Tuesday, November 27, 2007

He's Got Us Covered

I like metaphors. Turn me loose on scriptural symbolism, and I'm in heaven. I get along really well with Isaiah and Revelation, because they're like beautiful, meaningful puzzles to me, and I get excited when I get a chance to unravel them. The Lord is a master of beautiful symbolism--it must come with being omniscient. =)
For instance, here's one I love:

Imagery throughout the scriptures indicates that when we partake of the Atonement, we are "washed in the blood of the Lamb" (Ether 13:11). It seems like a silly thing, really. Who ever heard of washing yourself in blood?

The Lord also constantly refers to His children as His "sheep." Considering what stupid animals sheep are, I'm not sure that that's a compliment. But in this case it's instructive.

In times past, before the massive sheep ranches and modern medicine we have today, lambing season used to be awfully hard on a flock. Ewes would have trouble giving birth, and there would be lots of dead ewes and dead lambs. Unfortunately, the mothers and the babies didn't match up.* Simple, right? Just pair the orphaned lambs with the childless ewes, right? Nope. The mothers could tell their babies apart by their smell, and weren't about to suckle a lamb that wasn't theirs.

But the shepherds got smart. They learned that if they would skin the dead lamb, and drape the skin, with the lamb's blood on it, over the living lamb, the ewe would smell her baby's scent on the wool and would accept the orphaned lamb as her own.
When we think of being washed in the blood of the Lamb, we would do well to remember this practice. The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar, which means "to cover."** As we partake of the Atonement, our sins are "covered," or washed away, by the blood of the Lamb of God, who gave Himself a ransom so that we could be "the children of God" (Galatians 3:26).

My tendency to love symbolism gets me into trouble sometimes. The Lord isn't always being witty or poetic when He says things. Sometimes He really means what He says. For instance, when He promises that if we always remember Him, we can always have His Spirit to be with us (3 Ne 18:7,11), maybe that isn't hyperbole--maybe He really means it! When He commands, "Look unto me in every thought," (Doc. & Cov. 6:36) or "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things," (Doc. & Cov. 59:7) maybe He wasn't exaggerating!

The Lord gives some amazing promises, and many of them involve absolutes--"all," "always," "every," etc. I've started looking for them as I read the scriptures, and pondering if the Lord just might mean what He says. Here's one promise I know He meant:

"And by giving heed and doing these things which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive—and the kingdom is given you of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him" (Doc. & Cov. 50:35, emphasis added).

What a beautiful promise! Through our obedience and the grace of God, we can overcome all things, because Christ already has. "Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me"*** (Doc & Cov. 50:41). What a great gift it is to have God's grace, His love, and the power to overcome all things that comes from the Atonement--the marvelous covering--of His Son.

*I learned this from Donna Nielsen. I highly recommend her book, "Beloved Bridegroom."
** I learned this from Sherrie Johnson. I highly recommend her book, "Man, Woman, and Deity."
*** I learned this from God. I highly recommend a book that testifies of Him and His Son, "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ."


I don't have time to write anything profound right now, since I did no homework over the break and it's really starting to show. But I wanted to share why I don't have a MySpace account.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Holy of the Lord

I love the Sabbath. With all the craziness that is my life, it's a joy and a blessing to have a day set aside to rest, to stop doing homework, to not have to run errands, to be able to go to church and spend peaceful time with friends and with the Lord.
Growing up, I always thought that we rested on the Sabbath day because God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh day. The explanation seemed a little silly to me, because I couldn't imagine an omnipotent God getting tired and needing to rest.
The Hebrew word that the Bible uses for Sabbath rest is "
sabat," a derivative of the Hebrew word for Sabbath. Sabat means rest, but not in the sense of "to take a break" or "to take time off." Instead, sabat means "To come to an end, to put an end, to stop, to cause to cease" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). So instead of "God took a vacation after working hard for six days," the Bible more nearly means "God was done creating the world, so He ceased."
Why, then, do we rest on the Sabbath day?
I looked at the story again today. Abinadi gives a reason for our rest on the Sabbath: "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Mosiah 13:19, emphasis added). "Wherefore" is an interesting word--it means "for that cause or reason." So the preceding verse could easily be read: "Because the Lord made everything in six days, He blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it" (that is, set it aside for a holy purpose). That's an odd construction. Why would God's making everything be a reason to consecrate the day after He finished doing it?

