Quandary of decision

September 27, 2009

How does one determine the will of the Lord for one’s life? How does one know what circumstances in life are caused by one’s own bad decisions and which are simply “meant to be”?

The simple (or simplistic) answer to these questions? Revelation and faith.

But what does that really mean in practice?

I had the idea today that the ability to accept simultaneously the will of the Lord and the trials I’m going through would be a great accomplishment of faith. It would require a recognition of the goals I have for myself and those which the Lord has for me. But at the same time, it requires patience in faith while enduring circumstances and trials that make it temporarily impossible for me to reach those goals.

For example (and this is a situation in which many at BYU find themselves), suppose you have an understanding that the Lord expects you to get married and raise a family. That is a worthy goal, which you have accepted for yourself. But at the same time you don’t seem to find anyone around you with whom you’d want to build a relationship that would eventually lead to such an end.

This is where the quandary of decision comes to play. You have to look very carefully at your life and try to determine which circumstances are caused by your own decisions and which are the result of a test the Lord wishes you to pass first. Can you not find anyone you’d like to date simply because you don’t go out and date, or is it because the Lord wants you to wait for something else in life, some new phase or some other change?

If you can come up with an answer to that, you’ve probably come quite close to your solution. But life’s problems so often elude such clear-cut explanation.

At this stage, you must learn to exercise faith in the Lord: faith that His promises will be fulfilled, as long as you prove faithful to His desires. And faith without works is dead (James 2:20). That means you’ve got to do something about it. You can’t sit still and expect something to happen.

A few passages of scripture may be beneficial. The first is one of my favorites:

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
Isaiah 54:10 (cf. 3 Nephi 22:10)

The Lord has no intention of forsaking us in all our trials. Indeed, He stands there ready to help us when we call on Him.

And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
Isaiah 8:17

The term waiting on the Lord implies not idle, dormant waiting but active, trusting anticipation–faith that the Lord will fulfill His promises in His own time.

The well-known declaration of the Lord to Joseph Smith adequately summarizes this type of faith:

My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:708


Return to Virtue

September 13, 2009

Just listened to a wonderful talk by Sister Elaine S. Dalton, General President of the Young Women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was held at the Marriott Center on BYU campus.

The theme of her talk was “a return to virtue”–the idea that we as youth of this “marked generation” can make a difference in the world.

Mormon writes in the Book of Mormon about how the society of his day had become so degenerate that they had devalued one of humankind’s most valuable possessions: virtue (Moro. 9:9-10). Sister Dalton suggested that our world today has also descended to this degenerate level.

Who will make the difference? If it’s not us, it will be no one. It won’t be easy, but we can have the Lord’s promise, as the Brother of Jared had it: “I prepare you against these things” (Ether 2:25). In order to do that, we need to be virtuous ourselves. Sister Dalton used the example of running a marathon the wrong direction. Once you realize you’re going the wrong way, you want to turn around as quickly as possible. If you don’t, you’re losing valuable time and energy running on a course that, no matter how far you follow it, will never get you successfully to the finish line. The same applies to repentance in our lives. The sooner we turn around, the better off we will be. And continuing in sin will never lead us to the finish line we want to reach.

What are your thoughts? What is expected of us as Latter-day Saints, as the bearers of light to the world?

Can religion help deal with addictions?

July 11, 2007

Of course it can! I have long believed religion is crucial to helping people overcome addictions and deal with the challenges of life. I read this article today on Tantalus Prime that indirectly lends support to my opinion:

If you ascribe to the dopamine theory of reward, then you should also contend that replacing drugs with something else that activates dopamine release (a chat with a loved one, taking the kids to an amusement park, strolling through an art gallery) would be essential. Economic opportunity, a sense of community, recreational activities and generally something more to live for than a temporary high would do more to abate drug use in this country than many of the other methods used today. Which I think goes along with Ms. Satel’s opinion that addiction needs a behavioral rather than medical solution.

Trying to reform behavior directly is often ineffective, but helping the people change their environment will have a much more lasting effect. President Boyd K. Packer has said this:

I have long believed that the study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than talking about behavior will improve behavior. –Boyd K. Packer, Ensign May 1997

Another quote is fitting:

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. –Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign July 1989


July 2, 2007

I just spent a while reading this post and the related comments on Bryant’s blog. Anonymous’s anti-Mormon comments still have not ceased to amaze me. I understand that members of the Church aren’t perfect, and I think we all need to accept that. But to rail on the Church as a whole and Mormons in general for the unbecoming actions of a small group is completely nonsensical. I just have to voice my opinion on the matter. I must agree with most of the other comments on the blog that endeavor to handle the subject kindly and tactfully. I am still astonished.I also read a post on Robert Scoble’s blog earlier today about trolls in the blogosphere and trolls in the real world. I have to say this whole Mountain Meadows massacre discussion on bethings is perhaps an instance of that. If we band together and don’t give him the attention he’s begging for, maybe he’ll go away.

