BOTTLED

  • Faith is always a gift of God to man, which is obtained by obedience, as all other blessings are. (Joseph F. Smith Gospel Doctrine, p. 212) ... Faith does not come without works; faith does not come without obedience to the commandments of God. (Conference Report, October 1903, p. 4)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

3 OR 1300

originally posted Monday but unable to be edited

I read a book this weekend.

I don't know if I like it or not.

Did I tell you it's title or author - don't hold your breath! It is the story of a young Chinese bondmaid that loves the rich Jewish boy she is purchased to serve - I think ...

To me it is really a story about choices.

The central message I got from the book was that little things matter.

I made the choice to read the book. I also make the choice to not recommend it lightly. I was faced with a constant nagging unease - the beliefs of the characters were in conflict and so were mine: personally much of the book seemed like blasphemy - or was it? perhaps it was only a skilled author inflicting my conscience with choices like the characters faced.

We each face seemingly innocuous choices every day, simple harmless decisions: should I wear a red t-shirt or a yellow one? brown shoes or black boots? drive the truck or the car? play with the kids or shop for their shoes? call now or later? come or go? keep silent or speak?

Some choices we know are hinge pins to the gates of direction in living. Gordon B. Hinckley speaking about this very thing taught, "Most of these decisions seem small at the time we make them, but their eventual outcome can be almost overwhelming.

 In the book the maid must choose her master's clothing.  She knows a certain blue may remind him of his rabbi and synoguoge and his people; she deliberately lays out the red clothing for him to wear as he disobeys (not seriously yet) some of the laws his mother has taught him.

While Gordon B. Hinckley was working in the head office of a railroad company a passenger train arrived at its destination without the baggage car. A thoughtless switchman had moved a piece of steel just three or four inches. That piece of steel was a switch point, and ... the car that should have been in Newark, New Jersey, was in New Orleans, Louisiana - thirteen hundred miles away. It had gone south instead of east. September 1985

Hinge pin choices faced every character in the book I read.  The mother prided herself on living a strict Jewish life but adds elaborate Chinese embellishments to her clothing that also is made of Chinese textiles. So what? Is she a 'good' Jew? Can she be a good Jew and do that? - or not? Eventually it does not seem matter because the Jews intermarry with the people they live among, and disappear as a separate people, culture and community - or did it? Perhaps it mattered very much to very many.

Her kind husband, a mostly happy and easy going, wealthy merchant poses a poignant statement to a questioning listener, "Perhaps I am unhappy sometimes because I know I am not a good Jew, ..."

I found the statement riveting.

Perhaps I am unhappy sometimes because I am not a 'good' _______ - what?

We may substitute any descriptor of religion, status, race, nationality, community or family for his word 'Jew'. Fill in the blank for yourself; wife, husband, son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, nephew, neice, aunt,uncle, grandmother, grandfather, Canadian, American, Australian, Catholic, Mormon, mayor, teacher, clerk, carpenter, student, friend - what would your adjective be? Each one of us might put a different word in that place to berate ourselves about decisions or choices that hindsight reveals might have had better options.

I am deep in thought today.  I could not sleep last night. I finished the book and read it again. I did not like it any better.  Like the Jews of the book I believe in one true living God, my Father in Heaven.  I also believe Jesus Christ, Jehovah, is God's son. I believe He lives. I believe Jews ARE God's chosen people. Like the Jews, I believe God speaks to Prophets and that they guide us.

I still do not recommend the book I read even though it was extremely thought provoking.

I do recommend the words of living apostles and prophets on earth now, today. On the 2nd and 3rd of October 2010 they will counsel anyone that wishes to hear: anyone, anywhere in the world.

Thomas S. Monson said in 2001 and again in 2008, "Whether speaking of your generation of mine, there are some constancies amid the changes of the times. The past is behind - we must learn from it. The future is ahead - we must prepare for it. The  present is now - we must live in it.
Years ago, I discovered a thought which is true. It is this: The gate of history swings on small hinges, and so do people's lives. I [chose] to discuss three gates which you alone can open. You must pass through each gate if you are to be successful in your journey through mortality ..."

He then asks us to open 'The Gate of Preparation' with genuine effort and avoidance of fear, 'The Gate of Performance' with responsibility and accountability that is not for the intention but for the deed, and lastly 'The Gate of Service' by looking to the example of Jesus Christ and considering what He would have each of us do.

These are all choices; my personal choices and yours.  Listen or not, act or not, be kind or not - and then accept the consequences - the blessings or lack of them.

"Fundamental to our theology is belief in individual freedom of inquiry, thought, and expression," taught President Gordon B. Hinckley, and we should use that freedom "... to move forward the work of the Lord, to strengthen His kingdom on the earth, to teach and build testimony..."

Without blame to myself and/or others can I make better choices today than yesterday, tomorrow than today?

I witness a great and exciting truth: God speaks to prophets now, today! I can be guided by prophets just as the biblical Children of Israel could follow Moses from Egypt, or not; and the people prior to the flood could listen to Noah and board the ark, or mock and not. I can tune my internet to lds.org and listen carefully - or not.

I can choose ...

It is a little thing - or is it?

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