Sunday, May 17, 2015

Expectations of prayer

Our Gospel Doctrine teacher just asked,"What should our expectations for prayer be?"
What an interesting question. And there were interesting responses. Many focused on how we should bring our own efforts to the table in order to bring to pass what we are praying for. One person shared that we ought to expect the Lord to only give us whats good for us and so we can pray but expect that we will get answers according to God's wisdom and perfect knowlwdge of our needs.

What came to my mind was that prayers our not fundamentally an opportunity for us to exoress our will to God and ask him to suspend the laws of nature and help us escape the consequences of our choices. A good way to approach the altar of prayer is to seek God's will and to ask for the strength to carry it out. We do have our own agency and it is appropriate that we ask for stength,  wisdom and support to carry out many good things of our own free will and choice.  We ought also to seek the Lord's will for us and seek to do it. Prayeer should be at least as much about seeking as it is about pleading.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughts on Bonobos and the Fatherhood of God

I have been hearing about Bonobos for more than 20 years.  My first exposure to them was probably in late high school, but one of my clearest recollections of them stems from the book: The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Species of the 20th Century.  This book described how from a specimen that was thought to be a Chimpanzee the reality of two species was accepted.  For years I have heard people talking about this species as the model of how humans should be.  They are much more peaceful than the closely related Chimpanzee's and people seem to love to talk about how much sex they have, I remember a documentary with Michael Dorn as the narrator (which despite literally 'minutes' searching IMBD and Google I couldn't find) touting their "make love not war" lifestyle and commenting on how frequent their sexual contact is.  Well earlier this week I was catching up on some TED talks I was interested in which does include one about Bonobos.

As I listened to it something bothered me.  It seemed to be yet another message of anything goes.  Our taboos agains adultery, homosexuality and a variety of other things are so wrong, no violence, let's just get along. Don't misunderstand.  I actually loved the talk and found a lot of it very agreeable, but then part of the reason we watch things like this is to think, to challenge our current world view. This video did.  Maybe it won't for others, but for me it made me really think.  One of the thinks I thunk was: Well if this is such an evolutionarily successful strategy why are there so few Bonobos??

One possibility is that the more dominant, aggressive and less sexually free Chimpanzees have wiped them out.  Turns out that later this week I found that may not be the whole story, (more on that later) but certainly it could be part of it. Bonobos live in isolation from the Chimps.  That is part of what keeps the two species apart.  They can likely interbreed and so I would suspect that the species with the higher population and wider range has the more successful strategy.

But what does this say about us?  Well with our biological heritage coming from the same place as these two species some violence and some love.  We aren't all one thing.  What gave me even more insight was a Science Friday episode with Frans de Waal: Search for the Roots of Right and Wrong
25 minutes later I had even more insights both into the inner lives of primates but into how one admittedly non-believing scientist views religion.

As a believing scientist, I still don't know how to harmonize all these things, but I do love the challenge of struggling with it.  Frans de Waal's ideas that he shared in the broadcast were for me contrasted with another fun listen from this week, from BYU Classic Speeches Podcast: "The Power of God unto Salvation" In this speech Marion G. Romney states that the concept that Christ taught the Fatherhood of God only as a construct to help people be more good to each other is not as powerful as the reality that we actually all are children of our Heavenly Father and we all are truly brothers.  This fact is born out by the biology.  We all have common ancestors and apparently more moral ones that I had previously known.
So, what? What does this mean?  Well for one thing it means I have even more reasons to be kind to all those around me and to do my best to help others have the most happiness they can!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday musings

Yesterday at church we talked about character. We were discussing the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow chapter 8. There was one thought in the chapter that really stood out to me. It was that Christ desires a relationship with us, that he wants to see our success:

The Lord wishes to establish a closer and more intimate relationship between Himself and us; He wishes to elevate us in the scale of being and intelligence, and this can only be done through the medium of the everlasting Gospel which is specially prepared for this purpose.

It has taken me most of my life to understand this. To recognize that God and Universe really do want us to be happy. We are not here to suffer without relief. There should be joy, joy in our day to day lives. There are constant challenges and obstacles to our happiness, but when we do our best to find joy in our lives we usually can. Elder Eyring and others have encouraged us to make a gratitude journal and my wife is working on one now. I think it's high time I start that too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Remorse: A forgotten virtue

I have been thinking lately about the way our world works.  There is a virtue that has become ignored, forgotten and even beyond that it is seen now as a sign of weakness and is rooted out like a weed.
I am talking about remorse.  Showing remorse or regret for choices is seen as a weakness.  Admitting that we did something wrong is seen as a lack of character.  We seem so focused on being capable, strong and most importantly right, that to acknowledge remorse is like confessing a moral defect.
This is sort of backwards.  The repentance process requires that we first recognize that we have done something wrong.  To recognize our need to repent means not just that we acknowledge that we did something that hurt others, or accepting the responsibility of correcting the hurt or damage we have done, it needs to include a genuine regret for the hurt.  It means that we recognize that we should have done something different.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More thoughts on Peter

Yesterday was Father's Day, which went largely unnoticed in the household, mostly because everyone in our particular household had gotten the week wrong and we celebrated last week.

