Archive for June, 2007

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Can the Devil write an honest autobiography?

June 30, 2007

by Josh Kim

Because I don’t think I can. It’s one of the reasons why I hardly write in my own journal. The main reason why I’ve currently strayed from Orthodoxy is pressure from a well-meaning bishop to serve a mission. I ignored “divine inspiration” and “inspiration” from others to serve a mission. Why? Because I didn’t want to. Do I have to justify myself to those who think I should serve a mission? Nope. But for some reason I always feel the need to.

Okay, I just deleted a long tirade against the Church because I realized that it’s not what this post is about. I think that the average church-going person cannot know the difference between the divine inspiration and self-inspired revelation. I personally doubt that there is a heavenly father of us all. I think that some people need religion in their lives in order to make them feel good but I’ve never felt that good about my religion. I’ve always believed more in friends than I believed in God. I never understood why the scriptures tell me that God rewarded those who left their friends and family for “his sake.” It always seemed like the ultimate treachery to me, abandoning your friends, even if it is for God. 1) How do I even know that it’s really God telling me to do, whatever. 2) I think I owe allegiance to the rest of my fellow mortal beings before I do any of God’s bidding. I admit, it’s pretty blasphemous of me to say that. And if God is reading this, I know he’s probably calling hell to reserve a special suite just for me.

Okay, here’s the end of my post: inspiration is not as reliable as we want it to be. Follow your own instincts and the advice of people who know you better than you know yourself. I think that’s what God would want you to do, anyway.

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The revelation that made me cranky

June 29, 2007

I have a story. It is one of many that has made me the crotchety cynic you have before you today.

When I was 22 and recently home from my mission, I drove to Atlanta to see a friend of mine get sealed in the Temple. While in the temple, I had the distinct impression that I was to marry this kid named Phillip, also a returned missionary. I didn’t know Phillip. He was in my Institute class, nice enough, not cute or ugly, he just was. I was so surprised by the inspiration because it seemed so separate from my own thoughts and desires. As I said, I had no thoughts or desires about him.  Though I did whole-heartedly believe in supernatural promptings and guidance.

Then the sealer kept looking at me and saying that the inspiration you receive in the Temple is true and good and right and if you don’t follow it you risk condemnation. That was even more shocking since clearly he couldn’t have known the inspiration I had just received.

So I went back to Oklahoma and I pursued him. I asked him out, we started to date. We made out a lot. We were recently returned missionaries. I got involved in his family, he got involved in mine. We started talking marriage, but here’s the thing. I didn’t really like him. He was pretty nice but we were ridiculously ill-suited for each other. We had differing opinions on nearly everything and our world views obviously came from other planets. I was so faithful and believing then that I couldn’t let that inspiration go. I got caught in this circular thinking. I felt trapped, like I was about to get into an arranged marriage that I didn’t want to be in. But then that arranged marriage was by God. And didn’t everyone want an arranged marriage by God?

I was completely and utterly miserable and the poor guy didn’t know what to do. I consulted my stake president uncle who told me that if the Spirit told me to marry this boy, I needed to marry him and that only good things would happen. It didn’t matter if I didn’t like him. But eventually it got to be too much. I was too miserable and for the first time I had to tell God that I couldn’t handle his revelation because it made me to unhappy and I hated myself for it.

I left for BYU. I graduated from BYU. I moved to Boston. Though entirely unattached, I was very happy and I never regretted my decision not to marry that boy. During the years following, I tried to make up these weird reasons about why God would have inspired me to do something that would have made me miserable. Was it to learn to listen to myself? To trust what God said and what I thought together? I had a million reasons.

I still have no idea why I had that very powerful feeling in the Temple, but now that I’m a curmudgeon I think I made it up. I don’t mind attributing good things to God because it’s nice but mostly I think we make most of it up and it’s usually fine because we’re led to do nice things. If I have any idea that goes against my personal, mostly rational,  heart and mind I ignore it. No matter where it comes from.

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Grey Matter

June 28, 2007

By Melbo

At first glance the topic for this week seemed very intimidating, until I realized what it meant to me. Breaking it down the simplest way I know how, Divine vs. Self Generated Inspiration breaks down to the difference between what I tell myself and what the Lord tells me. In my case, that could be the difference between being wrong a lot and pretty much, okay, always right.

