it’s about embracing the bits that don’t make any sense. trusting that the story is in fact made by the departures and aberrations. it’s about wonder and curiosity. about moving forward and upward even if the movement is a sort of graceless thrashing about. it’s about clawing and clamoring and dirt beneath the fingernails. it’s about saying i don’t know. and i don’t know. and i don’t know, again. because one day i will. and if one believes that in the end it’ll all work out–even and most especially in the face of overwhelming doubt–than those moments of discomfort and unease and fear are made sweet and holy and wholly lovely by their impermanence.
All movement requires faith no matter how big or small it may look on the outside – whether you’re stepping into the unknown or stepping into the same thing as yesterday … Take heart, friend. The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.
“… you have more faith than you think you do … this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.”
Welcome back friends. I apologize for my delay in posting the final installment of this series. Up to now, we’ve discussed the spiritual and eternal importance of the human body. We’ve discussed what the Word of Wisdom is and why it was given. We’ve discussed the prohibitions in the Word of Wisdom. And we’ve discussed the prescriptions. If you haven’t already, I invite you to read those previous posts (1, 2, 3, 4) first in order to provide a better frame of reference for today’s discussion: The Promises.
Welcome back, all. I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I’ve been thinking non-stop about this series and am excited to dive in to today’s segment.
If you’re just joining us, I invite you read the previous segments (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) first as each post builds upon information presented in the last. To this point, we’ve discussed the important role the body plays in our eternal progression, the history and basis of the Word of Wisdom, and the three things it prohibits. Today I’ll be presenting the four measures the law prescribes. I invite you to study along in the Doctrine & Covenants, section 89.
I hope you’ll excuse the slight break in installments. There was a two-year-old in Arizona who needed my help with her Halloween costume and seeing as I am completely wrapped around her finger, nothing could come between me and that pink felt. (How I love being an Auntie.)
If you’re just joining the discussion, I would suggest going back and reading Parts 1 and 2 first, as each segment builds upon the information presented in the last. And now for Part 3 …
As we have discussed the essential and holy nature of the physical body and the need for guidance in how to care for it, as well as the history of the revelation, the question then becomes: So what is the law? What are the instructions?
The Word of Wisdom contains three prohibitions and four prescriptions. Again, I will be presenting the notes from my study of these guidelines and I invite you to follow along in Doctrine & Covenants section 89 as I dissect each verse.
Doctrine & Covenants 89: 5-7
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
This is the first prohibition—no alcohol. The partaking of wine and/or strong drink is not good (or meet) in the sight of God. Pure wine of the grape can be used to offer up sacraments, but strong drinks are not for the belly, only for the washing of bodies.
Welcome to the second installment of my Word of Wisdom experiment. You can read Part 1 here, where I shared thoughts about the physical body, which are foundational to an understanding of the Word of Wisdom as well as the origins for this experiment.
On to Part 2 …
The Word of Wisdom was a revelation from God, given to Joseph Smith in 1833 after he made an inquiry of the Lord regarding the use of tobacco by many of the Church’s Elders. The Church had been officially organized for three years at that point, and in the absence of a temple, the first School of the Prophets was held in a small room in the home of Bishop Newel K. Whitney. Brigham Young recorded a scene which frequently presented itself during those instructional meetings:
“The brethren came to that place from hundreds of miles to attend school … When they assembled together … the first thing they did was to light their pipes, and while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom … As soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet [Smith] entered the room to give the school instruction he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean the floor [of tobacco spit], made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco” (Journal of Discourses, 12:158).
In response to his inquiry, the Lord gave Joseph Smith the verses of scripture we now call the Word of Wisdom.
As I set out to outline my lesson and craft my experiment, I knew my first step was to understand deeply and completely the entirety of the principle. I began with a prayer that my mind and heart would be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that I would understand exactly what the Lord intended for me to do, and that I would be able to see clearly the wisdom in the law. I then dissected each verse.
In the paragraphs that follow I will share my study notes. Of particular importance to me were the definitions of important key words in each verse. A dictionary is as essential to my gospel study as my scriptures. I find that in understanding completely every definition for a word and the root from which the word comes, my comprehension of the Lord’s language increases ten-fold. It really is amazing (and completely exciting!) to study the scriptures this way. I invite you to study along in chapter 89 of the Doctrine & Covenants.
