Sunday, September 10, 2006
My Religion And Me Index
**Table of Contents**
Chapter 1 - Your Part In The Lord's Work
Chapter 2 - What Is My Relationship With God
Chapter 3 - Where Did I Come From? - Part 1
Chapter 4 - Where Did I Come From? - Part 2
Chapter 5 - What Is Free Agency?
Chapter 6 - Are There Eternal Laws?
Chapter 7 - Why Is A Family? - Part 1
Chapter 8 - Why Is A Family? - Part 2
Chapter 9 - How Can I Live More Abundantly?
Chapter 10-What (Who) Is Holding Me Back?
Chapter 11-What About The Fall of Man?
Chapter 12-Why A Physical Body?
Chapter 13-Achieving Balance In Our Lives: Am I Lopsided?
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Know Your Religion
ACHIEVING BALANCE IN OUR LIVES: AM I LOPSIDED?
The Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., was acclaimed as a marvel when it was built. People still get lost in its complex mazes. From the air, however, it presents a picture of balance—a five-sided architectural wonder with all its sides the same length and its angles exactly equal. In form it represents an idea for which to aim in our self-development lest we become lopsided or go off on a tangent. If we think of a five-sided figure with each side representing a facet of human development -spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and social—we need to keep all five sides even in order to insure equality of all angles and balance of the figure or life.
If things get out of balance and one ore more aspects of a person’s nature is extended to the exclusion or partial exclusion of any or all of the other parts, the whole pattern is thrown out of kilter.
We should be careful that we do not get the wrong impression from the above diagram, for having a well-balanced life does not necessarily mean that each facet of life has the same degree of emphasis or the same amount of time and effort assigned to its development. Being “off balance” means that one does not have the appropriate or ideal amount of development in one or more aspects of life. This is very different from having the same amount, and lacking the ideal amount of any aspect of life makes for imperfection.
It must be remembered also that each of the five sides of life affects the other four, and only the balanced effect of all make for an ideal life. In practical terms this means that less time may be spent on purely spiritual affairs in life but the influence of spirituality on the other four will be very great.
Take a basketball player who devotes a lot of time to practice to perfect his timing and his shots, increase his stamina, and work out various plays. Might it not be possible that other things would suffer such as his studies, social life, or even church activities? Perhaps this would not be harmful if it lasted only during the basketball season for the years he has in high school, but suppose this exaggerated emphasis on physical development carried over into his latter life as it has for many athletes. Might it not upset the balance in his life?
On the other hand, many teenagers fail to get enough physical activity. There is a generalized resistance to physical education and spectator sports keep many young people flabby. Some overdo in the intellectual sphere and retire to the academic world, where there are no social challenges or threats, no athletic events, no emotional problems to meet head-on, perhaps even few spiritual considerations. Of course, it is an exaggeration to single out any one of these facets of life, because for most people there is some development in all of them. The point is that the gospel plan neglects nothing, but, within the framework of the Church, it allows for the total development of the whole person—in fact, encourages it.
It becomes the responsibility of the Church, the conservator of our religion, to provide means and direction whereby humanity may be led into paths of happiness. This responsibility includes every need of man. Whatever pertains to human welfare must be the concern of the Church. The function of the Church is all inclusive, comprehensive; hence all issues of life must receive its careful consideration. Whatever concerns man is the concern of the Church, whether of earth or heaven, whether of this or a future life. Only on such a platform can the Church meet its responsibilities properly and fully. It dare not shirk any labor by which men may increase in happiness.1
Think for a moment of the opportunities offered to each of you during any given month
of church participation. They include public speaking, singing, athletic activities, dancing, social events, scripture reading, partaking of the sacrament, prayer, testimony bearing, drama, service, and class work. All these are the outgrowth of the Church’s basic philosophy set forth clearly in the thirteenth Article of Faith.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
These basic philosophy seeks a “well-rounded” balance and it discourages (leaves no
time for) going off on tangents or getting bogged down in one kind of endeavor.
The Savior is often mistakenly pictured as effeminate, or at least as having somewhat
womanly qualities only. But his life was arduous and demanding and he lived it vigorously and zestfully and set a pattern even in the little we know of him, of all well-rounded (or evenly angled) life.
Charles Edward Jefferson presents this picture of him:
But when we come to Jesus we find ourselves in the presence of a man without a flaw.
He was enthusiastic, blazing with enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotional, men could feel the throbbing of his heart, but he never became hysterical. He was imaginative, full of poetry and music, seeing pictures everywhere, throwing upon everything he touched a light that never was on land or was never flighty. He was practical, hard-headed, matter-of-fact, but he was never prosaic, never dull. His life always had in it the glamour of romance. He was courageous but never reckless, prudent but never a coward, unique but not eccentric, sympathetic but never sentimental. Great streams of sympathy flowed from his tender heart toward those who needed sympathy, but at this same time streams of lava flowed from the same heart to scorch and overwhelm the workers of iniquity. He was pious, but there is not a trace about him of sanctimoniousness.2
From its very beginning, the Church has put emphasis on the training and expanding of the minds of its members. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, on May 6, 1833, the Lord gave a revelation which contained the following:
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. (D&C 93:36-37,40)
From that day to this, the Church has endeavored to carry out this commandment in many ways. Dr. John A. Widtsoe and Elder Richard L. Evans, members of the Twelve, have written concerning some of the teachings and accomplishments of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Within a year of the organization of the Church, in 1831, provision was made for schools, teachers and schoolbooks. A little later, in 1833, a school for mature men, known as the School of the Prophets, was conducted. This anticipated the present worldwide movement for adult education. In 1842, when the Missouri refugees were building the city of Nauvoo, a university was founded.
On the trek westward, following the expulsion from Nauvoo, school sessions were held in the moving camps. A few weeks after reaching Salt Lake Valley, school was begun in the sage encircled, pioneer log cabins. One of the first legislative acts, after provision had been make for roads in the wilderness, was the chartering in 1850 of a university, the first west of the Missouri River.
Since then the people, despite the toil of compelling a stubborn desert to serve civilized man, have fostered the training of the mind, with all the attendant arts and cultures.3
In the article reference was made to Dr. Edward L. Thorndike’s study on men of science, as follows:
In the number of men of achievement, Utah, on a per capita basis, was the highest and led the nearest state, Colorado, by about thirty percent.4
Currently, the Church maintains Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, with the
enrollment over 25,000 and Ricks College, a junior college at Rexburg, Idaho, with an enrollment of more than 4,000 students. [Remember this was manual was printed in 1973] Both are the largest church-supported schools of their class in the United States. In addition, the Church maintains the four-year Church College of Hawaii at Laie, Oahu, Hawaii, with an enrollment of over 1,100 students; the Church College of New Zealand (600), the Church College of Western Samoa (1,250); and the Juarez Academy in Mexico for secondary schooling; and many elementary schools in Mexico and parts of South America and the Pacific Islands where only very limited schooling opportunities would otherwise exist.
