Thursday, October 22

It's funny... this feeling inside...

For those of you who have heard, you know.
For those of you haven't heard, ask me and maybe I'll tell you. If you promise not to mock me. In the least.

Anyways, switchin up the major! :D Heh heh... oh yes, this wasn't going to happen at ALL. I'm so bloody predictable... what can I say? Nothing I do keeps my attention for more than a year or so. And I love studying history - any history. But writing long papers about my "discoveries" that are only worth publishing if my sources are formatted correctly...
Okay, that's not doing ANES justice. It is seriously the coolest major ever. I've met so many people and they are passionate about what they do. Like... it's incredible to me. But I am, by nature, a jack-of-all-trades type of girl, and I don't think I can be dedicated enough.
P.s. that doesn't bode well for any hopes of graduating, does it? *sigh* I need to grow up.

But in the meantime, we're trying out some new things. :) I'm getting together a portfolio of photos so I can apply to the school of visual arts in BYU... which, although competitive, looks like fun so why not? I'm in the market. (Besides this, photography/graphic arts are something I've always enjoyed - regardless of how much I do them. So maybe this is a better path.

Lastly, a review of my recent problem: I cannot be healthy for more than 12 hours straight.

For example:

5:30 wake up, exercise for approx. an hour and fifteen minutes.
6:45 drink a protein shake, eat scrambled egg whites.
7:15 bus to school.
8-10 classes.
10:00 eat an APPLE.
10-1 classes.
1:15 bus home.
1:30 eat something light for lunch - a salad, maybe a stir fry if I'm feeling hungry (which I'm usually not).
4:00 eat a snack - maybe a protein shake, more eggs, leftovers from lunch, etc. Once again, healthy choices. And I'm not feeling hungry or craving junk food or anything. I feel light, healthy, and awake. :)

But after 5:30... things start to get a little hazy... and suddenly I. WANT. FAT. Like... just out of nowhere my body starts to CRAVE sugar and fat! This is usually okay cuz I'm at my house so there really isn't anyway to indulge it (I'm a poor college student, heh.) But if I'm at Zubs or my house... or even hanging out anywhere accessible to fast food -


So, anyways, anyone know what's going on with my sorry state of affairs? I want to change. But it gets harder and harder every day...

Thursday, October 1

Got a moment?

Just read this - found it incredibly inspiring. :D Please read if you have the time!

Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel
Eugene England

I was convinced when I was a boy that the most boring meeting in the Church, perhaps in the world, was a "quarterly stake conference." In those days stake conference was indeed held every three months. It included at least two two-hour sessions on Sunday—for everyone. And the most interesting highlights to us children were the quavery songs literally rendered" by the "Singing Mothers" chorus and the sober sustaining of the "Stake No Liquor-Tobacco Committee."

But one conference, when I was twelve, was memorable for a better reason. I was sitting near the front because my father was being sustained as a high councilor in a newly formed stake, and I was turned around in my seat, teasing my sister who was sitting behind me. Suddenly I felt something, vaguely familiar, burning the center of my heart and bones—and then, it seemed, physicaIly turning me around to look at the transfigured face of Elder Harold B. Lee, the visiting authority. He had interrupted his prepared sermon and was giving the new stake an apostolic blessing. And I became aware, for a second and confirming time in my life, of the presence of the Holy Ghost and the special witness of Jesus Christ.

How many boring stake conferences would I attend to be even once in the presence of such grace? Thousands—all there are. That pearl is without price. And because I have since learned better what to look for and find there—understanding of and edifying, inspirational experience with the members of the Church—the conferences are no longer boring. Thus, one of the earliest and most important pillars of my faith came, not through some great insight into the gospel, but through an expe­rience I could have had only because I was doing my duty in the Church, however immaturely.

