Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nephi and Prop 8.

I'm sure your mind has been as occupied as mine lately, what with every corner we turn having a request to become more informed, more active, more supportive of the passing of Proposition 8. Many of us feel conflicted and even measures of guilt if we don't whole-heartedly and enthusiastically support the passing of Proposition 8. I hope to ease any feelings of undesired dissent. Even though this topic has been weighing so heavily on your mind, ultimately it shows how seriously you are taking the Lord's counsel and how deeply you are considering the words of our prophet and what they mean to you and how that those words DO affect your life. If we were not meant to falter and if we were not meant to struggle, we would never have the opportunity to understand the Atonement or allow Christ to have any true significance in our life.

For those who like to say they have experienced these personal schisms before and have concluded they are beyond hope of harmony between their personal life and spirituality, let's be realistic here; to suppose you have already received every witness of your faith and every answer the Spirit offers would be to suppose your ability for spiritual growth stops before we even graduated college. Doubtful. Without trials and without this inner conflict, we would have no idea how strong we truly are because we would not have the opportunity to be tested to our limits, and without that test, there is no way of defeating evil or coming out winning on the other side. There really would be no goal and no point to anything. Ever. Furthermore, it is the extent of that test and struggle through conflict that we are shown our strengths; more than that (if we truly believe that we will not be tested beyond our abilities to overcome that test) it proves not just our faith in God, but the amount of faith that God has in US. If it is true that we are never given a burden greater than what we can bear, that means the Lord only allows us to struggle with issues that ultimately are meant to be our strength. When we are given a trial, it is only because we have become strong enough to succeed against it, which proves the amount of faith God has in our ability for success. And somehow, knowing that and having that perspective, can change the way we approach conflict.

Many of us may have close friends whom we fear may be offended or may not understand the position our church leaders have asked us to take. What I've come to accept about my friendships with people who don't share my faith or my belief system is that they respect me because they care about me, regardless of what they may understand of my faith. I imagine that is because they know how much I love and respect and care for them and their well-being and happiness. While we may not agree on most things, we remain friends (and share an even deeper and closer a bond) because of those times where, despite our differences, we choose to continue loving and respecting one another- regardless of our personal feelings or actions. We recognize that we don't have to be the same in order to love and appreciate each other. It's that level of acceptance- mutual tolerance and acceptance- that proves our friendship is valuable and real.

You know how they say you're supposed to pray for answers and THEN read? Tonight I read 1st Nephi. And it blew. My. Mind. Nephi is commanded to do something that he feels is immoral, that makes no sense, and is completely contrary to what he believes or even wants to do. The struggle he has- the way it's written- it is totally fascinating (1 Nephi 4:1-3). As for dealing with the potential conflicts of today and any other day, Nephi admits, "I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." (1 Nephi 4:6) Which really is the only way we can succeed- if we can manage to keep the Spirit with us at all times, we will have the power to call upon it to know what to do at the time when we need to do it (or say whatever it is the Lord needs us to say and that our friends need to hear). The Spirit is what ensures that our message will be understood, even if our words might be weak. And let's face it- some of us have more of a difficult time with words than others. Thankfully, it is the Spirit that can speak directly to all souls, that the intention of our message will be understood and accepted.

Verses 10-15 display the true struggle and inner conflict Nephi has, admitting that- in response to the command to kill Laban- "I said in my heart; Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him." And I SHRUNK. Nephi himself, a faithful and obedient, visionary man "SHRUNK" at the idea of doing something the Lord commanded in a situation he did not fully understand, one which he knew directly countered one of the Ten Commandments. And the verses continue to determine that, not only is this something commanded of the Lord, but that he prepared the situation and chose someone who lived by the Spirit to do it- I imagine because only someone truly living by the Spirit would really receive such a command. Later, we even see how fickle his own brothers are (1 Nephi 7:9-12), and the reason WHY the Spirit "ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets" and by actively choosing to reject the words of the prophets (for what I thought were rather understandable reasons- minus seeing angels and having experiences where the prophet has proven to be right), Laman and Lemuel weren't even able to receive understanding of these commandments because they chose not to live in a way that would allow the Spirit to be in their lives.

And it is not simply something encountered among the young. I love Sariah's experience from her perspective; here she is in the desert, having abandoned her home and beautiful, prospering city of Jerusalem, to wander based on faith in her husband, the prophet, and now her husband has endangered her children in a reckless and deathly mission- and for what? Simply because they were commanded? She doesn't even see the purpose or importance of the task, so why should she be expected to be supportive of the mission to retrieve plates, of all things? She's abandoned EVERYTHING, is sent to wander the wilderness in her age and now THIS?!?! Geez! But when they return, she comes full circle and understands- a confirmation of her husband and son's faith AFTER the task is complete and AFTER they're home safely and then she rejoices and understands the purpose of the mission (1 Nephi 5:8). I don't think this moment should be trivialized. Her reaction is totally understandable. There are times where we won't be happy or understand the purpose or point of an act of faith until AFTER the fact. That doesn't make the rejoicing any less, but it does make enduring the task significantly more painful.

