Origin of Pain and Imperfection

How often we’ve been told God made us uniquely. He made our nose large or small, perhaps he made our eyes hazel. Many an inquisitive child asking why they are this way or that might be answered. “that’s just how God made you.”

But God did not create our bodies.

Similarly, during testimony meetings in church and common conversation, I have heard reference to trials or tribulations administered by God, as in the phrase, “I’m so grateful God gave me this trial because…” or “God sent me this trial because,” fill in the blank. We’ve all heard it.

But God does not give us trials, just as he did not create our bodies.

Our earthly mother and earthly father created our bodies. The way we look and perhaps the way we feel and act to some degree is a result of the very physical DNA combinations and amazing bodily processes that make us who we are. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, our physical characteristics are directly a result of materials from our mortal parents or fallen man. Mutations and imperfections randomly occurred in the amazingly intricate pattern of genetic reproduction which was originally set in motion by a perfect God in the terrestrial sphere. Once in the telestial world, degeneration was and is both expected and exponentiated.  Thus, disease and death entered the world. Natural length of life and severity of disease or disability depend on how critical the breakdown. Some incorrect base pairing in the DNA sequence will result in absolutely no discernable change, while another may cause severe malformation and/or mental retardation. To believe or teach that a perfect and absolutely loving God created anything less than a pain-free and perfect body contradicts his nature. The same principle applies to all trials. To say that God crafted and inflicted a trial upon just you might be accurate. But I believe this is a rare exception to the rule. A rule which states that trials are a result of the fallen world in which we live, the power of Satan, and the agency of ourselves and others. Perhaps an all-seeing, perfectly loving and omnipotent God may allow us to pass through some of those tribulations which are outside of our control by refraining from deflecting them away from us, but I do not see God sitting upon a cloud and looking down on his children with trials like lightning bolts, who identifying a target throws that bolt of Cancer, then fire… or the death of a child.

Certainly our God is a God of justice, and has lashed out in fury upon the inhabitants of the earth from time to time, as is necessary. Still, remember the rule. It is only because we cannot yet see his hand that we do not recognize how much more he acts to protect us, especially those who heed his commands, thereby allowing heavenly help by their agency and permission. God values our agency too much to counter every action his children might take, including those that hurt others, and he loves us too much to shield us from the experiences he knows will give us experience and be for our good. In the garden He created a perfect system and a perfect world, because he is perfect and cannot create imperfection. Mankind brought about the fall and the sin and death which combine with the natural forces of the telestial earth and power of hell to make this place dark and dreary, lone painful and unfair, but once again God created a perfect system to make everything right at a later point in the plan of salvation. It is a plan which he knew would be necessary from the beginning to completely heal and cleanse all who desire it. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

If you expect a good life because you are a good person, you’re wrong. You can expect a good eternity, though, and a heck of a lot of growth. It must be late cause this is going downhill fast. So Imma call it for now. Night.

 

 

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Philosophy

As those of you who are aware of my identity know, I live and sleep in my car during school-days in order to economize attending, and so it came as a great blessing when my jiu-jitsu professor gave me keys to his academy. When it gets below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I opt to stay there, rather than in my car closer to campus. In addition to a heater, the finished garage facility has internet, a computer, microwave, mini-fridge, punching bag, futon, half-bathroom and speakers. To distract myself from the easily penetrating sounds of wind-blown debris, tree branches and people working on the other side of the garage doors, I’ve played BYU devotionals, music and, recently, philosophy podcasts over the speakers as I work out or sleep. I was stretching and listening to a commentary of Friedrich Neitzche when Professor walked in for morning class one day. Never one to keep a though to himself, he ranted for 10 minutes or more on how 18-20-year-olds like to listen to philosophy, obviously putting it in the same camp as liberalism, and describing instances where it has been the spiritual downfall of multiple people he knows. I respectfully listened, but certainly disagreed for many reasons.

