Posts Tagged ‘grace of God’

Last week I received an email from Pandora with a summary report of how many thumbs up I gave on a particular radio station. It made me think of men.

What?

Yes, it made me think of men, who are more analytically on my mind because I’m reading the book Wife for Life. It’s written by a woman I knew as a teenager. She was a youth leader at the stake level, meaning she ministered to the young women in several wards (congregations). I only knew her from a distance, but I always admired her. Even at 14, I recognized that she was someone who expressed love easily and it made me want to be that way. My mission president’s wife also had that quality. Because of that influence, I started to try to be more expressive and open about sharing love. It prepared my heart to receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost and to feel more of the love of God. In turn, I was better able to share God’s love with others because I felt it myself.

We often never know the impact we can have on others just by being the best versions of ourselves. God changes us into that best version when we turn our heart over to Him.

My brother encouraged me to read Wife for Life. He said Ramona captured what motivated men, which was really fascinating to me because I feel like I don’t get men. I feel like I get women. In the past eight years I’ve been in five Relief Society presidencies (two at BYU and three in DC), so I’ve been in a lot of circumstances counseling individually with women about their lives, seeking inspiration about lesson topics and supporting women as they make significant life choices. The last two years especially during my lunch hour, my commute or lying awake in bed I would ponder the lives of individual women in my circle. Connecting with women and understanding where they’re coming from feels so natural to me.

With men, I’m very often lost.  I feel like after much explaining I’ve come to understand a few individual men, but I’m very often confused about how some really good men I know can be so good at life and seem to be so bad at relationships. Now that I think of it, there have been two men, my brother being one of them, who I appreciate how they think/thought about relationships. Both of them have been married, so that came after experience with women. It’s frustrating. Though Ramona Zabriskie argues in her book the woman has the power to bring happiness in a marriage, in my view, the man holds the power to getting into a committed relationship.    I guess both men and women need each other.:)

My home teacher (man assigned to visit the women in my house once a month to be available to serve when needed) told me that men are like dogs. You have to reward them with validation for good behavior. I appreciated his effort to be helpful, but I didn’t care for the analogy. I don’t want a dog, I want a man. And I thought it was demeaning to think of men in terms of dogs, especially good men. I told him I was really good at giving validation. (It comes naturally for a nurturing personality and serving for so long in a Relief Society capacity, I am well practiced, not to mention experienced with my own personal relationships.)

That’s why when I received the Pandora email, I thought of men. The summary of how many thumbs up I gave suited the dating scenario better in my mind. With Pandora, I choose my own station. I like all the songs on the station. Some of them I like more than others. When I give a thumbs up, it plays more of the music I like. I hardly ever give a thumbs down because I usually like all the music on the station. Even if I’ve previously given a thumbs up for a song, I’ll do it again because I’m pretty consistent. I think working with people, especially men in a dating scenario, is very similar. If I’m dating him, I already like what’s playing on the station. Some things I like more than others. If you encourage what you like, you get more of it. :)

Crazy Ladies

Back to the book Wife for Life. I’ve enjoyed reading it, but felt like much of it was more of a reminder of things I already believed. I’ve long thought that a woman’s self esteem has a huge factor in her relationships. It’s difficult to give and receive love if a woman doesn’t feel worthy of it. I’ve also long believed that I’m responsible to regulate my own emotions and usually as the woman is happy and satisfied, the home is peaceful. It’s my responsibility to work to be content.

But then I came to the section on the Crazy Ladies, chapter 9. This section gave me a brand new idea to explore about my emotional literacy.

Before reading this section I would have said I was a pretty good potential partner. I’m rationally inclined. I listen to understand. I respect individuality. I’m quite resilient. I have a deep well of patience when working with people. I’m rarely critical and I often check my ego. I’m open, affectionate, nurturing and usually content.

But oh man, have I been a Crazy Lady.  That’s so humbling to realize.

After a chapter about what husbands fear, she writes about the Crazy Ladies who emerge when “it feels like we cannot give another ounce, trust another inch, or be brave another day, in other words depleted…overwhelmed…stressed.”  The list is written from the husband’s point of view. The Crazy Lady comes out when a woman feels she’s not receiving the validation she needs and acts on her fears. She lists several Crazy Ladies on pages 85-89.  I felt like only the last one applied to me.

Ashamalee- “Ashamalee sometimes acts on her fear of disappointment, which triggers her husband’s fear of not measuring up. What she ends up communicating is: You are disappointing. You are inadequate. You are ridiculous.”

Stupidia-”Stupidia sometimes acts on her fear of being exploited, which stirs up her husband’s fear of becoming subservient and losing his independence. What she ends up communicating is: You are inept. You are foolish. You are obtuse.”

Irreleva-”Irreleva sometimes acts on her fear of losing her identity or of exploitation, which ignites her husband’s fear of uselessness. What she ends up communicating is: You are boring. You are useless.”

Betraya-”Betraya sometimes acts on her fear of inadequacy, exposure, intimacy, or of getting hurt, which stirs up her husband’s fear of neglect or loneliness. What she ends up communicating is: You are not as good as…or as important as…or as fascinating as…” 

Depressa“Depressa sometimes acts on her fear of abandonment, loss, or disappointment, which fans her husband’s fear of being overwhelmed by emotional demands. What she ends up communicating is: You don’t meet my needs. You don’t care enough…”

For each one she lists possible behaviors. I saw I had done some of Depressa before, but it didn’t really hit me until her personal example for Depressa. She described how she accompanied her husband on a European business trip. In Munich, all of his appointments fell through and because hotel arrangements had already been made, they were in the city for 5 days before needing to go to Stockholm. She was so excited! Five whole romantic days with her husband! But he didn’t share her excitement, “He just sat there poking his fish with a fork. ‘I was looking forward to working this week,’ he said.”  She was upset, as I imagine I would be too. What? I’d be hurt he’d rather work when he had the opportunity of 5 whole free European days with just me.

Ramona writes:

 Now, if I’d been in better form that day, I would have gently sat back down and taken a minute to think about what he meant in the context of the male drive to achieve and the male fear of uselessness behind it. I would have reached for his hand and said something sympathetic. I would have given him an hour or two (or however long it took) to process his disappointment without forcing him to justify it to me, without trying to fix it for him, and without trying to jolly him out of his gloom with cheerfulness. I would have just let him be. I would have graciously let him retreat into his mental cave, knowing he would come out of it all the sooner, taut and strong and ready to spring into romance. (p. 90)

But she didn’t. She was upset and therefore they both became upset. It took a while to recover. Talk about wasted time on their newly obtained vacation.

She writes: “Thankfully, Depressa rarely makes an appearance these days, but I still have to stay on my toes to keep her at bay.”

This recalls a few instances in my own life that make me cringe. I remember telling a roommate in one particular case, “I’m mad if he talks to me and I’m mad if doesn’t talk to me. Either way, I’m mad.”  I knew at the time what I really wanted was his validation and I resented the situation that prevented it. Even knowing that, I didn’t behave at my best form. It looks like I’m really good at relationships with women and friends; good at life, but not always great at romantic relationships. I’m so glad that God helps us change. The Spirit has often corrected me on things I should change and He’s softened the hearts of others to whom I needed to apologize when I’ve asked Him to precede me. I’m glad Ramona has taught me here so I can work on changing.  With some practice, I can stay on my toes, too.

