Space

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1980 Conference
As I've expressed before, it's hard for me, at this time in my life, to ever feel truly "settled." That is, I always have a nagging feeling crowding in, that I really ought to be somewhere else, doing something else. I have this feeling even when I'm doing something I KNOW is good—reading to or snuggling with my kids, for example, which is one of those things everyone always says you will never regret, and I don't, but I do think, "I really should be getting dinner started—" or "I ought to be working on my lesson—" while I'm doing it. In the same way, even while I'm doing Family History, or cleaning up the house, or reading conference talks, I can't escape a worry that I should be enjoying and treasuring every moment with my children instead. (And of course if I'm doing something more marginal, like lying on my bed looking at Instagram and putting off thinking about what to make for dinner…or writing a blog post…the crowding feelings that I should be doing something else are even worse!)

Anyway, I have gained some perspective in the eight years (!) since I wrote the post I linked above, and I've learned some coping skills, and no, I don't think this persistent unsettledness (or "guilt," if you want to call it that, but I'm not sure it's the best word) is The Church's fault for making me feel like I have to be perfect—I think it's just a natural result of having agency, and being a mother, and living in the dimly-lit space of mortality. Maybe this feeling will always be with me to some degree.

But there are some rare and precious times when the feeling lifts, and I have the peace of knowing there is nothing else I should be doing besides what I am doing! One of them is the first week or two after having a baby. Another time is every week when I go to church, or when I watch General Conference. This is one way that Sunday, while not overtly "restful" in the matter of physical work to be done, is SUCH a welcomed Day of Rest—because (while at church, anyway) I have a rest from the stress of figuring out if I'm spending my time the best way. I know I'm where God wants me to be! And another place where that crowding worry seems held at bay is when I'm in the temple. For that reason, I have come to associate the temple with space. Not empty space, or hollow space, but light-filled, healing space. I feel like when I'm there, I have space to just BE—to breathe and think and be still without the encroaching fears crowding in.

I've thought about this scripture in Alma a lot:
Nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God.
And in my mind, the companion scripture to that one is this one:
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;  
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space
I know that the "space granted" to us for mortality—the space to make mistakes and to try again without the immediate consequences that justice demands—is a great blessing. I probably don't even feel quite how great of a blessing, not having known the alternative. But I'm especially grateful for the "spaces granted" within that larger space, spaces like prayer and the temple, where I can feel the effects of God's light bringing peace and calm and stillness and silence! I don't mind the happy chaos of a big family. The crowding, the chattering, the constant happening. I'm grateful for it. I even like it. But it makes me feel so desperate, sometimes, for SPACE. And in the temple, I find it.
May I declare without apology that every living person should seek earnestly for the blessings of the temple as his ultimate goal. For there you will find peace; there you will come to know what security really is. There, in the house of the Lord, you can learn what you need to know to be truly free. There, tucked away from turmoil and strife, is the chance to be totally unselfish—a rarity in today’s world.  (Elder Robert L. Simpson, "The House of the Lord.")

Other posts in this series: 

Lilacs

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1980 Conference
There's a piano piece by Rachmaninoff called "Lilacs" that I've been trying to learn for probably fifteen years now. Admittedly, I don't practice much. And I have learned and performed other things in that time. But something about "Lilacs" seems to have defeated me. I can't ever really perfect it because I can't figure out how to memorize it. And I can't memorize it because I don't know quite how to practice it. And I can't practice it because I can't understand it! It has just been a baffling effort for me, all around.

But I LOVE the piece, so I can't quite bring myself to give up on it! I keep trying, off and on. I asked my cousin, who taught me piano at BYU, and he said, "Memorize each hand separately." I tried that. But even then something seemed to stop me from mastering the piece. I knew the notes. I could play through the piece reasonably well. I practiced slowly, I practiced each hand alone, I practiced in sections, I practiced with the metronome. But I just didn't GET it!

Ever since we got our new grand piano, I've been trying to do more practicing again, and I got out "Lilacs" for the millionth time. One evening as I was bashing my way through it yet again, I suddenly had the thought that I ought to pray for help learning the music. "Okay," I thought, "I can pray for that in my prayers tonight"— though I also felt hesitant, like it would be a weird thing to pray for, since I'm only learning "Lilacs" for fun and not because I NEED to for any reason. (Certainly, I have often prayed fervently over performances or accompaniments, and I've prayed general "help me get better at playing the piano" prayers—but I'm not in the habit of praying over each practice session!) And furthermore, I wasn't sure it was even a prayer that could be answered, because obviously what I needed on the piece was just MORE work! I already know how to practice the piano! I've been doing it for my whole life! When the music doesn't sound good yet, it just means you need to practice harder. Heavenly Father isn't going to just suddenly make me able to play a piece if I haven't done the required work! …These are the thoughts that were going through my head.

