Optimism in a Falling World- Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-11, 2 Nephi 9:41

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

COMMENTARY

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive
The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there
I’ve discussed the desire some have to see the world burn, to see the wicked made accountable for all that they have done wrong. To this sentiment come the verses I have quoted above. God will see to the matters of judgment and forgiveness on His own. We are governed by His law, judged by His eye, and doled out mercy or retribution at His discretion.
He employs no servant in the matter of gatekeeping. He doesn’t need or want our help in deciding who is worthy of heaven. Will some be saved and others damned? Surely. Does it matter to us one bit which they will be? Not at all.

Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother remaineth in the greater sin
But of you it is required to forgive all men
The question of this study is how to not despair as the world embraces evil. It is about how we keep our faith in humanity and work with our brothers and sisters, rather than leave them to their fates. And I believe part of the answer is how we deal with the sins that humanity commits against us. Each of us is affected by the growth of evil in the world, each of us is hurt by the collective abuse of human selfishness.
And our faithlessness in humanity often stems from that initial hurt we received from society, that time when some worldly darkness first broke our innocence. We might know that we need to forgive individuals, but as recorded in these verses what about the requirement “to forgive all men?” If we’re ever to get our faith in humanity back we have to make our peace with the world at large. We have to forgive society first before we can help it.

Give Thanks- Second Chances

I am grateful for second chances.

There is a childish fear in us that if we make someone upset our friendship is over forever. That if we are sent to prison we can never be a part of society again. That if we, or our parents, go through a divorce we will never be whole again. That if we do something wrong, there isn’t a reason for others to like us anymore.

In short, many times in life we have a sense of something breaking and we believe that now it must always be broken. And while sticks and stones might work that way, living things have always had a remarkable ability to heal. And so forgiveness and second chances and mended hearts are a very real part of life. And when it is the hardest to believe in them is when they need to be believed in the most.

#givethanks

The Captive Heart- John 15:19-20, Exodus 21:24

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot

COMMENTARY

But because ye are not of the world, the world hateth you
In our lives, others will hurt us. Indeed, we experience this unpleasant heartbreak when we are still very small. Our parents are harsh with us and our peers make fun of us. Those we depend on for support and love while still so vulnerable betray us instead.
When we get older the circle of criticism goes out further. When we are children our view is limited to immediate family and friends, but when we grow older we become aware of the greater world. And there we discover that there are those who call us evil and wish we were eradicated. It frankly doesn’t matter which ideology or belief we subscribe to, there is always someone who sees our way of life as the source of all the world’s problems.
We feel the truth of Jesus’s words: that we are not a part of this world, and because of that the world hates us. This experience is true for all of us, for all of us are foreigners to this Earth. We don’t belong, and we distinctly feel the friction of that.

Eye for eye
And, of course, the natural reaction to being hurt by that friction is to hurt back again. An eye-for-an-eye is the rule of this world, it is simply the best form of balance and justice that the mortal realm can provide.
It is a hard law. Each of us will transgress it at some point, because we are imperfect. Each of us will unquestionably wound another, and then balance will demand that we must be wounded, too. Thus we must all be hurt, but should we just try to be hurt as equally as possible? This would mean each new invention of cruelty must eventually be permeated through the whole. The entire world situation could only become more miserable. In a way it is fair…but what a horrible fate for us all.
Can anyone question that somehow we need to be saved from this mortal condemnation?

The Captive Heart- Mark 2:17

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

COMMENTARY

They that are whole have no need of the physician
When Jesus told Peter “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8), he was repeating a message that he had already shared before. Those who are whole do not need the doctor, those that are perfect do not require repentance, those that are clean do not need to be washed. But if you are not broken, or if you are not dirty, or if you are not sick…then you have nothing to do with Jesus, for that is who he came for.
I have recognized in myself the desire to not be a bother to my Savior. I yearn to be totally perfect so that he doesn’t have to be burdened by the weight of my soul. I think it is a good thing he suffered and died for the world…but I don’t want the guilt of knowing that he suffered and died for me.
And so I say to him the same thing that we say to each other any time our emotional wounds come up. “I’m fine, I’m totally fine. I’ve had some rough stuff in the past, but,” shrug “it weren’t nothing.” We are too afraid to admit that we have been hurt and hurt deeply. Afraid to show that we are broken. Afraid to admit that we are not okay.
We’re fine, we’re totally fine. And so long as that is our claim, Jesus sighs, smiles sadly, and says “thou hast no part with me.”