Maybe it's because God knew that we would get so busy seeking the riches of this earth that we would forget about its beauty and about Him who created it.
Because He had created the earth, He wanted to give us a chance to spend time with Him. When He expelled Adam and Eve from Eden, he told them that life wouldn't be easy, that they'd have to work for their food, that they would eat their food "in the sweat of thy face" (Genesis 3:19). The Sabbath is the exception to that commandment. On the Sabbath, we're commanded to "rest from [our] labors, and to pay [our] devotions unto the Most High" (D&C 59:10). I could sure use a chance to rest, to cease doing my own work and take time to do the Lord's work, to commune with Him who "made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is." Isaiah promised that when we can honor the Sabbath such that we "call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD," He will bless us and "will cause [us] to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed [us] with the heritage of Jacob"(Isaiah 58:13-14).

Shabbat Shalom! May you have a peaceful Sabbath, and enjoy the renewal of this beautiful day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I've a Mother There

My grandmother passed away a year ago today. She is a beautiful woman who loves her husband, her children, and her God. I wish to pay tribute to her. Most of you who will read this have never known her. But you know me, and she is one of the women who has had the greatest impact on me. I hope you will indulge me as I share some memories of my grandma.

I remember going to play at Grandma’s house when I was a little girl. I remember being fascinated with her method of recycling paper. Grandma had this box that used to be a case of bananas, and she would put all the junk mail and waste paper in her office in this box. As a child it was wonderful to be able to paw through the “banana box.” I found scratch paper, sweepstakes offers, and even a letter from some department store regarding a boycott that Grandma had threatened because the store was selling profane materials. Even when the cardboard box was replaced by a blue plastic bin, I still called it the “banana box.” I think it was sometimes the first thing I went for when I got to Grandma’s house. It was my childhood treasure box.

I remember when Grandma and Grandpa bought the property where they now live. At first, it was “Grandma and Grandpa’s property.” Then we just called it “The Property.” It took a little adjusting when they started building a house there to call it “Grandma and Grandpa’s house.” I remember sledding down the hill at the property and having hot chocolate using hot water from the giant thermos at the bottom of the hill, and putting snow in the cocoa to cool it off.

I remember when Grandma would sing. Sometimes Grandpa would call on her to bear her testimony in church, and she would get up and bear testimony is the most beautiful way she knew how--through her music. I remember her beautiful clear soprano voice as she bore her simple testimony of her Redeemer:

I know that my Redeemer lives

What comfort this sweet sentence gives

He lives! He lives who once was dead!

He lives, my ever-living Head.

Sometimes at the end of a song her voice would go up in a flourish. I remember, as a child, thinking how beautiful her vibrato was, and wishing I could sing like she did. We miss her voice as we gather around the piano to sing hymns together as a family. Grandma taught us to sing, and to love each other--she gave us our choir. And she taught us of God--she gave us a reason to be a choir, to sing His praises. Our choir is now incomplete--we are missing our high soprano. But I know that she is singing with another choir, and I'm sure they appreciated the addition of her beautiful voice.

My grandma was a woman of very simple faith. She was the picture of grace and goodness. I miss her. I am sorry that she was taken from us so early.
But I bear witness, though less beautifully than she did, that my Savior lives. I know that through His Atonement I will see her again, that I will be resurrected, that through the sealing power given to Peter and restored in these last days, I will be united with her.
I love my Savior. I know He lives:

He lives, to silence all my fears

He lives, to wipe away my tears

He lives, and grants me daily breath

He lives, and I shall conquer death

Oh, sweet, the joy this sentence gives:

I know that my Redeemer lives!

(Samuel Medley, Hymns, 136)

Monday, November 19, 2007

My toilet runneth over

I am thankful for my home teachers. This morning our toilet started overflowing as I was getting ready for class. "Happy Thanksgiving, Amy!" I thought. After fretting a bit about what to do, since the office wouldn't be open until the afternoon, I thought, "Hey! We have home teachers!" And inside of ten minutes one of them was there, with a plunger, and our indoor plumbing was functioning again. A simple, thing, I know--more of a "knight in shining armor saving a damsel in distress" than anything. But this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for home teachers.
And indoor plumbing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Gardener is Naked!

