Monday, June 04, 2018

1 Nephi Chapter 5: In Which We Discover a Purpose

I haven't blogged for a long time, because as someone who enjoys writing, but is also a little bit of a perfectionist, it takes me quite a long time to come up with a blog post that I'm happy with. I like a post to have my voice in it, my sense of humor, and my style. Sometimes I can write and it just flows; it's perfect. But more often than not, my style emerges after many, many drafts and revisions. 

Sometimes I just don't want to take the time. But I want to start posting insights I have about what I'm reading in the scriptures, simply because... I don't really know why I've started this. I've just had this, I don't know, this something that makes me think it would be a good idea. So I'm starting here. Not at the beginning--I'm picking up where I am, and I'll share as I go. These are dry-run posts, meaning they are basically thoughts-on-a-page, without the many hours of revision and nuance that I usually go through to make them entertaining to read. So slog through if you can. And, as always, take it for what it's worth. I'm just someone who read the scriptures and thinks about them.

1 Nephi 5: 1 – 9

The first 9 verses of Chapter 5 in 1 Nephi are about how Sariah is upset at Lehi because she fears she has lost her sons because Lehi is a visionary man. Lehi basically says, “yeah, I know I’m visionary, and a good thing I am, because we’d be stuck there if I weren’t.”

You can understand Sariah’s point of view; we don’t know how long it had been since her sons had left to get the plates. They had a hard time getting access to them, and they probably took quite a while coming back. She was worried. And you can see Lehi’s point of view, as well: Hey, the Lord told me to do it, so I’m going to. Have some faith, woman! It’s a scene of a worried mother blaming her husband for putting her sons in danger. No fear, a few verses later, her boys come off the airplane, safe and sound with stronger testimonies than when they left, with their mission accomplished. She is grateful for their safety, and that they were able to do what the Lord had asked of them, and she apologizes to her husband, and she repents for her momentary lapse of faith.

It’s a short 9 verses, and on initial read, you’re like, “Sariah, have some faith!” but how many times to we, as mothers, panic? Parenthood is not for the weak of heart. We know that Sariah had great faith. For heaven sakes, she packed up the bare necessities and fled her really, really nice home on the word of her husband’s visions. But her kids were the straw that tried her faith, apparently. I think the real story here was that she repented. Because she wasn’t some voiceless woman with no opinion. She was a mom.

She wavered, like we all do, because she was worried about her kids, and then she repented, and she was probably stronger for it. I like Sariah. I get Sariah. She is the silent powerhouse that supported Lehi and watched in pleasure and despair as her sons became leaders and dissenters. She is a fascinating character to me.

1 Nephi 5: 10 - 22

My first insight here is at the end of the scripture, it says, “he searched them from the beginning.” These words made me wonder, did Lehi ever have access to the scriptures prior to this occasion? Laban had these scriptures, remember, and there was no mass production of the Word of the Lord. Laban had them under lock and key. Imagine, Lehi was a prophet of God, prophesying to the people, yet he possibly had never read the scriptures because he simply did not have access to them. I don’t know if Lehi had read them before—I don’t have a source for that, and my thoughts on the subject are just that: thoughts. But, because of the rest of the chapter, and the enthusiasm with which Lehi found his genealogy, and Laban’s genealogy, it makes me think this might be his first time through, and he devoured them and found great joy in identifying his ancestry.
My other thoughts are based on the Book of Mormon Institute manual. In that book, it states,

The value of the Brass Plates to the Nephites cannot be overestimated. By means of them they were able to preserve the language (1 Ne. 3:19), most of the civilization, and the religious knowledge of the people from whence they came… (1 Ne. 22:30):

This is a quote from Mormon Doctrine; you can see the full source citation if you click on the Institute Manual link above. This is a very important statement. This statement reveals the importance of a religious text on a civilization. A religious set of ideals and morals is essential to the preservation of a culture or civilization. Think of any successful civilization, and identify the ideals upon which it stood: It is usually some sort of religious or moral code. The civilizations who were unable to uphold that moral code eventually disintegrated. As we look to our own nation, which was built upon the Judeo/Christian ideals, morals, and doctrine, we see the greatest civilization in the history of the world was built. I get really jazzed about this idea, because I have such a love for the founding of our country for a lot of reasons, one being that it is the best example of words and writing changing the world. But I digress.

