Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To Be Obedient

Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things. (2 Nephi 5:31)

Nephi's choice of words is interesting: "to be obedient." He was already keeping one set of plates, which I understand was no easy task due to the effort required to cut words into brass. I'm sure he felt that was sufficient. Then the Lord asks him to make a second set.

Nephi doesn't say, "I'm doing this because the Lord told me to make a second set of plates, so Joseph will have a fall back when he loses the first 116 pages." He doesn't say he's doing it because the Lord assured him it was for wise and necessary purposes. He says he's doing it to be obedient.

To me, it feels like Nephi was puzzled by this request, that he could not fathom a reason for it, but nevertheless, he complied simply "to be obedient."

How many times do we refuse to comply with the requests and commandments of the Lord because we do not understand why He wants us to do it?

It happens all the time. People choose to watch R-rated movies because they cannot see the harm in it. Teenagers choose to date before they turn 16 because everyone else is doing it and will a few days or weeks or months really make that much of a difference? We get tattoos and piercings because what does that have to do with morality anyway—it's just a fashion statement, no different from dying my hair or growing a beard. We do not understand the reasons behind the request, so we do not comply; we do not obey simply for the sake of obedience.

But I did once. I took out my second earring when the prophet said to do so. I don't know why. It makes no sense to me. It has no relevance to morality or goodness. But I did it "to be obedient," and for no other reason.

Is my life differenct because of that? I don't know. I like to think that perhaps I have received blessings from that act of faith, even though I do not know what they are. I wonder if I had refused to obey and justified that earring, if I would be sitting here today typing this as a testimony of faith, or if that justification would have led to another and another, distancing me from God.

I do not know. But what I do know is that I want to be like Nephi. I want to follow the Lord in all things, "to be obedient."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Moral Obligations

For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them... (2 Nephi 4:14)
constrained = forced, compelled, or obliged; to compel by physical, moral, or circumstancial force.

constraint = a moral obligation.

Nephi was constrained, morally and spiritually obliged, to speak to his brothers, to remind them of the words of Lehi, the ways of the Lord. He was constrained to lead his people, to be a prophet.

What am I constrained to do?

The first thing that comes to mind is to love and support and encourage and teach my family, my children.

A very close second is to make the world a better place through words—to write, to edit, to publish, to create. I don't just want to write, I must write. It is not just a vocation, it is an avocation; it is a moral and spiritual obligation. For me to deny it, is to deny God.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Leaving My Mark

And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren. (2 Nephi 24:24)

I want to do that. I want to be that. Not that, specifically—I don't want to be Moses or Joseph Smith. But I want to do much good, to be an instrument in God's hands, to have exceeding faith and work mighty wonders (write books, be successful), to do great things, to help and uplift and inspire others.

But unlike Lehi, who says he has "no other object save it be the everlasting welfare of [their] souls" (2 Nephi 2:30), I must confess that I do have ulterior motives. I want others to think I'm good, special, unique. I want to leave a mark on this world when I move on. I want it to be noticed that I was here.

How vain and self-centered is that?

As I contemplated this thought and chastised myself in my journal for not being humble enough, listing my faults and shortcomings, I seemed to hear the Spirit speak to me as a friend might:
Karlene, stop that this minute! You are not to write one more negative thing about yourself. You are not to speak it. If you think it, thrust it from your mind quickly.

Yes, you have human frailties and weaknesses, but this rehearsing of them is not helpful. Still your mind and I will tell you what you should know.

You have a work to do in this world, as does everyone. You will not be able to do that work if you allow yourself to be crippled by these thoughts. You need the strength of your ego to pull you forward when things are difficult—and they will be difficult.

As long as you remember and always acknowledge that your skills and gifts are from God, He can keep you on the humble side of the line.

Did I just get chewed out for trying to be humble?
That was not humility. That was faithlessness. There is a difference.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Seeing Shades of Gray

...free forever, knowing good from evil... (2 Nephi 3:26)

Do I understand this correctly? This seems to imply that knowing good from evil is what makes us free. That if I want to be free from my sins, my addictions, my compulsions, I need to be able to know good from evil.

Well, I guess that makes sense.

Do I know good from evil?

