29 June 2009

The Sacrament

I was sitting quietly in my seat, preparing to partake of the Sacrament with a prayer.  I began to think on the symbolism of the Sacrament, and certain aspects of it that are difficult for me to understand. I began to counsel with the Lord again about something that has long been on my mind.

I wanted to know how it was possible for redemption to come from death and suffering—why it was necessary. I guess I find it easy to think “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee,” as Peter did when he found out that Jesus Christ was to die such a gruesome death. Christ’s rebuke of Peter should be enough to tell me that I’m wrong, but it’s an idea I still struggle with.




But as I was sitting on the stand, it occurred to me that the bread of the Sacrament is a lot like the seed mentioned in Alma 32. Since the bread represents the life and teachings of Christ, it also represents the Word, which is the seed mentioned in that chapter. And upon seeing that the bread is the seed, it would make sense that water (the blood, suffering, and death of Christ) would have to follow in order to make the seed grow.

And while it is true that the seed must swell, crack open, and die in a sense, the death of a seed is only the smallest piece of a larger, infinite perspective. Partaking of the Sacrament each week with a penitent heart is the equivalent of beginning a new sowing season. Only through actively sowing and reaping can we truly cultivate the peacefulness that is a well-kept inner vineyard.

Thinking about rebirth from that perspective, the death of old habits and beliefs doesn’t seem so tragic. If anything, the ability to truly cast off the smallest seed shells of identity in exchange for greater opportunities and growth has got to be the greatest gift I’ve ever received from anyone…

…and continue to receive.

28 June 2009

Summer Time in the Single's Branch

I gave my lesson last Sunday, which I think went pretty well. You can find the PDF of my lesson plan here if you're as big of a teaching/ Elder Uchtdorf/ church dork as I am and you're interested in looking at that kind of thing. I'm really happy with Microsoft Word 2007 on this one because I was able to make the diagram I wanted with the smart graphics.

Perhaps it's just a further indication of my dorkiness, but I was at a single's ward activity yesterday when I realized something rather crucial to my future in the LDS dating experience. I give you...

The Parable of the Inflatable Lobster



I was at a pool party yesterday with a bunch of the guys from my ward, and I noticed that one of them was floating rather comfortably on an inflatable lobster--identical to the one in the picture... not that it matters, but I figured it would help with the imagery.

As soon as I saw that he had the lobster, I wanted it. Two of my friends and I then made it a point to get it from him--successfully, I might add. But once we had it, fought over it, and I managed to get kicked in the teeth by one of the girls who helped acquire it, I realized I didn't really want it anymore.

Later that day, more people showed up. There was next to no one in the pool, so I got back in and made it a point to get the lobster. There was another guy in the pool who saw that I was there and decided to do everything possible to knock me off the lobster... quite successfully, I might add--which is when I noticed that this entire ordeal had quite a bit of symbolism to it.

Being in a relationship, from where I sit, is a lot like fighting over an inflatable lobster. You want one because you think it'll make life easier, more fun, more relaxing, but it doesn't. And by the time you get it you realize that, while it is nice to have, it wasn't worth the kick to the teeth you took to get it--not for the short duration of the pool party--or in my case, a summer.

Because really, I may have jokingly said, "Paul McCartney was the walrus, and I am the LOBSTER!" amidst a sea of my own giggles, I need to realize that in this situation, that actually MEANT something. When the guy got the analogy and responded with one of his own--in which I became an animal of prey--I realized that like it or not, that's the purpose of a single's ward. Dating. Flirting. Hunting that elusive, inflatable creature known as an eternal relationship.

I never intended to be that kind of lobster. And as far as I'm concerned--with a month and half left in this ward--I'm still not. But an important lesson has been learned here for next time.

Don't joke about being a lobster unless you're ready to be thrown into the pool--to come up sputtering from the chlorine and wondering what just happened.

16 June 2009

Changes

I've been called as a Relief Society teacher! I wanted a teaching calling SO BADLY, and my bishop said they've had this one in the wings for me for a few weeks now. I'm so excited!

So my first lesson is on The Infinite Power of Hope, a talk from the 2008 General Conference by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I couldn't have asked for a better topic, or a better talk. It's full of really important information that I feel really confident I can do a lot with, especially in light of almost all of my recent experiences. I can honestly say that preparing this lesson has been a capstone to those experiences, allowing me to sort through them internally in order to better understand many of my weaknesses, and how to turn them into my greatest strengths.

Some would find this to be really surprising coming from me, but I never realized that hope was so fundamental to everything about the Gospel. I mean, I understood long-suffering and its place within the promise of enduring to the end in faith, but I never understood that hope was the same thing as an abiding trust in God to help us do that. Once I learned that, it was like all these gaps in my understanding came to my attention and I understood exactly what was missing from my life. Talk about a revelation--this is something I desperately needed to hear.

I only got my assignment on Sunday and I don't have to give my lesson for another two weekends, but I was excited to get started--and I'm learning so much that I needed to know. I'm hoping I'm not the only one that will end up benefiting from this lesson, but I have another two weeks to work it out so I should be fine.




