Thursday, November 5, 2015

Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance - November 1

Behold, He Cometh - Simon Dewey

Yes, it's DECIDEDLY PAST Monday and I'm FINALLY blogging. (Sorry!)

So, you've had the better part of a week to muse over what we discussed in class Sunday.

(You remember ... we had the big TV with the video that didn't fully load [again, SORRY!] and we were joined by members of next year's class, since they'd have just been sitting around during that hour, due to the practice of the Primary Program ...)

SO, as I was saying, we were talking about "how do I become spiritually self-reliant?"

And we talked about some basic answers:

  • Study your scriptures ... well, at the least, READ them ... daily is good.
  • Pray. At least morning and night is a good goal.
    (Though we are counseled, like in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 or Doctrine and Covenants 19:38, to pray ALWAYS ... which goes along with our baptismal covenant to ALWAYS remember Jesus.)
  • Serve others/love others
  • Follow the prophets and their counsel/Keep the commandments
And I hope that you understood some of the benefits ... like, if you've developed your OWN testimony, you can deal with hard times, when your faith is tested, more effectively.
OR, if you have a friend or family member (could be both!) who's having a crisis of faith/period of doubt/whatever, you can help to strengthen THEM during this.

Your testimony is rather like a life preserver, in my opinion. It helps keep you afloat in this crazy ocean of temptation and STUFF that is this mortal life. The church can be likened to M. Russell Ballard's metaphor of The Old Ship Zion ... If we're on the ship and choose to STAY on the ship, we're much safer and able to help ourselves and others more effectively. But, should something happen and we fall off/get pushed off/whatever the boat, our faith can help us persevere until we catch hold of the rope extended to us from our friends, family/ward family, the missionaries and we are able to get back onto the boat as part of the fold again.

When I was younger, I often was a bit confused by Christ's parables of the five wise and the five foolish virgins. It seemed like a jerk move not to be willing to share oil with others ... but, well, obviously I wasn't understanding the parable now, was I? [Yes, your teacher is SO not perfect. She is not the most spiritual being ever ... but she's trying to improve. So bear with me, please. ^_^]

But, as I have come to understand that the oil isn't a physical thing, but that spiritual preparedness we've been commanded to cultivate. As much as I would like to, I cannot share what personality traits  or habits I've worked (very) hard (or am STILL working) to develop as a disciple of Christ. I can't just say, "oh, here, [Your Name], looks like you don't have [a testimony of tithing/a love of service/a habit of daily prayer and scripture study/whatever], here take some of mine."

HOWEVER, if you are working toward creating those good habits and virtues in your life NOW, you WILL have them in the future ... well, as long as you keep working at it. If not, we've been warned that we can lose what light and knowledge we've gained. And that is a sad thing ... since we have to put forth a not-small amount of effort to get it in the first place!

(But if you do, I'll still love you. So will Heavenly Father and Jesus, of course! I mean, yeah, we'll all be sad. And I'll worry. But you'll still be loved. ... But please don't make me worry. I really don't need any more reasons to NEED to color my hair, okay?)

But, still if you're preparing for (1) a mission, (2) going to the temple and making covenants there, (3) having a forever family, and/or (4) celestial exaltation (and you're on the right track if you're keeping your baptismal covenants!); you NEED to be spiritually prepared.

Now, to channel President Uchtdorf for a second, with an airplane analogy --
Imagine you're on a plane. The cabin, through some rough flying, has lost pressure. Those silly-looking oxygen masks are released from the ceiling above the seats.
You're instructed that YOU PUT ON YOUR OWN MASK FIRST before helping others who can't don their own themselves.

WHY? It seems really selfish. We're commanded to put others' needs ahead of our own, right?
No. We're to love our neighbor as we love ourselves ... we have to take care of ourselves SO we're ABLE to help others. You can't give what you don't have. You can't give MORE than what you have.

So, in this case, you take care of yourself first. Since, if folks can't get a mask on themselves, they certainly are unable to help YOU if you're passing out from lack of air.

... Yes, it's easier to imagine a more concrete example -- as much as I'd WANT to give a HUGE donation to the Church's charitable organizations (e.g., the PEF [Perpetual Education Fund] and the Temple Patron Fund), if doing so makes it so that I've extended beyond our family's budget, have I really helped if NOW we're causing others to pay for our mortgage, food, and other necessities?
Not really. In fact, that money COULD have gone to taking care of other families in the ward boundaries.
So, though I'd mean well, it'd be a jerk move (especially to my husband, if I didn't get his feedback before pulling that stunt).

So, for spiritual self-reliance, you think about it like drops of oil ... and you know that you're burning this oil every day, too ... so it's in your best interest to make sure to replenish your supply daily.
  • Pray
  • Study the word of the Lord. Not just in the Standard Works, but also the words of the living prophet (Reading/re-reading General Conference talks is a great thing)
  • Serve others/Love others/Develop charity
  • Attend church/Mutual -- (Seriously, when I was a bit older than you, I had a job where I had to work on Sundays often. I'd try to make at least Sacrament Meeting, when possible. I could FEEL a difference if I wasn't at church. It wasn't a great feeling. It's helped me so that, unless I'm sick, I really make an effort to BE at church. Even though, with small children, it's HARD to concentrate. But I know that I'm where I need to be. YMMV.)
  • Keep the commandments
  • Attend the temple whenever you can (Even if it's just walking around the grounds or going to the visitor's center, I love the peace and comfort that I receive being there.)
    [Funny aside: When I was a freshman in college, one of my (Catholic) friends referred to the Portland Temple as "Mormon Disneyland." ... She was more correct than she thought, since I do find it the happiest place on earth. ^_^]
  • Many other beneficial things ... Care to bring up any in the comments? (Remember, you don't use your full, real name. Make up a pseudonym or something. ^_^ Practice internet safety, please.)
As I mentioned in class, I've had quite a few friends fall away from the Church. I still love them. But I cannot MAKE them change their choices.
What I can do is let them know that I love them and that I'm here for them; I can be an example (hopefully a good one!) to them; I can pray for them; I can even fast for them ... and I can make sure that my testimony is firm and strong enough that I can keep hold of the iron rod. And maintain the hope that my friends will CHOOSE to return.

Because, really, would YOU want to go somewhere, kicking and screaming, that someone is dragging you to? No, it's much nicer to go somewhere of your own choice and volition.

I love you guys (and gals, you're included in that). I really hope that I'm being a somewhat effective teacher to y'all. I am anxiously eager to help you learn what you'll need to know to deal with all the temptations, discouragement, and those other tools of Satan and his followers that you'll HAVE to encounter in this world.
I want you to KNOW  -- beyond any shadow of a doubt -- that you are a loved, treasured child of God. There's nothing that you can ever do to lessen His perfect love for you. He won't be thrilled with all your choices (like He's often disappointed in mine), but He still loves you and values you. You are PRECIOUS to him. And there is NOTHING in this world or anywhere else that will ever have a chance of changing that fact.
He wants YOU to be able to, to WANT to, return to His presence. Because He loves you.
Jesus Christ would go through all the suffering in Gethsemane JUST for YOU. Because you are just that precious. And nothing can change that.

And that is why it's so very sad when we make poor choices, when we turn away from the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to chase after things that won't bring us eternal joy ... or we let worldly distractions come between us and that perfect love.

So, work at filling up those lamps ... so that you can find your way back to our Heavenly Father's presence, so that you can be a light and an example to those who've lost their way.

Because you are youth of a noble birthright; you have this amazing, unlimited potential for growth and progress.

Be kind to each other. Be kind to yourself. Be something amazing.

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