Thursday, January 31, 2013

True Doctrine, Understood

There is an often quoted statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer that, particularly in my field of study, has provoked conversation. 
"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.  The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."
Studying in the behavioral sciences, this is often a source of contention and debate.  If studying behavior doesn't help, then why do we do it?  Should all psychologists and sociologists and anthropologists just quite and teach the gospel instead?  It's a little bit demoralizing sometimes.

Or at least it was, until one of my blessed 111 students today shared the rest of the quote with me.  (It's from Elder Packer's October 1986 General Conference talk, entitled "Little Children"
"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel."
When I read this, it was as though dozens of the feelings I've been having and things I've come to understand all of the sudden clicked together.  Studying behavior is good, it is helpful, and it is necessary.  But we need to be wary of preoccupation with problematic behaviors without constantly remembering the solutions to the problems- which are always eternal solutions.

Let me give an example.  For a long time, my favorite show was Criminal Minds.  It's a very, very dark show.  Nevertheless, often I would get off of work at 1am and then eagerly watch as twisted criminals were understood and investigated.  I dreamed of understanding the way their minds worked, and then of finding ways to "fix" them.  But the problem was this: I was only focusing on the problem, not the solution.  The only way to truly help men and women this scarred would be to treat them as the divine sons and daughters of God that they are- to teach them true principles and expect them to live up to them.

And so it is with many social ills- abortion, poverty, violence, etc.  As we become preoccupied talking about school shootings and horrific abuse and gang violence and homelessness, we unwittingly support its increase.  Alternatively, as we teach true doctrine, help others understand true principles, and become examples of truth and light in our own lives, these ills will slowly fade.

Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that we should ignore wrongdoings that occur in our world.  Absolutely not.  They should be taken care of by the proper authority.  Children should be warned, cautiously, about the dangers of the world they live in.  We have to be practical.  But we don't have to live in fear.  Doing so only results in more reasons to fear.

I'm coming to understand that the answers to most soul-wrenching questions aren't as difficult as they seem- although they can be difficult to implement.  The solutions aren't fiscally expensive, nor do they require many social groups to set in motion.  They are in fact, very simple, and all contained within one simple doctrine: Love one another.  The difficulty here lies not in the finding of the answer, but in the constant and steady changes made in the hearts of individual people.

Toward the end of his address, Elder Packer shared this truth:
"Secular doctrines have the advantage of convincing, tangible evidence. We seem to do better in gathering data on things that can be counted and measured.
Doctrines which originate in the light, on the other hand, are more often supported by intangible impressions upon the spirit. We are left for the most part to rely on faith."
 Which, I guess, brings me back to the theme of the year: Faith.  I've known for a while that focusing on the negative doesn't bring good.  Even in personal mistakes, the hurt caused by others, and everyday problems- the answer rarely, if ever, lies in focusing on the wrong.  Instead, peace and joy comes in recognizing the power of the Atonement to forgive, heal, and help us move on.  When I make a mistake, I feel bad, but only long enough to remember the beautiful gift of the Christ's sacrifice.  From that point on, I must put all my efforts into becoming better, aided by the grace granted to those who repent.  When I am hurt by others, at some point focusing on the pain only blocks my ability to be healed.  Much like the ancient Israelites, we are often too preoccupied by our pain to look to the source of healing- when the dramatic irony is that if we would but look, we would be healed.

This post has been a bit of a word vomit, and I apologize.  But it's also a synthesis of so many things I'm coming to learn.

When we sin, mess up, get hurt, or do or feel any of the silly human things that we do- Remember:
  Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.
Focus on the good- the hope, the truth, and the light.  When we do, it will come.

...if you build it, they will come. :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


sometimes i complain about school.  but it's not real, because school has never really scared me.

but getting a real job?  going to a career fair?  handing people my resume? TALKING to recruiters?

THAT scares me.


Today I:

Woke up at 6am.
Went to Dance Aerobics.
Took a quiz in Spanish class.
Walked through (and slipped on) all the snow.
Worked for an 2 hours.
Finished my homework.

And it's only NOON.

I think that an episode of The Office and a nap are in order..

Monday, January 28, 2013

On hoping for a Liahona

This morning in studying the Book of Mormon I came across a passage of scripture I've read dozens of times:
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass.  And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness. 1 Nephi 16: 9-10 
For all the times I've read this, I never before made the connection between these two verses.  I recognize that this is my own interpretation, but here's what I realized:

The Liahona, the "ball of curious workmanship" that became so essential in leading Lehi's family to "the more fertile parts of the wilderness", only became available to Lehi after he had followed the divine counsel to begin their journey into the wilderness.

I'm fictionalizing a bit here, but this is sort of what I imagine it was like...

One night, as Lehi is preparing for bed, he receives a strong prompting that tomorrow the family needs to begin their journey.  As the night wears on, Lehi speaks with Sariah about it, and they make plans to prepare the family for the next day's journey.  They were likely uncertain where exactly they were going, but nonetheless knew that they needed to go.