My father is and has always been a philosopher. The words has two roots: phil(lover) + sophy(wisdom) = lover of wisdom or learning. Beyond its literal meaning, philosophy has developed into many branches and grown to describe the act of contemplating and theorizing about man’s existence. It is unfortunately true that the philosophy of man is tool satan uses to “reason” people away from believing that there is a god, but for me and any truly logical person, philosophy is among the greatest general evidences that ther is a god, for as C. S. Lewis put it, “If there wasn’t a God, we never should have figured out that there wasn’t a God.” Why should we–physically weak and mentally and morally as complex as we are–be capable of the capacity to philosophize. Certainly Satan may convince some through “philosophical reasoning” that there is no God, and they are accountable only to themselves, but this works much better if that person is sinning and avoiding repentance (but that is another topic entirely which Brad Wilcox covers magnificently in his book The Continuous Atonement). In so many ways, philosophy supports the existence of God, even though true knowledge of His existence and supremacy must come through living the doctrine of Christ, secular knowledge is abundant as support.  Among my favorite examples of this is found in the first chapter of Lewis’ Mere Christianity. It is amazing to me how all things point to the existence of a supreme creator. More so, I am grateful for the painfully clear personal evidence I have been given of the existence of his Power and where it can be found on the earth today. Without that knowledge, philosophy would be mere entertainment, for I would not understand the why. Philosophy helps me fill in the blanks, building the why.

To quote Nietzche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

I could write a post on any Nietzche quote, which is why I love him so much (that’s a lie. I like Nietche because I may or may not be in love with the person who introduced me to him), but he is also a great example of why people have bias toward philosophy. It is, after all, Nietzche who said, “God is dead,” now widely used by nihilists everywhere, but Nietzche does not necessarily preach nihilism. Like I do when I am trying to understand my thoughts by putting them into words, Nietzche contradicts himself. His philosophizing produced amazing capsules of truth, as well as some areas of wrong speculation. Taken in light of LDS doctrine, his truths are profound and meaningful, and his mistakes make perfect sense.

Neitzche did not hold contemporary Christianity in high esteem, but I do not personally hold this against him, considering the confusion, sheep mentality and “just because” principles taught in many. After all, In most religions, including Christianity in general, the higher your education the lower your religiosity with the exception of Mormonism (Stan L. Albrecht and Tim B. Heaton, “Secularization, Higher Education, and Religiosity,” in Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members). I believe this to be true, because truth is truth wherever it is found.

You can know something is true because it will never hit a wall. Why do we accept the theory of gravity as truth? because we can build off of it and continue to do so, and it keeps working! This is how math is developed and every theory tested. It should be no different in religion.  I have a reasonable question, I should be able to find an answer, and that answer should allow me to ask more questions, and find more answers. I should never hit a wall, where the answer is “just because.” Such an answer is unacceptable to me intellectually and spiritually, because they are connected. In both cases, the more a know, the more I should find that I don’t know. This is progression, and progression is my why.

 

Three Laws

the reconciliation of three laws.