A couple months ago, I was asked to substitute teach the Relief Society (women’s group at Church) class last Sunday. This was all very exciting indeed because I love to study the Gospel and bonus!: I love to teach it. That is to say, it was all very exciting until I saw the lesson topic: The Word of Wisdom.
Couldn’t I get a “good,” “meaty” (pun not intended, but it’s actually quite funny now that I think about it) topic like prayer, or the Plan of Salvation, or the Atonement, or something? Nope. The Word of Wisdom. (For those of you who don’t know, The Word of Wisdom is the Mormon law of health.)
A few days after being asked to teach, I ran into our Relief Society President. Frit and I are her Visiting Teachers* and I caught her in her yard one day, so technically I was doing our monthly visit “drive-by-style” while she fertilized her lawn. I’m nothing if not an efficient multi-tasker.
Anyway, she said she was so excited for me to teach and couldn’t think of anyone better to teach that particular lesson. Seriously, I thought? I clearly do not live by any sort of health code, let alone the one the Lord gave us for our benefit and longevity. (My thighs are nodding in agreement.) I mean, I do all the “nos”—no alcohol, no tobacco, no coffee, etc.—but I, by no means, do the “yeses” (we’ll get to them later). Or rather, I used to not do all the “yeses.”
Which is where this story begins. Aren’t you glad we’re finally starting?
I knew, that if I was going to teach this lesson with any sort of testimony, conviction, and understanding, I was going to have to take a more serious look at what the Word of Wisdom really is and learn for myself why the Lord gave it to us. And so I began an intense, prayerful study of the law, which is found in Doctrine and Covenants (a book of Mormon scripture) chapter 89.
I realize that using a race as a metaphor for life is quite overdone. However, it seems there are few other situations that truly reflect the life experience more than a race. And in the days since my sister’s relay, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a couple of things.
As I wrote yesterday, the entire time she was out running her legs of the race, I was praying for her—praying that she would have the strength, stamina, and will-power to finish, and finish well.
The fact of the matter, if you couldn’t tell, is that I love my sister, and I love her a lot. But I am human and I am certain that my understanding of, and capacity to love is limited (although I’m also certain it grows with age and experience). And if I were to put my love up against God’s love there would be no comparison. His love is so much bigger, so much deeper, so much more …
That being said—if I love my sister as much as I do, and as a result found myself praying non-stop for her success because of that love, then doesn’t it seem reasonable to assume that God, who loves us more and loves us better, is also praying for us? That He is cheering us on and hoping for our successful finish just as much, if not more than, we wish for each other?
I am certain. We are not alone in this mountainous climb of life. And not only does He have His watchful eye over us, but I think He is cheering and clapping and hollering our names, shouting from His world beyond the clouds that we can do this, that we are amazing, that He is proud of us—willing us with His almighty power as we climb, sprint, or crawl up and down every hill and valley, His heart pounding, arms reaching, eyes focused—until we each arrive safely at the finish line.
I have heard the stories of perfect-faith-filled prayers. Prayers where the answer was given, the blessing bestowed, with suture lines detailed in perfect clarity in the moment the plea was lofted up to the clouds. In fact, I have had those experiences, myself.
However, this is not one of those stories.
Because while I know the relief of answered prayers, I also know the weariness that sometimes accompanies the act of “waiting on the Lord.”
It is a difficult thing to pray for something–something you know to be good and right–for years and not get it. It is heartbreaking and faith-testing, and frustrating, and, at times, angering. Particularly when one is trying one’s best to live in such a way that proves the desired blessing would be cradled daily with care and gratitude, if granted.
I do realize that I am not the only person in the world to pray for something for years and not get it. I also realize that many of those other knee-bent people have been pleading for their wants much longer than I’ve drawn breath. But if I have learned anything in my life, it is that no matter the hurt, no matter the grief, no matter the length of time spent wanting, hurt is hurt, and pain is pain, and want is want, and one’s experience cannot be measured against another’s.
With that said, this is my experience.
It was a little over a year and a half ago that I stopped praying. And I stopped praying because I was frustrated. And I was frustrated because I felt that while He was listening, He was not hearing, not answering. So I stopped. And for the first time, I understood how people could be angry at God. I understood that they weren’t bad people. That perhaps they were just sad. And maybe a little tired.