As I thought these dismissive and doubtful thoughts, again the feeling came: "Pray for help NOW." Surprised, I took my hands off the keyboard, closed my eyes, and said a quick and apologetic prayer for help. Then I started practicing again. And I don't know if I can describe exactly what happened next, but I'll try.

Almost immediately, I noticed similarities between two sections of the piece I'd never noticed before. One was a slightly-modified "echo" of the other. Seeing that connection made me look at the organization of the piece in a new way: the form was not quite as I had always thought it. I saw that I could break the music down differently into sections, and that the sections related to each other more deeply than I'd realized. I saw what had always seemed to be disparate elements suddenly coalesce into supporting and interdependent parts of a larger structure.

All that probably sounds abstract, but it was most undeniably specific in its effect. I felt like this piece, which had remained opaque to me for so long, was suddenly clear in my vision. I could see how it was put together, and simultaneously how I could dismantle it into its component parts and then reassemble those parts through my practice. Thirty minutes after my prayer, I felt I had made more progress toward learning the music than I'd made in the past fifteen years. It was amazing! I kept saying, "Oh! So that's it!" as I played and looked at this music that almost seemed made up of notes I'd never seen before—or maybe more accurately, of notes I was recognizing for the first time. I could not deny the dramatic, instantaneous effect of my prayer for help.

Pondering it afterwards and wondering what on earth had happened, I had so many questions! Why did the sudden understanding come NOW? Why that clear prompting to pray for help with something I didn't ever think of asking for help with before? If I'd asked ten years ago, would I have learned the piece faster, or was I not even ready to receive the help until I'd put in some preliminary amount of work on my own? And maybe the biggest question of all—why did Heavenly Father even CARE if I learned "Lilacs" or not? "Developing my talents" in a general way so I can play the organ for church, I can understand. But learning a specific piece that was not for a funeral or a primary program or a sacrament meeting or a concert? Why would it matter? To teach me that God knows EVERYTHING better than I do? Even how to practice the piano?

I still have those questions. And I'm still not proficient at "Lilacs." (It's improving, though! In ways I never thought it would!) But I thought of this experience when I read Elder Ronald E. Poelman's talk quoting Brigham Young on the Spirit of the Lord:
In the words of Brigham Young: “If a man is called … to manufacture the clothing that is necessary for the Saints, and he goes at that business with his eye single to the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth he is entitled to the Spirit of the Holy Gospel, and he will receive and enjoy it just as much as if he were preaching the Gospel. … [He will have] the spirit to know how to raise sheep, to procure the wool, to put machinery in operation to make the clothing for the advancement, benefit and building up of the people of God on the earth. And the Spirit of the Lord is here in these labors—farming, merchandizing and in all mechanical business just as much as it is in preaching the Gospel, if men will live for it” (in Journal of Discourses, 11:293–94).
I'm not sure if my experience is an example or a parable, but either way I can testify that the Spirit can, indeed, teach us anything. I've been asking myself how much other amazing help I've been missing out on by not asking for it more specifically. I said half-jokingly to Sam, "What else should I be praying for help with? How to make the bed? What ingredients to add to a recipe?—but I really do wonder. If God can show me a transformative view of a difficult piano piece, what other parts of my temporal, practical, everyday routine—or the things I usually think of as merely temporal—can He transform?

At the same time, I've been thinking about President Young's promise that if we "go at our business" with the "building up of the kingdom of God" in mind, we will have the Spirit guiding every aspect of our lives. It makes me want to find more creative ways to deliberately MAKE my "temporal labors" into spiritual ones. Is there some way my learning "Lilacs" COULD become important, and bless other people? Is there some way I could more specifically devote or dedicate my everyday labors to God? And if I did, would I receive even more help from the Spirit of God?

I don't know if there's someone out there who literally needs to hear my "Lilacs" or if that was a blessing just for me. But I now know better than ever that God can teach us anything—anything!—we need to know. How much more will He teach us if we ask for help in carrying out His work?