1. We create our reality
2. We receive what We desire
3. To every action there is a consequence.
But does a depressed person desire to be depressed? If it is pathological, then no, and that will be stripped away in the resurrection. When someone is sinning, you might say they are seeking/they desire something good…. but what do they desire more? Sin happens when one desires the perceived benefits of the sin, more than they desire to be clean and progress in light and truth. Perhaps they lack the understanding to desire these good things more fully. Nevertheless, as strong as they desire the good, it is not enough if other urges are stronger. Thus we create our reality by our desires.
The Author, Ben Hardy, recently published a book, titled, Willpower Doesn’t Work. In it he outlines specific action and mentalities that block us from achieving our goals and becoming who we want to be, instructing readers how to tap into power greater than themselves. His ideas parallel Hugh Nibley’s words:  “None of us knows very much, none of us is very brave, none of us is very strong, none of us is very smart. We would flunk those tests terribly. As Alma said, we are only to be tested on one thing—the desires of our heart (Alma 41:3).”
When I have been struggling with sin, I can clearly see that my desires are not where they should be. I may know I need to change and I may want it, but I will not be successful until something happens–a wakeup call if you will–that increases my desire to be clean or taints the pleasure of my wrongs to the point that I no longer want to be that way. As the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, I have at times in my life had a change of heart, where the thought of sin I previously was engaged in becomes abhorrent to me.
The way I reach this point is not through trying to become more strong or more courageous through willpower. If that were the case I’d be as a tin roof in a hurricane. That’s why God doesn’t judge us based on those things. To paraphrase Nibley, he instead judged us on the two things we can be very good at: forgiveness and repentance. Every positive change I have seen in my life didn’t come because I willed it, it’s because I repented. Then the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is able to strengthen our desires for righteousness.
The second law states that we receive what we desire. Those whose telestial desires are strongest will receive a telestial inheritance and that is where they will be most happy. We are God’s children and he wants us to be where will be happiest and most comfortable, and that is where we will go… A common misconception of the righteous is that it has nothing at all to do with what we’ve done. The righteous are received into paradise, to receive infinitely more than those with lesser desires can imagine.
“Ezekiel 33:18-19 defines a righteous man. Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting he is a righteous man.” -Nibley
If you have celestial desires, some might say you have to live a celestial life, free of sin, but that not the whole picture. If you have celestial desires, you will repent, and your life will be freed from sin, through the power of Jesus Christ.

Thoughtful

As mortals, we are so accustomed to having an extremely limited perspective, that we almost constantly forget it. We can look inward and know that we know so little about the vast majority of people with whom we interact. We can even recognize circumstances that make those people different from us, and think how grateful we are that we weren’t raised that way, that our mother didn’t do drugs, or that we didn’t have to endure or deal with this of that abuse or deprivation in tangible wealth, or worse, knowledge.

Without getting into why some are subjected to ignorance and scarring trial against any type of deserving we understand, it is necessary to accept it as fact that men are not born equal in all things. So we are in a position where it can at times be difficult to say, as Emerson, that “every man I meet is my superior in some way.”

I have determined that more important than consciously contemplating these concepts is merely being kind and perceptive.

The reason people use the term “thoughtful” to describe caring and kindness is because it incorporates the perceptivity that gives these other qualities all of their effectiveness.

I recently asked two different professors at BYU for an extension of an assignment deadline in the last two weeks. One I approached and asked this: Thursday I will be weighing in for my first MMA fight at the time as class when the review is due. I’m going to be dehydrated the next two days leading up to then and really out of it, and especially with the fight on Friday I will have a lot of things to focus on, so may I please hand it in next class period? Her no was very short and flippant. At the risk of being judgemental myself, she certainly appeared to be the opposite of an MMA enthusiast in every way, but there was no explanation offered with her denial; only a chuckle of entertainment at my request. I didn’t press. Just walked away, but what my professor didn’t hear was, “I’m scared. I have a cough. I don’t know how this is going to go. I can’t read two sentences without getting distracted by visions of someone trying to knock me out, and how I will react. Writing essays are the hardest homework assignments I have because I don’t have access to a keyboard that doesn’t require a power outlet to work, besides that of my phone, because I got sent home from my mission for 6 months and don’t want to buy a functional laptop when I’m immediately leaving for another year, and there are no power outlets in my car, where I sleep while I attend school mon-thurs. 

