This I know. One year later.

Sunrise

A year ago I shared some thoughts with my local congregation and close friends and family after suffering the loss of a briefly held but long-cherished and promised pregnancy.  In my anguish and confusion, I testified of my faith in the love of God and of His patience with my growth and understanding.  In the throes of that grief, tinted with hope, we entered a year where our little family, my body and my spirit have been challenged in ways that have required more of us than I could’ve imagined.  Sustained by a beautiful tapestry of heavenly grace, personal strength and loving support, I can stand here today with a different kind of faith and knowing. There is something about being nearly undone that makes one realize where true sources of strength can be found.  I would like to testify of these true things.

I know that because I chose to follow the Savior in the pre-existence that He has blessed me with a body.  This body is mortal and is subject to all sorts of influences in mortality, some self-imposed and some beyond my control.  Cultivating attunement between my spirit and body has given me beautiful insight regarding my work on earth and the specific things I can learn and offer.  I know that Satan does not have a body and that many of the ways he tries to influence me have to do with the use and care of my body.  I believe if he can thwart, interrupt or distract me from my connection to my body or put my in a position of opposition to my body that He can disrupt a measure of my growth.  I know that whatever gifts I have been given or whatever talents I have cultivated can be used for good, unifying, growth-promoting things or for destructive purposes.  If Satan can offer the primary influence in my life, those gifts, talents and skills are put to use for his destructive and divisive purposes, whereas if I am constantly and humbly seeking to obediently follow the Savior, I am in a position to grow and my growth is multiplied exponentially, along with the peace that I have access to.  I can also serve as a resource to other souls who are seeking growth.

I know that the Savior Jesus Christ is the author of peace which passeth all understanding and that He offers us that peace in the very moments we sincerely chose to follow Him or at the very least hope to believe in Him regardless of where we have been in the moments before.  I know that through His atonement, the ashes that we either find ourselves in or create in our lives can be transformed into unimaginable strength and opportunities for growth. However, the ashes have to be recognized as such in order for the cleansing relief of the atonement to be truly felt.  I know that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price all have powerful and true insights regarding the atonement, the Savior and the ways to integrate those two things into our personal lives.  Through study of the scriptures and my efforts to see the hand of God here on earth, I know that Heavenly Father is mindful of me and each of you.  I know that there is incredible strength that can be derived from our collective faith and our unity.  Like one of my local leaders taught a few weeks ago, I know that the roots of our faith are intertwined and in the midst of fierce storms, the strength that we can draw from each other can literally be life-saving.  I reiterate that I know this.

I know that the strength, goodness and truth that I enjoy today in my life, my home, my chapel and our local temple was set in motion by a 14-year-old boy who was confused and wanted to communicate with Heaven.  I have been in the grove where he offered that first prayer, and I know that Joseph Smith was graced with a view of heaven, particularly of God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, that few people experience in this life.  I know that he received further revelation and that that revelation led to the re-establishment of a beautiful religion with Jesus Christ’s robust doctrine, merciful and insightful answers to mortality’s questions and a clear authority to teach from heaven.  I believe in the power and efficacy of that priesthood authority from Joseph Smith to our prophet Thomas S. Monson today.   I know that my local bishop is a man who receives revelation for our little group of believers here and I am profoundly grateful to be led by someone who seeks the guidance of the Spirit as much as he does.  I testify of the grace and mercy of a God who wants to continually reach out to His people to offer them glimpses of heaven in this life.  It is hard for me that these glimpses aren’t permanent but that they come and go and that there are times of wandering and confusion that naturally result from trying to access heaven from a fallen world but that doesn’t change the veracity of those true moments when we experience them.  These are things I know.  And while the path to this knowledge has been at times seemingly unbearable, I am so grateful for the knowing because that’s why I’m here.

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More than one

The other day I was thinking about what parenting would be like if we had more than one child.  (In case you’re wondering, this is not something that I anticipate changing any time soon).  With just one little one, there is so much we can do to control the environment because it’s only RJ and I that have to shift and bend to accommodate the individual learning of our babe.  Our life is joyfully imbued with so much of her developing personality because it can be and we’re excited to travel along whatever paths that growth leads us.   It’s kind of beautiful to have so much flexibility as we modify schedules and choices to capitalize on opportunities to teach her to choose good things.  But with even one more child in our midst, there would be more requirements firmly in place, more needs to balance and more personalities to assert themselves.   There simply couldn’t be as much catering done because our time and patience resources would be more taxed.  As would our ability to exert control over the environment and consequences because another person’s agency as well as ideas of fairness would come into play.   I was thinking about how important it would be to model and also request patience and understanding.  Then I was thinking about how hard it would be to infuse a more hectic and frantic life with those serene ideas.  How do you teach children to respect other’s weaknesses or mistakes, especially when those weaknesses or mistakes cause repeated grief?  How do you give them a broad context for daily development?

