Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Right Road?

There are some people who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up, even as children. I was not one of those people. I knew I wanted to go to college, and thought I had a good direction when I began, but it didn't take long to realize that my plans weren't for me -- but I didn't know what should replace them. I felt a bit directionless, even purposeless at times.

I started as a Computer Science major. From there, I fluctuated between Family Science and Statistics, considering basically everything in between. (I ruled out business because I KNEW I wasn't interested in that. I'll have to share that story for another day: I got my Master's degree in business!)

Long story short, my first semester of my junior year, I finally took a leap and declared Psychology as my major. I was petrified that I would hit yet another brick wall in my gut as I had with so many other directions I had tested. I was worried about doing what was "right" for me (what "God wanted me to do"). All I wanted to know is if this was "right."

I sought a blessing from my dad. It started off rather generic. I remember him telling me that I could seek direction in prayer as needed. (OK, I knew that. I really, really wanted an answer NOW, though!) Then it happened. I could tell that the Spirit took over and my dad told me that the decision I had made was good and right. (Woo hoo!) BUT--and this was a BIG but that has stuck with me through nearly two decades--he told me that (I can hear my dad's voice saying words like these): "The Lord would have you know that there are many paths you could take and still accomplish your work on the earth." Wow. What a lesson that was. This WAS a good decision, but it wasn't the ONLY right decision for me.

Now, I'm not sharing this to say that there aren't some times in life when there isn't a direction that is capital-R Right. In addition, I believe that there may be paths in our lives that might be Better than others. I believe with all of my heart that the Lord can and will guide us in our decisions along the way if we seek His help in faith. But I have never forgotten that blessing. For all my desire to "do what is right" and to follow the Lord's will, sometimes He doesn't have One Right Path that I Must Take Or Else.

When I get the chance to talk to young college students, as I sometimes do, I always share the following quote with them (one from my kinda-oldies-but-goodies collection:)

In the past, I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching, or into the arts, or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path – not necessarily an evil one, but one that was not right for me – without fail, the Lord has always let me know just this emphatically: ‘That is wrong; do not go that way. That is not for you.’

On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because He knows we need the growth, He generally does not point and say, ‘Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction, then turn right and go two miles….’ But, if it is wrong, He will let us know – we will feel it for sure. I am positive of that. So, rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,’ let us turn it around and say, ‘I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly, you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going, and then you can receive the assurance: ‘Yes, I am going in the right direction. I am doing what my Father in Heaven wants me to do because I am not doing the things He does not want me to do.’ And you can know that for sure. That is part of the growth process and part of accomplishing what our Father in Heaven has in mind for us. (John H. Groberg, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1979)

29 comments:

JKS said...

I agonized over my major for years and tried out all sorts of majors. By my fourth year of school, when I was agonizing yet again I finally got my answer. "It doesn't matter."
And it didn't. I had a great 4 year career after I graduated but I could have done it with any major. I loved the job and it turned out pretty happily ever after for me with my doesn't really matter which bachelors degree.
Its nice to meet someone with a similar answer.

Doug Towers said...

Yes, I wonder if I sometimes wait a bit too often. We have to, on the one hand, learn to make decisions, yet on the other, learn to trust and listen to God. I have found great blessings come from letting him make decisions. And great cursing comes from doing something contrary to what God (usually through the Holy Ghost) advises. This can tend to make you just sit and wait for instructions.

You have mentioned having 2 degrees. You've said here that one is in business, I'm just curious as to the other?

M&M said...

jks,
Yes, for some of us it really ends up not mattering on some of the specifics. On the other hand, my husband felt pretty specific direction in his education and job focus. And my Master's degree experience was most certainly not MY decision...the idea was clearly heaven-sent. So I've experienced things on both sides of the fence. :)

Doug, that balance of listening and acting according to our own sense is a tough one.

My undergrad was in the social sciences. Broad, general, people-oriented, and alone, pretty worthless. ;)

RoAnn said...

Right on, Michelle! I totally agree with your post.