Needless to say, I wrote the essay and it really wasn’t a big deal. Maybe it was a good thing I forced myself to put hours into a relatively non-stressful activity. The quality is certainly lower than it would have been if written after the fight, though. However, contrast the situation with my women’s health professor, who I e-mailed minutes before midnight on the due date for a short paper. The part of the story I told her was this: I had the opportunity to spend the day with my sister who is visiting from Japan and I thought I would have time to write the essay tonight after she left, but I unexpectedly had to do hours of paperwork for an athletic competition next weekend, which I just finished. I will be able to write it first thing tomorrow. When she responded, it was to ask if I had a good time with my sister and to wish me good luck in the competition. She accepted the late paper without a question, even though she had no idea, that at midnight that night, I was on the computer and printer system of a family I had met that night because my sister was staying there, the same system I timidly asked if I could use to print the 13 pages I had to fill out and sign–including such topics as accidental death reimbursement–then individually scan each page back in and send that night because the promoter got me on the card and sent the contract the very last day possible. It was a night I had the rare opportunity to sleep on a couch… so with it being practically midnight I opted to sleep for the 5 hours I could before driving the hour back to class in Provo, rather than staying up to write a paper that would already be late and sleeping on a bench during the afternoon on campus.

I am so blessed in every facet of my life. I love the way I live and my every need and want is provided for. My troubles are trivial and self-inflicted, but even so, this teacher’s thoughtfulness toward me was deeply appreciated. How many others are in complicated living situations not by choice and have it so much worse. They aren’t going to tell you everything they are going through. You wouldn’t believe it if they did, and maybe rightly so. Respectable people don’t just communicate like that, but as nice as it would be if everyone was 100% transparent, it’s not necessary. It is only necessary to be kind. The amazing thing about the kind people I interact with every day is they have no idea how appreciated their actions and words are, but someday they will know. All of us have the opportunity to touch lives on the most meaningful level. If you are not naturally perceptive but desire your kindness to be effective, don’t worry. That is the role of the Spirit. As you pray for the Spirit’s guidance you may not know when someone is hurting, but you’ll know what to do about it, as you act in faith under His power of discernment.

 

Feminist?

I am one of many women in this day and age who aren’t sure exactly what the label feminist entails and whether or not we want to affix that label on ourselves. From organized, American roots, feminism seems to have become amorphous, encompassing everything from the women’s rights movement of history to inclusivism to a radical, liberal idea. I have found it necessary to sort through these and other ideas and biases to find what feminism is to me. In an article published by the Washington Post, entitled, “Betty Friedan to Beyoncé: Today’s generation embraces feminism on its own terms,” the similarities and dichotomies of Traditional vs. “New Wave” feminism are explored. Before reading this article I had many prejudices against the term feminism, due to growing up among the New Wave generation, but in reading this article I was able to find that I am a feminist, not despite, but as a fluid part, of my belief system, including the understanding that women are fundamentally different than men. What truly matters is respect and divinely endorsed equality.

Being politically conservative and highly religious, I cannot support a feminism that encourages such principles as abortion or flagrant sexual expression. Because these are some increasingly common views held by feminists of the rising generation and current pop scene, I formed a relationship between these ideas in my mind. However, in the Washington Post article, the definition of feminism is cited as this: “The idea that women should have the same political, economic, and social rights and opportunities as men” (New Dimensions in Women’s Health, 7th Edition). For these causes I am much more sympathetic.  Of course women should have equal opportunity in education and politics. Women have rights and for the vast majority of history—even now in large measure in the world—those rights are not recognized and honored to an acceptable degree. That is why feminism is still needed.

Still, women and men are different. More men seek a career path that would result in them being a CEO, so it doesn’t bother me that only a fraction of Fortune 500’s are women. I also believe if a man and a woman are in the same profession with the same qualifications, they should be paid the same, but I also recognize research that men are more likely to push for higher pay/promotions than women, who perhaps are more likely to work for other personal reasons, such helping others or other fulfillment. In my mind these are all separate concepts which do do not take away from women’s rights to pursue whatever path they choose and be successful in it. I merely want it to be clear that I do not commiserate with the women who are seeking prominence through their chosen career or political or media platform, and cannot respect and accept other women’s desire and choice to seek another path, such as sacrificing some or all focus on a lucrative or prestigious vocation to have a family. Every woman should have a choice, but I don’t blame any human designed system for the fact that men and women may have different inherent desires for the legacy they seek. To do so is ineffective insofar as the complaint is illogically founded.

