Friday, May 26, 2017

Three Dreams About Sin

Last week some time, I had three nightmares in a row, and I understood that they were about sin. Later, I thought I should share them with my family. Since my kids refer back to this blog like a family journal, I'm going to post each dream with the moral here so they can find them again if they need them.

Here were the three dreams and the messages from each:

1.  I dreamed I needed a shower, and I wanted desperately to get clean, but I had to undress to get clean. So I took my shirt off, but there was another shirt underneath. I pulled that off, but there was another. I pulled three off at once, but there were three more. The harder I tried to get undressed, the more shirts there were to take off. 

The moral: We cannot remove our own sins to clean ourselves. We have to use Jesus for that.

2. I dreamed that Mom was a vampire because she’d caught a vampire disease. Every once in a while, she would suddenly turn into a vampire and come after me, blood dripping from fangs. I chastised her once, and she stopped. But it happened again, so I invoked Jesus and admonished her to use Jesus, and she stopped. But it happened again, and I put my hand on her forehead to hold her off and invoked Jesus again. She stopped. 

The moral: We cannot impose Jesus on someone else and have them healed. We can use Jesus to protect ourselves from the effects of other people’s sins, but we cannot make Him cleanse others from their sins. That’s between them and him.

3 I dreamed I was trying to escape the crazy city with too many shirts on everyone and random vampire attacks. It was full and crowded and crazy and somewhat Escher-esque. I searched and found a glass door leading outside. My brother Jon was standing there with his daughter Eve, but he had no head. He opened the door for me, and I walked outside and only then I could see not only his head, but the beautiful gardens outside and that there were many people, going and coming and doing business. They were relaxed and happy (especially compared to the city where everyone was wearing too many shirts, and everything was crowded and nonsensical, and there were vampires).  Before I walked out, though, I couldn't see his head or hear anything he might have been saying. This was scary, but I knew it was Jon, even if I couldn't see his head, and I trusted Jon, and Eve stepped forward to take my hand and reassure me. After I joined him, then I could see his head, and also hear what he was saying to me. There were no vampires and nobody wearing too many shirts out there. It was fresh and clean and you could see the sky.

This last dream had two morals. 

The first moral (which follows the other two dreams' morals nicely): You don't fix sin or just work harder to stop or take it off while living in it, you get up and leave it behind. (I'm not sure how to elaborate on this, but it was a very clear message that it was a moral of this dream.)

The second moral (I'll try to explain; this makes perfect sense to me simply from the imagery, but it's hard to verbalize): We cannot always see how the prophets/faithful members of the church are thinking--their thoughts don’t always seem to make sense, or even appear to be there at all (thus Jon’s missing head), but we have to step into their world first before we can understand (vs what most people want: to understand both viewpoints and then choose). For example, if we are caught in a social/intellectual world where women seem entitled to the priesthood or Joseph Smith is a jerk, any other ways of thinking make no sense--especially since everyone standing around us, whose heads we see and whose voices we hear and understand, agrees (darn echo chambers!). To understand how other people could possibly accept the "other" way (women not needing the priesthood, etc), you have to leave behind the wrong ideas first, even without understanding what to replace them with, and move toward the right ideas even if you can't see or hear them at all at first. After you step through the door, then you can see their heads and that they aren’t brainless, stupid ideas. But until you leave behind the other ideas and walk away from them, you can't see the heads of the people outside, or that there are lots of them out there (meaning, of course, that their ideas don't make sense and you can't even really "hear" what they're saying, even if you process and can repeat the words back.)

So. Three dreams about sin. You can't take it off yourself (you need Jesus), you can't take it off other people (they need Jesus but you can't force the issue on them), and you just have to leave it behind (rather than living in it and expecting things to change). Also, people following the prophets sometimes seem to have no head, but if you go toward them, you can see and understand. But you can't see or understand if you hang back (even if it's because headless people rightfully seem quite scary).

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Caleb (15 yo) was one of the stars in the school play tonight, and he sang a beautiful solo as Mufasa (in The Lion King). It was amazing. His voice was just gorgeous. His teachers both told me it moved them to tears.

I was so impressed.

