Category Archives: General

The five stages of me ignoring the Holy Ghost

The new semester of grad school starts today (working on my degree in social work) and it’s gotten me thinking about past semesters and classes I’ve had. One of them that really sticks out was my sophomore English class at university because I had a really interesting experience at the end.

For the entire class, we had only one homework assignment: to write a massive twenty (yes TWENTY) page paper. The class was split up into about four parts where we’d go over separate parts of writing a scientific research paper. The idea was to end with one giant constructed paper that used all the elements of a research one. Not really a big deal in itself, but there was so much content that it required that it took a very long time — the whole semester, obviously.

I was working on my paper on the last day before I could submit it. I had already done weeks worth of revisions and updates, and I was adding the final content, reviewing my paper, and getting it ready to submit. I have OCD (as in, actually diagnosed and medicated) so I obsess a lot over details, and finishing this up was taking a lot of time. I wanted to do it right and get a good grade. The professor gave us the option to turn our paper in earlier in the class to just get feedback and review from it. It was optional, but for some reason I decided not to do it. Instead, I was stuck with submitting my paper one time. If it missed even any of the critical elements, it was given an F and you’d fail the entire class and would have to retake it.

The night I was working on it was a Monday evening. At my church, every Monday night, is designated to do what we call “Family Home Evening” (aka FHE) where basically everyone gets together and does a little spiritual lesson and just has fun as a family. I didn’t have a family of my own, but I was part of a specific congregation just for single adults, and we’d have our own family home evening events every Monday night, just as a regular family would. They’re never anything too elaborate or complex, most of the time just meet up and hang out. No big deal. Not a lot of social pressure. We would have a spiritual moment or two where we’d read scriptures together or something similar. So generally a good idea all around and as a single adult, it doesn’t hurt to meet other singles of the same faith as well.

There was an FHE event the night I was working on my paper. Sometimes I would go, sometimes I wouldn’t. I generally liked the idea but I wasn’t too social so going often wasn’t usually a thing. I knew it was important though and that God would want me to attend, if for nothing else to get that spiritual lesson to help me through the week. The problem was, this time, I had a legitimate reason for not going — working on a massive paper that needed to be finished and submitted. I felt safe enough in that reasoning, after all there are divine exceptions to some rules when personal need overrides our normal congregational schedule, so I wasn’t thinking much about it. This is where the fun begins.

So I’m working on my paper, and I feel a very clear impression from the Holy Ghost, which in my case manifests itself as a feeling with specific instructions, or a thought that is attended with a specific phrase almost. Impressions from God are different from any other voice I hear in my head or body, and it takes time to develop recognizing it as from God, same as it would any other skill. This time the message was “Go to FHE.” Thus begins the five stages of me ignoring the Holy Ghost.

The first time I get the impression, my immediate answer is, “No.” No negotiation there, I need to get this done.

A few minutes go by, and I get the same impression again — “Go to FHE.” I’m still pretty stubborn, and so my response back to God was “I thought I told you no.” and I go back to writing my paper.

Another minute or two goes by, and I get the *exact* same impression as the first two times. “Go to FHE.” By this time, my response was essentially “Please leave me alone.” My obedience skills at this point could use some honing, but whatever, it made sense at the time.

I’m determined to get this thing done, and as I’m working on it, the time that FHE begins is approaching closer and closer. They generally meet for at least an hour so even if I did want to go, I had time. But I wasn’t going to go, remember?

After another set of a few minutes going by, I get the same impression a fourth time now. My response was “UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.” I knew by now it was very clear that God wanted me to go to this singles activity, but I couldn’t see how I could do that and still finish and submit this paper that was due tonight. It just wasn’t possible.

Once again, almost like clockwork, as I continue working on my paper one more time I get the impression that I should go to the activity. This being the fifth time, I being annoyed (but I imagine now God was more annoyed with me), I finally threw my hands up in the air, and my response was basically “FINE, I’LL GO. But there better be something cool there, like chocolate cake .. or my future wife.” So I stopped working on my paper, and left to go to the activity.

