Thursday, September 15, 2005


My Religion and Me

Chapter 9

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

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