I can recognize the big stuff for what it is—stealing, murder, drugs and alcohol, adultery, lying, being mean to others. I can tell the difference between black and white. I can even distinguish dark gray from white. In fact, I can see several gradations of gray, distinct from white.

But can I tell exactly where the white turns into extremely light gray? Can I tell when it's 99% white and 1% gray?

I'm not so good at that. But if I want to be truly free, I need to train myself to make that distinction. If I want to live a truly Christlike life, I need to be able to recognize truly Christlike behavior. I need to notice when white first begins to turn gray. Only then, will I be free to choose.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Joy is a choice

[had Adam not transgressed]...they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. (2 Nephi 2:23)

No misery = no joy.
No sin = no good.

I get the second one. It's the old "spotted ax" argument—good is a choice and how can you choose one thing if you don't have other options. Experiencing those options is what gives us a true choice. So yes, I get the idea that if you don't have some experience with sin you cannot truly say that you have chosen good.

But the joy and misery one. That's a little harder for me. Do you really have to know misery in order to feel joy? I guess you do. It says so right there. In that scripture. Scripture which is the Word of God.

But why? How does it work?

Unless joy is also a choice.

Now that's a thought that stops me in my tracks. Are these concepts—misery/joy and sin/good—simply two examples of the same thing? Is the word "having" not intended as we most often use it today—as a passive verb, indicating something that occurs outside our control, as in "We're having bad weather today," or as something forced upon us, as in "I'm so tired I have to go to bed"? Or is it intended as an active verb to connote choice, as in "I'll have the potatoes, please"?

As an active verb, you cannot choose the potatoes unless there are other options, like rice or french fries or even nothing at all. In that usage, "having no joy, for they knew no misery" actually makes sense.

Well, I've certainly known my share of misery and sadness. Does that mean I can now choose joy? Okay, then. Let's test it.

I have way too much work to do and I am feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. (misery)

I have many people who value my skills and want my help in creating their books. (joy)

Oh, that was kind of cool. Let's try it again.

My arthritis is killing me—my hips, knees, ankles and toe joints hurt so bad I can barely walk. (misery)

Despite the pain, I can still walk. I am not crippled. I can move and go whenever and wherever I want. (joy)


Okay, let's try a big one.

My 19 year old daughter is 16 weeks pregnant and considering shacking up with her boyfriend so they can co-parent, even though they do not love each other enough to get married. (misery)

My daughter is facing some tough life choices. The experience of which may create a situation which brings her closer to Christ. (joy)

Oh, I think I get it now.

Joy is a choice.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Book Title Suggestions

Comment here if you have a suggestion for a title of my new book.

Have I mentioned that I'm turning these essays into a book? I've been working on it during this month's BIAM (Book-in-a-Month) at latterdayauthors. My goal for the BIAM was to clean them all up, add in a few other essays that aren't posted here, and get them ready for publishing.

The first two weeks of the BIAM, I focused on new grandbaby stuff, so the only progress made on the book was to put the essays in a tentative order, using little sticky notes stuck to poster board. (Works great when you don't know what you're doing and need to move stuff around a lot.)

But these last two weeks of the BIAM, I edited/cleaned up/rewrote 7,113 words, or approximately 20% of these essays. (It's intended to be a short book.)

Anyway, here's why I'm mentioning it. I don't have a title or a subtitle. I was thinking that if this ended up being a series of short books, I'd like to subtitle the series "Parables for the 21st century"--except they're not really parables. They're more like allegories or extended metaphors. And some of the essays need to be retitled. Also, it would help to know which ones people liked better than others, you know, so I can delete the bad ones and not completely embarrass myself before the entire world.

So, some day when you are totally bored, go through my archives and read a few. Post in the comments section of the individual essays if you liked it and why, or if you think it totally stinks, or if you were horribly offended. If you can suggest a new title for the essay, comment that as well. And if you have a book title suggestion, put that in the comments section of THIS post. If I use any of your suggestions, I will list your name on the Acknowledgments page. (Assuming, of course, that it gets published and there IS an Acknowledgments page.)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What happened to my other 88.15 years?

