To accept them on Satan's terms

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Morning Session of the October 1976 Conference.
I can't stop thinking about this line from Howard W. Hunter's talk, "The Temptations of Christ":
The surest way to lose the blessings of time or eternity is to accept them on Satan’s terms.
It reminded me of this post about Satan's lies in the garden of Eden, and how God made truth out of them for the good of Adam and Eve.

It also reminded me of part of The Perilous Gard (great book—tells the Tam Lin story). At the end of the story, the faerie folk want their revenge on the brave girl who resisted their tricks and rescued her True Love from their kingdom under the earth. And the girl, though she has triumphed, is self-critical and unsure of herself. She thinks her True Love cannot possibly love her back. The faerie queen uses this uncertainty. She tells the girl she will give her a love potion. "If you will get him to drink this, he will begin to love you. Surely you will have time, before it fades, to make him yours forever." The girl knows the faerie queen cannot lie.

The trick is that the potion is simple berry juice. There is no spell. The man already loves the girl. Everyone can see this but the girl herself. And the revenge is that, once the girl believes in the spell, the free and real love of the man will appear a paltry and compelled thing; worthless. And thus the girl will create her own misery from nothing.

The surest way to lose the love of God is to tell ourselves we either don't need it or we don't deserve it. Not because the absolute existence of that love changes at all whether we believe in it or not. But it changes TO US. The very choice to disbelieve in that love blocks our ability to feel it properly.

The surest way to lose the blessings of eternity is to decide they aren't actually blessings at all.

Satan always lies, but he can't really change anything. It's our acceptance of his lies, our taking of them as our own truth, that is the true poison.

Other posts in this series:

Zion, when we have built it

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session from the April 1976 Conference.
Many of us, in this General Conference Odyssey group, have talked about the sort of hybrid quality of Mormonism: the combination of idealism and practicality, spirit and body, that seems to be a hallmark of our religion. (In fact, I keep intending to talk about this more at some point, if I ever get my thoughts together.) The Welfare Sessions of Conference, especially, that I've read so far have these hybrid qualities in spades! The most high-minded doctrines, of premortal councils and agency and consecration, are spoken of practically in the same breath as the advice to "watch advertised specials in the grocery stores and pick up extra supplies of those items that are of exceptional value" while building up food storage. It might seem strange to a professional theologian, but it's utterly familiar to us.

So it was with a sense of familiarity and fondness, though the quote itself was new to me, that I read from President Marion G. Romney's talk these words that were spoken by President Brigham Young:
We will have to go to work and get the gold out of the mountains to lay down, if we ever walk in streets paved with gold. The angels that now walk in their golden streets … had to obtain that gold and put it there. When we have streets paved with gold, we will have placed it there ourselves. When we enjoy a Zion in its beauty and glory [which we’re looking forward to], it will be when we have built it.
Now if that doesn't sound like Brother Brigham talking to the Mormons, I don't know what does! And it reminded me of a principle I've apparently discovered before. Let me…ahem…quote myself (eight years ago!):
…even when we ARE making the right choice, the choice God wants us to make, we're still not "guaranteed" anything unless we work at it "with all our might." That's what makes the possibilities turn into realities. So maybe, if there's some vision we once thought we glimpsed, but it isn't becoming reality like we hoped it would, maybe the vision wasn't wrong or untrue—maybe we just still have more work to do on making it real. 
Which is really not that revolutionary of a concept, I guess. But I can see it at work in my own life. When I was making the decision to marry Sam, for example, I tried hard to follow all the counsel I'd heard in Marriage Prep. classes and so forth: make sure you choose someone that is your best friend, but don't get caught up too much in emotion; follow your heart, but also make sure you follow the spirit; there is no "one and only," but "just anyone" won't do either; don't expect a bolt of lightning, but expect that God will answer because it's so important—etc. It's already hard to recognize true revelation, I think, and in such a decision you feel so much worry about getting it RIGHT—at least this one thing, I must get right!
So, I tried to go about it correctly. I figured out what I wanted to do, and I prayed about it and tried to listen objectively, and I wanted so badly just to KNOW the future. And I didn't get a vision, exactly—but I got something which is hard to describe, but which I'm sure is not an uncommon feeling. Kind of an "envisioning," like I said before. In some ways maybe it was merely a hope or a daydream: "Won't it be such fun—think of how cute our little home together would be—what an adventure, our kids will be so adorable" etc. But then it was more than that: it was kind of a spiritual conviction that these things could be, and a glimpse of how they might be, and an overall feeling of: YES—if you choose this—it could be something wonderful, astonishing, miraculous.
Anyway, that was enough for me at the time, and now, already, those good things I "envisioned" have been realized in many areas. But not the way I might have thought; not in a gentle, passive way like I was a spectator watching a movie of my future gradually unfold and become my reality. More like this: that reality has come as I have wrestled with it, as I have done things I didn't want to do or didn't know how to do, or as I have made mistakes and then tried to repent of them. 
Just like the Lord didn't consecrate that spot of ground for the temple [see Doctrine and Covenants 124:44-45] until the saints had "labored on it with all their mights." And when they'd built up that monument to the Lord, using their hearts and wills and possessions and time, then he was able to show it back to them and say: "See? Just as I promised you—just as you envisioned it—but now, through your labor, even holier."
Later in his talk, President Romney quoted another early prophet, President Joseph F. Smith, who said:
To be Latter-day Saints men and women must be thinkers and workers. They must be men and women who weigh matters in their minds; men and women who consider carefully their course of life and the principles that they have espoused.
I love this summing-up of the "duality" of our religion (which, of course, we don't think is a duality at all, but merely parts that make up a truer whole): we are thinkers, yes. We "consider carefully" the doctrines of God and we stretch to understand more of them. We even humbly consider and re-consider things we already "have espoused" and think we're getting right! But, simultaneously—and it must be simultaneously, because to wait for full understanding would paralyze us for a lifetime—we WORK. We set about building the things we can build, though we do it incompletely and often without a full comprehension of how or why to do it at all. We begin the work of building families far, far before we are very good at building families. We get baptized and join the work of building God's kingdom when we are new, so new, to faith. And this is how God seems to want it. He wants us to think and work and work and think—getting better at both things as we go along—taking time for our Sabbaths, to rest and ponder—but never truly stopping our work, either.