Yet one of the cliches often repeated by Mormons is that the gospel is true, even perfect, but the Church is, after all, a human instrument, history-bound, and therefore understandably imperfect—as if it were something to be endured for the sake of the gospel. I am persuaded, by experiences like that one at a stake conference and by my best thinking, that in fact the Church is as "true," as effective, as sure an instrument of sal­vation as the system of doctrines we call the gospel—and that it is so in good part because of the very flaws, human exaspera­tions, and historical problems that occasionally give us all some anguish about the Church.

Those who use the cliche about the gospel being more "true" than the Church want to mean by the gospel a perfect system of revealed doctrines and commandments based in prin­ciple& which infallibly express the natural laws of the universe. Interestingly enough, the universe itself and thus the true laws and principles that the gospel uses to describe the universe appear to be fundamentally paradoxical. Lehi's law, "It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11), is perhaps the most provocative and profound statement of abstract theology in the scriptures, because it describes what apparently is most ultimate in the universe. In context it clearly suggests that not only is contradiction and opposition a natural part of human experience, something God uses for his redemp­tive purposes, but that opposition is at the very heart of things: it is intrinsic to the two most fundamental realities, intelligence and matter—what Lehi calls "things to act and things to be acted upon" (v. 14). According to Lehi, opposition provides the universe with energy and meaning, even makes possible the exis­tence of God and everything else; without it "all things must have vanished away" (v. 13).

We all know in our experience the consequences for mortal life of this fundamental, eternal reality. Throughout history the most important and productive ideas have been paradoxical, that is, in useful opposition to each other: the energizing force in all art has been conflict and opposition; the basis for success in all economic, political, and other social development has been competition and dialogue. Think of our government based on checks and balances and our two-party political system (which together make pluralistic democracy possible). Think of Romanticism versus Classicism (a conflict at the heart of much literature—and most literary movements), reason versus emotion, freedom versus order, individual integrity versus com­munity responsibility, men versus women (whose differences make eternal increase possible), justice versus mercy (whose combination makes our redemption through the atonement of Christ possible).

Life in this universe is full of polarities and is made full by them. We struggle with them, complain about them, even try sometimes to destroy them with dogmatism or self-righteousness or a retreat into the innocence that is only ignorance, a return to the Garden of Eden where there is deceptive ease and clarity but no salvation. William Blake, the great eighteeenth-century poet, taught that "without contraries is no existence" and warned that "whoever tries to reconcile [the contraries] seeks to destroy exis­tence." Whatever it means that we will eventually see "face to face," now we can see only "through a glass, darkly" (1 Corin­thians 13:12), and we had better make the best of it.

Certainly, if we mean by "the gospel" simply the good news of Christ's redemption (as it is used often in the New Testament), or if we mean simply the basic principles of salvation implied when we say "1 know the restored gospel is true," we are talking about something fairly definite and clear. But, as we know it in human terms, the "full gospel" is not—and perhaps, given the apparently paradoxical nature of the universe itself, cannot ever be—a simple and clear set of unequivocal propositions. However clear and unified our ultimate knowledge of doctrine will be, our present understanding of the gospel, which is what we actually have to deal with, is various and limited.

And that is precisely where the Church comes in. I believe the Church is the best medium, apart from marriage (which it much resembles in this respect), for helping us gain salvation by grap­pling constructively with the oppositions of existence, despite our limited and various understandings of "the gospel." I believe that the better any church or organization is at such help, the "truer" it is. And when I call the Mormon church "the true church" I mean that it is the best organized means for providing such help because it is divinely organized and directed—is made and kept effective by revelations that have come and continue to come from God, however "darkly" they, of necessity, come to our own limited and various understandings.

