Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Idol Words

The Adoration of the Golden Calf, Nicolas Poussin.
Once upon a time there was a narrative, comfortable and easy to wrap our minds around, Sunday School tried, tested, and approved, that a liberal agenda was going to destroy freedom and morality in society and the world.

Cue 2017. That neat and facile little story should be dead now.

Fact: We have rampant moral decay in our society today. Fact: This rampant moral decay is not confined to one political party. No matter how many paintings Jon McNaugton puts out, Jesus is not, and never will be, a registered Republican. There is no shortage of complex issues in our world. These issues are tricky, deserve nuance and maturity, and can't be pegged into some sort of ideological hole, some schema of Liberal vs Conservative. These are grown-up issues and it's time for us all, myself included, to grow up.

I have seen good, reasonable Latter-day Saints reject scriptures, modern prophets, and Christian decency to side on an issue simply because it was taught like gospel by their favorite political party.

First of all, let's end this ridiculous binary. We believe in the gospel of Christ, not the philosophies of men. As Hugh Nibley said about the "Gentile Dilemma,"

"I have been...much too easily drawn into what I call the Gentile Dilemma. That is, when I find myself called upon to stand up and be counted, to declare myself on one side or the other; which do I prefer—gin or rum, cigarettes or cigars, tea of coffee, heroin or LSD...Republican or Democrat, black power or white power, land pirates or sea pirates, commissars or corporations, capitalism or communism.
The devilish neatness and simplicity of the thing is the easy illusion that I am choosing between good and evil, when in reality two or more evils by their rivalry distract my attention from the real issue."  (How Firm a Foundation!" CWHN 9:163) 
Somehow, we are too easily decoyed away from the great truths we have, hoodwinked by the exciting and titillating squabbles that flood the airwaves of Babylon.

Second, let's just stop demonizing each other as if the person who voted for another party is a minion of Satan just for seeing a complex political issue differently than you do. At times, we can and MUST engage with ideas we don't agree with, but we must do so with respect and humility, not with inflammatory rhetoric, unkind jeers and taunts that break down healthy dialogue.

In 2012, I walked into a General Conference Priesthood meeting with a good, intelligent friend and his teenage sons, and the dad pointed to a man in the back row and whispered, "See that man over there? He voted for Obama!" Followed by gasps, boos, and one chilling comment by his Aaronic Priesthood son, "What is he even doing here?" 

This kind of divisive rhetoric is troubling. Not surprisingly, it is also happening today.

Israel has a long and sordid history of adopting the gods of whatever nation they dwelt in. We believe we are modern day Israel and we seem to have inherited the same appetites and follies. We must let go of the local political gods we worship, rise above the squabbles of Babylon, and get building Zion together, for heaven's sake.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

“Make America Great again,” someone said.

Then opened a floodgate of long-suppressed and unresolved tensions, troubling questions, divisions, anger, and then a full-blown American identity crisis. What does it mean to be great?

Does greatness mean power? Does it mean demanding the respect and admiration of other nations, the drive to be “the best, believe me, the very best”—the very best in healthcare, the very best in education, the very best in military strength?

Suddenly America is intensely self-conscious, constantly comparing itself to other nations, obsessed with its own deflated status. How do we fix this? Donald Trump, "a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Does greatness mean a bustling economy--riches, jobs, resources exported and imported relentlessly out of the earth to feed a bottomless hunger for something better, something new—another flavor of Oreo cookies, a new smart phone upgrade, a better and faster car?

There is “a famine in the land” (Amos 8:11) and America has a hunger that all the Wonderbread in the world could not possibly satisfy. Donald Trump, "a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

I was disgruntled at first about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sullying itself in the debacle that was the inauguration of a Donald Trump. My feelings changed, however, when I listened and thought about the words of “America the Beautiful.” I was happy that my church would sing a message that I love and agree with in the midst of such turmoil.
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
America the beautiful, and it is still, but there is indeed ugliness in America as well. When aspiring greatness is built on contention, anger, pride, fear, selfishness, and abuse, that kind of worldly greatness will always be ugly. So what could possibly make America beautiful again? Is it higher walls, tougher laws, extreme immigration vetting?

