It has been a few weeks since my last post. My lapse in writing can be attributed to a definite malaise that has settled in on my mind. I am reminded this morning that I have been fulfilling the prophecy in D&C 84:54. I had allowed my mind to become darkened because of unbelief and because I had been treating lightly the things I have received.
It started with the memories of Patsy's mother's passing a year ago, then continued as I have observed my own father's slow but steady deterioration as he comes up against his 94th birthday. It's hard to stay positive about the future when you see a visual example of the overall entropy that settles in on the aged ones among us. There is a fatalistic sense of the inevitability of the death of everyone and everything you love that sometimes grips your heart and you forget that life is eternal in those moments of doubt and despair.
Added to that is what's been happening in the world around us - the Paris attacks, and just last week the tragic mass murder in San Bernardino. The latter-day Gadiantons are truly glorying in their bloodbaths around the world, unabated it seems by any who would dare to molest or make afraid. News of death is always in the headlines. It's depressing, isn't it?
We were in the bishop's office last week for tithing settlement. Sadly, the bishop mentioned that some in the Woodland Ward had asked for their names to be removed from the records of the Church because of the Church's recent clarification about the policies for handling cases where same sex couples are raising children in their homes and how those children will be dealt with administratively. His observations were that often members who advocate the "politically correct" social positions are perhaps not (and maybe they were never) truly converted. If they understood true doctrine, he asserted, they would not be caught up in the controversial political winds that swirl around us daily. Politics, it has always seemed to me, is a poor substitute for true doctrine.
Our extended family is not unlike everyone else's we know. There are few families in the Church who will not be touched by the same sex attraction realities that infiltrate the lives of those we love. I have said before, and reiterate here once again that this assault strikes at the very core of the eternal plan for families as laid out specifically and with little or no confusion in the inspired document The Family: A Proclamation To The World. While we continue to nurture, love and patiently teach those we love most who are saddened and confused about the Church position on these matters, we must never weaken our own resolve that God is in His heaven and is the author of the plan of salvation because He loves His children unconditionally. Offering empathy and love to all His children, as He does, is the essence of our attempts to become more like Him.
I know a man who has struggled with all the issues over same sex attraction for a lifetime. He was full of hate. He hated his parents, he hated his wife, he hated practically everyone he knew. I'm certain he must have hated me too at times. His countenance was dark and foreboding. Happiness eluded him. I know all the intimate details of his life because he shared them with me. I have stood by as he has sunk to the depths of despair over this issue, been the subject of Church disciplinary councils through the years, been divorced and remarried, acted out his fantasies and in short "done it all" over the course of his life. In search for happiness outside his temple marriage, however, he never found what he was seeking.
Now retired, he has been reborn after the manner of Alma the younger in answer to the pleas and persistent petitions of his father and those who loved him. I believe him when he tells me based upon his lifetime of "gayness" that homosexuality is a choice. As tortured as he has been, he knows that to be true. I do not know it the way he knows it. I know that is true from a doctrinal perspective. I can only take him at his word as a witness who has lived it. And I love him deeply and honestly for his choice to return, Alma-like, cleansed, purified and wholly committed to living out his remaining days in the bonds of his marriage covenant with his wife and with his God. His countenance has changed. He is full of light and truth. He is reaching for more light every day.
I will not multiply words in this post (as tempting as that is for me), because I have laid out the doctrine repeatedly in these pages.
However, as I thought about my visit with the bishop at tithing settlement and as I have pondered "true conversion" since, I can say without reservation that the antidote for throwing off the malaise of the effects of the things that tend to dampen my enthusiasm for living is the "magic" of daily scripture study.
When I am asked how I came to love the scriptures so much the answer is simple - it was my substitute for pornography. As a young married man, I had to find a "replacement therapy" and for me it was immersing myself in the scriptures on a daily basis.
It began with a fascination about the broad topic of the signs of the times and the prophecies of the last days. The eschatology of other religions also came to bear on my studies. After a trip to the Holy Land many years ago I immersed myself in all things Muslim. I am still deeply saddened over how the radicals of Islam have altered forever what was once a religion of peace, one that valued "the people of the book" (meaning the Bible - Christians and Jews alike), and treated them with respect and tolerance.
Then it shifted to reading the New Testament and the Old Testament in depth as I taught the four-year series in gospel doctrine. I fell in love with the principal author of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul. He became a true hero to me. He helped me understand my Mormonism so much better than any other commentaries I had previously read. And conversely, Joseph Smith's writings helped me understand Paul better too. I have always found a marvelous harmony in Joseph and Paul.
Throughout all my explorations in the scriptures and amassing a library I have now mostly given away except for the treasured volumes I simply had to retain, The Book of Mormon continues to light my path. It is my considered belief that those who struggle most with the Church and with doctrine are not immersing themselves daily in the word of God as found in the standard works published by the Church.
Whatever your challenges may be, try this simple experiment. Take down that dusty volume, The Book of Mormon, from your bookshelf, or ask the Church to send you one for free (scroll down to the bottom of this blog and you will find the link). Then do this: For thirty days set aside a half hour and open the book to any page anywhere inside the covers and read at random. You can always go back later and read it from start to finish, but for the purpose of this exercise just thumb through the pages at random every day for thirty minutes. Don't miss a day. At the end of the thirty days see if your life hasn't been improved in some small way. See if ingesting God's word from those pages doesn't help you with whatever it is that is causing your malaise of spirit.
As I am His witness, I testify that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. It is truly a Second Witness of Jesus Christ. Almost any page will seal that testimony in your heart if you seek to know it in the sincerity of your search for truth. Your conversion will be in direct proportion to the degree of diligence you apply to this simple test. No one I know ever left this Church who was reading The Book of Mormon daily. It's such a simple spiritual antidote.
Dare to get converted, truly converted, and then stay converted. And continue in patience to reach out and love those around you who aren't so sure about that.