At over 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, there are adjacent institutes of religion to provide a variety of classes in religious studies for LDS and other interested students. In 1968-69, the institutes served some 36,642 students. Seminary classes for high school students are increasing in number each year. In 1968-69, 125,725 students were taught in the released-time, nonrelease-time, and Indian seminaries in North America. A new home study program for students of seminary age has been instituted in English-speaking countries and is so popular that it is expanding rapidly, especially in England and Australia, and consideration is being given to introducing it in several non-English tongues. Requests have been made for similar home study courses for adults. Money, time, ingenuity, and effort are being poured into educational enterprises on many fronts by the Latter-day Saints, who believe that no man can be saved in ignorance.
There are several reasons why a young member of the Church is encouraged to be vitally interested in his own education.
First, the world needs people who can decide not only between good and evil, but between less good and better. An education that has taught one to reason carefully, analyze, and make decisions, as well as giving one specialized knowledge, will be of critical importance.
Secondly, a person’s work has a direct influence on his community; and his salary (a person who finishes sixteen years of training will normally earn approximately four times as much as the person who finishes only eight), which in turn determines his home, car, vacation time, clothes, insurance coverage, and retirement. His physical health, his children’s schooling, his presence in the home to help with the family, his participation in Church work and hence possibly his salvation all related to the quality and skills of his vocation.
In the words of the First Presidency in a letter to Church leaders, April 1, 1966:
The Church has long encouraged its members, and especially its youth, either to obtain a college education or to become well trained in some vocation in a trade school. In our fast growing industrial society, this becomes almost a necessity, for unless our young people are well educated, or well trained, they will not be able to obtain proper jobs or positions in the future. The jobs that require no education or training are decreasing from year to year and soon will be practically non-existent.
Third, nearly everyone wants to have the repeated thrill of intellectual accomplishment,
whether it be gained in repairing a car, baking a cake, walking through the woods, or reading a book. Much that we feel and love depends exclusively on what we have learned about the world in the process of training. Each member of the Church is urged to study diligently from the time he learns to read until he can no longer do so and to share his leaning with others both within and without the Church.
If a person had no formal schooling after he learned the three R’s, other than what the Church provides, and if he took full advantage of that, he would be encouraged to learn on his own and would be guided in how to do it. Probably he would cease to be satisfied, too, with only an elementary education and would seek greater intellectual growth. The Church is in the process of lifting great numbers of people to a higher level of life and appreciation of it through education.
Much that is important to our success depends on our emotional maturity. If we will be happy, we must not always be thinking of ourselves and what we can get out of everything, but rather we must turn our thoughts and actions outward to others. We must stop looking for friends and start being a friend ourself.
Consider what an effect such Christlike attitude would have on all concerned. Everyone is drawn to an outgoing young person. His parents find him cooperative, pleasant conversation becomes the rule, duties are done swiftly and well, and all different kinds of people are blessed from associating with him. His friends, teachers at school, even perfect strangers—all treat him with respect and love.
Employers have much more difficulty with people who cannot get along with other people than with people who cannot do their jobs. Good interpersonal relationships depend on the degree of emotional maturity in the people involved. Someone looking for slights, imagining hurts; someone militantly defending his “rights,” resenting authority; someone sulking over disappointments, worrying over things that never happen—in a measure, all such “someones” are immature emotionally. Like babies, they have a sense of being at the center of the universe, either solicitous or hostile, and they demand attention and seem to think that all things begin and end with them. Few are entirely free from emotional prejudices, and everyone’s behavior is colored by feelings. What, then, is emotional maturity? How do you know whether your are grown up?
Our emotions can be controlled, and wven more significantly, they can be channeled into worthwhile pursuits. We can learn better ways to meet everyday life. One of the best things a person can learn is to express his feelings in socially acceptable ways instead of letting them “fume and fester” inside, producing an eventual explosion. Learn to talk things out calmly instead of resorting to bursts of profanity, throwing things, or fighting. Learn to listen. Try to see the other person’s side. There will be need for this kind of control wherever you go.
A related concern for youth is handling disappointments. During the teen years, these may seem to come too ofter. It’s an experimental time, starts and stops, high excitement, and bitter frustration. Gradually, the violent ups and downs level off, and the person who maintains his equilibrium through them gains considerable maturity.
The gospel here too helps people maintain their equilibrium with opportunities to work with other people in many types of activities; to receive counsel; to attend classes where much can be learned about emotional maturity and how to achieve it; to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost; to pray, and to study of others who have weathered such storms as now we know, and how they did it. Like a gyroscope, the gospel at the center of our lives will keep us on course steadily; unlike any earthly gyroscope, however, it helps us to grow and develop emotionally so that we do not lose our balance.
Perhaps above all else, the young member of the Church today needs to have courage; to be almost fearless. In times past, many young people have had to face grave dangers and master their fears, sorrow, hate, even happiness and love, for the sake of a cause. They had to have courage, faith, and knowledge.
The present and future times will be no less demanding. The young member of the Church today is asked to take a firm stand against indulgence in drugs, immorality, and breaking the Sabbath and the Word of Wisdom. Many may be asked to stand against godless, atheistic, and satanic forces at the cost of their lives. In the days of persecution they will be asked to show love toward their persecutors. At a time when selfishness seems so prevalent, they are now asked to give generously of their time and talents, and in doing so gain a stability for later turbulent times.
Physical fitness is a complex term including such items as oral hygiene, dental care, medical examinations, vaccinations, proper diet, sufficient rest, and exercise. Exercise is only a part of physical fitness, however, an essential part.
A sixteen to seventeen year old should, if in good health, be able to chin himself at least three times, do at least thirteen sit-ups, and four squat jumps. Each of these groups should be ably performed in not more than ten seconds.
If you are not up to these standards, you would do well to get some more exercise. Now is the time to learn athletic skills which you can use as you grow older. Besides exercise, these provide you with ways to use your spare time constructively with other members of your family and friends. In an era when the working man is apparently going to have more leisure time than ever before, this will become increasingly important.
There are other good reasons for keeping your body trim and healthy, too.
Many young people are bothered with bad complexions. For this reason you may elect to avoid highly spiced foods and chocolate. A sound physical condition contributes to emotional stability, good spirits, and high morale. With good health, you are more likely to get your work done with a resultant boost to your self-esteem. You can take emotional and physical shocks more easily. You are far more likely to have the enthusiasm and alertness which act as magnets on other people. Everyone enjoys being around a cheerful, energetic person.
The typical problems of teenagers, such as underweight or overweight, acne, poor posture from a body that is in rapid growth, awkwardness, and emotional changes, can all be helped by a sound physical health program.