The morals of our society are built upon a religious belief. Even if you are not religious, you benefit from having a culture built upon religious mores. The Judeo/Christian belief emphasizes the importance of families, purity, wholesomeness, and goodness. Our government was built upon the idea of a Creator who endowed upon all of humanity rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In fact, the founders said that these beliefs were “self-evident.” This is old-fashioned for “duh.” It was common knowledge to most of those in the colonies. Because they were a religious people with a belief in a Creator.

We now live in a culture which is increasingly irreligious. Even those who are religious, how often do we read the scriptures? I know my answer is not enough. Yet here, in the first book of the Book of Mormon, we are told the importance of a religious text. Not only does it enlighten the spirit, but it preserves the language and the civilization.

Let’s talk about language for a minute. Language is the method of thought. I remember a friend who learned French for his mission once told me, “I have thoughts in French that I could never have in English, because we don’t have words for them in English.” I have thought about that for a long time. That you can think something that you have never thought before, simply because you have the words for that thought. This proved to me that language controls thought. Those who master the language are very powerful people. People who master language, those who can read it and write it and speak it, have the power to influence the way people think. And thoughts turn into beliefs, and beliefs motivate action. The sticker I have on my laptop is an incredible understatement: Words Matter. Oh, they matter. This blows my mind. Someone I have never met can control my thoughts, just because they control the words.

So how important is it that we learn to use words, and read words, and understand words, and understand how words can be used to inspire, and to teach, but also to manipulate, and to control? And this is what the Lord is telling us through his commandment to Lehi to go back for the plates:
Words matter. Text matters. Story matters. Ancestry matters. It is all so important to preserve our language, our culture, and most importantly, our civilization.

I have been reading a book called The Boy Crisis. It is a book written by two social scientists who have set out to answer the question: Why are our boys struggling? I haven’t read the whole thing, but so far, they have identified a couple reasons why boys are struggling: 1, our boys are purposeless. Because men no longer have a cultural role of providing for women, they feel adrift in a world where, for centuries, a man’s job was to provide and protect. Society has told our boys they aren’t needed anymore. 2, Previously, religion would give boys purpose, and religion can and does filled the purposeless void for boys today: religions define their role as men and gives them direction in a family structure; however, our country is increasingly irreligious. So, boys fill they have no purpose because they are no longer needed to provide and protect women, and two, they have no religious structure to help them identify their purpose in the overall meaning of life, and 3, the increasing rate of fatherlessness, or father figures, leave boys without examples of what it means to be a man.

All of these reasons our boys are struggling can be fulfilled by reading a religious text. The scriptures are filled with men who have purpose outside of providing and protecting. Men in these scriptures rely on the Lord, and serve as examples for our boys. The men in the scriptures are told how to lead families. They are fathers, or learned from their fathers and mother how to be fathers. They are told how important their role in the family is. The scriptures portray men who cry, who pray for their children, who fight for their country, who ask for forgiveness, who sacrifice what they have for something bigger than themselves, and who are kind and compassionate. Without a religious text, these examples of true manliness are lost to civilization. And our boys are suffering because of it, and because our boys are suffering, our families are suffering. And because our families are suffering, our civilization is suffering.