It is love, or to use a more precise word—it is charity, the “pure love of Christ" that defines greatness and beauty.

Charity is love that “suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Without it, all America’s apparent greatness is, as Paul said, quite literally nothing, just "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1) And now, most unfortunately, America has cast its vote for the biggest, loudest conglomeration of “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal” imaginable. Donald Trump--a president who shuts the doors to the suffering:  refugees, including the most vulnerable children who are starving, drowning, and being bombed in their beds, dying in the most terrible ways imaginable, and turning them away because of their religion. A person who justifies torture as an effective means of dealing with contention, "fighting fire with fire" he recently said. A man who takes advantage of the vulnerable and glories in sexually assaulting women and justifies it as "locker-room talk." A man who grinds the faces of the poor and calls it business. A man easily provoked, puffed up in his own greatness, refusing to offer an ounce of compassion to anyone. This goes beyond politics, the back-and-forth checks and balances of two political ideologies. This is a turning away of bedrock principles of morality and decency.

But Trump is not America, and America is better than that. To find its true greatness, the nation must turn its lonely eyes elsewhere, not to Trump and his outrageous claims, neither do we turn to the backlash, the battleground of debate. We turn inwards to see our own personal faults and lack of charity, and then we turn to Christ, asking Him to give us more of His love. One by one.
America! America!
God mend thy every flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law!
It will take some painful changes. Charity is not a feel-good, comfortable kind of emotion. Charity, though its definition has evolved in a weird way in America, is not about throwing money around to organizations in order to get a tax-break. It is soul-stretching and excruciatingly difficult. It requires action and courage. Charity is something I fail at again and again, and every time I read the requirements, I see that I have a long way to go. We must suffer long and be kind. We must vaunt not ourselves up. We don’t rejoice in iniquity. We are not easily provoked. Perhaps most especially, as Paul says, we endure, believe and hope for better times ahead, because all other things must “vanish away, but charity never faileth.”

 Because charity is, in all seriousness, the only thing that can save us now. The only thing at all.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Satan Comes First

I attended the temple yesterday, and I was struck with the way God answered Adam's prayer. There they were, Adam and Eve, both full of faith, building an altar without knowing why, doing exactly what they were supposed to, begging the Lord for some much needed direction, when who should appear? Not God, but Satan, with his impudent claim of lordship over the earth and trying to peddle to them his philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

Why wasn't God more on the ball, stepping in right away and answering their sincere demonstration of faith? Why the slowness to respond, why the wait?

As I was thinking about this idea, and thinking of how God answers prayers, I realized there is a kind of pattern in the scriptures. This actually happens again and again. Initially, God usually stands by and lets Satan do his song and dance. Very often, when a prophet in the scriptures needs direction from God, it is Satan who is on the scene first.

Jesus tempted, by Carl Heinrich Bloch
For example, we have Moses. After seeing all of God's creations and being left in a physically weakened and vulnerable state, and undoubtedly full of questions, having "other things to inquire of [God]"; in that state, who should appear but Satan, commanding him to "worship me." (Moses 1)

Another prophet, Elijah, retiring to the mountains to seek direction for his ministry and being left alone, was first subjected to the impressive displays of the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, and not until afterward did God spoke to him with the still small voice, and instructing him how to proceed with his prophetic ministry. (1 Kings 19:11-13)

When Jesus Christ began his ministry with a fast for forty days in the wilderness, Satan immediately comes waltzing in to tempt him, trying to win over even the Son of God with vain and selfish offers, cunningly matched and supported with scripture. (Matthew 4:11) Not until afterwards did angels minister to him.

And most recently, Joseph Smith, seeking to know which church to join, was first encompassed with the powers of darkness before he persisted in calling out to God for aid, and then he received the First vision, followed by all kinds of angels and messengers which opened up this last dispensation. (JSH 1:15-16)

The pattern in the scriptures seems to be this:  a person seeks further knowledge, Satan eagerly and quite forcefully offers what he's got, pointing out his lordship over the world, his money and carnal pleasure, his endless preaching and theologizing, and then the person has to decide if his goods are what they're looking for. If they aren't, if the worldly logic and philosophies don't satisfy the longing in his soul, and if he persists in seeking messengers from God, then God will step in to teach him eternal truths.