I got there probably half an hour late, and had missed the spiritual sharing part of it, but we were all hanging out at another church member’s house, and were chilling in the back around their pool. There was only maybe seven other people there. I didn’t know any of them real well, and so I just kind of sat by myself. I had had enough impressions that I should be there, but was more than a little confused now because nothing was happening. There was definitely no chocolate cake, I was sure of that. What was important though at this point was that my heart had been softened. I finally had listened to what the Holy Ghost was instructing me to do, and that made me feel better about everything.

Nothing happened at the get together, and I started heading home after everything had finished. I was still a little confused about what was so special about tonight, and I thought about how even when we obey God without knowing what the purpose is, He has the power to bless us. Sometimes it really is just so that we can learn obedience, which I think was the case here (in fairness, sometimes it really is so you’ll meet someone cool, but that was not the case here).

As I’m driving home, I get another impression from the Holy Ghost again, but it’s very different. And it’s a lot lighter of a feeling now than the ones before. I had gone to the activity, I had calmed down a bit, and most importantly I had obeyed. The message this time was “Turn in your paper the way it is right now.”

Now that piece of instruction really shocked me. The OCD version of me was definitely NOT finished writing this paper, and in my mind I still had a lot of work to do before it would be ready. But since my heart was softened more by tonight, I decided to follow the instruction, spent a minute or two reviewing it to make sure I wasn’t overlooking something, and I submitted my paper online. And that was that. I was really nervous, but by this time I knew better to listen and obey, and so I did.

Because of how many students there were, and because I’m sure the professor was busy, we didn’t get any feedback from our papers being turned in for at least a week. I normally would have been pretty nervous about the thing, but because of what had happened I felt like I prepared at least a good paper that I’d get a passing grade on. So not a lot of high expectations, but I knew I’d be okay.

After a week or so, I did get a message back from my professor. He said he loved my paper, I hit all the important elements, and he suggested that I should look into a career in psychology (the paper was on autism)!

I don’t know where I have the paper anymore, if it’s somewhere on my computer or in my archives online, but that’s not what I remember from that semester. I remember the time that God was trying to tell me through the Holy Ghost through impressions that I needed to obey. And that some blessings don’t come unless we do what we already know we’re supposed to do. I look back on that night with gratitude that God was willing to be so patient with me, even though I was definitely not being patient with Him.

So there’s my five stages of ignoring the Holy Ghost. I hope it helps someone. I’ve had the thought I should post this for a while, and tonight seemed like a good time to get it all written. I sincerely hope it helps someone out there, I think it’s a good skill to develop self-awareness in recognizing if something is from God or not. It’s great to know that I can say that God is aware of our personal problems, and He is always looking out for us. It’s good for me to remember as well that whatever God commands is right, and that having the gift of the Holy Ghost means I can be inspired to make good decisions — even if it means no cake and no future wife. Amen!

(cross-posted at my other blog)

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O ye of more faith…

I often ask myself the question, “if someone has less knowledge than I do about the gospel, and does the same amount, does that mean that they have more faith?” Every time I think about this, I believe that the answer is “yes.”

I went to the temple today to do some work, which should have been a cool experience. I have somewhat found a way to streamline the entire process though so I can get in and out (and on to the rest of my day). “All blessings and glory be upon you for the new eternal covenants you’ve made, that’s great, now hurry up why isn’t my package from Amazon here yet.” This is in all honesty how my day went today.

Back up a bit, though, and there’s more context to this whole thing. Lest it seem like my spiritual experience may have been completely dwarfed by rampant consumerism, let me put that to the rest by saying it almost was by adding a few more examples of it getting wrecked. I blame Amazon. And the mall. And the bookstore. And then me … in that order.