The boy crisis is just one example of how our civilization is not being preserved because of the lack of a religious text. I could name others, but this is the one on my mind right now. Without the scriptures, we begin to lose our culture, our civilization, and our language. This was why retrieving the Brass Plates was so essential to the success of the Nephites. If they wanted to have a prosperous civilization, and to preserve the language and the civilization, they needed the scriptures. If we return to the Institute manual, we get additional insight on this:

“….By way of contrast, the Mulekites, who were led out of Jerusalem some 11 years after Lehi’s departure, and who had no record equivalent to the Brass Plates, soon dwindled in apostasy and unbelief and lost their language, civilization, and religion…”

When will this happen to us, if we do not turn to our religious texts? There is joy in reading the scriptures; scriptures enlighten our spirit and open us up to personal revelation. But, just as important, a religious text helps us understand language, to read it and to write it. It gives a guide for society, how to conduct ourselves and to raise our families. It is a preservation of all that is most important in our country. Scriptures are important not only in our lives, but also essential for our civilization.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Physics, Scriptures, and Why I Won't Weigh Myself.

(Note: I'm really just starting to wrap my mind around all these ideas I'm talking about, so I am sure there are other sources out there that can explain it better, and at the end of my post, I'll list the few I've been reading. And again, I'm not trying to educate anyone or convince anyone or anything.  I'm just explaining my journey and my thinking)

I do no like science--I mean the study of it, not the actual function of science.  I am very glad science works.  And I am equally glad that there are people who want to understand it and work with it. I am not one of these people, and I do not care to become one.

Alas, the public school system forces science upon all of us, and after taking various science classes through elementary school, jr. high, high school, and college, I can honestly say I know very little about science, and I care even less (there's not judgement here. I'm sure those who are scientists and study science view my intense study of The Great Gatsby and Harry Potter equally boring and unimportant, although I did predict the financial collapse in 2008 purely from looking at historical patterns in The Great Gatsby. But I digress).  In all my years of scientific study, I can honestly say I remember and understand only one thing:

Newton's 3rd Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is a law, which means it is accepted by almost everyone in the whole of forever to be true. This particular law means that if I throw a basketball on the ground, it will bounce (I'm sure there is someone out there who would give a much more accurate example).

So why does this law mean I won't weigh myself?  I'll get there.  Just stay with me.

This is a widely accepted law of the physical world.  There is no argument about this law, mostly because people can test it for themselves and see it come true.

This law, just as it works in the physical world, also works in the metaphysical (or, as I like to call it, Spiritual) world, except with a little twist.  For every spiritual action, there is a multiplied reaction.  Meaning, every time I put a spiritual act out there in the universe, I will receive it back, only multiplied.  This sounds kooky, I know, and many people just don't believe in all this universe-spirit stuff, but if you think about it, we as a culture kind of have already accepted it.  Think about some of our common sayings: What goes around comes around.  Karma's a bitch. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This is all based on the idea that for every spiritual action, there is a multiplied reaction.

I believe this. I believe that what we sow we will reap.  So, if this is true, one must ask, okay, then, what qualifies as a spiritual action?  

Prayers. Thoughts. Words. Focus. Fears. Worry. Actions. Complaints. Faith

So, wait, you ask, basically everything I think and do is a spiritual action causing a multiplied reaction? Yep. I know.  Mind blown.  

But think about it.  Ever heard of Murphy's Law?  Basically, anything that can go wrong will go wrong?  Ever asked yourself why that is? It's because people spend their time thinking of everything that can go wrong and worrying about everything that can go wrong.  If you're putting all your time and energy into thinking and worrying about what's wrong, then your going to trigger a what's wrong reaction--only multiplied.

Every heard of "Expect the best but prepare for the worst?" With that approach, how many times have you actually received the best?  In my case, not very often.  Usually because preparing for the worst uses more focus and energy, therefore triggering a bigger return.  

Have you ever decided you wanted to buy a certain kind of car, and then all of a sudden, you see that car everywhere?  You're desire for that car had produced a return of always seeing the car. I know. Newton's Law, my friend.  Or as those granola-kooks out there call it, the Law of Attraction.

