Posts Tagged perception

On dreams and the interpretations thereof

Many years ago, in the time between the end of my first marriage and meeting my second wife, I had a dream. I was feeling particularly down and had asked in my prayers for a dream of the future. I wanted to know there was hope when I’d not been able to see it. The dream I had I have rarely shared, but what bothered me most is in being unable to interpret what the dream might mean.

You see, in the LDS Church, we believe in many “gifts of the Spirit”. These are mentioned in the New Testament(1 Corinthians 12) and Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:8-18), and are more specifically listed in the Doctrine and Covenants (Section 46). They include many different types of miracles, including healing, the gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues, wisdom, discerning of spirits, knowledge, and prophecy. These had been much more evident in the early Church than appear now, likely because we tend not to talk about such sacred things. How does one gain such things? The scriptures say it is by the Spirit of God. We’re also told in scripture that we should seek after these good gifts and to use them for the benefit of the children of God in the name of Christ.

We don’t seem to pursue them much anymore, perhaps from unbelief. We have a hard time believing that such miracles could be for us, even when we see or hear of them in the lives of others. But still, we are told to pursue them to help build the kingdom of God. I’ve always wanted “interpretation of tongues” myself, though I have a hard time learning languages. Others would be amazing to have, but how do you prepare or practice such things?

In any case, back to my dream. In my dream, I was returning home after attempting to catch someone at the bus station who was returning to us. I opened the door and to my left were my parents, easily recognizable but obviously much older. On a couch to the left was a young looking woman (perhaps a teen) excitedly jumping and two young boys. The excitement of everyone was electric. Then the woman who I’d gone to pick up entered.

At the time, I’d believed this would take place in the millennial era, when Christ would reign and the dead would be resurrected. The people there could be fit to those I knew of at the time; my parents, my younger sister and her then two sons, my older sister who had died before I was even born. As time has gone on (being 16 years ago now), I realized the roles could be different; my parents, my younger daughter and two sons, my wife.

It could also be that it was all “just a dream”, and I’ve been projecting my hopes on it. My father, who is in his mid eighties and has now been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, may soon die. I know of no one who has the gift of interpreting dreams like those of the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel. If it was the future, could I not even know the people in the dream in present time?

Prophecy is a tricky thing. We could be shown things we have no words adequate to describe, like John in the book of Revelations, we can have no idea of the time frames involved, yet still for some reason they are given. There must be something about them that is needed at the time they are given, possibly even for times afterward. For me, my dream has given me hope, even when I’ve not been able to see a way for it to happen. It confirms my knowledge that our family will be together forever someday, no matter what separates us.

And that day will be gloriously happy for us all.

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Temple Casting part 2 – what I should not have missed

Today I went to the temple to do some of the work for my grandfather who passed away last year. And, during the presentation of the Endowment, it came to me that I missed some things I really should have put into that last post. So here they are, in no order of importance.

Lucifer: France.

It could be from my belief that he is completely unnecessary in the beginnings of a world, but I managed to all together forget this character existed in the presentation when I wrote the last post. We’ve had all kinds, from almost operatic to smarmy to truly icky. The method of acting doesn’t bother me too much (though the icky one just seems wrong), but this was a really difficult decision on how to cast from a nationality. How to you pick one without feeding into stereotypical views on how “evil” a particular nationality can be? This would matter less as more versions are made, but for the first, this is my choice.

Heavenly Mother: Ukraine

Yes, I know this is not a part in the current endowment presentation. The Church has recently affirmed Her as part of our doctrine, and in making use of the word Elohim (meaning Gods, not necessarily a single person) I think we should add this role, giving her half of the lines given for Heavenly Father. Which lines would not matter as they would all be coming from God. There could even be given different lines from presentation to presentation. It would be important in teaching that the Two are truly One, as we believe out Heavenly Parents to be.

Music: China, Kenya, and Ireland

People rarely think of the music used as background in these films. Part of it I think has to do with the rut we’ve gotten ourselves into with regards to music that conveys “spirituality”. It really hasn’t changed much since the media used in the 1980’s. A lot of chords in high strings with some keening solo by an oboe or french horn. A lot of suspensions resolving into major chords. It’s become practically Pavlovian, giving the signal that what is being shown is something spiritual. Surely we can add to the presentation without overwhelming it using music from other traditions.