I think God wants us to learn trust and faith and obedience through our experiences, and that means we have to continually make choices, many of which will have to be made without direct, specific revelation. We are his children, not his puppets, so He is not going to orchestrate our every move.

But I am convinced that, as Elder Groberg put it, "if [our choice] is wrong, He will let us know." Thus we can move ahead even when we don't feel a direct command to do something, having confidence that the Lord will warn us if we are heading for disaster!

M&M said...

RoAnn,
Wowza, friend. I've missed you! Thanks for your comment and encouragement. I'm finding that I'm needing this post more than I thought I did. :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

So would your second course be what someone wanting to be a social worker would do? Is it a minor psychology course? These types of courses seem to be different from place to place, so I'm just looking to understand correctly what you did.

M&M said...

I'm not sure I understand your question, Doug. My second course? Sorry, sometimes I'm slow...can you help me out?

Doug Towers said...

m&m

Sorry. Second degree, is what I was referring to. That's my fault for not being clearer.

M&M said...

I have a BS in Psychology and a Master's in Business. I don't have two grad degrees, if that is what you might have been asking. Maybe someday.... :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I was actually wondering whether you had done a degree in Psychology, when I first asked the question. it must have been temprement.

I have worked with many Psychologists, and the vast majority have some very messed up ideas. But the good ones are good, and you fit in the latter catagory.

M&M said...

Doug, I wondered why the questions. :) I don't know if you can count an undergrad in psychology as worth anything, but I am glad to have gotten to the end of your comment to find that you don't think I'm messed up. :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I had to laugh at the last part of your comment.

I certainly don't find you messed up. I actually like talking to you because (I hope I can explain this properly) you have a definite woman's perspective, mixed with some deep thought in regard doctrine. You mix it together in ways that guys just don't. There is this holding to base for security within your way of viewing things. Yet you will still take steps out a bit. Guys can often go off in tangents. I like to talk to guys too. But you have that good woman's perspective.

I hope I haven't insulted you inadvertantly there. Often my words are misinterpreted. So if there are 2 ways to take anything there, take it the good way.

M&M said...

Doug, no worries. I think I get what you are saying. Thanks. If there is anything I feel strongly about, it's what I think you were saying about "holding to base for security" -- any exploration of ideas for me, indeed, must square with home base (scriptures, prophets, basic tenets of my faith) or I can't feel good about exploring. I personally think that is the only way to keep ourselves safe in these days of information overload, widely ranging opinions (even within the Church), and a large and spacious building that is getting larger and spaciousier and more and more ridiculing by the day.

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I would add one ingredient that I know you use, as I can feel it in some things you say. And that is the Holy Ghost.

The place where you and I appear to divide is that I accept him as my ultimate authority, to the point that he doesn't have to prove his claim by those sources you mention (though generally he does). If the prophet made a statement, declaring it to be from God directly by revelation to him, but it appeared to conflict with some statements in the Scriptures, you would accept the prophet's statement. That is how I feel about the Holy Ghost. He is my teacher.

To put it more plainly. I believe everything written in the Scriptures and stated by GAs, provided it doesn't conflict with what the Holy Ghost says (which is very rare, anyway). What is more is he bears witness to these other 2 sources. But the Holy Ghost can teach me things far beyond what is written and stated.

But listening does need to be finely tuned. And the GAs and Scriptures lay a sure foundation.

In regard all this, as you have said, these sources are invaluable in these times of so much rubbish being thrown around. And so many conspiring people in combinations of all types.

M&M said...

Hmmmm...maybe we are talking past each other. I agree that the Holy Ghost can teach us beyond what prophets and scriptures teach, but I believe that this can only happen if we are firmly planted on the revealed word through prophets and scriptures. The Holy Ghost won't teach us things that go against the revealed word, especially in terms of commandments and pure doctrine. I hope this isn't what you are saying, but I always get a bit leery when I hear someone talking of looking to the Holy Ghost more than prophets, because I think sometimes that is used simply as justification to ignore what the prophets say. (That's a pet peeve of mine about the bloggernacle, in fact....I think there is too much of "I don't like what they say so I am going to ignore them/it must not be true.") I suspect that isn't what you are advocating, but I get a little nervous with that kind of comment nonetheless. :)

Bottom line for me, and I think this is doctrinally sound, is that we aren't going to get more truth from the Holy Ghost than we are willing to accept. If we accept the word the Lord has given us through the scriptures, prophets temple, etc. then I think we put ourselves in a position to learn more. But if we don't have that foundation of faith in the basics that we receive, I don't believe we are going to really learn beyond those things. The Holy Ghost works in concert with and building on that foundation, not in opposition of or competition with it. Are we in agreement on that?