And the days of the children of men were prolonged...that they might repent while in the flesh. (2 Nephi 2:21)

Wait a minute. Our days, the number of days (or years) in our earthly lives, were lengthened to give us time to repent? So what does that mean?

Adam lived 930 years. His son, Seth, lived 912 and Seth's son, Enos, lived 905. Methuselah lived 969 years. Okay, he sort of throws off the bell curve so maybe we shouldn't count him. But still, Noah lived 950 years.

900+ years? I think I could sufficiently repent if I had 900 years.

Even at half that number, I might do okay. Enoch was translated at 430 years old. If I lived to be 430, maybe I could be translated too.

Even Abraham, who was relatively short-lived by comparison, sojourned on this earth for 175 years. Okay, I'm not greedy. I'll take 175 years.

But my life expectancy? That's 86.85 years.

Just think of all the repenting I could do if I had another 88.15 years. I mean, really, we spend the first quarter of our lives just learning how to function in this world. Then another quarter trying to decide what we want to do when we grow up. At 50, we're finally mature enough to start raising children (that's why grandchildren are so much easier to get along with). If we took the next 25 years to love and teach and train those children, then at 75 we would finally have learned most of life's lessons (do you suppose?) and we'd be ready to sufficiently repent for all our past mistakes and to go forward for the next 100 years with an eye single to God.

But that's not the way it works. No. I have to learn to pack everything into a measly 86.85 years.

No wonder I'm so exhausted!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I'll Be Back Before Too Long

In response to a comment about my lack of blogging on this site...

I haven't posted here in several months because I've been concentrating on other projects--one of which is turning these posts into a book. But quite honestly, very few people visit this blog site and rarely does anyone post comments. So I didn't think that anyone would notice if I put this site on the back burner for awhile.

My intent is to pick this up again in a few months.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Judgment Day (2 Nephi 2:5-10)

March 31, 2006

2 Nephi 2:5-10--These verses talk about the Atonement and judgment. I’ll let you go read them for yourself.

Sometimes this is how I think it works:

You have truth and light, which are synonomous. God is all truth and all light.

So here on earth we have opposites—good and evil; truth and lies; light and dark. We spend our lives choosing between the two.

For the sake of analogy, let’s say that choosing the light is like living above ground in the full sun and daylight. Let’s say that choosing the dark is like living in a cave or below ground. As we spend time either above or below ground, we adjust to our surroundings. We become accustomed to the light or to the dark.

Like that really old Charlton Heston movie. There was a bomb or something and some of the people lived above ground and others below. The people who had lived below ground for generations could not tolerate the light of day. Even the light of a full moon caused them literal, physical pain.

So let’s say that all our lives we’ve chosen evil, or dark. To suddenly be thrust into the presence of God, or truth and light, would be unbearable.

If instead we’ve chosen truth and light, then over a lifetime we have gradually become accustomed to more and more light.

Sometimes I don’t think Judgment Day will be a review of our sins. I think God will just stand there in all His truth and light. If we’ve chosen the dark, God’s glory will be too much for us. We will be unable to open our eyes to face Him and look upon Him. The light will be so overwhelming to our unconditioned senses that we will be forced to turn away, perhaps to rush from His presence to get away from the pain and discomfort His light causes.

But if we’ve lived in a way that we’re accustomed to light, then we might blink or squint or need to shade our eyes with our hands, but His light will be bearable. Our eyes will adjust and we will not only see him in all His glory, but we will be able to abide in His presence.

Sometimes I think that’s the way Judgment Day will work.

Long Time Gone...

I can't believe I've neglected this site for so long! I've still been writing these little nuggets--I "capture" and "liken" a verse or two every morning as part of my scripture study. But I just haven't had time to post anything in awhile. I will try to do better.

But just because I'm not posting, doesn't mean you can't. You're welcome to post your own capturing insights in the comments. In fact, I'd love for you to. I read every single comment and I love to read the thoughts and ideas of others. So post away.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Remember the Ugly Tree?

(If you have not read the Allegory of the Ugly Tree, read it first.)

Remember the Ugly Tree?

Went to the temple this morning. It has the most lovely little leaves. They aren't flat. They pucker up and make the most delightful, sea green, flower-ettes. They're beautiful!

