A friend who’s usually predominantly vocal in Gospel Doctrine was unusually quiet today. Afterward, I teased her about it and asked why this was. She told me the lesson made her think about a friend of hers, a woman who’s roots were “related to half the Mormon population” but who was never a member herself. She wears a little cross around a neck because she’s a self-proclaimed Christian. “I could never be a Mormon,” she told my friend, “because your church doesn’t believe in reincarnation.” The woman found a priestess who told her she (the woman) had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in a past life, and that excited her. “But,” my friend countered, “no Christian faith believes in reincarnation. How do you explain the resurrection?” “I know,” said the woman, “it’s a dilemma.”
I’ve been thinking about the dilemmas members create for themselves. Not the dilemmas of those who say the Church is true and then argue against its tenets (though a leading pet peeve). This time I’m referring to the garden-variety dichotomy of us who pronounce faith in Christ and His Gospel, but then freely sin, reflexively and non-reflexively (reflexively being something like swearing when you burn your hand; non-reflexively like when you screen your calls and choose not to pick up for someone who might be in a bad way, but you don’t feel like “dealing with it”). I don’t dare count how many mistakes I make in a day. If I did, it would totally funk me out. At least the woman who thinks she scaled some African rock in the 1600′s has more of an excuse for being an idiot than I do.
It’s a sad thing to think how many members of the Church fall into depression. All that truth in their hands and they still don’t know how to be happy, how to obtain eternal life. They slump in their chairs and say to themselves, “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not a worthy priesthood holder.” “I’m not a good parent.” “I can’t be the wife and mother I’m supposed to be.” This is where Satan is particularly clever, because it’s all true– we aren’t good enough. We are unworthy. Because we’re not perfect. The only way we can do all those things is if we humbly beg forgiveness and ask for the Lord’s help. That’s when we become good enough. To put it another way: The key to eternal happiness is submission to the Lord’s will. All the rest is window dressing. Stumble, repent, repeat.
Something in Talmage’s “Jesus the Christ” recently caught my attention, though:
The Eternal Father well understood the diverse natures and varied capacities of His spirit-offspring; and His infinite foreknowledge made plain to Him, even in the beginning, that in the school of life some of His children would succeed and others would fail; some would be faithful, others false; some would choose the good, others the evil; some would seek the way of life while others would elect to follow the road to destruction. He further foresaw that death would enter the world, and that the possession of bodies by His children would be of but brief individual duration. He saw that His commandments would be disobeyed and His law violated; and that men, shut out from His presence and left to themselves, would sink rather than rise, would retrograde rather than advance, and would be lost to the heavens.
Chapter 3, “The Need of a Redeemer,” Jesus the Christ – James Talmage
Heavenly Father knows each of us well enough to know how we’d react in a certain situation. He’d know which children would probably “elect to follow the road to destruction.” Many of these were born in harsh environments– would it have been wrong to send them down to better times and places? Was everyone sent down in the most favorable time for their spirit, the best time and place for them to get the chance to choose the right? Millions of our brothers and sisters died miserably, wishing they had never lived. Their spirits left the planet deeply sooted by their circumstances. Would it have made a difference where and when they arrived? I’d like to believe we’re placed where we are for our best opportunities. A definitive reference to this would be nice…
So, the wife flew off to Utah Friday morning to meet her sisters for the youngest’s birthday. This of course would include chick vids, shopping and laying around pushing each other’s buttons. I’m so happy families weren’t invited. It left Miss D. and me to fend for ourselves. Wreak havoc. Raise Cain. Tango the night away. Or, in this case, watch Nancy Drew and Mean Girls until midnight. Then Saturday morning after ballet class and D’s dental check-up (no cavities, thanks for asking), we did a little shopping ourselves.
Now when I go clothes shopping with the Mrs., it’s performing an unnatural act. If it’s to get me clothes, I’m held hostage in the dressing room as outfits are thrown ten-at-a-time over the door for me to try on. Then, like a 6-year old, I have to step out and show her how each one looks. When it’s shopping for her, forget about it. “I’ll be in Barnes & Noble. Call me when you’re done.” Three hours later, when I’d finally surrendered to the food court, I’ll get that call. My wife also has a habit of buying seven outfits, knowing fully well five are going back. She buys them and then thinks about them, and then back they go– sometimes months later. I dunno… it might be a woman thing, but my mom never shopped like that. And I’d put down serious money her mom never shopped like that.
When Miss D. and I went to the mall this morning, on the other hand, she knew exactly what she wanted– a green shirt for school on St. Patty’s Day and a pair of school-regulation navy blue shorts. So we went to Abercrombie (D’s favorite store), found her a kelly baby doll top and navy shorts with a cute waist tie– then went to the food court together. Badda-bing, badda-boom. Note to self: Feign surprise when wife gets mad at you for shopping at Abercrombie. Afterward we went to see “Horton Hears a Who” (ugh, you gotta stay upwind of that one), and bonded on the way home:
Miss D: I can’t wait to get out of Primary.
Dad: Really, how come?
Miss D: Sister C– gets up in front of us and says (“special” voice), ‘All right, let’s all read from the Friend. And then I want you to tell me what you think it means to you.’ Then she whispers the answers to the little kids, and when they repeat them, she gives them a cookie.
Dad: (Bursts out laughing)
Miss D: Yeah, right?
My daughter turns 12 in three weeks and, as social circumstances exist, she’s having two parties: One at the Marina del Rey Ritz Carlton with three school chums, and the other at Build-a-Bear with church buds. It’s kind of poetic, really, a living Kodak commercial. Part young woman, part little girl. She likes boys, and still cuddles her favorite baby doll. It’s killing me, y’know? I want to start over. Do it all over again.
Maybe in the next life.