Other posts in this series:

Longest Day Campfire

We always like to do something outside to celebrate the Longest Day of the year (also known as my brother Philip's birthday, the best of birthdays!) but this year, circumstances conspired against us—by which I mean that certain parties argued and fought with certain other parties until an executive decision had to be made, dispensing early bedtimes all around. Goodness! That was sad. But, a few days later we had another free evening and a more cheerful household, so we headed up the canyon for a campfire! It seemed like high time. The last time we had a campfire, it was on our Eclipse Trip and baby Ziggy wasn't even born yet! 
It had been so hot the few days before this, and it was STILL hot even in the canyon, but there was a breeze and the sun was low, so it was pleasant to sit and watch the men make the fire. I'm so glad I never have to make the fires! I learned how at Girls' Camp, of course, but I would so much rather someone else do the chopping and the wood-laying and the fiddling with kindling and matches. Luckily, the boys always seem to love that part, so everyone's happy.
Triumphant sword-holding pose, with hot-dog-roasting stick

One day in Jerusalem

The owner of the company that invited Sam to Tel Aviv organized a day trip to Jerusalem for the group, which consisted of Sam and Abe and the other presenter, as well as his wife and mom who had accompanied him. They were really excited about getting to see a place that they had heard of and imagined all their lives!

Before they left, they talked to a few people who had been there before, and got all kinds of recommendations about what to see and do in Jerusalem, but they weren't sure they would even be able to get there from Tel Aviv at all! So it was awesome that their hosts had it all planned out. But there were a few disappointments about it, too. Since they were with a group, they couldn't simply worry about their own interests, or be on their own timetable. And they didn't get to see a lot of the specific places that would have been meaningful to them, like the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden or the BYU Jerusalem Center or the Garden Tomb. Sam said it was also a little difficult to be with a guide who was obviously not religious, among a group of people that were also not extremely religious. Although they got to see some wonderful sites, Sam said it was hard to capture a feeling of sacredness or awe at those sites when the others seemed to feel mostly idle curiosity. 

However, with all that said, they LOVED being in Jerusalem and experiencing the Old City, seeing the many types of people, and experiencing the very different atmosphere and character of this complicated, ancient place.
Sam and Abraham both said that one of the most amazing things they did was standing on top of the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem with the old city wall, the gleaming gold Dome of the Rock, and the olive orchards spreading out beneath them. They said it felt surreal to be standing in the same spot where Jesus stood when he lamented over Jerusalem and the wayward House of Israel. The city looks so beautiful laid out against those hills and Mediterranean skies!
One of those churches down at the bottom of the hill is thought to be on the site of the actual Garden of Gethsemane. I love that there is still an olive orchard (garden? grove? what do you call them?) around it. But I wish everyone hadn't come and built churches over everything! It seems so disappointing that you go to visit Golgotha and instead of a hill like you imagine, it's just a church with rocks in it! Oh, I know, I know. If they hadn't built churches then maybe the sites themselves would have been ruined or forgotten by now. But it still seems sad (and especially when the different churches argue about the different sites and the relics and traditions anyway!).
Those rectangles clustered at the bottom of the picture are gravestones in a Jewish cemetery. They remind me a lot of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin!
There are some parts of the city visitors can't go into now, for security or whatever other reasons. But they did get to go down to the Western Wall, which is all that's left of Herod's temple (the Dome of the Rock is built on the spot that temple used to stand). I've seen so many pictures of this place! And now I've…seen more pictures of it. But Sam and Abe have really been there! So cool.

Half-hearted obedience

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1980 Conference
Have you ever had thoughts that sound like these of mine?:

"I really don't feel like going to the ward activity. I would so much rather stay home. But I know we should go. So we'll go."
"I wish I didn't have to substitute-teach the 12-year-olds on Sunday. But I said I would. So I will."
"I wish we hadn't signed up to clean the church today. We have so many other things to do! But I guess we might as well go get it over with."

In my life, I'm usually seeing these moments as relative successes—because I did the right thing in the end! I didn't just slip away like I wanted to. Sure, I know it would have been better to do those good things happily, but I feel some satisfaction for at least doing them reluctantly!

But here's what Elder Mark E. Peterson said in his conference talk:
There is no reward for half-hearted obedience. We must become vigorous and enthusiastic about living our religion, for God commands that we serve him with all our heart, with all our might, with all our strength, and with the very best of our intelligence.
With him there can be no halfway measures. We must be fully for him or we may be classed with those who are against him.
Got that? No reward—for half-hearted—obedience!

I keep wondering about this. Is the "reluctant, but doing it anyway" obedience I described above—is that what Elder Peterson means by "half-hearted obedience?" And is that sort of obedience really worthless? If it is, how does one avoid thinking "what's the point of even trying to be good, then?!"—and giving up entirely? (This would happen sometimes in my youth group when I was young. We would joke about it. "If you don't LOVE to go to the service project, there's no point in going, since you won't be blessed for it anyway!")

