Monday, October 14, 2013

The Beauty of the Ocean and Following our Leaders

The knowledge of God and the Gospel is like the ocean.  When we enter the waters of baptism we dip our feet into the crystal clear waters near the shoreline.  We have oceanographers who are the few experts to help us navigate the waters.  The regularly hold classes to help us learn and understand what is around us.   As we enter the water there are family and friends who help teach us how to swim.  We are surrounded by those we love.  It is beautiful.  As we get to be better swimmers we can venture out and even learn to tread water in the deeper parts. 

Being as we are all different individuals it doesn't make sense that we all enjoy the ocean in the same way.  Some people feel closer to God by keeping their feet on the ground, others enjoy all the beauty and splendors found in the clear water but they like to go out deep and scuba dive, and some people get into the water and bring some tools to measure the salinity.  There are some parts of the ocean that have cloudy waters.   There have even been discoveries made by people wondering what's in all that darkness.  People asked questions and our Oceanographers brought back something we didn't think could possibly exist, ever.  Those waters aren't off limits, we're welcome to study different parts of the ocean.   It is important to remember that all we ever need for salvation is actually found in shallow, clear waters.  Some people find their love for their creator is strengthened by the clear waters.  Some people find their love strengthened in cloudy waters.  Our Oceanographers have always encouraged Oceanic study, and welcome questions that we bring to them.  


 When you're in the cloudy waters you find a lot of questions.  Where is the bottom?  Does it drop off?  What animals live in these conditions?  How many?  How do they survive?  What about plant life?  Almost any answer is possible.  We don't even have the tools to find the answers to all of our questions.  When I think about the cloudy waters, I am in awe of what God has done.  It strengthens my testimony of His Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence.  I think there is beauty in the possibilities of what we can't see with our mortal eyes.  The wonder of the ocean sometimes requires our imagination.

I find beauty in a question and in saying, "I don't know the answer to my questions.  The possibilities are sometimes endless, for only God knows all things." 

There is danger when through our own reasoning we think we know more than the Oceanographers.  That when someone goes treading in cloudy waters they think they know where the bottom is, even though they've been told otherwise by Oceanographers.  They may have even found out through their own study where the bottom is.   Does that mean the Oceanographers are no longer your guide?  Do you doubt their place as our leaders? There is also danger in assuming to know something about the ocean does not exist, that it won't be discovered later on, or that what we know about the ocean is everything there is to know.  Those are two extreme sides of a completely acceptable journey in the ocean. 

It is true that past Oceanographers have taught things about the ocean that turned out to be false when new understanding and technology came.  But our current Oceanographers are always the most world-renowned experts in Oceanography.  They know more than has ever been known about the ocean.  Still, it's impossible that they know everything.  The Ocean is so deep and so expansive our minds can't even comprehend its size and weight.  It doesn't change the fact that they are who God has chosen or lead, guide, and teach us.  God hasn't promised that his Oceanographers know everything about the ocean, but he's promised that if we listen to them we will never be in danger. 

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I think you guys can see where I'm going with this.  It can be taken in a million different ways.  Right now I see a lot of people in the Ocean angry with each other.  There is contention instead of meekness and humility.  Sometimes I think God may be prompting the ladies of OW to test our hearts, to see how we respond to those who do not agree with us.  I know their activism, which I don't agree with, has led me to uplifting and sincere study in the temple and out of it.  I'm grateful for that.  I also believe we received words specific for our situation today from our leaders in General Conference.  And no, I didn't see a "feminist smackdown" as my cousin purported. I did see that our leaders love and care for us enough to address our concerns.  I added some of my favorite quotes in an appendix below. 

To wrap this baby up, I just want to say I'm a big time believer in modern revelation.  In acknowledging that the understanding of man is limited in understanding the knowledge of God.  I believe there is a lot more revelation coming down the pike the next few generations.  That the temple ceremony will likely change as much in the next 100 years as it has in the last 100 years as we receive further light and knowledge. 

If we feel that there is a teaching out there that may be subject to change in the future, what do we do?  I'll tell you what I do, I follow Elder Hafen:
My experience has taught me always to give the Lord and his church the benefit of any doubts I may have when some such case seems too close to call. I stress that the willingness to be believing and accepting in these cases is a very different matter from blind obedience. It is rather, a loving and knowing kind of obedience.
That when it comes down to it, if there's a question for me -- I say, the teachings we have for today are the teachings for today.  I accept them.  I follow the Prophet.   I leave open the possibility that God may change how he's running the show in the future, and it may simply blow our minds.  

Or in the wise words of Jerry Seinfeld regarding authority, "Pants always beats no pants." **


**This reference could be construed as deeper meaning of who gets to wear the pants.  It's not.  Literally we trust doctors because they have training.  We trust leaders because they are chosen.  

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Below you will find some of my favorite thoughts and moments from last weekend.  

Elder Hales opened conference by speaking about speaking in General Conference.  It was very meta.  But it was almost as if the Lord was giving us a preface before we jumped in with both feet this time: 
President Harold B. Lee taught: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to … give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your [personal] views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).”10
Immediately after Elder Soares speaks about the importance of being meek, humble, and teachable in responding to others and not just our leaders.  Most of the anger and hate I've seen is towards the small group of women who has a different opinion than the majority. 
What about when people disagree with your ideas, even though you are absolutely sure that they represent the proper solution to a problem? What is your response when someone offends you, critiques your efforts, or is simply unkind because he or she is in a bad mood? At these moments and in other difficult situations, we must learn to control our temper and convey our feelings with patience and gentle persuasion.
I love the story he finishes his talk with, about the man in South Africa who is kept out of the church even though he believes it.  It's not right that he's kept out, it's an injustice.  And he responds in love and meekness in asking the window be opened so he could partake of the Gospel until years later when he is baptized.  There are similar stories in the scriptures, too.

I love this teaching from Lorenzo Snow that I've been pondering for a while.  My first read was that he was saying when we hear something we don't disagree with we should pray for a witness that it is true. But it's actually saying that we can pray to know of their motives and interests.  We can feel their love for us.
There may be some things that the First Presidency do; that the Apostles do, that cannot for the moment be explained; yet the spirit, the motives that inspire the action can be understood, because each member of the Church has a right to have that measure of the Spirit of God that they can judge as to those who are acting in their interests or otherwise.[9]
 Of course I loved Elder Uchtdorf.  For someone whose very nature is to question and to ask why, and whose testimony has been strengthened by finding questions or imperfections -- the man is an answer to my prayers.  
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.  Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, build faith in others.  And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

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