My ability and opportunity to pursue and hold a career, worship the way I choose, love and care for others and defend myself and my family should, under no circumstances, be diminished because I am black or albino, Jewish or Hindu, illegitimate, royal, impoverished, male or female or any other thing. Each person is a Child of God, of infinite worth and potential, and therein deserving of respect. We each have the responsibility to exercise our agency as best we see fit in our personal pursuit of happiness. Problems occur when we think that our beliefs should be held by everyone, move to force others to acquiesce, or infringe on others’ agency because of our view. Historical and modern misogynists are just as guilty of this as some radical LGBT rights activist, some proponents of new-wave feminism, and members of other movements and groups.

True feminism holds that women should not be degraded, dismissed or held back because of their gender. Feminists have fought and currently fight for women to vote, learn and be respected—and they do so rightfully—but it is interesting to note that they do not fight to register for the draft. Men and women deserve equal respect, but because they are different, that respect may come in different forms. Respect is not to be confused with acceptance of any desire or choice; a flaw I see in New Wave feminism. For men and women to be equal, it is up to each individual to honor the innate worth of every other person. I am a feminist because I want to see this respect, not based on gender or some person or groups ability to garner support through powerful media or political outlets. I am a feminist because every person should have their rights honored, especially those who lack the power to fight for themselves.

The Atonement: His Perfection and Our Need

If we are to live a celestial life we must abide by celestial laws. Many of these laws are given in the Sermon on the Mount: Nephite Edition, and include loving our enemies, not being angered, not letting impure thoughts enter our hearts, and turning the other cheek. All of these point to a state of being: Being humble, being charitable, and being virtuous. As struggling mortals, we understand the concrete examples of these traits which Jesus gives more clearly that the traits themselves. For example, we use the word humble and it can mean so many different things. It can describe one isolated demonstration, a manner of dress, living circumstances, or it can express any degree of meekness or submissiveness in a person. The way that Christ uses it comes closest to this last, except that he shows us exactly what degree of humility is humble. The description is this: that if someone were to take your coat, you would give him your cloak also, that you would never call someone out as in saying “thou fool,” that if physically hit, you would take another blow before reacting in a way to offend one of God’s children. The standard is clear and can be achieved regardless of race, gender or social status, but for most of us, especially me, it is not always the go to reaction. The same can be said of charity and virtue. Are any of us perfectly charitable? I know that I am far from it. Only one is.

Christ end with the words, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Ne. 12:48)

In the words of President Holland, “I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man” and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy.” (General Conference Oct 2017)

We are born into this world, and we get so caught up in it. Occasionally we compromise, and sometimes we entirely forget our purpose here. How often I have put my trust in the arm of flesh and thought my friendship with the world was right and good? how often have I needed to be shouted the refrain, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4) How often did I think such a friendship was bigger than a seemingly arbitrary and insignificant commandment? How often have I realized in tears and shame how wrong I was and how lost I was and how weak I am?

…At least once.

Once we realize that path was lost, how long must it take to again find it? Will we ever find it? If you are as fortunate as I, you’ve been told exactly where to turn in a place like this. Perhaps you’ve never felt so unworthy to ask God for forgiveness. Perhaps it seems utterly ridiculous. How wondrous it is then, in the midst of that darkness we brought upon ourselves, as soon as we turn it over to him, we realize his spirit is right there beside us. We feel that worth and we feel hope. In our heart or our mind we know that somehow, impossibly, he is not only with us, but he loves us. As time stretches on, we can become closer to him than we have ever before been. We will realize that he doesn’t need our suffering–that’s why Christ died for us–all he needs is us to change. And we will find that we can. Somehow, everything is clear going in the right direction, even in the dark. Indeed, it is infinitely more clear that when you were heading the wrong direction in the light. Surrounded by light, but not seeking, you were in ignorance, and ignorance is darkness. But no darkness can remain when any person therein calls upon the name of Christ with faith unto repentance, earnestly seeking. We create our reality, only in that we choose it, and Jesus Christ creates it. It has nothing to do with our circumstances.

