Monday, August 16, 2010

The Holy Secret

James Ferrell, if my sources are correct, helped to write the Arbinger Institute's Leadership and Self-deception as well as Anatomy of Peace.  Ferrell also wrote The Peacegiver, which I understand to be on a similar subject as Terry Warner's Bonds That Make Us Free and the two aforementioned texts. In this book, The Holy Secret, Mr. Ferrell describes a method for coming to love holiness. 

Insights/notes below.

Part 1: Loving the Holy Scriptures

Chapter 1: Awakening
- The story is told much as Leadership and Anatomy, that is to say via a story.  I relate with the protagonist, Michael, a Wall Street lawyer, who admits that though he attends the temple and reads the scriptures and observes the Sabbath, he's not passionate about these activities (it also doesn't hurt that I'm about the same age as Michael and in law school).  He doesn't love holiness.  A talk by a man named Al in sacrament pricks him and he wonders why he finds the temple boring and why studying the scriptures is more out of duty now for him than anything else. Michael decides to try to find out these answers by talking with the speaker, Al.

Chapter 2: Curiosity
- The mentor in the story (Al) is an older man with an impressive library.  Al notes how he remembers very little content from the books he's read, but notes that the books taught him how to learn and helped him be curious.

Chapter 3: Questions
 -Al notes that the scriptures, as monologue, are dead.  He invites Michael to engage the scriptures in conversation via the questions, comments, and objections typical of dialogue.  Conversation makes the scriptures live.

Chapter 4: Ask "What?"

-When studying the scriptures, Al recommends looking up words and finding out the context of scripture passages, such as "my father dwelt in a tent."

Chapter 5: Wonder "Why?"

- Al says, "why include the detail that Lehi dwelt in a tent?"  Why not include the detail of who did the dishes?  Why the theme of Lehi's riches (Al notes several verses that establish Lehi's wealth) and leaving those materials?  Why is 1 Nephi begun as it is (with a reference to Lehi's wealth- 1 Nephi 1:1)?  Why this sequence, this emphasis? 
- I thought one reason Lehi's wealth is noted is because the Book of Mormon audience must be willing to leave wealth, and by analogy may also have to leave other possessions of value to follow the gospel/prophet/Lord, such as social standing and health and family.

Chapter 6: Look for Patterns

 -Al shows how there are types of the Restoration in Lehi and Noah's story, and shows how many Old Testament characters are patterns/types of Christ.

 Chapter 7: Ponder the Savior

- A good pattern or question to ask/look for is always: "What does this verse or story reveal about Christ and the Atonement?

Chapter 8: Apply to Oneself
-Noting Michael's lack of enthusiasm for the temple and his own confession that he used to share that lack of enthusiasm, Al points out that the story of King Benjamin's people illustrates how to prepare for making the temple a rich experience.

Part 2: Loving the Holy Sabbath

Chapter 9: Unrest
- The family unit should be oriented toward the temple.
- Giving thanks somehow for a deliverance (like Benjamin's people who thanked the Lord with sacrifice for the Jerusalem exodus much as the Israelites did for the Egypt exodus) is good preparation.  For me that'd be the exodus west to the Rocky Mountains.  Thank you, Lord, for so leading the early saints that the church, as a people, might live and be what we now are.

Chapter 10: A Meek and Lowly Truth

 -Michael comes back to Al after a hard day, and Al questions whether they should go on with their holiness discovery.  Sometimes I think it's lame that you have to be in a peaceful, distractionless state to pursue spiritual things.  Generally, life is not conducive to a lack of distraction and a plethora of peace.  Instead, an active life, a family life, an engaged life, is usually busy, stressful, and characterized by unrelenting distraction.  It'd wouldn't be terribly difficult to become an ascetic monk or an alienated mountain hermit, in which case you do have a lot less distraction: but, it seems the Spirit should be able to help those living a "normal" life have a rich spiritual experience, rather just those who isolate themselves from the pressures and stresses of immersion in a community.  Why must a peaceful condition precede feeling the Spirit, rather than choosing to engage a spiritual activity and by so doing create that peaceful condition?
- Al points out that the elder son in the Prodigal story was a sinner, contrary to his Pharisaical claim to have "never at any time" transgressed his father's commandment (no one's that good).  Hence, those who are prodigal, and are not deceived as the older brother was into thinking we're not prodigal, are rich because we must know we are broken before we can be fixed.

Chapter 11: A Mighty Need 

 - We're all doomed if we don't get our broken natures fixed.  Christ claims: "I can make you holy."  D&C 60:7