Or as all us religion freaks call it, Matthew 21:22: "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."  Now, most of my life, I would read this scripture, and I would automatically think of "prayer" as formal, on your knees, prayer.  But I never considered there were other types of prayer.

Prayer is essentially communication with Heavenly Father.  There is formal prayer, both personal and public, but there is also your every thought.  Heavenly Father knows your heart and your thoughts (Job 21:27; Matthew 9:4; 3 Nephi 28: 6).  If he knows how your feeling and what you're thinking, isn't that communication? And if it's communication, couldn't that be called a prayer? And if so, aren't those informal, sometimes unintentional prayers just as valid as formal, intentinal prayers? Therefore, shouldn't these prayers be subjected to the same promise mentioned above?  

I want to examine that scripture and the wording a little closer.  The first phrase, "and all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer..." What percentage is all? 100%.  ALL things.  Good and Bad.  I can  hear you now, "Wait a minute.  Heavenly Father would never give me bad things on purpose."  Here's what I think, and keep in mind, this is theology according to Sarah, and I have absolutely nothing other than my own faith to back my up on this, so take it for what it's worth: 

This law, ask and ye shall receive, is a law of Heaven, and the law of the Universe.  Heavenly Father and the Savior don't want to give us all the crappy things we are thinking and unconsciously asking for, but they perfectly understand the law of the universe, and know when we focus on crap, we receive crap. So, because They love us, they put in helpers so we can get as many good things as possible.  

1. Scriptures.  How many times does the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and modern revelation emphasize to have faith, don't rely on the arm of man, have no fear, ask for things that are good, be of good cheer, do kind things to others, follow the will of the Lord, etc?  ALL. THE. TIME. Because they perfectly understand how ask and ye shall receive works, the scriptures are filled-- FILLED, my friends, with admonitions to think good things and do good things and ask for good things.  Because They love us so much, they only want good things for us.

2. The Holy Ghost.  The Holy Ghost helps us make good choices.  He comforts us and sends us positive thoughts.  He lets us know when we should help another person.  He is sent to help us attract good things into our lives.

3. The Savior. The Savior took upon himself all the bad things of the world: the sins, the bad thoughts, the bad feelings, fears, worries, everything, in the hopes that we wouldn't have to feel them.  Because He loves us, and he understands this law, and he wants us to experience all good and happy things.

And this, the Law of Attraction, helps me understand the answer to one of the Big Questions by unbelievers: Why would God allow bad things to happen to innocent people?  Because of the Law of Attraction: He must follow the law, and grant us what is being asked for.  Because the collective energy of the world is so focused on hate and divisiveness and wickedness and evil, the whole world, the human race as a whole, is attracting hate and divisiveness and wickedness and evil en mass, and some people innocently get caught up in the crap.  And it's not fair.  And they will be loved and blessed and rewarded for their struggles later.

But, I know you are asking, I ask for good things, and I still get crap.  Let's look at the second half of the Matt. scripture, "...whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (emphasis added).

Let's say someone wants lots of money. You can ask for that, right?  I mean the scripture says "anything," so money counts.  So let's say I ask for lots of money in my formal prayers. It's not enough to ask--I have to BELIEVE.  What's easier to believe: that I will somehow get lots of money, or that I will continue to struggle to pay my bills?  I know what's easier to believe on my end.  I understand struggle and no money so much more than I understand wealth, so that's where I put my belief.  So even though I've asked for it, I'm really putting my belief in the negative outcome, and pretty much, I get the negative outcome.

Once I started to understand that all my thoughts and feelings were part of my conversations to Heavenly Father, and I realized that those were essentially prayers, I started thinking consciously (that sounds weird, right?  But how many times have we had thoughts just pop up out of nowhere?).  I was so surprised!  All my thoughts (aka prayers) focused on how fat I was, how much I disliked what I looked like, and how much money I don't have. My twice-a-day formal prayers, of course, asked for help with weight loss and money, but how can two formal prayers combat HUNDREDS of informal prayers? 

