Saturday, April 15, 2017

Uncertainty certainly is certain

If you are like me, you enjoy making a plan of how things will turn out, and how things ought to be. I create a plan of how each day will go, how each week will end up, and how every semester will follow through. I'm currently working on a graduation plan that will let me double major. However, I have seen time and time again that my plans do not come to pass exactly how I had planned them and that they often get changed altogether. Sometimes, it can make me rather frustrated, being that I can't determine what my near future will yield. Along with that, there are things that I cannot plan, which can be crucially important. Even the most meticulous planner will be foiled when she or he embarks in the realm we call life. "Drat! My plans have been foiled", says the planner, so dependent on what she or he had previously determined what would happen.

The Gospel teaches us that we must not only expect uncertainty in our lives, but be able to adapt to whatever comes our way and adjust our attitudes and lifestyles accordingly. It is fortunate that we can receive revelation and guidance for what we ought to do in unplanned circumstances. The Lord revealed the method of receiving revelation in D&C 8:

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

The Lord will reveal to us certain truths to our hearts and our minds, but he will do it when we demonstrate faith in him, when we take steps into the uncertain future.  This is demonstrated by referring to Moses crossing the red sea with the children of Israel. They had to demonstrate their faith and walk into the unknown before the sea was parted. To me, this scripture is saying that we need to take the next step if we want to know what the next step is. The Lord will reveal what we need to know when we are ready to receive it, but he will do it in his own time and at the right time. I'm posting this because I'm quite anxious about what can happen in the next three weeks of my life, but if you are you, I hope that you can take a step of faith with me and trust in the Lord, because we will not let us down.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fanciful Flowers Offering Potent Principles.

Boyd K. Packer had the magnificent hobby of bird watching. No wonder he was such a great man. He was also great at learning from the nature he observed, and pulling life-long lessons out of animal behavior and natural phenomena. A scripture, on which his book The Earth Shall Teach Thee is based, is found in Job 12:7-8.

7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

After pondering this scripture, I thought of some other scriptures that teach the same lesson; that we can learn from the Lord's creations. Jesus was the master of pulling these lessons from the earth. One is found in the sermon on the mount, where he says:

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin (Matthew 6)

Jesus remarks on the simplicity of how the flowers of the filed grow and live. The complex molecular structures of a plant perform an overall-simple process: taking in CO2 through the pores of their leaves and water through their roots to create carbohydrates that will provide additional structure and growth for the plant.

I've read this scripture various times, and it has reminded me to simplify my thoughts in the past, and it has returned to do so again. When we have so much going on in our life, we tend to get all jumbled up about the future and getting everything done. In this scripture, the Savior asks us to take a step back and think about the simplicity of a flower's life. They do not worry or complain about what they ought to do, they just do it. Obviously, it's easier said then done (considering that lilies don't have brains). However, if we take a step back, consider our blessings, realize we don't have to do everything in this very instant, only what we can do today, and have a little faith, then the things we need to do become easier to do. We won't be weighed down by unnecessary troubles of the future. We will recognize that everything is possible one step at a time.

I think about this as finals approaches and as I plan for the next step in my academic plan, but I also think about how the Savior wants us to become more like him one step at a time; grace by grace. I can imagine that many of us have gotten frustrated at one point because we're not as Christ-like as we would like to be in a certain point of time. Then we begin to think about all the things we need to improve on and it overwhelms us. That's not what our Heavenly Father wants us to do. He is patient with us, so he wants us to be patient with ourselves as we try to progress heavenward. He certainly knows that we can't do everything at once, but by doing things one by one we can accomplish anything. It will be of great benefit to us all to take a step back once in a while, consider the lilies, and modify our daily lifestyle to follow the example they set.

Friday, March 31, 2017

To Go a Little Farther.