When we came home, Emmeline was asleep and everyone was tired. I left her in her car seat while I unloaded my arm of stuff we'd taken to the show. When I came back out, the star of the show, just off from being praised to the moon for a gorgeous solo in a fantastic performance, had come back out to the car and was very gently untangling his baby sister from her car seat, trying to bring her in the house without waking her. Without being asked. And despite being exhausted.

What everyone else saw tonight was a great actor and singer in the making. What I saw was a great man in the making.

The best stuff happens off stage, away from the limelights, in the dark when nobody is looking.

Monday, May 01, 2017

The "Weakness" Scripture

I'm pretty sure some people are questioning my interpretation of the Weakness Scripture in Ether that I discussed in my talk, so I'm going to explain it a little more here.

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness."

Traditionally, this has been viewed as a scripture about finding and rooting out individual weaknesses in your personality or soul.

I got a blessing one year that said, "Notice, that scripture doesn't say weaknesses? It says weakness." 

That hit me hard. I had been spending a lot of time focusing on the reality that I have specific weaknesses, and they hold me back, and fretting about how to fix that. And I was using that scripture as a justification for my misplaced focus. Doesn't Ether say we have to find our weaknesses and turn them into strengths?

NO.  That verse in Ether does not say that.

And if we use it to mean that, we are forcing into scripture an unhealthy (and unscriptural, and potentially prideful) focus on ourselves. Focusing on us, whether to celebrate our own strengths or to bemoan our own weaknesses, is Pride. And pride is a sin in both the Fake Glory form and the Fake Humility form.

The reality is that we don't actually have the perspective to find and eliminate our own weaknesses. And focusing on our weaknesses is not psychologically healthy. It is depressing and discouraging, and ultimately worthless because focusing on them actually reinforces them instead of eliminating them.  It's an unproductive and unhealthy focus on me me me.

At least, it was for me.

Of course when we realize we have bad habits, we should work to eliminate those. And when we have sins we should repent. And if we have handicaps or mental illnesses that make righteousness more difficult, we should seek treatment. But weaknesses in our makeup are much harder to address (and often impossible) and focusing on them isn't helpful. Working with and around our weaknesses is often necessary.

But if you read the actual words in that scripture, and not the social constructs we've place around it, it's not talking about a propensity to tell things a little rosier than they actually are, or an inability to remember names, or bad fashion sense. It is talking about our inherent state of being weak, especially compared to God. 

Searching for weaknesses in your soul and trying to root them out is a me-focused activity. Coming before God with a fuller understanding that, actually, you can't do it yourself (succeed at life, overcome your afflictions, change your heart, etc) is the reality of humility. Humility is not putting yourself down. It's putting yourself in your proper place in relation to God (and, in the process, other people). 

Here is it again:
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness."

Recognizing our weakness requires us to come to God because we don't have the perspective to see that actually, in reality, we're powerless. (We like to think that we're strong. Our society teaches us to think that we're strong, and to be strong, and to focus on our strengths, etc.) Recognizing our inherent and absolute weakness requires understanding and perspective shared from Him. If we were powerful, we would not rely on God. We wouldn't need to trust and believe Him (not just believe in Him, but believe Him). We wouldn't be motivated to get, cling to, and practice faith, hope, and charity.

According to this verse, weakness is not something we are supposed to find and get rid of. Weakness is a blessing that God gave us so that we would do the things that are required to get back to Him, and to let Him help us, and to rely on Jesus.

Life is so difficult if we focus on our weaknesses and failures. But life becomes so beautiful when we accept our weakness and let God make that a strength--not eliminate it, but use it to help us succeed at the things that matter to Him (making us more like Him, bringing us back to Him). Our inability to do it on our own becomes a strength when we learn to rely on Jesus and use the Priesthood to get through life. Because of agency, we have to let Him help us. We have to let Him heal us. We have to invite Him in. Recognizing and embracing the reality that we are weak helps us do that. It opens the door to many wonderful blessings, and to an amazing relationship with Jesus and our Father in Heaven. So many, many doors are opened (the windows of heaven, even) if we can recognize our weakness.

And we miss that if we are too busy finding our flaws and busying ourselves making lists about how to fix them.