Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Be Meek and Lowly of Heart" by Elder Ulisses Soares

First of all, that man has an amazing name. 

Next, I don't like the reference where it talks about meek people having a temperament that is "docile". I've always pictured Meekness like this: You have an enormous, powerful white stallion guided by the subtlest touch of a child's hand. Docile seems to me to mean unthinking and zombie-ish, and I don't think that's what meekness is at all. Meekness is being powerful, and yet actively listening to the slightest whispering. It has nothing to do with enforced weakness. Jesus was meek, but he was never weak, he was not wishy washy, and I don't think anyone would call him "docile". 

Elder Ulisses makes that point later when he says, "Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control."

I like the phrase "To live in the Spirit". It's kind of like "Living in the moment", I think to "live in the Spirit" you must be actively listening. Not necessarily receiving guidance every moment, but listening for guidance. 

I think most Christ-like attributes have seedlings in us, and then we must make them grow throughout our lives. I think Our lives are like seedlings. 

"But supposing he should fall in this next day's attempt, that is no reason why he should not succeed in doing so the third day."

Upon acknowledging our dedication and perseverance, the Lord will give us that which we are not able to attain due to our imperfections and human weaknesses.

Another thing I think is that, while it is important to learn how to Control our tempers, controlling your temper doesn't mean never admitting or showing anger. Again, using the perfect example, Jesus showed anger. God is angered. Anger, like fear, love, pain, joy, and every other emotion and experience, was given to us both to teach us how to be more like God, and because it is an attribute that He himself possesses. That must mean that it is possible to express anger in an appropriate and constructive manner. I'm just not sure how to do that yet. I notice our culture tends to subsume anger beneath a veneer of pleasantries. "Contention is of the devil" as Emily likes to say. However, tension often exists because of inequity, because real problems exist. Trying to ignore the problems does not make them go away. Sometimes getting angry is the only way to get the point across in an appropriately emphatic manner. However, again, it is very difficult, I think, for people to understand the difference between expressing anger in appropriate vs. inappropriate manners. Whenever we are carried away by our emotions, we may do things that aren't wise; my Abnormal Psychology professor refers to this as lymbic thinking, since the lymbic system is the seat of our emotions. So it's not just anger that makes us do stupid things; sadness, fear, love, and even happiness can also make us do stupid things. But anger is aggressive and often harmful in the most visceral manner, vs. the more subtle harms of the others. It's definitely a question worth wrestling with. 

On a side note, I think that scientists sometimes jump the gun in their conclusions. For example, very specific feelings are linked to very specific chemical reactions in the brain. That's why anti depression medications work. But just because we find a connection to the brain's chemistry and feelings, that doesn't mean that the feelings exist on a purely chemical level. I've always felt that the chemical signals in the body are an expression of the emotions, rather than emotions being the expression of chemicals. Does that make sense?

"Apt to teach" sounds like a pretty good expression of what meekness is. Also "broken heart and contrite spirit" I think. I've had moments in life where I feel completely broken and reliant on others, right after making big mistakes or getting my heart broken, etc. It is often at these moments that i'm also the most spiritual, because it's then that I'm the most open to the guidance of the spirit. 

It is incredibly difficult to be humble and at the same time critical, which puts me in a difficult decision. I Want to listen completely openly to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles and elders and sisters of the church, and at the same time I have difficulties because I Know that some of the things that they are teaching are not true. At the same time, I know that most of what they teach Is true, but my reservations are getting in the way of listening to those parts. So, it is difficult, and meekness is something I continue to try and develop. 

I think this story almost perfectly illustrates what it's like to be a gay Mormon. It's ironic that I even have a friend from South Africa who would be baptized, but cannot because he is gay. He's tried with multiple missionaries and has a strong testimony, but because he won't leave his boyfriend...

Anyways, here is the story: One of the most beautiful modern-day examples of meekness that I am aware of is that of Brother Moses Mahlangu. His conversion began in 1964, when he received a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was fascinated as he read this book, but it was not until the early ’70s that he saw an LDS Church sign on a building in Johannesburg, South Africa, as he was walking down a street. Brother Mahlangu was intrigued and entered the building to learn more about the Church. He was kindly told that he could not attend the services or be baptized because the country’s laws did not allow it at that time.
Brother Mahlangu accepted that decision with meekness, humility, and without resentment, but he continued to have a strong desire to learn more about the Church. He asked the Church leaders if they could leave one of the meetinghouse windows open during the Sunday meetings so he could sit outside and listen to the services. For several years, Brother Mahlangu’s family and friends attended church regularly “through the window.” One day in 1980 they were told that they could attend church and also be baptized. What a glorious day it was for Brother Mahlangu.
Later the Church organized a branch in his neighborhood in Soweto. This was possible only because of the determination, courage, and faithfulness of people like Brother Mahlangu who remained faithful for so many years under difficult circumstances.
My mission president once accused one of our missionaries of doing something that he was innocent of. Instead of getting upset, the missionary apologized and attempted everything he could to do better. When the mission president found out that he was wrong, he told us that story in zone conference, and he said, "Not getting mad when people correct you for something you did is to be expected. But to be humble when you are accused of something you didn't do is truly Christlike". 
Those are my thoughts on that talk.