Hermoine’s Crazy Lady

This section of Wife for Life reminded me of a scene in Harry Potter.  Harry, Ron and Hermoine have left Hogwarts in search of horcruxes to destroy. They don’t know where the horcruxes are or what exactly to look for. A horcrux could be any discarded object. They’ve been camping in the woods avoiding snatchers, constantly stressed about the impossible task before them.  Ron and Harry get in a fight and Ron leaves. In Ron’s defense, the dark magic in the horcrux they switch off wearing around their necks affected him.

On his return, Hermoine’s Crazy Lady comes out.  I totally get Hermoine’s reaction here. Of course she’s glad he’s back, but she’s hurt and angry that he left, especially when she needed him so much. She needs him to validate her feelings, assure her he regrets leaving and it won’t happen again and give her time to get over it. I’ve never behaved like Hermoine in this scene, but I’ve also never been abandoned by a boyfriend while trying to defeat the most evil wizard the world has ever known.  Good thing Crazy Lady didn’t have her wand.

Watch Ron’s face. Poor guy. If only he knew why Crazy Lady was coming out, he wouldn’t be so blindsided.

For some reason, I can’t get it to embed, but here’s the link.

Maybe if both men and women know why the Crazy Lady comes out, they can both handle well putting her back in her cage. :)

One could hope.

I love how much of Ramona is in her book. I love learning from her, so I can change and hopefully one day have a marriage like hers.

 

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Hey there! I’m not really back to blogging, but the last month or so I’ve had two posts swimming in my head. I have almost a day on a plane and bus, so I have a little time. One post would include reflections of my most recent stint as Relief Society president in my singles ward. I was recently “released” from the position as we call it.  In this same post I want to write about an evening I attended addressing surveys of Church members experiencing faith crisis. The New York Times just published a piece on the man who prompted the survey and who I heard speak. See that article at “Some Members Search the Web and Find Doubt.” I appreciated journalist McKay Coppins’  response “Why the Internet Hasn’t Shattered My Mormon Faith.”  I’d like to write about my own sense of betrayal as I learned more about Church history and how I navigated through it. Make that how I’m navigating through it.

The other is this post about dating, prayer and choices. I’ve gone back and forth with myself about doing it. Then I re-read a few of my posts about dating, which made me smile because I forgot about them and realized this one fits right in. It makes for an interesting read and I hope that as I’m real, it can help others see how faith works in daily life—not just idealized in disconnected church sermons.

Here’s the point: Committed love is not inevitable. It comes by a series of choices to get there and then a series of choices to remain there. God helps us along the way if we ask. We have to ask because He works according to our faith and asking prepares us to receive what He will give.

(If this gets too long for you, just skip to the last section about prayer. That’s the best part of this post.)

“Web of Contingency”

It seems inevitable that my parents ended up together. I mean, I can’t imagine life without my family, or my mortal existence for that matter! Of course it was going to work out between them.  But that sense of inevitability only comes with hindsight. Of course Americans would win their independence. Of course American slavery would become illegal. Of course the Mormon pioneers would settle the Salt Lake valley.  Of course women would obtain the vote.  Of course the Nazis wouldn’t win the war. There’s a sense of inevitability that comes with looking backwards into the past. But these events brought with them great uncertainty and struggle.  So it is with marriage. Looking back on it for couples who are way passed the uncertainty and struggle of the decision process makes it all seem inevitable that they’d end up together.

But it wasn’t.

I like to think of achieving marriage in terms of how David Hackett Fischer describes the crossing of the Delaware River during the American War of Independence in his book Washington’s Crossing. When you read the words “this book,” think “marriage” and you’ll catch my drift.

We have seen how it happened: not in a single event, or even a chain of events, but in a great web of contingency. This book is mainly about contingency, in the sense of people making choices, and choices making a difference in the world. It is not primarily a story of accidents, though there were many along the way. It is not about what might have been, though that question is always in the background. This is a story of real choices that living people actually made. To study an event in these terms is to discover a dense web of contingency, in which many people made choices within a structure of relationships. (364)

Mormons heavily emphasize the concept of free will. God created us before we came to earth, the Mormon narrative begins, and we came into the world to choose God and gain experience. We grow into obtaining our eternal potential as we receive Christ’s Atonement and absorb His power to make us holy.

I once heard a bubbly Church speaker say that God has a path for each of us, we just have to discover it and follow it. I didn’t think that exactly aligned with how Mormons understand the purpose of life. It’s more like God has His gospel path for everyone and Christ is the gatekeeper. But, once on that path and received Christ, there are thousands upon millions of good paths we can choose while still on that gospel path.  What job you end up in, where you’ll live and even what partner you end up with isn’t predetermined. He can see some are better for us than others and will guide us toward those if we ask. He wants us to develop our ability to make good choices. We counsel with Him about possible paths on the gospel path while He gives us feedback from His omniscient perspective. “He approves more than He assigns” to quote a popular Mormon youth speaker.

Since we’re all making choices, it creates a “dense web of contingency” and it exists within a “structure of relationships.”

This means that Mormons don’t believe in predestined soul mates. But they do believe that once you choose a spouse, that person becomes your soul mate.

The Intersection of the Venn Diagram 

I think of potential partners in terms of a Venn diagram. One circle includes the men I could match up with. The other circle comprises those who could want to be with me. There have been men in my life with whom I wanted a deeper relationship, but they didn’t want it with me. Then there have been some men who were interested in a deeper relationship with me and I wasn’t interested. The great potential for a partnership lies in mutual interest—the intersection of the Venn diagram.

There’s not just one person in the intersection who is the destined one. Lots are possible, though the circle is not so big to include everyone who is single. Some people have large intersections and others small, but I believe there are sufficient amounts of possibilities for most everyone. Progressing to marriage happens through a series of choices within the intersection.

God works according to the faith we offer Him. If we ask Him for help in finding someone in the intersection, He will. Then once you’ve found someone in the intersection, He can advise you along the way if you ask. He cares about our lives and that includes our relationships.

God’s will, your will or both? Being willful? 

I think of God’s will in terms of my relationship with my Dad. It’s his will for me to be faithful to my knowledge of the gospel. He wants me to grow up and be a self sufficient adult who maintains a relationship with Him and still relies on Him for love and support. I think people often think of God’s will in very narrow terms, seeking to know the one thing they’re destined to be so they can be it.  My Dad wants me to be successful and there are lots of ways to be successful while still living according to my knowledge of the restored gospel. I believe God’s will is similar. The key is counseling with Him along the way so we can hear His feedback on our choices. God wants us to align our will with His. His will looks more like a good father than a dictator.

Then there’s being willful, meaning you make yourself unavailable to His Spirit and do whatever you want because it’s what you want.  Are you willful?

Women and Power in Dating

It’s hard to know who is actually in the intersection. That takes action and a willingness to be rejected. In other words, you gotta try.

I’m currently not sure how much true power Mormon women have in the dating process, beyond the power of prayer, which I’ll get to. I believe I have power over my own choices, but I’ve found relationships only progress if the man is actively moving it forward and I’m accepting or declining the forward movement.  What am I supposed to do then, just wait around for someone to pick me?  That seems so paternalistic. I do believe women  have power to encourage and create opportunities and show interest.