I’m the kind of person who will always choose the one apple out of fifty that is rotten inside. If I come to a fork in the road, I’ll end up taking the dead end. If I take a guess on whom the next bishop will be, I will be dead wrong, guaranteed. I feel I have good instincts when it comes to other people (caring for their needs, for example) and in things I’ve studied or familiar situations (i.e. massage, cooking or changing diapers), but throw me into the jungle and I’m screwed. For this reason I try to think through my decisions very carefully, and I don’t take any large risks without a substantive amount of effort and consultation. I weigh out the pros and cons, I seek advice, I make lists, I lose sleep, and finally… I pray.

It’s only after I’ve done everything I can that I ask the Lord to finally tell me what to do. Granted, in some situations all I can stand is two seconds of thinking before feeling lost and completely overwhelmed. At that point I’m beyond all reasonable thinking. Sometimes all I have to do is chill (a difficult task in itself) and that’s when I receive my inspiration- I see something new or in a new way, and I get my “money ideas”. Some may say this is when I can finally process my own thoughts and come up with a solution, but I say it’s a grey area. I think these brief moments of calm could be the best time for me to be receptive to the Spirit. Or on the other hand, maybe God is snatching at what he sees as one of his few opportunities to communicate with me in the midst of all my commotion. Either way, we’ve created a system that works.

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It Bloweth Where it Listeth

June 26, 2007

by Ann

Inspiration is by definition a good thing. It helps us to create, to grow, to enlighten, to uplift. Inspiration can come from any number of sources: music, art, literature, speech. Each of these potential sources has sacred and secular variants, but their power to inspire comes from their ability to move the participant, not their context. Because the people in an audience can have different tastes, they will be inspired by different things. Thus we have both Les Miserables and Especially for Mormons as sources of inspiration.

Sometimes, when I have been thinking about how to solve a problem, the answer will come when I’m not thinking about it at all, often when I’m in the shower. I think of this as inspiration, too, even though it isn’t necessarily the result of an outside source. Probably my subconscious mind has been working on building the connections between the pieces of the problem. When my mind is at rest but awake (its common state when I’m in the shower) my subsconscious ideas are able to push to the surface and eureka!

When I was more traditionally faithful than I am now, I experienced God-given inspiration on a fairly regular basis. Answers to prayers would emerge as full blown ideas or sentences; I always took these to be God-breathed. I am less likely to experience inspiration in such a way now, but I think it still comes. I am glad to take my inspiration from whatever source it derives. If I feel inspired or impressed to do or say something (or to NOT do or say something) I try to follow it. The vast majority of the time I don’t know if it’s the right thing or not, but I figure if my inspirations are mostly harmless, it’s best to trust my instincts.

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I Have a Virtual Mansion in My Head

June 25, 2007

by Carrie Ann

During my first year at Rick’s College (now BYU Idaho), I had an experience of being spoken to by the spirit…it was a rebuke actually…surprise, surprise.

As a freshman on a small campus, I was not the most mature coed. I typically obsessed over boys and dating and obsessed less over schoolwork and classes (especially the 7am Book of Mormon class). Because campus was so small we tended to see the same people over and over, and my roommates and I had nicknames for most of the young men we saw regularly.

One young man did not have a nickname. He was in at least two of my classes that first semester, and he was a returned missionary. I saw him all the time and he stuck out because he walked with crutches, having short, somewhat twisted legs. As Rexburg is a rather tree-less “metropolis” I could often see him making his way up the hill to campus as I made my way to class. Several times I found myself thinking about his situation: how hard his mission must have been, how difficult it must be to get around campus, how independent and confident he seemed. One morning I was musing on his dating prospects and the challenges it would present when I thought to myself, “What kind of girl might he marry? Certainly not me…” and at that moment, like lightening, came a “thought” into my head that I know did not come from me. It was a harsh rebuke, almost audible rather than perceivable, that said, “Why NOT you?!”

I understood several things at that moment: 1) Heavenly Father loved this son, 2) he was deserving of all the blessing that mortality has in store for him including marriage and posterity, 3) if I truly wanted to seek the path that Heavenly Father wanted for me it might lead me to such a young man as he, and if it did, I would be lucky. I was sufficiently humbled. It wasn’t just that I was rebuked for my uncharitable thoughts, I learned something new in the process.