The Captive Heart- John 13:6-8

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

COMMENTARY

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
I always wanted a teacher and a mentor in Jesus, someone who was could come and show me how to do things right, someone that would motivate me to overcome my flaws. But I always struggled to receive kindness from others, even from my Savior. Kindness is healing, and healing hurts.
I have heard it best described as an intense light that scorches and burns away festers and barnacles. My shame and my wounds run their roots deep into me, and I feel it when they are pried off. It is painful…but it is a good and healing pain.
For though it is hard to take the scrubbing, I always feel so clean and refreshed afterwards. My Savior does not only purge out the refuse, he also applies balms and oils, binds up the wounds carefully, places pillows under my head and feet, and dresses me in new, comfortable robes.
With strength and decisiveness he purifies me, but then with utmost love he cares for me.

The Captive Heart- Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

COMMENTARY

He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted
To preach deliverance to the captives
Recovering of sight to the blind
Set at liberty them that are bruised

After fasting for forty days Jesus officially began his mortal ministry He did so by formally announcing who he was, the Son of God, and clearly laying out exactly what he was here to do. In this moment he was essentially giving his divine mission statement to the world. And in all of the stated objectives that he gave there was a common theme of healing the people who are hurt.
But he didn’t just want to do good., Jesus further specified that he was anointed and sent of God. Thus his desire was united with power. He can help us, and he wants to. There remains only one other variable then, and it is the one that is determined by us: will we let him help us?

Evolving Your Beliefs- Jonah 4:4, 6-11

Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city,
And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons?

COMMENTARY

Doest thou well to be angry?
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city.
Yesterday we observed how Jonah became angry when God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted them to be destroyed instead. God challenges Jonah with the question “doest thou well to be angry?” but Jonah does not respond. He gets up and leaves instead.
Sometimes we get angry with God because we, too, disagree with His methods. We think we know how things should be, and are hurt to have Him tell us that we are wrong.

And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief
But God prepared a worm, and it smote the gourd that it withered
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

When our pride has been stung we lash out. “Hey, don’t touch that! It hurts!” Which request God promptly ignores. He jabs His finger firmly into it! He isn’t going to just let this go. We have a festering blemish and He is going to lance it and it is going to hurt…. But He only does it so that we can finally heal.
So while Jonah is fuming under the gourd God reaches out and makes him even angrier! He kills the gourd, and when Jonah complains he brings back the still unanswered question: “doest thou well to be angry?
This time Jonah answers “I do well to be angry, even unto death.”

Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured
And should not I spare Nineveh, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons?

And now the Lord shows Jonah the contradiction that he is making. Jonah is sorry, and rightfully so, for the death of a gourd. But he is unfeeling for the death of an entire city. Even the densest of people should be able to see the misaligned priorities here. The Lord is stressing to Jonah that there is no pleasure in destruction. It is tragic for a gourd to fall, and it is tragic for a people to die. Perhaps Jonah already knew these things in his head, but needed God to break him down so that he could feel them in his heart.
I certainly have been emotionally tied to my own misconceptions as well, and like Jonah I built up walls to protect them. I said I was being “righteously indignant,” but I wasn’t, I was just being obstinate.

Making Time for God- Question

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we have a lot of wheels squeaking in our lives! The smartphone chirps at us, social media rants at us, the television blares at us. Life is a dashboard full of meters constantly draining towards empty, and we rush about frantically trying to fill them all.