Not just prophets, but all of us deal with tough questions and all of us need personal guidance and answers. I have personally wrestled with some tough questions. I am often frustrated that, even when I am doing all that I am supposed to, praying sincerely and really searching the scriptures, listening to the prophet, attending church, etc., I don't get immediate answers from God. In fact, I often get kind of the opposite. My first attempts to search out answers bring out a barrage of opposition to the faith I have been taught since primary. The moment I start seeking is when I am faced with even more doubts. Suddenly, I am presented with a whole banquet of exciting and stimulating reasons why this church is mistaken, why this claim is unreasonable, or that idea is not all that wonderful. There are all kinds, an endless supply it seems, of philosophies of men mingled with scripture that could assuage my struggle. People step in from all sorts of places, from strangers on the internet to very close friends, each calling me over with a solution that offers to take care of my worries. I often have to ask myself:  am I satisfied with worldly, man-given explanations, or do I long for answers from above?

Over the years, my answers have grown like a sunrise does, starting out dim on the horizon, but growing brighter to illuminate a dusky sky. Judging by my continuing struggle and lingering questions, I would guess for me it is still only about 7:00am at the vernal equinox, just barely light enough to move forward, and there is still such a long way to go. But I can say that I know enough. I know that I am a son of God, and I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and that this is His church. I did not learn it from flesh and blood:  from scientific methods, from lively and engaging debates, from video blogs, podcasts, or from good and learned teachers, even parents, church leaders, and friends, all of whom are mortal earthly sources, and therefore unreliable. I have listened to the many voices, weighed them out, studied them, but ultimately, I have received this knowledge and testimony from God by the Holy Ghost.

If anyone is ever troubled or discouraged that seeking guidance from God seems to just bring up more doubts and stir up more trouble, remember that Satan always comes first. Stick with it. Keep seeking until you get an answer from heaven. Don't settle for worldly explanations. Remember that opposition and testing is part of the plan, and the alternatives need to be attractive enough for it to be a valid test. If you keep exercising faith, holding on to what you know, God's answers will come to you, and you will know it, because it will be like a "well of water springing up into everlasting life" and you will never thirst as you move forward in searching further truth from Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Irrigation and the Latter-day Saints

I didn’t water my garden consistently this year, and boy did it show. As I pondered my pitiful, burnt plants this September, roasting up in the Alberta sun, and saw the hose that sat next to it all summer long that I just neglected to turn on, I thought dismally that my pioneer ancestors would be unimpressed. I totally failed them. They, who practically created a garden paradise out of dry rock, and I am looking pathetic with my shriveled tomato plants and a hose.

You see, Mormon pioneers knew how to water their plants.

When the Latter-day Saints came into the Salt Lake Valley, which was kind of like their last hope at a “promised land” after being violently driven from the luscious, green, and fruitful lands of Missouri and then Illinois, they were settling, essentially, in a desert. In 1847 and immediately upon arriving, along with beginning a temple, Brigham Young oversaw the damming of the river. Together the Saints began the arduous task of digging canals and ditches to sustain themselves and their expanding population in this foreign Utah wasteland. Irrigation was definitely not a new concept back then, but the Mormon people were the first group in the West to really go crazy and use irrigation on such a large scale. And you might say they perfected it. Mormon pioneers completely transformed the landscape: communities sprouted up all around the state of Utah and Idaho, then extended up into Canada all the way down to Arizona and then down into Mexico. They planted crops and trees and fruit orchards and beautiful gardens, and they all sprang to life miraculously where little vegetation had been growing before. They established a bustling economy built entirely on irrigation. They truly made “the desert blossom as the rose.” (Isaiah 35:1)

And like I mentioned, Mormon pioneers came to Canada. I live there. Here in Southern Alberta, irrigation is a part of our heritage. My own great-great-grandfather, Charles Ora Card, brought the irrigation techniques and principles he practiced in Northern Utah and applied them to his founding town of Cardston. Canals and ditches were soon expanded, conducting water through Southern Alberta fields to allow the arriving Mormons to settle outlying communities like Raymond, Magrath, and Stirling.

