Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Carnally-Minded is Short-Sighted

I meet often with couples who have troubled marriages.  After 17 years, I've noticed a pattern.  Most of those whom I see for serious marital problems, appear to have married their partners more for external reasons (their looks, their possessions, their image, etc.).  They were often not as consistent with spiritual basics as teens and spent more time in worldly pursuits, thus making it more likely they would select their partner based on worldly criteria outlined earlier. This is short-sighted.  They are also more likely to have been involved physically before marriage.  This is not to say beauty is not important but that the degree to which the person has developed self-control, a work ethic, meekness, love, patience, the ability to be a team player, the ability to communicate feelings, etc. are more important.  Those who are closer to the Lord truly (because they are consistent with personal prayer, personal scripture study, serious pondering, etc.) are more likely to select marriage partners with whom they can be compatible long-term.  They are more likely to select a partner with a long-term gospel view in mind.  There can of course always be surprises and even those who select partners for higher reasons will still have challenges but they tend to have less conflict in my experience and tend to maintain healthier marriages.  As I've said before, the gospel works if we understand it correctly and live it consistently.  This does not mean we will be immune from problems; but, overall we will have greater peace even in the midst of trials and lasting joy in the long run.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thy Law is Liberty!

As we come to better understand and more fully live Heavenly Father's commandments (The Law), we become more free;  free at least from unnecessary depression and anxiety and from enslavement to practices that weaken and destroy (like using drugs and alcohol).  We will experience some depression, anxiety, heartache, etc. in this life but often we suffer more than needed because we either lack the understanding or the discipline to live His law fully.  A few examples may help to illustrate the point.

First, take for instance the Word of Wisdom, which is a health code taught by the Church. When we stay away from addictive substances and in turn consume more healthy things as outlined in the revelation, we are free from the enslavement and poorer health that typically characterizes those who do not obey this law.  

Second, let's consider the commandment to forgive.  This principle may be defined as letting go of anger, hate and resentment directed towards another.  Although forgiveness is not always an easy principle to apply, those who understand and apply it, free themselves from the depression, cynicism and inner turmoil that often accompanies those who do not forgive.

Third, I highlight the Law of Chastity which is taught by the Church.  Those who understand and live this law free themselves from the heartache, depression, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, despair, relationship ruptures, and the loss of self-control that so often results sooner or later from disobeying this important law.

After working with individuals, couples and families as a professional counselor for nearly seventeen years, I can testify that sin leads to bondage and obedience to God's law leads to liberty.  The obedient are ultimately the freest people of all!!



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

MEASURING DOWN / MEASURING UP

All of us at times are inclined to measure ourselves against others.  Sometimes we compare our perceived strengths to others weaknesses in an effort to feel better about ourselves; other times we do the opposite and feel more depressed.  What I have found though in general is that those who are not living the gospel as consistently are more inclined to measure down.  In other words they are more inclined to justify their position by thinking or saying things like "At least I'm not doing X" (some behavior which is worse than what they are doing).  Or they will say or think "I'm not as bad as X" (someone they believe is obviously far more of a sinner than they are).  Justification or rationalization is self-deception and keeps us from growth and progression as defined by God.  In contrast I have found that those who are closer to Christ are more inclined to measure up.  To use Christ as the standard, not others.  Of course ultimately we want to have a balanced mentality.  We want to give ourselves credit for the good we do (quietly without arrogance) but also be aware that compared to Christ we have plenty to improve upon.  In my experience those closer to Christ also have greater faith in Him.  They know that with His help they can change and become like Him.  They have hope.  They realize that improvement is a process and are therefore more patient with themselves and others.  All of this takes time to develop and of course we all have moments when we think or act in lesser ways.  May we all become more honest and patient with ourselves and others and be more inclined to use Christ as our standard, I pray!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Eternal Law of Divine Justice

I have been pondering more recently the various qualities of deity.  Among these qualities is justice, or the idea that God is just.  Many scriptures attest to this fact.  I submit that as we come to understand in our hearts that He truly is just in all his works, our confidence in Him increases.  Of course in this life there is temporary injustice, some of which is quite painful to watch or experience; however, because God is just, all things will be made right in time.  Those things that are not rectified here will be set right in the eternal worlds and we will be compensated (especially if we are faithful to Christ) for all we suffer here.  Part of the justice of our suffering here ties back to our agreement to enter this world of testing with the understanding of how it fits into His divine plan of happiness.  We understood before the world was (in pre-existence) that there would be pain and suffering, testing and trials.  We understood that Christ would make all things right in time.  We had faith in Him and based on this fact and our understanding of the potential gains that can come from suffering (more patience, more compassion, more humility, etc.), we agreed to come here.  If we are faithful, we will one day have a clearer understanding of how all we suffer here has helped us become more like Him; and, has prepared us for a far more and exceeding weight of glory.  Of this I testify!