Upon entering the first phase of the atonement in Gethsemane, Jesus said to Peter, James, and John:

38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. (Matthew 26)

Jesus had begun to feel a deep, harrowing anxiety within him, so much so that death wallowed in his soul. It is fair to say that Jesus knew of, and had already started to feel, the infinite pain and suffering that would fully fall over him in just a moment. He did not want to begin, shrink, and fail to complete the everlasting task. However, I find strength in the next scripture.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

We Must remember that Jesus had his own weaknesses as a mortal. It was part of his charge to be subject to temptation and aspects of the human experience on this earth. It says that he went a little further, and in another scripture it mentions the distance of a stone tossed. However, when I read the first portion of the verse, I read that he kept on going, that he kept trying, that he pushed himself to do something difficult. Just like any other reasonable person, Jesus would want to avoid pain. He didn't necessarily want to feel endless amounts of pain; no one would. However, his desire to do the will of Heavenly Father was greater than his desire to relieve himself of the self-sacrifice he had to commit. If I could put the last phrase in other words, I would write: Father, I don't want to be in pain. Doing extremely difficult things is not pleasant. Nevertheless (I'd still use this word), I know you need me to do this, and so I will.

We will not, and don't want to, feel the suffering that Jesus experienced in that garden. However, we can learn a valuable lesson of endurance from the Savior's valiant example. There are many things in our lives that are difficult. There are many things that we would rather not do because they are so difficult and we don't want to find ourselves failing in the act of attempting. I feel this time to time within school and as I look towards the future. Uncertainty certainly is something we seldom welcome. But, this excerpt from the scriptures can provide motivation to us all to move forward with faith into lengthy storms and to rely on our Heavenly Father for strength and hope in our troubling and challenging times. I know that we all have the ability to go a little farther; it is a God-given gift.

Friday, March 24, 2017

School Thy Feelings

Within the boundaries of mortality, we can be constantly coupled with heaps of homework, tons of tasks and a large load of burdens. This can bring about stress, frustration, and anxiety. Our communications and interactions with other individuals is not perfect, and with external and internal factors other individuals at play, we will frequently experience less than pleasant experiences due to their behavior or actions. This can bring about sadness, confusion, anger, lust, disappointment, etc. It is not easy to control all of the emotions we have when we are found in an unpredictable world, but we have a great example that we can follow.

In my religion class this week, we discussed the atonement that the Savior performed, and how eternally agonizing it was for him to perform it. Many scriptures mention the unimaginable pain and anguish he felt in that paradoxically infinite moment of his mortal ministry. As I thought about his suffering, I went to Luke 22 and 23 to read from that moment to learn how Jesus treated others after the greatest suffering among humankind. One example is the instance of the high priest's servant. As Judas comes to betray Jesus with a group of high priests, Peter decides to get a bit feisty:

49 When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50 ¶ And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
(Luke 22)

Jesus, after all of his pain, must be very exhausted, to an extent that I certainly haven't experienced. instead of getting all worked up with the betrayal or chastising Peter for his immature action, he looks outward and heals the servant. He continued to retain his composure throughout all of the blasphemous mayhem. I am impressed with Christ's ability to control his emotions, being that I imagine that he must have felt tempted to have an emotional release at any given time.

This has been a significant teaching for me this week. I have learned in the scriptures that it is important to hold onto anger and frustration and cool it down, allowing the spirit to enter, rather than letting it out impulsively. One thing I learned in the mission was that anger came quickly, but reason took its time. Within any setting that could trigger uneasiness and the desire to get on someone's case, I would have to give it a little time and then think if I wanted to make a wise decision or remark. Christ's behavior is the epitome of what the hymn School thy Feelings (336) teaches:

School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.

We should all strive to hold in our non-constructive emotions and follow the example of the Master.

Friday, March 17, 2017

He will yet reveal many great and important things

In my biology class, we have been discussing the theory of evolution, descent with modification, and the origin of man. If you can imagine, it is an interesting topic among Mormons. We have spent the past two weeks learning about evolutionary processes, but also pondering our beliefs and considering how we reconcile our testimony with evolution. One important aspect to remember is that we do not know everything, in both science and religion. However, God has promised that in its due time, everything will be known. This is mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 101:

32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—

33 Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—

34 Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.

He promises to reveal the exact truth of the origin of our physical bodies and the origin of the earth. He also promises to reveal all things that are found above the earth and in heaven. How can we apply this to ourselves? Within science, it is important to remember that not all things are known, and much exploration and experimentation is required to affiliate ourselves with currently unknown knowledge. This is also true with our pursuit of gaining knowledge that is known among man, but not yet obtained personally. This concept is an important aspect of my life, and it may be for you as well.