The Fall of Adam has always been of great interest to me, so I hope you'll indulge me in another post about the story.
It seems obvious to me in reading the accounts of the Fall in both Moses and Genesis that significant elements of the story are missing. Now, I know that no story can be exhaustive, and that some details just aren't important, but it's what's missing in Genesis that really intrigues me. Go ahead, call me weird.

For instance, there's a clear pattern (a chiasm, almost) created when God appears on the scene after the fruit has been eaten. He asks each party to account for their actions, then assigns them a punishment (or consequence, if you prefer) as a result of their deeds:
A. God asks Adam, "Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" (Genesis 3:11)
A.1. Adam gives the reason he partook--the woman. (v. 12--and a topic for another post).
B. God asks Eve, "And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast
done?" (v. 13)
B.1. Eve gives her reason--she was beguiled by the serpent (v. 13)
C. God asks the serpent to explain himself C.1. The serpent explains himself
C. God punishes the serpent (v. 14-15)
B. God punishes Eve (v. 16)
A. God punishes Adam (v. 17-19)

Notice what's missing from the account? We never get to hear God ask the serpent why he lied to Eve, and we never get to hear the serpent's reply. Personally, I can't wait to find out.

Here's another interesting thing: A few verses earlier (v. 9-12), God appears and asks Adam three questions:
1. Where art thou? (or, in Moses's account, "Where goest thou?") (v. 9)
2. Who told thee that thou wast naked? (v. 11)
3. Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (v. 11)

Adam answers the first and last questions--
1. "And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." This gave rise to the second question.
3. In answer to the last question, Adam said, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." (v. 12)

Notice that he doesn't answer the second question: Who told you that you were naked? Since the answer has been lost, let's answer the question for ourselves. Who told Adam and Eve that they were naked? At the moment, there were four beings in the Garden--Adam, Eve, God, and the serpent/Satan. It wasn't any of the first three, so my money's on the serpent.
That has interesting implications, and shows us a bit of Satan's modus operandi.
Satan had just convinced them to do something that the Lord had forbidden them to do. Now, in true double-crossing fashion, he would have made them ashamed of what they had done. Instead of encouraging them to go out and meet their Lord, he would have hissed--"Run! Hide! You don't want God to see you naked!"
Either Satan has a limited bag of tricks, or perhaps he finds this one particularly effective. In either case, he keeps using it. Whenever we do something wrong, he tries to convince us to hide it from God, as if that were even possible. Instead of running to the Lord, who is merciful and mighty to save, he convinces us that our condition is so shameful that we need to hide from his presence.

In keeping with that theme, God's first question to Adam is interesting*: "Where goest thou?" It's like he was saying, "Look, Adam, where are you going to go? I'm omniscient and omnipotent. I know what you did, and where you're going to go. I know you're naked. Now exactly what did you think hiding from me was going to accomplish?"

I think it's the same way with us. I bet the Lord is up there saying, "Look, Amy, what did you think you were going to accomplish by not telling me what you're up to? Why are you giving me the silent treatment? Did you think I wouldn't notice?" And I've got to hang my head and say, "You're right, God, that was pretty silly of me. But I've got this serpent telling me to run and hide." And I can imagine God answering, "Look, Amy. Satan is a liar. Why on earth would you listen to him?"

*Thanks to Chris for the spark that led to this understanding.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No Irish Need Apply*

Welcome to Happy Valley, where the topic on everyone's mind is....that's right, marriage! It seems like you can't turn around anymore without some priesthood leader telling you that you ought to be dating like a banshee (however banshees date...) so you can find your E.C. (that's Eternal Companion) and getting married and have a dozen kids (which is the subject for another rant entirely). Some people make long lists of characteristics they're looking for in a mate, others buy the "love conquers all" routine. Some people seek out a significant other aggressively, others figure they'll deal with a relationship "if it happens." And always, always the question is asked: "What are you looking for in a spouse?"
I'm all for being unconventional, so I like to mix up the question a bit. I once asked my friend Brady what he thought I was looking for in a husband. I reproduce his comments here
(without permission from the copyright owner...but he doesn't have the time or the means to sue me, so it's probably okay):