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I agree with what you are saying, though I would qualify one issue. Let's suppose you were living in Israel between the time of Moses and Christ. As Christ put it, you were told to love your neighbour and hate your enemies. The prophet Moses had laid this down from the Lord. But he had only given this, comparatively, pathetic doctrine because of the lack of faith of the hearers (Heb 4:2). If the Holy Ghost taught you contrary to the Law laid down by the prophet Moses, which he received from the Lord, would you follow the Holy Ghost and love all, or follow the Scriptures and prophets and hate your enemies?

I know that justifications can come no end. As you point out. We can pick and choose doctrine at our whims, if not careful. This is where I also agree with you about solid bases. How strong is our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? How easily could we be swayed by the dark side? All your concerns are valid.

But then I would ask, should our spiritual progression be adapted to the weak and weakest of Saints? Which is, understandably, what the GAs doctrine must keep in mind. Don't consider my statements to demonstrate some disrespect for GAs. I appreciate their efforts, and have learnt a great deal from them over the years.

If you are feeling uncomfortable with this conversation just say so. Don't feel that you must continue with it. I'm mainly interested in knowing what I can and can't say. So I'm just sounding out your thoughts. Seeing how eye-to-eye we can actually see things.

M&M said...

I have a hard time thinking of situations in our day that would compare to your example (and I'm not sure I buy into that example anyway, because we also see that there were prophets (in the BoM) teaching higher law principles about love, etc. that we don't see in the Bible, so I wonder if we have the whole story there anyway, ya know)? If it really was "commandment" to hate enemies, then Nephi was in violation of that. I think perhaps you are possibly misunderstanding what the Savior meant, because clearly gospel principles were being lived even before the Savior came and fulfilled the law.

I have a feeling that we won't see eye-to-eye on this. While I welcome ideas and thoughts and discussion, I really do feel more comfortable with things that run right down the middle of our prophets' teachings and doctrines. I am pretty consistent about that. I don't get into health fads that come and go, and I'm not one to get into gospel fads that don't square somehow with prophetic teaching. If someone starts preaching something beyond and inconsistent with their teaching, for ME, that is what the Holy Ghost draws the line. If that makes me sound like one of the weak saints, then I suppose I'll have to settle for that. :) That, to me, is part of what holding to the rod is all about. (A la, for example, Elder Holland. We ALL need that rod...which is largely given to us via the prophets.)

Feel free to keep sharing thoughts, with that in mind as to where my comfort level is. At any rate, I moderate comments, so if I start to feel too squeamish with something, I just won't publish a comment, and will let you know that has occurred. Fair enough?

M&M said...

p.s. If somehow you are saying that one can outgrow the need for prophetic teaching, then perhaps this is a good point to stop this discussion. I hope that's not what you are saying, but if you are, then it's guaranteed that we won't see eye to eye. :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I don't think anyone can outgrow something good. And in saying that commandments God gives are aimed at the ability of the weakest of Saints, doesn't mean that all obeying them fit in that catagory. It wasn't referring to you. I was just saying that there are greater things that God would have us live. And I know he will deliver these to the church, at the appropriate time (which he knows), through the prophets.

And considering you published that last comment of mine, I don't think there will be anything I say that you won't publish. My comments will remain in line with your feelings from now on. :) See, I can do that too. Catchy.

M&M said...

I'm still a little uncomfortable with the idea that you think you might have commandments in your life that put you "ahead" and "stronger" than "the weakest of saints." Care to give an example?

M&M said...

