Why Is God White?

Perhaps this post is timely in light of Martin Luther King Day this Monday? I went and saw an incredible movie last night called Hidden Figures. It recounts the true events of three African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1960s and beyond. Their contributions were monumental to the space flight program.

How they were treated as women and African-Americans was abysmal and material sufficient for many posts. However, today I’m pondering what it must be like to not be white when God is white?

Or is God really white? Or is He only white to white people? This is something I never have supposed, till now. Perhaps our Asian or African-American brothers and sisters don’t feel the slight of white because the God they worship and pray to is in their likeness?

Holy cow! I’m blowing my own mind right now! How I wish I had a more diverse circle of friends so I could ask them what they think about God. I want to know that if when they pray, their Father, Mother and/or Elder Brother are “black,” “white,” or “brown?”

I mean can you even imagine being an African-American or Native-American who is asked to worship a white male god when historically white man has been a bigot and egregious oppressor?

All of these thoughts from last night and this morning impelled me to  do a quick google search to see what percentage of the world’s population is even white anyhow?

Did you know that of the 7.45 billion people living on planet Earth today (as of July 2016), two-thirds live in Asia with 2.5 billion living in China and India combined?  I’m quite positive these peoples are not “white.” So how ego-centric of me–or us white people in general–to assume or believe that God is white. Or maybe it’s perfectly natural for me to assume the worship of a white God because I am white. If I were black or brown, however, biblical stories about cursings placed upon my peoples’ skin because of their sins would not be particularly comforting nor helpful.

I guess I could find solace in the science of skin pigmentation being a function of UV rays and equatorial living distance. Maybe knowing that skin color is really just a function of where you live and how much sun exposure your ancestors received over the ages would help non-white peoples worship a white God? Or perhaps it could help white people become comfortable worshipping a black God?

Or maybe no one even really cares and my point is moot? Because reality is, I’m a white woman that has been okay worshipping a white man for 38 years. Shouldn’t it bother me that we never speak of our Heavenly Mother? Deep down I just believe what I want to believe anyway so perhaps that is what our non-white brothers and sisters do too. I mean what someone else believes about God really shouldn’t be all that important to me, right?

I wonder why this is the first time I remember having these thoughts? Is it because I’ve never really much cared about the color of my brothers’ or sisters’ skin? Is that why I’ve never thought much about the color of God’s skin? Or is it because I’m white and I never had to reconcile the fact that I’m black or brown and God is white?

You know what’s a really cool thought? What if God is black? Or what if God is brown? Clearly I’m rambling now, but here is where I shall conclude. The color of my God’s skin doesn’t much matter to me. What matters most about the God(s) I worship is that they inspire me to be better. That they promote more love for my fellow man, and they give me reason to believe that I can one day become like them.  For I believe, as did prophet theologian, Lorenzo Snow, that as man is, God once was, and as God is now, man may become.

To me that’s not blaspheme. It’s inspiring, eternal truth. You can read more about my thoughts surrounding the eternal destiny of man and woman in Our Eternal Destiny

 

*Not sure how accurate this pie chart is, but I like how it provides a quick visual of just how small the white race is in comparison with all the peoples of the earth.

To Know God

John 17:3 reads:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

What does it mean to “know” God? Does it mean we can list all of his attributes and quote all the right scriptures? Is an intellectual knowledge of our God and his Only Begotten Son what saves?

I think not. Knowing God is quite a different thing than knowing about God.

In the Spanish language, there are two verbs that mean “to know.” The first is saber. The second, conocer.

Saber “to know” connotes facts, or an intellectual understanding of a subject. For example, I know that today is Friday. I know that I need to stop writing and go make breakfast for my children. I know that I have an appt. at 11:30 am, followed by a hot date later this evening with my husband. I know that we are going to go and watch a movie about three African-American ladies who worked for NASA.

WOW! I know a whole lot of things about today!  Likewise, if you wanted me to list a multitude of facts concerning a man named Jesus, who lived in the Middle East several centuries ago, I could do that for you too. Yo se (saber) mucho concerning Jesus.

However, conocer, denotes a very different meaning of “to know.” Conocer is a first-hand, personal acquaintance with a person, place or object.  For example, an individual who knows me is someone who doesn’t just know my address, or that I own a marketing agency called KickFire Marketing. These are all facts or intellectual knowledge that falls within the realm of saber knowing.