Chapter 12: Knee-bending Rules
- It's a good idea to presume that the scriptures make sense.  Presume weird things (e.g. Moses making a graven image, namely of the serpent) will make sense once you fully understand them.
- Al notes how King Benjamin's people were good, diligent commandment keepers.  Yet, they still fell to the earth in fear when they realized their carnal state!
- This one hit me hard.  The commandments have two purposes- one is to let us in on the standards in heaven.  The other is to drive us to Christ!  Like the fiery serpents, when we become acquainted with the commandments we also become acquainted with our persistent failure to comply with them- which results in the "knowing you're broken" element prerequisite to going to Christ to fix you.  "Individual willpower, personal determination and motivation, and effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient to triumphantly complete this mortal journey." - Bednar, In the Strength of the Lord
- Al points out that if you harbor feelings of contention or anger, you're damned absent a change of your nature.  He's right, and I'm indicted as I feel contention and indulge anger fairly often.  For that matter I have frequently looked on women to lust after them, amongst other vices.  I've been broken and damned for a while it turns out. 
- Al notes that the mutually incompatible commandments in the garden, just as the impossible-to-keep-them-all commandments binding on us, turned Adam and Eve to Christ, who could take them beyond the naive innocence of the garden to a state of exaltation.  I've thought about this concept before- how Christ claims credit for our weakness (e.g. Ether 12)- and it seems to be a dirty trick.  It's akin to being the only foot surgeon in town, and going around breaking peoples' feet so they have to come pay you for getting their foot fixed.  If you're going to give them more than just foot restoration, say by giving them in addition stronger toe bones (think adamantium and Wolverine- an analogy to exaltation in excess of mere restoration to an initial state), why not just do the stronger toe bones operation in the first place and skip the whole broken/restored foot part?  In the surgery sequence, doesn't the restoration to initial condition precede the stronger toe bones anyway?  Why not just give a sales pitch to Adam and Eve, "Hey AdamEve.  So, right now you're immortal and innocent.  I can make you like me, innocent and immortal PLUS super powerful and filled with knowledge!  You want in?  Come unto me!" rather than going around breaking everyone's feet?  It all seems a bit contrived, presuming a starting condition of no carnal nature.  On the other hand, if the stronger toe bones state is only possible by breaking the foot first (i.e. the stronger toe bones sub-operation precedes full foot operation in the surgery sequence), it would be benevolent for the surgeon to offer to break your foot for you, providing you consent/voluntarily submit to the breaking.  This scenario seems more likely, and the voluntary submission is likely equivalent to choosing to come to earth (thanks Wolverine story!).  The previous scenario seems more like Satan's painting of the picture.
Chapter 13: The Sabbath Creation
- No notes

Chapter 14: A Day of Contrition

 -No notes

Chapter 15: Returning Home 

 -Christ is the Eternal Father because He gave me a body (resurrection), a name (baptism), and a spirit (the Holy Ghost)

Chapter 16: Burdens
-perhaps turning our hearts toward our fathers means being out of the box towards them, i.e. viewing them as individuals rather than placeholders for the title, "ancestors"

Chapter 17: The Beginning of Rest

-No notes

Part 3: Loving the Holy Temple

Chapter 18: Sacred Space

- No notes

Chapter 19: A Gracious Deal

 -Christ is teaching us piece by piece the "I agree to be a God" covenant
- to sacrifice is to know what it is I am willing to give up.  The reason God doesn't change our hearts once and for all is because we cannot agree to that which we don't understand.  It's not just to persuade a child to make a binding 80 year commitment, for she doesn't understand what that means- she doesn't "get" the consequences.  The Lord cannot agree with us beyond the scope of our wills, so we must time and again place our growing wills on the altar. 

Chapter 20: Preparing for Heavenly Brightness
 -the oath and covenant includes seeing His face and receiving the fulness of the Father

Chapter 21: Promises for All
-receiving the priesthood is a process, and not equivalent to being ordained
- will the Millenium be a terrestrial condition?

Chapter 22: Rethinking Responsibility
- We're partly responsible for our own bitterness and for being in the box (see Leadership and Self-Deception) toward people.
- I'm responsible for others' responses to my in-boxedness (e.g lowered self-image, in the box towards me, leading to a default setting of being in the box toward others)
- Everyone really is responsible to all men for all men and everything.

Chapter 23: In the Footsteps of the Great Proxy
 -In matters of eternity, influence flows both ways through time- via family lines
- Houses, not just individuals, are glorified

Chapter 24: The Lord's House
 -in post-Solomonic times, destruction of houses depended on temple attendance

Chapter 25: A Home Renewed
-the last page brought tears to my eyes

1 comment:

  1. A friend's comment:
    The word remember is in the scriptures over 1000 times! Remember the covenant (both God and us), remember your faults, remember the day in which you are delivered, remember the sabbath, remember the commandments, remember where blessings come from, remember for whom you were named, remember Me (the Lord they God), remember the words of the prophets, remember His mercy, and the list continues.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said to remember Him is to promote and live by the values Christ so whole heartedly taught. The paradigm idea resonates within. As our minds shift away from ourselves and more towards others, then we are remembering him, living what he taught. He said himself, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these thy brethren, ye have done it unto me." If we always put others before ourselves, then we always put Him before ourselves, especially when we are motivated by Love. Elder Uchtdorf said "Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship." (Oct GC 2009) How we treat people is a good indication of how well (and how often) we remember him.

    I think another aspect of remembering him is always remembering just how much we really do need him. As you say so often, WE ARE BROKEN and only he can fix us (think of King Benjamin's people). As we reflect daily, through prayer, on how we are doing we can remember our dependency on Him. Thus, the importance of always having a prayer in our hearts (Alma 34:27). 2 Nephi 32:9 also tells us that we "must pray always, and not faint." But is that possible? Always? We are also told to always rejoice, always abound in good works, and always return thanks. Do we do that?

    The dictionary on my mac says this: ORIGIN Middle English: genitive case of all way, the inflection probably giving the sense [at every time] as opposed to [at one uninterrupted time]. Every time a decision is placed before us we are to choose the right, BUT IF NOT, then we can seek the Lord for forgiveness. One thing we can ALWAYS do, is seek His forgiveness and he will EVERY TIME give it to the pure in heart.

    I'm realizing just how important it is that we become as much like Christ as we can in this life. It is super important to be able to see others as He does, and then act accordingly. How grateful I am that we can study and learn and be fed by the Holy Spirit. Thank you for asking for my input, for it has given me the opportunity to learn more of the ever important covenant that we make every Sunday. It is evident to my Heart that the Lord lives and loves each one of us so dearly.


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