Monday, July 30, 2012

Pearls, Spirits and Teaching

Yesterday, Elder Jay Jensen of the Quorum of the Seventy came to our ward and taught during the second and third hour of church. Simply put, it was great. At one point during the meeting, he asked those who had not been born and raised into the church to tell us what some of their responses were to the gospel when they heard the messages taught by the missionaries. One guy said that he nodded his head a lot, another mentioned that he'd wept, they all seemed to agree that there were some things that they heard that they thought, "I have always believed that!" or "That makes so much sense!"

I was born in the church, but during his lesson, I was nodding my head and saying, "Of course! That makes complete sense to me."

Elder Jensen started off the lesson with a parable given by Elder Packer at the dedication of the Conference Center in 2000.
Do you think it possible for those of us who are called upon to speak to draw attention away from this wonderful building [the conference center] long enough to focus on the purpose for which it was built?
Perhaps it can be done with a parable and a poem.
The parable: A merchant man seeking precious jewels found at last the perfect pearl. He had the finest craftsman carve a superb jewel box and line it with blue velvet. He put his pearl of great price on display so others could share his treasure. He watched as people came to see it. Soon he turned away in sorrow. It was the box they admired, not the pearl.
The poem:
We are all blind, until we seeThat in the [universal] planNothing is worth the making ifIt does not make the man.Why build these [buildings] glorious,If man unbuilded goes?In vain we build the [world], unlessThe builder also grows. 1
 I wish I had had this parable in my head a few months ago when I was talking to a friend about temples. He had attended the temple open house in Kansas City, MO. He said:
I found it interesting that the Celestial room was considered the Holy of Holies... a man-made structure; a very ornate, man-made structure that obviously cost a lot of money...instead of like, for me, finding a sanctuary in nature...
I told him that I agreed with the fact that you can feel close to God when you are out in nature. I think that's a given, and he was glad to hear it because he was (jokingly) thinking that all Mormons were materialistic. But if I had had this parable to reference, I could have explained that it isn't the container that matters; though, the containers do serve some importance, it is what goes on inside that is important. We build beautiful temples, and make them ornate and appealing to the landscape because of the precious things that go on inside the temple.

We talked about how there are things in the church that can be the "box", things like: programs, meetings, activities, and I would say, even the people are the box. They aren't the most important thing, but the outside container that holds the precious  truths and doctrines found within the church.

Our body is the container for our spirit. We talked about taking the time and creating a setting where we can receive revelation. And going back to the "that makes sense" feeling, or the, "I've always known that to be true", etc. we read Doctrine & Covenants 55:56

 55 I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.
 56 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.
It was our spirit that was present during those first lessons where we were taught things about agency, obedience, and the Plan of Salvation. So when we hear the truth, and it resonates with us, it is because our spirit is being brought to remembrance of the things we have already known.

The Lord speaks directly to our spirit. The Holy Ghost testifies directly to our spirit.

Satan, on the other hand, speaks directly to our body. Our body, the ornate container that houses our spirit.

Lastly, Elder Jensen drew out a paradigm that I thought was pretty cool. It comes from scriptures in Doctrine & Covenants 50.

 17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to apreach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he bpreach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
 18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
 19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
 20 If it be some other way it is not of God.
 21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the aSpirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
 22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are aedified and brejoice together.

 I don't know if I made this paradigm exactly right (in fact, now that I'm looking at it, it must be wrong...), but the important element that I liked the best is on there, and that is, that when someone is called to preach the gospel, they should set themselves away and only slightly above those they are teaching, and not directly in the way of where the Spirit of Truth can teach and edify. Elder Jensen suggested that parents who stand in the direct line from God are "over-directing". I liked that because it made me think of the many conversations I've had with my mom lately about people we know who at one time were very "staunch" Mormons (or other religions) and they would dictate everything their children did in the most severe way possible. They took principals like modesty, or a commandment like keeping the Sabbath day holy, etc. and really made it impossible for the kids to learn for themselves. In the end, the parents get burned out, or the children turn rebellious.

In the Church, we have to remember that there is a small amount of official doctrine, a few more principles, and countless commandments and applications that fall under the doctrine. I think that there are times when we are struggling with how much we need to do, and we get overwhelmed. But we need to stop and remind ourselves what is doctrine? Or, what is the pearl? vs. What is everything else...what is the box? I'm not saying that commandments aren't important things that we need to be obedient to, but I think that if we have the right perspective, then we can sit back and relax, make quiet time for the Holy Ghost to speak to our spirits, ignore the promptings to our bodies, and finally see the pearl that is sitting right before us.

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