Martin Luther, with inspired perception, wrote, "Marriage is the school of love"—that is, marriage is not the home or the result of love so much as the school. I believe that any church can be a school of love and that the Mormon church is the best one, the "only true and living church" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30) —not just because its doctrines teach and embody the great essential paradoxes and central saving principles but also because the Church provides the best context for struggling with, working through, enduring, and being redeemed by our responses to those paradoxes and oppositions that give energy and meaning to the universe. Joseph Smith, also with inspired perception, wrote, in a letter just before his death, "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest" (History of The Church 6:428). By "prove" he meant not only to demonstrate logically but also to test, to struggle with and to work out in practical experience. The Church is as true—as effective—as the gospel because it involves us directly in proving contraries, working constructively with the oppositions within ourselves and especially between people, struggling at an experiential level with paradoxes and polarities that can help to redeem us. The Church is true because it is con­crete, not theoretical. And despite, even because of, its contra­dictions and problems, it is as productive of good as is the gospel.

Let us consider why this is so: In the life of the true Church, as in a good marriage, there are constant opportunities for all to serve, especially to learn to serve people we would not normally choose to serve—or possibly even associate with—and thus there are opportunities to learn to love unconditionally (which, after all, is the most important thing to learn in the gospel). There is constant encouragement, even pressure, to be "active": To have a "calling" and thus to have to grapple with relationships and management, with other people's ideas and wishes, their feelings and failures. To attend classes and meetings and to have to listen to other people's sometimes misinformed or prejudiced notions and to have to make some constructive response. To be subject to leaders and occasionally to be hurt by their weakness and blind­ness, even unrighteous dominion—and then to be called to a leadership position and find that we, too, with all the best inten­tions, can be weak and blind and unrighteous.

Church involvement teaches us compassion and patience as well as courage and discipline. It makes us responsible for the personal and marital, the physical and spiritual welfare of people we may not already love (may even heartily dislike), and thus we learn to love them. It stretches and challenges us, even when we are disappointed and exasperated, in ways we would not other­wise choose to be stretched and challenged. Thus it gives us a chance to be made better than we may have chosen to be—but need and ultimately want to be.

Michael Novak, the lay Catholic theologian, has made this same point concerning marriage. In a remarkable essay, pub­lished in the April 1976 Harper's Magazine, he reviewed the increasing inclination of modern intellectuals to resist, desert, and even to attack marriage and argued that the main reason why the family, which has traditionally been the main bulwark of economic and emotional security, is currently "out of favor" is that many modern opinion makers are unwilling to take the risks and subject themselves to the disciplines that the school of marriage requires. But he then pointed out how such fears, though justified, keep them from meeting their own greatest needs. Similarly, I believe that those who resist, desert, and attack the Church fail, from a simple lack of perspective, to see their own best interest. To better see what I mean, as you read this passage from Novak, mentally substitute "the Church" for "marriage":

Marriage is an assault upon the lonely, atomic ego. Marriage is a threat to the solitary individual. Marriage does impose grueling, humbling, baffling, and frustrating responsibilities. Yet if one supposes that precisely such things are the preconditions for all true liberation, marriage is not the enemy of moral development in adults. Quite the opposite.. ..

Being married and having children has impressed on my mind certain lessons, for whose learning I cannot help being grateful. Most are lessons of difficulty and duress. Most of what I am forced to learn about myself is not pleasant. . . My dignity as a human being depends perhaps more on what sort of husband and parent 1 am, than on any professional work I am called upon to do. My bonds to [my family] hold me back (and my wife even more) from many sorts of opportunities. And yet these do not feel like bonds. They are, I know, my liberation. They force me to be a different sort of human being, in a way in which I want and need to be forced. (P. 42.)

I bear witness that the Church can do those same frustrating, humbling, but ultimately liberating and redeeming things for us —if we can learn to see it as Novak does marriage, if we can see that its assaults on our lonely egos, its bonds and responsibilities which we accept willingly, can push us toward new kinds of being in a way we most deeply want and need to be pushed.