I realized that was not really an appropriate question to ask. If you feel you have received beyond what is typical, I shouldn't be asking specifics, even if I'm still not 100% convinced about your approach. But you never know...maybe that's because I am one of the weak ones. :)
We each have to do what feels right, and so on we go.

M&M said...

Doug, I want you to know I appreciate the respectful exchange, and perhaps I have 1) asked too many questions and 2) shown skepticism that may not always be warranted. I will tell you that my skepticism stems from running into people who vocally and publicly try to "preach" what they feel is "higher law" without any authority to do so. So, even though I fear I haven't respected your limits here, and have asked too many questions, I would encourage you that if you think you have anything beyond what is common, to really, really keep it to yourself. I know you have that in mind and only you can decide where that line is. My apologies for asking anything that might have made you feel to say anything beyond what Al. 12:9 might have suggested appropriate. (Hence my decision to not publish that last comment you sent.) I don't doubt that there are truths to be had beyond the basics. But again, I will look to the prophets as a guide, and the most they will ever say is that they have experiences too sacred to share. Might be a good approach to take. :)

I hope you can sense a desire to maintain respect in my comments. I can sense the deep love you have for the things you hold to be true. Thanks for the respect I feel you have shown to me as well. :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I have only just noticed your latest comment, having responded to your email.

I have felt your desire to maintain respect, in your comments, yes.

I believe Alma 12:9 to be pertaining to particular divine laws that could justify evil (some great evil) in the wrong hands. These I keep to myself. But where God has taught me things that can't cause any problems, but enhance our affections toward God, if believed, I speak them without fear. Fortunately I can express these things, because I'm not a GA. I often wonder what GAs would really love to say, but can't because of their position. If I say it, I'm just a nobody. No one can quote me. Those ready to hear will hear. Sometimes things are said to people that they reject at the time, but the Holy Ghost can bring them to mind at the appropriate time. As he has done with me.

If you read my blog you will find a lot of doctrine taught to me by the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. While some things may be brought into dispute, I would ask if these things really detract from a loving God? Or whether they, in fact, add to such a concept?

M&M said...

Hmmm...I actually take Al. 12:9 to mean more than that. I don't have the quote, but BY once said something about the effect of God giving him knowledge because he knew how to keep a secret. My opinion is that when I receive things that are not widely known (not that this happens often, and not necessarily just a simple extra interpretation of a scripture that has many interpretations, but more along the lines of mysteries that, by definition, are only known through the Spirit and are not taught by our leaders), I think they are best kept to oneself. It's not just a matter of information being misused, in my opinion. It's also a matter of 1) sharing something for which others may not be prepared to hear, 2) not appearing prideful, like "na-na, I know something you don't know" and 3) possibly not casting pearls before swine, as it were.

If anything, since you and I and other Joe Blows aren't GAs, we might be under that much more restriction because we have no authority to teach new and uncommon interpretations of scripture and doctrine. These are really reasons why I get uncomfortable when someone starts going down a path of sharing things that get ahead or go away from what our leaders teach. Not necessarily because what they are sharing is wrong, but because I believe it's risky to get ahead of the leaders, esp. as relates to doctrine, and also to put oneself "ahead" of others. (So easy for pride to creep in.) Again, I'm not talking about sharing a new insight about what a scripture might mean, but about new, "pure intelligence" kinds of inspiration that really are probably best kept sacred. Not that I'm an expert in those experiences by any means, but.... I KNOW there is much to learn that God can teach us through the Spirit, but if I ever have knowledge come to me, I feel the Al 12:9 principle would bind me to not say anything, or at least to be very, very careful. And if BY was right about keeping secrets, why would I want to share and risk limiting the additional light and knowledge that could come?

Doug Towers said...

m&m

When I look at Alma 12:9 I see some relevance to the comment "according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him [God]". I see this as him demonstrating that his thoughts are on something that people can actually do. Not detracting from the other totally, however. But I must confess this is a debateable inference.