I don't know, but I have a couple of ideas. One way I think of it is to divide desires into levels: our current and immediate desires, and our deep and underlying desires. The former, for me, are often selfish and misguided. But my deeper desires are (usually!) to serve God and follow His will. Even when I am struggling against an immediate selfishness or laziness, that deeper part of me wants to be better and is determined to keep trying.

This explanation (from a discussion on honesty) says it well:
The failure to repent means embracing the sin, embracing the lie. Repentance is what explains why not all sin is hypocrisy. The person who is trying to repent is making their whole life, including their sins, comport with their faith. The individual who is “faking it until they make it” is orienting their actions towards the gospel, even if they are not exemplars yet.
I also think "half-hearted obedience" might mean something like "temporary" or "limited" obedience. In other words, obedience that has an end point. Obeying only until you get rewarded, or only after you understand fully why you're doing it. Those don't seem like the sort of obedience God wants. But simply "obeying, but not with much enthusiasm" seems like a different category—not an ideal place to be, certainly, but surely it is at least a point along the path to happy obedience?

It might seem like I'm protesting too much and trying to find a way that I'm NOT in the wrong when I'm less-than-enthusiastic, and I don't mean to do that. I'm just thinking about a discussion we had in Relief Society when one of the sisters was talking about how hard it was for her to keep the Sabbath Day holy as a single mother. How sometimes she dreaded even coming to church. And many people told her (and I agreed)—"Well, but you're here, aren't you? That means something! That matters!"

If she believed there was "no reward for half-hearted obedience," might she decide not to come to church at all?

Or someone I was talking to who said she doesn't like to go to the temple too often because then it "stops feeling special." She seemed to think that only the transcendent, exciting temple trips were worthwhile, and the routine or "half-hearted" ones weren't. But for me, often, my tired, imperfect and yes—even half-hearted—temple trips ARE meaningful, and I DO gain benefit from them, whether in revelation that comes later, or just in the peace and satisfaction that comes from knowing I served someone else.

Surely the person whose temple work I'm doing can benefit from even my imperfect obedience?

Well, whatever Elder Peterson meant, I do think there is wisdom in his underlying message, which is that we need to aim for enthusiastic obedience! And I think we can progress toward it. I love this quote by President Monson:
Courage is required to make an initial thrust toward one’s coveted goal, but even greater courage is called for when one stumbles and must make a second effort to achieve.…Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
Obedience (even grudging obedience, I would say) is one of the best and most sure ways to gain the presence of the Holy Ghost. So if we can even start to obey—if we can take one step into obedience—then the Holy Ghost can get to work on us, changing our hearts. And then we can keep making those second and third and fourth efforts President Monson is talking about, resolving to "try again tomorrow" for the better, enthusiastic, wholehearted obedience which is what God truly expects of us in the end.

Other posts in this series:

Two men in Tel Aviv

Sam got invited to do a workshop in Tel Aviv, Israel, and though I really wanted to join him, we both knew that taking a fifteen- or twenty-hour flight with a nine-month old was the very worst kind of madness. So we decided Abe could go with Sam instead. Everyone who heard about it said, "What an amazing opportunity for a 15-year-old!" And they were right! It was amazing. Abe was so excited.

I decided I'd write a couple posts about the trip (even though was not I technically...present) because if I don't, who will? And someone ought to. Sam and Abe did write to me every day, and they told me about all their pictures afterward, so I feel like I know something about it! I edited Sam's pictures to look way better, too. How lucky he is to have me! Ha ha.
While Sam was giving his workshop, Abe amused himself by doing his Rubik's Cube, helping carry things, playing games on Sam's iPad, reading, and going running in the 90-degree heat (why? why?). But that was only for two days, and they had eight days total in Israel, so that gave them some free time to see the sights!
Tel Aviv is right on the Mediterranean Sea, and it's a big modern city in a lot of ways. This picture was taken from Jaffa, looking back at Tel Aviv. I have always liked looking at the pictures of Jaffa (which used to be Joppa) in the back of the LDS Bible. Jonah went there before going to Tarshish. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead there. So interesting!