No wonder I felt like I was stuck!  I was CONSTANTLY asking the universe to make me fat and poor. Guess what?  It delivered.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that when you focus on bad things (through worry or fear or thoughts) and believe bad things will happen, then you attract bad things.  It happens to me all the time.

The good news is the opposite is true: When you focus on good things (through joy, faith, and thought), and believe that good things will happen for you, you attract good things.  It's happened to me before.  When I started learning these ideas, I decided to put it to the test.  I decided I wanted more money, so I doubled my fast offerings.  My husband got a better job like the next week. About a month ago, we bought new rose bushes, and one of them looked like it wasn't going to make it. In fact, Joe was ready to pull it out and throw it away.  I told him to give it more time. I wanted to see if I could trigger the Ask and Ye Shall Receive Law into action.

 Every day I went outside and talked to the roses (I know.  I felt silly while I was doing it, too).  I said things like, "I know you are beautiful.  I know you will fulfill your calling to beautify the earth.  I'll ask Heavenly Father to send some angels to help you." I had my little girlies bless the roses in our family prayers, and whenever we walked passed them in garden, I would say loudly, "Look! Aren't our roses so pretty!" (so the roses could hear me) even though they were just bare stalks. It wasn't a week later when that sad, little Charlie Brown Christmas-Tree-ish rose bush began sprouting new, green growth.  It has flourished, and I know it's because I asked and I believed.  And dog-gone-it, I received.

So.  This is why I refuse to weigh myself.  I know every time I step on the scale and see 2 - -, I'm going to think, "Goodness sake I'm fat." or, "Wow.  That number is big." And basically, those thoughts turn into what I focus on: fat and big numbers.  And, because I've seen the number, I will be believe that all I am is fat and big numbers, and that's what I will eventually receive: more fat and more big numbers.  And that's what I don't want.

Instead, I want what happened today: I looked in the mirror and thought, "Hey, I look better today.  My running is paying off!" and I believed it because I saw it.  I don't know if I've lost weight or any inches.  And I don't care.  I didn't want to step on the scale and see no weight loss, because then I would just believe that all my efforts meant no weight loss, so I would attract no weight loss.  No.  Not this time, Universe! I want to believe I'm prettier and thinner and my efforts are paying off! I want to attract more better looks and more results from my running! 

So no scales and no measurements for a while.

As a side note, I have taken my measurements, and I have weighed myself before I started my serious focus on exercise and eating, so when I'm done, I will have statistics for you.  But I'm not checking up in between unless I KNOW it will be a positive experience.  

One last thought for everyone: since I have been learning about this, and since my perspective has changed, and I have been conscious of the truth of the Ask and Ye Shall Receive Law, I have felt so powerful

I have always had this belief that Heavenly Father didn't want me to have a rock star body, or that he didn't want me to have money, because I had something to learn, or that those desires weren't in line with His will.  Now, I see that is just ridiculous. Why wouldn't Heavenly Father want me to love myself and take care of the temple He gave me? Why wouldn't He want me to take ownership of my actions and stop whining? Why wouldn't that be His will for me?  Why wouldn't Heavenly Father want me to have enough money to take care of my family, with enough left over to bless others?  Why wouldn't that be His will?  Isn't His will that I have joy?  I also believe that wickedness never was happiness, and through scripture study, I can learn what wickedness is. And if I desire things that are not wicked, like reverence and respect for my own personal temple, or money to give and bless others, I can ask for it, and with faith, I will receive it.

I now understand that I don't have to sit by and watch life happen to me, and then deal with it. Instead, I can create, with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the life that will bring me joy. The freedom and power that gives me is unbelievable.  With God's promises, I can create my life any way I want it. 

Books that I read and Can Explain Better Than Me:
LDS Scripture (Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, D&C)

Us in Jackson Hole

Us in Jackson Hole