Our bodies, as we have seen, are precious gifts from our Heavenly Father, given to us as a vital part of our progression. We cannot abuse them without suffering the consequences.
Man’s good physical health has long been a concern of the Lord. Few other good things are possible without it. In the Word of Wisdom, as we have already discussed, he provides the basic rules for good health, together with the promises that will follow obedience to them. Part of the Church program for young people is directed to the building of healthy bodies, as well as the enjoyment of the fun of competitive sports. Full Church activity will contribute to normal physical development and good health.
We are all brothers and sisters, and from the time we are born into a family, we start getting along with one another one way or another. Social development cannot take place without some difficulties. The give-and –take of everyday life sometimes jars our feelings. Nevertheless, no one can retreat into isolation and be a good member of the Church. Social maturity calls for good mental and emotional health, and there is consequent growth in all these areas within the gospel.
One of the beauties of the gospel is that its basic message is also the secret of getting along with other people—love. This sounds simple, but it is sometimes difficult to do. Things and feelings get in the way. It seems sometimes that the very most difficult people to get along with in the world are members of your won family. And it is here, in the family, that living (gospel or otherwise) is learned, if it is learned at all. The home is the basic unit in the Church, and gradually many thousands of scrapping children have been led to the surprising realization that brothers and sisters can be friends, as well as to the broadening concept that friends are brothers and sisters. The difficult lessons learned in the home extend, through Church activity, to all the world. The second part of the first and great commandment, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39) is a doctrine of salvation, and the living of it brings to Church members such glad implications that most of them get all choked up trying to tell about it.
All the way through life the social implications of the gospel are with us to make us joyous. Dances, parties, activities of all kinds, as well as class discussions, quorum meetings, and gatherings in the foyer point up to the social nature of the life God ordained for us to live. We are his children, and this kinship fosters in us feelings of brotherhood that buoy us up in time of trouble and give us cause to rejoice when things go well for anyone we love.
This whole lesson is an elaboration of the idea that the gospel will build us up in every aspect of life—emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social. We have pointed out that the spiritual should have the strongest ties and therefore the greatest influence and control over the other four. But full spiritual growth comes best with the appropriate development of each of the other facets of life and it must be permitted to permeate everything else with which life is concerned. This is more than having perfect symmetrical development, it is having perfectly balanced and controlled development. This means that life is lived well on a wide range of interests and needs, but it also means that there is harmony and wholeness in it.
- John A. Widtsoe, The Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1938), p. 24
- Charles Edward Jefferson, The Character of Jesus (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1908), p. 87
- John A. Widtsoe and Richard L. Evans, “The Educational Level of the Latter day Saints,” Improvement Era 50: 446 (July 1947).
- Widtsoe and Evans, Improvement Era 50:446.
My Religion and Me
WHY A PHYSICAL BODY?
“The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea man is the tabernacle of God, even temples and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” (D&C 93:35)
In this day of science fiction, orbits, interplanetary travel, flying saucers, and imaginative
fantasies about being lost in space, we are all nudged to think about these questions: What sort of creatures might be out there living on other worlds? Are there really little green men with antennae for ears? It is surprising that all the efforts to please and surprise television viewers has not produced an imaginary creature that is at least in some ways an improvement on man.
You might try to break that “personality barrier” sometime. Try to sketch a body which in your judgment, at least, is more balanced, more functional, more beautiful, and more capable of winning the admiration of intelligent creatures than the one with which we are presently endowed. You will likely find, that the best, most efficient, most sublime body that you can conceive is the human body perfected.
Is this just egotism based on our lack of imagination? Is it not likely that ants would “idealize” ants but be quite unwilling to think that being manlike is an improvement? Would the same not be true of birds and fish? Perhaps, but from God the Father we have learned that man has dominion over all other creatures because his makeup is divine. Man in the form of his present spirit and body, which, we are taught, resemble each other (D&C 77:2), has an ascendancy over all other creatures. He is the pride of the universe because he was created in the express image of his Creator.
Why have a body at all? Why not simply remain in the condition of spirit bodies, freed of what is sometimes called the prison house of mortality?
It has been commonly assumed over the past 2500 years by most religious cultures, both in the Western world and in the Orient, that the body is much inferior to the soul (what we would call the spirit). By extremists is has been taught that there is no real similarity of substance between the two. They have received, therefore, a dual being, composed of two incompatible components—mater and spirit, or soul. They think of the soul as immaterial, shadowy, elusive, immortal, and the body as an inferior coarse abode in which the soul is housed and from which is will escape happily. Such ideas are not always a part of religious doctrines, but they seem deeply ingrained in many cultures. Are they true?
Much negative teaching about the body grows out of the false premises that the body is matter and the spirit is not, that matter is evil or at least less good than spirit or soul-substance. The idea persists that the body must be abused, ignored, discredited, or crushed into submission because it is forever at odds with the sublime spirit enchained in it.
Modern revelation clarifies the relationship between body and spirit. To combine spirit with matter is a step forward for the spirit. This combination is not of two utterly different and unrealated things but of two kinds of the same substance. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that spirit is substance and is material but that it is a more pure, elastic, and refined matter than the body.1 Matter is the building block for everything physical or spiritual. It is the “stuff” of which all things are made.
The possession of a physical body makes possible the expansion of our world of perception and participation into the realm of earthly elements. Let us see what that means. Our present degree of knowledge has identified, classified, and characterized more than one hundred chemical elements which constitute our physical world of exploration and are a part of our being. Revelation tells us that there are also spirit elements in the spirit world which are more “pure” and “refined” than the elements of this world of mortality. Possessing an earthly body opens up a whole new kind of world for us, and having a physical body is an advantage in order to become acquainted with this order of elements. But we may project this idea to a third sphere because the Lord has revealed still another kind of world system into which we are shortly to be introduced—the world of resurrected and “perfected” elements. This third system appears to be a combination and expansion of the first two. There are three kinds of worlds—three kinds of elements to know, use, make a part of ourselves, and add to our potential and our joy. Only in association with all of these can intelligences “receive a fullness of joy.” (D&C 93:33) Knowledge of these progressive stages opens to our vision something of the spectrum of possible knowledge and relationships which make possible our eternal progression.
Furthermore, all those who have bodies have the power over those who have not. Angels who have bodies which have been reunited with their spirits have advanced higher in knowledge and power than spirits, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith.2 A body thus working with a spirit becomes a means of power and advancement.
Indeed we know what a diminishment of power accompanies the loss of a limb or an organ or facility in this world. Have you a friend who is an amputee or a paraplegic (paralyzed in the lower half of the body)? Or do you know someone who has lost his eyesight or his hearing or, because of enforced or accidental cutting o a nerve, has lost his taste or smell or touch? Then you know something of what loss of power means. It is remarkable that t woman like Helen Keller, who was in a dark and silent world alone, managed to make contact with the world through touch only. What might she have been with sight and hearing?