The constant calling back

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the April 1980 Conference
At church on Sunday, Sam and I were in the teacher council class with Baby Ezekiel, and we put him down on the floor in the middle of our circle of chairs. Ziggy is just starting to crawl, arm-over-arm, and he was quite delighted to have this big open space to do it in, so he enthusiastically set off, hiccuping loudly, and all the people in the class smiled down at him as he made the rounds of the circle. He would crawl to one person and try to bite his scriptures, and then crawl to someone else and grab her shoes, and then crawl to someone else and smile up into her face, and so on. Every once in awhile Zig would get a little upset, so someone would pick him up and coo at him for awhile, and then they'd set him down and off he'd go! It was so cute, and it made me a little teary because I felt like everyone else in the room was watching and loving Ziggy right along with Sam and me. It felt like a true ward family—so many people we love and who love us too! Zig seemed so safe in that circle--venturing out and exploring, but watched over and bordered by so many friends who loved him.

I thought about that loving border of friends when I read this quote from Elder Marion G. Romney's talk on the Book of Mormon:
We must not permit our minds to become surfeited with the interests, things, and practices of the world about us. To do so is tantamount to adopting and going along with them... 
If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world, we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds with and call them back to the things of the Spirit. I know of no better way to do this than by daily reading the Book of Mormon.
I know all about that sort of consistent "calling back" because I feel like it's such a constant need with children! During school, I am always having to redirect them back to what they should be doing! Or having to remind them five hundred times a day to speak kindly to each other! And with Ziggy, it's the same sort of thing—constantly getting him out from under chairs he can't fit under, or steering him away from the stairs, or pulling him back from the edge of the bed.

And I feel it with myself, too. I don't want to be "surfeited with the interests, things, and practices of the world," but I do get that way anyway! I have so many resolves in my prayers every morning, but then I find myself immediately forgetting what I mean to do! It takes a constant "calling back" to focus my mind on spiritual goals or spiritual promptings. And sometimes I'm not sure how to do that calling back on my own! I like President Romney's reminder that the Book of Mormon can serve that purpose for us, if we will read it daily. It can gently nudge us back into the circle of Heavenly Father's love, when, left to ourselves, we might persist in heading out of it!

I've never really liked the saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" (not that I don't agree with the sentiment, but it's what some people MEAN about the role of government, etc., when they quote that statement that annoys me)—but as I watched Ziggy happily crawl from person to person in our circle at church, I couldn't help but imagine that same kind of circle of people around me in my life. Maybe some of them are spirits who have passed on, like my Dad or other relatives. Some of them are friends and leaders that care about me, and even prophets and apostles I've never met. Some of them are my family members here on earth. But as I bungle around trying to figure out how to get where I want to go, I feel their influence steering me gently but steadily back to the fundamental truths I know I should focus on. I feel their love urging me to stay firmly in the holy places they have taught me to look for.

And I like to add the prophets in the Book of Mormon to that mental image, because they truly have been among those calling me back to things of the spirit. King Benjamin with his piercing questions. Alma the Younger, boldly telling and re-telling his experience being reborn of God. Mormon's constant interjecting voice, reminding me that in a centuries-long quest to teach the truths of God, the stakes were real and powerful for an entire civilization. And of course the voice of Jesus Christ that is woven in and through the words on every page.

I don't always feel like I have the personal encounter with Christ that I am wishing for as I read the Book of Mormon. But I know as I keep engaging with it daily, I will have that "constant calling back to things of the spirit," allowing me to move closer and closer to Him all the time.


Other posts in this series:

Problems solved better and more quickly

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the April 1980 Conference
Just a couple random thoughts sparked by this week's conference:

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (or "Marv" as he said President Kimball called him, ha ha) told a cool story about visiting the prison with President Kimball. He told how kind and respectful the prophet was to the inmates, and the line that stuck out to me was this one:
Do you have the skill and capacity to be friendly to others when, in your limited vision, they may not seem to deserve it?
Well…do I? Hmm. Working on it. Sometimes it's easier with strangers than with erring children…

I also liked it when Elder Theodore Tuttle quoted some earlier apostles about family history:
[Elder Ballard said] “the spirit and influence of your dead will guide those who are interested in finding those records. If there is anywhere on the earth anything concerning them, you will find it.” And Elder Widtsoe said, “I have the feeling … that those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.”
Help in all the affairs of life! I want that. And since we're talking about the blessings of temple work, I'll include the quote I read in this week's Sunday School lesson (also from Elder Widtsoe):
“I believe that the busy person … who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will [do] the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and … a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly.”