For example, there was one particular guy I thought was so amazing. He was deeply reflective and incredibly smart, polite, kind and opinionated . He was spiritual in a faithful, yet sometimes unconventional way (as I view myself to be).  But I didn’t know all those things at first. I just knew he was good looking. He started talking to me at our ward retreat. After a while they announced the last BYU/Utah football game was up. It was quite the feat to get the satellite signal to function while in the mountains near Camp David. To receive signal, it had to be set up on the lawn, so viewers grabbed chairs to relocate into the cold night air to see the large projector screen. I invited him to join me to watch, which he did. It was very cozy as we shared my blanket and continued talking while half watching the game. He had his arm around me. Or was that just his arm on my chair? I wasn’t sure. I think it was around me. We’d talk at subsequent Church activities and I invited him over a few times, but it never went much beyond that. Looks like he was in my circle, but I wasn’t in his. It’s too bad because he was so great, but at least I was trying—and doing what I could see was in my power.  You gotta try. Committed love isn’t inevitable. It comes about through the struggle of our choices.

Then there was another man. We were no longer dating because of his choice, but he’d left it open. And I didn’t want it closed. We ran into each other at a party and there was no way I was going to talk to him. I wasn’t over him, but that was deliberate. I could have gotten over it for good if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. I figured I would when I had to, if I had to. He came up to me, making it a point to touch me, bringing up things we had done together and updating me on his life.  He seemed different and I hoped that it could be different. At that point in my life I’d developed the belief that if a man likes you, he’ll do something about it and I’d already made enough of a fool of myself over this guy that if he did want to ask me out, he’d do something about it. I hoped he would for a while, but he never did and I tried to forget about it and sort of did. Then, months later I could bring a guest to an annual Christmas meeting for Temple workers in the upper room of the Washington, D.C. Temple. I’d attended this meeting before. It’s a moving experience. Everyone in attendance wears their Temple whites and the Spirit is very strong as faithful Temple workers sing gospel  hymns and listen to sermons on the role of the Savior. I thought through people I could invite and really wanted him to join me. I decided and then undecided to ask him for about a week and finally landed on the go for it side. I stared at my phone for about 15 minutes before actually doing it. My voice was a tinsy bit shaky as I asked. The answer was no  (well, it was “not now” which is neither here nor there at this point), but it was worth it to me to try. You gotta try.

More recently I was hanging out with a particular man, but I would have rather been on a date with him (see the difference between dating and hanging out at “Stop Hanging Out with Women and Start Dating Them” on the Art of Manliness and “Dating Versus Hanging Out” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks). We’d been on a date before. He’s really smart with lots of initiative and passion and he likes to hear my perspective on ideas he’s exploring. Our bishop had recently done the lesson on dating/marriage, which happens about twice a year or so in singles wards and we were talking about it. (That lesson happens apart from the weekly Relationships Sunday School class. Yeah that’s a thing.)  I told him if I were a (Mormon) man, I’d be very active at dating. I’d ask women out until I found someone I liked and then pursue a relationship with her. If it didn’t work out, I’d move on and keep moving until it works out. I told him I envied the Mormon man’s prerogative in the dating scenario. It’s true that other cultures have different norms, so our model doesn’t have to be this way. However, I believe that culture influences emotions and to be countercultural in this instance doesn’t seem to work out for too many women. Too bad our dating norms are strongly in the favor of the man. He said that we probably had different perspectives on how to be active about it and continued with saying, “But, there’s no better way to get Mormon women to respect you, than to ask women on dates.”  That made me laugh and I smiled in agreement. There are as many perspectives on dating as there are people who want to date. You gotta keep trying until it works. There are enough people, I believe, in each person’s intersection that it can eventually work out, but you gotta try. Committed love isn’t inevitable. It comes about through the struggle of our choices.

Someone’s Choice Does Not Change Your Worth

When I read again my post “God Knows That Dating is Tough,”  I remembered this important point. The way others treat us often has a direct influence over our self esteem. It’s hard to still feel good about yourself when you’ve decided to let someone in and they decide they don’t want to be there. Self-esteem is how we view ourselves, but our worth is eternally constant. No matter what others choose, how God feels about us never changes. Each of Heavenly Father’s children was worth the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. That’s priceless.

The Lord said it this way in a modern revelation:

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” Doctrine & Covenants 18:10 

Just because someone isn’t in your intersection or is in your intersection and chooses someone else, it doesn’t mean you don’t have tremendous worth.

Asking God to Help with Dating

Now to what inspired this post in the first place. A few years ago, the Prophet spoke on marriage  in the priesthood session of general conference and this talk became a recurring theme in my singles ward. In the talk, he expressed concern about single Latter-day Saints hanging out in large groups and not going about purposefully searching for a spouse. I got sick of hearing about it because I didn’t think this applied to me, but I didn’t want to feel like the Prophet’s counsel didn’t apply to me. I prayed sincerely to know what I should do about dating. I really wanted to know if I would never get married so I could grieve the loss of the dream and quit waiting around for something to happen that wouldn’t and move on with my life. After lots of work in the form of prayer and humbling myself, I got an answer to “be patient and trust me.” I was happy to receive a clear answer, but also felt like He wasn’t answering me as I asked. Hello?! Does being patient and trusting mean I should give up on this marriage hope or not? But pursuing that felt bratty. I decided to let that go and just pray for help to be patient and trust. I’ve been consistent with that since, though many mornings and nights it was more to just check the box (hey, praying for the same thing for years can lead to your fervency to wane). God did bless me with the patience and trust for which I asked. Gratefully, after a while I lost my angst about dating.

But, a few months ago things happened that motivated me to revisit the “What should I do about dating?” question.

I couldn’t sleep because I was replaying old tapes in my mind and it was seriously upsetting me. After earnestly praying what I should do about the dating thing, I felt better and went to sleep. The next day during my scripture study on the Metro a very clear answer came into my mind to “pray he’ll have the courage to pursue me.” This made sense to me and I started meaningfully including it in my prayers with faith. The next day someone I had previously dated emailed me and wanted to talk. I didn’t think much of it. Essentially the last time we talked apart from in-the-hall-at-Church-chit-chat was a train wreck. I felt like he was making choices based on assumptions about me without just asking me in the first place. When I said I just wanted someone who wanted to be with me and then you decide the life details after that, I didn’t take well to his response.  Now he was looking for some feedback. Over the years at various times, I’ve sought feedback from men I’d dated after time passed and we were on friendly terms. I was looking for info to help me change for the better. It was never a bad experience. He appeared to be doing the same. Because he wasn’t asking me out, I didn’t feel the need to make it a priority. About a month passed before we ended up chatting and then only briefly.  At the close, I wished him luck.

A few weeks later he asked to meet again. This time it was different. He said essentially since we had that terrible ending (my words), which was about six months previous, he’s been thinking of me and more generally of what he should do about dating. He’d received some impressions from the Spirit and subsequently had a “paradigm shift.”

Then he went on.

Then I responded.

Who knows what will happen with this. Committed love isn’t inevitable, it comes about through the struggle of choices. But here’s some thoughts that come to me about it from the benefit of hindsight:

His humility was absolutely disarming to me.

I had nothing but respect for him for the tremendous courage it required to tell me what he did.

Because of the humble confidence he carried by acting on what the Spirit inspired him to do, I changed from hardly caring to see him to finding him very attractive. Worth noting, right?  :)

I’m also humbled about the timing. He’d been thinking about it for months and right after I prayed with faith and the Spirit gave me to “pray that he would have the courage to pursue me” he contacted me.  1. Cool he’s so responsive to the Spirit and 2. Cool the Lord gave me specifically what to exercise faith about.

