Sunday, May 28, 2017

All Is God's

Before I move on from the topic of consecration, I want to expound briefly on something I touched on in the first of my recent blog posts about consecration. The idea is that "because the earth was created by Jesus Christ under the direction of Heavenly Father, everything on the earth belongs to them." It doesn't make sense to become too attached to what's "ours" because it's not really ours at all. God owns the Earth and everything on it. He created it. And even the things we create, we make out of things He gave us. So, when God asks us to give something up, we should try to remember that it was never really ours in the first place, and it was a blessing that God let us borrow it at all. Of course, we will still have the tendency to want to get and keep things, but deep down, we know that we won't be able to keep anything forever anyway, so it's a much better idea to use the things we have to do some good while we can. Possessions are temporary, but the rewards for using them for good are eternal.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Inertia Confirmed

I did a little bit of study on the topic of desire the other day, and I came across this little gem in a talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell titled “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts”:
Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service, and each act of worship, however small and incremental, adds to our spiritual momentum. Like Newton’s Second Law, there is a transmitting of acceleration as well as a contagiousness associated with even the small acts of goodness.
This reminded me of one of my earlier blog posts about spiritual inertia, in which I said approximately the same thing:
Every right decision we make gives us a little push in the right direction, making it easier to make good decisions in the future. . . . Good decisions, even small ones, . . . help us build up powerful, positive, spiritual momentum.
I don't know if I had read Elder Maxwell's talk before writing that blog post. In fact, I doubt I had. But I'm confident that I was under the influence of the Holy Ghost as I wrote it, so it doesn't really surprise me that the ideas that came to my mind had also come to another inspired person's mind seventeen years prior. The Holy Ghost shares truths that are eternal, including truths about eternal principles, which apparently include the principle of spiritual momentum.

When we listen to the Holy Ghost, He teaches us the same truths and principles He teaches the prophets and inspires them to share. When we are in tune with the Spirit, and feel Him reveal something to us or confirm the truth or something we say or hear or read, then we can know that it's just as true as if a prophet had said it, or even God Himself. The Holy Ghost is God's messenger. When we learn something through the Holy Ghost, or when He confirms something we learned elsewhere, we can be certain that the message is true and from God.

However, there is one slight caveat I want to add to this blog post before I post it: It can sometimes be difficult to feel and recognize the Spirit, and as we seek revelation, we may mistake a lack of a response for a positive response, or may otherwise mistake what the Holy Ghost was trying to teach us. This is why we should try to confirm our impressions by checking them against the truths taught in the scriptures and by the prophets. Just because something feels true, we shouldn't automatically accept it as gospel truth.

The good news is that there have been a lot of prophets and apostles, and they've shared a lot of truths over the centuries. If the Holy Ghost teaches you something, a modern-day or ancient prophet or apostle probably taught it too. That's what I learned a day or two ago, when I discovered that the Holy Ghost had taught Elder Maxwell the same principle He had taught me. God shares truths through His prophets and apostles, but He also shares them through the Holy Spirit. We can learn truths by reading and listening to the words of the prophets, but if we're listening to the Spirit also, it shouldn't be too surprising if God shares some truths with us directly.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Consecration Game

Each lesson in the Primary manual comes with an "Attention Activity," something to grab the children's interest and point it toward the subject of the lesson. The Attention Activity for the consecration lesson is to play a game called "I Don't Need It - Would You Like It?" which involves giving each child a list of things they need, and then having them draw a scrap of paper out of a hat. The scrap of paper will have a word on it, matching one of the items on their list. The child will cross that item of their list, then give the next child a turn to draw a word out of the hat. If, at any time, a child draws a word they already have crossed out, they say "I don't need it. Do you want it?" and offer the item to the next child. If they don't have that word crossed out yet, they cross it out. If they already had it crossed out, they offer it to the next child, and so on. This continues until each child has crossed out every item on their list.

