Don’t Take My Word For It …

learned for myself

So, my last two posts have been very intense. It is the side of me that is reserved for the disciplinarian at home, the professor that has to give grades to students who haven’t been working, and the teacher that has to establish rules and protocols to have an orderly and just classroom. Though it is a side that is intense, the truth of the matter is that I’d do almost anything to help my students succeed and that goes a million times more for my own children!

The most wonderful thing about the gospel is that, though there are rules and standards, a loving Father in Heaven and his equally loving Son want to help us succeed as well. Take a look:

For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. (Doctrine and Covenants 78: 7, 17-18)

A while ago, I watched a video about a group of young women leaders who were trying to teach their youth why they should be modest. (I wish I could find the video, but after searching for half a day and coming up unsuccessfully, I couldn’t find it, so I will sum up.) Instead of doing a lecture, they sent the girls to the scriptures. Instead of spending an hour on it,  they spent several weeks allowing the girls plenty of time for thinking, searching, pondering, and praying. At the end of the time, each girl who had participated received direct revelation from Father in Heaven about the reasons that He wanted her (his own precious daughter) to be modest. I can’t think of anything better!

So, though I will teach revealed doctrine on this blog, the best thing that each of us can do is spend some real time asking Father directly about His teachings. The Savior himself said that the doctrine that He preached was not His own and then gave a special promise -

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17). 

I would highly recommend that anyone who is facing difficult doctrinal issues (or as I like to call them, Doctrinal Abrahamic Trails) should spend some time with the Lord, taking His word at face value. Trying out His doctrine in all possible ways, or if we are not able to try it (let’s say the doctrine is about children and we don’t have any) we should carefully ponder with an eye on the eternities why the Lord would command that doctrine. I read in a blog once –  that we need to “approach the issue with an eye to what the Lord would have us learn from the law.” One of the sweetest things that a young boy of 14 said after he went seeking answers from God was, “I have learned for myself.”

Answers will come. All of these issues, questions, and problems are directly provided to help us turn to the Savior. And, just as I would do almost anything to help my students and my children survive and thrive, He would do, and has done, infinitely more for you and for me.

What does a religious person think about Marriage?

Last time, I talked about accommodations and trying to live together in peace with our neighbors. This time, I need to discuss Doctrine. There are many who will disagree, and their voices and opinions can be heard on many blogs, posts, tweets, newspaper articles, etc. This specific article is to try to help those who are honestly looking to understand why a religious person wants to uphold traditional marriage (I’m an English teacher, I have to explain who my audience is ;) ).

I had a conversation with a friend, we’ll call her Sue. We have a mutual friend, we’ll call him Bob, who identifies as homosexual.

“I can’t believe that you hate Bob!” Sue told me.

“I don’t hate Bob,” I countered.

“I can’t believe that you don’t want him to find happiness!” Sue said.

“I think that he is a wonderful person. I hope he gets whatever happiness he can find in life,” I said. (In fact, long after we had this conversation and well before I wrote this article, Bob asked me to be a referral for a job interview. I gave a glowing report because he has always been a hard worker and he got the job.)

“Then WHY don’t you want him to find love?” she asked.

“He can do whatever he wants and find love wherever he wants. But if you’re asking about what I believe marriage is, then that’s a different conversation.”

Then we had a long talk about what marriage is to a religious person (some of which I will recount here.)

Marriage is NOT something that religious people enter into for legal reasons. Laws of man allowing for taxes, healthcare, adoption, etc. were created LONG after marriage was established. Marriage was first established by God. It is His teaching, His law for morality. His definition of what marriage is. His law to bring children into this earth. He gave marriage as a blessing to His children Adam and Eve so that they could obey His commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (see Genesis 2:24, Genesis 1:28  and the revelation on family). You and I can debate and fight over a myriad of grays (of exceptions and accommodations) against such a black and white law, but unless you understand the LAW, it’s history and reason you will never understand why a religious person feels this way about marriage. It is not our law to change.

A religious person enters a marriage because they are entering a covenant relationship with God and their spouse. That means that God sanctions and blesses our relationship and we work to treat each other with love and respect. Anyone who has seen days of fighting and difficulties can understand why the Godly concepts of sacrifice, harmony, turning the other cheek, grace, and prayer are necessary to bring harmony to the home and stability for the children. I chose a spouse who agreed to bring those ideals into our marriage with me.

