Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Goodness of God

Yes, when it rains - it pours. But after the downpour - a renewal and clearer perspective. After feeling sorry for myself (see my last post) and being uplifted by those who offered encouragement (thank you, sincerely), I was reminded that God is Good and all these things shall be for my experience.

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122)


Who is this God?

Years ago when I was a ward missionary out visiting the "inactives" and trying to find out their beef concerns with the church, I came across a woman in her 40's who was angry at God. More specifically - she was mad at Heavenly Father. She expressed that she loved Jesus, but the Father was a whole different story. I didn't have words to offer her that day. Only a listening ear. 

Yesterday YouTube suggested a video for me to watch. It was a young mother who said she no longer believed in the church and she couldn't give her tithing to fund lavish temples when there were homeless that needed help. About half-way through her video she got to the heart of the matter. She was a mother of three and wanted a fourth baby and it had been four years and God hadn't given her a baby and now she was mad at Him. She lamented that He blessed other people with babies - others who were "unworthy" but for her - no blessing came. She expressed that she had, "faith to move a mountain" and that she knew if she asked God for a baby - He would bless her with one. But He had not. So "the Mormon God must be a jerk". Her feelings were raw and unfiltered. My heart was pained for her struggle but comforted as I prayed for her to find God. I could not criticize her thoughts. She is not unique in her view of the Father. What is unique are people that take time to analyze their view of God and Jesus. 

The Genie God

It is common to believe that if we pay tithing and go to church each Sunday and magnify our calling and attend the Temple - then God will bless us with our hearts desire. Instead of a life where God's will is our bread and His words are living water, we unconsciously believe in a Genie God that - if we rub the lamp as instructed (do certain behaviors), he will grant us our wishes. When we live life with this belief then, over time and when the blessing we desire isn't granted, the world slowly begins to appear as multitudes of the unwashed and the unclean who have the life we have religiously sacrificed for but to no avail. Through this painful lens - God becomes a Being who is holding out on us, punishing us, favors the wicked, delights in our heartaches, withholds from us because He wants more, or that He's...a jerk.

Reading the scriptures we find them to be filled with people who felt abandoned by God when their heart cried out for that which they most desired. And these stories culminate in God allowing His Chosen Son to be wounded, beaten, and nailed to a tree. God allowed His Son to suffer all things. When His Son asked His Father for another way it was not possible. So Jesus submitted His will and it was swallowed up in the Father's will. "Nevertheless, not my will - but thine be done".

How do you view the Father? 

How is he different from Jesus? 

In what ways are they different to you?

Because I am interested in the way the mind works - I've been reading psychologist Dr. M. Scott Peck's book, 'The Road Less Traveled". He brings up the importance of religion in psychology, but not in the way one would imagine. He says it best so I will write out a lot of what he has to say and my hope is that you will read this and allow it to work a work to come to know The Father more fully. 

"In supervising other psychotherapists I rather routinely find that they pay too little, if any, attention to the ways in which their patients view the world. There are several reasons for this, but among them is the notion that if patients don't consider themselves religious by virtue of their belief in God or their church membership, they are lacking in religion and the matter therefor needs no further scrutiny. But the fact of the matter is that everyone has an explicit or implicit set of ideas and beliefs as to the essential nature of the world. Do patients envision the universe as basically chaotic and without meaning so that it is only sensible for them to grab whatever little pleasure they can whenever it is available? Do they see the world as a dog-eat-dog place where ruthlessness is essential for their survival? Or do they see it as a nurturing sort of place in which something good will always turn up and in which they need not fret much about the future? Or a place that owes them a living no matter how they conduct their lives? Or a universe of rigid law in which they will be struck down and cast away if they step even slightly out of line? Et cetera. There are all manner of different world views that people have. Sooner or later in the course of psychotherapy most therapists will come to recognize how a patient views the world, but if the therapist is specifically on the lookout for it, he or she will come to this recognition sooner rather than later. And it is essential that therapists arrive at this knowledge, for the world view of patients is always an essential part of their problems, and a correction in their wold view is necessary for their cure. So I say to those I supervise: "Find out your patients' religions even if they say they don't have any."


"The most important part of our culture is our particular family. The most basic culture in which we develop is the culture of our family, and our parents are its "culture leaders." Moreover, the most significant aspect of that culture is not what our parents tell us about God and the nature of things but rather what they do - how they behave toward each other, toward our siblings and, above all, toward us. In other words, what we learn about the nature of the world when we are growing up is determined by the actual nature of our experience in the microcosm of the family. It is not so much what our parents say that determines our world view as it is the unique world they create for us by their behavior....

"I have had a number of patients with (a belief of God as the "monster-god") monster-god concepts of God and similarly bleak or terrifying notions as to the nature of existence. What is surprising is that the monster-god is not more common in the minds of humans....when we are children our parents are godlike figures to our child's eye, and the way they do things seems the way they must be done throughout the universe. Our first (and, sadly, often our only) notion of God's nature is a simple extrapolation of our parent's natures, a simple blending of the characters of our mothers and fathers or their substitutes. If we have loving, forgiving parents, we are likely to believe in a loving and forgiving God. And in our adult view the world is likely to seem as nurturing a place as our childhood was. If our parents were harsh and punitive, we are likely to mature with a concept of a harsh and punitive monster-god. And if they failed to care for us, we will likely envision the universe and similarly some extent the religion of most adults is a "product of transference" of family and parent relationships in our childhood.


"The road of spiritual growth, however, lies in the opposite direction. We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear. The path to holiness lies through questioning everything."