In other news, our branch's temple trip is this weekend, and I'm naturally very excited about it. It's the first time I will have been in the temple since my father died, and I'm very curious about what that will be like. I'm also eager to leave a lot of my burdens with the Lord and to commune with Him in His temple. Being in D.C. again after so long will also be a beautiful experience, and I'm looking forward to taking my first evening shots. Fellowship with my new friends is also a great plus as well. All around, it's going to be a great night!

And in other other news, my prayers have been answered thus far about getting up to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. It occurred to me about a week ago that I REALLY would like to go and since I'm in the east and it's a righteous desire, there should be nothing stopping me. I tried to pitch the idea to my mother and she pointed out many flaws--the price of travel, the distance, the price of lodging, etc. So I did what any faithful Latter-day Saint freshly out of her teens would do.

I made a Facebook status about it. Then I prayed.

And wouldn't you know it--a girl from my single's ward REALLY came through for me by putting me through to a Young Single Adult's conference in Pennsylvania that will be staying up there VERY cheaply. Now the only hindrance is transportation, which I'm still trying to work out. If all goes according to plan, what would have required a 6 hour drive can be cut in half, taking this whole outing from extremely unlikely to highly doable. I'll definitely keep praying about it and see how far we can take this. It's another one of those instances where you pray, expecting not to get an answer, and the Lord surprises you once again with how much He's willing to come through for you if you're asking for something that's worth having and you're willing to put in your share of the work. And--you guessed it--that makes me VERY excited.

Very excited, indeed. :)

11 June 2009

Sustaining Leadership

A few highlights from my scripture study I want to share:

Anyone who has been a part of my readership for any duration of time will probably know of my love for and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I'm currently reading in the Doctrine and Covenants, as well as the Book of Mormon, and I want to point out a few passages I think are important to remember.

In 2 Nephi 3, we read a prophecy of considerable length about the coming of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He is described as one that will be a "choice seer," and "like unto Moses" as one that would deliver his Father's people. In verses 14-15 we read:

And thus prophesied Joseph [of Egypt], saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;

And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.

Verse 15 refers to the Book of Mormon--which I would venture to say is the most important contribution to Christendom of the past several centuries. The beautiful, awe-inspiring witnesses that it bears of Jesus Christ, the explanations and clarifications it gives of His life and teachings, the prophecies it bears, the prophecies it fulfills--it truly is a magnificent gift.

We read in this chapter that the hand chosen to restore the Book of Mormon to the earth was, in fact, Joseph Smith, and everything about his life and mission was planned and foreseen. He truly was and is the Lord's servant and we must, therefore, be very careful about the way we treat him. As much as the Book of Mormon is a gift from God, so was the hand chosen to restore it.

And when I refer to Joseph Smith and his testimony as a gift to the children of men, I don't mean like some ugly sweater given to you by your grandmother that you can take back and exchange for something else because it doesn't "fit right" or you "just don't like the color." What I mean is that the fact that Book of Mormon was restored is evidence enough of an undertaking too large, almost, for words. The personal worthiness that must have been required on his part was surely difficult and painful to acquire and maintain--instilling in him a kind of weariness and loneliness that few can understand. The anxiety of what such a responsibility would mean for his family, his friends, his wife, his children, was surely more than most people would have been able to bear--which is why they are not called to pass through it.

When I look at my desk at my emerald green, leather bound scriptures--next to me right now--and I see that Book of Mormon is here with me, I honestly could weep. I could weep with an inexpressible joy because of what it means for me to have this book--what it cost so many people to bring it to me, but especially the Prophet Joseph Smith. This book is a jewel worth more than its weight in any precious stones, any metal, any currency from any country ever conceived. It was paid for in heaven's tears and the blood from an infinite and eternal sacrifice. How? Because the Atonement of Jesus Christ allowed Him to bear the suffering of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Which is why these two verses from the Doctrine and Covenants in section 43 are more than just instructions to those who were alive to hear them:
Purge ye out the iniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me;
And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith.

What does it mean to sustain a Church leader? Does it mean to support him in all that he does, come hell or high water, in life and in death? Does it mean only supporting him in that which is politically correct or convenient? Does it mean tucking him away from sight and memory because of aspects of his life that we cannot understand or appreciate? Does it mean mocking him openly? Does it mean judging him privately and harshly until every flaw becomes irrationally exaggerated until there appears to be no redeeming qualities left?

I guess what I mean to ask is, what does it mean to you

I'm sure when I ask it like that, it's a no-brainer. Which is good, because it really is that simple.

If we would be faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if we desire the glories of the kingdom, that means being obedient in every commandment that we are given. And, sustaining our leaders is actually a commandment!

Shocking, I know.

The secret to understanding anything about this Gospel is to listen. Listen for the instruction of the Holy Ghost whose purpose it is to reveal the truth unto the minds and hearts of man. Listen for the truth, and then when it comes, listen TO it. If you want to gain--and KEEP--a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, this is what you have to do.