"What do
you want? Well, this is what I think. I suppose tall, dark, and handsome would be nice (but not required), and skinny if I remember you correctly. You would prefer someone who is thoughtful, well read, intelligent (you are not noted for your patience), and someone who is not easily offended (you'll tease him mercilessly I imagine) with a good sense of humor (he'll tease you back sometimes but carefully). You will need someone more patient than you are and stronger too. The patience so that when you get upset, he can address your concerns without losing his temper (though he will have one). The strength so that when you are spent, you can lean on him for support. I think you need someone who is wise and gentle to balance some of your sharp edges, but he will be a passionate man as you are a passionate woman. Beside all of this he will be a man of faith in the Lord with a strong testimony, very much like yourself. His hobbies and interests are not nearly as relevant to the relationship, but the nature of social interaction is such that you will probably meet and fall in love with someone who will probably share a broad range of your interests. This will minimize fighting over what do to on your dates. He will be a little romantic; he will leave notes for you to find and flowers by your bedside. He will love your children but he will love you more, and he will use any means necessary to protect and defend his family. This man will never enjoy going to work as much as he does coming home. He will be attracted to you long after you think you are not attractive. He won't be afraid to say he is at fault or ask for your forgiveness (don't be miserly with the forgiveness).

P.S. He ought to think he is the luckiest guy in the world that he caught you before someone else could."

I think he did a pretty good job. So consider this a job posting. If you know anyone who fits the above criteria, I'm now accepting applications for Amy's Future Eternal Companion.

Edit: For those of you who can't hear my voice, please understand that my tone here is joking, except that I really do think Brady did a great job describing me. That's what this "list" (if it can even be called that) boils down to: a description of what's important to me. And if a girl can't give a description of what is legitimately important to her without being attacked for being an unreasonable twit, then I'm awfully sorry. Please vent your anger somewhere else.

* Irish are totally welcome to apply. I'm Irish myself, in fact. Maybe "No Creeps Need Apply."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Curvaceous Gray Matter

This is beautiful.
Now not only are curvy women more attractive to men, they're also more intelligent and more likely to have intelligent children. Now we have to beat ourselves up about our bodies and our brains jointly, rather than separately. Here's the best line:
"The researchers believe that the results offer a new explanation for why many men find curvy women more alluring."
What, was the old explanation not convincing enough? When we insist that a man who goes for a woman's body is really--though subconsciously--doing it to satisfy his evolutionary desire to have smarter children, we're adding an entirely unnecessary degree of complexity to his motives, and legitimizing his lechery. Especially when only eight percent of women have the "hourglass" figure that seems to be so coveted, do we really need a study telling the other 92% that they're somehow both less intelligent AND less attractive?

*No, I don't hate men and I'm not bitter. I just think this is awfully silly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Enter here, all ye who have abandoned hope!

Today I read part of King Benjamin's sermon again. It never ceases to amaze me how beautifully such an old man manages to sum up the gospel in such a short message. It must have been even more stunning to have been there in person.

After warning his people against giving heed to the natural man, he speaks of the Judgment Day, reminding them that:

"They shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil. And if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls. Therefore they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God" (Mosiah 3:24-26).

At first glance, it, and the verses that accompany it, seem to give a rather frightening account of the judgment of the wicked. But, upon further examination, they give us some insight as to the nature of judgment, Satan's temptations, and the purpose of the Atonement. Here's what I learned from Benjamin:

First, that we withdraw ourselves from God. Benjamin doesn't say that the Lord banishes us--he notes that we see our own abominations, and, condemned by our own memories, we shrink away from the Lord in guilt and shame. That's how it works on the earth, too--the Lord doesn't abandon us, we abandon Him. Isaiah, employing divine investiture a bit sarcastically (I think he and I would have gotten along), asks , "Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you?" In other words, "you're complaining that I've abandoned you. Why would I do such a thing?" He then answers, "Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away" (Isaiah 50:1, emphasis added). God isn't vengeful. He doesn't want to punish us--He isn't waiting for us to fail so he can yell, "gotcha!" When we sin, we "withdraw [our]selves from the Spirit of the Lord," (Mosiah 2:36) and the separation we feel from God is the natural consequence of our actions, not the outside imposition of a petulant child who insists he'll leave unless he gets his way. In the end, if we are damned, it will be because we damn ourselves, because we cannot stand to be in the presence of a being so wholly good as God with a perfect knowledge of our sins.

