Thursday, April 16, 2015

Atonement Study, Part 1

Z and I decided for our scripture study as a couple that we would study the Atonement for a while. This is a topic I've wanted to become more familiar with, so I'm excited for the new direction. I don't know if I'll post all of my thoughts here as we study, but these ones were particularly poignant and I thought they were worth sharing.

Tonight we read from Mosiah, chapter 3, in the Book of Mormon. Z pointed out some ideas right in the text that I hadn't noticed before. Namely, the broader role of knowledge/ignorance in culpability and a new interpretation of "the natural man."

King Benjamin sets up this contrast between a child and a man, and how the Atonement covers their respective sins. It is summed in verses 18-19:
 18 For behold [Christ, the Lord Omnipotent] judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
The key difference between the child and the man seems to be their knowledge, which inevitably comes through maturity and experience. Children sin in ignorance because they are immature and lack understanding; they may do things that are wrong, e.g. steal from a sibling, but don't understand the full implications of right and wrong well enough to make a conscious, reasoned, deliberate choice (or "rebel", as we will later discuss).
16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.  
In verse 11, Benjamin includes "the ignorant heathen" into this group.
11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.
Before, I had read those verses and thought that sins committed in ignorance were reserved just for young children and for those who never heard the name of Christ in their lives. But when we base accountability on knowledge and understanding, it becomes much more inclusive. There have been times even as an adult where I have made mistakes because I didn't know all the rules. The common factor between the "little children" and "those...who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them" is that they all "have ignorantly sinned." And those sins - the mistakes we make before we know any better - are a part of normal, mortal life (due to "the transgression of Adam") and are covered by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful, and the sins we commit in ignorance will not be held against us.

Now that we've discussed the child in Benjamin's dichotomy, let's examine the man.

The growing or full-grown man is mature, experienced, and knowledgeable. As we go through life, we learn more about the world and can make true, deliberate, conscious choices. This knowledge and conscious decision-making make us more accountable for the choices we make, for better or for worse. Thus, the man "drink[s] damnation to [his] own [soul]" when he sins. 
 12 But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because he has knowledge of right and wrong, his sins are now deliberate rebellion. The only way to rectify this rebellious state is through the Atonement of Christ, which changes our natures so that we can have both the blessings of knowledge/experience and the blessings of a Christ-like heart.

The principle I see is that we are accountable for our sins to the extent that we are aware of them. If we are aware that we are sinning, we're in trouble; if we didn't understand how we sinned, Christ has taken the burden of that sin on himself already. This probably shouldn't be a newsflash to me, but the discussion I had with Z broadened my perspective. I can stop feeling guilty about my ignorant sins, no matter how old I was at the time, because Christ is both fair and merciful.

The other revelation for me was getting a new look at the phrase, "the natural man." For as long as I can remember, I've interpreted that "man" as "mankind," when in context it is perhaps more referencing the child/man contrast. Thus, it's not that mankind is inherently "an enemy to God," but rather, the natural inclinations that come with maturity, knowledge, and experience take us away from God. Let's reexamine verse 19:
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
This verse specifically equates the natural child with the traits "submissive, meek, humble, patient, [and] full of love." If we understand the child and the man to be opposites, based on the lack or presence of knowledge, this means that the natural man is rebellious, unteachable, proud, impatient, and full of hatred. These traits lead one to enmity with God. Only through yielding to the Holy Spirit and using the Atonement of Christ can we both increase in knowledge and experience and also increase in Christ-like attributes. At the end of the day, the Atonement of Jesus Christ - his loving sacrifice on our behalf - is the only way we can have it all, and grow both in understanding and in holiness.
 17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Well, I'm reaching the end of my first subbing assignment. It's been quite the 6-week journey.

There were some really hard days. Sometimes they were because of students, parents, other teachers, or feeling my own inadequacies. Sometimes I wondered if the stress and heartache were worth it, or working a job where you love every minute is just an impossible dream. I cried to my husband one night halfway through the assignment because I felt so awful about how the other teachers must think of me. I felt torn between striving for professionalism and wanting to confess to everyone that I've never been to "teacher school" and don't actually know what I'm doing.

There have been some wonderful moments that made it all worth it. Having a genuine, engaging conversation with the creative writing teacher over lunch about our favorite books and movies. Listening and talking with a quiet student who wanted to befriend me after class. Getting comfort and advice from a Spanish teacher who was understanding of my inadequacies. Chatting with a shy seventh grader about life and why boys are weird. Discussing favorite books with various students. Laughing with the whole class when I respond to the wrong name for the fifth time in a row. Finally facilitating sparks of understanding in students who struggled with particular concepts. Conquering my qualms with making eye contact in the hallway and learning to dress up every day. Getting compliments from students and fellow teachers on my shirt, shoes, or crazy socks during spirit week.

I have a couple more days before this long-term assignment is over, and I'm sure I haven't learned all my lessons yet. Being a teacher is SUPER hard. There are lots of things to prepare and keep track of, lots of things that can go right or wrong or in-between, and lots of time-saving and teaching strategies to pick up along the way. I've heard lately from a couple experienced teachers that you never feel perfect at all the things you need to, so I'd like to follow up and ask: Why are you still teaching? What is it that makes the long hours, low pay, and limited success worth it? I'm optimistic that satisfactory answers are out there. In the meantime, I'm going to keep learning and teaching as much as I can to get it figured out. I sure love the students I've had.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Healing Power of Gratitude

I thinked a good thought earlier tonight.