09 June 2009

Featured: Today in the Bloggernacle

Okay, so maybe not yet--but we're making progress!

Anyways, greetings to all of my visitors from MormonTimes. It's good to have you here.

For those of you who don't know, I call your attention to this from their Today in the Bloggernacle section:
Scripture PowerPoint: I would have loved these PowerPoint study helps for my religion-class tests found at Templebound Paradox. Nicely these are good study helps for personal study as well. One is on the Pearl of Great Price, the other on the second half of the Book of Mormon. Thanks!

Posted June 4, 2009 on Mormon Times
Who would have thought that I'd ever receive kudos for being such a dork. Really, I'm touched :)

07 June 2009

Dear John Letter Generator

So, time for some fun!

I found a Dear John letter generator, and these were the results of my random selections.

Dear John,

By the time you read this, I'll be maxing out your Visa. I'm sorry for doing this but, you left me no other choice. I know this might comes as a bit of a shock to you - especially because you're an emotional cripple. But I'm sorry – I just need freedom. I think you're a schmuck, but I don't think we're right for each other. First of all, we're not compatible. You're a Republican, and I'm vastly superior to you. You like leather harnesses, you eat with your feet, and enjoy Aqua Velva, and I don't like any of these things. Your favorite movie is Anything Steven Segal, and your favorite band is The Partridge Family. Do you even know what my favorite movie or band is? I once asked you what color my eyes are and you said "White." Anyway, I want to date the first drunk barfly who'll talk to me. But you know what? I still want to be dead to you. We can totally file restraining orders. We had some good times, or so I think . But please, don't be bitter like last time. That means no committing arson. And look - I won't even make an issue out of the you owe me $5000, or the fact that you punched my grandmother. So take care of yourself - and O.D. on Botox.

Yours In Contempt,

Jane

P.S. I'll love you forever. Call me next week.

I'm a big fan of the signature. "Neurotically yours" is also and usually appropriate.

01 June 2009

I'll Strengthen Thee, Help Thee, and Cause Thee to Stand

Two nights ago, I was moving some physical therapy equipment in an act of service to one of my families. It had been a long day, during which many things had gone badly, and I was very impatient to move as much equipment out of this third office as quickly as possible.

In my haste, I managed to get a hydroculator stuck in the groves of an elevator doorway. It tipped, spilling its scalding hot liquid contents all over my feet. I had second degree burns on my feet before I could even tear my shoes and socks off. That act in itself pulled skin off of my feet, and made for a pain I cannot adequately describe to anyone who has not felt it before. Although I've had second degree burns that covered the entire back of my right hand before, it was nothing compared to what I felt that night.

Looking back, however, I see that Heaven was very near at that time, and perhaps it has been for some time in attempts to warn me that this would happen. I remember a conversation at my father's funeral in which I was talking to my roommate about the time I burned my hand, how randomly that subject came up. Whether it was a warning or not, I can't know. But I'm in a position to believe it because of everything else that happened that night.

I know now what it means to walk on water. After a prayer for help that I can no longer remember I literally stood on my feet, despite the searing pain that I knew would come from doing so, and walked across a flooded lobby to get myself into the elevator shaft--the only place where anyone would be able to hear my cries because they were two floors above me. I know I was only able to do this through prayer because I was physically incapable of doing it afterwards, I was in so much pain.

And while this may be trite, I've found a new and very personal connection to How Firm a Foundation, the hymn I whispered to myself the whole way to the hospital to keep my breathing steady and my heart upon the Lord. The 2nd and 3rd verses became very real to me as I pleaded for His angels to be round about me.

In my healing, I can honestly say that Heavenly Father has strengthened me, helped me, and caused me to stand. I objected to taking the Percocet any longer than was absolutely necessary because of my personal beliefs about healing and the Word of Wisdom, and I no longer needed them after that first night. I move around with no pain, and I would be surprised at the quickness of my healing--but I know by whose hand it has come, so I'm not surprised at all. I'm grateful that such heavenly comfort has been extended to me, and I know it's an act of love by my Heavenly Father who loves all of His children infinitely.




And now that I am here, I am grateful for the ability to feel pain, even that which is excruciating, because of the Savior. I now can reflect upon my experience and understand more and more about what it meant for Jesus Christ to suffer in the garden of Gethsemane, and hang upon the cross at Calvary. Such infinite suffering is the only way that a fullness of joy can be reached, and it's only through relying upon His example that I could endure it with any kind of grace. He gave me that path to walk where there once wasn't one, and how much worse must have been His pain because of that. He gave everything--everything!--He had, that in my moment of need I would have somewhere to go. How could it ever be difficult to follow Him, knowing that such blessings always come?

In about three weeks, it will be time for me to return to the temple. I'm relying on that day so much already--so much has happened since I've been within those hallowed walls, that sacred space that exists there and nowhere else. I want to return, to enjoy that protection and relief that is promise to all the Saints that will give all of themselves to receive it. If I can't make it there in one piece, I pray I can make it there in however many pieces it takes.

Alma asked, "Is not this real?" I stand--stand--and resound with every fiber of my being that it is!

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