I believe others would have similar experiences through acting on answers to prayer and trusting God.

You’re almost to the end of this mega-long post!

I learned many, many things this round as a Relief Society president. The most valued thing I learned was a re-learning. It is how to exercise faith in prayer, receive an answer, recognize the answer and to act upon it.

Most everyone dreams of committed love.  If you involve God in the process, I believe He can help guide you to someone in your intersection. Then you have to continue to make choices. Ask Him for help in those moments too.

God cares, even about dating which can seem silly, but actually has consequences that reach into forever.

May you reach out to Him as He reaches for you, so your forever can be eternally learning the true meaning of the commitment of love.

Related posts:

Can’t you see the I’M the answer to your prayers? 

Mormon Apostle: Question Your Guts Out 

God Knows Dating is Tough 

 

 

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My parents are worried about me being in another country. Washington, DC is far enough for them. I’m posting some pics for them to get a sense of where I’m staying. It’s a gated community kind of place.

Margaret Rockefeller Strong Larrain donated the Villa Le Balze to Georgetown University in 1986. When she inherited it, she wanted to donate it for an educational purpose. She invited universities to submit proposals and Georgetown beat out the likes of Harvard, Yale and Stanford for the chance to educate their students here. It could have been because her lawyer was a Georgetown alum.:)

The garden courtyard.

The view, part of it. My camera’s zoom is really good.

The greenhouse

The dining hall where we eat almost all of our meals prepared by Italian cooks. Lunch has two courses, starting with pasta and dinner has three courses, starting with pasta. Seriously, my jeans are already a bit snug by this point.

One of the two libraries. This is the room where I’m currently sitting.

Upstairs hallway to some of the bedrooms, including mine.

The bathroom

Our room, there’s just two of us, so it’s not as cramped as it looks.

The view from the bathroom.

There’s also a classroom space for our evening lectures and we’re locked up inside gated walls. Not too shabby.

I’m really grateful to be here and I appreciate fellowshipping with Georgetown students. They’re very bright and many of them are faithful Catholics, which I appreciate. There’s not much of a religious presence on Georgetown campus apart from their values banners and usually empty chapel. Since I go to school at night after work, I don’t get to interact as much with my peers as I would have in a daytime program. However, it still draws people of faith. This weekend we went to Assisi where St. Francis lived, served and died and now holds a huge basilica in his honor. Our conversations the whole weekend were full of theology and open, authentic respectful discussion. When everyone else was drinking wine and I consistently declined, it came out that I was LDS (Mormon) which only adds to the the discussion.

Learning for me is a spiritual experience. Hearing others’ views  expands that process. That’s beautiful to me.

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Last night I was frustrated.

It all started on my metro ride home when I was thinking about the things I needed to do for the evening. Before I could get to them, I thought, I need to address unresolved tasks for my Church calling (responsibility) that I had worked on tying up on Sunday, but couldn’t connect with the people I needed. I’d called them several times since. I also emailed them. I hadn’t heard back.

As I walked home, calling one back and again reaching only a voicemail, I was getting more miffed.

They had approached me at Church for something they needed my help with so they could fulfill their calling.  I went through the work of doing just what they asked for and now they weren’t returning my calls? I know you love your smart phone, show it some love and use it to call me.  It feels like such a waste to keep trying and not getting results for the same issue. Everyone’s busy, I know, but couldn’t they take 30 seconds and compose a text, at least? Go ahead, I have unlimited texting. If it was more of a priority for them, they’d respond to me. These thoughts all ran through my head.

Then this morning I was listening to this talk as I was getting ready for the day (there’s nothing like listening to a modern prophet’s voice while doing your make-up). This talk was directed to priesthood holders and their responsibility for service, but like most of the time, the content of the talk sometimes isn’t what does it, but it’s seeking to learn more of God through that scripture puts my mind in the state to receive messages from Him through the Holy Ghost.

“You don’t always call me back, either, you know,” was the thought that came into my mind (I might have been putting on eye-liner at the time).

I stopped.

What?

Then I made the connection.

I had felt sorry for myself for too much of the previous evening because people wouldn’t call me back. But there are lots of times I get promptings from God through the Holy Ghost and I don’t respond to Him.

For example, almost nightly recently, I’ve had the idea I should improve my prayers, specifically through not kneeling on my bed and doing a face plant into my pillow. There have been times when my prayers are so filled with the Spirit that I feel in communion with Him, times I cherish. In my mind and heart, I feel like He’s very close by and I know something of His will.

Recently, not so much.

Because of this, I may even sometimes mix up requests and ask my family to be blessed before I eat them. I excuse myself because of my fatigue, but I know I’d be much more attentive if I wasn’t snuggled up in bed where I’ve trained myself like one of Pavlov’s dog to soon slip into slumber.

The constant recurrent thought to stop doing this before I pray is the kind of pressing thought that I know it’s from the Spirit. I’m not sure how long it’s been, a few weeks? A month? That’s a long time not to respond to Heavenly Father’s calls. It’d only been a few days for my complaint and they probably had a good reason. Me, I was just being lame and lazy.

I decided to change my frustration with my lack of immediate gratification in call-backs. After feeling remorseful for my poor attitude, I spoke with Heavenly Father in prayer about it. I thanked Him for the perspective, and asked for forgiveness and the chance to be a little more like Him in how I fulfilled my calling. And oh yeah, about that face-plant-prayer-thing, I’ll get on that, too.

Claim I Wish Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling Addressed in the Intelligence Squared Debate

This isn’t a rare occasion. I get corrected like this all the time. As I seek the Holy Spirit more diligently and I’m willing to respond to its pressings, it happens more frequently. I consider it part of my lifetime transformation to become more holy through using Christ’s Atonement by repentance. The beginning of this transformation was a one time event. Evangelical Christians call this “being saved” when you “let Jesus into your heart.”   I believe that beginning experience, which I wrote about in the post “I’m Mormon: Enlightened or Brainwashed,” began a life long process of sanctification for me. I was relieved of the guilt of my sins (forgiven), but now I need to be changed from its effects. I have to choose to yield indivdiual shortcomings and missteps to God (repentance).  The more I seek Christ’s forgiveness as I recognize my missteps, I receive a greater portion of His grace.

This process makes me a better person. As a result, I’m slow to be angry in traffic. I’m slow to think others are incompetent when their customer service isn’t what I expect. I’m slow to be rude. I’m motivated to serve my community. I am more thoughtful in my relationships with my family and friends. I attribute all these polishing aspirations to this process of conversion I’m living. It’s gradual and subtle. I could have missed it this morning, but I was putting myself in a state of mind to hear God’s gentle nudging and I chose to respond.

This brings me to the claim I wish Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling addressed in the recent debate hosted by Intelligence Squared. Intelligence Squared poses a motion and invites renowned representatives to debate it. Their most recent motion was “The World Would Be Better Without Religion.” The evening begins with the audience casting a vote for or against the motion and the winner is determined by influencing the greatest amount of change in the audience’s opinions. I was surprised that the audience chose the side for the motion, not just because I’m pro-religion in society. Those advocating for it, meaning arguing the world would be better without religion, frequently cherry picked random scriptures to demonstrate religion’s silliness. These scriptures hardly applied to the religious experience of anyone.  The opponents used rational facts and statistics to justify their claims that religion makes the world a better place.