Laws that favor marriage have been something that civilizations have been creating for centuries in every culture around the globe. Those laws were not created because human beings didn’t want gay people to be married. The concept of “gay marriage” HAS NEVER previously been part of our society (note that I said that concept of gay marriage, not the concept of homosexuality).

We are in a very interesting time regarding marriage. Right now, in the United States the 6th district court upheld the state’s defense of marriage acts which means that as of this writing, gay marriage is legal in some states and not in others by district court law and very likely to go to the Supreme Court for ruling. My previous question of “which amendment is more important?” will come into play in the months and years ahead. I still feel strongly that it is my right to speak up in defense of laws that I believe are moral. It is my right to vote for people who will write, enact, and create laws that are moral. I will talk more about why moral laws are important to society in the coming days. It’s not as if others are going to suddenly going to stop pushing to enact laws that erode moral living in the name of freedom of choice. As they are pushing to force believers to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, I will talk and persuade and ask for laws that may have them act in a way contrary to their desires. It is our right as God-fearing citizens to speak up for Religion in the Common Square.

I am heartened by the fact that the Catholic Church has called for a colloquium on marriage this month. They have invited 14 faith traditions from 23 countries to come together, “Topics range from the beauty of the union between the man and the woman to the loss of confidence in marital permanence to the cultural and economic woes that follow upon the disappearance of marriage” (Vatican to Host Global Meeting, News Release —  3 November 2014).  We need to work together because the fights that are coming concern all of us. I invite all faithful to join together to pray for these religious leaders as they discuss ideas that will strengthen families and marriages.

 

Accommodations for Exceptions Rather than Rule Change

Exception to the rule

Politics. Ahh – rrrghhhhh! They get so beastly … so nasty … so quickly. I have noticed a pattern as I have discussed points of view with many of my friends who agree and many who oppose my opinion. First of all, it seems to me that many of my friends who are liberal minded care deeply about  social issues that deal with exceptions to the rule. My friends who are more conservative minded care about those effected, but worry more about the oppression that will happen if we make those exceptions ‘the law’ rather than ‘the accommodation.’

Let me give an example using gay marriage. Previously, the law of the land was such that those who lived as homosexual partners were being oppressed (not given legal rights to care for children, have domestic health insurance, etc.). The accommodation to the rule, that I believe would have worked the best, would have been civil unions. This would have given the legal rights to the partners who desired to make a life together, while still upholding the views of  the majority (as evidenced by the vote of the will of the people in the cases of marriage protection acts) regarding marriage. Instead of having discussion and understanding others’ points of view and needs, Judges have overruled the will of the people and the exception has now become the rule (the far reaching affects of ignoring the voice of the people is a blog post for another day).

“Why should this matter?” say many of my friends.

Because, now the law becomes oppressive to the majority. Rather than finding a way to work together for a solution, the answer has become – “force everyone to act, even if that means to act against their moral conscience.”

Here are some examples – instead of a gay couple going to a photographer who would be happy to take their pictures they would rather force someone (by civil lawsuits) to act against their moral conscience. The same is true for bakers, florists, etc.  – instead of going to those businesses who would be over-joyed to serve them, they seek to force those who disagree to act in ways that go against their moral conscience. Many who are liberal minded shout “hooray” and say “it is the price of citizenship.

What will happen now when a priest refuses to marry a gay couple?

My liberal friends assure me that this will never happen. That homosexuals only want to work with people who agree with them. This (as evidenced above) is obviously not the case.

Which right in the Constitution is more important to be upheld? The first (which guarantees the free exercise of religion) or the 14th (which is the equal protection clause)?  We know from history that the law and the people of the land haven’t always been kind or tolerant of the free exercise of religion, and yes, vice-versa for the equal protection clause (but that’s another blog post for a new day).

Many people who are not religious will say, “what’s wrong with marrying them, or changing your religion to incorporate all views?” But if we did that, then our religion will cease to be a religion. We would effectively cut ourselves off from that Being which we believe in. We’ve been warned by Him about that [capitalization has been added by me for clarity] -

And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom He hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom He hath sent receiveth not Him; and therefore He will not receive them at the last day;

And it would be better for them if they had not been born. For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come? 3 Nephi 28: 34-35

You see, those of us who have received the gift of Grace from the Savior are under condemnation if we turn our back on Him, do not carry our cross, or change His laws and statues. We do not have the right nor the inclination to do so. He paid a dreadful price for every act that each of us would commit, simply to give us the opportunity to repent, if we chose to do so. It was completely unfair, and unjust, but I am so grateful that He did. I will not proudly wave my banner in the air proclaiming the opportunity and right to choose to sin at so great a cost.