Other posts in this series: 

Dreamies

The girls (and Teddy, but he had already gone inside, I think) like to sleep in the playhouse sometimes now that it's summer. (It's not a whole playhouse really. It's our shed, but one end of it is a playhouse. It's tiny and it has nothing in it but some carpet scraps, and they all have to bundle themselves in there like a row of little hot dogs to lie down, but it looks like a tiny version of our house, so we love it.)

Here they are inside one night:
So snug!

Anyway, this was a morning where the girls were wearing new nightgowns and putting on some sort of little production for me. And the air was warm and the birds were singing and it was all quite lovely.

Always accessible to those who seek Him

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 1980 Conference
In this session, Elder F. Enzio Busche gave a talk called "Do We All Believe in the Same God?" It did NOT go where I was expecting it to. I expected the answer to be a gentle, "Yes! We have more things in common than we realize! And when we have disagreements, let's just remember that we all believe in the same God!"

But…no:
The half-truths of men, often mingled with scripture, are sometimes strong enough to fulfill the expectations of the people for a season or for a generation, but they can neither bring them along the path of exaltation and eternal life nor bring satisfying answers to the demanding problems of mankind in these days.… 
The men of the world feel secure with the question “Don’t we all believe in the same God?” The answer to the question is “No.” The deceiver has initiated all kinds of philosophies and religions to lead people astray, to make them feel happy and safe in their man-made rationalizing and wickedness.
Well! Perhaps Elder Busche didn't know that I have a terrible fear of this already—a fear that somehow the picture I've constructed for myself of who God is, will turn out to be…completely wrong! Of course we can learn of Jesus from the scriptures, but there are so MANY scriptures that show different sides of Him, and I'm sure I sometimes choose to especially notice the ones that seem more in line with who I already think He is! So I do sometimes wonder, when pondering God's character, if I've got even a somewhat accurate conception of Him!

But Elder Busche explains:
When we really follow Christ in his true restored church, it will be manifested in our lives. The fruit will follow. The Holy Ghost will lead us to make uncomfortable decisions, to develop true love and faith by learning to sacrifice and to discipline ourselves. Our abilities will grow and will bring satisfaction and joy and happiness. Through the instrument of an ongoing communication with our Heavenly Father—a constant prayer in our hearts for direction in the many little decisions in our lives—we feel the softness of the yoke of Christ…We will be led to live our lives his way and not the world’s way.
So it sounds like (and of course I wrote about this last week too!) that if we want to know who God is, that knowledge comes as we have "ongoing communication" with Heavenly Father, trying to follow the Spirit and become like Christ. Okay. That reassures me a little. Even if I don't know perfectly what Jesus Christ is like, I won't be allowed to get TOO far off in my thinking, if I am trying to follow His commandments. Which I am.

And then I thought this talk by Elder Marion D. Hanks had some additional insight:
Each of us will enjoy all of God’s blessings that we are willing to receive.
But how do we manifest that willingness? …
We know and choose him and enjoy his blessings through serving him, through qualifying for his friendship, and by keeping him always in our hearts and minds. In our afflictions and gropings and forebodings we turn to him for comfort and support. He is always accessible to those who seek him.
Or maybe that is the same insight, restated. We come to know God by "turning to him for comfort and support"—particularly in (and I love this part) "our afflictions and gropings and forebodings"! I may not always know how to harmonize the varying scriptural glimpses of Christ. But groping toward Him hopefully? I can certainly do that! Seeking Him and His comfort? Thinking about Him often? Yes! All of that. I do it without even meaning to! When I am most afraid or confused, my spirit just cries out for someone to help me, comfort me, and explain things to me! It cries out for a closeness with God. So I am glad that this is a way for me to "know Him and choose Him."

And I do know, also, who God has been TO ME. I think (hope) that that's a little different than the "man-made rationalizing" Elder Busche was talking about, where we decide God is merely what seems rational to us. It makes me cringe when I hear people say things like, "A loving God would never…[whatever]," or, "The God I worship isn't ever [whatever]." I always think, "Who are YOU to think your mortal mind can encapsulate or prescribe all that God should be? If we could intuitively know exactly how a loving God should run things, what would we even need Him for?" But, that said, my own experiences with God have left me with at least SOME idea of how He speaks. What His presence feels like. Glimpses of what He likes…about ME! I know He speaks differently to different people, so it's not a FULL picture of Him, but it's still…something. And it's a something that is getting more vivid and more real to me as time goes on.

And it reassures me that God WANTS us to know Him. He has commanded us to try! So when we are seeking and reaching for Him—I think He will let Himself be known.

Other posts in this series:

Recognition nights, Bulk foods, Sweeter music


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