First of all, I’m really into multimedia. I’m one of those people who when they go to the store and buy a DVD or a Blu-ray, that I inspect in my mind where I’m going to store it at home, and how I like the cover compared to the eight t-shirts I have of the same series. It’s a big deal for me. I’d been debating getting a Blu-ray drive for my laptop on and off for a few weeks, and have had a hard time making a decision. For some people, they worry about whether to have a kid or where to go on vacation.  For me, it’s whether I want another piece of hardware. Very important.

I finally decided to go ahead and get one, and through the magic of the Internet and by the power of selfishness, I saw that Amazon had one that they’d do one-day delivery on. It was about 2 in the morning, and the only thing standing in the way between me and my precious was that I had to find the right size in millimeters of my current laptop drive so I could choose the right replacement. It’s moments of these I like to call “rage googling.” As in, the anger that is generated because I have to do some research before getting what I want (Never mind the fact that once you order something online, you’re immediately waiting .. I try to not think about things like that).

After about three minutes of searching online for the answer — which is a liberal amount in my case — I decided that I was now the expert on all things optical-drive-sized and I chose one and went with that. After all, if it was the wrong one, I could always *return* it right? Who cares about an even longer wait (I try not to think about that either), all that matters is I get to add to cart and click that shiny little purchase button. I decided I wasn’t still completely sure and I just left it in my cart.

Fortunately for me, I got distracted by something else equally cool in the multimedia world (old time radio, if you’re curious), and focused on that for about thirty minutes, before I remembered that I hadn’t actually placed my purchase. I humbly decided that perhaps I wasn’t the king of all things millimeters sized, and so I grabbed a tape measure and did my best to see if I could figure out what the actual dimensions of this thing was. After about three more minutes of trying to figure this out — which again, is a an unusual of patience in my realm — I finally got the answer because it happened to be the same size as an extra laptop drive I had lying around. Good thing I took the extra time, as well, because I had previously assumed the wrong size, and would have gotten the wrong thing! That would have been tragic to the now serious amount of traction my quick-purchase lifestyle had going for it. I got it figured out, placed the order, and smiled at the whole “guaranteed delivery date” would by by 9 p.m. that same day.

After I went to bed and got up later, I decided I’d go to the temple. Or more accurately, I had decided a couple of days ago that I would go, and this would be it. Today though, would be a new adventure … instead of going at *night* when it was always busy, I was going to go in the *afternoon*! Hark! My goal was to get in and out as soon as possible, because nothing says godly covenants quit like cramming it between errands such as getting milk and buying jeans.

I actually had two packages coming today, though, not just one. I had ordered a season of a new show I’m watching (I’m going to avoid the multimedia overload here and intentionally *not* say which show it was, take that!), and I had already gotten a confirmation that it’d be coming today as well.

Now, some people talk about having a sixth sense. Like you know if your baby needs you, or if your dog is about to pee on your carpet. Mine is knowing that the Amazon delivery guy is near. And I’m not talking about looking at your phone for notifications, either. I can just *feel* it. Some people have experiences where they transcend body and mind and make connections with other things in the universe. Mine is with some dude I’ve never met in real life driving an unmarked van. I honestly can tell when it’s his steps coming up to my apartment floor, I’m so keen on this connection. I’ve thought about making him some cookies, but I figure he’s suffered enough since I live on the third floor and sometimes I have stuff delivered three times in one week.

So I got a notification for the TV show series that they were on their way — that’s one package. The second package though, the Blu-ray drive, I hadn’t gotten any notifications other than the order had been placed. No arrival at the packaging facility, no out for delivery, nothing. My cosmic connection was telling me that my chances were dim that it was actually going to come today at all. I was kinda bummed. My spiritual connection was bugging me to remember I had planned on going to the temple, though, so I best be out and about doing that.

I started getting ready to head out by doing the important things like showering and shaving, and the secondary important things as well such as making instant pasta in my microwave and watching an episode or two of the series I was currently binging. If my package just so happened to show up while I was “preparing” then that would be a miracle, right? Sometimes God needs a little help with that stuff, and I’m always happy to do my part.