Monday, September 8, 2014

3 Keys to Freedom

I submit that there are at least three keys to freedom.  I would state them as: an understanding of and application of truth, obedience to divine law, and self-control/self-mastery. 

First, we must understand that there is absolute truth.  This truth resides in our Father and in His divine Son.  As we ponder their words (in holy writ and as given by their authorized servants) we come to know the truth.  We can also learn truth from other sources as we are guided by the Holy Ghost (John 16:13).  As we apply this truth in our lives, it sets us free by degrees (John 8:32); we are freed from unnecessary suffering (brought on by ignorance or sin), from fear, and from darkness of mind (for God is light).  We are free to experience greater levels of peace, joy and fulfillment. 

Second, we must understand that there is divine law which is given by a loving and all-wise Father for the benefit of His children.  His divine law grows out of His complete understanding of truth and is based on the highest levels of pure thought.  So often we fail to understand the reasons for His law because we are "blinded by the craftiness of men...".  We must be careful that in our sophistication (so called) we are not foolish enough to think we know more than God.  We are counseled against this in Jacob 4:10 of the Book of Mormon.  A further warning is given in 2 Nephi 9:28-29.   Obedience to His law brings freedom to pursue better alternatives.  One example would be obedience to the law of health (D & C 89).  Those who live this law are blessed with increased strength and health (among other things).  This makes it easier for them to have a clear mind and the energy to pursue more righteous endeavors.  When our mind is clouded due to alcohol use, or the improper/illegal use of drugs, or our energy lower due to poor eating or lack of exercise, we are typically more susceptible to sin and worldly distractions that lead to heartache and regret.   Of course we can become ill for many reasons (even if we are trying to be healthy) but obedience to the laws of health bless us as we are consistent. 

Third, self-control/self-mastery is essential to salvation and is possible because of the atonement of Christ. Though we will not be perfect in this life, we can reach a high level of self-mastery.  This gives us greater freedom to enjoy the good things of life and eternity.  Take education for example, those who discipline themselves to pursue learning (doing homework, attending class, thinking deeply, applying what is learned, etc.) gain higher degrees which lead to greater economic freedom in many cases.  Those who skip class, avoid homework, take the easier classes and do no apply themselves, fail to reach their higher potential.  They receive a lesser portion of the blessings offered by God.  They may by fraud (or luck) obtain temporary gain but it will not last and cannot compare to the far greater endowments of peace, power, joy and freedom that only God can provide. 

May we strive to be worthy of the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost so that we may think and act in higher ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  This gift of guidance will lead us to truth.  May we ponder His truth, apply it in our lives, obey His law which is based on truth, and discipline ourselves to follow the example of His Son so that we may obtain all the blessings He offers, I pray!!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Women and the Priesthood of God

One need only look at the newspaper headlines to see how women (and children) are exploited, demeaned and abused all over the world.  The recent attacks in Nigeria are an example of how unsafe the world can be.  Christ condemned in the strongest language those who "offend one of these little ones" and certainly He would condemn just as strongly the poor treatment that women have so often received at the hands of worldly, selfish and power-hungry men.  Christ taught a much different doctrine to men and women.  Said He to men, "husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the Church...."  This was the standard expected of men in Christ's time and the same standard expected of men in His Church today.  Sadly, most men fall far short of this standard though there are many who humbly, courageously and meekly try to live up to this divine injunction.  Certainly God will not hold guiltless any man who abuses spouse or offspring.  Elder Cook in a recent General Conference address said that God will require that men account for every tear they cause their wives to shed.  This should be a sobering thought for all men, but especially for those who hold the priesthood!  A sad commentary in the Doctrine and Covenants states that it is the nature and disposition of nearly all men, when given a little authority, to exercise unrighteous dominion.  No wonder the "natural man" is an enemy to God and must be overcome if we are ever to merit eternal life! 