Weeks turned into months—months without kneeling or even so much as a “hello” or “thank you.” Not that this helped anything. But I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to talk to Him. Until finally, one night, my frustration reached the point of exasperation and I began to yell.
I yelled and yelled at Him and told Him how angry I was at Him. How mad and hurt I was that He wouldn’t answer me. How I was trying everything I could think of to “do my part” and that yes, I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I was trying, wasn’t I? Why wasn’t it coming? Why wasn’t He answering? I had been waiting and wanting and praying for so long.
And I did not want to be reminded about how long Abraham and Sarah waited for a baby, I said. And I did not want to think about all the people in the world who have been praying for things longer than I have. And I didn’t want to be told how I’m not alone. And by no means, did I want to hear how those who wait on the Lord will be blessed. And I did not want to talk about how some blessings come in the eternities. I was talking right here, right now, and why did the heaven’s seemed closed when it’s a good thing I want. And why wasn’t He hearing me?
Why wasn’t He answering me?
I cried and yelled, and yelled and cried, until I had nothing left to cry and yell about. I had emptied my heart. All of it. And once all the yelling and anger and frustration was out, the only thing left was silence. And in the silence I heard Him say, “I know you’re angry. And it’s okay.”
For my whole life, I’ve believed it was wrong to be angry at God. That because He’s all-perfect and all-knowing and all-powerful and all-loving—He must know what He’s doing, right?—and we must submit singularly with patience and humility and endurance to the ebb and flow of trials and blessings that cross our paths. We must be good Christians. And good Christians don’t get mad at God.
But I do not believe that anymore. What I believe now, is that what God wants more than unquestioning submission, more than pious worship, more than a perfect prayer, more than “good”-emotion-only-feeling followers, is our honesty. And if that means we’re angry. Then He wants that too.
You can be angry at God. You’re allowed, and He understands. You just can’t stay angry. And most importantly, you can’t be angry “behind His back” (not that that’s possible). You have to keep meeting Him, face to face, anger and all.
There are times when my faith is unshakable. When I am certain and confident of the things I know. But if I am being honest, and I am trying to be, there are times when my faith is wobbly. And I’ve learned that that’s okay too. In fact, I think that’s what the scriptures call a “trial of [your] faith”—to still believe when believing is hard. To trust when you’re not sure what you’re trusting. And then if that too fails, because it might—the faith and the trust, that is—to simply hope that what you’re believing is true. That what you seek, will eventually be given.
I am praying again, of course, but in a whole new way. In a way that feels more open, more communicative than I ever perceived possible. I worry less about what is “right” and I simply speak. And while I’m still unsure if He will answer me (on a couple of our finer discussion points), I do know He’s there–loving, listening, and hearing.
Today is a special Saturday post. It was written by my friend Brooke who is 1/3 of the singing trio Mercy River. I’ve seen Mercy River’s career from the beginning (I even handled the marketing and design for their first CD release) and I thrill to see the milestones and success they’ve reached along the way. I love when my friends do great things. And … exciting news! … these three lovely ladies just released their third album, Higher.
In honor of the CD release, I asked Brooke to guest post and share with us what it means to her to “Live Higher.” What stands in the way of lifting our lives to the levels we hope for and dream of? What holds us back from living the lives God wants most for us? This is a topic I’m always thinking about so I’m excited to see what she has to say. (Oh and stay tuned at the bottom for a giveaway and the link to their music video.)Welcome Brookie!
First and foremost, we are HONORED to be a guest on this blog. Krista is one of our dearest forever friends, and between you and me, I’m sort of jealous of her writing abilities. But here we go!
So, you know how we all have our own little quirks? Well, here’s one of mine—I’m a planner. Spontaneity is not my forte. I don’t do well with surprises, no matter how fun or romantic they may be. i.e. Don’t take me on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Europe. I need at least a month to get the right wardrobe, research any and all tourist spots, and lose a couple pounds for all those tourist pictures. Also, I don’t want a surprise party. I would rather choose the restaurant, the guest list, and the after-dinner location. And I will do my OWN Christmas shopping, thank you very much.
So you can guess how I take it when my “life plan” doesn’t go as … planned. NOT well. And you would think I’d be used to it by now. Have you heard the saying, “Whenever you make a plan, God laughs”? This is extremely true in my life. I’ve made lots of plans, only to have them re-arranged, altered, and at times, completely cut short.