Two keys to this paradoxical power in the Mormon church are first that it is, by revelation, a lay church—radically so, more than any other—and second that it organizes its congregations geographically rather than by personal choice. I know that there are exceptions, but the basic Church experience of almost all Mormons brings them directly and constantly into very demand­ing and intimate relationships with a range of people and prob­lems in their assigned congregations that are not primarily of their own choosing but are profoundly redemptive in potential, in part because they are not consciously chosen. Yes, the ordinances performed through the Church are important, as are its scriptural texts and moral exhortations and spiritual conduits. But even these, in my experience, are powerful and redemptive partly because they work harmoniously with profound, life-giving oppositions through the Church structure to give truth and meaning to the religious life of Mormons.

Let me illustrate: In one of his last general conference mes­sages, during the Saturday evening priesthood session of October 5, 1968, President David 0. McKay gave a kind of final testa­ment that was a bit shocking to many of us who are conditioned to expect that prophets have no difficulty in getting divine mani­festations. He told how he struggled in vain all through his teenage years to get God "to declare to me the truth of his revelation to Joseph Smith." He prayed, "fervently and sincerely," in the hills and at home, but had to admit to himself constantly, "No spiritual manifestation has come to me." But he continued to seek truth and to serve others in the context of Mormonism,including going on a mission to Britain, mainly because of trust in his parents and the goodness of his own experience. Finally, as President McKay put it,

the spiritual manifestation for which I had prayed as a boy in my teens came as a natural sequence to the performance of duty. For, as the apostle John declared, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, of whether 1 speak of myself." (John 7:17.)

Following a series of meetings at the conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, was a most remarkable priesthood meeting. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the intensity of the inspiration of that occasion. Everybody felt the rich outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord. MI present were truly of one heart and one mind. Never before had I experienced such an emotion. It was a manifestation for which as a doubting youth I had secretly prayed most earnestly on hillside and in meadow. .. .

During the progress of the meeting, an elder on his own initiative arose and said, "Brethren, there are angels in this room." Strange as it may seem, the announcement was not startling; indeed, it seemed wholly proper, though it had not occurred to me [that] there were divine beings present. I only knew that 1 was over­flowing with gratitude for the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Im­provement Era, December 1968, p. 85.)

I have had many confirmations of President McKay's prophetic witness in that sermon. Most of my profound spiritual manifestations, those that have provided the rock-bottom con­victions I have about the reality of God and Christ and their divine work—as well as my most troubling, soul-stretching moral challenges, my most maturing struggles with the great human issues of personal integrity versus public responsibility, loyalty to self versus loyalty to community, redemptive freedom versus redemptive structure and order—all these have come, as
President McKay affirmed, "as a natural sequence to the per­formance of duty" in the Church.

I know God has been found by unusual people in unusual places—in a sudden vision in a grove or orchard or grotto, or on a mountain or in a closet, or through saintly service to African lepers or Calcutta untouchables. But I am convinced that for most of us, and most of the time, he can be found most surely in the "natural sequence to the performance" of the duties he has given us that all of us (not just the unusual) can perform in our own homes and neighborhoods—and that the Church, in its unique community, imposed as well as chosen, can best teach and empower us to perform.

I have come to an overwhelming witness of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, such that the Spirit moves me, even to tears, whenever I read any part of it, and I came there by teaching it at Church. One Sunday when I was a bishop, as I tried to help a young woman who had attempted suicide a number of times—once not long before that—and who was feeling the deepest worthlessness and self-rejection, I was moved to merely read to her some passages from the Book of Mormon about Christ's atonement. I am convinced that book provides the most compre­hensive "Christology"—or doctrine of how Christ saves us from sin—that is available to us on earth, and that the internal evi­dences for the divinity of the book entirely overwhelm the evidences and arguments against it. But more important to me than all of those things is that as I read those passages to that desperate young woman and bore witness of their truth and power in my own times of despair and sin, her lips began to tremble with new feelings, and tears of hope formed in place of those of anguish.

