Monday, October 05, 2015

Pondering a Mystery--I got asked a question yesterday

So this post is just to write down and sort through my understanding after a friend asked me yesterday what I thought about the phrase "calling and election made sure" (CAEMS), 2nd Peter 1:10,.and what that involves.
Much of CAEMS speculation has been influenced by some statements made by Bruce McConkie in his 3 volume set of “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” and which are cited in the “Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles” CES textbook. In light of the fact that on the cover page of that three volume set is written “The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church or of Deseret Book”, and that CES textbooks are definitely not scripture, I feel no compunction to automatically consider what is written there as truth. And my personal study which I did in response to the calling to teach the scriptures in seminary has led me to a different understanding.
What I have found:
2nd Peter 1:
CAEMS is closely tied to
Knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ (“Epignosis” is the word used for “knowledge” in this passage. See for an analysis of what that word means.) (vs.2)
Which “epignosis” multiplies your experience with grace and peace. (vs.2)
That opens the door for us to “partake of the divine nature” and be disinclined to selfishness, self-indulgence and lust. (vs 4)
Peter also says that cultivating diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge (epignosis), temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity is essential to coming to and remaining in a knowledge (epignosis) of Christ because, without cultivating those attributes in our lives,
  1. we are unfruitful or barren in our knowledge (epignosis) of Christ.
  2. we become short-sighted instead of seeing the eternal perspective
  3. we forget our repentance and that we received forgiveness
  4. we fall
    (vs 5-10)
The “calling” is a calling to “glory and virtue” (vs. 3)
What is glory? It is working to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of others, not yourself. (Moses 1:39)
What is virtue? It is a high standard of moral goodness in all aspects of life.

Cliff note version: Knowing God in an “epignosis” way increases your experience with divine grace and peace and, by its nature and course of effect in your life, creates a calling and election (as in I'm calling you and choosing you to do something). In other words, an epignosis-based (knowing in a way that is more than just summarily “knowing about”), discipleship-based relationship with the Father and the Son brings a renewed personal divine invitation and appointment, a calling and election, to participate more fully in the work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of your fellow men and to continue to humbly and diligently seek to nurture in yourself the attributes of Christ in order to do so. We make it “sure” by responding to that call and doing that work with Him and continuing in grace and godly character.

What confuses some people:
I think what confuses people are the following:
  1. They think that what they are supposed to seek is the promise of having “made it into the celestial kingdom”. Instead it is that we are to seek to know, experience and love God, embrace and incorporate his virtues in their lives and with that, respond to a personal, divine call and appointment to work with God for the salvation of others. (See Cliff notes above.)
  2. They read the words of Joseph Smith “I should think that all faithful Latter-day Saints would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God." (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 5:388) And they think that that refers to a done deal. There were lots of debates and discussion about this being a done deal and what the parameters of that "doneness" were.
    Well, it seems that sealings are not a done deal when they are pronounced. (Though there are people who hope that this one is the exception to that rule and early church members thought it might.) Blessings sealed upon individuals are not done deals. They are dependent upon faithfulness in discipleship in all godly ways. They are not “you've made it, don't worry” or “you will get X, don't worry”. Rather they are profound, personal messages from God that say “I'm real, I'm with you, continue faithful and work with me, and light and love and glory will be possible” and those divine messages change us and move us to seek Him and work with Him more.
  3. They read Joseph Smith's words “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150) and and "After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands) ... then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,, p. 150) and they think that God is talking about a done deal based on merit
    But a calling and election made sure is not a guarantee (see #2) nor is it a merit-based decree. A calling and election is a profound experience of being called, and being designated to DO AND BE  (or continue to do and be) something (and not necessarily a specific calling in the church either). It is not a calling to receive a reward. We rise to that calling to do and be, ie: we “make it sure”, as we work to serve the Lord and as we seek to become like him as we do that work and with his grace and mercy become more one with Him.  
    (The word "sure" has many different meanings.  I believe the closest definition here is "act with unfailing dependability" or "constancy".  We make a calling to do and be "sure" when we we act in it with devoted dependability and constancy.)
    Determination to serve God may start with a personal decision but I believe it moves from simple self-mastery to “real” determination as a result of epignosis of God and, with his grace, developing godly attributes and then encountering that personal divine testimony of the absolute reality of God and God's personal invitation/calling to serve. It part of the process of becoming like Him.  And when we are like Him, through his grace and mercy, we may live with Him.
  4. They read Doctrine and Covenants 131:5-6 and think that sealed up means done deal. It's not a done deal. See #2 above. Also, 131:5-6 is not an exposition on the nature of the "more sure word of prophecy" but is actually an answer to a question about that phrase in 2nd Peter. The question was, "Can a man be have 'the more sure word of prophecy' without knowing that he does?".  And the answer is in verse 6, no, he cannot.  If you have experienced that sealing experience you would know you had.
Of course, since such an experience of “calling and election” and the process of “making sure”are, by their very nature and due to the nature of the one who experiences them (think “humble and loving and respectful of that which is sacred”) of a personally sacred nature, practically speaking, the ones who have experienced or are experiencing these, generally don't talk about it much. . Unfortunately that leads to lots of imaginative speculation and rumor. I expect that, since it is such a personal experience, it is likely that each experience would be different, and not exactly the same for each person.
I find no compelling reason to believe that it is only experienced in rooms in temples (one of the speculations I encounter every once in a while).  Though that might happen for some. There are rarely, if ever, reports or discussions of "second annointings" (which were considered the highest temple ordinance and connected to CAEMS and oft discussed and, on occasion performed in the early LDS church) these days and the understanding of what they are has changed from what people thought they were and how they related to "calling and election made sure" in early church history.  Reading the quotes from J.S. above or the words of Peter, it seems clear that this process of CAEMS is meant to involve solemn interaction with God, but I don't see enough there to state that it requires certain rites, though, who knows, some may feel like it should and for all I know, God may use that medium with them should they need or hope for that.  He is, after all, a very personal God in spite of all of us humans constantly trying to institutionalize his work and reduce it to formulas.
Reading the history of early church "second annointings" in Nauvoo and Utah it seems that for many decades people felt like such rites were required for it CAEMS to happen, but it seems that as understanding of what "calling and election made sure" means changed and the problematical nature of discernment as to the best time for it to happen in a person's life (always a problem with rite that gets institutionalized) grew, second annointings were slowly reduced, leaving the CAEMS process the opportunity to be recognized in personal lives in more personal ways..  And, given the deeply personal nature of that a CAEMS experience, I think that general deinstitutionalization was wise.  I have no problem with temple rites changing.  Usually they change for the better.
Since those who do know from personal experience what a CAEMS process in ones life is like also, understandably,  generally tend not to jump into conversations on the subject to share their experiences, we can all continue to believe what we believe about the experience just fine, whether we agree or not.
In the end, hopefully, we all will eventually, in this life or the life to come, find out for ourselves.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bids and Responses and Scanning

