Monday, February 24, 2014

Discerning the Spirit

Galatians chapter 5 verses 22 to 25 are probably one of the most quoted scriptures by missionaries. I recall often referring to these scriptures as a way to help others to discern the spirit. As I studied the scriptures this time round, I noticed the preceding verses which described the opposite of the “fruits of the spirit”.  The contrast between these sets of verses amplified my understanding of the products of the spirit. When Brother Griffin told us to write a list separating feelings under the influence of the Holy Ghost as compared to feelings from opposition, my mind went back to instances when I felt the Spirit.
            I was reminded of the times when I was confident and peaceful. I wasn’t always sure of the outcome but I had that reassurance that things will turn out fine. But those feelings don’t always come and they tend to be special feelings. I have realized that there is moments when the Lord does not give us those exceptional feelings and lets us exercise our wisdom. It can be confusing and such confusion sometimes isn’t necessarily from opposition. The Lord just wants us to exercise that ounce of faith to trust him and earn those exceptional feelings when they do come. Elder Bednar has mentioned (and I paraphrase) that when we are good boys and good girls and keeping our covenants, don’t worry about when we are under the influence of the spirit or not. I have come to learn that the Lord will provide sufficient support and knowledge to help us to make the right decision. And even if we don’t make the best decision, He’ll help us to be successful.

            These verses in Galatians are so simple yet are so meaningful. It is especially interesting that it is a list of fruits that are all intertwined with one another. When the Spirit hits you, it comes as combination of feelings and desires.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Binding cultures and traditions

As I listened to Brother Griffin’s (my new testament professor) explanation on the background of the Greeks, 1 Corinthians became clearer. I remembered reading about their beliefs and traditions in the bible dictionary but I did not entirely connect to the verses I had read until Brother Griffin reinforced it.
            He referenced verses 22 and 23 in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, which described that the Greeks seek after wisdom. They considered the crucifixion of Christ to be foolishness too. The Greeks had a tradition steeped in the philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. They believed in wisdom as the source of enlightenment. And neither could they believe in a God suffering death as they supposed all gods were invincible. As Paul was attempting to correct them in his epistle, I could picture him feeling so frustrated as his writing was laden with sarcasm. But then again, I felt for the Corinthians as they were probably surrounded by these beliefs and even taught about these beliefs in their schools. Changing one’s beliefs is so challenging.

            I have seen that in some of my friends and relatives who desire to live the principles of the gospel fully but old habits die-hard. With traditions and cultures that encourage such habits to return namely, that of drinking alcohol, tea and coffee, it is always a struggle. The scriptures give us a great example of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites who “buried” their weapons deep. However, they, too, were tempted due to the turmoil and war they were facing (for good reasons) to dig up the tools that brought pain into their lives. Conversion is definitely a gradual process especially when it comes to forsaking traditions that hold us back from progressing. Ultimately, the least we can do help each other forsake our binding traditions and cultures would be to be patient and supportive to each other.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Imparting your soul

Religion classes contribute to the soul of Brigham Young University. To me, it is a huge privilege to attend this ‘Mormon’ college partly due to the knowledge I acquire in these spiritual classes. I have to admit that they can be busy work and disrupt my slow-paced personal scripture study (with the more-than-my-usual-daily-dose-of chapters to complete before class).  
            But all in all, I feel I have gained more from the time spent than if I would have spent it on anything else. This semester, I have been attending Professor Griffin’s class on the second half of the New Testament, from The Act to Revelations. If there is something I appreciate most from his teaching, it would be his emphasis on first, studying and learning the context of the scriptures, then identifying and understanding the critical doctrines and principles and lastly, showing the application of those doctrines and principles. I have found that this has made scripture study most rewarding.
            In our last class, he went through the epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. With every start of the class, we learn the historical context such as the year (50 A.D), location (Corinth) and the author who was obviously Paul. It set perspective and gave more meaning to the scripture verses, as one tends to recognize the tone and intention of the words. The words of Paul resonated strongly with me when we reached verse 8 of chapter 2. When he mentioned “we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls,” I felt the deep emotion of love he had for his converts in Thessalonica.  Paul’s choice of words illustrated a key concept. Words have a powerful way of conveying love. But what made Paul’s words far more powerful was the fact that he gave his ‘soul’ to his converts. I could imagine Paul going out of his way to serve them. I could see him arising tirelessly in the morning to preach to the people in Thessalonica, possibly engaging them in their markets, in the temple for morning rituals and listening to the different challenges of the people there and expressing faith in them. I could see him sacrificing for them rather than merely prescribing the gospel to solve their problems. I think the key difference between an effective teacher and a mediocre teacher is the amount of love through action they put into teaching their students. Although the scriptures often seem to paint prophets and apostles as miracle workers who go from place to place to heal, cast devils and provide as well as cry repentance to the people and get rejected often, I think my image of Paul might probably be more accurate.

            Looking at my extrapolated imagery of Paul based on his words, I think we can take much with us. Teaching is soul work. It requires the heart. I don’t think there is a prescribed cooker-cutter way of doing this… except to teach not only the gospel of Jesus Christ but in a pattern after the gospel of Jesus Christ.