I wish those wanting to eliminate religion from the world discussed not whether religious belief was delusional, but that it’s possible to participate in an ennobling process equivalent or better to what I’ve described (and is a common narrative among religious people) without these alleged delusions about God. In my mind, when discussing God in the public forum, it doesn’t matter if there’s really a God. What matters is how those who claim belief in a God behave as a result of it. I wish they were able to come up with some explanation that there is a substitute for the drive for spirituality that would move me to change my attitude in the way I’ve described. It was such a slight error, but because what I believe was the Holy Ghost corrected me, I became remorseful and redirected. I changed and I changed for the better. This influence of the Holy Ghost diminishes the likelihood of repeating the error. Though I likely will repeat the error in different forms, I believe these errors will come  less often.  Because of these small course corrections, the possibility of being uncivil to others in my community is increasingly unlikely.

I’m convinced I wouldn’t be so teachable without what I believe is influencing me, the Holy Ghost. If I didn’t believe I was receiving messages from God to make daily decisions to change and if I didn’t believe God was giving me grace to change my heart and make me more like Him, I see no other source in my life to direct me to become ennobled. The messages I receive from media outlets seek to persuade me to consume more and more because I deserve it.  Chapman and Grayling had scoffing tones. Should I model this behavior?

In Rabbi David Wolpe’s closing remarks, he spoke of his grandfather as a boy in Auschwitz who questioned his grandfather about using butter to light a menorah. When the boy questioned him for using the scarce ration for this purpose, the grandfather told him that they have learned they could go three weeks without eating, but they could not go one day without hope.  Through my spiritual changing process I have hope, not just hope for heaven. (Those critical of religion often focus on what they see as a self-interested pursuit of  a post-mortal reward. So let’s just focus on this life for now.) As I enjoy and respond to what I believe is God’s calling, I’m more teachable, I’m more patient, I’m more loving, I’m slow to overreact, my mind is sharper and I remember things more quickly. My joys are deeper and my life is a more fulfilling experience. I see the wonder of the world around me and value the individual worth of every person. Is there any secular substitute for my pursuit to respond to God’s call and change into who I believe He wants me to be?  That is the hope that is within me, which I cannot live one day without.

I wish they’d addressed that claim. It is after all, a common claim among most religious people. Yeah, there are those crazies who use God to justify murder and other outlier business, but what would the world be like if the millions of people who are living a process like I am lost their directing system? Would the world be a better place? What would replace it to compensate for this loss? That would have made for a much more sound debate (rather than quoting Old Testament scripture about women grabbing at men who are in conflict with their husbands).

Interested in the debate? Here  it ’tis:

Debate: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv

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The post “What would a MormonInsider Say About…“  responded in part to Leah’s questions. This post continues with some more parts.

I met him when I was in his city on business and later attended a meeting with several Latter-day Saint young single adults. He had a boy-next-door-grown-into-a-studly-man charm about him. He was spiritual, kindly, thoughtful, and brilliantly innovative. Did I mention he was also easy on the eyes? We’d been in touch a few times before my flight was laying over in his city and he picked me up from the airport.

I had called him about meeting during my 4 hr long layover. He didn’t know I was flying stand-by on my brother’s flight benefits, which meant I hadn’t booked my flight before I talked to him. He didn’t know if he wasn’t able to meet me, I would have taken the earlier flight, leaving enough of an evening to enjoy the company of friends in my ward back in Washington, D.C..  It was my idea to hang out in the terminal. He had a better one. We hiked to a point that overlooked the city.

I was totally digging him. It would have been the beginning of a beautiful story if only he was interested in me, but he was not responsive to my shameless flirting. (I’m not of the camp who think men are stupid.)

While descending the hike, he was going on about being thirty-something and still unmarried. He said he must be doing something wrong because he’s been sincerely praying about it for years and it escaped him. “Can’t you see that I’M the answer to your prayers?” was the thought that crossed my mind. I looked away to broadly grin at my private joke.

I could have been an answer to his prayers, if he wanted me to be.

Leah asks about recognizing answers to prayers. How do you know they’re not just coincidences? What about unanswered prayers and why does God seem to answer yes to frivolous occasions and fail to come through when it really counts?

All good questions.

The truth is, if handsome/charming guy ended up liking me, I probably would have attributed it to being the answer to his prayers and him to mine. I never would have considered it a result of my self-interest and/or biological factors; I really would have enjoyed kissing him. (I’d have to be his girlfriend, of course. I’m not the non-committal make-out type. But, you guessed that already.)

Usually when things happen in our favor, it’s really easy to attribute it to God. For example, after a tornado, when one house is standing and the one next to it is demolished, someone could say God protected it. So how do you know it was really Him and not just chance, luck or nature’s course simply unfolding?

Leah posed her questions on my claim of receiving answers to prayers on this post where I was describing the truth discovery process by the Holy Spirit. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s an answer to prayer unless the Spirit confirms it. And the Spirit doesn’t confirm things to me as often as I’d like because it requires effort to take the mental action otherwise known as exercise of faith.  It requires diligent pondering, remembering past witnesses and deciding to trust that God will continue His pattern of communication that I’ve already experienced. By the phrase confirmation of the Spirit, I mean that my mind his enlightened with a simultaneous impression on my heart that I am able to conclude in the moment with certainty that it’s not my imagination, but the Holy Ghost. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite diligent in seeking the Spirit, but only the most important things get the required attention.

In the post “My Current Explanation of Life’s Purpose,” I described how sometimes I feel like God leaves me alone, even when I remain diligent in seeking Him. I believe that the times of greatest growth in faith, for me at least, have come when I feel I’m not being heard. In those times, I look back, remembering past witnesses and decide to remain faithful to what has already been made known to me when I could very easily walk away. So, perhaps those unanswered prayers are purposeful in how God shapes me into who He knows I can become.

 

Without the Spirit’s confirmation, I don’t know for sure that it was God. I just infer it.

Without the Spirit’s confirmation, I can’t say that I know it was God and not chance. Usually, if something happens for which I have been praying, I simply infer it was God; I don’t know for sure.

Here’s an example.

With the recent downturn in the economy, the leadership of the nonprofit I’m with decided to focus all resources on the core mission. My position applies to the core mission’s expansion. They cut me back from full time to part time, which does not cover my living expenses (gone are the days of BYU housing rent at less than $300 monthly). The break was nice for a while so I could breathe and sleep because working full time and going to school at night is very difficult. To cover my expenses, I started using more student loans than I originally planned when I began my master’s program.

Several things weighed on my mind. I’m committed to “provident living” as it’s known the Church, meaning that I should live within my means and only go into debt for education, a modest home and I can’t remember the other one right now. Though my debt was to further my education, not all of it was necessary and therefore contrary to this principle. Also, I purposefully decided not to pursue a law degree and pursue a liberal studies degree.  I won’t be qualified to work in a particular trade when I finish my program.  I chose enriching coursework with an end that requires me to forge my own way to form the unique career path that I envision. This was a relatively safe decision when I was employed in a job I loved.  It wasn’t looking so hot once my circumstances changed. Lastly, the unemployment rate is over 10% nationwide. I often considered how if I continued living in part off the student loans in addition to the tuition loans, I could finish my program and have to start waiting tables to meet the demands of paying them back. Sheesh. Being an adult is the pits sometimes.