So now, instead of finding a way to compromise, to allow accommodations for those exceptions to the rule (so that the effected might not feel oppressed) we have created new rules that oppress others.

Unfortunately, this issue is FAR from over and it will only get more divisive over time as we continue to deal with questions that force a religious person to be a part of action that is against their moral conscience (i.e. a pharmacist who is forced to dispense the morning after pill, a doctor or medical person who is forced to perform or help with an abortion, etc.) Can we not find a way to deal with another’s accommodation (for example allowing a different pharmacist to fill the prescription?) Why must we live in a world that insists on ALL have to do it my way without accommodation?

In my job as a professor, I constantly ask my students to discuss matters of disagreement with civility. I ask them to take a look at other sides with an eye of understanding (not total agreement, but with respect toward those ideas and opinions that are different). Then I ask them to come up with solutions that will help. Sometimes we have to table a discussion with the “agree to disagree” compromise which leaves both parties with the ability to walk away with dignity. Mostly, my sweet young students come up with the “too bad, they just have to deal with it because it’s what I want to do” answer, which (though it makes total sense for a kid who truly feels that way) is not a way to live in society!

With the new changes in the US government, I ask my friends, both liberal and conservative to try to discuss rather than name call. To try to understand and allow for differences and accommodations rather than to try and force EVERYONE to go along with your agenda. To at least try to look for a third way that will allow all to live in harmony.

To the believer who hasn’t spent any real time with God, please understand that there are and have been TRILLIONS of God’s children here on the earth and He has a responsibility to all of them (living, dead, and yet to be born) not just to the world as you know it and have experienced it.

I ask my sweet religious brothers and sisters to remember that though we are trying to build a Celestial City, Zion Community, etc (depending on which form of Christianity that you believe in) we are not currently “in one” as a total society. Put away that all of that Righteous Indignation and let’s find kind and merciful ways to build that great Kingdom together (following the example of the Savior who lovingly accepted the person as they were, healed them, and then invited them to live a better life by saying, “go thy way and sin no more.” He did not crack the whip over the broken person’s head with a “you stop doing this or you will go to HELL” mentality. He only cleansed the temple twice in His entire ministry  – NOT on a daily basis on Facebook). I am NOT suggesting that we drop the fight for the souls of our brothers and sisters, but that we put down the whip more often so that people will actually want to listen to the amazing message of the Gospel.

To members of my faith who are currently trying to change the doctrine, I ask you to go and find out WHAT the doctrine is from the PURE source (that’s the scriptures and words of the living prophets, folks. Not the blog posts of the disgruntled who try to make laws based on exceptions to the rules. It takes study, and time, and humility to ask God why things are a certain way, but if you go to Him, He will teach you.)

To my atheist friend, I will always allow you to disagree with me with the mutual understanding that “we shall see” when we come to the other side. If you are right, I’ve lived a good life. If I am right, well … I’m open to a chat about religion anytime you want! ;) (That’s how I left it with a sweet Bulgarian man who honestly believed in the principle of sharing the shirt off my back if I have two and my brother has none. I admired his goodness and desire to help his fellowman. He promised to listen to my message on the other side if I were right. We left with mutual respect and handshake of good fellowship.)

We can live together. We can find ways to hear each other out and work together to allow others to live freely.

 

 

 

Ogden Temple Open House

Ogden temple Open house

Recently, we went through the Ogden Temple. Usually, before a temple is dedicated, the Church allows visitors to tour through the temple in an Open House format. They totally reconstructed it, and it is stunning!

We had been telling the girls that they would be going, but until I stopped them and said, “we’ll be going through the parts that you won’t be able to see until you are much older, and you can see the areas that you can choose to get married in someday” that they started to pay attention.

If you are in the area, I highly recommend taking your family and going. It is so beautiful, and even without it being dedicated there is an amazing spirit there. You can get reservations here and it will continue until Saturday, September 6th, 2014. You don’t have to be a member of the LDS faith to attend, and is truly worth your time.

On another note, I wanted to share this really wonderful conversion story. Not only did it have a beautiful and touching message, but I was struck by the visual artistry.

We watched it for Family Home Evening tonight, my daughters loved the, “they prayed over the hot dogs” line.  Enjoy!