We witness occasionally the tragedy of a body which is stunted or deformed in its growth. All the essential parts are intact, but they do not function normally. The person lives, but is not able to move, act, or give and receive of himself the way so-called “normal” people do, who too often take what they have for granted.
When we consider all the handicaps of the amputee or the deformed, we can better understand the delimitation and impotence that would attend having no body at all. And yet many Christians await eagerly the day when they can escape the “mortal coil” and the vicissitudes of the flesh to move to a superior stage of existence—or so they think.. Actually in many respects it is just the opposite. Revelation tells us (D&C 45:17) that we will look upon the separation of spirit and body impatiently, that we will consider the long absence from our bodies as a bondage. Disembodied existence will be equivalent to being an expert violinist without a violin—the great principle of happiness consists in having a body.
Nor is it only external motion that we get from having a body; it is internal emotion as well. There is a direct connection between pleasing the eye, gladdening the heart, and thus enlivening the soul. (See D&C 59:18-19.) We can glimpse the possibilities of a higher sensitivity in daily experience.
There are treble ranges and bass ranges of sound that we cannot yet hear.
There are colors in the spectrum that our eyes cannot catch. How many colors and what magnificent patterns might be characteristic of the worlds to come?
There are tastes that come for fleeting instants in moments of great thirst or luchk accident which no mortal gourmet or professional connoisseur can catch.
What might it mean to feel the touch of the hand of Christ? There are scents…the pure breezes of heaven…that many miss.
There are dimensions, as it were, of mutual feeling when the affinity of one soul for another is so profound that nothing within us remains unaffected. We vibrate, or resonate, like a tuning fork to a rich chord. And something like that, surely, will attend our being in the presence of God and the prophets.
Every spiritual happening at its greatest intensity is not just a joy that touches us in the spirit. It is an “all over” sensation that leads to the use of such expressions as “every fiber of my being” or “from head to toe.” When young Nephi was trying to describe it, he coupled his bodily and spiritual reactions to the love of God, saying, “He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.” (2 Nephi 4:21)
Can we say that the body makes possible certain spiritual raptures otherwise unreachable? Yes, we can. That is the central point of the doctrine that when separated the body and the spirit of man cannot receive a fullness of joy. The body then, is not just a “coat of paint” on the spirit. It is a crucially important organism in its own right which opens up new levels of awareness and happiness for mind and spirit. The ancient sage seems to have glimpsed this concept when he said, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
If the body is good, why all the emphasis in sacred writ on purifying and sanctifying, on overcoming the filthiness of the flesh, on being, as the scriptures unequivocally require “born again.”?
We have been talking thus far about the kind of body that can emerge from mortality, a celestial body. In mortality the flesh may be diseased, smitten, partially deform ed. In various ways, our mortal bodies give us problems. “But all your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful.” said Joseph Smith.3 Here in mortality bodies may be “opaque” to the light of God, may so darken themselves that they are unsusceptible to the influence of God. Such a condition results from physical abuse or moral license—abiding in sin. Such persons are slowly poisoning their otherwise infinite powers. They must remain filthy still. Unless they receive by their only Christ can give, they will, indeed, be manacled by the body. Such a body will cease to be reward and will become a torment. Only those who live downwardly will be partakers of it.
The process that leads upward is something else again. A statement from the Prophet tells us that the effects of the Spirit of God upon us in preparing our bookies for eternity depends upon, or is adapted to, the fleshy inheritance we have. That is, in our present condition we can receive through the Holy Ghost “pure intelligence” or the “light and glory and power of God.”
It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and the whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham…a new creation by the Holy Ghost. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence.
A body that has been acted upon by the Holy Ghost can be presented pure in the celestial kingdom, pure enough to endure the eternal burnings of light and fire that are characteristic of celestial glory, filled with intelligence, sensitive to all that is good, triumphant over all antagonizing forces or tendencies, breathing a new atmosphere, nourished by new fluids, equipped for instantaneous motion, and capable of entering into the fruition of all joy that was experienced or anticipated in this world. Such a body, in short, is harmonized into the unity and completeness and wholeness that is divine holiness.
In the Orient there are religions that seek the “extinction” of bodily desire. In America there are religions (though they are not called religions) that advocate the expansion of physical desire, regardless of its object or its effects. Alma said, “See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” (Alma 38:12)
Is that not a paradox? Is not love a passion? Then how can he say “bridle passions” so that you can be “filled with love”? It is not a paradox at all, but divine wisdom. Diffused passion—passion that is blind and has no relationship to the profound nature of a person’s soul—is destructive, frustrating, and inevitably turns to ashes.
To “bridle” passion is not to kill or destroy it but to direct it where the real and lasting satisfactions are. Indeed, after long and seasoned experience, the need to bridle diminishes. At that point you will have lost the desire for sin. But you will have increased in desire, every worth godlike desire. You can concentrate on enjoying the whole landscape instead of having to give your attention to the course you are taking. Your joy is increased, too. In the companionship of others who really know how to live.
God opposes the compulsive, obsessive, blind passion not because he wants you to feel less, but because he wants you to feel more. The glutton hardly tastes the food he wolfs down; the libertine knows only “loves sad satiety,” and never the ever-increasing joys of married love. We are counseled to stay within certain bounds because only within those bounds will we find the essence of everything glad and good.
We recognize that the soul of man results from the union of the spirit and body. Through this harmonious union we can know the ultimate joy of living and can come to a clearer understanding of our relationship to God. The body, so perfectly formed, transcends all fleeting joy as we literally become co-creators with God. The bearing of children is a marriage and possible because of the bodies our Father has given to us in his great eternal plan. It is intended that we co-create and bridge the eternal links of life as a family. What greater and more righteous purpose for our physical and spiritual being is there?
1. Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938), p. 207.
2. Teachings, p. 325
3. Teachings, p. 296.
4. Teachings, p. 149-150.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
My Religion and Me
WHAT ABOUT THE FALLOF MAN?
The apostate doctrine of “utter depravity” condemns man even more totally. It teaches that before the Fall in Eden Adam was sinless and guiltless and incorrupt, bearing somehow the “image” of God. When Adam fell, he lost absolutely and irretrievably that “image.” He became utterly depraved. All of us born since have been conceived in sin. There is no good in us. We are all bad—mind, spirit, and body. Before God we are always in the wrong. By nature, by makeup, we are incapable of doing or being anything in any way good. Baptism is pointless. No man, regardless of what he does, is worthy of divine blessing or of salvation. If he is saved, it is through the “grace” of God which he does not earn but which is bestowed in “mercy” upon the “elect” (chosen few) by the God whom everyone, chosen or not, is supposed to love and revere. This doctrine has prevailed in all Protestant churches having a Calvinistic background and is a part of the stern heritage from our pilgrim and Puritan forebearers.