I wanted a new job in my field, but it is really small and specified and I prepared myself to have to take a detour job to pay the bills, if I could even find that. I started praying that I could find a new job in my field and began networking with the organizations whose work I admire.  Many of them operate partially off government grants and with the current tenor of Congress and its deficit decreasing efforts, the story was the same at all those I approached. They’d love to have me, but they have no funding for me and I could volunteer.  I did do some volunteer projects here and there while I continued networking. Unfortunately, I can’t eat off goodwill. For the summer, I picked up a full time temp job in addition to the part time job with the nonprofit while taking summer school and I continued networking. It was going to be tight for a while, but hey, girl’s gotta do what she can.

Then BAM!  The Bishop of my ward called me into his office and asked me to take on an ongoing time consuming “calling” or responsibility.

What should I do?

I decided I didn’t have time to continue looking for a job and take on the responsibility of my new calling. In prayer, I told that Lord that I’m unsure how the job thing was going to work out, but I would trust that if I prioritized serving Him first, it would be fine. I didn’t know what would happen; it could be one of those painful growing experiences, but I viewed it as a chance to put God first in my heart and my life.  If not at this moment, then when?  My life could turn into a long series of special circumstances that put my own needs first before the Lord and I don’t want to live that way.

I accepted the calling and quit thinking about finding a new job and put my mind and heart to pondering how I could seek the Spirit to better help those over which I now I had stewardship to access Christ’s power more fully by faith.

A few weeks later, a friend of mine forwarded a job posting to me she saw while on a website she rarely visits. She knew that I was part time with my nonprofit, but didn’t know I was officially looking and then officially quit looking for the time being (hey, she’s recently married, so we don’t keep up like we used to, you know how it goes). Her find sounded promising. Bleary eyed at midnight, I composed a specified cover letter, updated my resume and emailed it in. The very next morning the executive director emailed me wanting to schedule an interview. He was clear that they would not extend beyond the posted salary range because they’d already budgeted for the year, but assured me the benefits were good and that the next year they could readjust the salary.  I was pleased to hear that the position had a steady revenue stream, so it wasn’t from a temporary grant.

I came into the interview well prepared to make a case for myself.  He opened by telling me that since the job has been posted in the last month, 212 people applied. He was interviewing 12 and I was first because I wrote the best cover letter. “You told me what I couldn’t surmise from your resume,” he told me. He also liked that I said I look forward to a conversation where we could see if we were “a good professional match.”  He said most people assured him in their cover letters they were a perfect fit for the job. He made clear that he would solely determine who was the best fit for the position.

Ends up, this is a position he’s been wanting to expand for several years, but he’s very particular on who should fill it. Though his board has been pressing him on it, he’s been exploring it at his own pace.

After the interview, I used the weekend to draft some recommendations I thought they could do within the next year, based on my experience. I also mailed him a thank you card referring to some specifics from our conversation.

We corresponded for a week over my recommendations while he completed the other 11 interviews. I was preparing to negotiate for the highest end of his salary range, since I knew what it was. The day the interviews closed, he emailed me asking me to accept a director position, rather than the advertised manager position.  Along with the increased position, he offered an increase salary beyond the advertised range that reflected the responsibility of a director.

It was like getting a promotion without asking for one and before I even started.

I was grateful a thousand times over. It’s work that I would do for free if I didn’t have to make a living. I’m specialized in a very small niche and this position seems tailor made to my greatest strengths. Of course I accepted (like I’d be blogging about it if I didn’t). I later came in to discuss some specifics and he was beaming that I was just the person he has had in mind to realize the vision he has for this new expansion.

 

Was it God, me or just a coincidence?

So, was this an answer to my prayers?  After all, I must say I rocked the interview.  I wrote a cover letter according to what my quick Google search taught me at midnight since I couldn’t remember exactly how to write one. I used my brain to conjure up some recommendations and I cordially sent a thank you note. That was all me. Oh, and my friend by chance could have been on a job database when she didn’t have a reason to look for a job  and decided to pass along a possibility to me. But when I have been specifically praying for help about something beyond my control and it falls into my lap better than if I planned it myself, I’m highly suspicious Providence had a hand in it. I have found that God is really good at arranging introductions between people who should meet if the required faith is offered to work such a miracle.  I’m just what my new boss has had in mind for the last few years for the position and what they want to do is exactly what my very unique job at the nonprofit prepared me to do for them. Coincidence? Of course I don’t think so, but it’s only an inference. The Spirit hasn’t confirmed it to me, but I’m connecting the dots on this one.

The Lord told Joseph Smith, “I, the Lord,…delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (Doc & Cov 76:5).  I’m choosing to live my life in a way that puts God first, trusting that as I do, He delights to help me out. This isn’t the first instance in my life where I seem to get a beautiful break, but I don’t do it for what I can get. I do it because of what I want to give.

I can’t really prove it was God, but I don’t require proof to continue this path of experimentation.

 

Next up, I’ll respond to why bad things happen to good people, which is what I think Leah means when prayers are not answered before a child is murdered. Then I’ll write up my long time promised Black Mormons part 2 post because my response to Chris’s post will make more sense in light of understanding some views I have, explained well through relaying the history of race in the Church. It might rock a few socks, but hey, let’s keep things authentic here at the MormonInside.

Stay tuned.

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“Excuse me, is that your bag?”

Is this phrase burned into your psyche? No? That could only be possible if you don’t ride the DC metro rail system where the perky recorded woman’s voice asks us to quiz our fellow commuters when we see any unattended bags.  We’re all fighting terrorism together. So if you “see something, say something.”

There are other DC metro rail practices. For example, don’t be an “esca-lefter.” This means if you are standing on the escalator, stand on the right to allow those walking up a left side passage. Tourists have a difficult time with this one. If you come to visit, remember conformity to social norms isn’t always something you should resist.

You guessed it. I’m not an escalator stander. And I especially feel like a champion when I’m not a stander at the Rosslyn metro stop. That escalator is a tremendous beast and it’s a definite stroke to my ego when I trek up the left side the whole way up.  Just this last week a white bearded cheery man standing on the right….ahem, as I left him in my dust…said to his companion, “here comes someone with energy!” I flashed him the most sugary smile I could muster at the moment.

You see, I’m one of those former high school athletes that still has the heart of a champion, but sits in front of a computer for about 8 hrs a day, not realizing those days are long since passed until I try to bust it out like the good old days and end up heaving for air.  When I knock it out on the metro, I reassure myself “I still got it!”

Get the logic?

Get that it’s my ego?

Yeah, that’s an easy one to call, but the problem with the ego is that often others can see it when you can’t. That’s why Christianity often describes pride as causing blindness.  It doesn’t make everyone blind, though, just you. Heads up.

It revolutionized my life and my spirituality when I started to be aware of my ego and my weaknesses. Once I was able to be aware of them, I could start to work on changing them.

The closer I’ve gotten to Christ, the more convicted I am by my weaknesses. But, the Holy Spirit provides enabling power to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own. It’s amazing how the Lord makes demanding requirements of us and then gives us the power to meet the requirement’s demands.

As I personally engage in this ongoing process, I have to “dig deeper” like Shaun T says in those Insanity videos. (It’s a great workout and I love the powerjacks.) Digging deeply inside myself makes me better aware of who I am and helps me understand more of who I can become as I access the power of Christ‘s Atonement in my life.