Then, more recently in the mid-20th century, a man named Asael Palmer, a leader of the LDS Church in Lethbridge and Superintendent of the Experimental Station (Research Station), expanded irrigation even further in the Lethbridge area and made it into better farmland. My grandparents tell me they remember the days before Palmer’s initiative to irrigate, and how dust storms would descend upon them regularly and fill their cupboards and houses with sand. Irrigation was revolutionary to Southern Alberta. Whatever a person thinks about the belief system of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you have to give them credit for knowing how to use water.

My forbearers taught me that community improvement is built into my religion. As children in Primary, we grew up singing a song called “Give Said the Little Stream.” One LDS lady with dementia that I know, a humble farmer’s wife who can remember very little, can still sing every word of that song when I walk her down for supper at my work. She sings,
I’m small I know, but wherever I go,
The grass grows greener still.
Singing, singing all the day, ‘Give away, oh give away!’
Singing, singing all the day, ‘Give, oh give away!’
Our work of irrigation as Latter-day Saints is meant to go beyond the physical landscape. Today, instead of irrigating dry fields, we are given the charge of irrigating a world that is drying up in disbelief. Our message brings new life to individuals that are dried out because of sin or doubt. I have seen the transformation happen, and it is a miracle. Our actions should be motivated by principles of selfless service and love, and they can turn the driest desert into a fruitful garden. Our message of hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ can refresh individuals who may feel at times like withered plants.

The water source of the Latter-day Saint communities in the intermountain West has always been the mountains. The run-off from those mountains, when collected, pooled together, and shared selflessly, sustained large populations. Our spiritual water source also finds symbolic emphasis in the mountains. Latter-day Saints often refer to our sacred temples as “mountains of the Lord.” This is a reference to the Old Testament practice of using mountains as places of communion and instruction from God. It is also a reference to Isaiah’s prophesy that “the mountain of the Lord’s house (temple) shall be established in the top of the mountains.” (Isaiah 2)

In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel saw in a vision great waters flowing out from the temple mountain. As he first waded out with an angel “the waters were to the ankles.” A thousand cubits further out and
“the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.”
He then looked out at the once dry, barren landscape surrounding the mountain and saw that the water that had gone out from the temple had healed the land. (Ezekiel 47)

The healing water is the atonement of Christ. The full access of His grace is found in making and keeping covenants in His house. We are promised divine help in the temple, and then we descend down from the mountain to the arid, burnt-up social landscape we live and work in and use the power of the priesthood to heal and bless. In the temple we receive the living waters that are meant to not only sustain ourselves as individuals, but to make us into “little streams” ever “giving away” to our families and to our communities. As weak, simple saints in training, we are prone to weakness and mistakes, and we pull it off with varying degrees of success. But we always try, and like Ezekiel saw, the water continues to rise from the shallow water at our ankles until it is over our heads in preparation for the Second Coming of the Christ.

I am grateful for my legacy of irrigators. Some ancestors were irrigators of land. Even more impressive to me are the irrigators of souls:  parents and grandparents and countless others in my life that spend their lives giving themselves away in service to others, always singing, in their own way, “I’m small I know, but wherever I go, the grass grows greener still.” I am hopeful that my feeble efforts to irrigate this world will look less like my mangy tomato plants this September, and more like the fruit trees of my ancestors. I am hopeful because I know that the living water is Jesus Christ, and like the canals in the area, I will continue trying to carry forward some of His water as it flows down from his house in the mountains.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Joseph Smith and the Facts

I recently read about the label "post-factual world" to describe our politically charged method for gaining information. The article describes a world where facts are secondary to ideology, and where one's preconceived beliefs are like blunt instruments to hammer and shape uncomfortable facts to fit better our own ideas. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum. There are many complex, important issues that need nuance and understanding, but our current system for obtaining knowledge with nuance is broken.