That got me to wondering about Heavenly parenting.  Maybe that’s why the second commandment is to love one another.  Maybe it’s akin to saying, ‘Please be patient, there is development happening here.’  Each of us is granted the ability to make choices and none of us develop in a vacuum so we’re consequently bumping into each other, sometimes in very inopportune ways.  How hard it is to be patient when we’re dealing with our own heartaches and frustrations, let alone having them exacerbated by relational strife.  I’ve known very few people who would knowingly inflict such injuries but the blows come none the less.  I think maybe His invitation is for us to cultivate some perceiving spiritual space where our souls can take a deep breath and remember the plan.  The plan that we chose because we knew it would help us to grow, the plan that allows us and others to learn things on our own, which inherently means growth is going to take a while and could be ugly.  The plan that asked Heaven not do do it for us, but to grant us the Savior we would need in order to learn for ourselves and ward off the effects of other people’s choices.  Among the first instructions that precious Savior offered on this journey was the invitation to love as we are loved.  How does one create or access a few moments of that kind of patient love for self and others?

Beholding His Glory

Moses, a man who had a storied relationship with God, was once offered a view of His work and His glory.  Until recently, whenever God has shown someone a vision of His creations and all of His works, I’ve imagined it as some sort of humbling history lesson which progressed in marginally boring fashion.  As in, Heavenly Father saying “Look at all the things I’ve created, look at all these people, and these people, and these people.”   Click, click, click.  And then whoever is experiencing the vision usually says “Wow, that’s profound, I realize I’m actually quite small and maybe even nothing compared to everything you’ve ever made.”  But what if they’re talking about more than that?  What if those moments of heavenly perspective, had by Moses, Nephi, and others, illustrated not just our existence but our connections to each other?  What if they had the chance to glimpse the way the Savior can help us weave our free-wheeling selves back to Him by loving and helping each other?  What if what they saw were the moments we live that we humbly say “I had no part in making that come about,” the times when we are part of  an experience that simply could not originate with us?  Those are the moments when I reel back with awe, praise,  and completely unforced humility at the grandeur before me, similar to what they describe.  Can you imagine witnessing all of those moments throughout all time?  I love the idea that His work is to help us help each other back to Him.  All it takes is willing participants.

Puzzling

A religious leader who I love to listen to, by the name of Dieter F. Uchtdorf, once described coming to know Jesus Christ as a process similar to piecing together a puzzle.    He went on to describe the startling beauty of the moment when you have enough of the miniscule pieces in place that you can begin to see the image take shape.   I am still placing pieces for the likeness I’m creating over here but what do you think about the way these fit together?

I believe I lived with God before I was born and because God is love (1 John 4:8), I believe my soul knows what it feels like to bask in pure and gracious love.

I believe that God’s work is to give us the opportunity to choose to be like Him and He hopes to help us return to live with Him and thus have life eternally. (Moses 1:39)

In His intercessory prayer, the Savior says this: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1-3)

I believe that knowing Him is eternal life and that earth’s physical and spiritual distance coupled with my inability to remember Him, enables me to work toward an understanding and knowledge of His characteristics that would be impossible to sort out while in His commanding presence.

I believe John’s words that “we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”  He says we can know that we know Him.   (1 John 2:3)

I don’t think we’re talking about just knowing what He expects of us.  I believe the goal of keeping the commandments is to know Him as a Personality, to understand how He feels about us, what principles guide His interactions and His creativity, and what His priorities are.  It’s the difference between knowing Him as a casual acquiantance or a treasured friend.  I believe that’s what the Savior meant when He talked about knowing Them.

And again, I have found Him most frequently as Love.

John also says, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:5)

I believe that to know Deity is to know and understand the pure love that the Father and Son exist in and offer us.   I believe that the definition of working toward Him is becoming more like Him and because the primary facet of His personality is love, my focus is on understanding and feeling the love that He has for me and those around me.

I believe that as I participate in this process of obeying Him and thus knowing Him, I can experience His all-consuming love which my soul desperately misses and by definition, I can know eternal life here. Now.