This brings me to the second thing I learned--the importance of proper perspective. Benjamin says that those who have been evil "are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations." Think of it--you're on a cruise ship for the rest of eternity, and your stateroom has a lovely view of the sewer exit pipe. All you can see from your porthole is your own waste fouling up the expanse of bright blue ocean. You close the blinds, but the smell is still there. And you lock yourself up in there, thinking that because your accommodations are so crummy, you're unworthy of associating with the other passengers on the boat. It never occurs to you to ask to have your room changed--you're too proud to admit that anything is wrong, and pretty soon you start insisting that you like it, that the smell in your stateroom is "refreshing" and "invigorating," and that you're having a lot of fun on this cruise. But despite your continued insistence, you're miserable, and you know it.

It seems to me that the only reason the wicked are stuck looking at their own guilt and abominations for the rest of eternity--a view which would indeed be more awful than the cruise ship sewer pipe--is because they refuse to repent, to ask the Captain for a change in accommodations. When we repent and turn over our transgressions to the Savior, His Atonement covers them, and we get a new chance at life--a new view of the world, as it were. We made some of the waste coming out of the sewer pipe, but our view of it changes as soon as we decide that isn't what we want for our life, and swallow our pride and ask the Lord to forgive us, to change our room to one closer to His. Until we do, we'll be stuck looking at our sins--and that's enough to make even the most righteous person among us perfectly miserable.

Or maybe what makes the torment so awful is the lens we're using to look at our sins. When we don't repent, we allow Satan to come in with a magnifying glass and a floodlight, pointing out scratches on the poorly engineered home-made telescope we're using to look at the stars. When we repent, we kick him out, acknowledge that we're imperfect, and strive to emulate the Creator of worlds without number. We're in the same place, but we're focusing on something different-- acknowledging our dependence on the Lord instead of beating ourselves up about our weaknesses. Looking at my weaknesses for eternity is a depressing thought, but contemplating the grandeur of God's creations is an exciting prospect. Even more exciting is the knowledge that when I have done all I can by repenting of my mistakes and striving to emulate the Savior, He will enable me to become like Him.

With that knowledge, why would I listen to Satan, who tries to tell me, "You'll never amount to anything--just look at what you've done! You're not good enough! Don't even bother." ? If I abandon hope of having my heart changed, of applying the Atonement in my life and being conformed to the image of Christ, then I am consigned to an awful view of everything I've done wrong, which King Benjamin says is the real torment of Hell.

With the perspective I have, I can see my sins as darkness that the Lord, in His infinite mercy, has put behind me, and I can walk away from my sins and toward the Lord, and so walk in His glorious light. When the devil tries to get me to turn around, away from the light, and fixate on my weaknesses, when he tells me that I'm worthless because of my mistakes, I can calmly reply, "And that, Satan, is why you are called a 'liar from the beginning.'" Or maybe, "Go to Hell, Satan--I'm headed in the other direction."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hell Hath No Fury (like a woman told she's a trashy gold-digging numbskull)

I don't typically call myself a feminist. Feminism got a bad rap when it turned into misandry, and I prefer to be associated with something far more positive than feminism has become. So I won't blame the patriarchy for repression, but occasionally prevailing attitudes towards women really get under my skin.
Last Friday I attended the Engineering College's ACET dinner. The ACET council is made up of highly successful engineering professionals who act as mentors and oversee the function of the college with an eye to preparing students for work in industry. Its members are recruited from among the best in their field, and it is a great opportunity to be able to learn from their experience.


After the dinner we had two breakout sessions with members of the committee. The first one I attended was on entrepreneurship. A bunch of engineers and their wives crowded into this classroom to talk about how to make millions of dollars by starting your own business. We were joined by three engineering businessmen, all millionaires, who started their own companies when they were young and did quite well for themselves. One of the men brought his wife.