The Temple is such an important part of our religion. We have heard many time about how we should learn something every time we go. I think one of the best ways to do this is to increase the diversity in the presentation made. Let’s wake up those who can go through it just marking time and give better opportunities for the Spirit to teach what they need to know.

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Trust, God, and following the Prophets

From time to time there arise some issue or another where some people dislike or disapprove of something said by someone in Church leadership. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is, who said it, or what side they are arguing, the arguments tend to be the same:

– Bringing out scripture and/or previous statements
– Declaring the other side as apostate/not Christlike/tares
– Bringing out personal (or worse, someone else’s) anecdotes
– Declaring the other side is “trusting in man, not God”
– Declaring your “personal revelation” concerning the matter
– Being incredulous at what the other side “really means”
– Scoffing at how anyone could believe such a thing in the first place

platitudeThere are many, many variations, and I’m sure I’ve missed some. They get very tiring, very quickly, but are easy enough to throw out when you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to have an actual discussion about something. It’s much like the use of platitudes; you use them and show how wise you are, dismissing or affirming something with just a few words.

Now I have to seriously caveat this. I am not saying that a couple of the above items should never be done, just that they should not be used as arguments. For example, sharing scriptures, personal revelation or anecdotes that have helped form what you believe can be done, just not in the manner of “this is why you’re wrong”.

The best any of us can do is “this is why I believe what I believe”. This can be used to help convince someone to think about something differently, to reexamine or adjust what they believe, but ultimately what we believe is only as strong as the foundation we build it on. The only absolutely sure foundation is God. Anything else, anyone else you build upon has the potential to fail, even people, scriptures, or prophets. But what sort of building can you have if you wait to use only perfect materials? This is where trust comes in.

In Primary (the Church instruction for children under 12), we sing a Folk song from the South-Eastern US that gives a simplistic understanding of this (skipping repeated lines):

The wise man built his house upon the rock,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down, and the floods came up,
And the house on the rock stood still.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down, and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand washed away.

The “rock”, put simply, is God, our only sure foundation. Anything else is “sand” that will wash away when disaster comes. This beautiful, simplistic teaching can prompt us to deeper examination. While the wise man survived the floods with his house still solidly on the rock, no mention is made of the condition of the house. We’d hope that the house, with all the materials that were put into it, emerged completely unscathed, but it is very plausible that there is at least some damage. Some part of the house failed. Will it be replaced with something similar? Will it be remade into something completely different? What if that fails too? What if something bigger, that effects larger portions of the building, fails?

This is where we can have trust. This is where we have faith, knowing that our Rock, God, will not fail, even if every other part of our building falls. From here, we decide what we can build with, where we will place our trust. This is why Christ is also called the “Chief Cornerstone”. He is the first, most important, most solid stone which is firmly upon the foundation of God. We may choose other cornerstones, scriptures, prophets, our own revelations, the words of others, in building. None of these things are perfect, any more than every brick in a wall is perfect. Some flaws may be unseen. Some flaws will make no difference to your use of them. Will those flaws come to cause the whole building to collapse? Though not impossible, it may be very improbable. That determination is yours to make. God will help you find and use what materials you need.

For others you may recommend or warn in their building, but you cannot assume, get angry, or gloat if you are not heeded. You are not the architect and may have little idea what successes or failures they have had in the past. The best option is to show how you have developed your own structure, how you have repaired damage, how you have demolished some parts and replaced them with others. Help others recover when the rains and floods have caused more damage to them than to you. Encourage their honest efforts.

For me, I know where I have placed my trust. I have faith in the Scriptures and in Prophets, fully knowing that they are flawed and can be used in damaging ways. Ultimately, I am firmly anchored to the Rock. I know Jesus is a solid corner stone I can build on. I believe the Church is true. I know it has the Authority given from God. It has been a dependable material for me in the past (even when I have neglected using it), through many storms that continue to shape, mold, and grow it toward whatever end God has for it. I have faith in it being an imperfect but solid and dependable material for me to work with. I have had many of my own experiences and personal revelations that I use to continue building, as well as supports and materials given by others. Could it all be washed away with the next storm? Possible, but not likely. Even if it does, I know I can stay anchored to the Rock and build again.

