "We were edified." I suppose that's how it goes when you've got two kiddies under two who can't/won't go to nursery and a class full of rowdy 6, 7, and 8-year olds to teach. But it also touched on something a little deeper. I find that if I'm not careful, it's especially easy for me to suffer from spiritual malnourishment when I have a new baby. A few reasons:

1. Lack of sleep. This, combined with hormones, is at the root of lots of problems.

2. Less time and freedom to do spiritual things. I can't go to the temple nearly as often as I once did, and when I do I have to worry about figuring out feeding/pumping, etc. I have less time to study the scriptures, and the quality isn't as good due to #1. I feel like an increasing proportion of my prayers are a desperate plea for a baby to go to sleep or eat or recover or for me to grow some patience. Sometimes I get nostalgic for my college days when I felt like I learned something new and fantastic every week in church, I had a variety callings, I took a couple institute classes every semester and there was a fireside every week, and I could go to the temple weekly.

3. Less contact with others. This was worse right after we had Ethan because I was instructed to keep him away from people so he wouldn't get sick between surgeries. Not to mention that I've had callings in Primary for all but a few months since we were married. This means fewer chances to recognize opportunities to serve outside our little family, and the tendency to stay in the microcosm of my apartment and forget the big picture.

So I loved this quote from Elder Maxwell as soon as I laid eyes on it a little over a year ago:

"Meanwhile, mortality involves teeth to be brushed, beds to be made, cars to be repaired, diapers to be changed, groceries to be bought--such an endless array of mundane matters. In the midst of these, however, is the real business of living--a friendship to be formed, a marriage to be mended, a child to be encouraged, a truth to be driven home, an apology to be made, a Christian attribute to be further developed."  -Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine, 125.

I also try to remember: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose." Ecclesiastes 3:1.

I suppose the trick is to follow the Spirit to find the purpose in each time in our lives. Right now is a time for building relationships and character, and I've got a store of knowledge and understanding gained from other times in my life to build on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Earning Understanding

"While much must be taken on faith alone, there is individual revelation through which we may know the truth. 'There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the almighty giveth them understanding' (Job 32:8). What may be obscure in the scriptures can be made plain through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We can have as full an understanding of spiritual things as we are willing to earn."

-Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report Oct. 1984. (Emphasis added)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Adapted to the Weak

John and I teach the the six, seven, and eight-year-old children in Primary. This week we are studying the Word of Wisdom, in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89.

One phrase in the third verse caught my attention during my mission, as we were teaching a man who was struggling with alcoholism: "Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints."

I recall that my companion and I said to the man something along the lines of, "See? The Lord said that this law was adapted for even the weakest of the saints, so that everyone could keep it. Do you think that of all the people to come to Church, you're the weakest? We don't either. We know you can do it."

I suppose that made for a fancy pep-talk at the time, but I don't think that is exactly what the scripture is teaching. I think it is more relevant in answering the challenges that people make against the Word of Wisdom, such as:
  • What's wrong with a little social drinking every now and again if you don't get drunk?
  • Can't there be health benefits to drinking wine, etc.? All alcohol isn't all bad.
  • I drink tea and coffee without any side effects or addictions. What is wrong with that?
  • Why should I watch my diet if I'm seemingly healthy and don't have weight problems?
The Lord said that the principle was given for the weak. For all the people who can dabble in these things without great consequence, there is another group of people who can't. There are people who are very susceptible to addiction with only a few uses. There are people who are more susceptible to illnesses and cancers. There are people who have a lower tolerance to behavior-altering substances. And we generally don't know who we are until the bad consequence rears its ugly head. So the Lord gave the principle to everyone in order to protect the weak.

"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."   -Romans 14:21

I think, too, that modern science is showing us that perhaps all of us are weaker with regard to these kinds of substances that we would like to admit. Pretty much everything prohibited in the Word of Wisdom has been identified as risk factors for cancer and heart disease, while everything we are instructed to eat (fruits, vegetables, grains, scarce meat) are shown to prevent both. I can't believe that that is a coincidence.

As a mostly-unrelated aside, I audited a D&C class at BYU with John, and the professor was talking about how LDS people who keep the Word of Wisdom live quite a bit longer than their average non-LDS counterparts. He then asked if we knew who lived longer than LDS people. His answer: Seventh-Day Adventists; they have a similar code of health, but they actually keep the eat meat sparingly part that we like to ignore. They keep the commandment, they get the blessing. We need to work on that one in this house =).