In regard Brigham Young, I would say that his statements demonstrate him having the same opinion as mine, on Alma. If the statement of his you quote meant the types of things I'm talking about mentioning, he certainly didn't demostrate it. If I stated that I believe Adam and Eve to have been born to our Heavenly Father and Mother would you say I had gone into areas that Brigham Young wouldn't?

I agree with the 3 points you mention. The first one is the usual thing I try to keep in mind. This is a primary reason why it is good that I'm not a GA. People can easily dismiss it. I don't usually worry about the 3rd on the internet. It is the one place I am free of it.

I would also think that Brigham Young's statement supports my inference from Alma in that the more I teach the more the Holy Ghost floods into me. So I am actually learning more from getting into these things (those that are safe to state).

I understand your fear of someone preaching ahead of GAs in regard commandments, for all to follow. This isn't the order of the church. But I would love to hear your personal spiritual experiences. It doesn't mean I have to take them as Scripture, just because you say these things. But I believe we could all be so much wiser for hearing those personal Scriptures from each other. That is what Scripture is. God's dealings and teachings to members. Lehi was just a member, as was Nephi. We are given the Holy Ghost to help us discern truth from error.

M&M said...

Thanks for responding. I think this is helping us understand the other's point of view better. I like that.

First of all, Al. 12:9 definitely indicates what is possible, but I read that scripture as saying that anything beyond obvious doctrinal teaching or something squaring with that obvious teaching is private, IMO. I also think there is a difference between BY or Nephi or Lehi sharing their insights, because they were prophets, commanded by God to speak and write and given authority to do so.

To explain my point of view further, let's take your example of the parentage of Adam and Eve so you can understand my typical approach and perspective. It's not that I won't think about things like this, but I take the position that I am not going to take a firm position on something that our CURRENT leaders don't take a firm position on. :) (Ah, what a sentence!) At least I won't publicly. I might hmmmm and haaaaah about something; I like mulling and musing, after all. :) But I won't make a definitive statement (and I won't buy someone else's, either) even if I feel the Holy Ghost has told me something definitive (or even if someone says this is the way it is because the Spirit has told them so) unless it squares with something I can find in current teachings. The Spirit, for me, flows when I follow that pattern. To me, our current leaders are our beacon; they are they to whom we look for our doctrine and what matters most. Not that we don't look to the Spirit to learn, but the Spirit just flows most when I use current teachings (along with the scriptures) as the foundation.

I actually disagree to a great degree with your idea that the prophets only teach for the weakest of the saints. One of my most spiritual aha experiences ever taught me an important lesson: Our leaders are giving us much more than we often realize, even as we think they are just teaching the basics. The Spirit is He who can fill in the gaps for us even as we study "the basics" (hence the reason why I LOVE correlated church materials, because there IS something for everyone if everyone comes ready to receive in the Spirit. I had the aha while pondering and searching the scriptures. My initial natural-woman thought (fool that I am) was, "Why don't they tell us about these things more?" And then I found, OPEN on my bed, an article, based on a Conf. talk from just the previous year, that outlined all that I had studied to find what I did that night. Had I had eyes to see and ears to hear, I might have had this aha a year earlier! Elder Nelson had given me EVERYTHING I needed to learn what the Spirit had taught me! That has made me want to rivet my attention even more on what our leaders teach. There may be simple teaching for the "weak" but their teachings are like onions. If we heed and follow their words and the scriptures, I believe we open up more opportunity for deep spiritual insights than in any other way (except perhaps pondering in the temple).

So, back to what I was saying. I don't mind some speculating and musing with others here and there; but where there has not been repetition of concepts that early leaders have taught, I hold back on taking a firm, public position. That's not that I won't share my thoughts and join in the speculation as I feel inclined to do (sometimes I don't if the topic doesn't feel appropriate), but I seek to be very cautious about taking strong definitive stands on anything our current leaders don't take a stand on. (Perhaps you read about the whole "Was Jesus married?" issue that surfaced with The DaVinci Code. While early leaders may have taken a position on this issue, current leaders don't. Why is that? Do they not know? Maybe, or maybe not. Or is it perhaps because such "knowledge" doesn't much matter, and might distract us from the "weightier matters" of justice, mercy (i.e., atonement) and the "mysteries" (as you mention on your blog) of faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think our leaders help keep us focused on things that matter most to our salvation, and that lead us in fertile spiritual paths where some of the greatest mysteries of all may be found. :)