 

Healing vs Fleeing

Riding without training wheels

Long-term healing. The Balm of Gilead. Recover, Refresh, Renew. The Savior is said to “arise with healing in His wings” (“wings” in the bible means the power to act and do) see Malachi 4:2.

This is the topic of today’s musings, but first, I want to start with a milestone that we reached in our house this week.  We taught two children to ride bikes without training wheels (my nephew and my six-year-old daughter).  What a miracle! Their faces beaming with delight and satisfaction. They can propel themselves forward, they can balance, they have joined the ranks of the big kids – what an accomplishment!

So, how do these ideas relate? (I’m sure you’ve figured it out already, but I’ll draw the analogy anyway!)

As we began the bike lessons, my little girl and I started with prayer (see 2 Nephi 32:9).  In her prayer, she asked Heavenly Father to help her so that she wouldn’t fall.  Well, you can’t learn to ride a bicycle without falling.  It just isn’t going to happen.  So, I took her lovingly in my arms and told her that.  Then, we spent the first little while learning how to take a fall. After she got good at that, we began to work on balance. It was hard, tiring, frustrating work. She fell, but she had learned how to deal with it, and she kept getting up. Eventually, she began to go a few lengths after I let go of the bike seat. Then a few more, until she went several houses, and finally the whole street. She was so far ahead of me that I had to run quite a way to catch up. The absolute JOY on her face was so priceless (see the picture above) after she did it.  It made all of the work so worthwhile.

Life is so similar, isn’t it.  Looking at the big picture can remind us of why we are here having to deal with all of these mortal issues.  It’s so that we can have JOY (2 Nephi 2:25). So that at the end of it all we can have experience (D&C 122:7). So we can become someone better than we are now (1 John 3:2-3).

But, it will mean that there will be some falls. Major, epic, difficult, heart wrenching falls (D&C 101: 2-5 & Hebrews 12:11).

Let me share some thoughts on the subject that I came across this week in an amazing talk.

What then is healing, and why should we seek it? My favorite talk on the subject of healing is a BYU devotional given by Elaine S. Marshall in 2002 entitled “Learning the Healer’s Art.” I strongly recommend you study it. I assign it in every class I teach, from undergraduate to doctoral level. I suggest you read it more than once. Listen closely to her definition of healing:

On [my] first day as a nurse, I assumed cure, care, and healing to be synonymous. I have learned they are not the same. Healing is not cure. Cure is clean, quick, and done—often under anesthesia. . . . Healing, however, is often a lifelong process of recovery and growth in spite of, maybe because of, enduring physical, emotional, or spiritual assault. It requires time. . . .

. . . It requires all the energy of your entire being. You have to be there, fully awake, aware, and participating when it happens.4

Healing is much more than “getting better” or “having our problems go away.” Healing is growth, development, and maturation. In a word, healing is change. It takes time and energy and struggle, but healing teaches us. As Marshall said:

Healing can help us to become more sensitive and more awake to life. . . . Healing invites gifts of humility and faith. It opens our hearts to . . . truth, beauty, . . . and grace. 5

But remember, even with all that beauty and growth and grace, healing does hurt.

Some people I have had the privilege of working with over the years have had a hard time reconciling the fact that healing requires suffering and yet is a gift from our Savior. How is it that a loving God would allow us to suffer? I have come to realize that my Savior cares more about my growth than He does about my comfort. One evidence of His love is that He does not spare me from the suffering I need for my development and progression, even when I get mad at Him. As a client once told me, “I used to feel guilty for getting mad at God. Then I realized He can handle it.”

And, unlike other humans, He does not punish me when I am mad or hold a grudge or remind me of it the next time my heart is right and I ask for His help.

The above talk, Healing = Courage + Action + Grace,  was absolutely phenomenal. It was given by Jonathan G. Sandberg on January 21, 2014.  It is WELL worth your time, as is reading the footnotes. I know that sounds weird, but I’m serious. He has given copious notes for extensive study, and well as additional thoughts on the quotes that he referenced in the talk. You can read the entire transcript here, or watch it here -

Along with this, I need to address another part of healing. Yesterday, my older daughter and I had to have a hard talk. It was about some negative actions that she has been repeatedly doing.  As we talked she cried and yelled, denied, and cried some more. Finally, she said, “Mommy, it’s just that when we talk about this stuff, it hurts. I feel so bad!”