An individual who knows me in a conocer manner is someone who is familiar with me as a person. They know more than my name and my resume. They know me because they are acquainted with me. They could pass me on the street and recognize me, or hear my voice or laugh in a crowd of people and say “Aha, that is Janelle!” Concocer–to me–connotes an intimate knowledge based on first-hand, personal experience.

And so it is that the knowledge of God that leads to life eternal has very little to do with saber, and everything to do with conocer. An intellectual understanding of facts is not what will save. We must come to know God through first-hand, personal experience. We must be able to recognize him and his hand in our lives. As we become more familiar with God, we will become more like him (1 John 3:2). His image will be engraven upon our countenances (Alma 5:19) so that others who know us will also come to know our God.

 

Why Not Me?

How come all honest seekers of truth don’t receive visions? I was reading a couple of accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision today (particularly the ones found in his history and the church manual Our Heritage. The similarities surrounding Joseph’s search for truth compared to those seeking for truth today were particularly poignant.

Like the boy Joseph, we are aware of the admonition found in James for any who lack wisdom, let them ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him (James 1:5).

And so we ask in faith, nothing wavering (James 1:6). . . . or perhaps that is why we are not answered. . . we must not know how to ask in faith.  Or perhaps we are wavering.

Which means it must be our fault that we are not answered as the Prophet Joseph Smith was.

Or perhaps we just don’t know how God speaks to us and we miss it because His ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9). Additionally, it might not be the right time for we cannot yet bear all things (D&C 50:40) and answers tend to come in his own time and in his own way, and according to his will (D&C 88:68).

Regardless the reason(s), it’s a frustrating wait. We are left wondering, “Is the Lord indeed speaking and I’m just not hearing?” or worse, “Am I not worthy of such profound communications?” If God truly is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and if he truly is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), then I must conclude that the problem does indeed lie with me.

So what is the honest seeker of truth to do?  I will wait patiently upon the Lord (Isa. 40:31) because to whom else shall I go? He is the Christ (John 6:68) and the one who possesseth the words of eternal life.

The Aborted Lesson–Sufferings Sore and More

Our gospel doctrine lesson was aborted this Sunday. We were all sent home 20 minutes into the discussion due to a gas leak. It was a bummer as we were having a great discussion surrounding Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19.

After reading the following:

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 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—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

Since this is the only scripture where our Savior reveals personally how painful his atonement was, I asked the class why they felt the Lord wanted us to know how sore his sufferings were? The responses were insightful.

First, Tim Olsen responded that he felt the Lord wanted us to know how much he suffered so that we would know that he understands how we feel during our times of trials and tribulations. I was reminded of the scriptures found in Alma 7:11-12. 

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Truly he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows so that he may more fully minister to us in our times of need. For more on the succoring role of the Savior, read Running to Our Rescue.

Second, Don Paver suggested the Lord wanted us to know how sore his sufferings were so that we would understand how sore our sufferings would be if we do not repent and take advantage of his atonement. Verse 20 of D&C chapter 19 clearly illustrates this point. The Lord states that our sufferings will be far greater than that which we feel when he withdraws his spirit from us.

Who hasn’t felt the mental hell of a guilty conscience? Or the remorse and anguish that accompanies the loss of the Holy Ghost after we sin? These feelings are only a small portion of what we can expect to feel if we choose NOT to take advantage of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.

Third, Brother Dalton shared his belief that the Lord wanted us to know how much he suffered so that we would know how much he loved us. I was reminded of the scriptures found in John 3:16 and John 15:13. “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son” . . . followed by “Greater love hath no man than this. . “

And then our lesson abruptly ended. The building was no longer safe for us to remain, which was a bummer for we were having a great discussion.

In fact, we were just about to read from Mosiah 15:7-9 and look for additional reasons the Lord had to suffer.

In verse 7, we learn that he submitted in order to follow his Father’s will, thus setting the perfect example for us of humility, obedience, and submission.

In verse 8, we learn that he suffered death so that he could rise again, thus “breaking the bonds of death,” claiming victory over the grave, and ensuring the universal resurrection of us all.

