Archive for May, 2010

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the graduation ceremony for the UC Berkeley school of Molecular and Cell Biology. The invited speaker was Dr. Bruce Ames, a noted scientist, who for decades has produced ground breaking work in genetics and how various substances impact our health at the molecular level. Dr. Ames provided a concise review of his most recent research into nutrition. According to his research, there are 40 micro-nutrients that are essential for our health and continued existence. Remove any of these 40 substances from our diet and we will weaken and die. His research points to the damage at the cellular level that occurs when any of these nutrients are missing.

He also noted that the body, when confronted with a deficiency of one of these critical nutrients, would direct its application to areas that benefit short-term performance while other body functions are deprived. This restriction leads to cellular damage that presages diseases like cancer. He cited statistics suggesting that a significant percentage of the population is deficient in some of these necessary nutrients. More information is available on Dr. Ames’ website: www.bruceames.org.

As I pondered the words of this esteemed scientist, I was struck by the thought that this idea could just as easily be applied to our spiritual health. Are there micro-nutrients that are necessary for our spiritual health? Do we, by ignoring the consumption of the proper spiritual foods, weaken our faith and set the stage for damage induced spiritual death?

Dr. Ames assailed the ‘modern’ foods made to look attractive in our day such as carbonated sugar water that contains no meaningful value and represents ‘empty calories.’ Are there activities or rituals in which we engage that represent no meaningful spiritual value yet consume a significant component of our faith diet? What represents the empty calories in our spiritual diet as a ‘soda pop saint?’

As I look around me, I see many members who are busily engaged in various activities such as home teaching, genealogy, and fulfilling their callings. While these activities can be perceived as worthwhile, do they represent the equivalent of ‘empty calories’ in a spiritual sense? Yes, it is important that we strengthen one another and perform activities that support the greater good of the congregation, but what do these activities to do our own spiritual metabolism? Are we feeding our spiritual selves the necessary nutritional elements through these activities? In many cases, I think not.

What are the essential nutrients for a healthy spirit?

First, we must seek to understand what the gospel is and apply it in our lives. I believe these nutrients are found in places like 3 Nephi, chapter 27 and D&C 33:11-12. It is not enough to simply recite that faith, repentance, baptism by water, and the sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is sufficient. One must dig deeply into the meaning and substance of these spiritual concepts. We must ingest these concepts and make them available to every segment of our spirituality.

Second, we must strive to comprehend the mysteries of God. We read the following from Alma, chapter 12:

[9] And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

[10] And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

[11] And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

 What else is spiritual death than the ‘chains of hell?’ One should continually strive for the essential nutrients found in the mysteries of God if they are to avoid the spiritual destruction cited in this scripture.

A great example of a mystery is, in my opinion, found in Alma 40: 3:

Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know — that is concerning the resurrection.

 

The mystery that Alma then began to expound upon, the resurrection, isn’t normally considered a mystery of God. It was to Alma. How many spiritual concepts that we take for granted are truly mysteries inside? The mysteries of God are obtained through the application of diligent study and prayer. This same Alma speaks of his efforts in Alma 5:46:

Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

Our spiritual health depends on our continual acquisition of the essential spiritual nutrients. We must continually strive to feed our spirits, not with the empty calories of the works of man but of the bounty of the wisdom of God bestowed through the Holy Ghost

We ‘modern day Mormons’ seem to be starving our spiritual side by filling them with empty calories. The rich feast of the knowledge and wisdom of God awaits them who diligently seek these principles and strive to ingest the mysteries.

What think ye?

I would like to point you to another blog that I enjoy. Torahbytes is a blog and email produced along the theme of Messianic Judaism. I regularly find an interesting perspective from the author, Alan Gilman.

This week’s post is entitled “Some Things Only You Can Carry” and presents the idea that we should only be responsible for the things that God has placed upon us. In referring to the earlier Jewish nation, he said:

The religious leaders of those days had piled all sorts of extra responsibilities upon the people, far more than they were able to bear. Yeshua had come to restore right relationship with God, which included removing all sorts of unnecessary burdens from our lives.”

I resonate very strongly with that statement and find that it is equally applicable to the Mormon culture. So many items have been added to our ‘to do’ list that we can hardly manage it in our lives. Between callings, home/visiting teaching, carting kids to Mutual, doing genealogy and temple work, etc., our lives represent many burdens placed there by our religious leaders in the name of God. How many of them are really placed there by our Father? I would suggest that the core of what He asks us to do is:

“Repent and come unto Christ…”

Laying on all the busy work only distracts us from the key burden placed upon us – to come to know our Savior.

I encourage you to check out the Torahblogs site. Sign up for his weekly emails and donate if you can.

What think ye?

The scene is the courtroom. A witness takes the stand and, under oath, recites their story. The court process allows the witness to speak specifically to events that they personally viewed or participated in. There is a quick objection launched when the discussion strays into areas that do not represent fact but may represent personal opinion or second hand conversation. The testimony of the person on the stand is constrained only to those aspects of the examination that are personally experienced by the witness. There is no room for supposition or nuance or the words of others. As such, a testimony is considered valid only for those things that were experienced. No extension is to be allowed.

If our personal testimony were to be called upon in a court of law, what would we be able to say? How much of our ‘testimony’ of things spiritual is based on only the facts, not on opinion or the words of others?

As parents, we take pride in our children’s participation in the Sunday testimony meeting ritual. These children and youth line up and speak of knowledge of the truth of the church, or of the knowledge of the prophet, and other socially correct statements. Would these be accepted in a court of law? I think not. Are they potentially damaging when the child is old enough to see through the pageantry of testimony meeting? Does it represent a mockery when one speaks of knowledge of elements of our religion when there is no basis for that so-called knowledge?

I equate this misdirected practice to the somewhat insidious misrepresentation of the social characters touted around Christmas and Easter. How many children log the information regarding the validity of a person called Santa Claus when the truth is known and later, perhaps unconsciously, question the truth of other ‘characters’ spoken of by their parents and others.

Would a testimony of the Book of Mormon automatically define validity of the current church?

It has been preached from the pulpit and used by missionaries for decades – the idea that sets our faith up as a row of dominoes. If we gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, it automatically means the church is true. Since the church is true, then President Monson is a prophet, etc.

I don’t think it is supposed to work that way. We should strive to gain a testimony of every aspect of our religion that is important to us. From my personal experience, a testimony of the Book of Mormon is just that, a testimony that God inspired Joseph Smith to re-introduce the fulness of the gospel in written form. I do not draw any extension from that confirmation to the circumstances we find ourselves in today. In fact, if the Book of Mormon is the inspired word of God, then we should be asking some strong questions about the church. Does ‘all is well’ ring a bell?

Each step we take on our spiritual journey should be done with purpose and commitment. Confirmation of the precepts and practices of the religion the restoration has become should be sought by each of the adherents. As Paul stated in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 6:

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

I do not wish to build my testimony on an ice berg, where I can only see 10% of what is going on. There is much more below the surface that must be discovered. I continue to ‘prove all things.’ I strive to subject each aspect of my spiritual path to analysis and cross-examination. I must build my testimony brick by brick as they have been formed in the furnace of the personal revelation I desire to receive from God. Not all these ‘bricks” make it into the structure of my faith but those that do have withstood the challenge.

What think ye?