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?)