My inner tingling went off and I knew the Amazon guy was near. I let a hallow silence overcome my apartment as he approached, both in serenity and also hoping he won’t knock and wait for me to answer the door since some relationships are better left unexplored. Doorbell rang, I waited for him to clomp away, then did my best “Oh, did I hear the doorbell riiiiiiiinggggg” fake experience and opened the door and to my “surprise” found a package there. I should earn an Oscar for that performance.

I unceremoniously tossed the package up on my desk and went back to getting ready. For all my impatience, you’d think I’d care more when it actually came. It’s the waiting I hate, though, not the actual getting something. Before I was about to leave though, I decided to open it up just to look at it. I grabbed the nearest sharp object to open the package, which happened to be the screwdriver I used last night to rip out my optical drive of my laptop. Again, for someone so into the experience of getting something new, I had an odd way of caring whether I jam it with holes or not.

There was a slight problem. And in my experience, slight problems are severe threats to my laziness. Behold. I ordered the wrong thing. I got the show on *DVD* instead of *Blu-ray*. Big oof. My day was now slightly ruined by the fact that I got it on the wrong medium. Oh, well. There’s a temple session to be had, no time to worry about that.

I grabbed the names I downloaded off the FamilySearch website of the other Dibbs and put it on my phone, and tromped off to my car. When I got there, I went to their office to print the ordinance cards for the names I had (I don’t have a printer at home, which is odd, considering the amazing purchase adventure that’d be). Some older couple was there at the office as well, the husband was talking about how he had lost his FamilySearch password, and couldn’t get his family’s names printed. I rolled my eyes (but silently, to be polite). Your problems are no concern to me, old man, I could be missing a delivered package right now! I have to get in and out! While one office worker went off to find someone who could help him, another one printed off my cards and handed them to me. I wandered off, feeling a little bad for feeling so snotty, but shifted to curiosity wondering how the church would handle something like that since it was temple names they were trying to access. Good question.

Another glorious method I’d come up with when going to the temple to do ordinance work is to take only three names when doing baptisms or initiatories. If you show up without any family names, they will give you a set of five to do, and that obviously takes a lot more time than doing three does. Sometimes if they see you doing less, they’ll ask you if you mind slipping in more so you can round out the set. I’d already practiced in my head what I’d say if they asked me something like that in my case, and I’d turn it down politely as if a sandwich artist asked if I’d like more mustard. “No, no, I’m sorry but I can’t today.” I could win another Oscar for that.

That didn’t happen today, though. I had my three names and got through there rather quickly. All three of the names I had brought in today were ancestors, fellow Dibbs, and it’s honestly always cool to be able to do work for someone who has the same last name. It creates more a sense of connection it feels like sometimes. I mean, I’ve looked up lots of family names before and they don’t always have the same surname from my father’s and grandfather’s side, but for those that do, it seems to make it more real sometimes. So I did get a glimpse of an eternal connection there today, as I was hoping that they were happy that the work was being done for them.

There was something interesting on all their cards though. Each one of the three had had the baptisms and the confirmations done on separate days. And I don’t mean the next day. The one I was looking at was almost a year apart. And they both happened 12 years ago. I started thinking a little bit about what it must be like to be wait that long for something. I couldn’t wait an entire day for something to come, but these guys had to wait for years for the proxy work to be done for them. I realize that time surely must exist differently in the post-mortal spirit world, but .. there’s still a *wait*. I don’t know how I’d do if I were the one standing around waiting so long for something to be done … especially something far more important. I’ll admit I felt a bit of shame, but more a good sense of perspective. I started wondering a bit about how much time it’d take me to go through all the family names I have reserved right now, and get all their baptisms, confirmations, and initiatories done. If I went to the temple super early in the morning, and burned through five in one day, I could probably have them all done in two to three weeks. And since each temple visit when there would be nobody there would be really fast — say two hours max — it was not a lot of time. Say what you will about impatience, but it can have the positive effect of teaching us how to manage time.