In moments such as these, I was able, through my calling as bishop, to apply the atoning blood of Christ, not in theory but in the truth of experience. In addition, I have come to know the ministering of angels because I have done my duty in temple attendance and have gone whenever possible to temple dedica­tions. And I have found that we mortals do indeed have the power to "bless our oxen" as well as people, because I was a branch president and was pushed to the limits of my faith by my sense of responsibility to my brothers and sisters in that little branch.

Before I was a branch president, I served in the bishopric of the Stanford Ward in the mid-sixties and taught religion at the Palo Alto Institute to bright young students. At the same time I was doing graduate work in English literature and trying to come to terms with modern skepticism and relativism and the moral dilemmas of the civil rights and anti-war movements and the edu­cational revolutions of the time. I tended to see religion very much in terms of large moral and philosophical issues.

In 1970 I accepted a position as Dean of Academic Affairs at St. Olaf, a Lutheran liberal arts college in the small town of Northfield, Minnesota, and within a week of arriving was called as president of the little Latter-day Saint branch in that area. I suddenly entered an entirely different world, one that tested me severely and taught me much about what "religion" is. At Stan­ford much of my religious life had been involved with under­standing and defending the gospel—and had been idealistic, abstract, and critical. In Northfield, as branch president for twenty families scattered over seventy-five miles, ranging from Utah-born, hard-core "inactives" with devastating marital prob­lems to bright-eyed converts with no jobs or with drunken fathers who beat them. I soon became involved in a religious life that was practical, specific, sacrificial, exasperating—and more satisfying and redemptive. And I saw, more clearly than before, how true the Church is as an instrument for confronting all kinds of people with the processes of salvation, despite—even because of—its management by imperfect instruments like myself.

I think of a young man in that branch who had been deeply injured socially by some combination of mental and family prob­lems. It was difficult for him even to speak a word in a group or to organize his life productively. He joined the Church before I arrived, and as we gave him increasing responsibilities in our branch and supported him with much love and patience while he struggled to work with others and express himself, I was able to see him grow into a fine leader and confident husband and father. I think of a woman whose nonmember husband made her life a hell of drunken abuse, but who patiently took care of him, worked all week to support her family, and came to Church each Sunday in drab but jaunty finery and with uncomplaining deter­mination. She found there, with our help, a little hope, some beauty and idealism, and strength not only to endure but to go on loving what was unlovable. The Church blessed us all by bringing us together.

During the five years I served them, there were, among those seventy to one hundred members, perhaps four or five whom I would have normally chosen for friends when I was at Stanford —and with whom I could have easily shared my most impas­sioned and "important" political and religious concerns and views, the ones that had so exercised me before. But with inspira­tion far beyond my usual less-than-good sense, I did not begin my tenure as branch president by preaching about my ideas or promoting my crusades. 1 tried very hard to see what the imme­diate problems and concerns of my flock were and to be a good pastor, one who fed and protected them. And a remarkable thing happened. I traveled hundreds of miles and spent many hours: helping a couple who had hurt each other into absolute silence learn to talk to each other again; seeing a student through drug withdrawal; teaching a somewhat domineering man to work cooperatively with his counselors in the Sunday School presi­dency; blessing a terribly sick baby, aided by its father, who was weak in faith and frightened; comforting, at a hospital at four in the morning, parents whose son had just been killed by his brother driving drunk—and then helping the brother forgive himself. And I found, after six months, that my branch members, initially properly suspicious of an intellectual from California, had come to feel in their bones, from their direct experience, that indeed my faith and devotion to them and what mattered to them was "stronger than the cords of death." And I felt that in a sense the result promised in Doctrine and Covenants 121:44-46 followed, for there flowed to me "without com­pulsory means" the power to talk about any of my concerns and passions and to be understood and trusted, even if not agreed with.