I like this game, but I think we can improve upon it. I like the idea of having a game simulate the concepts of the Law of Consecration, and I've had an idea for a game that may simulate consecration a little better. When the early saints adopted the Law of Consecration, they each already had some resources, which they consecrated to the church, and the Bishop then distributed what was needed to those who needed it. Perhaps another way to play this game would be to have each child start with a list of the things they needed and with a few scraps of paper. One at a time, each child would go to the "Bishop," their teacher (me), and I would ask them "What do you have?" and "What do you need?" If a child has scraps of paper they don't need, those scraps go into the storehouse (on the table). If they need scraps they don't have, they will be given what they need from out of the storehouse, assuming that the storehouse has what they need.

I think that each list of needs should be different, and each child should be given a different number of randomly-selected scraps of paper. Some children won't have any scraps that they don't need, and some children will have all the scraps they need, and then some. This will be much like life, because each person and each family has different needs, and some people simply have more than others. Some children will receive more scraps of paper from the storehouse than they contribute, and other children will contribute more to the storehouse than they receive, but in the end, every child will end up with what they need.

From there, I can talk about how each family of the early saints went to the Bishop with what they had, described their needs, and usually left with what they needed, leaving any excess behind. Anything they had and didn't need would be stored, in case somebody else needed it and didn't have it. By sharing what they had extra and making their needs known to the Bishop, each family was able to share with the others in a way that everyone got what they needed.

I'll have to make sure the lists of needs and the scraps of paper match up, so everyone's needs can be met with the scraps of paper I bring. I'll also want to try to set up certain scenarios, like some children having nothing they can contribute in excess to what they need and some children having all they need and more, so we can get a variety of experiences with contributing and receiving. I may just make sure some children have more than others at the start, so such experiences are likely to happen, though not guaranteed.

I'll work out the system further later, but I like what I've got so far. I think this will be an interesting activity and that it'll help the children understand what the Law of Consecration is and what the early saints did to make it work, and it'll hopefully be even more memorable as each child experiences this consecration simulation first-hand.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sharing

It may be too simplistic, but I might describe the Law of Consecration as being like sharing. The Law of Consecration is kind of like sharing in that we are sharing what we have with others, though, when we share, we usually don't share everything we have, and we usually know exactly whom we're sharing with. In the Law of Consecration, we are asked to consecrate everything to the Lord, and then He distributes everything back out to everyone who needs anything. I may not want to share something with someone, but under the Law of Consecration, that's not my call.

I suppose, if I were more righteous, if I cared more about other people, if I had more charity, I might be more willing to share what I have with others, and if I had an eternal perspective, I might not feel so much of an attachment to the material objects I consider "mine."

Of course, another point that's probably important to make is that nothing on earth is really "ours." Everything we have is given to us as a gift from God, and most of it is just on loan. We get to keep our bodies (or rather, God will give us new bodies after these ones have been destroyed), but every other physical thing in this world is only borrowed. God made the Earth and shared it with us so we could have experiences on it and then return home, not so we could stay here with all "our" stuff.

In a sense, we are already sharing everything - we're just not doing it very well. We all share this one Earth and everything on it, but we could stand to share it more evenly, more generously, and more fairly. That, in a nutshell, as it could be explained to eight- and nine-year-olds, is what the Law of Consecration is: Everyone sharing everything with everyone else. Of course, the actual system is bound to be far more complicated than that, but I think that, for the sake of explanation, "sharing" is close enough to the Law of Consecration to serve as a suitable model, at least for Primary kids.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Commencing Consecration Lesson Preparation

This Sunday, I'm going to teach my Primary class about the Law of Consecration, which I think might be difficult. The main problem with the Law of Consecration is its apparent similarity to other systems, which are infamously terrible. I don't fully understand Communism or Socialism (or the Law of Consecration, for that matter), and I certainly don't know all the differences between them. I'm not sure why I should be okay with the Law of Consecration when I'm pretty sure I'm not okay with Communism or Socialism. However, I am okay with Tithing for one important reason and one less-important reason.

The less-important reason I'm okay with Tithing is that the Law of Tithing only requires 10% of one's income, not 100% of one's, well, everything. It's fortunate that this is the less-important reason because, as I understand it, the Law of Consecration requires one to "consecrate" all of their time, talents, and anything else they may have, including all their possessions, which would certainly be terrible, paramount to slavery, if not for one thing: Agency.