A third less literal point of view which is widespread rejects the story of Adam and Eve as a nonhistorical myth, true only in the underlying presentation it give of the awful dilemma of all men-- they are estranged from themselves, from their God, and from each other. In the most of the versions of this view an extremely pessimistic attitude about the nature of man is taken. He is compound of pride, lust, and evil intent and by nature is demonic. Here again the rule of God is to make up by his own supreme goodness and mercy all the lack in man.
THE MORMON VIEW OF THE FALL
The details of the entry of his spirit into his body and the entry of himself and Eve into the Garden are yet to be revealed. It is clear however, that his Fall did not consist in a rebellion against the Father like Lucifer’s in heaven. We are given some insight into his motives or Eve’s. The facts are that they were tempted, that they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that certain changes were brought about which were necessary for the whole human race:
- Adam and Eve and, therefore, all their posterity became subject to death, becoming mortal, where before they had been immortal. They suffered a “spiritual death” or banishment from the presence of God. Shortly, however, Adam was given the keys and powers and teachings to enable him to regain that presence, this time with knowledge, power, and an embodied personality like unto God’s .
- They put themselves in a position to learn some additional aspects of good from evil and become aware of the “opposition of all things,” spoken of by Lehi, and in so doing lost their primeval innocence or lack of awareness. (2 Nephi 2: )
- They became subject to illness, pain, fatigue, and all the miseries to which the flesh is heir.
- They were cast out of
into the world of thistles and noxious weeds where they had to work the soil by the sweat of their brows. We, as children of Adam, come into the world subject to these same conditions of mortality which open up for \us those same possibilities. Eden
All of us, with father Adam, as premortal spirits anticipated the unfolding of the plan just as it has unfolded. The overall plan had been prearranged and prepared. Theoretically Adam could have refused to bring mortality upon the world, but his Heavenly Father knew that he would not. That was presumably one of the reasons why he was chosen for the task. It is the same with each of us. Not that we are fatalists (whatever will be, will be) or predestinationists. There is no coercion—that was rejected. Rather, as Lehi suggested, “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” (2 Nephi 2:24.)
I am aware that these evils are not pleasant, and probably if we could understand and comprehend evil without coming in contact with it, God would never have placed us on this earth, so far from those with whom we dwelt in the eternal worlds. He never would have placed us here but for our own good.1
In proof of this I direct you to the lives of the saints and the prophets; but above all to the life of the Son of God himself. The life of the Prophet Joseph Smith is an illustration second only to that of the Messiah.3
Repeated questions arise as if people regret the bargain they make and are trying to find an easier way. Why are we going through all this? If God knows the end from the beginning, does he not know what we will do without our having to do it? Why could he not assign us to the appropriate level in the world beyond and be done with it?
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vol. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., ), 2:95-96
- B. H. Roberts, The Gospel and Man’s Relationship to Deity (
: Deseret Book Co., 1965), pp. 278-279. Salt Lake City
My Religion and Me
WHAT (WHO) IS HOLDING ME BACK?
Now that we are somewhat oriented in time and space and have begun a consideration of our relationship with our Heavenly Father, it may be well to investigate what the responsibility of each person is to himself and, through himself, to his Father in Heaven. By what are we bound. On whom can we lay the blame for our failures? To whom is the credit due for our triumphs?
There is a legend about a man who was convicted of a crime and sentenced to thirty years in prison. The turnkey who guarded the cellblock felt that the prisoner was innocent of the charge and therefore left the door to his cell unlocked, expecting the man to escape. Not wanting, however, to be charged with conspiring to aid the prisoner, he did not tell him about the door. He only hoped the prisoner would discover it. The door was unlocked for thirty years, but the prisoner never tried it and thus never escaped! He had made the false assumption about his chances for freedom.
There are at least three assumptions we make about the limits to our freedom that are like prison doors and confine us only because we think they do. Actually they are unlocked doors through which we could walk to claim our freedom and to assume our responsibility. Because we do not know it, we never try to escape. We stay imprisoned like tethered elephants, not knowing our own strength. The three false assumptions are:
1. The people around us make us what we are.
2. We are bound by the thoughts that come unbidden into our minds.
3. We are bound by our feelings which we cannot help.
Those with whom we live and to whom we are closely tied are our families. For years now you have been living in your families. For years now you have been living in your family and have been subject to your parents. You may feel that you are pretty well hemmed in by their rules and opinions. Do you ever hear sentences that begin, “As long as you’re living under my roof…”? You may recall the scripture that put the responsibility for teaching “their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord’ squarely on the shoulders of the parents. “The sin be on the heads of the parents” if they do not teach their children the first principles of the gospel—faith, repentance, and baptism. (D&C 68:25, 28)
Yes, that sin is upon their heads—the sin of failing to do their duty—but your sins are not upon their heads. “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins” (and not for parents’ transgression). Parents, too, will be punished for their own sins and not for their children’s transgressions. (First Article of Faith.) The knife cuts both ways.
Since you were born, you have been growing in freedom. To some degree you have assumed the responsibility for your own actions. At the age of eight, you passed some kind of landmark that marked you as accountable, for your understanding was then considered adequate to know the moral differences between right and wrong. Now you have probably already admitted that you are not a child any more and have become impatient at being treated “like a little kid.” Gradually you have come to feel, then, that ultimately you are your own “boss.” Implicit in saying that is saying, “I accept the responsibility for my own life, and I will take the consequences for what I do.” This is a large order, but each one has to grapple with it.
Your brothers and sisters may seem to interfere in your affairs, may seek to guide you or “boss” you around, may pray for you and wish you well, but they cannot be you. They have, each of them the responsibility for a life—and it is not yours. Your brother is your brother and possibly can be said to be your keeper, but for all his help he cannot accept your responsibility for you.
Take the friends that you yourself have chosen and cultivated. Are they responsible for the kind of person you are becoming? They can be a help and they can be a hindrance. Friends will never matter more to you than they do in your teens. When you get down to it, though, they can do only so much and then you are on your own. They can study with you, but you must take your own final examination. If they could take it for you, what kind of “help” would that be?
Chances are that you are greatly influenced by your friends. If they smoke, you may want to join them. Whether you do or do not is up to you, not to them. It is your choice. There is, too, the possibility that you may influence some waiverer for good if you take a strong stand. Each person is an “I”; each is subject to suggestion; each is swayed by example. When you take charge of yourself, you may be helping someone else do the same thing for himself.
What about your teacher? Are they responsible for the kind of person you are becoming? Again, they provide the tools, expose you to secondhand learning, and even set you on the path to making firsthand discoveries, but they cannot experience life for you. During the time they teach you and ever after, you must plow your own furrow.