Now, this may all sound a bit selfish, even obsessive about the Church's contribution to my own spiritual maturity. But what was happening to me was happening to others. A young couple came to the branch who had lived abroad, away from the Church, for a year right after the wife had been converted and they had married. Their Church experience, especially hers, had been essentially oriented to gospel concepts and convictions, deeply felt and idealistic but abstract, involving very little service to others. She was a dignified and emotionally reserved woman, bright, creative, and judgmental—and thus afraid of uncon­trolled situations or emotional exposure. He was meticulous, intimidating, somewhat aloof. 1 called them—despite some resis­tance on their part—into positions of increasing responsibility and direct involvement with people in the branch; and I saw them, at the expense of some pain and tears, develop into power­fully open, empathetic, vulnerable people, able to understand, serve, learn from, and be trusted by people very different from themselves. 1 saw them learn that the very exposures, exaspera­tions, troubles, sacrifices, and disappointments that characterize involvement in a lay church like ours—and that are especially difficult for idealistic liberals to endure—are a main source of the Church's power to teach us to love. Those two people are now teaching others what they have learned.

This lesson—that the Church's characteristic "problems" are among its strengths—has been continually confirmed as I have served as bishop of a ward of young married students at Brigham Young University. The two most direct, miraculous—and ulti­mately redemptive—blessings the Lord gave us when the ward was organized were what looked only like problems: a spastic quadriplegic child in one family and seriously handicapped parents in another. I had known the crippled child's mother for nearly a year: as a visiting high councilor I had spoken on the Atonement at her sacrament meeting, and she had approached me afterward for counsel and help. She was feeling deep anger and guilt as she tried to understand the failure of hospital care that had made one of two twins into a desperate physical and emotional and financial burden, one which had ended her hus­band's education and intended profession, severely tested their marriage and their faith as priesthood blessings seemed to fail, and left her close to breakdown and apostasy.

Now, a year later, as I prayed for guidance in organizing a new ward, I felt as clearly as ever 1 have felt those "strokes of intelligence" Joseph Smith described, telling me that I should, against all common sense, call her as the Relief Society President. I did, and despite being on the verge of moving away, she accepted. She became the main source of the unique spirit of honest communication and sense of genuine community our ward developed. She visited all the families and shared without reserve her feelings, struggles, successes, and needs. As did her husband, she spoke openly in our meetings about her son, his problems and theirs, asked for help and accepted it, and all the while did her duty and endured. We ward members all learned from this couple how to be more open, vulnerable, gracious, and persistent, and how to turn to each other for all kinds of help and not to judge.

I first met the handicapped couple while they were wandering through the halls of our meetinghouse on our first Sunday. They were not looking for our ward; in fact, they lived just outside our boundaries, but I am certain the Lord sent them. They required a major expenditure of our ward resources—time, welfare aid, patience, tolerance—as we worked to get them employed, into decent housing, out of debt, and capable of caring for their bright, energetic child, and tried to help them become less obtru­sive in meetings and less offensive socially. And I have learned two lessons: First, the Church structure and resources (which are designed for voluntary and cooperative but disciplined effort with long-range, essentially spiritual goals) are ideally suited as a means by which to build the necessary support system for such a couple, one which may yet succeed in keeping the family together and may even bless them with more progress. Second, the bless­ings have come to the ward as much as to them as we have learned to expand greatly our ideas about "acceptable" behavior and especially about our own capacities to love and serve and learn from people we would otherwise never know. One sister called me to report on her efforts to teach the woman some housekeeping and mothering skills, confessed her earlier resent­ments and exasperations, and told me in tears how much her heart had softened and her proud neck had bent as she had learned how to learn from this sister so different from herself.

These are examples, I believe, of what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 12, the great chapter on gifts, where he teaches that all the parts of the body of Christ—the Church—are needed for their separate gifts, and in fact that those with "less honour­able" and "uncomely" gifts are more needed and more in need of attention and honor—perhaps because the world will auto­matically honor and use the others.

