Monday, March 29, 2010

Selflessness out of Discipline or Selflessness out of Love

Most people who are selfless have a mix of two methods for their selflessness: discipline motivated by an abstract ethical code and love motivated by relationships, particularly a relationship with Christ.

Selflessness is never truly absolute. Why? Because we must obtain for ourselves power, spiritual gifts, and knowledge which we can use for others. It also also right to rejoice, rest, and play. Some of the greatest acts of love consist of simple play.

However, most of our lives and most of our times will be devoted to serving other people if we love God. Therefore, it is useful to inspect where our motivation for this altruism can come from.

The more we are motivated by discipline stemming from an abstract to-do list, set of expectations, or commandments, the quicker we will become weary. Psychologists are researching a new theory called "ego depletion," which states that discipline drains a person's energy and that people only have so much capacity for discipline. This theory at least partially accounts for burning out, cycles of addiction, and general low energy. Of course, service from discipline is better than nothing. However, it is often typified by high stress, either arrogance or discouragement, and perfectionism.

Service from love is typified by joy, satisfaction, and happiness. It also involves more meaningful prayer, greater sincerity, and less self-focus. If a person serves out of love, others will feel it. When others reject their love, they are hurt and disappointed, but they don't feel worthless or discouraged. They keep on trying. I believe that is how the Savior feels about us.

Discipline has its place. It must have taken all the love and all the discipline the Savior possessed to keep going through the pains of hell (D&C 19:15-19). Because He had no lack of love, discipline took its proper place as He kept His vision and His determination.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

The traditional King James Version of these two verses is extreme and has hurt and confused many peoples' understanding of the general role of women:

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Joseph Smith changes the word "speak," in both cases, to "rule," in the Joseph Smith Translation/Inspired Version of the Bible. Also, the Greek word translated as "silence" can also be translated "tranquility" or "peacefulness," according to my Greek lexicon. According to the footnote, the Greek word translated "obedience" should be translated "submissiveness." Finally, my personal interpretation of the word "learn," based on context, is that is applies to Church government--meaning that if the Bishop's wife disagrees with Church or Ward policy, or, for that matter, if any spouse has ideas, counsel, encouragement, or concerns about the way their husband or wife is performing their calling, they should discuss it with their spouse in private.

So, here's my personal (not doctrinal) interpretation of that scripture, with the changes in italics:
"Let your women keep the peace in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to rule; but they are commanded to be submissive, as also saith the law. And if they will learn (or change, understand) any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to rule in the church" (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Note that this scripture repeatedly uses the phrase "in the church." Not once does it make a comment about the differing roles of father and mother in a family setting. It seems clear to me that, in the formal organization of the Church, men should and will be more prominent than women--not more important, but more prominent. (Since it is Church doctrine that the simplest Sunday School teacher or nursery leader is just as important as the President of the Church, just with a different role, "for without the feet how shall the head be able to stand?) However, in the patriarchal order of the family, husband and wife have equal authority and power. If one gets a revelation concerning the family, the other has the right and responsibility to know whether it is a true revelation.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I was just thinking about the scripture "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more" (D&C 28:19).

First of all, that's both a difficult commandment to keep and a blessing that certainly attracts the eye of anyone who either (a) has trouble supporting themselves, (b) wants money for its own sake, or (c) wants to use money, directly or to free up personal time for service, for the benefit of others.

It just occurred to me that this promise could apply to blessings of talents, spiritual gifts, or Christlike virtues. If we, by the grace of Christ, develop a new ability, we can respond in several ways. If we respond with gratitude to these blessings, then we will continue to receive until we have received a hundred times what we started with and beyond. If we respond with pride, thinking that our virtues lend us some sort of superiority or independence from God, then we will fall.

Gratitude leads to humility. We are reminded that although we may have gained something through effort, it was through a combination of effort and grace. Merit and entitlement have no place in our growth from grace to grace (D&C 93).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Business is business

In my Doctrine and Covenants class, Brother Perkins always says that "when you talk about business, there's no spirit, so let's have a prayer," right before the opening prayer. Today it occurred to me that, as one progresses, it's easy to forget that you're helping people for them, and your focus can get too much on the process, the organization, the time management of it all. In other words, one principle of time management is to remember that you're managing your time for the people you're serving, and that they're more important than your system. In Third Nephi, Jesus stayed a little longer with the Nephites because his "bowels are filled with compassion" for them.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sleep, Nature, and Random Thoughts

I wonder how much of an effect proper sleeping habits have. And why is it that it's hard to remember sometimes to go to bed on time? I'm not sure.

I love nature. There's something beautiful and even spiritual about just looking out over what God created.

I wonder what excitement does to a person... what role can it play in motivation?

Monday, March 1, 2010


It seems to me that desires and focus may be the same thing, or at least very closely tied. When we focus or dwell on something, our desire for it increases. I've found that one of the best ways to control my desires is to think about what I want to want.