And my favorite part about it is it makes me more secure because I view myself more as a work-in-progress rather than in need of masking imperfections. This makes me better able to give of myself in relationships that are important to me. Because of digging deeply and working with the Lord on my weaknesses, I see others more for their potential and increase in patience and admiration for them. It also makes it difficult to offend me. And I love that.

This week in my Religion and Politics in the U.S. class, we discussed New Age religion. The book we read, What Really Matters by Tony Schwartz described some retreats where people purge themselves of repressed emotions by specific practices. I thought it was fascinating and wanted to discover any of my own repressed emotions, so I can liberate them, but I was skeptical of the sweeping claim.  I told the class I was doubtful that in several weekends, you could identify years of repressed emotions and get over them, if you really wanted to. My classmate who is a man in his upward 60′s responded saying he had done such weekend retreats and in several weekends you can have cathartic experiences that reveal all your repressed emotions. The caveat was you have to go in willing to submit yourself to the process. He said it’s important to do such activities in groups because you can often see yourself and your weaknesses in other’s behavior and personalities. Now that’s being willing to lay aside your ego. It was a much softer and humbler side of this man than I anticipated was present in him.

It would be tremendously easier to remain on the surface of myself and with the world, but I find that intensely dissatisfying. How do people live their whole life without searching for deeper meaning? Do they feel numb instead of alive? The American economic model lends well to superficial living, materially, emotionally and spiritually. It takes work to go a different direction.

Digging deeper is a much better way to live. I highly recommend it.

But I’m not ready to give up feeling like a champion dominating the Rosslyn metro escalator. If you see me coming, be sure to stand on the right and make room for my ego.

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Learning more deeply of other spiritual traditions has influenced my reach for Christ‘s grace.  I’ve been more consciously practicing the values of Buddhist mindfulness and living in the present.  Through this targeted consciousness this week, I recognized how I needed to open my heart more fully than I have been. I go through phases depending on life demands. To accomplish this, I practiced my own version of a “love meditation” that I read about  recently  in What Really Matters by Tony Schwartz. This was the text that informed our class discussion. After calming myself,  focusing my thoughts and settling my heart, I imagined myself sending love to specific people who I  cherish.

It was amazing.  I’m definitely doing that more often.  I think I’ll start following it up with letting them know what they mean to me.

I like how as I am constantly searching for truth, I increase in my ability to discern it in the world around me.

Spirituality permeates life if we allow it. I believe that as I expand and sharpen the connection between my mind, heart and soul that I can better access the power of God. He’s anxious to share that spirituality with me, but I have to prepare myself to be able to receive it. As I try, He makes me able.  It’s not faith or works, it’s both.

Tonight in my Religion and Politics in the U.S. class we discussed New Age religion in America.  To further the discussion, my professor shared this Zen story.  What do you think it means?

Two Buddhist Monks were on a journey, one was more senior than the other.  During their journey they approached a rough and raging  river.  On the river bank they saw a young woman. She was clearly in need of help to cross to the other side of the river without drowning.

The junior monk walked straight past her without giving it a thought and crossed the river. The senior monk offered to help the woman and carried her across the river.   Once across they parted ways and the two monks continued on their journey.

As the journey continued, the senior monk could see that the junior monk had something of concern on his mind, and asked what was wrong. The junior monk replied, “How could you carry that woman like that? You know we can’t touch women, it’s against our way of life”. The senior monk answered, “I left the woman at the rivers edge a long way back, why are you still carrying her?”

What lesson(s) do you see?

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One of my most favorite classes in my masters’ program at Georgetown University has been my Religion & Politics in the U.S. class. Both are taboo topics in polite company to avoid possible offense. No class session has been boring in the slightest and often class members end up hanging around after to further the discussion.

It’s interesting for me to navigate both an academic community addressing religion and a faith community in which I am fully immersed.  Within my faith community, we frequently take for granted truth claims that many view with high suspicion. It has taken me some adjustment not to feel defensive in these scenarios and to comfortably communicate the viewpoint and motivation of a person of faith.

In a recent class on theories of pluralism, our professor, who I have come to greatly admire and appreciate, framed the discussion in terms of where we were personally on the scale. She provided the following theories:

 

1. Exclusivistic Model: Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ there is no salvation.  All those who do not accept Jesus in their heart at some point in their life spend eternity in hell.

 

2. Inclusivitic Model: God can be found in all world religions, but Jesus Christ has come to

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I have the lesson today in Relief Society, which is the women’s Sunday School-ish class.  The men have the same lesson, only in their own meeting.

The lesson manual focuses on the 10 commandments, found in Exodus 20,  directly related to dishonesty:

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

The lesson said we’re not to lie, cheat or steal.

As the teacher, it’s my responsibility to make the lesson tailored to the sisters.  For those who long ago made a commitment to give our hearts to Christ, these basic commandments make for really boring lessons. Okay, I guess I’m just talking about myself.  I’m bored when the lesson is something that I learned when I was 10 years old and it doesn’t bring in any new insights from those first lessons.

So I re-wrote the lesson.

I framed it in terms of a covenant relationship with God. This is the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) unique claim, afterall.  Because Christ‘s Church was lost from the earth, God wanted to restore mankind’s ability to live in a covenant relation with Him. Covenants begin with ordinances administered by His authority.

In today’s lesson, we’ll discuss honesty in terms of the following framework:

I. Our covenant relationship with God requires honesty with Him

II. Our covenant relationship with God requires honesty with ourselves

III. Our covenant relationship with God requires honesty with others

The last portion will include a section on how emotional honesty affects our relationship in each of these categories

Emotional honesty influences our relationships with God, ourselves and others.

This idea came to me when watching this video below  in between general conference sessions last week.  (In general conference, the Prophet and Apostles address the Church and the world.)

Look for Chris’ emotional honesty in the video

Because of Chris’ emotional honesty, I believe he was able to access the Atonement of Christ.  Because he was able to access the Atonement, he was enabled to forgive Cameron, the teenaged drunk driver who hit his car and killed his wife and two of his children.  Because of Chris’ decision to access the Atonement, he was emotionally available to support his grieving children.

Look for the following specific examples of his emotional honesty:

a.   He was honest in his prayers with the Lord with how he felt Chris: “When I kneel down and desire to speak to my Father in Heaven when I am so anguished it’s an interesting conversation to have. He didn’t try to make it better, He listened at first and that was very helpful .  He allowed me to get that anger off my chest, but inevitably He would always come back and teach me about His Son.  When I did feel anger or loneliness, I didn’t direct it at the person who caused this, it directed itself at the Savior.

b. . His emotional honesty made him humble and sensitive to the Spirit: “I remember sensing and feeling that I needed to let this go.”

c.. His emotional honesty enabled him to express himself to the drunk driver and then forgive him: [Cameron when he first met Chris] “He was completely willing to talk about what happened that night and how he felt about it. [Cameron’s Mom speaking] “He said some things that Cameron needed to hear and he didn’t mince words. He let him know how he was feeling .” Cameron: “He wants me to let go of what happened. He wants me to pick a date and forget. Just move on from what happened completely.”

Questions to Ponder and Discuss

How did emotional honesty enable Chris (the father in the video) to access the Atonement and forgive? Do you think Chris could have forgiven Cameron without first expressing his honest feelings to the Lord?

How would emotional dishonesty harden the heart?