The purpose of the session was admirable, I'm sure, and the council members were well-qualified. But the dynamic in the room was so offensive that it made me sick.
The wife harped on money. She gushed over how much money her husband made, how he hasn't had to work since he was 30, how they lived comfortably and could keep her home with their seven children and had plenty of money to travel and take nice vacations. She singled out a girlfriend of an engineer in the room and told her the match would be a positive one, since engineers have such high starting salaries, and she was confident this would be a great encouragement to her in deciding to marry this young man.

Moral: Women are gold-diggers. Marry an engineer for his money.

When they opened the floor for questions, one of the student's wives raised her hand and asked the businessman's wife, "How do you...pretend to care about what your husband is studying/involved with? It just seems so geeky, and I try to care, but I get lost." She laughed, and admitted frankly, "I don't care. I don't even pretend to care. I find that the engineers my husband works with have really cool, cute, fun wives, and when we get together our husbands go off and talk about their ideas, and we sit around and have girl-talk, and have a lot of fun together." There was no mention of coming to any understanding of what your husband does for a living. There was no mention of women being engineers, just the cheerleader wives of brilliant businessmen. There was no indication that women talk about anything requiring any degree of intelligence.

Beautiful. Now not only are we gold-diggers, we're also stupid. We can't think, but boy, can we ever shop! And do our hair. And nails. And fawn over how strong and smart and wealthy our husbands are.

Why would vapidity and stupidity be an asset in the marriage market? I'd like to marry a man who wanted a wife whose IQ exceeded her body temperature. I'd like my children to be intelligent, and to know that their mother is intelligent.

And I care so little about money, it's silly. I wouldn't know what to do with millions of dollars. My parents weren't wealthy, and my father will never be a millionaire, but he came home for dinner every night. But I knew that my parents loved each other and their children, and that was what mattered in the end. Our home was small and cluttered--the basement flooded every year and the furniture didn't match, but people were drawn to it because of the special spirit they felt there. We never went to Tahiti on vacation, and my father can't golf. My parents won't have a wing of a hospital or a chair in a college named after them--but our family has created ties that bind. If engineering entrepreneurship means what I saw that night--wealthy brilliant men with beautiful, oblivious, money-crazy wives--Barbie couples who have so little meaning in their lives--then I want no part of it.

Allahu Akbar

In Arabic, there is a common saying: Allahu Akbar! It has gotten a bad rap lately as the battle cry of Muslim terrorists, but it's really an expression of faith, not of war--God is most great, or God is greater.
This week I celebrate the anniversary of a very pivotal change in my life, a series of events that were painful, but have also given me great understanding, peace, and even joy.
In all areas of life, the Lord tests us and tries us. He gives us experiences and people who will change us. He knows the storms that rage about us, and, as He did two millennia ago, He still has the power to command the waves, "Peace, be still."
I am reminded of Enos's experience with gaining forgiveness and peace. After praying all day and night, a voice came to him, saying, "Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away."
Think of what Enos must have felt! What great joy and peace must have filled his soul!
His words have come to me recently, and touched me. After feeling this great peace, Enos says, "Lord, how is it done?"
I have felt like Enos. I have tasted the beautiful peace and wholeness that comes from Christ's Atonement. When I felt that same "peace of God, which passeth all understanding," I have been led to say with Enos, "Lord, how is it done? How is it possible that I could feel this wonderful, this complete, this joyous? How can You take pain away so completely and replace it with such exquisite joy?"
And the answer, as was the Lord's answer to Enos, is simply, "Because of thy faith in Christ... wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole."

The power of the Atonement is real. It is the power to overcome all things. It is the power to be free, to be at peace, to rejoice.

Life can be hard, and our trials, at times, seem too great to bear. But I know that no matter how great our trials, Allahu Akbar!--God is greater.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More than one way to Skinner a cat

I attended a quasi-debate today between two psychology professors about agency. One was a behavioralist and a quasi-determinist a la B.F. Skinner, and the other didn't have too many opinions, so there wasn't much contest. They were discussing agency, and it got me to thinking.
I can't understand how anyone could subscribe to the theory of determinism. It seems so depressing--the belief that we can only be acted upon by our environment, that we completely lack agency--so hopeless, and so outside human experience. We all experience making choices--to say that this is an illusion, and that instead our circumstances determine out actions, denies responsibility, morality, and any meaning life might otherwise have had.
Agency is such a glorious gift. The ability to select between forces which entice us in so many directions, and the need to be responsible for the choices we make is beautiful. It gives meaning to life. It separates us from the animals. It gives us a consciousness, a soul, a way to make meaning of our lives, and the ability to change, to grow even from the most crushingly hopeless circumstances.

