Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Word of Widtsoe"

I've been reading the biography of John A. Widtsoe for much too long (i.e. not very consistently), and I've been going over and over my current chapter on the Word of Wisdom, mostly because I am always trying to improve our family diet, but also have a serious love of ice cream and baked goods.

A few good quotes:

"Too many of our members feel that if they refrain from taking liquor, tobacco, tea and coffee, they are keeping the Word of Wisdom. They are doing so only in part. If the law be understood and lived, people would not be ill and the blessings promised may be fulfilled. Only so may they 'run and not be weary, walk and not faint.'"
-Parrish, Alan K., John A. Widtsoe, a Biography, 418.

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to give man health and happiness. Health is concerned with the spirit and mind as well as with the body of man. The Gospel is mistakenly supposed to concern only a man's spiritual heath. Mental and physical health forms the only assurance of spiritual progress. A a man who is physically or mentally ill is not truly happy, though he may approach spiritual peace. The three parts of man's nature are interrelated and depend upon one another's welfare."  -419

"December's lesson, 'A Merry Christmas,' concentrated on the trend to turn Christmas into a pagan holiday through eating excesses: 'Where plenty abounds, it is a continuous orgy of feasting and stuffing, munching and chewing sweets and pastries, with all sorts of harmful drinks, until the body sickens because of its abuse.' To those who celebrate as true believers, 'Christmas should be a sacrament and should be celebrated as such. ... Not a time of gloom, nor of disgusting bodily indulgence, but a season of joy and gladness, of gratitude for life and a determination to share the best one has with those who may be most in need."  -424 (from lesson by Leah Widtsoe)

Hercules and the Wagoner

A wagoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load behind them, when the wheels of his wagon sank so deep in the mire that no efforts of his horses could move them. As he stood there, looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals upon Hercules for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, "Put your shoulder to the whell, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call on Hercules to assist you. If you won't lift a finger to hep yourself, you can't expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid."

Heaven helps those who help themselves.

Jones, V.S. Vernon, Aesop's Fables, Barnes & Noble 2003, 102.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More on patience and perfection.

My brothren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.      -James 1:2-4

I already posted somewhat about patience in suffering bringing about our perfection. I love how this verse emphasizes that point - that when we allow our trials to work in us, patience has its "perfect work," making us "perfect and entire." Patience makes us whole! And the last phrase gives me an idea of one way that patience makes us whole: we want nothing. I think that more often than not, "wanting nothing" doesn't mean that we have everything we might want. Far from it! I think that it means that by exercising patience in trial, we learn to let go of the things that we want but that aren't God's will for us right now. We learn to be content with what the Lord has given us and are willing to wait on the promises He has made for as long as we need to. We learn to choose happiness regardless of our circumstances. And then we are whole, wanting nothing.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life...  -James 1:12

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ...  -Hebrews 13:20-21

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cleaning and Filling.

Love these old journal entries! Things I had forgotten that I had learned...

John & I went to the temple to proxy in initiatories... It is remarkable how much I always learn despite the fact that you hear the same thing repeatedly. There is a pattern that always seems to be prevalent on the Gospel--that of cleaning out and filling up. We are constantly being cleansed the purified, that we may be filled. Baptism cleans us, then we are filled with the Holy Ghost. In the sacrament again we are reminded that we are cleansed, then we covenant to remember the Savior so that we may be filled and have the Spirit's companionship. The same occurs in the temple ordinances.

This pattern, it seems, should inform my daily efforts. I should constantly strive to clean out the mundane, the things unworthy of my time and contemplation, and fill myself with the Spirit and the things of the Lord.

Faith and Suffering: Hebrews 11

I've read the beginning of Hebrews 11 many times in lessons about faith. It recites many familiar examples sacrifices that were made by faith and of the miracles that resulted. But I missed something huge at the end of the chapter. The recital turns to examples of people whose suffering was not rewarded in this life.

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these having obtained a good report through faith, received not he promise:
[and here is where the Joseph Smith Translation makes a HUGE difference]

God having provided some better things for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect.                      -Hebrews 11:36-40

It's amazing to me how I find certain themes popping up in my study at certain times in my life. I don't think it's any coincidence that I studied this chapter, then our Relief Society lesson yesterday was on the same talk about the Atonement and pain that I just posted recently. The teacher read a quote (which I should find and put here) about how parents should not try to keep their children from all suffering, because it is for their good. It reminded me about how I feel each time Ethan has a surgery or any other procedure--I want to take it all away! I feel like I would do anything to take his place. But the Lord knows Ethan, and he will be perfected through the trials designed specifically for him.

Chapter 12 of Hebrews continues on the theme of enduring trials, suffering, and chastisement.

My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  v. 5-7

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.  v. 11

I think that many people center their case against God around the idea that a loving god would not allow us to suffer. Or would not allow us to suffer for very long. Or would not allow some people to suffer more than others. But I say that god would be a pointless god. Why even put us here if the only purpose is for everyone to feel good and then come back? That was Lucifer's plan! Sounds attractive, but how would we learn to love each other or Him? I am not saying that God relishes in our suffering, but He allows it because He knows that it will ultimately bring us greater joy in the long run. We come to know Christ as we endure hard trials. We come to know Christ as we reach out and alleviate the suffering of others. We need those experiences. I am grateful to know that our Father has a purpose for us, and uses this time on earth as an intense schooling through which each individual can be perfected through Christ and prepared for the limitless opportunities of eternity.

Foundations: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

Another old journal entry:

I find it interesting that I have never heard a lesson taught using the version of the parable of the wise and foolish men from Luke, because it emphasizes a point that isn't so clear in the other accounts.

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them,... he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.   Luke 6:47-48

The key here is that the wise man dug deep until he hit the rock, then laid a firm foundation upon it, while the foolish man built right on top of the earth. I had always envisioned one house being build up on a mountain and the other down on the sandy beach, but not so by this account: both hear the word, and were standing on Gospel soil, but only one dug down and rooted his house so that it stood firm upon the rock of our redeemer, Jesus Christ. Digging deep into the Gospel requires DOING the Father's will--that is what brings that testimony that makes us unshakable against the adversary.

There is a cheesy video of children's songs that my MIL bought and that Ethan loves. It includes the song "The Wise Man and the Foolish Man," and is illustrated by kids building a house with Lincold Logs on a rock, then on the sand. At the end, to illustrate the lyrics "the house on the sand went smash," a bucket of water was dumped to knock down the house. During one viewing (there have been many!) John remarked that it was funny that they had to use a bucket of water on the house in the sand, because in reality the house on the big slippery rock would have fallen more easily. That's where the teaching in Luke makes things clear; it's the foundation on the rock that holds the house fast. The rock won't move, but we must be affixed to it. The sand, on the other hand, will shift, so you can't lay a good foundation upon it--the foundation is worthless if it's not on the rock.

*Also note: the great & spacious building in Lehi/Nephi's dream was in the air--it had no FOUNDATION. And great was the fall of it.