The next morning, after Lehi and Sariah likely had to fight off many doubts and fears, they are blessed with a divine instrument that shows them each day where to go.  It is so clearly a direct reward for their faith and immediate action.  But even the Liahona works "after the manner of their faith".  The scriptures imply that they would wake up in the morning and look to see which way the arrow was pointing- never really knowing from one day to the next where they were to go.

Bottom line: We are blessed for acting on faith.  When Lehi chose to follow the Lord's counsel to journey into the wilderness, he had no idea that he would be blessed with the Liahona.  Often, we want to know everything about a decision before making it- we strive to be logical, rational creates.  But the truth is, often Father has incredible blessings in store that we can't even imagine, and we won't ever know about until we act and move forward in faith.  Think about how much easier it would have been for Lehi if he had known about the Liahona- "Oh, I'm going to have a magic compass to tell us where we should travel?  That sounds great!  Lets go!".  Or, more practically in modern times...imagine how much more willing we would be to act on faith if we knew the blessings associated with it... "Oh, going to this grad school will enable me to provide for my family and have more missionary opportunities?  Of course I'll go!" or "Picking up and moving in the middle of high school will enable me to meet my best friend?  That sounds great!"  or  "If I make time to have that hard discussion with _____, it will help them get back on the right path?  Perfect!"

Moving forward in faith is hard.  It just is.  But sometimes we have to remember that it's not that specific choice we need to have faith in- it's our Heavenly Father.  We need to trust that He does in fact know what is best for us, and He he loves us perfectly.  And, because of both His perfect love and perfect knowledge, He knows the best blessings to give us.  But we have to want them enough to trust Him, listen, and act.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the little things

Sometimes the simplest things make me happy.  Actually, it's almost always the simplest things.  And that's just the way it was intended.
"Behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.  And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise bringeth about the salvation of many souls." Alma 37:6-7
And today, it was those simple things.

inspired church meetings of teaching and peace
those few warm hours before the snow hit
a beautiful world covered in white
grateful words
fun and successful cooking endeavors
roommates I love and feel comfortable around
crater cupcakes
visiting teachers that I actually like!
the vicarious joy of a distant friend who found love
learning to dream
hope for the future

Tomorrow, I hope I can remember to appreciate the little things.
Because even though I didn't get to stay up all night and watch movies, I'm grateful that I can laugh about it with those I love.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013: Moving Forward in Faith

For much of my life, I've been focused on just getting through.  I've faced a handful of trials, and I've made an incredible journey in the past few years toward an understand of the healing power of the Atonement.  And now, I think the lesson I need to learn is how to move forward in faith.  I've had enough experiences with my Heavenly Father to trust that He knows what I need, and that if I keep my hands in His hands and keep moving forward, He will guide me and endow me with strength.

2013 is my year of Moving Forward in Faith  

As such, I've made some goals.  Usually during January I focus on the progress I've made during the past year.  This year, however, I want to focus on the things I'm looking forward to.

Goals for 2013:
1) Read in the scriptures and pray daily
2) Make two (2) big, important decisions with confidence
3) Graduate with my Bachelor's
4) Apply to graduate school
5) Get a real-person job!
6) Shift my exercise and eating habits to a focus on health, not appearance
7) Merge my ideas and actions so that I can be an example in word and deed of what I believe
8) Develop a working knowledge of Spanish- be able to hold my own in a conversation!

I'm excited for this year.  I've never been so uncertain and yet so full of hope and faith at the same time.  I am ready to move forward and to face the challenges and joys to come.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Beyond Happy

I just wanted to take a moment to record how incredibly happy and blessed I feel at this moment.  I have an intense sense of awe and wonder in my life right now, and a large part of me wonders how I could possibly deserve it.  I am so blessed to have wonderful close friends who fill me with love and joy.  They treat me with such love and kindness that I can't contain my gratitude.  I wish I could show my thanks in more than words...and yet I feel so inadequate.  So sometimes, I just stand and smile, hoping that somehow that my smile can convey the gratitude I feel for their happiness, joy, care, and  awesomeness.

Thank goodness.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Two Towers

So often I find my world shaking and crumbling. I make mistakes. I feel guilt. I suffer the consequences of those I love making choices that lead to pain. I struggle to assess and reassess how to live and learn. I pour my soul out in words only to discover I've been muted by pain or pride. So I offer myself through warmth and softness, and those too are lost in the rubble of doubt and fear.

And yet, amidst the wreckage, I find that two things stand firm: truth and love. While it may feel as though you drop pebbles into a bottomless well, there is hope. Standards to truth will always arise to clear the fog. Love that is given accumulates to form intangible bonds of strength that eventually become too strong to deny. If you search hard enough, you will always find truth. And if you love long enough, it will always make a difference.