The last sentence of verse 8 states that the Lord’s sufferings gave him “power to make intercession for the children of men.” What does this mean? Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5 lends greater insight as it explains how Christ serves as our advocate with the Father at the Great Judgement Day.  For additional insights on his role as our advocate and his advocations, you can read my insights here: The Advocations of the Advocate.

Verse 9, mentions many of the reasons already addressed above, and introduces one more. The scripture states that he fulfilled the “demands of justice.” So what exactly are the demands of justice? While there are many ways one can interpret the demands of justice, I have shared some of my recent insights in the this post, “The Perfect Plan and Satisfying Demands.”

Finally, the last concept I wish to cover in light of Christ’s sufferings for us has to do with the worth of souls and our eternal value. You can read more about the Worth of Souls by clicking here.

And that is a quick synopsis of our interrupted Sunday discussion. Albeit, I didn’t cover my opening analogy concerning Infusion Soft and Jesus Christ. You can read more about what Infusion Soft has taught me about the Atonement once I have penned my musings. Updated link to come.

The Advocations of the Advocate

The scriptures ofttimes refer to the Savior’s role as our advocate with the Father. What exactly does this mean? Understanding the definition of advocate makes it pretty clear:  Merriam-Webster suggests:

Definition of advocate

  1. 1:  one that pleads the cause of another; specifically :  one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court

  2. 2:  one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal

  3. 3:  one that supports or promotes the interests of another

In light of definition #1 we can envision the Savior pleading our cause before our Heavenly Parents at the Great Eternal Judgement Bar.  But upon what will he base his case?

I used to picture the Lord as my advocate standing before our Heavenly Parents, making a case for me based upon all my good works. He’d remind them of the times I sacrificed my interest in the interest of others, of my tithes and offerings, of my loving kindness, my service, and my obedience to his commands. But that is not what he pleads. My advocate does not base his advocations upon my merits. No, the Savior tell us what he will plead:

Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

But this is not sufficient to understand it all. Go read all the verses really quick in context here D&C 45:3-5.

You see, yes, he is our advocate. Yes, he pleads our cause. But it is based on his merits, not ours. He reminds the Father of the great price he personally paid to make our redemption possible. He reminds our Heavenly Parents of the great eternal plan whereby our salvation was secured based on his sufferings for all those who would believe on his name.

And I know what you are thinking . . . “Faith without works is dead!” I agree, and that is why he mentions the importance of our belief on his name. Because it is our belief that leads to repentance, and it is our repentance that leads to a remission of sins, and this continual cycle is the process whereby we become pure, clean, holy, and without spot–fully worthy and able to enter into the eternal rest of the Lord.

So while we must do all that we can, let us always remember that it is by His Grace, and His Advocations that we are saved and ultimately exalted.

His Plan, Promises and Purposes

Professor of ancient scripture at BYU, Camille Fronk, gave a great talk at BYU wherein she reminded listeners that Jesus never said he’d prevent broken hearts, he only said he’d heal the broken-hearted. He never promised there wouldn’t be any tears, only that he’d wipe them away.

Her thoughts reminded me that mortality is a laboratory of learning. A crucible for becoming.

When hard times hit, we need to refuse feeling forsaken. We should instead remember the grand over-arching plan, and trust in His glorious promises and eternal purposes.

The Parable of the Microphone Cord

I like parables. Or maybe I should say I enjoy finding life lessons out of everyday experiences.

Today in Gospel Doctrine we were trying to create a suitable arrangement for teaching in the chapel. Having to hold a microphone while I teach really cramps my style as I am not allowed to talk with my hands nor handle my scriptures in a comfortable manner. The Sunday School president found me a podium with a built in microphone and so we quickly tried swapping it out in front of the entire class.

Unfortunately, my microphone cord was all tangled up, so I did what most of us do when cords get tangled. I gave a tug on each side of the knot hoping these opposing forces would quickly and easily unravel the jumble.

The knot, however, was stubborn. So what did I do next? I did what most of us would’ve done. I pulled harder, and then again harder. And that’s when it hit me.

How problems in life can be a lot like this microphone cord. We get ourselves into a tangle and when tugging just a bit doesn’t do the trick, we think pulling harder is the solution. And sometimes it’s rather humorous how long we will sit and just try pulling harder when it’s apparent to everyone that the only way the knot is going to get undone is if one stops pulling harder and does the hard work that needs doing.

The only way I was going to get that microphone knot untangled was to unplug it and unravel it manually.