I like this scripture because it also pertains to the spiritual sense of knowledge. There are things that we may not know personally, that may be known among man. Those things we should seek diligently through study, prayer, and discipleship. There are also things that are not known to man, and as the scriptures say, not even the angels of heaven, only God alone. We must wait patiently for the time that the Lord has set to reveal certain truths about our eternal nature and progress. I'm grateful that through faith, diligence, patience, and obedience to the Lord's commandments, we will someday know of all things.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Planned out, or timed well?

Something that I enjoy very much is planning. I plan out every day on google calendar, I plan out how I'm going to study for a test, I plan out the following semester, and I'll try to plan out as far as graduation. I've learned that there are things that are good to plan and consider, and there are things that become frustrating and difficult when we try to plan them. For example, planning classes for a proximate semester and setting goals is necessary and encouraged. However, trying to plan too far into the future, such as planning the exact job we want or the income we'll receive, is something we can't totally control and can cause stress if we cling onto these impractical plans. it's the same with dating and marriage. I can (and should) plan out a date (if I didn't, there wouldn't be the possibility to plan for another, if you know what I mean). But, I can't (and shouldn't) plan out how a relationship is going to be established and the timing of courtship and marriage. It simply is not in my power and trying to control it or force it to comply with such goals will only cause emotional and spiritual irritation. I mention these things because I recently watched an old BYU devotional by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, where he discussed the importance of timing. He stated that it always important to do the right thing, but that it is more important to do the right thing in the right time. Someone that does the right thing with the wrong timing will question their actions and feel frustrated, and possibly wonder if they did the right thing. Ecclesiastes 3 teaches this principle well:

 1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

This singly scripture teaches us that God has his own timing. We consider his will, but we must also consider his timing. We cannot say, "Thy will be done" and then under our breathe say "...right now." We must strive to say, "Thy will be thy own timing." Besides the Lord's timing, there is the agency of others. This is another element that we cannot control, and therefore shouldn't plan on controlling. There are many things that occur in life that are unplanned, and many of these things happen because of the agency of others. they aren't necessarily bad (they can be) nor necessarily good, they're just not able to be controlled or predicted by our plans and goals.

With these principles in mind, we should find comfort in not having to plan out every aspect of our life. That would be a hassle, but it would also leave God's will and timing, as well as the actions of others out of play. These elements will make a life worth living, and are part of our learning process on earth. The daily things need to be planned (I went grocery shopping today without a list, and I'm pretty sure there are some things I missed) but somethings shouldn't be. Those long-term events in our lives are best approached one step at a time.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Well known or known not

When I had begun my mission, a lack of proficiency in Spanish sometimes frustrated me. I knew that I would become a better speaker and listener as I studied and practiced, but I often desired to know it well quickly. Sometimes, my companion and I would come across someone that had more than a mouthful to say about the church, and my companion was stuck trying to explain things to a critic, and to no avail. During those moments, I was rather grateful that I couldn't speak Spanish well, and that I couldn't understand what they were saying! So it wasn't a complete inconvenience.

I bring this up, because I'm reminded of these instances as I ponder the unanswered questions in my life, in modern science, and in the gospel. One of these things is how the Lord created the earth, and how evolution takes place in the eternal rounds of God's heavenly plan. There is definite evidence that evolutionary theory is more than a 'belief', and strong spiritual confirmation is bestowed upon many about the truthfulness of the restored gospel.  While contemplating both, here is a scripture to keep in mind:

Articles of Faith
9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

God has revealed many things, he is revealing many things, and he has yet to show us SO MUCH! I'm positive that there is more that we don't know about the natural world and the Lord's ways than what we do know. We may feel tendencies to be impatient or doubtful when we cannot surmise a logical explanation between physical and spiritual phenomenon, but it is comforting to know that our Heavenly Father is still teaching us, individually and collectively, many great and wonderful things, and in time we will know all things.