Is it true that there are no delinquent children but only delinquent adults? Nonsense. There are both. People can set you a bad or good example, but they cannot force you to imitate it. People can treat you like dirt, but they cannot make you become dirty. People can deny you love and return you evil for every good you do them, but they cannot prevent your giving love nor your returning good for evil. People can show up as phony as hypocritical, but they cannot force you to be phony and hypocritical. Each basic decision about what you will think, say, or do is yours.
One more person scapegoat is always lurking in the background. What about the devil? The Prophet clearly taught that “the devil has no power over us on [except] as we permit him.”1 He taught that God will not use compulsion over us and the devil cannot. Satan is completely shackled when we are righteous. He is rendered impotent as a whimpering child by those who worthily take upon themselves the name and Spirit of Jesus Christ. The prophet taught that God, man, and the devil are “three independent principles”—three active and , therefore, never wholly passive agents. “All men have power to resist the devil.”2
The adversary can rage and buffet, but he cannot possess and dominate unless we permit him to do so. This is likewise true of the whole realm of evil spirits. In the presence of a servant of Jesus Christ they have no overpowering influence unless we let them.
It is difficult, however, to endure in the presence of someone who is obnoxious or irritating or tantalizing. As long as you seek the influence and help of the Father and the Son, you can endure such people or spirits, if need be, forever. To develop that kind of strength is one of the most vital experiences in life. The immature go on in petty crabbing or surrender their standards to the “group.” The mature put such things under their feet. The mature have learned that freedom to become their best is infinitely more valuable than freedom from entanglements with people.
Is much of your quest for freedom a reaction rather than independent action? Do you let others decide how you will behave? Reacting is allowing yourself to be manipulated like a puppet on strings. Someone pushes a button and you grind out the exact reaction called for. A truly free person is not that controllable nor predictable. He decides on his own—independent of expected standard responses—how he will deal with others. Why not make your won definitions of “manliness” and “womanliness” and “courage.” Who is to say for you what is worth fighting for, and what is worth fighting against? Christ was not free from involvements, problems, buffetings, entanglements, but he never sacrificed the freedom of becoming—the carrying out of his mission – to a compulsive effort to free himself from responsibilities. He lived for others; he taught for their salvation; he worked for his Father’s purposes. He might have rescued himself from a challenging temptation, painful abuse, and embarrassing imprisonment, and ignominious death, but he was not concerned with himself, only with others.
Can thoughts ever really be controlled? Thoughts that “pop into our head” do seem to be involuntary. They seem almost as inevitable as the jerk-of-the-knee reflex. We see someone we do not like and are immediately inclined toward spiteful thoughts or a long list of grievances come to mind. Someone we know receives recognition of special honor, and we tend to start thinking jealous thoughts. We go to a movie full of crime and violence and our finer sensitivities are dulled. Immorality or perversion on the screen may make of our minds a sinkhole of fantasies and unworthy brooding.
Then we go to church and hear some quote the words of the Bible:
…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her [or on a man to lust after him] hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
Does that mean that to think evil is just as bad as to commit it? No. Does it mean that we are supposed to be able to eliminate all such thoughts the way we can erase words from a sheet of paper? Yes.
Look at the passage again.
It is not the occurrence of ideas in the head, but their lodgment in the heart, their carry-over into one’s motivation and intentions, that degrades. “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) In the mind of one man a thought about evil is a cause of revulsion—he cannot even look upon sin except with abhorrence. In the heart of another a thought about evil becomes an evil thought because he cannot look upon sin except with haunted, lustful, unworthy desire.
Throughout the scriptures the heart is used to symbolize the seat of man’s most important desires. To “love with all your heart” is to love without reservation. The heart can also be the combustion chamber of all the degenerate drives of man’s life—anger, jealousy, lust, hostility, and all the rest. That is where the issue lies.
The warning of Jesus is that what we permit to enter our hearts will eventually lead us into action. One who has already committed adultery in his heart will commit it all to soon in fact. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34) That is the meaning of this statement that it is what comes from within that defiles a man. To the Nephites he made this even clearer: “[I would] that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” (3 Nephi 12:29)
How can we prevent evil thoughts from entering into our hearts? Thoughts that come to mind unbidden can be stifled or choked out. You can really hold only one thought at a time in the center of your mental stage. Temptation occurs when the thought turns into a feeling in the center of your heart.
All of us have seen the cartoons of the demon with the three-pronged shaft who climbs up on your shoulders and whispers evil thoughts into your mind and pushes, and needles, and goads, “Do it! Do it! It won’t matter once. Come on. You owe it to yourself.” The reason such pictures are still in circulation is that they do in fact reflect the kind of pressure we feel in the hour of temptation.
Whereas we assume that such demons, even if the “demons” be ourselves, put thoughts into our minds, the truth is that their most devastating success comes from getting thoughts out of our minds. One who is greatly tempted may develop an unrighteous interest or design in a girl which gives him little time to think about anything else. He thus literally loses thought of everything else—his past, his future, his better and more important commitment, the promises he make yesterday to himself, the resolves for self-control he made last Sunday in sacrament meeting, the dark nights of despair he has already known whenever he has yielded, the loneliness and unworthiness he has felt during time of temptation—all such considerations are driven out, forgotten, wiped out.
Hence the wisdom and power in the counsel of the Christ to our generation. “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” (D&C 6:36.) He might have added, “Forget not.” Does this mean we should look to him though we feel unworthy to lift our eyes?
Yes, in the darkest hour most of all. That is just what it means. Where else shall we find help? We must lift our eyes and our thoughts to heaven, or we can never lift ourselves from the various pits we dig for ourselves.
A simple “help me” spoken in silent prayer can break the compulsion of the temptation. Your ability to anticipate the long-range results of this present betrayal becomes as vivid as the thought of yielding to the present unworthy impulse. Anciently Paul said:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man [we are all in the same boat]; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
We are moving, then, from the area of the thoughts we think, into an area that is even closer to home—the feelings we feel. We now ask the question: “Can one control the feeling of his heart?” Are they not utterly beyond our control, rising and falling with the same inevitability as the involuntary pumping of our hearts?