It was fun for me to think out loud in front of the class as I wove the chord in and out, over and under, slowly untangling the entanglement. Getting to the root of the problem is always more effective than hacking at the branches. The microphone chord powerfully reminded us all of this truth today.

The Parable of the Pup

We got a new puppy.  Several people told us that the best way to housebreak the dog was to use the crate training method. This means that the puppy must be placed in the crate during the night and any time during the day that no one is able to watch it. The goal is to teach the puppy to hold it’s pooping and peeing till you take it outside. This method teaches the puppy self-control so that shortly it can roam freely in the house without incident and accidents.

Well, the very first night our puppy cried almost the entire night. My 12 year old daughter kept running to its rescue. I was okay with this the first night considering the fact that the puppy had just been removed from everything familiar. So providing a little some extra comfort felt like the kind and loving thing to do. However, the next night I explained that we would have to exercise some tough love so that the puppy could progress. I explained to my sweet daughter that if every time the puppy cried we came running, it would never learn some very essential lessons. Lessons that would allow the pup to become fit to freely associate and live with our eternal family.

Wild dogs have never been man’s best friend.

By explaining this great truth to my daughter and unfolding the grand master plan, she finally began to fully understand:

Trust my pup in the master’s plan.~

Submit wild one to the master’s hand.

Perhaps this post should be re-titled Divine Domestication.

Parenting the Lost: Parables for Parents

I just read a great article in the January 2017 Ensign by Roy Bean. He’s an Associate Professor of  Marriage and Family Therapy at BYU.  He discussed how the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son all provide valuable advice to parents on how to deal with wayward children.

First, in the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves the 99 and diligently searches for the wayward one. As parents, we can fast and pray and make every effort to reach out in love toward our children who wander in order to help them feel included and know of our love and concern. We don’t neglect the other valiant children in the pursuit of the lost one as that could lead to damaging consequences, but we are single-minded in our focus to find our lost one.

Second, in the parable of the lost coin, the woman swept her entire house. Parents should look inward when dealing with a lost child. Is there anything amiss in their home that needs attention? What cleaning should commence to put their family and home in order? Such cleaning could result in the recovery of that which was lost and prevent future losses from occurring.

Finally, in the parable of the prodigal son, the father trusted in Heavenly Father’s plan for his child and allowed his child to leave the security of the family home and spend his strength in riotous living. This was no easy decision, but trusting that some children must learn through experience, the parents of the prodigal undoubtedly prayed, hoped and trusted that their child would one day return. And they, of course, kept close watch at the window so that could run to and meet the returning prodigal when that long awaited day finally did come.

For parents dealing with wandering or wayward children, I felt Roy’s application of the parables inspired. The article is called “Rescuing the Lost: Counsel for Parents and Leaders.

Running to Our Rescue

What does it mean to succor? In Alma 7:12 we learn one of the reasons the Lord suffered for us is so that he would know how to best succor us in our time of need.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, we learn that succor means to provide aid, help, or relief. Truly, we can never say, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen . . ” because Jesus knows.

He knows and can therefore provide comfort, aid, help–and if it is his will, ultimately relief (for more about strength verses relief, see this post here). He hath descended below all things, so that he could ascend above all things, and help us transcend all things. He will surely show us the way if we seek his succor.

While the definition discussed above is beautiful indeed, there is more.  Consider the word succor in light of this scripture discussing temptation. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: 

Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.

I have thought a lot about the Lord’s role in providing help and relief from temptation. I had a friend explain addiction to me in terms of ocean waves beating upon them. They just keep coming and coming and never let up. That must be a very discouraging experience–to feel the unrelenting cravings of addiction or temptation with no sign of release.

And then I discovered that the Latin root of the word “succor” is succurrere, which means to run to the rescue. I thought of my friend’s description of temptation and addiction–crashing upon you like great mountain waves–over, and over, and over- no end in sight.

That is, until you picture the Lord running to your aid, whisking you safely away from the buffetings of Satan and leading you lovingly to shore.

That is the beauty of our Savior. He runs to our rescue. Yea, he is ever ready to succor and mighty to save!*

*I do not think we fully understand how to access the atonement. I plan to further flesh out my thoughts on this topic in this post: “What Infusion Soft Has Taught Me About the Atonement.”