Now for the modern day application of these verses. Over the years my experiences have eventually proven to me that I do have a testimony of God's prophets. My faith has shown that I do honestly and truly trust in their words, knowing their counsel is given in love, kindness, acceptance and wisdom. Why would I allow one thing to suddenly cause me doubt, when already I know where I stand on my faith in the prophet? I truly feel that this is my opportunity to make a choice that is not based on my own understanding or will, but that is God's, and the idea of being able to do that- knowing it has nothing to do with myself or my own personal, political beliefs- makes me very, very eager to find the big payoff that will be in the growth of my testimony and in proving that I really can be faithful in a way I never trusted myself to be. How many times do we have the opportunity to exercise true faith? A faith that is based off of what we know already to be true. No predetermined result or foreseeable reason of our own, but an act of faith based purely in what we know of God and His called prophets. A faith that has been proven in the past to be true, with an opportunity to act on our own accord based off of prior knowledge and understanding of sacred testimony; not with a man-made based political outcome. We do not need to justify our apologize for our actions when they are based in honesty, integrity and faith. It is faith that we have in the Lord that He will direct our paths to do the right thing. Regardless of our own lack of vision.

This was originally written in August. Now, in retrospect, I am grateful to have continued striving to move forward to understand BOTH sides of Prop 8. Two months later, I find myself feeling strongly about this issue for reasons I would have not fortold then. Just a reminder; line upon line, precept upon precept- when we excercise a mustard seed of faith in moving forward and ask for the Spirit to keep our hearts and minds clear and prepared for further revelation. Live worthily and prepare that you might receive it.


Amy said...

Brilliant! What a great scriptural connection. It's amazing what that whole prayer before study thing can do. I really love the application you extrapolated from those verses; it hits home for me too.

The Meesh said...

I gotta say, all the work you guys are doing out in California is inspiring. We don't hear a lot about what's going on in the church outside of Utah, surprise surprise. The complexity of emotions that can be felt over this issue can lead to complete paralysis until you get to the core issue: The Prophet asked you to stand up and be counted. Now will you or won't you. Will you exercise that faith or won't you? I hope if/when I'm called to such a task that I will have the strength AND the faith to stand with you all.

Unstoppable Lindsey said...

Farrah, well said...well said. I think you hit it right on the nose. How often do we cower in fear that we may lose something? A loved-one, personal relationships, a home...whatever. I think the main thing keeping others back is fear of some kind. Thank you for your full-hearted commitment to this proposition. I was able to stuff envelopes when I visited San Diego...just so you know, this is a message that needs to go out to more than just California. We all support you in this effort. I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father who sees the whole picture. Thanks for the reminder!

f*bomb. said...

That's the thing that' so hard...
Putting aside my own personal feelings or beliefs for practicing obedience to the Lord.
Were it not for the multitude of experiences and testimonal moments of my life proving God's prophets and His guidence and love for His children- ALL His children- I would not be able to stand and be counted.
So it's not so much me, as it is the Lord's wisdom for providing me with so many opportunities to have my faith proven in the past to prepare me for this.

liz said...

Very insightful. Thank you for writing this! I've been relating the very tiniest bit to the Abinadi history. In short: sort of a feeling of standing up against an inevitably rising tide. Perhaps the reason we sometimes are called to stand up is because there is an Alma in the crowd who needs to see you do it, needs to hear your voice.

Your application of Nephi 1 really hits home too. Thank you again!

Love you madly.

Frozen Okie said...

Farrah, you have more faith than I.

I'm just glad I don't live in California and haven't been asked to do this specific thing.

Years ago I voted for an amendment to my (at the time) state's constitution which would ban gay marriage because of the First Presidency's admonition to do so, and seemed ok with doing so- but afterward just felt absolutely sick about it. I still struggle with reconciling my internal feelings. It's my feelings that let me know I felt the spirit in the first place- but similar feelings tell me voting that way or denying those rights is wrong. I'm still not entirely sure how to resolve it, but your comparison to Nephi really is helpful. Thank you for the wonderful post.

LisAway said...

This is really great. I've read a lot about this, as my family comes from California and many of my blogging friends live there.

I just love your concept of proving yourself in this situation. That is so wonderful. You're doing it because of your faith. Not blind faith (because you don't necessarily agree with the councel) but faith based on what you already know. That's wonderful!

(I followed you over hear from Jenn Kilstrom's blog, FYI)

Sheri said...

This is an excerpt from and email I recently received from our relief society president:

A host of disturbing problems will certainly arise if we fail to protect traditional marriage. Recently the first marriage of 3 people was performed in the Netherlands. We can expect that a man could marry his sister or even his daughter. Why not? They would have the same rights as anyone else claiming to be "in love." The opponents of Proposition 8, wittingly or unwittingly, are promoting a social engineering that will change our culture and negatively impact generations to come. If this proposition fails, over 6 thousand years of traditional marriage, which should be valued, respected and preserved, will be discarded.
-Mary Statham

I thought it was very insightful, and wanted to share.

Also, here are a couple of video's I really liked on the subject:
Some video's that I watched recently:


Great interview on Prop 8 with Elder Bednar!