Thursday, July 9, 2015

Becoming Born of Christ

As I was preparing for a lesson to teach my YW class, I came across a verse in Mosiah that made me say "hmm." It is during the speech that King Benjamin gives to his people before he dies. He had taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and throughout invited them to become better and take responsibility for their own actions. This is the verse:
"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters." (Mosiah 5:7)
 It came after this verse, of the people explaining the covenant they desired to make:
"And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God." (Mosiah 5:5)
The phrase that stuck out to me was "ye are born of him [Christ]"—and the phrase "he [Christ] hath spiritually begotten you." This probably stuck out to me because I have been interested in pregnancy and birth lately. Let's see what we may be able to learn by delving into this metaphor. How does Christ spiritually beget us? How does this process come about? How can we help it? What does that mean about our relationship to Him?

King Benjamin tells us how he knows that the people were born of Christ. He says "for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him." So the evidence of being born of Christ is having our hearts changed through faith on His name. 

How does this change come about? The people's change in their hearts began when they listened to the prophet's voice, believed his words, and then received a more sure testimony that what he taught was true (Mosiah 5:2,4).  
Mosiah 5:4
"And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy."
That sounds really cool! How can I exercise faith in the words of prophets, so I can come to a great knowledge, cease to desire to do evil, and then be able to rejoice with great joy?

A look at King Benjamin's people's progression to this point uncovers that they had a very active role in becoming born of Christ.
  1. First, they listened to the words of their prophet.
  2. Then the fear of the Lord came upon them. (Mosiah 4:1)
  3. They "viewed themselves in their own carnal state" and called with one voice (suggesting unity with each other?) to the Lord for mercy and to apply the atoning blood of Christ so they could receive forgiveness of their sins, and so their hearts would be purified. (Mosiah 4:2)
  4. They express belief—faith—in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. (Mosiah 4:2)
And as a result of those sincere desires, faith, and action, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, bringing them 1) joy, 2) a knowledge of a remission of their sins, and 3) peace of conscience. (Mosiah 4:3)

Basically they repented of their sins, received a witness of the Spirit, and (from earlier in the post) had their very hearts and desires change for the better. And then they desired to covenant with the Lord, and became born of Christ.

I think it's cool how clear these steps are, for how amazing the consequences are. Who doesn't want joy, to know they've been forgiven of their sins, and peace in their hearts?

Looking at these chapters has made me want to learn more about being born of Christ. How else is repenting and making covenants like being born? How else does it affect us? How is it related to the ordinance of baptism? What does it mean for our relationship with Christ and the Father? How does the progression go from there—are there more parallels with a new and developing baby? I have a feeling all of the answers will be simple ones I already know about the gospel, but looking at things I already know from a new perspective can be pretty cool, so I'm going to try it!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Marriage and Family and Truth

I felt a profound sadness when I heard about the US Supreme Court decision on June 26. Initially I felt disinclined to share my thoughts about it, until I realized that if I don't share them, then people will never know what I think. So I'll share a few things that have come to mind.

I believe in the marriage of a man and a woman because that is what is necessary for God's plan of happiness to work. God ordained this specific union to be the way for His children to achieve certain blessings only available to families, and families connected through generations. The way that God provided for that to happen was for a man and a woman to be married, unite emotionally, spiritually, and physically, to create a family unit, starting with just the two of them. This family unit would have the gifts and contributions of both of the sexes, and would offer them unique opportunities to learn and grow by working together toward creating a unit that would last through time and eternity.

In order for us to learn and grow, we needed to obtain physical bodies to house our spiritual bodies. Through their physical union, both the husband and wife contribute to the beginning of a new body forming. Then the woman's body nurtures it and helps it grow, and the baby (body and spirit) is born to the couple. It is their responsibility to see that the baby is fed, clothed, taught, and otherwise taken care of. They naturally love the child, and have a natural incentive to care for it—in a sense, it is theirs.

Creating bodies for (inviting to come to earth) and raising children is not the only purpose of marriage. Couples married in God's way are sealed for eternity, and they are promised blessings that depend on them staying a couple, together forever. The blessings they receive are for both of them, obtained only together. I believe that marriage is meant to last forever, and that God has additional purposes for it beyond the grave, some that we cannot even fathom.

Our wedding rings
 Photo by Jessica Kiel
But why does this matter in a discussion about a law that will only be here on earth, in one nation on earth?

Truth affects all of us, no matter how aware we are of it. Fighting against the truth or acting contrary to what it teaches us does not bring progression. When we deny a power like God, or moral law, we choose to act contrary to truth, and lay ourselves bare to the inevitable negative consequences, just as we receive positive consequences for choosing to act according to the truth (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21). For example, lying to a friend to cover up something you did will make you feel bad inside, and will damage your relationship with your friend. Pretending that lying is good does not change the consequence for doing it.

I want to live in a nation that recognizes truth and acts accordingly. Or at least doesn't act completely contrary to truth for the sake of popularity or political correctness or whatever.