I know what I believe, and I’m not going to let any anti-Mormon try to tell me what I believe.

13 million members and a million missionaries!

June 26, 2007

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced yesterday that there are now thirteen million members of the Church, and the number of missionaries called since 1830 has surpassed one million. There are currently about 53,000 missionaries serving throughout the world.

The Church is true!

University Chorale concert

June 16, 2007

I went to the BYU University Chorale concert last Friday (as I mentioned in my previous post) and wanted to write a little about it.

First of all, this group is amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Luckily, they reproduced most of the lyrics on the program, so I’d like to put my favorites here.

Come, with Cheerful Voices Sing

Come, with cheerful voices sing,
On this gladsome, wondrous night,
We would make our praises ring,
And with Thee our joys unite.
Grateful hearts to Thee we bring,
Lord, accept our offering.

For the sweet and pleasant springtime,
Gentle hearts and home’s dear love,
For the autumn’s harvest treasures,
Faith and hope that soar above.
Grateful hearts to Thee we bring,
Lord, accept our offering.
–Johann Sebastian Bach

This text, especially the second stanza, reminds me of “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends“, a song I love very much.

Sure on This Shining Night

Sure on this shining night,
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wandering far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
–James Agee

I suppose this poem could mean different things to different people, but when I first heard it, I imagined that some great period of the speaker’s life is coming to a close and he is trying to deal with it. He acknowledges that much good has come of it, but feels a great sadness for the emptiness that is now filling that space he has so treasured.

My Song in the Night

O Jesus, my Savior, my song in the night,
Come to us with Thy tender love, my soul’s delight.
Unto Thee, O Lord, in affliction I call,
My comfort by day and my song in the night.

O why should I wander, a stranger from Thee,
Or cry in the desert Thy face to see?
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus, my Savior, my song in the night.

I agree wholeheartedly with this text. Christ is my Savior, and I turn to him for peace and comfort. In my darkest hour, I can “cry in the desert” and He will hear me, bring me back into His fold.

God Sends the Night

June 5, 2007

So I was in the library today (up on the north side of the 4th floor in a carrel). I was trying to study math but with little success. While I can understand the important concepts of linear algebra, I always, always, ALWAYS find some way to make an arithmetic error when I’m reducing a matrix. (And those mistakes are hard to find until you get to the end of a problem and have seven decidedly ugly fractions in the answer.) Finally I got so frustrated with myself and my seeming inability to do correct arithmetic that I just started to cry. It had already been a hard day, and this only compounded my grief. I tried to continue with my homework, but I couldn’t focus. I sat there for a long time, just thinking about my life and where I want to go and whether the things I’m doing now will help me get there.

Over to my right on the stacks, I noticed a very long series of periodicals. (They keep all the music-related periodicals on the 4th floor.) The first volumes of the series looked very, very old. I got out of my chair just to look at them and happened to pull out the 1908 volume. Each issue had a piece of music (which I assume were original for the publication) written in four-part harmony. Next to an insert with a facsimile of a letter by some famous composer I found this song:

God sends the Night

God sends the night to bid us rest
From all our cares, in slumbers blest.
The turmoil and the toil are past,
Peace o’er the earth descends at last;
Then aching hearts may rest awhile,
And sadden’d lips in dreams may smile,
God sends the night; at His behest
The weary world is hushed to rest.God sends the day to bid us wake:
Fresh glories at each morning break.
The world lies glist’ning in the dew,
Each day, each day a world begun anew,
In waking hearts the message rings,
“Oh on to nobler better things!”
God sends the day: the shadows break,
And His creation is awake!

–Text by Herbert J. Brandon

This text was comforting to read. God sends us respite from our cares, but brings again a new day with new opportunities. “Oh, on to nobler, better things!” Each morning that dawns ought to arouse in us gratitude to the Most High, and a determination to do better what we have been given to do. When again the night comes, God will give us rest. With hope, we may look forward to that day when He will say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, KJV).