It is in the Church especially that those with qualities ("gifts") of vulnerability, pain, handicap, need, ignorance, intel­lectual arrogance, social pride, even prejudice and sin—those Paul calls the members which "seem to be more feeble"—can be accepted, learned from, helped, and made part of the body so that together it can all be blessed. It is there that those with the more comely and world-honored gifts of riches and intelligence can learn what they most need to—to serve and love and patiently learn from those with other gifts.

But that is very hard for the "rich" and "wise" to do. And that is why those who have one of those dangerous gifts tend to misunderstand and sometimes disparage the Church—which, after all, is made up of the common and unclean, the middle-class, middle-brow, politically unsophisticated, even prejudiced, average members like most of us. And we all know how exasper­ating they can be! I am convinced that in that exasperation lies our salvation, if we can let the context which most brings it out—the Church—also be our school for unconditional love. But that requires a change of perspective, one I will now summarize.

The Church is as "true" as—that is, as effective for salvation as—the gospel: the Church is where there is fruitful opposition, the place where its own revealed nature and inspired direction maintains an opposition between liberal and conservative values, faith and doubt, secure authority and frightening freedom, indi­vidual integrity and public responsibility—and thus where there will be misery as well as holiness, bad as well as good. And if we cannot stand the misery and the struggle, if we would prefer that the Church be "a compound in one" such as Lehi described (smooth and perfect and unchallenging, without internal oppo­sition and thus "vanished away") rather than as it is, full of nagging human diversity and constant insistence that we perform ordinances and obey instructions and take seriously teachings embodying paradoxes that are not logically resolvable—if we refuse to lose ourselves wholeheartedly in such a school, then we will never know the redeeming truth of the Church. If we con­stantly ask, "What has the Church done for me?" we will not think to ask the much more important question, "What am I doing with the opportunities for service and self-challenge with which the Church provides me?" If we constantly approach the Church as consumers, we will never partake of its sweet and filling fruit. Only if we can lose our lives there will we find our­selves.

It is precisely in the struggle to be obedient while maintaining independence, to have faith while being true to reason and evidence, to serve and love in the face of imperfections, even offenses, that we can gain the humility we need to allow divine power to enter our lives in transforming ways. Perhaps the most amazing paradox about the Church is that it literally brings together the divine and the human—through priesthood service, the ordinances, the gifts of the Spirit—in concrete ways that no abstract systems of ideas ever could.

My purpose here has not been to ignore the very real prob­lems of the Church or the power of the gospel truths. As I have tried to indicate all along, the Church's paradoxical strength derives from the truthful paradoxes of the gospel it embodies, contraries we need to struggle with more profoundly in the Church. And we must all engage, not merely in accepting the struggles and exasperations of the Church as redemptive, but in genuinely trying to reach solutions where possible and reduce unnecessary exasperations. (Indeed, it is only when we grapple with the problems, not merely as intellectual exercises but as problems in need of solution, that they prove redemptive.)

But along with our sensitivity to problems we must also, I believe, have more respect for the truth of action, of experience, that the Church uniquely exposes us to, and must respond with courage and creativity. We must be active, thoughtful, faithful, believing, truth-seeking, struggling, unified members of the body of Christ. To do so we must accept the Church as true in two very important senses: First, it is a repository of crucial redemptive truths and of the authority to perform essential saving ordi­nances. Though, as I have observed, those truths can be difficult to pin down to simple propositions, taken together they motivate and make efficacious the willingness to serve that creates the redemptive schooling I have described. Second, besides being the repository of true principles and authority, the Church is the instrument provided by a loving God to help us become like him, that is, to give us essential schooling—experiences with each other that can bind us together in an honest but loving commun­ity, which is the essential nurturing place for salvation. If we cannot accept the Church and the challenge it offers with the openness and courage and humility they require, then I believe our historical studies and our theological enterprises are mainly a waste of time—and possibly destructive. We cannot properly appreciate the history of Mormonism or know the truth of Christ's restored gospel unless we understand—and act on—the truth of his Church.