I’d like to say I came to some glorious resolution right then and there while in the temple doing the work for them that I’d resolve to do better and go and actually *do* all those temple names at five in the morning for the next few weeks. Who needs sleep when this is eternal salvation we’re talking about? Heck yah! Sign me up!

Except it didn’t happen. I dwelt on the thought for a little bit, and eventually settled on the understanding that this stuff is important, and that grew in me a bit more.

I also wish I could say that it cured me of my rampant consumerist lifestyle, but that didn’t happen either. Halfway to my car while walking out to the car I was already checking my phone, and I did get a notification that my second package was out for delivery.  Success! Kind of.

I left the temple with a bit more perspective on things, on how I have to wait for what I want … whether I want to or not. Hopefully in the afterlife when I meet these people I did their work for, they won’t do something sassy like show up with a package when I see them. Although to be fair, I couldn’t really blame them.

The work is important though, and it’s interesting how it really doesn’t take a lot of time — our time, my time, whatever. In one afternoon, while waiting for something on my own, I can do some temple work for someone who’s been waiting for years. There’s no telling how they’ve felt in that time for someone to finally get around to doing the work for them. I’m glad I could participate though, even if I was a little rushed and semi-selfish about the whole thing.

There’s a part two to this whole story, with the mall, the movies, and the guy who knows presumably less and does more. Another time though! Hopefully I’ll get to it within the next few years.

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“and they were filled with madness”

I’ve always had a bit of difficulty studying the Gospels because of their unique structure.  The often summarized stories don’t make sense to me, because I look for continuity and structure, and it’s not always clear how one event flows to the next.  And so, this time around, instead of doing a methodical study of everything, I’m instead skipping to sections that do make sense to me, and reading those and thinking for them a few days at a time.  It’s mostly parables and short sequences where the Lord interacts with one person or a group of people.  Those seem to make more sense to me, and I’ve been able to learn some cool lessons.

This last one that I’ve been looking it is the story in Luke 6 about how some of the scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus and his disciples for infractions in the law, and then criticizing them.  In verses 1 to 11, there are two events: first, Jesus and his disciples are walking through corn fields, and eat some of the corn as they are going through.  The second, he is being scrutinized to see if he will heal on the Sabbath day.

For full context, I’ll quote them here:

1. AND it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.

2. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

3. And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;

4. How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?

5. And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

6. And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.

7. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

8. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.

9. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

10. And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

11. And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

It occurs to me that in the first example, that “certain of the Pharisees” must have been watching him very closely, to notice that what they were doing.  Their hatred and dislike of the Master had driven them to a level of pettiness, where they are intent to watch his every move and criticize at the first chance of possible disagreement with their interpretation of the law.

They knew of his miraculous healing power, and instead of being healed themselves, they devised a trap wherewith he could use his own powers to do good, and turn it against him.  Their strict interpretation of the law of the Sabbath completely overlooked the principle of doing good, and focused on the minutia instead.

The Lord looked over the audience, knowing their thoughts, and posed the rhetorical question as to what was the greater law, hoping to teach them.  I also have to wonder what the story of the poor man with the withered hand was.  Was he invited there by Jesus’ accusers, or was it known that he was a regular member of the synagogue?  The verses don’t say, so I won’t speculate.  Either way, Jesus healed him.  “And they,” his accusers, “were filled with madness.” (Luke 6:11)

I wonder sometimes why I “enjoy” hating things some times.  In using social media, I’ve noticed that I often have the temptation to let everyone know as soon as I find something wrong that needs to be vocalized, exposed, and made aware of.  In trying to correct this attitude, I’ve noticed that there’s a certain rush in finding something that can be thrown out there, with my own words of criticism, sarcasm, and glee, as I’m glad to be pointing out someone’s mistakes or errors.  I see past all the good that a person or project is accomplishing, and instead focus on the small things, and loudly vocalize them.

