Thinking

Thoughts on Blurred Vision and First Vision

The First Vision
What Causes Blurred Vision | iCare Vision Center

Yesterday I felt an anxious load, so Matt drove me up the canyon and we went on a walk. I tried to talk it out so I could identify what was making me feel overwhelmed. My kids’ schools are in flux because of varying levels of COVID status. I had just dropped one off at an activity that had felt safe when I signed him up, but now I felt less sure. I read a Facebook post by the school district and started feeling sick when I saw all the angry fighting in the comments. My fears turned to our collective ability to get along and support one another rather than cling to ideologies at the cost of relationships and civility and a little bit of humility.

We walked in the mountains and tried to make sense of it. I told Matt that I rewatched a news clip recently where Elder Christofferson participated in a discussion about ethics in the media, and a moderator pointed out that 78% of Americans, when they disagree on issues, don’t just disagree on the policies, they disagree on the very facts. I mentioned how that makes it feel impossible to come to an understanding of the truth. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this to anyone reading; we’ve all been dumbfounded by people sharing and embracing contrary “facts.” I feel this pressing responsibility to protect my family and make wise choices, and President Nelson once said that “Good information leads to good inspiration,” so I know I need to be informed, but when the information is so overwhelming and changing and confusing . . . ? Anyway, we had a good conversation about remembering what I can and cannot control, focusing on what I can reasonably do, and trying to move forward in faith. The exercise, the air, the talking all helped me to feel a little better, and back down the mountain we went to reenter real life.

Then this morning I read the talk “Shall We Not Go On in So Great a Cause” by Elder M. Russell Ballard. I was just trying to do my goal of reviewing all the talks before October conference and didn’t expect to get a lot of insight from a message about the Restoration, but something jumped out at me. It’s an obvious message that comes from the Joseph Smith story, one that I’ve taught myself many times, but today I saw it in a new light because of current events.

Joseph recorded: “During this time of great [religious] excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit.

So here’s me thinking through this: great excitement, yes–not about religion, but masks, race, riots, politics, elections, social distancing, etc… Serious reflection and great uneasiness? Check. I feel the pull to be aloof too. I don’t want to be caught up in all the fervor, but I am trying to read and study and understand different points of view…

… [Yet] so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.”3

It is impossible to know what information is totally accurate; I have sources I trust, but I still don’t know what information is missing, not being considered, etc …

Joseph turned to the Bible to find answers to his questions and read James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”4

And it struck me that I need to trust God more. Those familiar with Joseph’s story know that his prayer led to a revelatory experience with God and His Son and opened up a new era of restoration of His gospel. I don’t think God needs me to open up any new eras of anything, but he can help me filter mass confusion into some peace and certainty… even if it’s just for me and my family. (It’s ok that different people feel and act differently. So frustrating, but ok.) I don’t think I have enough information to get complete inspiration (It’s likely I won’t be blessed with a corona-cure or the secret to unlocking the social injustice for all mankind), but I can get the information I need to take next steps. Elder Ballard pointed out that this did not make everything easy for Joseph and his family (Spoiler alert: he was killed.), but I crave the peace of knowing I’m doing the right thing despite the noise around me, and Joseph stated that when he had his answers, he was “filled with love, and … could rejoice with great joy.” Plus I loved Elder Ballard’s reminder that “Because the family was united, they survived these challenges,” and that “it may be that they came to know God through their suffering in ways that could not have happened without it.”

So that’s my wish right now. To get to know God better (without wishing suffering on myself or anyone else) and let Him walk me through this, to stay a little more aloof of all the fervor and a little more plugged in to what He wants me to do. Maybe you find fault with this strategy; heaven knows we’re all coping the best way we know how, but today, this was a message that gave me some personal hope.

Agency and other things that make me angry

Today I walked past my living room and saw this scene.

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I feel like it is a metaphor for parenting. See that orange towel on the left? I found an old towel, cut it in half, and sewed it together to create a mat where the cat can rest and not shed on the furniture. I laid it out on the chair where she usually sleeps. So what happens? She chooses the other chair, and it makes me crazy. I can pick her up and put her on the towel, but when I walk away she’ll move back.

This whole quarantine, I have tried to do the work to create some productive and meaningful options for my kids. I made charts and lists of ideas. I’ve tried to build in purposeful pursuits and avoid mindless activities that just waste time. I’ve invited and adjusted and renegotiated and tried again. But I have three teenagers, and my kids are like my cat: No thanks, I’ll just do what I want instead. Even though it is dumb. Even though there’s a perfectly good option sitting right there on the chair. It is maddening, not only because it feels like constant rejection and disappointment, but because it happens to be pretty much the only kind of human interaction I’ve experienced for almost 70 days. Add on top of that the energy it takes to just stay safe and healthy and navigate all the varying opinions and politics and ambiguous information, and it has felt a little bit relentless.