For example, there was the time I dreamed of being a basketball player like my sister and totally bombed at tryouts. Or the time I auditioned for the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and instead was cast as the Wizard. (What? A BOY’S part??) There was also the time in high school, when I fell in love–only to have my heart broken. The college I didn’t get into. And the job I wasn’t chosen for. Or the years my husband and I suffered from infertility when I wanted nothing more than to be a mother.
These were all times in my life when I “wrestled” with the Lord. I wanted my life to go a certain way, and I experienced frustration (and to be honest, sometimes anger too) that there were detours off the path of my ideal life. But after each of these situations–and so many others–I could see, looking back, that once I surrendered my will to His, once I loosened my death-grip on “my way,” I felt free. Once I let go, I was lifted higher.
Our newest album was a huge “let go” experience all of us. Any feelings of pride were almost ripped from our hands. Ideas were thrown to the wayside to make room for whatever fit the budget and time frame. We held so tightly to our own dreams it was painful to turn them over to the Lord. But in the end, it turned out better than we hoped. He took something that seemed doomed for failure and turned it into not only a beautiful product, but a beautiful experience as well. In fact, we almost titled the album Let Go, but then changed it to Higher because ultimately, that’s where God takes us when we do let go.
Really, I think we’re the ones standing in our own way of rising higher. We each have things in our lives that we’re holding on to: Moments in our past. Pride. Childhood memories. Hurt. Shame. Regret. Anger. And sometimes, our own plans. But holding on to these things always prevents us from becoming something greater.
There’s a poem I heard a few years ago that put this in perspective for me:
Like children bring their broken toys
With tears, to us to mend,
I took my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
In ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried,
How could you be so slow?
My child, He said, what could I do?
You never did let go.
The Lord can’t “lift” until we LET him. And his wisdom, His knowledge, His vision all exceed our own. He knows how to create something beautiful in us. So. Let go of your broken plans, your detoured dreams, your pride, your insecurities, and anything else that is holding you down. And let Him lift you higher.
Thanks so much Brooke. I loved this. We’re cut from the same cloth, you and me. I’m a planner right down to my color-coded calendar. And I totally understand what you are saying—even though I’m not always good at it. My current life is so different from what I envisioned, dreamed, and planned for myself so many years ago. But how thankful I am that God sees the end from the beginning and knows what, ultimately, will help me grow the most. And how thankful I am that when it’s hard to “let go” (and it usually is) … he helps us with that too.
Now readers!: if you would like to win a copy of Mercy River‘s new album, Higher, just leave a comment below. You can also get extra entries for
This morning on my Facebook page, in honor of the fact that today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I posted the following status update:
“Mormons don’t participate in Lent because being Mormon is like Lent 24/7. The only thing left to give up is dessert. & NO ONE’S TAKING THAT FROM ME!” –Jenna Jones, comedian/Script P.A. at The Daily Show
As a Mormon, the quote made me laugh pretty hard, because, good grief, it sure feels true! I don’t drink (alcohol, coffee, or tea), don’t smoke, don’t have sex (cuz I’m not married), no porn, no rated R movies or other morally questionable media … so really. What’s left?! My fellow Mormon friends got a good laugh out of it too and a few shared it on their walls. But in the comments that followed the update, one friend (who is not a Mormon) asked, “So, Mormons really don’t participate in Lent? Or was she just saying that?”
I didn’t realize that friends of other faiths might not know we don’t particpate in Lent, so I tried to explain to my best ability. My response was this:
No, we really don’t. At least not a “sponsored by the Church” observance of Lent. A Mormon could certainly observe Lent if he/she wanted to. There’s no rule stating we can’t. But it’s not a practice of the general Church population.
As for a reason why … the quote above, though said in jest, is actually kind of true. We essentially practice Lent all year long. We fast once a month, partake of the sacrament (i.e. communion) weekly, seek to live by a strict health code, live the law of chastity, evaluate (continually) one’s life/habits in comparison to the commandments and example of Christ, and focus on spiritual sanctification through daily prayer, daily study, and daily repentance.
By no means are we perfect at doing all of that every day of every year, but that’s what we’re striving for every day of every year.
This is not to say that Easter isn’t an incredibly important holiday to us. Because it is. And we each look forward to, and prepare for it in different worshipful ways as individuals, families, and congregations. For example, I’m reading the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) with particular focus on the final week of Christ’s life as the weeks lead up to Easter.
