That for Which I Hunger and Thirst – and the Place of Blogging in My Pursuit
by Ray DeGraw
[On Sundays this year we are publishing a series from Ray that will focus on the Sermon on the Mount, analyzing each characteristic of godliness found in Matthew 5-7. The series returns after a brief hiatus. Essay 1, Essay 2, Essay 3, Essay 4, Essay 5, Essay 6.]
I view the purpose of this life as becoming like Jesus was in His mortal life – and the purpose of the next life as becoming like Christ is now in His post-mortal life. Everything else (specific doctrine, intellectual understanding, nuanced discussions of exegesis, whatever) is secondary to that.
The core Josephism to which I cling is: “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” Principles is not equivalent to doctrines or intellectual understandings. That’s important to me.
When it comes down to it, I base my core principles on three main statements of Jesus:
- “Be ye therefore perfect.”
- “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
- “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
(Basically the entire Sermon on the Mount, but especially those three verses.)
When push comes to shove, I don’t care exactly what someone says they believe, only what they do and what they are becoming. If they teach Buddhism, or if they claim atheism, I don’t care one bit, as long as they are sincerely living according to the dictates of their own conscience. I really don’t, as long as they are doing the will of the Father by becoming perfected, and I believe specific religious affiliation has relatively little to do with that pursuit. I believe our temple theology and our Second Article of Faith teach that clearly and unequivocally.
To be clear and not misunderstood, I believe strongly in the Restoration of the Gospel (the “Good News“), and that what constitutes the Good News is exactly what separates the LDS Church from other denominations. I have served willingly in a Stake Mission Presidency and as Ward Mission Leader, and I am committed to the principle of sharing the Gospel with those who will listen. I believe deeply in the power of godliness mentioned in Joseph Smith History 1:19, and in the description of Christianity at the time as “apostate.”
However, I also believe (given our deeply embedded theology of grace) that perhaps the only over-riding, absolutely necessary, truly unique reason for the restoration of the LDS Church is to establish once again an organizational institution in which the ordinance orthodoxy can be practiced, explicitly so that the Buddhist and atheist can be exalted for their sincere efforts to be “just men made perfect“. That is such a more empowering, expansive vision of grace than anything that is taught in Christianity at large that I am baffled by those who claim we don’t teach grace.
We teach that man will not be punished for Adam’s transgression, and if that belief is to have any meaning whatsoever, it must be established on a principle of shockingly liberal grace. I Stand All Amazed is my favorite hymn, and it includes the following words to open the hymn:
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me – confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
Why do I share all of that in this context, in a post about hungering and thirsting after righteousness?
I share it to say that, while I enjoy the intellectual stimulation I find in the Bloggernacle, it does not define my discipleship. That is defined by my realization that I am no better in God’s eyes than any other child, and that, no matter how my brain defines my doctrinal understanding, all he wants is my love and obedience, in order to take my ugly caterpillar and make it the butterfly it can become. He wants me to understand and know him, but He cares much more that I love and obey Him according to what I feel I understand or know, even if I don’t yet understand or know Him fully.
My faithful effort (actions done despite things not seen) is MUCH more important than waiting to act until I see face-to-face.
I engage in internet conversations specifically to find ways to hone my discipleship, to plumb the depths of others’ understanding to find new ways to bring me closer to my Father. I bristle occasionally when others beat on each other, because that is opposed to the outcome for which I yearn, because it is one of the only things, if not the only thing, that makes our Father weep. (Seeing His children reviling and hurting each other and knowing the great cost such actions necessitated – See Moses 7.)
Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
He didn’t say he would give them heartburn or scorn … or intellectual superiority. He promised rest. That’s what I long for in the discussions in which I engage — a place of refuge and rest, where I can drink deeply from the cup of perspective and insight — no matter the theological or denominational affiliation of those with whom I converse. I don’t want to fight and argue; I want to share and sup.
That is the sustenance for which I hunger and thirst, the soothing sips of spirituality that restore and reaffirm my resolve for righteousness. I don’t hunger and thirst after insight for itself; I pursue it for the way it will help me live righteously, to be filled with the Holy Ghost, to do the will of my Father, to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, to become therefore perfected (whole and complete).
Everything else is meaningless if it doesn’t fill me spiritually in that way.
Art credit: David Truman