It makes me think about how I want to be remembered years from now, if the only memorial to my name is “he was filled with anger.”  I really don’t want that, of course, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can change that.  Why is there so much drive to hold onto something that hurts so much?  I really can’t understand it.  The negative energy that it requires to tear others down is ultimately destroying me instead.

I like the hymn “Did You Think to Pray?”  One part in particular asks “When your heart was filled with anger, did you think to pray?”  I ask myself that sometimes and my answer is usually “Well … no …”, because praying doesn’t really seem like the obvious thing to do at that time, and it doesn’t really fit in with what my train of thought was that time anyway.  Generally, thinking of it stops me in my tracks, and at least resets me a bit.  It’s okay to get upset and frustrated at someone or something, but I’d rather work towards making things better, and one way is to learn how to deal with things that are out of my control.

The amount of things that I can control or be certain of are infinitely small in comparison to what I can’t.  And so, in choosing my battles of what to change and what not to, I cede the fight where reasonable, and try to use some positive energy to work around some things.  It’s not really that hard, I’m finding, once I let go of the anger.  I’m learning lately to label the situation instead of working it up in my mind.  “That is irritating.”  “That seems unethical and wrong.”  And so on.  Labeling it as something bad helps me categorize the situation instead of attacking the person.  Accepting that things are not right is often enough to satisfy my desire of “something must be done.”  I can internally observe and interpret, without publicly highlighting and criticizing.

I suppose some examples are in order, but they are all such minor things that it doesn’t matter.  My hair gel smells weird.  The price tag on the shirt at the store is missing.  Someone left a glass bottle in the parking lot.  Small things, really, that are anything between annoyances to someone else’s poor decisions.  It matters, yes, but it doesn’t need to matter a lot.  And that’s the hard part, is letting go of the desire to fan any flames of disagreement and dislike.

I wish I could say I had a real solution to the problem, but for me it’s a combination of observation and re-evaluation.  Lately I’ve been trying to backtrack why there are some things I get so aggravated about, and wonder what the source of them was.  There are wounds that I’ve carried for so many years, that I don’t even know what dealt the first blow.

I have found one thing, though, that works well, but it is really hard to honestly do.  I go to the Lord, and I say that I am willing to drop all the baggage that I bring with me, and simply obey whatever he wants me to do.  It’s really, really, really hard to honestly do that, and I can say I’ve only been able to actually do it about twice.  There’s a certain fear that comes with it, that by being so open and vulnerable that I’ll be exposed to scrutiny by the Lord.  That doesn’t happen, though.  I don’t really feel much as a response to what he would say to me, but I do feel like I’m making good progress in that I can try to let more things go, and let him replace them with something else.  It’s a difficult experience to describe, and I’m probably not doing it justice in trying to here.  Regardless, I do know it’s the direction I want to go.

What I *can* do right now, though, is let go of the pettiness, the small things, the ones I like to get annoyed about.  It’s so easy to hate, and so hard to let go, but it does get easier each time I do it, and I’m grateful for that.

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“Here am I; send me.”

I’m taking a morning Bible study class again during the school semester, and we’re covering just the book of Isaiah.  This is the second time I’ve taken it, the last time was probably about two years ago.  It’s the same teacher, which is cool, because I really like his style and his methods.

Recently, we were talking about the calling of Isaiah as a prophet, in Isaiah chapter 6.  He said that this chapter is a pattern of how the Lord calls prophets, and I’m still trying to understand that principle.  But, there is one thing I like that is really cool — it was Isaiah’s attitude towards the calling.

First of all, Isaiah feels unworthy in the sight of the Lord. A prophet feeling inadequate is not uncommon — it was difficult for Moses, Jeremiah, and Peter … or even Jonah for that matter.

The part I love the conversation between the Lord and Isaiah:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
Then said I, Here am I; send me.

I love the idea of anyone being able to stand before the Lord, and in His presence, have the confidence to look at Him and say that they are ready to do His work.  I imagine that it requires a lot of spiritual development to get to that point.  Surely, Isaiah must have prepared himself for years before this moment, obeying the Lord.

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