This is consecration, on both ends. All that we have and are; all that we are not yet and do not yet have. Our time and our talents. Our thoughts and our deeds. Our rest and our work. All to one end: a people who build, and are built, like God.

Other posts in this series:

Alphabet Catch-up

For the sake of my poor sieve-like memory, and since I haven't updated this for a year, I feel duty-bound to give an Alphabet Weekend update. I wish to reiterate that there is NOT anything particularly clever about any of these ideas (frequently we were just choosing the easiest option at the last minute) but the kids DO love it so! We take weeks off at a time when we need to. It's the lowest-pressure situation possible while still making an attempt at Planned Family Togetherness! But we did at last finish the alphabet (it took us just about a year, which gives you an idea of how many weekends off there were).

J was for Juice (picnic with apple juice from the Red Barn in Santaquin)

K was for Korean food. The restaurant we went to must not have been that memorable, since I don't know what it was and we haven't been back.


The key to a unified church is a unified soul

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Tuesday Afternoon Session from the April 1976 Conference.
I've been on the lookout for more insight about unity for…well…YEARS now. It's something I've thought about and struggled to understand for a long time, and here's why: it just seems too hard. Ha! It's not that I want everyone to be the same. There are some differences I really do appreciate and enjoy. But there just always seem to be so many fundamental, lonely, isolating unlikenesses that crop up, in ANY given group, really. Even in families and marriages. Even in churches and among groups that are trying, really trying, to love each other! And I can even embrace the ideas of tolerance and mutual respect and "disagreeing without being disagreeable"—great ways to get along, all of them—but none of those are truly UNITY…are they? None of those necessarily include the type of deep, soul-satisfying understanding and agreement you feel when you completely agree with someone on not just what to do, but how and why to do it.

I do have a couple things I keep coming back to. Number one, I've considered the idea that complete unity won't be possible until we're all a lot closer to perfect. That seems plausible, in which case maybe all we're trying to do here in mortality IS just to get along the best we can and try to love each other in spite of our inevitable dis-unities.

I've also considered the idea that my mortal mind just can't handle the contradiction of unity and uniqueness co-existing, but that on some spiritual/eternal level, it IS possible. I do believe that when we are "one heart and one mind" in some eventual heaven, we will still have things that make us ourselves. Gifts or talents or ideas or whatever. I know God doesn't want us all to be boring clones of each other. But HOW that will work…I'm not sure.

So, you can consider this quote from Elder Howard W. Hunter's talk one more piece in the ongoing Unity puzzle. I thought it was interesting how casually he stated it—saying "of course" this is the key…like it's obvious. Because this is not really something I'd thought of this way before:
Of course, the key to a unified church is a unified soul—one that is at peace with itself and not given to inner conflicts and tensions. So much in our world is calculated to destroy that personal peace through sins and temptations of a thousand kinds. We pray that the lives of the Saints will be lived in harmony with the ideal set before us by Jesus of Nazareth.
This surprised me. I would have thought that plenty of people have absolutely NO "inner conflicts and tensions"…which condition makes them SO confident in their own worldview, SO "at peace with themselves" and so sure they are right, that they CAN'T find unity with anyone else. But obviously, Elder Hunter has thought a lot about unity too (as I recall, it was one of his recurring themes as prophet) and this apparently casual statement has a lot of depth behind it.

One thing it suggests to me is that some of our disunity comes from internal conflict, even if we don't know it. That kind of goes along with my point #1 above, and it also reminds me of the concept of self-deception (which is a whole huge thing; this book by my former bishop talks about it and I still don't understand it fully, but it's powerful. Here's an overview of the idea, though)—where whenever we go against what our spirits know to be right, we find ourselves trying to blame others to hide our own internal flaws. If Elder Hunter says this too, I'm willing to believe that much of what I find myself really resisting and hating in other people has roots in things I need to change about myself—and as I make those changes, some of the rough edges I'm encountering in my interactions with others will likely disappear.