So, as we discussed on BoJ, on one hand I'm not against someone having an opinion, and I'm often not against a good speculative discussion, but I won't take one person's word or testimony on something that my file leaders won't. For me, that feels like a way to stay spiritually safe, because you know as well as I do that there are lots of ideas out there, even in the Church, that aren't good and right and solid. For me, the Spirit flows most when I stick with pondering things that have some foundation in scripture or prophetic teaching...the more recent, the better. And the more repeated, the better as well. The law of witnesses is a huge deal to me in the quest for truth. Did more than one prophet speak of the things I'm considering? Has that repetition passed down through the decades? Or did it stop somewhere 150 years ago for me to have to dig in obscure writings to find? These kinds of questions significantly impact how much credence or attention I will give ideas that are newish or a bit non-standard.

Whew. Are you sorry you have engaged in this conversation yet? :)

My husband and I were recently talking about this recently after some non-standard, non-correlated, not current things were discussed in GD. He liked the discussion because he felt it was interesting. I, on the other hand, was extremely uncomfortable with it...not that the topic wasn't interesting, but because it was going onto territory that is not chartered by our current leaders. We we talked, we considered that there is something to be learned not just from what our leaders teach, but from what they don't teach. (I realize that if we were more obedient, they could likely teach more, but I still believe that if we focus on what they do teach, we will be able to learn what they could teach more quickly. :) )I really, really believe in the onion principle (hmmmm...that would be a fun post...oh, actually, I did write about that topic here.

OK, enough for now. I gotta get to bed. :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

Some interesting statements there. And, no, I'm not sorry I asked.

I must say that prior to having read your impressions of onions and the gospel, I would have tended to have only likened them in that they both make my eyes water. But I guess you've heard that one a hundred times. In all seriousness, I totally agree with that. It also seems that the further you go in the more you realise just how little you actually know.

We are living in an interesting time. I believe a seriously challenging time lies not all that far ahead. I know....you felt you were already in it. What I mean is that the other 2/3rds of the gold plates are to be translated. And many doctrines must be re-introduced (D&C 119 heading, D&C 132). I see members as only having 2 options of surviving the great change of doctrines this must present. One is an absolute blind faith in anything and everything the prophet says, regardless. The other is for God to have revealed most of it to you already. So it won't be so tough. I'm trying to actually mix the 2 and hope for the best.

In regard what you mention about Christ and marriage. You may be interested to examine my quotes FROM SCRIPTURE about Paul being married in my November archives. Some of that would pertain even more to Christ as the Chief High Priest. I just didn't write that. I think that to be very important, because it teaches the absoluteness (I couldn't think of a better word) of marriage. Yet others may not see any necessity for such a demonstration. You have mentioned seeing no particular value in knowing. We are all different. I love this stuff. I eat it up. It is like light and life in my bosom.

I must agree with you that the GAs teach more than what people hear. And we can read over and over things, but not see them. Also I'm sure that many things I believe would have been quoted by some GA, but where and when?

M&M said...

A few thoughts:
I believe if one really have a testimony of following the prophets, then any changes, whenever they might come, will not be too much to bear. Like I said, for me, following the prophets and finding out truths by studying their words (along with scripture and temple) fill my soul with life and light!

As to the specific question, I can't believe Jesus wasn't married, but I don't need to know that He was to know of the supreme importance of marriage because that's what the prophets teach! :) I understand why you find it important, though. Like you said, to each his/her own.

Perhaps things you believe are or aren't supported by GA quotes. If they aren't obvious (and, I would add, not relatively current) would would be an indicator in my mind (not that it's my decision to make, of course!) that you should probably hold them close. :)

I appreciate the dialogue.

Doug Towers said...

m&m

In looking back at your post I notice you mention psychology. Silly me. I'll blame my glasses.