There have been a great number of prayers lately asking Heavenly Father to teach me how to love and how to forgive. I previously held to the presumption that I already understood these primary virtues. Still, I knew I wasn’t progressing, and really haven’t for a very long time. It may seem like a rabbit trail, but I believe that it is critical to understand why I felt inspired to form the request in this way, and not “help me learn to love more, and to forgive more.”
While I have always objected to Randian philosophy and her establishment of self-interest as the primordial basis for all that we do, I wonder if I have been behaving in that way. We Mormons have been criticized for a long time concerning the celestial payoff that awaited those of us who were ready and willing to sacrifice all (even if that was to be procrastinated until some future life). Perhaps Mormon culture — not the gospel, the culture — is quintessentially Randian. If we were to construct an argument based upon this assumption, and the further assumption that God is not Randian, we would conclude that we are fundamentally in conflict with God. Said differently,
…the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
So, would it not, therefore, be appropriate to entertain the possibility that all that I knew and understood about love and forgiveness might be wrong (or at least deeply flawed) and that I needed to start from scratch?
I needed to begin by leaving myself behind. I needed to make a conscientious decision that my needs needed to be put on the alter. Curiously, once I did that (or more accurately once I turned about and started to face in that direction), I began to realize that love and forgiveness follows quite naturally. Similarly, I began to notice that anger, procrastination, lust, deceit, arrogance, selfishness, pride and all of the other negatives were a natural consequence of prioritizing self. There are many scriptures and even bellweather talks that apply here. I’ll presume that the reader is well aware of these so that I can skip forward and focus on the following.
I get it. I finally get it. For example, as I put myself in a proper attitude, I find that anger is absurd and quite readily dissipates. If I’m not obsessed with the negative impact of another’s actions, then forgiving them is really quite easy. In fact, as their needs are elevated above my own, it become similarly natural to pray in their behalf. This isn’t just the right thing to do (“…love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you….”), it is the natural consequence of prioritizing others.
As I have practiced this, I have found linkages to many other virtues. But more than that I have found an entirely new outlook on the world. It is as if, “I was blind, but now I see.” It is profound. The conundrum is that I knew all these things, and yet, I did not know. Even my understanding of the Father is changing. I can now imagine Him lying under a cardboard box next to a homeless person, providing comfort and help in preference to lounging about in a spectacular throne room in the mansion to end all mansions (perhaps this is why He has the right to be in that throne room performing an administrative, ecclesiastical, and/or patriarchal role; or must we presume that the inclination to personally succor others is a phase He went through and is now past that — that now transcendent He never gets directly involved — but works through others; or has the fundamental nature that made Him God changed; is He sacrificing all that He loves to personally manage the Kingdoms of the universe?). Might it be more consistent with His character, His work and His glory to remain personally involved and teach those of His righteous children that live in His presence by showing by example how to do the same (i.e., OJT)? After all, Jesus learned from the Father’s example. Right? Might that be the reason for the distinction in blessings given to the three disciples v the nine in 3Ne28?
Keep your mansion. Is there a distinction between wanting to be with Him and wanting to be like Him (chicken and egg?)? I choose to work with the Father in His garden and sleep with Him under the trees and stars.