We can keep this in mind when we don't find the answer to a controversial question immediately, when we are struggling to find revelation, or when we simply aren't understanding some aspect of our life at the time. Diligence, faith, and patience are the correct ingredients prescribed by Alma to grow and flourish. (I wonder, however, which would represent carbon dioxide and such?)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tis the gift to be simple

Jacob 4:14
“But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble”

I just read an ensign article written by Elder Cook in 2003, where he discussed looking beyond the mark and losing sight of what is really important in our life. He mentioned that members will replace doctrine with the philosophies of man, develop gospel hobbies and become principle extremists, and place more emphasis on rules rather than doctrine. I think that there are times where it is appropriate to delve into a topic to try to understand deeper doctrine, or to more fully analyze a principle, but if that becomes the main focus then it will blind us of what is truly important. In this scripture, Jacob says that the Jews looked beyond the mark. The mark is Jesus Christ and his gospel. They were blind because they were too focused on rules and regulations that they had added to the Law of Moses. For me, this means that I shouldn't tamper too much with policy or esoteric matters, but that I should constantly ponder the simple truths of the gospel principles and the divinity of Christ. The gospel is meant to be simple, even though it is eternally complex. We should strive to have our focus on Christ, and not on anything else. If we do that, everything else can fall into place, and we will gain understanding with time, since that plainness that God took from the Jews will be with us.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What a Wonderful Life!

Image result for It's a wonderful Life

Many know of the story portrayed in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) of a man named George Bailey. This altruistic protagonist goes out of his way and abandons his ambitions to serve others and help them satisfy their needs and their achieve desires. in spite of the communal and financial plight he faces throughout his life, his guardian angel shows him that he has truly had a wonderful life, and certainly the viewer would agree that George Bailey is the depiction of a truly wonderful person.

What emotions filled the life of George Bailey? Pain, love, stress, joy, agony, mercy, depression, compassion. If we imagine him sitting in his heavenly home (I know he is a fictitious character, but just imagine) What would he consider valuable? Just the positive moments in his life, or would be he grateful for all of it? I imagine that he would have gratitude for both the good and bad times, understanding that, in hindsight, trials provide tremendous growth, while blissful periods provide meaning and motivation.

We may not have trials quite like George Bailey, but we may. Trials are not necessarily produced as a result of misconduct (though they definitely can be). This is the same with the delay of expected blessings (at least in our minds they don't arrive at the desired time). With these agitations in our lives, we may not realize that they are as grains of sand that infiltrates an oyster. Those agitations can produce something as lovely as a pearl, if we let them. I think that it's easier to recognize this if we keep in mind the Lord's promises. Here's one that I have been thinking about for the past couple of weeks:

D&C 90:
 24 Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.

The Lord promises everyone that if they live righteously, pray always, and work diligently (for whatever it may be: a job position, a GPA, a developing habit, an eternal family, etc.), everything will come together for their good. It may be soon that it happens, it may be later. I can't tell anyone when, nor can it be predicted. I'm sure in saying, however, that it will happen, because the Lord will always keep his promises. With that view of life, even without hindsight, but maybe even foresight, we too will have a wonderful life like George Bailey.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Willing Spirit Over Weak Flesh

I often think about what motivates me, and what gives me drive. Here are a couple of things that motivate me:
Inspiring poems
Coming of Age movies
Statues of families
Rocky soundtrack
Pep talks to myself in the mirror
A cute girl (who else do I strive to impress?)
Chocolate milk
Outstanding individuals excelling in whatever they do best.
My mom's pep talks (they're the best)

With that list in mind (I could probably continue with it) I think what I should credit most to my will to move on is the power of prayer. Jesus once said to his disciples that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. When we was with the Nephites, he taught them this:

3 Nephi 18:

18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.

 19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

 20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.

As humans, we naturally want to do what's easiest. We naturally want to put in minimum effort and conserve energy for...the next time we need to conserve energy. Life is full of things that require our energy, whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual. We all have a finite amount of energy, and sometimes things can be too strenuous, even if we are putting in a great amount of effort. However, I know that we can summon strength, spiritual and physical, from the Lord through prayer. Power to overcome temptation. Power to carry on in a difficult time or task. Power to be cheerful amidst adverse aspects of life. As verse 20 says, it can be given to us if we are believing. The energy we need to progress in this life can be found through faithful prayer.