This morning I woke up thinking of three things.  
1. The challenge of talking about thought processes in order to facilitate coordination between people who are working together.  For example, two people work on a project together, a change in timing or resources occurs, both think of responses to those changes and act on them, but fail to actually talk about or discuss the responses they have to those changes or the changes they are planning to implement, resulting in mild confusion and/or jumping to unverified conclusions. 
2. The principle of "the purpose of the task is to strengthen the relationship", ie. no matter what task you are involved in, a primary and essential element of that task is the strengthening of the relationships of those involved in it. For example, washing the dishes with your daughter:  The purpose is not so much getting the dishes perfectly clean, but rather to strengthen your relationship as you work together.
3. The practice of responding to "bids".  It goes like this.  Throughout the day, partners make requests for connection, what John Gottman calls “bids.” and which he explains as follows in an article here:
For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.
The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.
People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”
These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. ...
“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right..." 
My decision this morning: work on those three.
And, in light of number 1, talk to L. about that decision.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Fortitude, Humility, Kindness, Gratitude and Love Unfeigned...and Yoga

Kindness in words creates confidence. 
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. 
Kindness in giving creates love. 

~~Lao Tsu

Never assume you have figured anyone or anything out. 
Never boil someone down to a cliché and certainly not to an epithet. 
Never assume that because you discover a hard question, the answer is an exit rather than renewed perspective. 
Even if the answer IS an exit, be sure it is done with respect and gratitude, not with anger and insults. 
Anger serves no one well and hurts many. If anger [or insults, be they sarcastic, snide or epithetic, voiced or unspoken] is your default response to discomfort in any relationship (including your relationship to faith or to the sacred), take up yoga. At least for starters.

~~Margaret Young
Interview with Stephen Marsh, September 4, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 shall have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of.....

I have decided that there is a difference between "choosing to be happy" and being of good cheer. One cannot nor should not always choose to be happy. If so, we would never mourn with those who mourn, we would never experience the sobering, tutoring process of loss, and we would not experience empathy for those who struggle or who suffer pain or injustice or abuse.
On the other hand, to me being of good cheer as found in the 16th chapter of the book of John means possessing a grounded, calm sense of peace, laced with hope, that is pretty constant in both times of celebration as well as times of deep sorrow, fear, confusion, anger or suffering. It enables us to act positively and calmly and effectively to navigate those struggles in our own lives and to assist others with more open eyes and hearts.
Good cheer dwells comfortably with and deals peaceably and carefully with the reality of a far from perfect existence and the loss of dreams. Choosing to be happy too often tries to pretend that those imperfections and losses should be ignored or glossed over, which, I believe, can actually prevent our spiritual growth.
So, with the grace of God, I will not "choose to be happy" but I do hope to be "of good cheer".

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Just because it seems like a good idea here doesn't mean it makes sense there.

For Americans in particular, life in a global Church means realizing that just because something seems a no-brainer here doesn’t mean it plays out that way everywhere.”

~John J. Allen, Jr., associate editor of the Catholic journal "Crux", at the end of his interesting article about current catholic debates in India.

True about my church too.

The sentence above is towards the end of the second part of the interesting article that you can find HERE.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Taking a Nap

Luke 8:
"Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples...
But as they sailed he fell asleep..."

Drawing by Ali Wright, shared with permission.  Thanks, Ali.

Good for me to remember at times when a nap is needful but my North American culturalized brain objects to my taking one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On writing fiction. From William Faulkner's 1950 Nobel Speech in Stockholm

...the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.