Listen to the wise insight of a modern prophet:
In the first place the spirit is pure, and under the special control and influence of the Lord… Recollect, brothers and sisters, everyone of you when you are tempted, buffeted, and step out of the way inadvertently: when you are overtaken in a fault, or commit an overt act unthinkingly; when you are full of evil passion, and wish to yield to it, then stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacles, take the lead. If you do that, I will promise that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives. But many, very many, let the spirit yield to the body and are overcome and destroyed.3
The key word in that passage is “let,” not “make,” your spirit take the lead. To the degree that we reach for our better selves, for our spirits (and always we can reach for help), we find it deep within. At the edge of an abyss, we can always scramble back. The spirit within approves of the good and disapproves of the evil. It throbs with potential power a hundred times greater than that of the flesh. As the Prophet said, the affinity of our spirit nature is for divine things, and “those revelations that will save our spirits will save our bodies.” To be saved in the mortal sense is to be saved from sin and ignorance. To be saved in the eternal sense is to be saved for the wholeness and holiness of celestial life.4
What does it mean to be responsible, then? It means to accept this sovereign truth about yourself—that you are a product of your own freedom, ever being added upon—in charge of your thoughts, your feelings, and your reactions to others. Do not write your own book, One Thousand and One Excuses for School and Home Use. When improvement is in order, discover it, admit it, and look to yourself and to your God for help. This means you never shirk responsibility nor try to pin it on anyone or anything else. You are otherwise accepting a lie. If your life seems filled with misfortunes, failures, problems, you are not alone. Everyone has problems as a necessary part of free agency and personal development. Regardless of what happens outside you, you were and you are, and you will be, in charge of what happens inside.
By your nature, by your spirit birth, by virtue of your being a son or daughter of God, by your degree of knowledge and maturity, you are responsible for your own success or failure in life. This is true whether or not you are willing to face it.
1. Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt
Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938), p.181
2. Teachings, p. 189
3. Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 26 vol. (London: Latter-day Saints’
Book Depot, 1855-86), 2:256
4. Teachings, p. 355
My Religion and Me
HOW CAN I LIVE MORE ABUNDANTLY?
The story is told of a ship becalmed in foggy waters off the coast of South America—a sailing vessel at the mercy of the winds. Several days went by and the men on the ship were dying of thirst when a steamship came into view. The captain of the stranded ship hailed the steamer and asked that some water be given to him and his dying men. In response the other captain cried out, “Let down your buckets. You are in the current of the Amazon River.” When the buckets were raised from the waters in which the ship was becalmed, they were indeed found to be full of the fresh water of the far outreaching current of the Amazon. So it is with many of us. We have the resources within ourselves or available to us which are untapped, and we fail to “let down our buckets”, often suffering unnecessary, but inevitable, consequences.
Each person is somehow gifted. It is true that “all have not every gift” (D&C 46:11-26), and some of us spend years lamenting the absence of gifts within us. Such a failure to know ourselves often results in our missing our missions. The prophets teach that we were trained, reserved, prepared, forearmed, and fitted to the time, place, generation, and conditions we now face. This is our generation and each of us will—if we will to do it – be raised up to our special work. This is what we were sent here for. It is all—important that we discover, which really means uncover or recover, the gifts that are part of our make-up both as spirits and as bodies.
There are many things that hold us back. We doubt ourselves; we are afraid to try; we feel unqualified; we think things come easily to others and are difficult only for us. We envy and repine and say there is “no way.” We watch others who seem to move easily from task to task. We aspire and dream, but we fail to dig in. The late John A. Widsoe used to say that one of the greatest problems in the
Church and beyond is the “aspiring spirit”, with which men gnaw their hearts out to be in one of the few positions of presiding and prestige. As a result an infinite number of crucial roles in the Church go begging. The whole body of the Church is like the whole wristwatch. It needs every tiny part. The face and hands are no good at all without all the little cogs and wheels, springs, and jeweled screws that make up the watch. One defect or omission of a part anywhere, and the watch no longer does the job. Many fail to appreciate the importance of each small role; many fail to understand that no person is unimportant. The worth of each soul is great.
Two kinds of help will be discussed in this lesson. The first is the kind of self-help which comes to one who has trained and developed his own internal resources to such degree that he can be his own initiator of help through his own creative powers. The second comes from the Lord as men seek to comply with the requirements to receive guidance either directly through his Spirit or indirectly through the prophets, alike in that they are only available to individuals who are open and flexible; in this sense both may be thought of as “creative.”
IQ means “intelligence quotient” and has long bee considered the measure of a man’s mind, constant and fixed throughout his life. The present view is that the IQ test measures some aspects of mental ability, but by no means all (and probably not even most) of the important ones. There is a new understanding today among those who seek to measure the mind, and many old ideas are being discredited.
First, it is completely erroneous that men are mere learning machines that stand empty, waiting to be filled by experiences and rote, as a computer waits to have its tapes filled with information. There are indications that man something going for him at least from the time of his birth, something innate or built-in in the psyche that may result in differences in the way information is received, interpreted, stored, and used. For example, some people seem to have a “feel” for order, harmony, logical sequences, and relationships; others may seize upon a certain set of facts and remember and build on them to the exclusion of other. Experts are still in the experimental stages in measuring inborn mental phenomena, but this much seems clear: All of us have flairs or streaks or flashes that are somehow part of our very constitutions. They need to be developed, but they can be turned on rather than having to be installed, nurtured rather than planted. The mind, in short, is not just a blank surface on which the finger of experience writes. It is more than that, but the “more”, is difficult for scientists to explain.
Secondly, IQ is not a fixed quanity, so that you have it or you do not. By application and effort,, a person can increase his IQ, which includes at least the facility of memory, imagination, and conceptual arrangement (putting things in order).
On the other hand, by neglect, by slovenly mental habits, by refusing to exercise and challenge the mind, we can lose or decrease our IQ. The rewards, nature seems to have decreed can come to those who persist and struggle, regardless of what they start with.
Third, IQ is expressed in a variety of ways that are dissimilar. A poet has one kind of mental knack, an engineer another, a business executive still another. How these come out in practice depends not alone on IQ, but on other talents a person may have.
Both in America and Europe, partly doe to the so-called “space race,” there has been in recent years a tremendous amount of research done on “creativity.” What is wanted is not just people who can absorb other people’s ideas, readymade into their own minds, but people who can rework, add to, invent, discover, and travel to new mental horizons. One “shock” is that such creative people are not necessarily those who show up well on IQ indexes. Another shock is that, in one sense of “creative,” each of us has much to offer. We may be subdued and intimidated geniuses, but geniuses just the same in spirit of our self-doubts and reluctance to trust ourselves.
So now, instead of measuring IQ in the old-fashion way, psychologists are applying tests that spot individual talents along a spectrum of six major fields of endeavor.
This falsifies the traditional idea that if a person is good in one thing, he will be good in everything and the corollary (which is a depressing influence on our secret aspirations) that “if I’m not good at this, I won’t be good at anything.” Each of us can be great at something and may be dismal at something else—depending on the field.
Someday each of us should take an aptitude test to show us more about ourselves and to reveal where our strengths really are. Several advantages would result for each one such as increased confidence, and sense of purpose, an exhilaration in work, and ability to cope with one’s other failures, etc. All there arise from the clear and confirmed recognition of one’s latent abilities. Nothing is more frustrating than banging your head against “limits” which, for all your effort, go forcing you into the mediocre range. Psychologically and spiritually all of us need the sweet taste of success before we can take in stride some of the bitterness of below average performance. The Father of us all wills that each of his children experience that sweetness.