I know it hurts.  I ache right along with her, but we needed to address the behavior, we needed to find solutions, and NOT run away from the difficult work. (As a side note, today, when the behavior happened, she followed the protocols, exactly the way that we worked it out, thus saving us grief and frustration. What an AMAZING little girl!)

Another thought from Sandberg’s talk -

[W]e have to be courageous to face the truth regarding what needs to change in our lives. This type of intense introspection requires tremendous honesty with ourselves. As Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32; see also 2 Nephi 28:28), but that is usually only after it hurts us first. Most of what I know about the courage to heal I have learned from clients. I have noticed among those who do find healing a real commitment to learning the truth about themselves, which is never easy.

I am so amazed at my beautiful children. I am amazed that they trust me to work with them, whether it’s learning to take a fall, ride a bike, or having a hard talk which will change behavior for the good.

I wonder, sometimes, if the Lord feels the same way about us. Is He thrilled right along with us as we learn to bear up under our burdens just a little bit more? Is He thankful when we offer true forgiveness and understanding to those who have caused us pain and frustration? Does it bless His life when we ask for His gifts and powers to enable ours? Is He thankful when we serve and bless others, especially when He asks the first time?

The truth is, although we may pray and ask Heavenly Father to help us so that won’t fall, life doesn’t work that way.  You can’t live in mortality without falling.  It  just isn’t going to happen.  So, when we do fall, we have some choices. We can flee and hide. That is our right and privilege as Beings with agency. We never have to learn to ride a bike. We never have to have hard talks.  But then we will never grow.

Or, we can choose to allow the Lord to take us lovingly His arms and spend some time learning how to take a fall. We can choose healing when we fall. We can choose to keep going, to keep learning, even when it hurts. We can choose to be comforted by that Being who has healing in His wings. And through these experiences, if we choose healing, then we will be able to join the ranks of “the big kids”.

 

Character – The Legacy That Lasts

42 The Jackie Robinson Story

 

A while ago, I watched the movie, 42: The Jackie Robinson Story  – it’s a great movie about baseball, but like most movies about sports, it’s not just about baseball. There is one scene in particular that teaches the principle that I want to discuss today, but a little background, first. Jackie Robinson was the first black player to play on a major league baseball team at a time when there were many, many social injustices and much prejudice and hatred.

In the scene that’s our focus, the Dodgers were playing the Phillies on April 22, 1947. During that game, the manager of the Phillies, Ben Chapman was being so vehement, cruel and vile in his insults toward Robinson who finally almost loses it, but instead of railing back against Chapman, Robinson goes down under the stadium and takes his frustrations out on the wall with a bat. Then the owner of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey (the man that hired Robinson, and a devout Christian) comes to talk to him and this is their conversation (the first line, I paraphrased a little, but that’s the jist of it.) -

Robinson: Next white person to say something, I’m going to smash his teeth in.

Rickey: You can’t do that, Jack.

Robinson: I’m supposed to just let this go on?

Rickey: These men have to live with themselves.

Robinson: I have to live with myself, too. Right now, I’m living a sermon out there.

Rickey: You don’t matter now, Jack. You’re in this thing. You don’t have the right to pull out from the backing of people that believe in you, that respect you, that need you.

Robinson: Is that so?

Rickey: If you fight, they won’t say that Chapman forced you to. They’ll say that you’re in over your head. That you don’t belong here.

Robinson: Do you know what it’s like having somebody do this to you?

Rickey: No. No. You’re the one — living the sermon. In the wilderness. Forty days. All of it. Only you.

Robinson: There’s not a … thing I can do about it.

Rickey: Of course there is! You can get out there and hit! You can get on base and score. You can win the game for us. We need you. Everybody needs you! You’re medicine, Jack!

 

Earlier in the movie, when offering the contract to Robinson, Branch Rickey said that there was one condition for him to be able to play. Could he control his temper?  Rickey said:

“I want a player who’s got the guts NOT to fight back. People aren’t gonna like this. They’re gonna do anything to get you to react. Echo a curse with a curse and they’ll hear only yours. Follow blow with a blow and they’ll say, ‘the [black man] lost his temper.’ That ‘the [black man] does not belong.’ Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground. We win with hitting, running, fielding. Only that. We win if the world is convinced of two things: that you are a fine gentleman and a great baseball player. Like our Savior – you gotta have the guts – to turn the other cheek. Can you do it? “

Now, I realize that dialogue and elements of the film were dramatized (as they pointed out at the end of the movie). But what is the legacy that Jackie Robinson left? The number 42 is the only number that is retired in baseball, and every year, in April, all of the Major League players wear #42 on their uniforms as a reminder of Robinson’s accomplishments.