So when Elder Hunter says the potential for unity comes from a soul "at peace with itself," he doesn't mean that the soul is smugly complacent. I think he means that the soul is at rest, at peace, because it has voluntarily submitted to God's will. The owner of that soul knows where true happiness lies, in other words, and so is not constantly shifting and worrying, trying to justify himself and his sins. That leaves energy for putting others above self, and brings a sort of assurance that is very UNlike pride.

Another thing I see in this quote is the reminder that growing closer to Christ really does solve every problem. This is something I should have (and probably have) thought about anytime I think about unity. Even if I don't see HOW, I know that when I feel, and then in turn show, Christlike love, I will be one step closer to a true unity with the rest of His followers.

Here's one more unity-related thought I had, sparked by this quote from a different talk:
Each age has satisfaction which can be known only by experience. You must be born again and again in order to know the full course of human happiness.
It occurred to me that part of what makes me feel alone and dis-unified sometimes, is that I've just had different experiences than other people! Either I can't understand them, or I feel they can't understand me. But as I get older, I realize my experiences AREN'T as unique as I once thought. And I DO start to understand things that used to baffle me about others, because I've tasted some of those things myself. So…maybe part of being unified is just living a long time and having a lot of experiences to compare between. After eternities…maybe I will have seen and done so many things that I will have practically lived whole other lives. I will understand other people because I've BEEN "other people." Of course, again, Jesus Christ is the best example of that perfect empathy. But maybe as I'm "born again and again" I will start to becoming attuned to it as well.

Other posts in this series:

Catching up: Spring

This was a snowy day in May. It was pretty and sparkly in the morning, and then melted by afternoon. This does seem to happen every year.
Daisy and Ky with the posters they made for their choir concert. I love both of their pictures so much.
At that same concert. Teddy was very attentive, waiting anxiously for the right time to start clapping.

There will seem to be sacrifice

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Tuesday Morning Session from the April 1976 Conference.
Sometimes I wonder about the whole concept of "sacrifice." If I recall what I learned in Seminary correctly, it means giving up something you want, for something you want MORE. So, if you do something you don't really want to do—if you sacrifice—for God, then it shows your love for him. 

But then, when our overarching goal IS to please God, we come to WANT to do things for him. So then sometimes people say things like, "It isn't even a sacrifice. It's a pleasure to give my time to the Lord." Or, "It's not really a sacrifice to pay tithing, because the blessings I get back are so great." And that seems, in some ways, even better than saying "this was hard to give up but I did it anyway."

So, obviously it is a good thing to sacrifice for God (even imperfectly), but as we progress, I wonder: should the whole idea of sacrifice eventually give way to "it's not a sacrifice, because I want to do this and I'm happy to do it for God"? But if we don't FEEL a pang of difficulty, giving something up for God, then how will we even know we are giving up enough, or giving up something valuable enough, to demonstrate our true commitment? Is the best thing always to "give till it hurts"? I don't know. Maybe there isn't ever a person that truly feels NO pang of sacrifice. Maybe things like losing loved ones to death are always a sacrifice even when we are fully trying to submit our wills to God's.

Hmm. Well, it doesn't exactly answer that question, but my favorite quote this week came from Elder Joseph Anderson's talk called "The Matter of Personal Testimony." He quotes President David O. McKay who said:
"A testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most sacred, the most precious gift in our lives, obtained only by adherence to the principles of the gospel, not by following the paths of the world.
…Sometimes there are obstacles; there is persecution; there is self-denial; there will be tears because you are coming constantly in contact with these enticements, with these worldly ideals, and you have to overcome them; and, for the moment, there will seem to be sacrifice, but it is only temporary. The Lord never forsakes those who seek him. It may not come just the way you think, but it will come. The Lord will certainly fulfill his promise to you.”
I guess it resolves the question without really addressing it. President McKay basically says, "some things SEEM like sacrifices. But the eventual rewards will demonstrate how worth it they are." So maybe it is more TRUE, in an eternal sense, to say "Nothing is truly a sacrifice, because you're always getting the best end of the deal—gifts from the Savior worth more than your 'sacrifice' could ever add up to." And when we can manage to see things that way—good. I assume that perspective, because of its gratitude and optimism, brings blessings.

But at the same time, since we are all imperfect, we must all deny ourselves some things we think we want, and those—to us—seem to be sacrifices. So we all understand the concept of sacrifice too. And if we are in that state of feeling like we don't want to give something up, but we are willing to give it up, then that brings blessings too. "The Lord never forsakes those who seek Him"—whether we are seeking Him because that's a thing we want MORE than all the other things we also want—or because that has come to be the ONLY thing we want—either way, "the Lord will certainly fulfill his promises" to us.

Other posts in this series:
Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top