I've been praying for a lot of things lately--some big, some small. Often, those things will work out. When I realize that after the fact, I realize that it was an answered prayer; when I recognize that, I try to remember to thank God immediately so that He and I can feel my gratitude. It seems like a healthy habit to get into--returning thanks for blessings instead of accepting them and moving on without another thought.

That's when I realized something else. I think that being grateful and expressing gratitude is softening my heart towards God, which is yet another thing that I've been praying for. I feel less defensive and more open. Softer. It feels like a small thing, but it's a tender mercy and represents progress.

Gratitude is great! I hope the trend continues.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God's Guiding Hand

Looks like I haven't posted on here in over 2 months. Oops.

Good news though: I HAVE A JOB! I'll be a substitute teacher.

I'm impressed with all the blessings that have come with this job, and the things it's made me think about.

  • Because of the circumstance, it was a pretty easy job for me to get hired for. I've had similar experiences with success on the first try for other important things, like getting into college and getting my student job. Part of me feels bad about it, and like I don't deserve such nice, convenient experiences that are usually really hard for people, but since working through a couple trials that require more active effort, I'm just grateful that this has worked so smoothly so far.
  • I'm grateful that I have such a good mentor. I'll be subbing for a friend while she's on maternity leave, and she's been coaching me in her class procedures, and said I can contact her throughout her leave. Her training and confidence in me have done a lot to bolster my fragile confidence.
  • I've had a few opportunities to meet the principal and the other teachers that I'll be working with. They are really likable, and one was even excited to work with me before she'd met me! I'm really blessed to get my first subbing opportunity in such an amazing school.
  • In spite of my fears, I've been so excited and motivated by this chance to be involved in education. During the professional development that I was invited to I could practically feel stars dancing in my eyes at the vision that these teachers presented. This is such a meaningful work to be part of, and I want to learn more. It's definitely shaping my career aspirations already. I haven't even taught a class yet!

I keep switching between wild excitement and paralyzing anticipation. Sometimes I'm afraid that I won't be good enough, but I am so, SO excited to be working in an environment where I can make a difference in the world. I feel a little less overwhelmed compared to earlier this week. I'm so excited to see what I learn and where this opportunity takes me! I'm sure I'll be able to look back and clearly see God's hand in this.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Have I Done Any Good in the World?

We had such a busy weekend! We hosted a couple teenagers for a youth activity, so Z and I probably spent five hours (a very minimal, conservative, low-end estimate) in the car dropping off and picking up the kids over the last few days. The activity ran from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, and our job was to drive them back and forth and let them sleep on our couches for a couple nights. It was a good experience, but a taxing one at times. On Saturday we got to help with a service project for church: doing a total home makeover for a single mother of five small children. We were there for 6 of the 8.5 hours and helped pick up trash, trim plants, and paint. It was such an impressive project; I didn't see the original condition of the house, but about 70 volunteers repainted the entire exterior (missing just the cupola), painted the living room and all the interior doors, removed a broken AC unit, scrubbed away at the walls inside, picked up years-old construction litter, tore out dead and overgrown bushes and trees, planted flowers out front, and probably did even more that I wasn't aware of. My muscles are still complaining, but it was great fun to work with so many neighbors.

Ways I've made the world a better place:
- Making a difference at the service project.
- Hopefully offering a friend some solid relationship advice.
- Soliciting some advice from others for my sister as she prepares to serve as a missionary.

Blessings I've received:
- I functioned mostly-ok at work even though I hadn't been that sleepy in months.
- I get to keep my student job for a couple months after graduation (new policy change), so I'll have a source of income while job-searching and something to do so that I'm not bored. And as I've stressed less about my current job, I've enjoyed it a lot more.
- I've probably used this one already, but I still have an awesome husband who loves me, makes me smile, motivates and encourages me to do better, and so many other wonderful things.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Have I Done Any Good in the World?

Life's been a little busy, and I missed a day or two. I'd also like to record some blessings/miracles that I see in my life, because that's also a source of gratitude and happiness.

So, in the last couple days . . .

I served by
- Promptly running an errand for my sister
- Making and bringing a nice dinner to campus for my husband and I for a date
- Not griping about my husband needing my laptop while his is in for repairs

I've been blessed with
- Things running smoothly so far for our house guests this weekend
- A wonderful husband/best friend
- Family who cares

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Have I Done Any Good in the World? Day 1

Last year or so ago, I did a 30 Days of Thanksgiving gratitude challenge. I don't have a certain number of days I'll be doing this, but I'd like to try another challenge: recognizing the good that I contribute to the world.

Life gets heavy sometimes, and it's hard to focus on the good things. I think that it could be a good exercise to improve self-esteem, so I'm going to try it.

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone's burden been lighter today because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try,"
But go and do something today.
'Tis noble of man to work and to give; love's labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.
--Have I Done Any Good, hymn

Some good things I've contributed to the world in the last 24 hours:
- I've been a good listener for a couple of my friends (which blessed me in return).
- I sent a friend all the pictures I took of her and her husband at their wedding.
- I brought my husband lunch.