But I did spend some more time this last week considering more about the life of Peter.  I was able to get the the temple one day this week, but because of poor timing, or excellent timing, I arrived just after a session had started and I had a 30 minute wait.  I decided that since I had speculated wildly about Peter's motivations last week, maybe I should re-read some parts. 

I re-read each of the accounts in the Gospels to see what was said.  Three of the Gospels seemed to have  the feel that Peter was sorrowful and regretted denying the Savior, but I didn't see in any of them an actual statement that Peter had done wrong.  Also, I got to thinking, he was the only disciple mentioned that actually didn't flee and abandon the Savior but actually followed along and stayed as close as he could.  This was another sign of his devotion, but also the trigger for his denial.  Had Peter chosen to flee away, no one would have been questioning and badgering him about being with Christ, but because he was there at the scene people asked him.  He must have felt fear for his safety and anxiety that he would not be able to fulfill his role as leader of the church if he was taken and slain too.  Also, Peter must have been expecting and hoping that Christ was going to once again escape the hands of his tormentors and they would all continue to preach together.  When Peter denied knowing the Savior for the third time and the cock crowed, at least part of what could have gone through Peter's mind was that the fulfillment of this statement of the Savior's meant that truly the Savior's statements about his own death were also about to come to pass.  Could some of Peter's sorrow and bitterness been caused by his own recognition that he was about to see the Christ, the Savior, the Messiah die?  Was part of his sorrow and bitterness prompted by fear that what he thought was true may not be?  I don't really know, but as I ponder the meaning of this night for Peter it is clear that the depth of emotion for Peter must have been extreme.  So much was being called into question and so much was being asked of him, and he did stay as close as he could and he was there when the Savior was on the cross and he was the first of the Apostles to enter the tomb.

Another incident that I mentioned last week comes back to mind.  When the Savior walked on the water and Peter stepped out of the boat into the storm tossed seas, he did walk.  Much good can be learned from understanding that only when Peter took his focus off of the Savior did he begin to sink and perish, but read closely and you see again the character of this man.  He was walking on the water amidst all the turmoil of the storm and could he have realized, "What am I doing?  I can't possibly do this!"  Peter's realization of quite literally the gravity of his situation must have overwhelmed him.  His sudden realization that he was quite literally doing the impossible could have been just too much for him.  But, and this is a key, in this moment when he realized that what the Savior had asked him to do was beyond his own capacity, and when he realized that he was already doing it, but couldn't continue, he didn't turn back to the boat, he didn't lose hope and sink under the waves.  He called out to the Savior.  Peter knew what and who was the source of his salvation.  We would do well to remember all of Peter's example on this night.  When the storms toss us and we are asked to do miracles, when the impossibility of doing what we must do is overwhelming us and we are perishing, we can call out "Lord, save me" and the response will probably be "O, thou of little faith" but the hands will reach out and lift us up.  The scriptures mention very little about what happened after Peter called out, but I imagine him being lifted up and walking alongside Jesus back to the boat, not in failure, but in triumph because Peter knew who he trusted.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And Peter went out and wept bitterly

Peter the Apostle is an interesting figure. He is often characterized in light of his weakness and his denial of Christ on the night of Christ's capture by the Pharisees and Sadducees. There is so much more to Peter than this denial, and much more to his alleged denial than has been said.

Peter was by trade a fisherman, a man accustomed to hard physical labor and more than likely accustomed to risking his life in the face of physical dangers. He fished the Sea of Galilee and would have been accustomed to facing his problems directly by his own physical capacity and ingenuity.

Imagine this man called to be a fisher of men, called to think, to listen, to turn the other cheek, to be meek and lowly of heart. Throughout the New Testament Christ rebukes Peter, not for his hesitancy, but for his impetuosity. Even when he lacked faith he shows daring. When the Savior walked toward their ship on the water and all thought it was a ghost or a spirit, Peter upon hearing the Savior's voice cried out, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." and he did, often more attention is paid to the very valuable and powerful message that Peter only began to sink when he took his eyes off of the Savior. But, he did walk on the water. Peter stepped out of the boat and walked several steps before, as it were the distractions of the storm he walked through pulled him down. Yes, the Savior rebuked him, but maybe in mildness rather than in frustration, O thou of little faith.

Peter's ministry with the Savior exemplified his devotion, his willingness to follow the Savior at all costs. When most were abandoning the Savior for his hard doctrines, Peter was the one who boldly stated "Where shall we go thou hast the words of eternal life"

The very evening of Christ's betrayal by Judas, the Savior had already said to Peter, "Tonight thou shalt deny me thrice." When the mob came to take Jesus Christ, Peter far from denying the Savior, he stepped forward and true to his word he prepared to give his live in defense of the man he loved, the man he had been devoted to for the previous 3 years. The Savior again had to calm the impetuous Peter. It's as if Peter was still trying to understand and the Savior was still trying to teach him. Peter, this is the mission and reason I am come into the world. Peter, you have another role and you must allow this.