 

To be continued

Home

My mind has recently been drawn back to a time years ago as I lay in bed, preparing to sleep. I contemplated my existence on this earth, the purpose of my life, my potential as a daughter of God, and what lay ahead. I contemplated the undeterminable period of time I spent preparing to come to this earth, to be tested and tried, to experience pain and joy, to live in a state of mortality, with no recollection of my existence before birth, or surety of life after death. I was to experience all this and so much more within a mere century. Could I have imagined just a few decades would seem so long? Weeping silently and softly, I wondered how on my own attic floor mattress, I didn’t feel home. A parable unfolded in my head–based on something I’d been taught before–and it helped me understand just a little bit more.

Surely, before passing through the veil separating premortal and mortal existence, I thought of earth life as I would mortally consider the taking of a scholarly test. You walk into the testing center–which of itself is not a particularly fun place–and alongside many other test-takers, you demonstrate what you know, extrapolate your knowledge to guess what you don’t, and in a matter of minutes you walk out of the testing center back to the trees, wind and sunshine of real life. What you may have spent hours preparing for determines your performance in that comparably short test. Its end brings relief.

Imagine you are stuck in this testing center, but while inside, you have no understanding of the expanse outside this shuttered building from whence you just came. You are aware that the test is timed, but you have little surety of the precise length of time. It would be miserable. However, a lucky few have other test takers approach them and explain that this is only one testing center on a vast planet. They would point out the light, seeping weakly through the blinded windows and they would tell you of the sun which is its source, set in space infinitely larger than that contained in these walls. They would point to the test in your hand and tell you, “That test is the reason you are here. Remember your preparation and do your best, and you will come out of this center with no regrets, and again see the sun.” Even choosing to believe that there is a purpose to this test and that it will be worth every effort, the time spent in the testing center would still be tedious. We certainly could never be satisfied staying forever. But because our perspective is limited only to the time spent there, it would literally be forever. Thus we would never be satisfied.

Though the scale is many trillion times too small, this example helped me understand that earth is like a testing center. The rest of the world–its mountains and cultures, richness and diversity, sun and wind and snow–represents the realm in which we were created; the sphere in which we are meant to inhabit and thrive. It is not a realm where time exists as we know it. It is an eternal sphere, and we are eternal beings. We have been placed here for a time that is so relatively insignificant, we could never fathom just how tiny a fraction of eternity our entire mortal life will be. We were not created to exist here. This realm is not the sphere we are designed to inhabit. This is not the end to which we were made. We are children of God, and contained in us is the potential to become Gods and Goddesses just like our Heavenly Father and Mother. As they are eternal, so are we. Eternal beings are not meant to dwell in in time or even mortality. We were conceived and raised in eternity. That is our home, and it is back to that existence we will return after this brief time here. We will then be home, and mortality will seem as the blink of an eyelash. We will immediately wonder how we ever got distracted by such insignificant things that may have even seemed important to us during earth life. We will rejoice in our righteous decisions, for they will color our eternal existence, but the pains and loneliness and turmoil of that limited and fallen sphere will fall from our minds, leaving only understanding to be applied here, home, eternally.

Right now, we aren’t at that point yet, but we have such a rare and blessed opportunity to determine what that moment will be like, based on what we do now. Our time is limited, and the test is in our hand. It is a format unique to only you, but it is open book. Though others may fool around and deny the importance of those problems you diligently attempt to solve, you’ve chosen to believe that your effort will be worth it. Your eyes, your mind and your heart are fixed. You know that the Sun awaits beyond those doors, so you endure with diligence. When you finally feel its warmth and experience His light, you will have no regrets.