My friend and co-blogger Dan Ellsworth’s article in Public Square Magazine was prescient, given that just a few hours later Elder Holland’s address to BYU faculty and staff was published. Dan’s description of our tendency to hear what we want to hear as a form of idolatry is bracing but needed. “Ironically, one of our most persistent idolatries is the refashioning of the divinely revealed Christ into a sentimentally-appealing false Christ named ‘Jesus,’ who exists to make us all feel loved and happy,” he writes. I thought I would provide three examples of this trend I have noticed that buttress his point.
As a brief postscript to my article in Public Square Magazine, I thought I’d tell a little story that illustrates humility coming from a world renowned therapist. Since I complained in that article that sometimes therapists can be narcissistic by seeing every problem as treatable through acting more therapeutically, I thought I’d provide a fascinating historical counterexample.
It’s useful to share this story because, while it may not be apparent to outsiders, therapists and twelve step addiction recovery programs sometimes have a rocky relationship. It isn’t always the case, many therapists recommend (and may even require) attending a twelve step group as a valuable part of their therapeutic recovery process. (I’m one of them, for certain cases at least.) But why do some therapists have a problem with twelve step?
The short answer is: too much God, and not enough graduate degrees. The longer answer is they feel it lacks scientific support, that modern treatment models are superior, and that the free program costs too much money. This last complaint is a bit of a head-scratcher, but we’ll briefly touch on the other two at the end of the piece. Before we do that, let’s tell a fascinating story about Carl Jung and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous that you may not have heard before.
For about twelve years I worked information security for a few different software companies. We sold our software to companies and government agencies concerned with making sure those accessing their sensitive systems were (a) who they said they were, and (b) only accessing information they should have access to. The first concern is called authentication (“are you who you say you are?”), and the second one is called access control (“do you have access to the information that you need and are you denied access to the information you shouldn’t have?”). Solving these two problems have always been a challenge. And though their implementation has changed throughout time, the solutions are basically the same.
It was only a few days after I’d completed a computer security certification when I went through an endowment session again. It occurred to me that you could look at the endowment though an information security lens and gain some valuable insights. I’ll explore some of them in this post. Some of my discussion will necessarily be oblique, and may only make sense to those who have been through themselves. I take seriously the desire to keep these things sacred, and I hope my post here will be in harmony with that.
The last few times I’ve read the traditional nativity account in Luke 2, I’ve been struck by the stories of Simeon and Anna the Prophetess. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between these two extremely elderly individuals and the 8 day old newborn Jesus. We don’t know how old Simeon was, but he was expecting to die anytime (“now let thy servant depart in peace”). Anna was at least a hundred years old.
It strikes me because I turned fifty earlier this year, and as this half century mark, my admiration for people who can remain faithful for a very long time impress me more and more. These two individuals exemplify “waiting upon the Lord.” I don’t know if they had moments of doubt, questioning if these promises would really be fulfilled after so much time had passed. This resonates as well, because here we are nearly two thousand years after Christ’s death, it seems like we can be forgiven for questioning just how soon Christ’s promised return really is. I love these stories because they suggest our patience will be rewarded, just as their was, if we stay faithful to our promises.
I also love these stories because of what they were hoping for, because of what hope kept them going, day after day. Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” and Anna associated herself with those who “looked for redemption in Jerusalem”.
Have you been waiting for consolation? I have. Simeon’s joy when he finally gets to lay his eyes upon the Source of that consolation fills me with joy and comfort.
Have you looked for redemption from oppression and the reestablishment of holiness in what should be a holy city? I have. Anna’s gratitude fills me with gratitude and hope, and also the desire to serve the Lord faithfully night and day.
This is the darkest time of year, but in that manager lays the source of brightest light. I want my heart to have the newness and life that Jesus can bring (as He has before), and also the faithfulness to the promises that have been made to me, even if they seem far off and impossibly distant.
As a kind of follow-up to my friend Dan’s touching post about President Kimball, I had a couple of additional thoughts and stories. The first is a story similar to Dan’s Bolivia story. My High Priest Instructor told us the story a few years ago, back when the High Priests still met. His father was mission president of the Washington, DC Mission, and his father got word that President Kimball had a brief layover in Dulles Airport. President Kimball didn’t have enough time on his layover to leave the airport, but he wondered if he could meet with all the missionaries there. So the mission president quickly assembled all the missionaries at the airport (obviously this was before security would prevent such things) and President Kimball came to meet with them. He shared some brief words, and then said, “now I would like to greet each of you and shake your hand.” He went around the room, looked each one of them in the eyes, and shook their hands, telling them he loved them. When he got to the end of the room, he said, “I’m worried I may have missed someone. I’m going to go around again.” So he went around the room a second time, repeating the same gestures, but this time with even more sincerity. Our instructor said no one in the room doubted that President Kimball loved them.
As I recount that story, it occurs to me that such experiences are legion, and not limited to President Kimball. I have stories about President Monson, President Hinckley, Elder Maxwell, and Elder Ashton.
When we might be in a critical or doubtful spirit, we can sometimes wonder if the Church leaders are in on the fraud, or if they genuinely believe what they are saying. It’s easy to assume others are thinking and feeling the same thing we are, they just aren’t saying so. But in this case, that would be wrong. The latest example of this is from Elder Holland’s testimony, released just a week ago. I can’t really do it justice, but here is a snippet on this point:
This is not a fairytale. This is not something that I get up every morning and ask myself, ‘How can I go fool another group of people today? How can I go pretend that something is true? How can I go and work a great fiction on the public?’
I would not do that, and my life is worth more to me than that, and my witness to my children and my children’s children is worth more than that. [He gets emotional at this point.] It means more than that. My integrity is more than that. I get up every morning saying, not, “God, how can I pretend, how can I act that this is true…” [instead], my plea every morning of my life is, ‘How can I convey what I know to be more true than anything on the face of this earth? How can I convey to some person or persons the reality of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the fact that God lives, that the heavens are open, I have a commission to stand by the Savior of the Lord, to defend Him, and defend the rock that He is?
Joseph Smith and Hyrum did not sit in Carthage Jail, ready to be executed by a mob. They did not pull out the Book of Mormon, and say, let’s tell some jokes from this book we made up. No one would do that. No one would do that! They read from that book because they knew it was true, and they knew it would be their salvation… Every day I am giving my life for the church, because I know it’s true.