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Trying to find the right cause through a haze of chronic pain

This morning I had (and am having) one of those thankfully rare days where pretty much existing hurts. On the 1-10 scale used by medical professionals right now, life tends to hang around a 3-4. This morning I was stuck pretty firmly in 9. I hesitate to ever put it at a 10, cause some part of me is pessimistically sure it could always be worse. 9 is bad enough. You don’t want to move. You’ve thoughts of curling in a ball, but adding pain by moving throws that idea out. Dying would probably be preferable, but only if you didn’t have to move to do it.

So through this, when the pain barely leaves you the ability to think, I spent my time trying to work out what influences combined to get me this way. Not that it helped deal with the pain, but was more something to be able to say, “Aha! So that’s what did it.” With the anxiety I was feeling as part of the package of swimming in so much pain, I settled on a very bad decision I’d made in my band concert last night and our continuing budgeting issues at home.

As pain meds have started their work, I’m down to about a 7, but still not back to fully functioning yet. As such, my perspectives have changed. I’d been able to recall the bowel problems I’d been ignoring the last few days and my being able to drink a quart of water before bed that didn’t cause me to need to get up in the middle of the night to let it continue it’s way through. I’d been dehydrated. Being dehydrated is a sure way to increase pain levels. Drinking more this morning has also helped get the pain levels settled down.

Sometimes when we’re mired deep in stress (of whatever kind, physical, mental, or spiritual), it can be easy to pick out things that may just be tiny compared to the less obvious and more likely thing that is causing this stress. The only way we’re going to be able to make better inferences on what is causing our stress is to work on treating it. Then, with additional clarity, we can try and get ourselves to the root cause of the problem.

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My beliefs on marriage and gender essentialism

This has got to be one of the most difficult topics to talk about, as I have a number of people I know and love who would not only disagree with me but see it as an attack on the fundamental beliefs they have on who they are. I’ve skirted around it in the past (“Who will we be when we wake?“,”Feminism and Same Sex Marriage are not compatible“,”Defining the uniqueness of men and women“), but I’ve thus far avoided trying to put down my rationales in full.

One of the poorest arguments I’ve seen against same sex marriage (SSM) is that SSM could not be legitimate because it does not have the possibility of producing children. This makes procreation the measure for legitimacy, leaving out many instances where procreation doesn’t happen or is impossible.

The better course of argument for two-gender marriage, even when no progeny is produced, is in that it provides an example of the advantages of joining together two disparate genders, male and female. Marriage is the bringing together of the greatest difference one person can have with another, creating something more than the sum of its parts. That this doesn’t always happen is immaterial. The intent in marriage is always to be a part of something greater than you can be with your own view of the world limited as it is by your gender.

Two gender marriage is better for children to grow up in as it affords them the opportunity to learn how to interact with those of each gender. Are there many ways this can be messed up, even by well meaning people? Absolutely! There are abusive marriages, families without an adult of one gender or the other, families where one or the other parent is gone for long periods of time, etc., etc., etc.. All of these, however, would be better off in a -good- marriage than in the state they are currently in. There are many kinds of families, from families of one person to families of many. All of these families, whatever their experiences and circumstances, should be celebrated and aided the best we can, even (and especially) our own family. All of these families are on a path of improvement, even those who seem to “have it all” and be perfectly happy.

Some would argue that gender should be immaterial. The problem is that there is something inherent in our gender, something nearly impossible to quantify. Our gender is the second strongest marker of our identity, the first being humanity. So much of our life is of experiences that only happen and relate to the gender we are. Changing completely from one to the other is simply not possible, as we cannot create the cache of gender based experiences we’ve not been part of, no matter how much we desire them. Those who are forced to or themselves attempt to become the other are at an extreme disadvantage, as their lived experiences will not be enough to know what it means to be that gender.

I’ll close this with a simple request. Respect the beliefs and decisions of others. You do not have to agree with their decisions, but you should respect the work, tears, prayers, and pains that they went through to arrive at their current situation. Your own experiences, progression, and faults can not make you better than them, only different in your journey.

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Self selection in Church attendance and membership

Spend any amount of time reading the various Mormon themed blogs and you will see any number of reasons people are dissatisfied with and/or have been hurt by the Church and its members. There have been a few attempts to understand the reasons for these things, but mostly there have been unfeeling lists of simple points, trying to codify “why people leave”. To me, aside from the excommunication or removal of those who have shown themselves to be physically or spiritually dangerous to others in the community, coming to Church and being part of the community are mostly a matter of self selection.