And all those other straight, perfect trees? A few of them are starting to bud, but most are still bare.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Speaking of Hell... (2 Nephi 9:38)

“…wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.” 2 Nephi 9:38

This verse is immediately preceded by a list of sins and their terrible consequences—specifically hell and damnation. I think one of the reasons we are so strongly advised to repent in this life is not so much because it’s impossible to repent in the next one, but so that we can avoid the miseries of hell.

I remember once when I was about 19, I was home from college for the summer. My mother and I had planned to go to Homemaking night together and make t-shirts. I can’t remember what happened, but for some reason, she ended up unable to go so I was borrowing her sewing machine and preparing to go alone.

The sewing machine I have now has the handle on the top of the machine itself. The handle goes through a slit in the carry case, so you’re actually holding onto the machine as you carry it. Her machine wasn’t like that. The handle was on the carry case, which fastened to the base of the sewing machine with two clasps.

As I was about to leave, Mom reminded me to double check the clasps on the case to make sure they were fastened tight and correctly. I had just fastened them and felt there was no need to check them. She kept ‘nagging’ at me to check them, telling me if both clasps were not completely and tightly fastened, the machine would fall out of the carry case when I picked it up.

I looked at the clasps. They were fine.

I picked up the machine by the handle of the carry case and walked to the door. Mom followed me out and once again asked, “Are you sure you fastened that case tight?” I got a little snippy, as 19-year-olds often do. “I think I know how to fasten a couple of clasps! It’s fine!”

I walked out the door—and the sewing machine fell out of the case, onto the concrete sidewalk. (You just knew that was coming, didn't you?)

I felt so bad. I felt bad that I was going to miss homemaking. I felt bad that I wouldn’t be able to make the t-shirt. I felt bad that I had dropped the sewing machine, that I may have broken it, and that I was going to have to come up with the money to repair it.

But that was nothing—absolutely nothing!—compared to how bad I felt when I had to turn around and face my mother, who was standing in the doorway watching me, and admit that despite her repeated cautions and warnings and pleadings with me to do differently, I had ignored her advice. And the consequences were indeed as she had told me they would be.

I was mortified! Ashamed! Guilt-ridden! Embarrassed! Every awful and humiliating emotion you can think of filled me in an instant, as I looked upon my mother’s face.

Now, multiply that a billion times as you imagine standing before God, full of the consequences of sin.

That, my friends, is hell.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Most Important Thing (2 Nephi 1:15)

March 28, 2006

“But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory,
and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” (2 Nephi 1:15)

This is a good reminder for me today. I start thinking of all the things that are on my “to do” list and I teeter on the brink of dropping back into hell—depression, discouragement, despair, panic.
So I take a moment and read this verse and it calms me. I remember that the Lord is with me, that I have felt His peace. I remember that being encircled in the arms of His love is the MOST important thing in this life—and I’m already there. Everything else is secondary.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My Lord Will Not Forget Me (1 Nephi 21:14-16)

March 22, 2006

But, behold, [sometimes I say/feel]: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord
hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.

For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…
(1 Nephi 21:14-16)

This is so beautiful.

I do not know how a mother can forget a child that is so dependent upon her, so small and weak. You hold that baby in your arms, so close to your heart, and you are literally overwhelmed with love and compassion for that child. Your love for your child, the best interests of that baby, become the number one driving force in your life. From the day that baby is born, your entire world view is changed and everything is now judged based upon how it will affect that child.

As a human, mortal mother, I sometimes reach the limit of my abilities. Being human, I become exhausted or distracted, and my children, despite my huge love for them, sometimes suffer hurt or neglect because of my frailties.

But God has no frailties, nor weaknesses that limit His parenting abilities. He is absolutely the parent I wish I could be. I cry and He is there to comfort me. I hunger and thirst, He gives me food and drink. I struggle, He supports me. It is a glorious thing.


Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…

How many times in each day do I look at my hands? I would imagine the Lord looks at His hands just as often as we do ours. And each time He looks at His hands, He sees a reminder of us, of me, of how much He loves me.

Poetry (1 Nephi 21:10)

March 21, 2006

They shall not hunger nor thirst,
neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them;
for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them,
even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
(1 Nephi 21:10)