Friday, February 3, 2017

"For the power is in them"

I have been rather curious about genetic engineering and designer babies for quite some time, and I have been thinking about it quite a bit this week. It's a rather controversial topic, and it's not easy to discuss. Something people fear is that designer babies will create a society where those that are genetically enhanced look down upon those who are not. A misconception of genetic engineering is that a person can be programmed to a point and that the person's life would be outlined. That technology is far away from existing, but even if it did, that concept would still be false. Our lives are not determined by our genes. It's not determined by psychological theories or any ideologies for that matter.

I was reading In Doctrine & Covenants this morning, and I found some scriptures that inspired me. They inspired me in a notion to continue in my interest for genetic engineering and to seek revelation to see what God can tell me about it, but as I write this I see that they can be applied in another way.

D&C 58:
 27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

 28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

D&C 90:
24 Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.

D&C 123:
17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

D&C 58: 27-28 grabbed my attention. I realized that there are many things in existence that can be used either for good or evil. We can make a conscious effort to bring to pass much righteousness, as the scripture says.

Basically, the inspiration I received was to continue to investigate the issue of genetic engineering and designer babies. That's what I'll do. But on that wise, I realize that no matter our genetic makeup, we determine who we will be. Of course, we cannot control our genotypes or phenotypes, but we have been given power to be agents unto ourselves. Scientific studies are part of God's plan, and they provide great information on human health, composition and behavior. But these findings shouldn't limit us in anyway, they are to empower us. Above all, Heavenly Father has given us our agency so that we can become more like him; to act instead of bein acted upon.

Whatever you strive for, don't limit yourself! Keep trying, keep getting back, keep moving forward.

Also, check out this TED talk.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Solitudinous Serenity and Reclusive Revelation

This week, Susan Cain was the guest speaker for the weekly university devotional, in which she addressed the qualities of introversion and extroversion and how more fully creating atmospheres for introverts could create a more efficient and symbiotic community. A quality of introversion is the desire of solitude, as she mentioned in a TED talk. She gave examples of great artists who would go into solitude to unlock their inner creativity, and great leaders, including Jesus Christ, who would seek solidarity for the sake of revelation and celestial communion. I thought about the times that Christ had secluded himself on the mountain top. One example is after the miracle of producing thousands of fish and loaves of bread, found in Matthew 14.

Matthew 14:

 22 ¶And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

 23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

It must have been a great comfort to the Savior to go up to the mountains to be alone and pray. Extroverted, introverted, or a combination of the two, I imagine that it's important for every person to get some alone time. Alone time unattached from everything, except the oratory channels to heaven, that is. It gives us an environment to search ourselves, ponder about our lives, goals, challenges, desires, dreams, and to pray and search for guidance. I vaguely remember Elder Ballard inviting all young adults to seek alone time to ponder and just feel peace. I think that's something that all of us can better incorporate in our lives. Maybe hanging out on a mountain top is too cold this season (unless you're skiing, then heck yea) but it's definitely worth while finding a quite place to sit still, think, and pray.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Scientifically Religious and God-willing

I want to share two journal entries dealing with something I learned this week:

"I then decided to go and read Alma 32 starting in verse 27, since 2 Nephi 31 didn't actually talk much about faith or repentance. I realized how scientific the gospel is. It is this experiment of faith that we must test every day. When he hear about it or read about it or think about it or see it in someone's life, we are only observing it. That's a fact, nothing more. We need to form a hypothesis, create our own experiment and test it. I will try to test "If I pray sincerely and with real intent, then I should get an opportunity to serve someone every day if I ask for it." After we test it once and it works, then we should test it again. If we test it and it doesn't work, then we should try again a different way, either changing our approach, attitude, or intention. After various successes in something we can come up with a theory for that seed that we have planted.

Alma just said the word, and did not give us a specific experiment. But that's okay. The scriptures aren't actually complete without our own personal interpretation guided by the Holy Ghost. The Lord will help us specify that experiment. Our theory of an aspect of living the gospel will thrive as we strive to nurture it as counseled in verse 37-43, with diligence, patience, and faith."