As the theologian Alan Jones has said:
"One of our problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems secondhand, even our emotions. In many cases we have to rely on secondhand information in order to function. I accept the world of a physician, a scientist, a farmer, on trust. I do not like to do this. I have to because they possess vital knowledge of living of which I am ignorant. Secondhand information concerning the state of my kidneys, the effects of cholesterol, and the raising of chickens, I can live with. But when it comes to questions of meaning, purpose, and death, secondhand information will not do. I cannot survive on a secondhand faith in a secondhand God. There has to be a personal word, a unique confrontation, if I am to come alive."
"So for mental health and spiritual growth we must develop our own personal religion and not rely on that of our parents....Many patients who have already taken this beginning say to me: "I'm not religious. I don't go to church. I no longer believe much of what the church and my parents told me. I don't have my parents' faith. I guess I'm not very spiritual." It often comes as a shock to them when I question the reality of their assumption that they are not spiritual beings. "You have a religion," I may say, "a rather profound one. You worship the truth. You believe in the possibility of your growth and betterment: the possibility of spiritual progress. In the strength of your religion you are willing to suffer then pains of challenge and the agonies of unlearning. You take the risk of therapy, an all this you do for the sake of your religion. I am not at all certain it is realistic to say that you are less spiritual than your parents; to the contrary, I suspect the reality is that you have spiritually evolved beyond your parents, that your spirituality is greater by a quantum leap than theirs, which is insufficient to provide them with even the courage to question."


"Is belief in God a form of psychopathology?...There is clearly a lot of dirty bath water surrounding the reality of God. Holy wars. Inquisitions. Animal sacrifice. Human sacrifice. Superstition. Stultification. Dogmatism. Ignorance. Hypocrisy. Self-righteousness. Rigidity. Cruelty. Book-burning. Witch-burning. Inhibition. Fear. Conformity. Morbid guilt. Insanity. The list is almost endless. But is all this what God has done to humans or what humans have done to God? It is abundantly evident that belief in God is often destructively dogmatic. Is the problem, then, that humans tend to believe in God, or is the problem that humans tend to be dogmatic? Anyone who has known a died-in-the-wool atheist will know that such an individual can be as dogmatic about unbelief as any believer can be about belief. Is it belief in God we need to get rid of, or is it dogmatism?...The neophyte scientist, recently come or converted to the world view of science, can be every bit as fanatical as a Christian crusader or a soldier of Allah...Is it possible that the path of spiritual growth leads first out of superstition into agnosticism and then out of agnosticism toward an accurate knowledge of God?...The God that comes before skepticism may bear little resemblance to the God that comes after."

To conclude this post I will share two experiences, though there are more. About five years ago I was reading the scriptures and became confused as to why God appeared to be so conflicting at times. I prayed and said, “Lord, You are confusing.” To my great surprise I heard, “That is because you judge me. You judge me based on your perceptions of me. Your perceptions come from listening to others construction of who they believe I am and from your life’s perspective which alters your ability to see Me clearly. Ask Me to teach you about Me. Ask Me to show you who I AM.”

Then, about three years ago, I was on a walk and I was feeling a lot of tumult over things happening in my life at the time. As I walked I listened to a Christian podcast by John Eldredge and he asked the listener to consider the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and to ask yourself which of the three you were struggling with in a relationship at that time. I had never thought about that before and surprisingly - I didn't even have to ask myself - it was the Father.

I'm the worst in so many ways I can't count them all. But to tell you the truth - I've given the Father angry lectures before about areas where, "He let me down" and - to my utter surprise - He unexpectedly met me at different parts in my valley of the shadow of death and He comforted me there.

Sadly, at this particular time in my life I had strayed from the relationship and He had become a far-away Being that seemed aloof and distant from me. As I walked through the forest that day I cried out in my heart, "Where are you? WHO are You that I should know YOU?!" And when I offered that raw and sincere cry of my heart - He gave me a small glimpse of who He was and it was something I had never before supposed. In an instant I was no longer angry and tromping through the forest but found myself on a great battlefield and the Father was in beautiful armor, sword drawn - fighting with ALL His Soul for His children. His image was unlike anything my mind could have imagined and His Glory was fierce and passionate. And my heart was amazed and my mind was in awe. A Warrior and a Protector. It gave me much to ponder. 

I have learned the hard way and through great pains and tears and through the conscious decision to continually destroy 'my will' that the Father is not the genie god. 

He is not the monster-god. 

He is not a god who is silent.

He is not a god who delights in withholding your hearts desire from you.

The Father is a patient God who won't force you to seek Him but will respond to your cries for Him when you call out. It may not be in ways you would expect or the way in which you would hope. It might be a smell, a song, an image in your mind, a word, a touch, His ways are Endless - for that is His name. And He is passionately fighting for you. But, to quote LaVar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it. 

Because a simple question led me to know the Father to a greater degree, I ask you: 

Of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost - which relationship feels the weakest to you right now? If you don't know, or even if you do know - will you pray and ask how to increase in that relationship?

My prayer today:

Father, we want to know You but our hearts fear the unknown and our pride recoils at the appearance of foolishness or rather - at the things we do not understand. Please strip from us the pride that keeps us from seeing You clearly. Take from us all those things we have worshiped or medicated or replaced You with. Help us to desire You. Please bestow on us a deep hunger that nothing but Your Presence will satisfy. We need more of You. Help us desire to come into alignment with Your will and let Your will be the manna for our souls. In Jesus Holy name.  

Here is a song that, if you don't relate to it...use it as an opportunity to pray and ask God for you to see Him in your past and your present and your future. Let these words be your Hearts desire.