In His divine wisdom, God our Father gave men the priesthood which was to be used with love and humility to protect and bless the human family.  From the beginning, men have been taught that the priesthood is a divine commission to lead "in righteousness" and to serve as Christ would if He were here.  No righteous man wields the priesthood as a club or uses it to justify domination or compulsion upon others.  He understands that if the Father ever gives him one of His precious and noble daughters to love and cherish worlds without end, he will have to be worthy of that trust by first proving that he can handle power and authority correctly.

In Christ's original church, men were called to various offices in the priesthood (viz., apostles, seventy, bishops, etc.) for the purpose of protecting, providing for and blessing His children (especially His crowning creation -woman).  This is the same pattern used in His Church today.  Men are called to priesthood offices for these same reasons.  They will not hold the priesthood in eternity if they abuse it here. 

Women are given the blessing of having influence in the Church in many ways; but, primarily are needed to raise the rising generation which will lead off the Church victorious in these last days of "trouble and gloom".  God left this most important responsibility to women as they are so often more spiritually in tune, more compassionate and truly more aware of the needs of those who cannot fend for themselves.  However, in Christ's church they are also given so many other opportunities to grow and serve in the kingdom.  They are called to speak in church, teach classes to children and adults (including other men) as in Sunday School.  They are given authority to lead organizations such as the primary where men and women may serve under their direction.  They are called as ambassadors (missionaries) to teach His truth to the nations.  They are given divine authority to carry out the sacred work performed in temples where they are able to teach and bless.  They are also admitted to the Church's Universities in large numbers so they may become educated in many fields of endeavor. 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks in a recent General Conference address (April 2014) gave an inspired talk in the priesthood session where he clearly explained the role of women as it relates to the priesthood.  In another inspired talk entitled "The Divine Nature and Destiny of Women" Elder Glenn L. Pace said the following:  "Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." 

May we, as men, catch the vision of what God has ordained for His children and treat all others (especially women) as the "elect of God" for surely they are if they live up to their privileges.  May men constantly be found defending the family against the evils of this world (especially pornography) which prophets and apostles have repeatedly condemned especially because it exploits women and distorts the divinely appointed relationship that should exist between His sons and daughters. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Our Eternal Self.

Many of us often heard our parent's say "remember who you are".  But, do we REALLY know or  remember who we are?  Do we care enough to find out?  Of course we will not gain our memory back from the pre-existence until some time after resurrection, but, we can still have the veil become thin at times and gain a greater understanding, even in mortal life, of our eternal identity and purpose.

In this world we are bombarded with voices telling us who we are and what we're worth.  Measures such as money, worldly positions, physical beauty, knowledge, possessions or varying physical abilities are used to define worth.  These telestial measures can distract us from seeing ourselves and others clearly. 

We lived with our Eternal Father in a Celestial realm for eons of time where we grew, developed, gained knowledge and prepared for life on earth.  However, during mortality, our eternal self is obscured by a veil and overlaid with a mortal identity with temporal deficiencies and telestial tendencies. 

In a book entitled Eternal Values & Personal Growth, Allen Bergin (former director of the doctoral program in clinical psychology at BYU), introduces the concept of the "mortal overlay" which obscures our eternal self.  He also mentions an experience he had (page 29) in which he was privileged to glimpse a Celestial view of a woman he knew.  He described her as follows: "She looked regal, but not in an earthly sense.  Her appearance, her stature, her poise and the look on her face had a refinement, dignity, and power I had never before experienced."  ..."She was perfectly serene.  She was utterly radiant.  There was infinite peace in her countenance and manner."  He concludes with this statement "This experience had a tremendous impact on me and on my perception of human beings.  I was especially affected by the incredible inconsistency between the brilliant eternal personality I had perceived and the conflicted, distressed mortal person I had known and counseled with." 

May we ponder regularly and deeply our eternal potential and that of those around us.  May this growing understanding of our worth (and the worth of others) increasingly affect how we treat ourselves and others.  May we, as Bruce R. McConkie said in his final address, "...cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth."  May we remember that we are in the presence of potential Gods and Goddesses as C. S. Lewis once commented.  As we gain a deeper understanding of our divine worth and potential, may we quietly go about helping others come to know and feel the same thing, I pray!