I am distressed at how easily we compromise our agency. Latter-day Saints believe that, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, before we came to this earth, we fought a war in heaven for our freedom to choose, which Lucifer wished to take away from us. That war goes on today--Lucifer, now called the devil, still seeks to enslave us, to bind us, to get us to cede our agency to him.
It worries me when I see hypnotist shows, where for cheap entertainment we give over control of our actions to someone whose express intent is to make a buck on us by getting us to do stupid things and embarrass ourselves in front of our friends.
And hypnotism is only the most innocuous form of agency deprivation. Satan is filling the world with addictive substances and activities that enslave us. Addiction destroys our ability to feel the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit cannot dwell in unholy temples. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, or anything else that binds us in any manner will eventually destroy us. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, anything that comes between us and God will come between us and everyone we love.
So how do we recognize a seemingly innocuous activity as a deceptive flaxen cord that will become a chain? Susanna Wesley, in a letter to her son John, wrote one of the most profound and succinct statements I've ever read on the matter. She said:

"Would you judge the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure? Take this rule--whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes of your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself."

It's an excellent rule, one that I need to employ frequently. Does this activity bring me closer to God, or take me away from Him? Does it increase the authority of my body, or my mind? How do I feel about myself and others during and after my participation? Am I using this as a crutch to cover some other hurt, inadequacy, guilt, pain, or wrongdoing? Does this uplift me? Does it build up the kingdom of God? Do I find my agency compromised? Is it easier for me to be enticed by good influences, or by evil ones?

I do not mean to be negative. But I have watched lives destroyed and hearts broken by improper use and loss of agency, and I feel very strongly the need to speak clearly about it. Please be mindful of this beautiful gift, given to you by a loving Father in Heaven. Use it wisely. Do not give it away. Do not sell it cheaply. Do not abandon it. Whatever choices you may have made, do not give up hope. If you are enslaved, plead with the Lord to deliver you from bondage. I promise you that He will. He has already carried your burden. He will walk with you and carry it again. He loves you.
He wants you to return to Him.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

True Intimacy--not found in HD

The New York Times printed this article:

Wow. Porn stars are complaining that HD technology is forcing them to get breast implants and be impossibly beautiful. Gosh, I feel so bad for them. How do the rest of us feel, do they figure?

And try the rest of the article on for size:

“HD is great because people want to see how people really look,” Ms.
Price said. “People just want to see what’s real.”

Nope, try again. If people want to see what's real, they don't go for porn. Porn is in no way real. Porn is fake--a vicious, brutal, terrible, evil fake.

"Ms. Price is allowing them to do so, mostly. She had laser treatments
to diminish tiny purple veins on her thighs that weren’t visible to
viewers before.

“You can see things you cannot see with the naked eye. You see skin
blemishes; you see cottage cheese,” said Robby D. “But some cellulite
is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s kind of sexy.”

Wow. Now cellulite is sexy. Guess we're all okay, then.

"The technology makes the experience more intimate, he said.
“People look to adult movies for personal contact, and yet they’re still
not getting it. HD lets them see a little bit more of the girl.”

That's the most beautiful line in the article. People look to porn for personal contact, but--shocker--they're not getting it. Somehow we assume the solution to this lack of human contact must be to put the porn in High-Definition. Maybe, instead, the answer is that you're looking in the wrong place for intimacy. There's nothing more pathetic than trying to find a connection by interacting with a two-dimensional non-woman on a screen, HD or not. If you're missing a human connection, show love to your wife, don't make love to your computer screen.


I'm going to hope this Internet doesn't crash again, at least not before I get this post written. More than one crash in a day might be an inauspicious sign, especially if I was the superstitious type.

Well, welcome to my blog. I have to thank Ben for giving me great reading material for over a year, and Sister Johnson for encouraging me with her incredible writing style--if a sixty-something can blog, what's my holdup?

Hope to see you here often!