Saturday, January 19, 2013

Section 88 and the Effect of Change

It's fascinating to me how the Lord manages to teach us timely lessons but only as we're ready.  He never casts His pearls before swine, and so it is with His teachings.  It's only when we're prepared to receive light that we realize it has been surrounding us all along, and that the Lord, the source of that light, has been waiting for us to recognize it.

I've been out of my comfort zone for the past fortnight-and-a-half.  Being in California means warmer weather, strange roads, smaller YSA wards, and more insight from family I haven't seen as often.  But to me, it also represents a time for considerable self-reflection.  Any change in my surroundings seems to have that effect upon me.  And right now, several changes are underway.

There are a few things that I do differently whenever I feel that I'm out of my comfort zone for long:

  1. I seem to seek guidance more.  I do this by attending the temple more often, ponder more often, and usually by watching the people around me more than I usually would.  
  2. I become more friendly.  When I'm stripped of my associates in one area, my mind seems to be freed up enough to remember names of new acquaintances, and I begin to quickly collect people around me.  I like to think that I have some measure of discernment, and in new surroundings, I often look for people who I feel I'm supposed to meet.  
  3. I hover.  Maybe this is an attribute that I've developed from engineering - as I often encouraged my students to learn to hover.  What I mean by "hover" is that I'll pause to digest what I see before I make a move.  In solving an engineering problem, hovering often makes the difference between being completely lost or being able to synthesize the information into a path to proceed.  In life, this means that I feel like I have to get some type of understanding of my surroundings before I know what I want from them.  

There is one exception to my default method of hovering when I'm in a new area, however.  That exception is the church.  The familiarity of the gospel causes me to have continuity with my personality and approach.  It seems to be the one thread of consistency throughout the process of changing scene.  I don't care if I'm in Germany, China or New York - I know the church will be the same, and I know what to do as a member of it.  And so, given this exception, I also seem to have a fourth character trait when I'm in a new environment: I begin teaching the gospel more.

This pattern of temple attendance, general friendliness, conscious seeking of guidance, and actively teaching the gospel appears in the scriptures.  Consider the following passage from the Doctrine and Covenants, but consider it remembering the function of the book... While the Testaments (Old, New and Another) all direct us to Christ and encourage us to make and keep the covenant of baptism, the Doctrine and Covenants acts as a capstone to our gospel learning - it teaches us our role and responsibilities after baptism.  It directs us to the temple, and outlines the subtleties of the covenants we make there.  And so we read from Section 88:
117 Therefore, verily I say unto you, my friends, call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you.
118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. 
119 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
120 That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High.
121 Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings.
122 Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.
123 See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.
124 Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to they bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.  
125 And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.
126 Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come.  Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself.  Amen.
From verse 117, it should be noted that solemn assemblies often coincide with great change.  The next three verses give instruction to "seek learning" both from secular knowledge (should ring a bell if any of you remember last week's lesson from Lorenzo Snow) as well as faith - with a big emphasis being placed on the temple.

While the building of a physical temple had been done previous to my arriving in Sacramento area, the concepts the Lord outlines should apply to how we construct our lives.

I've observed that there are two kinds of people in this world - those who are changed by their circumstance, and those who change their environment to reflect their inner values.  I believe the Lord wants us to follow the pattern outlined in verse 119 as we build up our individual lives.  The temple is a pattern in all things.

The final six verses in this sample of Section 88 include a handful of do's and don't's.  In my particular circumstance, I'm leaving behind a college lifestyle.  If ever there were a pair of verses to rock the laziness of college life - it would be verse 121 and 124.  Verse 124 has often stared me down during the self-evaluations I had during school.  And verse 121 paints a hard line too, particularly for lustful desires.  Not that I should discourage anyone from sending their kids off to school (see verse 118 if you need convincing), but a parent in today's world should be aware that a city filled with 18-30 year old college kids without much responsibility equates to a breeding ground of bad habits.  Consider it a compost pile in which various attributes may easily grow.

Finally, the last two verses (and verse 123) provide a summary of what the Lord is asking of us.  Charity in our relationships with others, and dependence on our relationship with God.  This summary should echo the Savior's response to the question "what is the great commandment?".  Interesting, that the Lord would summarize it for us, isn't it?  I believe He does this to aid in our application.

Change is often a catalyst for building character.  I mentioned that in my last post.  And that pattern is splattered throughout the scriptures.  Think: Nephi, Abraham, Joseph Smith.  All of them were constantly being pulled along from one place to another, and that movement gave them ample opportunity to apply the lifestyle outlined by the verses quoted above.  Perhaps that's why Joseph referred to himself as a "rough stone rolling"?  He knew the effect of change.

To bring this entire post back home... consider the beginning: the Lord waits on us to be ready for the growth He has in store for us.  He is a gentlemen, never forcing, but ever ready.  And so it is up to us to determine whether or not we'll choose to follow His outline for us.  It's a trust-based relationship, really.  We are too easily distracted from trusting the Lord, or perhaps we don't yet know of His character enough to trust Him (in which case, we need to apply the lesson of verse 118).  And He waits for us to earn His trust.

Two questions are worthy of self-reflection after considering the effect of change:

  1. Am I stagnant?
  2. Have I shown the Lord that He can trust me?

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