Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Engagement, Creativity, Inspiration

Once again, it's been a while since I've written here, and I don't feel like there's too much new to share.

- Being engaged gets better every day. I love the opportunities to learn how to struggle with, support, and love my fiance better. I didn't become engaged when I found my dream man or ideal situation; I decided to become engaged with someone who I knew I could have that with [(potential + desire + work) x him x me = success]. That was my experience, at least. It took a step of faith in the face of fear, but I love the chance now to create and write my own "happily ever after" story. Z and I go really well together. 

- I've been getting the creative bug lately. With the prospects of planning a wedding, getting married, setting up a house, and preparing for a family, there's plenty of opportunity for creativity in recipes, decoration, budgeting, etc. With my great-grandma's funeral in the last couple weeks, I started thinking of ways I could pass on the stories and lessons from her life to my children. My idea now is to buy these "Bare Books" (here's what looks like the official manufacturer/vendor's website) and fill them with stories from ancestors' lives. It's one idea. Z and I also have fun getting creative with recipes: last night's dinner was a stir fry with green cabbage, green pepper, pineapple, asparagus, and canned chicken over white rice. We just looked at what we have and put flavors together. 

- There was a forum address today on campus that I really enjoyed. I don't know any of his biography, but Dr Benjamin Carson was the speaker, and the university wasn't allowed to broadcast his address (requiring us to go in person). When he concluded, he received 3 standing ovations from everyone present. I particularly enjoyed how he talked about education in society and its importance. It hit home for me, because reading is how I came to enjoy learning as a child, and getting that desire back into my education will ensure that I learn for more than just passing the midterm and final. Dr Carson seemed to suggest that being educated is both a personal, civic, and even religious responsibility, and that to go on and share that is also a responsibility. It motivated me to do better for myself, and to think about how I can pass on those values to my children.

That's kinda my life now: trying to keep up in school (anatomy is really hard...), planning wedding stuff, and thinking about the future. Every day is a new adventure. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lands of Promise

Some thoughts I wrote about in my journal this week, and have now revised for publication:
...it mentions the blessing of living in this promised land... and I wondered why America/the US is a promised land and a blessing to those who live there. Then I had the thought that it became a land of promise because of the promise of the events to transpire there. It isn't because of a superiority hierarchy which makes the US special. It's special because of its heritage with the Book of Mormon and its people, and because of the Restoration and establishment of the Latter-Day Saints that took place here. Other countries can be, and I'm sure are, blessed and promised to their inhabitants on the condition of coming unto God, like for us. If the Abrahamic Covenant is renewed with each individual or married couple [including blessings of a promised land of inheritance], then why would other individuals not also be recipients of a covenant of righteousness and prosperity with God, even if we don't have records of a formal agreement with a particular ancestor? God loves each of His children, and will bless and prosper them as they come unto Him, be it from whatever circumstance they may be in.
In the scriptures we read about various "promised lands." For Moses and the Israelites, it was the land of Canaan. For people who read the Book of Mormon, we read a LOT about how for the Jaredite and Lehite people, it's the Americas. Combining native patriotism with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints being restored in America as well, sometimes people get fixed on the idea that the United States of America is THE promised land for all the righteous in our time. Since my experience getting out of the US last summer, the thought of America's superiority has been thrown into question, and I think this epiphany is my answer.

Here's a couple scriptures from the Book of Mormon:
For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)
Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. (1 Nephi 17:35) 
Living in a certain place or belonging to a particular family is no guarantee that we'll get to heaven or merit all of the possible blessings. We're all given various life circumstances that will best promote our growth and potential for happiness, but ultimately, where we end up comes down to what we decide: are we going to make the individual choice to follow Christ, or not.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prophets Are People, Too

I really like the places in scriptures where you see raw feelings and interactions of the author, like Enoch and God in Moses 7 (verses 20-67, in the Pearl of Great Price) and what's been called "Nephi's Psalm" in 2 Nephi 4 (verses 15-35). One of these moments where you get a glimpse inside the real person writing is found in Ether 12.

Moroni, the son of Mormon, is going through and abridging these records. Just a few verses into this chapter, he takes a break from the historical text to go on a tangent about faith and its relevance, and he lists many examples of faith preceding great miracles that he's read about in the course of abridgment. After this, Moroni breaks down:
And I said...Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them; and thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them. Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
Sometimes that happens to me too. Usually when I see a great art piece, or hear a beautiful song played or sung, or whatever, I appreciate their great talent. Once in a while, if I'm already inclined to be discouraged, I see the great things others can do, and I feel like next to them, I'll never amount to anything. I know that that isn't true, but I still occasionally feel that way.

That's why I think this passage in Ether is so significant, because Moroni feels the same way too! He sees the great things done by others, and specifically compares himself to the brother of Jared, and puts himself down because he doesn't have the same talents. Moroni was a great man and a prophet, and he still felt lame sometimes by comparing himself to others. Something else that I thought was important to note is that Moroni still acknowledges that he does have strengths ("thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing"), but he isn't focusing on them - he's placing more importance on the things he lacks.

Here is God's response:
Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek; that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; and if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me--the fountain of all righteousness.
I've probably written about this before, but I've had something cool about this pointed out to me: that God says "I will show unto them their weakness." God shows us how he sees our weakness: not how we view our weaknesses, not how our friends see our weakness, or how our enemies see our weakness. God is perfectly just and perfectly loving, as well as the source of all truth. As I've posted before, the gospel of Jesus Christ is an optimistic one. Yes, the reality of our weaknesses hurts, and it's not fun. But, the miracle of the gospel is that Christ accounts for all of these pains, weaknesses, and mistakes, and with His help, we can conquer them.

The next verse, containing Moroni's response, reads:
And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith.
Even though Moroni's weakness wasn't removed from him at that time, he was able to receive comfort from God because he relied on his faith that things would work out. If it works for Moroni, it'll work for me and you too.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Taking Away the Fear in Promises

I've noted before that I've been somewhat "commitment-phobic" over the past year, even when considering things that I really want. If I commit to something and fail, I'm more accountable for that failure than if I never made the commitment, and that can be a scary thought. However, committing, covenanting, binding and promising are really important, not just because it's a commandment or societal expectation, but because doing so builds us into better people.

A lot of times, it's tempting to put off a commitment until we can be sure that we won't fail in fulfilling it. I often do that. But something I'm learning (which I can't take any credit for) is that oftentimes, we don't get the strength to do the task until we've committed to do it. We see all over in the scriptures that God first requires us to be humble and take a step in the dark before He grants us additional power to do what we need to. Thus, commitment requires a leap of faith that making promises activates God's grace and power on our behalf. If I'm afraid of failure after making a promise, I either think I'm doing it alone or I think that God's power is insufficient. Since neither option is true, the logical choice is to exercise faith, make the commitment, and then trust that God's hand is/will be in my life to guide me and make my weaknesses perfect in His strength.

Thus, making commitments fearlessly requires faith, and gives us the opportunity to work with God. These consequences are quite beneficial to us, and as we use our decision-making power in this way, it makes us into stronger, more confident, more capable people. We can establish integrity within ourselves and in our relations with other people. We can become dependable and trustworthy. Who doesn't want that?

So when my boyfriend proposed to me, I could use my faith in Christ and push for faith in myself and answer him, "Yes" :D I can't wait, because marrying him will be AWESOME! It's a big decision, but since I've made the commitment, I've felt my ability to stick to it increase. I love seeing how God works in my life.