I don’t have a cute lesson to tie this up with a bow. I’m just saying that for me, parenting in lockdown is hard and frustrating. I feel powerless to bring about the kinds of results that are in line with my own priorities and values. Maybe it’s only me. I’ve seen a lot of posts about people and families doing amazing things while they’re in lockdown–being resourceful and united and determined. It’s the first time I’ve experienced the feeling less that is supposedly one of the big dangers of social media. Because, metaphorically, I can’t get the stupid cat to sleep on the orange towel I made. It makes me wonder how frustrating it is for Heavenly Father when He presents us with so many opportunities for growth and service and learning, and we say, “No thanks, I’m good,” and we choose stuff that really is not as good for us. And yet, He is patient. He keeps extending invitations and forgives us our mistakes. I’m not there yet. Not even close. I imagine He’s more worried about my anger than He is about how much time my kids are on Playstation. So I’m working on it, but it’s a struggle. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. #leastinspirationalpostever

Thoughts on the election

20anxiety-jumbo[Image credit: New York Times]

I think part of the reason we all feel so weary at election season is because our eyes are opened to the vast landscape of human frailty– we see people lie, cheat, hate, belittle, seek self over others, and refuse to listen or apologize or change when they might be wrong. It’s safe to say we see these behaviors in candidates and in friends and strangers who uphold their candidate of choice. It’s discouraging and leaves us all shaking our heads about what the world is coming to. Other than prayer that everything turns out OK, here are 3 quotes that have helped me find some peace and clarity through this whole process:

1) Jeffrey R. Holland, on why we can’t let anger about other jerks turn us into jerks too: “In my righteous indignation (at least we always say it is righteous) I have to make sure that I don’t end up doing exactly what I was accusing [others] of doing—getting mad, acting stupid, losing my cool, ranting about it, wanting to get my hands on him—preferably around his throat—until, before I know it, I have checked my religion at the door! No, someone in life, someone in the 21st century, someone in all of these situations has to live his or her religion because otherwise all we get is a whole bunch of idiots acting like moral pygmies.”

2) Neal A Maxwell, all the way back in 1978, warning about a society that lets itself dictate morality instead of accepting God’s standards: “We may, by legislation and regulation, vainly try to create a zone of private morality. But there is, ultimately, no such thing as private morality; there is not an indoor and an outdoor set of Ten Commandments. Neither is it useful to cite human shortfalls as an excuse to abandon all absolutes, because striving and falling short of accepted standards is very different from having no standards at all.
“There is an ecology that pertains to human nature just as there is an interrelatedness pertaining to nature. This spiritual ecology embodies certain laws which, if violated, will produce certain consequences. These laws, though less acknowledged, are as irrevocable and active as the laws of nature. They do not cease to operate simply because we do not recognize them, any more than one is protected from the consequences of eating a poisonous toadstool just because he believes it to be a mushroom.
“We had better want the consequences of what we believe or disbelieve, because the consequences will come!”

I just hope that as a society, we can be careful enough to not pick and eat poisonous mushrooms.

3) Finally, this quote from Barbara Bush reminds me that politics are not everything, and I still have some power to create the kind of world I hope for: “Your success as a family, our success as a society depends not what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.”

So let’s be wise this week– in the way we vote, in the way we react to outcomes, no matter how unpleasant, and in the way we conduct ourselves with others who agree or disagree. And speaking for myself, I’m glad that God is still in charge, whether people choose Him or not. May “God speed the right.”

[I stay out of the political fray for the most part because I really don’t like fighting. Please note that this post is not an invitation to defend or attack any candidate; it’s just a reminder of our responsibility to be civil, to be mindful of the consequences of our choices, and to be the best people we can be in our sphere of influence.]

“When saw we thee a stranger?”

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If you browse through the archives of my blog, including the past seven years on my older blog, you will not find any political posts. Not one. You would, however, find a bucket-load of posts about my testimony of following the counsel of living prophets. So with that in mind, I’d like to attempt a commentary upon recent prophetic direction, with the cautious understanding that the issue at hand is very political to some.

Since the scriptures lay out very clear, dismal prophecies about the state of our world in the years leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the current events involving war and terror and the failing hearts of men should not be a great surprise to us. The news is sad and shocking, to be sure, but not unexpected. One of the somber results of these events is the ongoing crisis of refugees–individuals who are fleeing war-ravaged and dangerous homelands in search of safety and some measure of peace. Their stories and suffering are heartbreaking.

In fact, a recent letter from the First Presidency states,

“It is with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of the millions of people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from civil conflict and other hardships.”

That same letter encourages members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make donations to the Church Humanitarian Fund, which will be used to aid refugees throughout the world, and also asks members to “participate in local relief projects, where practical”(emphasis added). I cannot find anything in their statement that makes any distinction about the religion of said refugees. Continue reading