At the end of the day, what matters? What is the legacy that you leave? Your character.

Of course you could fight back, railing for railing, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, but who does that bless?

When we engage with others (ESPECIALLY when we don’t agree with them) there is a need for character “at all times, and in all things and in all places” (see Mosiah 18:9).

They have to live with themselves.

They have to face the great Judge of all Mankind, just as you do. There will be mercy and there will be justice.  But, as I’m trying to teach my children, the only one that you can ever really do anything about, truly, is you. You are the one living and teaching the sermon, and if you let the teachings of the Lord change you, change your heart, then your fruits will be of great worth. We cannot bear good fruit if we don’t do it in the Lord’s way. (see John 15: 1-8 and Matthew 7: 16-20).

Putting our “Exception” on the Altar

Exceptions to the Rule. They crop up everywhere, don’t they? Nature, Math, English grammar. Always there … lurking. Just when we think we understand something, an exception pops up and we have to re-examine our thinking.  But do the exceptions make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule because there are exceptions to it?

Personally, I don’t think so.  When we begin to say that rules don’t exist, or shouldn’t be followed because of exceptions, then we delve into a space of chaos.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Everyone who ever  has lived on earth has sinned, so everyone needs to repent.

That’s a pretty inclusive rule!

Oh, wait. There is (at least) one exception.

Jesus Christ never sinned.

I think that the most interesting thing to go along with our discussion then, is that, though He  clearly was THE great exception to the rule, (like 0 in mathematics) He got baptized anyway.

So what does this teach us?

Before we go into that, I’m going to share a couple of stories.

Story # 1 -

When I was at Basic Training, I broke my leg, a stress fracture just under the right knee. I was in excruciating pain for several weeks. No one believed me and I tried to continue to “run through the pain”.  When we took our final PT test, I hobble-ran around the track and began to be lapped by all of the other soldiers.  The drill sergeants then realized that there was something real and horribly wrong and sent me to the Army hospital where an x-ray proved the break.  We still had several weeks of training left, and I began a strange routine of doing the best I could.

During PT one morning, my Drill sergeant yelled at me for doing the exercises and made me sit and watch.  A few days later, when we were at a special camping training (bivouacking in the woods) I was chosen as one of the night guards because of my injury. Guard at night, sleep during the day.  Although, on one of those days, I went out for training with my platoon, at my drill sergeant’s behest. We were supposed to run through an open field (practicing the art of covering ourselves and our buddies). Each group went out and I lingered at the back (as running with a broken leg had proven not to be my thing.)  Then my Drill Sergeant told me it was my turn.

“But, Drill Sergeant Jones, remember? My Leg?”

“GO! I DON’T CARE! GO, MOVE, MOVE MOVE!!!!”

He could be quite persuasive, so out I ran, hobbling through the exercise, hoping that an enemy soldier wouldn’t “pick me off” as I went.  Hobble, hobble, hobble,  hide behind a tree, cover my buddy, hobble, hobble, hobble, run behind a rock, watch for enemy snipers – you get the idea.

The funny thing was that, as silly as I looked, I actually enjoyed being out in the field that day – injury and all.  It was such a relief to participate in something after being “held back”. The air was fresh. Movement was welcome to my body.  I felt unified and reconnected with my platoon again, and I never got hit by the pretend enemy! ;)

Story # 2 -

When I was in my twenties, I became the Laurel adviser in my ward (that means that I was the teacher for all girls aged 16-18 in my area). I began to teach them, that though they wanted to get married – which every Mormon girl wants of course, [note that’s the general rule, not the exception] ;) sometimes marriage didn’t come as fast as we planned, and that they should have a something else in mind for life without nuptials.

As it turns out, all of the girls in my class got married before I did.

I thought that “marriage doesn’t come right away” was the “new rule”, because it was so in my case (and, after all,  it is the teaching of mainstream American society).  It turned out that I was the exception, and that in that class, the original rule (that most Mormon girls get married young) was in full force.

So now, let’s get back to our discussion above, about the Savior and His baptism and introduce a BIG, GIANT, sticky problem.