Sometimes the influence of the Holy Ghost is almost indistinguishable from my inner voice, and then other times the message is loud and clear and not always what I had in mind. When the divine volume is turned low I probably do think that the thoughts are my own. Is there anything wrong with that if those thoughts lead me to do good or serve others? Is it wrong or blasphemous to take credit?

You see, a question like that goes to a different room in my head from the “What do I want for breakfast?” room. Call it my spiritual question room. It’s not very big because I’m not very smart. That room is probably furnished by Ikea whereas my daydream of being rich and famous room is furnished by Thomasville because I’m sure I spend more time there. (A strange metaphor but stick with me.) In the spiritual mind room I try to allow outside influences of a good nature to echo about. It’s like I’m listening to a radio being played in another room; sometimes I can hear very clearly and other times the tune is just out of reach. But I’m not creating the music, I’m trying to listen to something that’s already there. In other rooms I am creating the tune, the lyrics, and the tedious guitar solo.

So that does not explain much, but it is an attempt to explain how it works for me.

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Belief

June 23, 2007

Amri broke it down really well. What else can I add to this conversation? Well, there was this great episode in the first season of The West Wing, titled “Take this sabbath day.” Martin Sheen’s character, U.S. President Jed Bartlet, a Roman Catholic, has to decide whether or not to pardon a death row inmate who was to be executed sun down on sunday (according the show, the American legal system does not execute people on the sabbath). He ultimately decides not to stay the execution. Meanwhile he calls up his priest from his hometown in New Hampshire. President Bartlet shares with him the awful dilemma of deciding the fate of a man who may have not had a fair trial. The priest shares an allegory: You know, you remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. And that all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, ‘I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.’

The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, ‘Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety.’ But the man shouted back, ‘I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.’

A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, ‘Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I’ll take you to safety.’ But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety.

Well… the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘I’m a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?’

God said, ‘I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?

To this I add, don’t wait for the floods to come to prove your faith. If faith keeps you from doing good deeds like saving girls from a burning school, even if they are not dressed properly (Saudi Arabia) then you need to abandon that brand of faith. If faith makes you kill a female member of your family because she dishonored you, then you need to abandon that particular brand of faith and focus on the good kind like charity or almsgiving or something. Maybe you should go on a pilgrimage or something and think things over before making a drastic decision. If faith makes you think that going to war is okay because God told you to do it (Bush) then maybe you need to have your head checked.

There’s faith and then there’s Faith. One ‘s supposed to give you hope when you’ve exhausted all other options. The latter is a blueprint for this life and the next. In my opinion if your faith and Faith makes you a jerk to other people then it’s not worth a whole lot. Backhanded compliments to nonbelievers or those believers who don’t quite meet your expectations are not welcome either. I suppose personally I am tired of the attitude that some Mormons have, which is the same attitude as those who don’t like Mormons; that if you don’t believe as they do then they are ultimately damned. Almost evey Christian sect has this quasi-Bushite “if you’re not with us then you’re against us” mentality and both think they are justified while not realizing that it’s highly offensive to their intended targets.

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When it is and when it’s not

June 22, 2007

by Amri

When it’s worth it to me to believe:

  • when it connects me to people in ways I can’t do very well, my Church community, my family, random people who have felt a belief like mine
  • when I feel alone and I get a sense that there is someone out there bigger and stronger and wiser than I am that’s on my side
  • when it inspires me to do good, be kind, give
  • when people that I love die
  • when it makes me different and different is what I want
  • when it gives meaning to my life and how to make the choices that pursue that meaning
  • when I’m required to do things I really don’t want to do

When it’s not worth it to me to believe in God:

  • when natural disasters, corrupt governments, disease kill people that don’t deserve to die and it seems like God doesn’t care and our explanations seem heartless or ridiculous
  • when the faith acrobatics get too twisted in trying to explain the world, the afterlife, the beforelife. Especially when those acrobatics are done when I realize the past efforts and explanations are silly in ways I didn’t realize
  • when it seems God is on the side of the rich and the powerful
  • when I’m required to do things I really don’t want to do
  • when I make bad decisions because my belief gets in the way
  • when it separates us into people that are better or worse because of our specific belief in God
  • when I feel different and different is not what I want

What about you? When is it worth it and when is it not? In the end, I think we have to make a conscious decision to believe because sometimes it’s more worth it and sometimes it’s less worth it. We choose and then we go with it. Unless you’re indecisive. Then things get complicated.