When "marriage equality" is treated as a civil right, it threatens my ability to act on the truth that I know without persecution. And that is bad, especially when the very things I see as wrong, and the actions and lifestyles I want to teach my children to avoid, are not only ratified by, but also promoted by, the country I live in. It  also threatens to make it not only acceptable but the reigning policy to persecute me and treat me like a bigot for not recognizing what the state now defines as a civil right. All because I believe an eternal law that contradicts what is now national law.

Condoning a relationship that inevitably leads to serious sin is not tasteful to me. But not because I hate people who choose to live a gay lifestyle—it's because I hate to see what they're doing to themselves. Acting on homosexual feelings is sin. Sin separates us from God. I don't want to encourage, or participate in celebrating, behavior that separates anyone from God.

I hope we can learn to learn and act according to truth, loving individuals and being tolerant of others' beliefs in the process.

Additional places to learn about the importance of family in God's plan:
The Proclamation to the World: The Family
"Why Marriage, Why Family" by D. Todd Christofferson
"'Guardians of the Hearth': Establishing, Nurturing, and Defending the Family" from Daughters in my Kingdom
Letter responding to the Supreme Court ruling

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kusuguri-zeme (Rough draft)

This piece of writing has been in my notebook and the back of my mind for a few years now.  I'm going to share an early draft because that's one of the purposes of this blog—to practice sharing my thoughts, even before I feel they're "perfect" (because they rarely ever get to that stage). It's scary to post something that isn't polished and doesn't say exactly what I want it to yet! Maybe later on I'll take this and revise it and re-post it to show its progression.


Today, a person who I thought was my friend betrayed me—he took away my freedom, made me lie to all my friends, and inflicted pain on me. To make matters worse, he did all of this in my presence, while laughing maniacally. Maybe I need to be better at choosing friends.

What did he do? Inflicted gargalesis in me, in front of family and friends.

It began innocently enough, or so I thought. He came into the room close to where I was standing at a public gathering. I was distracted for a moment by someone talking to me, and that's when he struck. He dove in (I imagine—admittedly, I didn't see this part), eyes flashing maliciously and two fingers ready. He jabbed quickly in, poking my sides. An involuntary burst of laughter forced itself from my throat, followed shortly by a quick jerking motion, making me look like a loony chicken.

He did something I didn't want him to do; he broke my personal bubble! Capital offense. But he didn't stop there.

He proceeded to tickle me until I was on the floor, twitching breathlessly. "Birthday girl! Birthday girl!" he chanted. My friends were laughing with him—he turned even them against me. In a matter of seconds I had been forced to do something I did not want to do: I had kicked and squeaked and snorted and giggled, all without wanting to, or even thinking about it. He had become my domineering puppet master, and I his puppet-slave. Weak from the exertion, I really could not exert my strength enough to stand for several moments after he ceased tickling me.

Tickling—ha! It seems like such an innocent word. But I know, as others do, of its evil nature. My research shows me that such tactics as this young man employed on me are common in multi-sibling homes. One sibling will tickle the other to gain control over him or her. In those "tickling sessions,"
the tickler is not only exerting physical control over the sibling; he is also bullying his sibling psychologically. That psychological damage can follow a child all the way through to adulthood. This kind of bullying for dominion over its victim is hard to stop because the victim gives all the same signs of a ticklee in a tickle fight for fun (to think of doing this for fun!). That brings me to the next charge I place at my ex-friend's door.

A definition of lying is to give a false impression, or to lead others to believe something that is untrue by your words or actions. My (ex-)friend made me lie, in that I was not enjoying being tickled and I didn't want him to tickle me (such an invasion of personal space!), yet he made me laugh and give signs of enjoyment. My outward signs and inward feelings were not in accord, so he was making me lie.

I could even go further without going too far: that he tortured me. In ancient Japan, they called it kusuguri-zeme - merciless tickling. They used to to punish (yes, punish) or otherwise torture high-profile or above-the-law perpetrators. Kusuguri-zeme was easily begun, easily terminated, and left no telling marks to incriminate the administrator of the tickle-torture. Sever other nations have (unofficially of course) used similar methods to punish, humiliate, or otherwise weaken their targets. Among the variety of torture devices used to achieve this most effective pain-inducer were feathers, the fast and easy fingers, and the goat method. This last one was carried out by strapping the victim's feet in the stocks so they couldn't pull away. Then the torturers would pour salt water over the victim's feet to make them attractive to the goat. Then they would release the goat, which would then proceed to lick the sensitive underside of the victim's feet.

Current thoughts on this draft
I know this draft is off the mark, but at least I have something written down!

I'm not sure if I'm going for making the speaker totally serious, or aware that she's being facetious.

I feel like this is a way to point out ways that people interact with each other that make it hard to be true to themselves or to speak their mind. A kind of oppression that is hard to fight because the person imposing it may not realize the position he or she is putting other people in, or past experiences or societal norms say that this kind of behavior is good and acceptable.

In case you haven't heard of it before, gargalesis is the technical term for laugh-inducing tickling.