We get our information more and more from social media, where our friends often think the same way we do, and ideas we disagree with become muted. Outrageous claims live on and spread even after being proven false. Arrogant politicians and activists no longer have shame for lying because the fear of consequences is gone, so long as they support the greater ideology. Meanwhile, hoax news websites are doing better than ever, and the sheer volume of news information to sift through overwhelms anyone who wants to find answers. Facts are often swallowed up in the fat belly of angry, arrogant, intolerant, bologna makers. It is absurd, and it is violent. Social media is a battleground in the culture wars, and there are plenty of Facebook friend casualties.  It is a "war of words and  tumult of opinions" (JSH 1:10).

These are mad times. How do we get truth in all this? Does it even exist?

Joseph Smith lived in a similar "war of words and tumult of opinions" where "all the powers of both reason and sophistry" were employed to prove an ideology (JSH 1:9-10). Things really have changed very little since life in the burned-over district of upstate New York. I can easily imagine Palmyra New York on Twitter, tweeting their latest outrage at the Methodists or the Presbyterians, angrily arguing in lengthy comment threads on Brother Jones' latest inflammatory Facebook post about the definition of the Godhead. 

In all this, Joseph Smith went to God, saw a vision, restored truth, conversed with angels, translated an ancient book of scripture that restores doctrine and confounds error, and restored the ordinances that help us, even modern me living in 2016, to gain companionship to the Holy Ghost and navigate my way home.

I love the teachings of Joseph Smith, teachings like:
"Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart." (D&C 8:2) 
"You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right." (D&C 9:8) 
"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118) 
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true...and by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:4-5)
Joseph Smith teaches me that God is not just an idea. God is someone who cares about my questions and wants to answer them. Joseph teaches me that we are not alone, just muddling around in this mess of rhetoric, trying to piece together jumbled fragments to give coherent meaning to our lives. Joseph teaches me that science and study and education can bring me closer to understanding God. Joseph teaches me that the Holy Ghost is a crucial ingredient for obtaining truth. Joseph teaches me that it takes effort, and I must study out the arguments, wade through the facts, formulate my own ideas first, and go to Him. Without Him, I am forced to rely on my own biases and faulty intellect.

Joseph teaches me that God loves me enough to send angels and prophets and books of scripture buried in hillsides to challenge my ideas, push me to consider things I don't want to, answer my questions and guide me home. No defector to this church has ever given me a convincing argument about how God is involved so much like that. At best, they say God may be up there somewhere; but for now, we have brains.

Truly Joseph Smith gave wings and an engine to the promise of "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).

Trouble is, you have to feel like you need wisdom first, before it is given. You and I, with all our access to education and knowledge, often feel ourselves puffed up in our own learning, setting aside the counsels of God, and supposing we know for ourselves how the world turns, what is wrong with the Church today, who is to blame for what latest tragedy, etc. (2 Nephi 9:28) I know I am like that.

May I be like Joseph. May I separate myself from the contemporary stand-ins for the Methodist vs Presbyterians:  the liberals or the conservatives, the new age Mormons or reactionary Mormons, pro-gun or anti-gun, black lives or all lives matter, etc. each of them hammering out the philosophies of men on their keyboard pulpits until their fists are sore, recruiting for their congregations. Many of these philosophies have truth, pieces of the puzzle. But there is more, and unless we turn to God and his power, we are being decoyed away.

May we all retire to our own forest of trees, kneel down and put aside our preconceived beliefs and self-importance, and with the simple faith receive something more wonderful than any of them: that God is our Father, that he is intimately involved in our lives, that he has restored priesthood power on the earth, and that he is closer than we know.

After we know that, we can build. After the rains come down and the floods come up, what we build will last forever, because of the rock upon which we build--the one true fact, the word made flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Conversation with a Stone

How firm a foundation! But now I look up—

At this fortress all crooked, these angles all wrong.
This beam is displaced, this window’s too long!
And I tremble to see all these wavering towers,
And buttresses weakened by unholy powers.

The ceiling is crumbling, and what if it falls?
“Take courage, my friend,” a voice gently calls,
“The archway’s unsteady, the pillars will tilt—
But Zion is still being built.

So pick up your tools; take compass and square,
And build on what’s already there.”