How does emotional honesty affect our spirituality?

The Point I’m hoping to make about honesty and spirituality

For those interested in spirituality, emotional health should not be neglected.  The Spirit is a voice we feel.  (1 Kings 19:11) Denying the sincere feelings of our hearts makes us hard hearted and disconnected from God, His Spirit, ourselves and our neighbor. We’re commanded to love each.

I believe it was through Chris’ emotional honesty that he was able to grieve in a way that turned his heart to the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He wouldn’t have been able to do it alone. Christ gives us power beyond our own, but we have to take personal steps to access His power.

I’m looking forward to the insights that come out in the lesson. What are your thoughts on the topic?

 

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24
Jan

You’re just jealous…

Posted by: benjamin    in Faith Lens Snapshots

The foyer and seating room of the Metropolitan Opera.

Last week while in New York City, I experienced the Metropolitan Opera for the first time.  Both the opera house and the singing were breath-taking.

The current production, Tosca, has all the makings of a good opera, a self-absorbed diva, over the top descriptions of love, (Did Puccini really write for the lovers to compare it to a rainbow in the clouds???) a would-be rapist as the villain and everyone with whom the audience develops a relationship dies tragically.  I immensely enjoyed it, but I must admit, my 21st century microwave-instantly attention span was tested by the 3 hrs and 10 minutes of slow paced action sung in Italian. Luckily, there were English subtitles displayed on the backs of the seats in front of us or I would have missed out on most the story’s happenings.

From these subtitles I learned that the talented diva, Floria Tosca, was a terribly jealous woman.  Just before the audience meets Tosca, we see the portrait her love, Mario, is creating of Mary Magdalene. She is blond with blue eyes, though Tosca’s hair is raven and her eyes brown.  As the diva is calling, Mario begins singing about how much he loves Tosca when he discovers his friend Cesare who had long since been imprisoned for political dissent.  He has escaped and Mario promises to protect him.  He quickly prompts him to hide immediately, saying that Tosca is a jealous woman. The coast is cleared just as Tosca enters.

She greets Mario graciously, showering him with terms of endearment.  These dramatic expressions were a little too gushing for me, but maybe that’s the way opera rolls. Then she sees the blond portrait and switches into a completely different mode,  full of resentment and bittnerness.  He reassures her of his love, saying she is the only one for him and she appears to accept it, but then presses him for more assurance.

At this point my eyes were rolling backwards in my head. I whispered to my friend who was hosting me that she should just accept his reassurances so we ALL could move on.

Again she appears to be satisfied, but then she requests in a small voice that he change the portrait’s eyes to brown and the hair to raven.  He assures her of his love and she exits. Mario and Cesare then exit to find a safe hiding place.

Enter Scarpio, the worst villain I’ve ever met on stage. Later in the opera he sings about how he’d rather conquer women than woo them and move onto the next after the conquest. He lusts after Tosca, but [spoiler alert] she kills him before he can rape her.

I didn’t know all this when I met Scarpio in Act I, but I knew he was devious.

Scarpio found a fan in the hiding spot in the church that belonged to a woman who came to pray.  The fan’s owner happened to be the blond blued eyed woman that inspired Mario’s painting. Scarpio swiftly suggests that Mario is cheating on her with the fan’s owner and Tosca believes him in T-minus 2 seconds.:(  As she sings in the anguish of Mario’s alleged betrayl she viciously stabs the eyes of the portrait.

Yikes, diva.

Tosca, don’t you think your man deserves the benefit of the doubt? He’s assured you of his love over and over, over and over. For his part, maybe this is a big red flag that this is always going to be an issue in your relationship.  Some self examination is in order.

Whew. Good thing this is fiction.

Scarpio then suggests she confirm Mario’s wear abouts. Soon after her exit, Scarpio sends his men after her, suspecting that Cesare is with Mario.  Her jealousy leads to capture of both men and ultimately all of their tragic deaths.

Sad story, but I’m so cultured now.:)

Jealousy: It can’t be that bad, right? I like green.

A dear friend once told me how she appreciated that I wasn’t a jealous girl. I asked her what prompted such a generous compliment.  She told me how she was explaining to her sister the difficulties she was having with her then roommate. She felt like she couldn’t talk about how she loved her job or talk about how excited she was about her new boyfriend because her roommate would become resentful and abrasive.  My friend then told her sister how she assumed every girl was like me in being happy for their friends’ success, but she was learning that wasn’t the case.

I was happy she was happy I was happy in her happiness.

There’s lots of reasons why I’m not a jealous person. Two of them are because of my Dad and because of my America-loving idealism sub-paradigm. (The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is my first paradigm. The second is the Constitution.) My Dad always told me that I could do and be anything I wanted. I believed him and still do. So when I see others’ success, I feel like it’s a demonstration that what they’re doing exists in a realm of possibility for me. I don’t see it in terms of if they’re winning, I’m losing as if there’s some zero-sum equation of success in which I’m competing. Further, the American dream centers on the creation of opportunity through hard work.  Keeping my feet engaged in the hard work of chasing my dreams is intensely satisfying. Why wouldn’t I be happy for others who are doing the same?

But I have been jealous. Twice. One was a one time event and the other was for an extended duration.

Enter hot lacrosse boy in my early college days on stage left. We’d been close for years and he always wanted to be my boyfriend, but I kept him at a distance (I had walls then that I’ve since dissolved, gratefully).  He finally moved on, but we remained close friends. Enter new blond girlfriend at his lacrosse game on stage right when I drove 2 hours to see him play.  He was so hot all sweaty after the game. From the stands, I saw him walking across the field, but his smile was for the blond girl waiting by the fence. I WAS SO JEALOUS. It’s a nasty emotion. I remember thinking, “Why am I feeling this way? What is my deal?” I felt it the strongest when he reached out and hugged her.

The other was for most of the recovery of an ended relationship.  I was crazy about him, but in the end I found out he was more interested in keeping alive the memory of his previous love who devised and implemented her own bailout than he was interested in me. In my view, she deserved none of his love, but even in her absence she was getting what I wanted.  I WAS SO JEALOUS. It’s a nasty emotion.

Jealousy isn’t rational. Maybe I was being too hard on Tosca. Naaahhhh.

Once we’re stripped of jealousy, we can better know God

In a revelation to Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord promised the saints that if they stripped themselves of jealousies and fears and sufficiently humbled themselves before Him, “the veil would be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual” (Doctrine & Covenants 67:10).

The Lord went on to explain how man is able to bear His presence, “For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God” (Doctrine & Covenants 67:11).

King Benjamin, an ancient American prophet, taught that the “natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

It’s beautiful that it is through Christ’s power, His Atonement, we are able to put off the natural man. When we rely on Him, we can strip ourselves of jealousies and fears and sufficiently humble ourselves before God to receive revelations He has for us.

Christ’s power can wipe away jealousy. It’s a nasty emotion. I never want to own it ever again. I’d much rather shed my natural tendencies and receive a greater portion of the Spirit of God.

Joseph Smith taught that God did not give any revelation to Him that He wasn’t willing to give to anyone else. They just needed to prepare themselves to receive the communication.  It’s not a zero-sum game in God’s practice of providing revelations. He wants to reveal Himself to His children. We just have to prepare ourselves.  One step is kicking the nasty emotion of jealousy by accessing the Atonment of Jesus Christ.

 

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