Saturday, February 9, 2019

Show Me Your Dash and I'll Show You Mine

This morning I saw an article on my facebook feed that I'm sure was put there at the time by divine design. Just yesterday I had read an article that focused heavily on making sure everything we teach in the church is related to the One after whom our faith in named and upon whom it is based, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Then, as if God was trying to put icing on that spiritual cake - well more like a huge pallet loaded with bags of icing - I read this article today by Stake President and District of Columbia US Court of Appeals Judge Thomas B Griffith.

There's a part in it on which I am basing my comments here. It's this section:
  • "In the last revelation Joseph Smith received before he was permitted to organize Christ’s Church on the earth—in what was the capstone of Joseph Smith’s preparation to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Lord gave the only first-person detailed account of the suffering He endured so that we would not need to suffer the full effects of our disobedience: behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; . . . Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— [D&C 19:16, 18] There is something curious about this narrative. Verse 18 ends with a dash. The Savior did not complete His thought. Why? I don’t know, but I am persuaded by the explanation that the Savior might have cut short His description of what He suffered because it was too painful for Him—some 1,800 years after the event—to complete the description[]." (emphasis added)

He proposes this idea of course as his opinion, but I believe it for the following reason. Why does the Lord withhold information from us? Usually it's because it would be more detrimental than helpful to our spiritual growth, but with Joseph Smith, I don't think that would have been the case. Here was a man about whom Truman Madsen recalled the following:

  • "Early in his life, he said, [Sydney B. Sperry, a man who was perhaps the Church's most knowledgeable Hebraist] had aspired to know more about the scriptures than any man living. He told me, and this is the point, that he had become aware that no man in this generation could possibly know as much about the scriptures as did the Prophet Joseph Smith. I begin with that because a feeling constantly recurs as one studies the life of Joseph Smith. You never quite get to the bottom. There is always more. You can be so impressed and overcome with glimpses that you say, "Nothing good that I could learn of him would be surprising." And then you become surprised. There is always more. It takes deep to comprehend deep, and I often wonder if any of us have the depth to fully comprehend this man."
No, I believe that Joseph's capacity to receive or not receive what the Lord would have said next was not because of His own limitations, especially coming from a man who said, "I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have, of the glories of the Kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive it."

I think the reason is as brother Griffith deduced. And that begs the question, just how loaded is that dash?

Obviously, the answer is not something the world needs to know right now - and likely something the world is spiritual light-years from handling well - or else we would have such knowledge revealed to us via President Nelson. However, what I want to suggest here and that we use this thought as an example for our own lives. One of the most profound differences between us and our Lord is the fact that He holds nothing back from us because of what He wants to reveal to us. According to President Nelson, "One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will." The Lord has His own reasons for not explaining that loaded dash, but - and consider this carefully - is there any good reason for us to be trying to hide our "dash" from Him, or... even at all?

Our unsaid dash could be a lot of things. Perhaps it is our hidden brokenness, complex emotions, addictions, worries, internal (or external) battle wounds incident to life's trials or even our deepest dreams, hopes, joys and love that we believe are to crazy to expose for fear of backlash or dismissal. It may be everything we really want to express to others but don't have the courage to do so. Maybe it's the "Oh, and one more thing"s that often results from our afterthoughts that come to us too late and stem from deep emotional crevasses that take work to dig out and display. Either way our dashes are never going to be as loaded as his, so why should we be so hesitant to expose ours?

I saw a meme on facebook today that said "Don't judge people for the choices they make when you don't know the options they had to choose from." I could discourse on how to apply that phrase properly, but for now, the point I want to make from it is that - while I acknowledge it is wrong to judge another person's level of spiritual health (if you aren't a Bishop, Stake Pres, etc.) - maybe, just maybe, we would no longer even falsely perceive a need to judge at all if we did know the options others had to choose from in the moments where they had to make their hardest choices. Whether those choices are good or evil, if we can bring ourselves to a) be brave and open with each other while staying kind and b) properly show each other our dashes, it would be easier for us to have the needed context and motivation to be kinder to each other. This would also serve as an effect means for us to receive direction from the Holy Ghost about how to bear and, when possible, lighten each others burdens instead of exacerbating them by making uninformed decisions about what we think others need. 

Now, I'm not talking about just spewing out verbal diarrhea, of course. That would just result in a bunch of "TMI" looks from a lot of people. What I am saying is that learning to express ourselves to each other the way I mentioned in the first section of this article would make it much easier for us to minister to each other so that all of us feel safe showing our dash, to display all those "other options" I mentioned in the previous paragraph and really give proper context. This also means we need to seek to understand other's dashes as well.

The first verse and chorus to one of my recent favorite songs goes:
  • Truth is harder than a lie
    the dark seems safer than the light
    and everyone has a heart that loves to hide
    I'm a mess and so are you
    We've build walls nobody can get through
    Yeah, it may be hard but the best thing we could ever do, ever do:

    Bring your brokenness and I'll bring mine
    'Cause love can heal what hurt divides
    and mercy's waiting on the other side
    If we're honest, If we're honest
Showing our dashes also often means that coming from behind the proverbial bedroom door we slammed behind ourselves and laying our problems before the Lord and, as we learn to do it properly, before each other. This also helps in effective ministering because part of the church's ministering program means being good listeners. Giving our ministering brothers and sisters something to listen to is one of the best ways to meet each others needs. It also gives us context the Holy Ghost can use to guide us in our ministering. We have to take the step to reach out sometimes when others can't see the invisible pain we often seem so willing to hide. I remember reading an article in a New Era magazine in 2007 while I was serving as a full time missionary where Nathan Richardson noticed this about hiding the truth:
  • "What we find is that when we try to fix ourselves, we don’t have the needed equipment. So we might try to approximate the repentance process. But the medicine hurts too much, so we don’t apply it; and the bandage is impossible to put on by ourselves, so we try to cover it with a few little Band-Aids. Then the Father comes in and sees our raw sore, which we had tried to hide from Him. He helps us clean it out. He applies the Atonement to our wounds, which begins the healing process. If it doesn’t burn at first, we’re not repenting. Then He helps us tape on a bandage that we could never have gotten on by ourselves. With our red wound now dressed in white, we are left to wonder why we were ever afraid to ask our Heavenly Father for help. I think that if we really came to know Heavenly Father, we wouldn’t be so scared to repent."
The same applies not just to repentance but becoming unified as Saints and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we become willing to come together and show our dashes with mercy, understanding and forgiveness, and see each others "other options", I am convinced that judgement would cease to fester in our minds and, with proper honesty and context, showing our dashes would become something we want to do. It would become a way to heal, to become completely free from the cares of this world and choose happiness (different from finding happiness).

So what do you say? Show my your dash and I'll show you mine. Let's heal and be perfected along side our Savior together.