Church members building the Salt Lake Temple.
(Photo retrieved from

Monday, December 21, 2015

Builders and Steady-ers

Steadying the Ark.
Nobody gets away in this church without a faith crisis. Sometimes a person is prepared for it, sometimes they are not. But whatever our preparations, a faith crisis can still be, well a crisis. We can all need time to work things out. That is okay.

As members that deal with questions, however, there are two kinds of people that come to mind. The first one is the steady-ers.

Poor Uzzah. It is such a bizarre story. Israel is marching back home with the Ark of the Covenant. There is something like an Israelite marching band going before them, like a parade, playing harps and cymbals and "all manner of instruments made of fir wood."  Some primitive wooden tuba comes to my mind. And then the ox stumbles, it looks like the ark is going to fall, and Uzzah, maybe just instinctively, reaches out his hand to steady the ark. Bam. He's struck dead. The wooden tuba players and harpists fall quiet.

It is unfair. He was just trying to help! What was the big deal? The lesson given in Sunday School is that God is in charge of that ark, he had angels and power and whatever else to look after his own ark of the covenant, and he didn't need Uzzah's hand to steady it. Perhaps he wanted to remind his people of who was in charge here. But it is clear that steadying the ark is not a good idea.

In modern day revelation, God warns that the "man...that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning" (D&C 85:8) Harsh stuff. Spiritual death. Don't do it. And tragically, like the tree's branches, often children lose out because of a parent's choices.

Today there are a lot of steady-ers. They seem to live in a state of constant angst about the state of this Church. Apostle so-and-so said this terrible thing. Our church created a potentially harmful policy. In a church full of imperfect people, there is always something to be troubled about, and with social media, there is always a bandwagon for the latest outrage. Perhaps the steady-ers are justified in their concern; after all, church leaders can make mistakes. (They say so. Like here. And here.) And like the stumbling ox, it can actually look like this Church is going to fall, especially when gazed at from the narrow perspectives offered by critics. 

It would be well to remember who is in charge of this Church, the "ark of the covenant." We must remember who it is that ultimately guides this institution--divinely led in spite of its entourage of flawed people. We can remember the promise that his Kingdom cannot fail in preparation for Christ's second coming. If you don't know that is for sure, you can find out. It will take, as any convert to the Church knows, a lot of humility and prayer, time, and the giving up of some of your opinions and beliefs. But you can know. And then you can be reminded again by the Holy Ghost. Because we all need reminding.

Many who still love this church may worry the whole thing is going to flop. But it won't. And we will criticize and steady ourselves right out of the church and into the great and spacious building if we aren't careful. And like Uzzah found out, unless we repent and come back, we will be spiritually cut off.

Because frankly, God does not need your steadying hand, or your warning voice to criticize his anointed. But he does need you. All of you. He needs you to be a laborer in the vineyard, a good and faithful servant, and a builder of Zion. That's type two--the builders.

Building is a lot more work than steadying. It takes more than just an occasional hand or critical word when some leader may or may not have made a mistake. It takes all you have, all you are, all the time. It requires the wearisome toil involved in well-doing, and in "laying the foundation of a great work" because "out of small things proceedeth that which is great" (D&C 64:33) Even if that work is dragging your screaming toddler to church, or setting up a home teaching appointment, or accepting a calling to do the dumb ward bulletin of all things. It takes weekday effort, too, like being kind to people you would rather not be kind to. Like avoiding the busyness and distraction of a world flinging itself mightily into crazyland, and opening your scriptures and actually seeking for God's word. Then do it again. Every day. It means focusing on the sacrament, remembering the death of a Savior who loved you, and who lays out his body and blood at the sacrament table every Sunday for you, whether you accept it or not. It takes remembering and keeping solemn covenants you have made to be a builder, even if you'd rather not.

Building can mean being the change you wish to see in the Church. And then again, building can mean not just being the change, but humbly being the change. It means giving of yourself without any fanfare or criticism even if others don't catch on right away. It is all that tough, nitty-gritty, humbling and grueling stuff that true discipleship is made of.

Anyone can see the problems in the church. There are plenty. The bride is not yet ready for the bridegroom. We know that already. But she is getting there, steady as she goes. So let's leave the steadying to the Lord and build. Let's build together.