Posts Tagged ‘scripture study’

I didn’t raise my eyes from my reading as I shook my head in response. I was transferring metro lines, waiting for the next train. His request for “a few dollars” for exit fare caused little outward effect on me, but then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Maybe he approached me because I was dressed professionally. I didn’t raise my gaze to even register what he looked like, let alone what he was wearing. I’m sure it was a stark contrast to my designer coat crowned with a vintage cameo broach. My feet were slipped into sensible heels, my shoulder supported a knock-off purse and my fingers held the scriptures. I had a crazy dream this morning that my psyche was trying to process and resolve. It caused me to sleep in so I was reading while waiting for the train instead of prior to leaving my house. It’s less effective, but maintains the habit.

As he walked away, it was not lost on me that I was reading words that supposedly would teach me how to be like Jesus Christ and as I declined his petition, I hardly looked at him. Jesus soothed beggars’ needs. Not me as it turns out.

Are we not all beggars?” is the phrase that comes to mind. An ancient American prophet, King Benjamin, asks this question in a sermon where he includes serving the poor as a form of true Christianity. (Mosiah 4:19)

Before I changed jobs, I daily saw the same beggars near Farragut Park occupying the same space (not the Occupy DC people, that was McPherson Park). For some reason there aren’t many beggars in Dupont Circle where I now work. My previous colleague was a former fundraiser for a Catholic charity that served the homeless. He often told us how giving beggars money was to their detriment because there are resources available to them in the District to rise out of homelessness, but if they have lucrative returns from begging, it deters them from utilizing them.

I also monthly donate to a great charity, which I chose as an effort to support humanitarian work outside of the Church and to persuade my heart to be less attached to stuff. It’s a small effort to live simply, so that others may simply live. I wrote about this idea and my effort in 2010 to be more mindful of my purchasing behavior and my attachment to stuff in the post “Want, Want, Want.”

This is my motivation for consistently declining beggars’ solicitations and never giving them cash. Sometimes I would give them food. I don’t mind buying lunch for someone else, usually in the form of the other half of a Subway sandwich that I purchased for $5.00.

Though this is my practice and philosophy when it comes to beggars, my religiosity always charges me with hypocrisy when I coldly decline a request.

And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.” (v. 21)

There’s no moral to the story. I’m just relaying how my internalization of scripture affects my worldview and causes me inner conflict.

I’m still not giving beggars cash, but next time I should be more polite and look them in the eye.

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For my most recent birthday I asked my parents to get me new scriptures. I wanted the compact version where the Bible is a separate book from my “triple combination,” which includes the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.  My last set of scriptures were also the compact version, but all four books of scripture were combined to make a massive brick.  Depending on the direction and time of my study, sometimes I only want to carry one or the other.

I also wanted a new set because my preceding set are beautifully marked up. This isn’t a bad thing, but when I read them, I am reminded of the ideas I’ve had in the past instead of seeking new inspiration. It’s been challenging reading from naked pages, but I welcome the challenge. It stretches me to remember the context of the scriptures I’m trying to recall instead of thinking of the visual markings. Plus, I like finding scriptures new to me that teach basic gospel principles, such as faith and repentance, that aren’t the classic scriptures I’ve heard so often that they’ve unfortunately  lost their punch.

Also, I learned as a full time missionary of the benefits of using a study journal. I record impressions or ideas I have while studying the scriptures in addition to summarizing my life’s happenings.  This decreases the amount of marking I’ll do in my new set.  I’m wondering if I want to mark this set at all.  I still haven’t decided.

My dear friend’s mom made me covers for my new set! This protects the bindings when I lug them around in my bags.  Before I’ve begun a scripture study these days, I usually spend about 2 minutes just showering them with admiration.  I do that with other things in my life too. It’s one way I manifest my gratitude.  About twice a week, I have similar moments over my current residence.  I found it after diligent prayer over a year ago.  I’m still just as happy now about its proximity to the metro, cuteness, price and wonderful roommates as the day I moved in.  As long as I don’t mark on these covers, I’ll probably never want to replace them.:)

I was concerned that the debut of my new scripture covers would cause rampant covetousness throughout my “ward” (congregation) this Sunday passed. Thankfully, I think it all turned out well.:)

Check them out. They’re worthy of admiration!

