Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Inspired People

It's amazing to me how much the Lord inspires His children when He has things that He needs them to do.

We went to the Special Collections section in the library for D&C class last week, and the man lecturing taught us about the origin of many of the books that they have in the Special Collections. He showed us ancient papyrus manuscripts, some of the earliest translations of the Bible into English, examples of the first books to be printed with a printing press, and some first edition copies of the Book of Commandments (the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants) and the Book of Mormon. As he taught us about what happened historically to bring about the evolution of books and printing and literacy, I kept thinking of how important these developments were to the growth of dozens of cultures and societies, Christianity, and the Restoration of the gospel as it was when Christ was on the earth. None of these things could have happened without the aid and enhancement that the printed word provides. These books and pamphlets were how Christians and early Latter-day Saints learned the doctrines of their religions, not to mention how they gained any kind of secular knowledge or education. Heavenly Father needs His children to learn and grow in order for Him to be able to use them as His instruments. And when He helps inspired men like Gutenberg, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and all the other religious leaders who helped bring forth these important documents, His children can learn and grow and draw closer to Him. What a gift--He inspires His children to find ways to draw near to Him and to help others do the same. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Symbolism and Differences

We've been talking a lot about symbols and the function of symbolism in my D&C class lately. One of the interesting things that we've discussed a lot in class is how the meanings of different symbols change depending on their usage. Many people have pointed out that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a lot of similar symbolism to Freemasonry. It's true--we do. However, we also have a lot of the same symbols used in Catholicism, Judaism, Protestantism, and many other religions and organizations. I guess it just struck me, because I'd never really thought about how much the symbolism of various groups overlap. I think a lot of times we as humans tend to look for the differences between others' beliefs and our own, and then when comparing two sets of beliefs that we don't necessarily uphold, we tend to lump them together and not value their distinguishing characteristics. In reality, I think we all have a lot more in common than we give ourselves credit for.

I guess it made me realize how important it is to recognize that many religions really do share the same beliefs. Because I am a Latter-day Saint, or a Mormon, as we're so often called, I believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and that I cannot be saved without Him. I believe that each person on earth is a child of God and that He loves each of us individually more than we can comprehend. I believe that families are the most important social unit on the earth today and that strong families can only help society. I believe that by being honest, kind, selfless, and aware of other people, individuals will be much happier in this life. I believe that God has something greater in mind for us in the life after this one. I believe He wants us to take care of this amazing earth that He created for us. I believe a lot of things that a lot of other people in a lot of other religions believe as well, but when I or other people focus on our differences and refuse to try to see each other around the differences, that's when animosity, miscommunication, and prejudice on either side happen. I believe a lot of things that others may think are weird or untrue, but that's okay. People are allowed to think what they please--I'm allowed to believe what I do, and they're allowed to believe I'm crazy or deluded, if they wish. :)

In our symbolism discussion, we discussed how although the icons of the symbols overlap, the meanings of them are often very different. Thus, it's very important to ask people what their symbols mean before judging them. I guess that's where the differences thing comes in again. Though we all believe different things in addition to those we have in common, if we just seek to understand others' beliefs and see things from their point of view, the animosity, miscommunication, and prejudice all but disappears. That's because we're seeking to understand them before trying to make them see our point of view.

The whole discussion just reminded me over and over again of how important it is to accept and be slow to judge. And all of those thoughts about similarities and differences stemmed from a discussion about symbols. I had a lot of other cool thoughts about the power of and importance of symbols, but I'll save those for another time. (This is already getting long.) However, I know I keep looking for symbols in my life and the world around me as a result of the discussion--but I hope I become a little more patient and understanding in the process as well. After all, if I can't live the way I wish the world were myself, what's the point of wishing it? Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." It's got to start somewhere. Why not with me?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Big Love" Issue...

I forgot I wanted to say this too:

I've been wondering what to do about this issue, with HBO's TV series "Big Love" advertising to show an episode where they show what happens in the endowment ceremony. I've received forwards about it, Facebook group invitations, messages encouraging me to boycott the station, and a number of other things concerning the issue.

Obviously, I'm very sorry that the producers of the series have chosen to broadcast things over national television that are of such a sacred, sensitive nature to over 13 million people worldwide. However, I am grateful for the Church's official statement on the issue, highlighting what the correct response from members is, and describing its official stance on the matter.

Here it is:

"The Publicity Dilemma," LDS Newsroom, lds.org.

Please read it, and let's all keep acting like Christians, regardless of the individual sects of our faiths.

History and Record Keeping

Wow--it's been a while since I've posted. I wanted to blog about the Church History Symposium that I went to for Doctrine and Covenants, even though it's been a little while since it happened. The symposium was on Feb. 27, and although it was all very interesting and informative, my favorite talk was the final one, given by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, of the Seventy. (Most of the other talks I attended were about the various forms of record-keeping throughout Church history and about trends and patterns in different periods of the Church's history.) Elder Jensen is the current Church Historian for my church, and he oversees all the records for the ordinances and major events that happen within it, and he makes sure that accurate and up-to-date histories on the Church throughout the world are kept.

Elder Jensen's talk was so good. He basically addressed the topic, "Why the Study and Enjoyment of Church History is an Important Part of a Full Life in the Gospel." It was really interesting for me to hear, because I guess I had never really thought of a knowledge of Church history as absolutely essential for one's participation and experiences in the gospel. I'd not really given the matter much thought, and I think if I had, I would have said something along the lines of "it's a nice-to-know" thing, but not as important and understanding something like the scriptures or something.

One of the reasons that he gave for Church history being so essential to our lives in the gospel was because over and over again in the scriptures, the prophets have asked us to keep a record of our doings, and to "[retain] in remembrance the captivity of our fathers" (Alma 5:6). It's not like I didn't know this either, because I've been hearing about the importance of keeping a journal since I was old enough to scratch out letters in my very first Precious Moments journal at age four. However, Elder Jensen points out that remembering the past cannot be passively done. He said, "Continuing our love affair with the past enables us to more fully appreciate the present and to take better advantage of the future." As I thought about this quote and the talk as a whole, I realized how essential remembrance is to our individual relationships with Heavenly Father. Remembering is not a passive act--it does not mean that I can just think of these important things, (whether history, my covenants with God, or the words of the prophets) every now and again and have it bring powerful meaning to my soul. Remembering requires effort. After all, each week when we take the sacrament, we promise Heavenly Father "to always remember Him," which is much more than just a fleeting thought now and again (D&C 20:77). Studying Church history, and any history, really, should draw us closer to Christ. The purpose of learning this history is to help us learn from the events of the past so that we can understand how to become closer to Jesus Christ ourselves.

In that light, I guess I feel like I understand so much more why it's so important to study history and record it while it's happening. It reminds me of the talk by President Henry B. Eyring a few General Conferences ago, when he discussed how in the act of recording the events of our own daily histories that we can see the hand of the Lord in our personal lives. The talk is called, "O Remember, Remember," interestingly enough. :) The same is true of Church and general history. As we prayerfully and diligently seek to study and learn the things of the past, we will become more able to identify the hand of the Lord in the lives of His children, thus improving our personal relationships with Him and helping to give direction and purpose to our actions in the future.

Cool. :)