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.