Also, as a Church, we are very focused on the events that occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane and the resurrection from the tomb. We are certain of the fact that Christ suffered for us in the Garden and in the reality that he rose from the dead. We believe in a Living Christ (as in, He’s alive right now) who is intimately involved in our salvation and exaltation and works daily with our Heavenly Father in our behalf.
I have reposted this exchange at the request of my friend and hope my response helps shed some light on one aspect of my Mormon faith. I welcome any further questions regarding this, or any other, subject. I would also like to say that I deeply respect all faiths, Christian and otherwise. I find that my own faith and my dedication to it is only enhanced when I learn about other belief systems and I would hope that any comments or questions posed here reflect a similar spirit of respect and generosity.
I was sitting in the front row, almost center. On either side of me sat a dozen women, with another row full behind me. Some rocked back and forth with babies cradled in their arms. Others sat quietly with wrinkled hands clasped delicately in their laps. And a few gingerly flipped through the scriptures open on their knee.
The hum of whispered chatter that begins the ladies’ meeting on Sundays is one of the happiest sounds I think I know.
Class began and the woman beside me read, “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
That’s hard sometimes. To love your neighbor, that is. All of them. And without equivocation. Especially the prickly ones.
But as I thought about it, I came to some conclusions.
Loving your neighbor requires that you get outside yourself. You have to sidestep your bubble of life and extend your reach beyond your daily task list. I think we get so caught up in our “busy,” our “hurry,” our “need,” that we don’t see each other sometimes. Sure our eyes generally register that another human being is somewhere within the vicinity of our sight. But. We’ve got to start seeing each other. We’ve got to start looking the people in front of us in the eye, and seek to understand what’s behind the blue, or the brown, or the green. We’ve got to push the edges of our spheres out a bit and position ourselves inside opportunities to love another soul.
Loving your neighbor is easier when you know their story. Each of us is a vast library of collected works. We are chapters upon chapters of events and experiences and education. Some good. Some bad. Some happy. Some sad. And the sum of those stories equals our “why’s” for doing what we do, acting the way we act, thinking the way we think, and saying the things we say. But I have learned that love comes more easily and swiftly when you know those stories. Because the stories bring understanding. And understanding brings compassion. Yes. Loving someone is easier when you know their story.
Loving your neighbor is impossible without extending grace. No one is perfect. People don’t always say what you’d wish they’d say, or do what you wish they’d do. Sometimes they say hurtful things. Sometimes they say stupid things. Sometimes they don’t say anything—when they probably ought to. But. People are human. People forget. People don’t always know. So perhaps a better response to those disappointments or frustrations or annoyances is to simply give someone the benefit of the doubt. To remember that we’re all just trying to do our best. That sometimes our best comes out a mess. And just extend grace.
At the end of the lesson, the teacher made a passing comment that I think went mostly unnoticed, but was perhaps the most profound sentiment of the class. She said, “God makes amazing people.”
And I think she’s right.
God does make amazing people. And to love them is not just a commandment. It is a privilege.
If someone really loved me, they would buy me an etymology dictionary for my birthday (which is in less than two months, by the way, in case you were wondering) For real. If I could go back to college and do it all over again, I would. And I would study the origin of words. That’s all. Just the origin of words, all. day. long. Is that even a possible major? Well. If not. I would petition the University to make it one. That’s how much I love etymology. I mean … listen to this:
Behold: comes from a Mid English word meaning “to keep”, which came from the Old English word behealdan, meaning “to hold”. The current definition is “to perceive through sight or conception.”
Perceive: comes from the Latin word percapere meaning “thoroughly to take”. The current definition is “to attain awareness or understanding, to become aware through the senses.”
Now the word Desire: It comes from the Latin word desiderare, meaning “long for, wish for; demand, expect.” The current definition is to long for, express a wish for. To request.” The dictionary goes on to say that desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim.
So interesting, no? Enlightening.
As I read the scriptures this morning, I found that I was paying close attention to what certain people desired. And then I began noting what they were “beholding.” And in understanding the words more deeply, I understood the Word more deeply.
I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy … wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit. … And … I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit … and I beheld your mother … And … I beckoned … with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit. (–Lehi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon. Reference.)
And I … was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of the these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men … And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God! And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world … And I beheld that he went forth, ministering unto the people. (–Nephi, Lehi’s son. Reference here and here.)