Friday, September 27, 2013

What Child Is This?

Welcome to the world, Jack.

I am humbled--no, baffled, really--by the creation of a human being. It is so unreal. You hold this squirming, squishy thing and it squints its eyes at you and you look into them in bewilderment and can only ask questions:  "Who are you, anyway? Where did you come from? And what will you become?" And then you realize that this is a person, not just a combination of you and your wife, but a being completely separate and distinct from either of you. He is an individual with his own personality, his own agency, his own spirit, his own future.

Elder Holland says, 
"There are those special moments in your lives when the other, more formal ordinances of the gospel--the sacraments, if you will--allow you to feel the grace and grandeur of God's power...But I know of nothing so earth-shatteringly powerful and yet so universally and unstintingly given to us as the God-given create a human body, that wonder of all wonders, a genetically and spiritually unique being never seen before in the history of the world and never to be duplicated again in all the ages of eternity--a child, your child--with eyes and ears and fingers and toes and a future of unspeakable grandeur." (Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments, BYU Address January 1988)
This concept of birth as a sacrament--a union with God to participate with Him in his work and glory, the creation and eternal progress of his children--baffles me more than just a little.

There is so much I still do not understand about the Plan of Life, but my new son has taught me, again, of my little pilgrimage down from heaven to this imperfect world, and reminds me of the grace that can transform imperfection into strength. Jack's birth also reminds me of the purpose of family in the Plan of Life--that "marriage between a man and a woman is essential to His eternal plan" (The Family:  A Proclamation to the World) and that I have an overwhelming responsibility to this child that I have helped bring into the world.

To be a father--that is one of the most surprising and miraculous gifts I have ever been given. I only hope I am up to the task. I hope that I am able to pass on the things I have learned, and spare him the mistakes I have made. I hope that I can point him to his Savior, so that he can experience not just a birth, but a rebirth, a real and spiritual conversion; that I can give him the chance of a round-trip ticket back into the presence of his Heavenly Father.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Book of Mormon and the Test

I recently finished reading The Book of Mormon and was, once again, blown away by its spiritual depth, its complexity, its doctrinal fullness, and its personal voice to me. Above all, I felt its spirit. It teaches about the atonement in simple and beautiful language. It teaches charity, forgiveness, kindness, helping the poor, humility, obedience, and a lot more.

Ezra Taft Benson said:
Once we realize how the Lord feels about this book, it should not surprise us that He also gives us solemn warnings about how we receive it. After indicating that those who receive the Book of Mormon with faith, working righteousness, will receive a crown of eternal glory (D&C 20:14), the Lord follows with this warning:  "But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation" (D&C 20:15)...The Lord warned the Saints that they are not to trifle with sacred things. Surely the Book of Mormon is a sacred thing, and yet many trifle with it, or in other words, take it lightly, treat it as though it is of little importance. (The Book of Mormon--the Keystone of Our Religion, October 1986 Conference)
I am often surprised by how easily the Book of Mormon is discountedaccounts of looking through a hat here, DNA of Native Americans there, etc.without ever addressing the weight of the book itself. More often than not, though, it is not something brought up in a web search that causes a lack of faithjust a general casual or lukewarm feeling toward it. "It's pretty okay, but..." Here's Hugh Nibley:
The Book of Mormon is a colossal structure. Considered purely as fiction, it is a performance without parallel. What other volume can approach this wealth of detail and tight-woven complexity, this factual precision combined with simple open lucidity...But this terse, compact religious history of a thousand years is something utterly beyond the scope of creative writing...One stands aghast at the presumption of those journalists, professors, and hack-writers who through the years have made merry over the quaint language and unfamiliar subject matter of the Book of Mormon while choosing to ignore its unparalleled scope and mastery. One is amazed by the easy effrontery of those who still assure us that anyone with a little time on his hands and an open Bible at his elbow could produce a Book of Mormon. (Since Cumorah, chapter 6, par. 4,19)
But The Book of Mormon does not provide proof to the unbeliever, and without faith it remains unremarkable. There will always unanswered questions, about Native American ancestry or method of translation or whatever, for both the believer and the doubter; I almost think it is intended to be that wayas with other principles, faith is built into the test to attract the honest, humble followers of Christ. Nephi explains the test of the Book of Mormon:
Hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach men that they should do good.
And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye--for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day. (2 Nephi 33:10-11)
A testimony of Christ and a testimony of the Book of Mormon build on each other, because the Book contains his words, and thus the Book of Mormon establishes his work: the gathering of Israel, the spread of truth, and the work of salvation through the Church of Jesus Christ.

I am quite certain that I could not believe in this Church and all its outrageous claims if it were not for the Book of Mormon.