Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trusting God in ALL Things--Even Me

Wow!  We made it just in time--to Sacrament Meeting. The prelude music was still playing and the congregation's visiting was settling down to a low, comfortable, warm hum.  As any of you know who have ever attended a Mormon Sacrament Meeting, the fellowship between the members is part of what some would consider a "mystic union."  In a couple more minutes Brother B., our Bishop's 1st counselor stood up to greet us and begin the meeting.  As soon as the prelude music stopped so did the low hum of voices.  Only the voices of several small babies could be heard scattered throughout the congregation.

"Lord," I addressed my thoughts to Jesus directly, and felt His presence instantly--already with me.  "I'm so grateful to be here, dear Savior.  So grateful for the chance to partake of the sacrament's sacred--deeply mystical--symbolism."

"I'm grateful that you desired to come, Colleen.  And I'm grateful for your faith in my counsel to you to create a public blog where you can share your testimony of my willingness to converse with you--with all of you--as one friend would converse with another." 

"I'm pretty waffly about it, Lord.  I can't help but believe I'll catch a whole lot of flack for it.  I'm reminded of the man in Mark 9, who admitted his less than perfect faith.  And I'm grateful to know that I don't have to be perfect to receive and rejoice in Your Spirit and Presence."

"It's okay, Colleen.  Remember Helaman's son, Nephi, who I led to pray aloud on the wall of his garden, where others would hear him.  There is precident for what you are doing.  But more important--most important of all--I am calling you to this act of faith in me."

And shortly the Sacrament was served and the prayers were offered, addressing our Father in Heaven and declaring that by our partaking of the emblems of Christ's flesh and blood, we were willing to always remember His Son, Jesus Christ, that we might have His Spirit--the Spirit/Presence of Christ to be with us.

How grateful I am to know that this coming together of His heart and mind with mine is contingent upon His merits, and not my own.  How grateful I am to know that Joseph's words were prophetic beyond our wildest imagination when he stated, "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another." (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345.)  How grateful I am to know by my own experience the "character of God"--that just as He reveals in D&C 121:42, He uses only persusasion, patience, kindness, mercy and love unfeigned to influence those who come unto Him, seeking to be perfect in Him through the gift of revelation:  "And thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus." (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151.)  I know by my own experience, experimenting upon the words of our prophets, that this is exactly what Moroni meant when he etched these words in gold--just before he sealed the plates up to wait until the Restoration would come:  "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him." (Moroni 10:32.)

The afternoon has passed away, and it is almost time to join Phil for a quick-fix Sunday dinner and a trip into Logan to participate in an LDS 12 Step addiction recovery group.  I'd like to end this post with just a few of the opening paragraphs of the personal testimony I shared in 1996 as part of my masters thesis.

In 1993, I was finishing a BA in English at Brigham Young University in Provo.  To say I was enjoying myself would be a serious understatement.  I had waited for over 23 years--since the late 1960s--to go back to school.  Sitting in class, listening to lectures, reading texts, writing papers--I felt like a person dying of thirst who had been dropped in an oasis.  And the conversations I had with the Lord turned my personal journaling literally into a "well of living water."


Entering my undergrad class in English Literature never failed to warp my sense of time. While I sat there, enthralled, an hour would go by in what seemed like five minutes. However, on the day I learned I was a mystic, time--instead of flying past--stood stark still, allowing me to be flooded with recognition of truth so powerful that tears spilled down my cheeks. I often seriously wondered what the other studentsBmost of them in their twentiesBthought of the old, gray-haired lady, who sat in the back of the class, so often in tears.

On that particular day, we were discussing the life of the English poet, John Donne. Through his poetry we traced his wild, lustful, bawdy youth, then his transformation in mid-life to what in his later years became a complete consecration of his life to God. Here was soul, like my own, who had tried the world's ways and found them vaporous, without hope and without substance. I felt the resonance begin. As someone who had spent only the last six of her thirty years as a Mormon actually converted to Christ, and not just to His church, I identified deeply with Donne's "Johnny-come-lately" metamorphosis. Then suddenly, I was pulled out of my reverie. The professor, speaking of Donne's degree of amazing--even mighty--change, had just used the word "mystic."

"By the time he died, John Donne had become one of the greatest Christian mystics in the history of English literature," my professor went on.  I cringed. Mystic? How could the professor use language like that in a BYU classroom?! Didn't he realize that in our culture the word "mystic" was an good as an epithet , a profanity?

But the witness of the Spirit of Truth would not let me ignore the fact that that part of my own soul that Elizabeth Barrett Browning spoke of as "the depths and breadth and height my soul can feel when reaching out of sight" identified with John Donne's poetry, filled as it was with such intense and passionate consecration to Christ. I could not deny that I felt in studying Donne's life transformation in later life.  I recognized it because it was the same transformation I had so recently experienced. I felt in Donne a kindred spirit--someone who, as President Ezra Taft Benson had once put it, "choose[s] to follow [Christ], be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again." (Ezra Taft Benson, “Born of God,” Ensign, July 1989, 2.)
Next:  Trying to Understand the Meaning of the Word "Mystic"

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