 

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This last week in my Religion and Politics in the U.S. class at Georgetown University, my professor illustrated varying approaches to biblical interpretation utilizing the topic of slavery. She explained that especially before and during the Civil War, people justified the existence and perpetuation of slavery with text from the Bible. It’s all over the place. One powerful example is Paul’s slave convert Onesimus. When he ran away from his master, Paul encouraged the human property to return to his master (Philemon 1:10) .

I would be floored if anyone used the Bible today to justify human enslavement.

She described how abolitionists and others prior and during the Civil War employed a thematic reading of the Bible. The Old Testament’s overall theme is justice and the New Testament’s is love. In this topic’s case, love trumps justice, ironically decided by the outcome of the bloodbath we now casually call the Civil War.

She noted briefly that similar interpretation approaches are now happening in Islam.

Also, someone in my class suggested that the same interpretation approaches apply to the current topic of homosexuality and gay marriage. That sent my mind racing about the possible implications of such a suggestion.

But my mind soon turned back to slavery. I thought of Paul’s lack of opposition to slavery when in a modern revelation, it is clear how God feels about it. In describing why He directed that the U.S. Constitution be established, the Lord said through Joseph Smith, “It is not right for one man to be in bondage to another…” (Doctrine & Covenants 101:79) How could Paul as an Apostle not oppose slavery? Because he didn’t, people used his writings to dehumanize others of Heavenly Father’s children.

My best contribution to the discussion was that the potential for innovation seemed infinite. Some forms of innovation could be detrimental for mankind. However, I welcome warmly the innovation in approach regarding slavery and I’m optimistic generally about innovation of scriptures because of my personal experience with the Holy Ghost. Based on precedent, I know that God answers prayers and even if the answers don’t come as I’d like, I usually gain peace through wrestling in the Spirit.

Inspiration, Revelation and This Latter-day Saint

First, I view inspiration as suggestions from God. I receive these almost daily in the form of ideas. There are millions, even billions, of possible ways I can do good in the world. When I’m pondering one topic deeply, I usually have ideas come from left field whose connection are only that they’re part of the process, not necessary the result of a sequential series of my own thoughts. This allows me to use my free will or “agency” as a Latter-day Saint would say, to further explore and work through possibilities.

Revelation is different. I’ve only received revelation on infrequent occasions and most often when I was a missionary. After seeking urgently and exercising a great deal of trust in God, my mind and heart would experience a heightened connection where the will of the Lord pressed heavily on me and I knew what specifically He would have me say. The best description I have for it is becoming an instrument or a messenger. Interestingly enough, I never delivered any new information that I hadn’t studied myself prior to the delivery. Sometimes in the moment, the impression would facilitate the formation of connections, but the pieces were already inside me from prior tutoring sessions with the Holy Ghost in scripture study. Drawing deeply from the Savior’s well of Living Waters in scripture study is key to my spirituality. This revelation process enables me to use my agency too, but it’s usually in the form of whether I choose to obey the message or not.

I accept modern prophets. These men are the today’s equivalent to Abraham, Noah, Moses and the like. They are today’s mouthpieces for God who act as His messengers or instruments for the world. I believe the inspiration and revelation process I’ve described is the same for prophets, too. Sometimes it’s inspiration and sometimes revelation and it’s always according to their understanding. Sometimes they’re teaching according to their own best judgement based on previous revelation or inspiration. This is what I think Paul was doing in this slavery instance.

Revelation can be updated. Peter’s vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles and to eat what was previously considered unclean is an example of an update. (Acts 10:9-20).

Why am I not disillusioned that Paul did not oppose slavery when it grinds against my modern conception of right and wrong and my current understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Was he an Apostle? Yes. Did he receive revelation according to his understanding? Yes. Did he write instructions to various churches and individuals based on his understanding? Yes. How can I know what God thinks of Paul’s teachings?

I ask Him what He thinks about it, expecting He’ll let me know. I’m comfortable with innovation of the scriptures because of my experience with the Holy Ghost. He’s no respecter of persons, as Peter learned by the updated revelation. (Acts 10:34) He’ll make known His will through the Spirit to those who seek to know it.

I’m secure on a personal level. It’s how a broader audience could possibly innovate scripture that makes me anxious.

 

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