What do we do in gospel living when we are the exception to the rule?   Does it make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule for everyone in the whole church simply because I am an exception to it (or because exceptions exist)?

The scriptures teach us that we are to follow the example of the Savior. (See this link for a plethora of scriptures about this teaching.)  Here is one of my favorites -

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21)

 WHAAAAT?

Are you saying, Laryssa, that if we are the exception to the rule, we are still supposed to follow the rule?

Yes, I am. Or at least, I am saying that if you can’t follow the rule, because of your exception, you should live as close to the rule as possible. Yes, I am Drill Sergeant Jones, pushing you out onto the field with a broken leg.

"'To fulfill the law,' said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why."

“‘To fulfill the law,’ said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why.”

Why?

For two reasons.

Reason #1.  Because of this great promise -

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).

That by doing, we will know and understand the reasons that God gave us the doctrine to begin with.  Then we can testify from our own experience about  A.) the truthfulness of the teaching, B.) why it is the doctrine of God, and C.) of the miracles that helped us live the doctrines even while in our exceptions.

Reason # 2.  Because, if we follow the example of the Savior, (especially in our exceptions) we will have the power to bless the human family in ways so powerful it is incomprehensible.

Just look at what the Savior wrought, by taking on sin as a sinless being.  He was the exception. His was an adult life devoid of sin. He had every right to enter into the Kingdom of God because He lived perfectly (see 1 Nephi 15:34,  3 Nephi 27:19, and Revelation 21:27) and yet, He gave up His “exception to the rule status” and took upon Himself our sins, and through that great and glorious Atonement, gave every single human being the ability to enter into the Kingdom of God, should they chose to accept it.

Now, that is phenomenal.

Each exception to the rule of life carries with it a huge burden and a huge opportunity.

So, how do you live as close to the rule as you can with such difficult problems? What are you expected to do? I don’t know, because your case (quite probably) is so very different from mine. But there is Someone who does know.  If you ask Him, He will show you with baby steps, and then sometimes, with grander steps, what is right for your unique and personal situation.

I will give a simple example from my life.

When I was a single sister in the church that teaches that Marriage is the ultimate design of both earth life, and of ALL ETERNITY, I found myself getting older and older without the opportunity (and I found that the rule was that most Mormon young adults were getting married and having those babies that I so desperately wanted – see story # 2 above).

I went through a period of anger and rebellion.  But then, because I loved God, I decided to try to live life in the gospel, even though my circumstances were not ideal according to the general rule.

Then, I went through a time when I demanded that every one, every religious talk and teaching about marriage (in conference or any other church function) bring up and recognize my own personal exception to the rule (and coincidentally, offer praise and comfort for my “amazing faithfulness”).

Finally, I came to a point in which, I began to realize the necessity of giving up my demands, and doing what the Spirit was prompting me to do – to testify of the importance of the family, without regard to my own personal exception.

I focused my thoughts and prayers on my relationship with God. When the pain, anger, or injustice came up, I prayed or sang a hymn, treating those thoughts as I would an immoral or upsetting thought – forcing them to leave my mind, rather than spending time dwelling on it,  “licking old wounds”.

In so doing, over time,  it took away the pain and anger.  It drew me closer to the Savior. It made me an effective Seminary teacher because I could teach without angry energy seething out of me. It put me in a position to be taught deeper truths about the doctrine.

And, OF course, not getting married young brought me these exceptional military stories that I am now able share with you. ;)

The years have passed. Eleven, to be exact, since I got married and started my own family. Now, I am asked to live with different set of exceptions to the rule.  Exceptions that I do not have the courage or the permission to talk about yet.  However, the Spirit whispers the same solution to those problems — follow the Savior.  Live the rule, or as close to the rule as I can.

We hobble, hobble, hobble, and hide behind a bush, hobble hobble, hobble, cover each other as battle buddies, hobble, hobble, hobble and watch for enemy snipers. It’s not pretty to watch. My husband and I don’t move as gracefully in the battlefield as other families that live without our exceptions to the rule. But, we are participating in the activity.

Yes, I am petty and wish for things to be ideal, but, I see miracles on a regular basis. Miracles that help us live as close to the rule as possible. I am learning the doctrines and finding that they bring joy. I can witness that following God’s ways and rules give me peace and great opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t live this way. And finally, hopefully, as you and I try to be more like the Savior, by placing our own “exceptions to the rule” on the altar, that sacrifice will bless lives, just as His did.