We’re afraid of losing things, of missing out, of leaving opportunities on the table. Our lives become machine-like, incessantly servicing all the many calls for our attention.

God, meanwhile, doesn’t squeak at us at all. He’s much too dignified to stoop to that level. This shows what great respect He has for us, but also makes it easy to lose sight of Him amidst the din of the world. Still He waits, patiently, for however long it takes. He waits for us to come to Him. Usually when we do, we’re the ones squeaking now. Squeaking in pain!

Well, God has grease for His in-pain, squeaky-wheel-children. He commiserates with us, then soothes us, and finally heals us. Then we, eternally grateful, skip away happily and promptly lose sight of Him once more. We’re caught back up in the world, we’ll come back when we’ve scraped our knees again.

It’s a way to live life, and I suppose it could be worse…but also it could be better. God invites us to make Him a more permanent fixture in our lives, to give Him time each and every day to heal and strengthen us. He offers to be with us every hour.

With this study we’ll consider how to push some of the world’s clutter off of our shelves and make space for God. We’ll examine what tricks the adversary uses to distract us from the things that really matter. Before we get started, though, I’d love to hear in what ways you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by the noise of the world, and how you were able to make a time and place for holiness.

Peace in the Storm- Mark 4:37-39, Matthew 27:46

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

COMMENTARY

Carest thou not that we perish?
It can be difficult for us to speak about moments of faithlessness. We know that we are supposed to hold out hope no matter what storms arise, but frankly there are times where that seems an impossible thing to do.
Ryan Green, who chronicled the experience of losing his son in the interactive story That Dragon, Cancer, spoke about such a moment of doubt in his own life. He pointed to this same plea of the disciples when they woke Jesus during the storm. Their question was not whether Jesus could save them, it was whether he would. Ryan expressed that he always believed God had the power to save his son, but was not sure that God cared to. He didn’t question that God saw his suffering, only if God was going to do anything about it.
Sometimes it isn’t the actual storm that hurts us as much as the sense of God’s abandonment.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Perhaps the Lord appeared to be “sleeping” on the imminent threat that faced his disciples…but he was still with them. Carest thou not that “we” perish is an inclusive “we,” for if the boat had gone down he would have been going with it, too!
Yes, sometimes we do feel alone, abandoned by God. Jesus experienced this, too, while dying on the cross. Whenever we feel totally alone, Christ sits totally alone with us. We cannot feel his presence, because that would break the necessary illusion, but his presence is still there.
Speaking for myself, that means a lot. Sometimes I wish that my trials could be taken from me, but if they can’t, I just need to know that someone is sitting with me in the hurt. I must remember that at times God asks me to suffer the appearance of His absence, but never the actuality of it. He permits me to feel alone, but never does He ask me to actually be alone.

Knit Our Hearts- Colossians 3:13, Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

COMMENTARY

Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye
Of you it is required to forgive all men
Thus far I have examined the need for companionship in our faith, and how two disciples improve one another when they are united in a cause. I have also discussed that when a brother or sister wrongs us we can lovingly invite them to make amends. That is the first of our obligations, and the second is to forgive.
But of course, doing either of these tasks is easier said than done, especially when we are still in pain. If it was an accidental hurt followed by an immediate apology, those can often be dismissed right away. But an intentional wounding, or one brought about by gross negligence? And one where our so-called “brother” or “sister” denies having done any wrong?
In those situations we feel inseparable from our righteous indignation. Thus it doesn’t feel like we are being asked to “let go” of our anger, it feels like we would have to tear it right out of our core.
I have felt that way myself. Sometimes I still feel it. From my experience I believe that forgiveness is a muscle that can be exercised, a skill that can be developed. Thus I can acknowledge that “I am bad at forgiving…. But I can get better at it.” To that end I have established for myself a daily ritual of letting go of all the offenses I have felt. I hope to cultivate a spirit of forgiving, one that can let go of the bigger things as well.