People join the Church and attend their meetings because they feel that they have learned the truth of how this life, the next life, and the previous life fit together, want to learn more on how to progress, and want to join with others who have the same goal. There is both power and safety in numbers, and it helps our own growth to work with others with the same goals. Those who fall away do so because the community is no longer a place of peace, but has become, for one reason or another, a place of pain, confusion, or distaste.

This is where self selection comes in. Ultimately, it is that persons choice to stay or go, no matter how deep the dissatisfaction or pain. The question then becomes, what can we do to help them stay, heal, and grow together with us?

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Bringing our best to the Temple

There have been two new versions of the presentation they show in the temple recently, taking advantage of new technologies. When I saw the first one, I had a real hard time. I’d been feeling especially resentful of the inequality of some parts of the ceremony (which I’d blogged about before), and felt that some of the interpretations just made things worse. Afterward, I was just in bad spirits, nearly getting into a heated argument with my wife over the interpretation.

The next time I went, I decided to go in with a different spirit, trying to concentrate on the good things I saw in the presentation and the experience of doing work for one of my kin. I went with specific questions of my own in mind, and actively worked to leave behind feelings of resentment of how things weren’t how I would have done it. At some point during the presentation, it hit me.

The people who had created these presentations, all of them, actors, directors, visual effects people, musicians, were simply bringing their best to the Temple.

It’s not how I would have done it, but I wasn’t asked and that’s okay.

Some people complain about the costs and work that goes into building and maintaining a Temple. I’ve talked to people who have worked building Temples and some who help provide materials (like stone), and I’ve come to one solid conclusion. It’s not about the cost, which can be expensive. Providing the best is going to be expensive, but the best is also not the most expensive. It’s about bringing the best to the Temple. From the time we have recorded of the first Temple, the Temple of Solomon, we have been asked to build the Temple with only the finest materials. Could the money to do this be put to a better use? I don’t think it can, actually. Yes, we should be working hard to help those in need, but it’s also important that we both honor God (as He has commanded) and honor our ancestors by helping them share the joy we’ve found in being connected eternally.

So, since I’m not likely to be asked to do construction work or help create a new presentation for the Temple, what can I do to bring my own best to the Temple? This is what I’ve come up with, some obvious and some not:

– Do my best to be spiritually clean. No one is required to be perfect to go into the Temple, but we do need to be trying. We all go before God as imperfect children, but we can go knowing that we are covered by the Atonement, and are still His daughters and sons, who will be welcomed in no matter how meager our best may seem.
– Find work for someone that needs to be done. This does not mean you need to have something of your own, as you may not have the resources, time, or inspiration to do so, but I can assure you that there are hundreds of names being held by the members of your Ward that need work done. Find your Ward Family History Consultants and use this as another way to serve not only someone’s ancestors, but someone in your own Ward as well.
– Bring the best in our own Temples, our physical bodies. This is not only being washed and clean, it is adorning yourself with clothing that is simple, clean, and well cared for. This especially includes the robes that are used in the Endowment and Sealing ceremonies. Learn how to wear them properly with the help of someone who can see how it looks and provide suggestions and adjustments that need to be made. I’ve seen too many men with the robe barely hanging on them, askew and in constant need of shifting to remain on. You are not restricted to wearing your robe only in the ceremonies that use them. You should try it in the privacy of your own bedroom, keeping in mind the sacred things they represent.

For men especially (since I’ve only experience with the men’s clothing), two things. First, it’s a sash, not a belt. It’s not supposed to bunch up around your waist like a piece of rope. Second, learn how to sit, stand, move, and kneel in a robe. You likely don’t have experience wearing a dress, but the mechanics are much the same. If you can, get tips from someone who has worn skirts on how to sit properly, so you don’t end up with a wrinkled mess every time you sit down.

I look forward to when I can go to the Temple again, to do work for and honor the dead as well as my God. I will do my best to not only bring my best to the Temple, but to better appreciate the best that others have brought. Are there still issues? Sure, but I can take heart in knowing that God will compensate for and heal all hurts, will make us and our offerings perfect, and will be waiting with open arms for when we return to His physical presence.

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