"After my study on Wednesday, I was in my religion class on Thursday, and the professor was talking about the difference between scientific and religious inquiry. He mentioned that science seeks to explain the how and what while religion seeks after the who and why. Science is something that can be tested, and if there's a certain theory or law, such as gravity, then it an experiment can be repeated and the exact same results can be expected. He pointed out, "Can you do that with God, with spiritual things? Not so. You can't just pray and expect the same results to come every time. no matter how sincere, no matter how humble, no matter how earnest. You can't control the will of God; God controls the will of God." I thought about what I had studied on Wednesday, and how I wasn't completely right on the whole 'Gospel is like science' thing. But I don't think I was totally wrong. We need to experiment upon the word to know it is true. However, we also need to understand that prayers are answered when God sees it expedient, not when we do. So along with testing our 'hypothesis' we must also test our patience and faith. Alma mentions before:

"Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe." (Alma 32:16)"

Friday, January 13, 2017

"But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God." (2 Nephi 9:29)

With a new semester in full swing, I have done a great deal of preparation for my classes. This first week, I have mentally and digitally mapped out how, when, where, with whom, and what I am going to study. But all of that planning was rather superficial, or better said, there was no depth in my preparation. Now, there's nothing wrong with that; making a schedule and seeing what resources to use and such for a course is something I would recommend. But this week I was reminded that I should spiritually prepare myself for school as well, as odd as it sounds. Let me explain.

In my biology class, my professor introduced the course by explaining the effectiveness of inquiry learning, which obviously involves much more student interaction and critical thinking than a traditional lecture does. Then she showed some studies done between a couple of groups: community college students taking Bio 100, BYU students not majoring in biology taking Bio 100, and Bio majors taking Bio 130. Each group of students was given a pre-test before any material was taught. Obviously, the Bio 130 students did significantly better than the other two groups. However, after given the course, using inquiry learning, a test was given and both groups in the Bio 100 class improved greatly compared to the pre-test. Actually, they had better scores than the Bio 130 students, who did not improve significantly. Now, I don't think the reason why he presented this study to us was to talk about inquiry learning, but to talk about humility and willingness to learn. He pointed out that many Bio 130 students already knew quite a bit about biology and thought they knew everything, and so they would not pay attention in lectures or study as much. The Bio 100 groups didn't know half to nothing, but they were also very eager to learn in the setting of inquiry learning (maybe they wouldn't have been in a traditional lecture setting and for that reason inquiry learning was an important factor in the study). So his final points were, in fact, humility and desire. That reminded me of two scriptures that I pondered over today:

Isaiah 28:
9 ¶Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.

 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.

 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

 13 But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

2 Nephi 28:
 30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

These scriptures reminded me of a couple of principles:
1. The Lord loves to teach the humble. The imagery that Isaiah gives of a child "weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" is to demonstrate that principle.
2. We learn things bit by bit, little by little, not everything at once.
3. Those that heed the Lord and listen to his council will receive more knowledge and understanding, while those that are prideful and don't look to the Lord will not gain knowledge, and even lose what they had. I saw this in the study that my Bio professor presented. The Bio 130 students learned very little, shown by poorer test scores and a smaller improvement gap than the Bio 100 classes.

There's one more principle that goes with all this. In my religion class, we were discussing Moses' encounter with Satan, and how he tried to cast him off. Moses tries 3 times to cast Satan off, saying "Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not", "Depart hence, Satan.", and "Depart from me, Satan" (Moses 1, verses 16, 18, and 20 respectively). Unsuccessful, Moses fears for his life while Satan is ranting and screaming. Finally, Moses declares: " In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan." (v. 21). Satan then left, and our professor taught us that it was because only Christ has total power to cast off the devil. He explained that it is part of Heavenly Father's plan that we are not capable to do all things on out own, but that through Christ we can do all things that strengthen us (Philippians 4:13). We are supposed to use our agency to follow Christ, and have faith that he will deliver us from whatever trials or vices we may be facing.

I am glad I was able to come across these lessons this week. We can be more successful students and happier people by following these principles. Let me reiterate them:

1. Be humble.
2. Have a desire to learn.
3. Realize that we can't do everything, but Christ can, and he will empower us according to our faith.

I hope that this helps whoever might be reading this, especially if you are a student.