Let us now look at some descriptions of the general makeup and attitudes of “creative” people together with an indication of the way in which our Heavenly Father, by means of the gospel plan, has arranged to bring the creativity of all his children to the surface. Between the lines of gospel teaching is the expectation that each of us will grow into creative living.
The parable of the Talents clearly indicates that when we magnify our abilities the Lord will bless us with increased abilities. (Matthew 25:23)
The spiritually sensitive, it can be shown, are more inclined to be sensitive in other ways to their environment and especially to the other people. The person with the soul of a poet feels the heights and depths and life’s experiences; he can have exquisite pleasure and exquisite pain in ordinary living that leaves many others untouched.
On the other hand, the kind of behavior that most petrifies feeling most dulls and dims our capacity for alert and keen awareness, is sin, the trampling of the sacred and the breaking of the law. The gospel is given us to increase our spiritual awareness and to lead us from the deadening paths of sin. It is to make bad men good and good men better. Better men tend to be more sensitively observant men, more creative men.
Examples of the sensitizing effects of the gospel can be observed in many lives. One, in particular, comes to mind: Here is a man with only an eighth-grade education, with longer experience among the dregs of society where most of the conversations were in one-syllable, four-letter words, and most of the people were as amoral as the horses with which they worked. This man, after he rounded the corner onto the gospel road, became a real gentleman, developed a greater appreciation for the beauties of nature and a love for growing things, and reached out to the Lord and gratefully accepted the priesthood which he fully honors. He has become a necessary member of his community, unfailing sensitive to the needs of others, untiringly responsive to the,. The gospel did not make a different person of him so much as it game him the opportunity to become all that he had it in him to become.
The gospel of Jesus Christ exists to make us all “prophets,” possessed of the testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy, not just alerted, as some suppose, to the future, but to the whole sweep of time and space; stimulated to find divine meaning and divine purpose in the whole pattern of history and life.
Creating people see things as others do, but also as others do not. Take the following gems of insight that we come out of modern revelation.
It is no more incredible that God should save the dead than he should raise the dead.1
How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri River in its decreed course… as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. (D&C 121:33)
The gospel and the spirit of God are the spirit of truth. They enable us to see with fresh eyes. They transform us so that “old things shall pass away” and all things become new. (D&C 29:24.) The barrier of gap that ordinarily cuts us off from seeing others “from the inside” is overcome. He that speaks and he that received understand one another and “both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22) The mind and heart are both quickened, and we see the old mind and the heart are both quickened, and we see the old and the new with the “renewing” spirit of Christ—eventually to “see as [we] are seen, and know as [we] are known.” (D&C 76:94)
Said the ancient seer, “Your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28) This is occurring all around us today. The knowledge that unlocks treasure houses of truth has given us a veritable “explosion” of scientific knowledge in the past ten years, more than in all the centuries since Aristotle. These are the outgrowth of the restoration of the priesthood and the inspiration of God. Several of our own Mormon scientists (Joseph F. Merrill, John A. Widtsoe, Henry Eyring, Armin J. Hill, Tracy Hall, etc.) and artists and technicians credit the crucial ideas and impulses that have led to their most significant discoveries to the same ultimate explanation: the enlightening influence, the creative influence, of the Father of mankind.
Critics of Mormonism decry our involvement in “strange health codes.” There has always been, also, criticism of ancient Hebrew dietary restriction. How can one achieve effective mental processes in a body that is deteriorating? The Word of Wisdom is not an arbitrary interdiction of the pleasures of the world, nor is it a delusive promise conjured up like magic for no reason. Its promises are, it should be noticed, triple in nature; promises to the physical, the mental, and the spiritual person.
The promise is of health, of stamina, of vigor to “run and not be weary, and … walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:20) To this can be added by implication to sleep and not have need of tranquilizers, to awake without hangovers and depression or pep pills. The gospel allows us to tap the bounteous reserves, so often only partially tapped, with us. We can “let down our buckets” oftener and over a longer period of time than other people.
But that is only the start. Also promised are “treasures of knowledge” (D&C 89:19); learning functions of the brain are aided, stimulated, enhanced by the health of the thinker. Conversely, they are broken down irreparably by harmful or hallucinogenic substances. Medical students cannot even for an idea of the structure of the brain when doing autopsies on alcoholics, the breakdown is so extreme. The mental powers of one who honors the revealed laws of health is greatly magnified, and his physical energy is added upon.
As for the spiritual, the spirit itself is nourished and toned by health; and vice-versa. The whole gospel exists to achieve the “renewing of [our] bodies” (D&C 84:33) and thus “enliven the soul.” (D&C 59:19)
Some books on scientific method speak of “serendipity” (the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for). This kind of occurrence is fairly common and brings together otherwise unrelated ideas or combinations of ideas which turn out to be both new and useful. When men report their findings, the whole process sounds logical, ordered, careful, almost like a regimented march of soldierly thoughts through the brain. Most discoveries are not like that. Rather they grow out of intensive and difficult preparation and effort and then playing with some equipment or asking, “what would happen if? ...” Or sometimes when a man is working very hard on one idea, some unexpected side effect occurs, or some related ideas swim into his mind unbidden, and a new discovery is made.
In the religion of the Latter-day Saints such procedures and events turn out to be facets of the life of the spirit. Inspiration is “given;” it is not clear always whether it comes from “way up” or way down” inside. To use the careful preparation, and training as a springboard—to be capable of disciplined, controlled procedure and receptive to flashes of insight—is what a solid Latter-day Saint should have going him in his inner life. To “mount up in the imagination… as upon eagle’s wings”—a promise in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 124:99)—and to be touched by the Spirit with the power of remembrance—a promise in the New Testament ( John 14:26)—are both possible through the Spirit. One needs in addition to take time to meditate and follow one’s impressions and have the courage to execute them. This is to grow up into the spirit of inspiration and revelation—to “let down the buckets” into the living waters all around us.
Young people are heard to say and to seem to mean it, “I have nothing to live for. The more I live, the more problems I have. And then I die.” This attitude is incomprehensible in a Latter-day Saint. It is indeed dying of thirst with life-giving water within reach.
One hundred and fifty years ago, one of the closet associates of Joseph Smith summed it up:
The restoration of these pure laws and practices has commenced to improve or regenerate a race. A holy and temperate life, pure morals and manners, faith, hope, charity, cheerfulness, gentleness, integrity, intellectual development, pure truth and knowledge, and above all the operations of the divine Spirit, will produce a race more vigorous and better prepared, for long life and good days in their mortal sojourn.2
The gospel sets us free to be creative—and sets us creative to become more free. It is the “perfect law of liberty.”
1. Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938), p. 191
2. Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965), p. 167