I don't pretend to know better than others who have spoken or written on this subject, and these are my thoughts and my ideas, but they have given me strength. Peter, the same man who had by revelation learned that Christ was the Savior, Christ the same who had stood with the Savior on the Mount of transfiguration and received keys to the leadership of the Church, was experiencing a crisis, a crisis of faith. Peter knew the Christ was the Savior, he knew that he was called to lead the Church after Christ's death, but this was beyond him. He had a vision, a vision of himself and a vision of what the Savior would do. Peter expected one thing and this betrayal and requirement to accept Christs death was a true crisis. Peter had stood by as the Savior worked out the atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had been so overcome by fatigue, likely brought on by the extreme spiritual experiences of the Last Supper, that he could not watch even one hour.

As I think of Peter, in this state. A man of action, a man who had a powerful testimony of the Savior, a man who was told he would deny knowing the Savior, a man who was devoted to the man who had called him to be a fisher of men, a man who was willing to give up his own life to protect the Savior and had proven it by stepping alone in front of an armed mob. This Peter had been told by this same man he was willing to defend and die for, "But how then shall the ascriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" (Matthew 26:54") I think about what his emotional and spiritual state must have been.

This night for Peter was a true crisis, but I wonder if it was a different crisis than we often think it was. Most see this as a crisis of Peter's faith, a test of his courage, and see his response as a failure, a weakness of his faith in a moment of doubt. This is definitely, a portion of what was going on. Peter, a man of action and of faith, was watching the King of the kingdom he was so anxious to see ushered in, being betrayed, mocked, scorned and this man to whom he was so devoted had himself told him that he must suffer this and die. He knew that he had been given the keys to lead after the death of this man, who was more than a man, but he was scared, and surely his faith, his confidence in this unseen thing, was weakened. Along with that, here was this man who confronted all obstacles and challenges directly with boldness and with powerful statements of his devotion, being asked, and compelled to deny his own nature and submit to the will of God. I believe that part of Peter's crisis this night went beyond his doubts, but went on to the deep challenge of knowing he wanted to do one thing and because of his devotion to the Savior he had to do another. Peter wanted to stand and defend the Savior, he was more than willing to give his life for the Savior, but he couldn't. He had to deny his own nature. He had to humbly submit to a will that wasn't his own. Truly fear and doubt must have influenced his choice to verbally deny knowing the Savior, but what a conflict of soul must have existed for him as he had to deny his own nature to do so. He must have wrestled with his own soul. He had boldly testified of the Savior, and he had boldly promised devotion, but now, his devotion was being tested because he had to stand idly by and let tragedy take it's course. He was tired both physically and spiritually and here was his friend being abused and he could do nothing but stand by and watch it happen. He had seen the Savior escape the manipulations of the Pharisees and Saduccees before, he knew that the Savior could easily call down legions of angels to defend him. This must have been a bitter conflict for a man so willing to take action, to be called upon to deny his own nature and allow this to happen.

So, when he had verbally denied the Savior 3 times and the cock crowed, of course he would go out and weep bitterly. Much of that bitterness was probably brought about by his feeling of failure, his feeling of weakness that he couldn't save Jesus. But much of his bitterness could also have been brought about by his own recognition that he now was called upon to humble himself, to submit his will to something he didn't naturally want to do. Bitterness could have been brought about and his crisis may have included recognizing that his own nature wasn't going to save Jesus. What benefit would it have done Peter to boldly testify of the Savior, and die with him. He knew that he was called to carry on after the Savior was gone. He knew that he was called to lead the church. What a deep crisis this must have been for him to have to stand idly by, deny knowing the Savior and allow this man he loved to die. He knew that Christ was going to be resurrected, but that didn't change to grief that came from recognizing the reality that Christ was first going to suffer and die.

What a challenge for this man. This man of action to have to bridle his own nature and not confront this challenge head on. Peter was called upon to deny his own nature and allow what to him must have appeared a true tragedy, a grief that could not be born. His faith in the living Christ was based on experience and revelation, his faith in the resurrected Christ was one of hope. Of course, he would go out and weep bitterly, Undoubtedly in repentance, but also, I believe, he wept in the crisis of soul that comes when one recognizes that we can no longer pursue our own will but must submit humbly to the will and purpose of something greater.

This view of Peter helps me, when I think of my own will and my own desires, it helps to think that Peter had to be submissive, he had a crisis of faith, a crisis that I don't believe he failed in, but that he was refined by. The rest of Peter's life was full of the action he was so notable for in his discipleship. He led the church boldly and stood forth boldly to defend his testimony of the Savior. Now, his boldness was tempered by this crisis, tempered by the recognition that at times following his own heart would thwart the will of God, recognition that he must boldly do exactly what the Savior and God asked of him.

What a great man this Peter was.