The more-important reason I'm okay with the Law of Tithing is that it's not the kind of "law" anybody actually enforces. It's completely voluntary. And the only penalties for not paying tithing is missing out on the blessings you would get from paying it. For example, you can't enter the temple unless you're a full tithes-payer, but calling exclusion from the temple a penalty is like saying that being barred from the movie theater is the penalty of not buying a movie ticket. It's not exactly the kind of punishment one might expect to receive for having broken a law.

Hopefully, the Law of Consecration will be handled in a similar way. If we obey the Law of Consecration, we'll get blessings for it, and if we don't obey, we'll miss out on those blessings. As long as that is the only penalty, I don't think I'll have a problem with the Law of Consecration. As long as it's voluntary, and people won't face death or imprisonment for opting out, the Law of Consecration could actually be okay.

Of course, there are other considerations. The contributions will have to be handled, stored, and distributed wisely and fairly, so we'll definitely need the people managing the system not to be greedy or corrupt (which, I hear, is one of the problems with Communism), but here, too, we already have a working model. Our Fast Offerings, which are also completely voluntary, support the Bishop's Storehouse, which stores food, cleaning supplies, and other items, and distributes it to those in need. Those who receive goods from the Storehouse have to talk to the Bishop first, to establish that their need is genuine and that they're not just freeloading on the generosity of others (another common problem of other systems), but as long as people are being honest, and as long as there are honest people helping others stay honest, I can imagine a Consecration-based system working just as well as the Bishop's Storehouse works.

Still, I don't know all the details. I have a lot of questions about the Law of Consecration that the lesson manual just doesn't answer. Further study may answer some of these questions and help put my mind at ease. In the meantime, I can only hope that the Law of Consecration was and will be just a larger-scaled version of the system the church has now, with voluntary contributions being dispensed to the needy as their needs require. It could be a fairly idealistic system, as long as it avoids the pitfalls that plague other seemingly-similar systems.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Integrity

Toward the end of his talk, Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Elder Robert D. Hales taught that discipleship involves a certain amount of integrity:
There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet.
What I find most interesting about integrity is that, in two out of three cases, this moral lesson goes both ways. It doesn't make much sense for us to treat our friends the same way we would treat our enemies, but there are moral reasons for us to be as honest with others as we are with ourselves, and there is a strong moral reason to be as faithful in private as we are in public. Whether we're in public or in private, our behavior should always be the same: good. Nobody's perfect, and we're certainly not going to be perfect all the time. At some times, we're going to be more righteous than at other times, but we should always strive to be as good as we can be, whether we're being observed or not.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Born Into This Family

Twice today, I was treated to a meal by a member of my family, and each time, that family member thanked God that I was born into their family. I, too, am grateful that I was born into the family I have, and not because I doubt I'd have been born otherwise. I'm sure that God gives each of His spirit children an opportunity to be born. If I wasn't born into this family, I would have been born into a different family. But that's just the problem: I would have been born into a different family, and what are the odds that I'd like that family as much as I like this one?

I pondered that question over dinner, wondering 'If I had a different family, would I like them as much as I like the family I have now?' Eventually, I concluded that the question is pointless, since I clearly wasn't born into a different family, and it's difficult to determine what might have been, but I'm still glad I thought about that question because it gave me an opportunity to realise how good my family is.

My family loves me. We don't suffer from poverty. We have the gospel. We basically have everything we need to be happy. And we don't have any of the major problems that could rob us of our happiness. We don't have any issues with substance abuse. None of us abuse or are abused by anybody else. Even with just those three factors considered: Being born into the gospel, not having any abuse-related problems, and having more than enough money to get by, I'm lucky to have been born into a family this good.

If my parents had stopped having kids before they had me, I'm confident that I would have been born into a different family, and I'm glad that didn't happen. I am very happy with the family I have. Is our family perfect? Not really. Every family has its problems. But this is the best family I've got, and I wouldn't trade them for any other family in the world. I'm glad that they're grateful I was born into their family. I'm grateful for that, too.