That for Which I Hunger and Thirst – and the Place of Blogging in My Pursuit

[ 5 ] Comments

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 1Essay 2Essay 3Essay 4Essay 5, Essay 6.]

jesus-washing-apostles-feetI 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:

(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.)

Jesus said:

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

About Ray DeGraw

I am the husband of my high school sweetheart and father of six children. I basically have no life outside of family, work and church - except blogging, which I have been doing actively, to put it mildly, for the past 5 years. I have lived in almost every section of the United States and currently reside in Carson City, NV. I have written at Things of My Soul, Mormon Matters, Times & Seasons and StayLDS.com - and commented more than occasionally at various sites in the Bloggernacle.

5 Responses to That for Which I Hunger and Thirst – and the Place of Blogging in My Pursuit

  1. Bonnie says:

    Ray, you always make me think, often because I initially disagree when I also agree with your overall point. I usually find it’s a tenet that we’re understanding differently, which actually perfectly makes your point.

    For instance, people don’t always mean the same thing when they say “principles” or “doctrines.” Joseph Smith used the word principles to discuss the very foundation of the gospel. And Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary follows a more foundational definition for that word as well. In that sense, principles and doctrines are actually the same thing, according to the understanding of most people who use those words today, even though doctrine may have had a connotation of the way principles are taught in Joseph’s day. Whatever we call them, the underlying truth that motivates our action is, as you say, the opportunity to become like Christ.

    In the same vein, it does matter very much what we teach and what we learn, the doctrines or principles being crucial to our understanding of the God we worship, and crucial therefore to our process of becoming like him. How we interpret that importance in our daily life is a different matter, because, as you say, how we behave toward one another should be less motivated by what that someone believes than by what we know and understand. Still, do you not give any room for the whole truth being capable of drawing us to the face of God faster and more efficiently than any other doctrine we might espouse? I can’t believe that it’s someone’s integrity to any old principle that makes him or her capable of preparing to see the face of God. Joseph clearly taught that knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.

    But your point about those who act in faith on the portion of true principles they have is valid and beautiful. And your point about the value of engaging in debate online to argue tenets (as I have done here) is also valid and well-taken. We would be best served seeking the face of God rather than seeking to clarify how someone else isn’t seeing the face of God. Still, I’ve learned a great deal listening to people smarter than me discuss tenets, so I’ll probably continue to eavesdrop here and there. :)

  2. Deborah says:

    I agree with Bonnie. Whichever way you define the word principles or doctrines or standards. Obedience is still the first law of heaven, obedience to his ordinances and his way. Christ didn’t adopt his way of doing things but the Father’s way. I believe and know that their are degrees of happiness but, there are also degrees of perfection so, the gospel has the only way to receive all that the Father has. You seem to slightly water truth down. God respects all our desires and always will give us according to our desires ~ but, we have covenanted to preach the truth, and the truth is, there’s ONE GOD, ONE WAY, ONE TRUTH.

    Sincerely ~Deborah

  3. Ray says:

    Bonnie and Deborah, I’m not trying to water down truth in any way – or even de-emphasize the importance of discovering and understanding truth. I believe in absolute Truth – but I also believe we “see through a glass, darkly”.

    More to the point of this post, however, I also believe we often devalue others and their understanding when we brush it aside as “less than” our own – as further from absolute truth, and we brush them aside far too often, as well. I’m convinced many people whose view I believe is less complete than mine actually are living closer to all they know FAR better than I am living all I know – and, therefore, there is MUCH I can learn from them no matter where I believe they are on the “knowledge of truth” scale.

    Also, I have NO problem sharing what I believe with others and trying to help them see and understand what I see and understand. I just don’t want to fight about it. I’d much rather share in a mutual conversation of respect than get bogged down in minutiae and argue about fine points of doctrine.

    Finally, as to the one God, one way, one truth idea: Again, I have no problem accepting that. None at all. However, our temple theology is based on the principle that nobody is going to punished in any way for the circumstances of their lives that inhibit their ability to understand God, the way and the truth. Someone can live and die a committed atheist and still inherit the Celestial Kingdom – and that is an incredible aspect of Mormon theology that we forget, in practical terms, all too often. We aren’t judged, in the end, but what we understand intellectually – as important as it is to try to do our best to understand as much as possible; we are judged by our commitment to live what we do understand as well as we can, with a repentant heart that trusts in God to love and forgive and “atone”.

    • templegoer says:

      I can’t be reminded of this position of humility and respect often enough it seems. It enables me to transcend my natural self and learn from those around me, allowing me to interact with them with greater patience and forbearance, which enables a conversation that might not otherwise take place. It also heals my heart enabling me to honour the experience of family members who may have made other faith choices than I have, and thus enables me to maintain relationships. I accept that God expects other things from me as a person who has chosen to make covenants, but this thinking enables me not to continue to mourn and accept their position as one of integrity.

    • Bonnie says:

      Ray – Isn’t that a wonderful principle, that there is repentance (alignment) in the continuation of our life? I agree, I learn by listening to people better than myself, and most are. I can see your point that in many of our discussions of tenets we dismiss others. An important reminder. I think it’s a balance to clarify doctrine/principles for the sake of our collective pursuit of knowledge, but there is a great deal of humility to learn in that process. Thanks for your clarification.

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