Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sister Beck Says So…Part II

Part I can be found here.

To begin, I want to set the scene:

The theme for this event was “Sometimes He Lets It Rain.” And Katherine Nelson (LDS singer/song-writer) was the first speaker/(singer). She did a bang-up job and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then the remainder of the time (about an hour) was turned over to President Beck.

Before I go to specific quotes, I want to give you my over-all opinion of her, and say that I was greatly impressed. She spoke directly (no saccharin tone), intelligently, and had a wonderful sense of humor. She was VERY personable, down-to-earth, and approachable. On the whole, I agreed with everything she said. (I had a few minor issues, but we’ll talk about those as they come up in her talk.) And I expect everyone who was there to remark on how they understood her comments. We all see things differently, after all, and that’s how we learn and grow. So, please share.

One of the first things she mentioned was that she had read a book on Abigail Adams. Pres. Beck then related a story from the book that I’m going to paraphrase. Abigail Adams recounted a time when she sailed to England to visit her husband. And on the journey she got incredibly sea-sick, so much so, that she prayed that the seas would be calm. And a few days later, they were, and they ended up sitting in the middle of the ocean for two weeks, in the hot sun, going nowhere. And Abigail said “bring on the storms.” From this experience Abigail learned that in the calm times you don’t get anywhere. And in her soul she realized that you need the turbulent times to grow.

I thought this was a good opening and story. And very true, of course. (Actually, I wasn’t going to include it, but it directly connects to the next thing President Beck said, and that was something I wanted to talk about.)

After sharing this, President Beck had everyone open their scriptures to Abraham 3:22 and gave us the “noble and great ones” speech.

Maybe it’s just my cynical perspective, but I always take issue with this when it is used by our leaders. It bugs me for two reasons:

1.) Are we really to believe this? Every member of the church born after a certain date is “noble and great”? Really? I find that hard to believe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know (and have known) some people whom I would consider “noble and great” and in that case, I whole-heartedly agree. I guess my main issue is that it's always used to imply that we, LDS members, are the "noble and great ones" and are the "leaders" of the world. But does this apply to every member? I just don’t believe that.

Maybe you do, and that’s okay. But for me, to apply this statement so that it reflects an LDS = leader conotation cheapens it. And I certainly don’t think the “noble and great” label applies only to members of the church (and I’m sure you don’t either). Do I think we all have the potential to do something noble and/or great? I suppose so, but that doesn’t make us noble or great. (At least not in the leader sense, but I do think we're noble and great in another way which I'll mention at the end of this post.)

2.) What about everyone born before the gospel was restored? Were there really only a few “noble and great ones” and all the rest were just “average and okay”? That just doesn’t sit well with me. That means we all were created unequal, and that some of us had no chance. Now, I know we all have different skill sets and talents, but it’s hard for me to believe that some of us were created better than others right out of the box.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Liz, we had eons of time in the pre-existence to grow and prove ourselves to be noble and great. We weren’t created that way, we became that way through our choices.” Okay, I can see that, and I believe that’s a possibility. But if you read Abraham 3:22 it says “…intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones…” To me, this says that as Heavenly Father organized the intelligences, (notice He didn’t say His children, as if, we weren’t children/people yet) some of them were superior. Maybe that’s true, some were just better. Or maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about which is highly likely. But, either way, it just kind of bugs me a little. Poor ‘ole average dead people.

Now, maybe you’re also saying “Liz, lighten up. They only say things like that so we feel valued and try harder to fulfill our duties.” I think that’s true, too. It’s nice to feel important and that what you’re doing has eternal value (and I’m not saying I don’t believe that, because I do). I’m just saying it’s not my favorite thing when leaders use this to pat us on the back. But, that’s just me. (And if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I have issues.)

Okay, now back to President Beck:

“You may wonder sometimes if you’re the best the Lord has… and if you’re feeling bad about yourself, think about Him. He has to deal with us!” [chuckle, chuckle*]

“I look at myself in the mirror in the morning and think: Is this the Relief Society President? Oh boy, are we in trouble!” [chuckle, chuckle] “If that’s the best there is to be the Relief Society President, ooohhh boy, are we in trouble!” [chuckle , chuckle] “And then I pray hard and get up and work hard because I don’t know anyway else to get through it.”

(I appreciated that she said this. I told you she was funny and down-to-earth. And I completely agree with her.)

“Oftentimes I think we look at ourselves that way ‘Is this the best the Lord has to deal with this? Oh, are we in trouble.’ But, we know from the Lord’s own words that He considers us to be noble and great. And that’s His picture of us.”

I believe her on this in a way (not contradicting what I said earlier). Does the Lord really see me and you as “noble and great”? I think so. He died for us, after all. And not just for Mormons, or leaders, or any other category of person. But for everyone. So, I think He sees all people as "noble and great ones".

At least I hope He does.

* I like writing “chuckle, chuckle” instead of “laughter from the audience” because it’s more fun (at least to my simple mind).

Tune in tomorrow for Part III…


David said...

Funny stuff you got here! I got the same template for my blog! Small world! Just kidding!

Ms. Liz said...

I'm kind of with ya on the resisting-eye-roll-ness when the "noble and great" and "Marked Generation" comes up and I think of when that scripture was revealed and that was like over 150 years ago so every Restored Gospel Saint falls under that umbrella and in the sense that we had the sense to accept the Gospel and accept the charge to share it will qualify us under the "Leader" banner so that kind of made sense to me.

But I also remember (and feel a bit schagrinned when I heard) a quote that Sheri Dew gave once where she asked Pres. Hinkley about the "Noble and Great"s running amuck in BYU classrooms and CES programs and she asked "Why do you use that phrase? Don't you think that it might make my generation feel a bit badly?" and he responded (in is cheerful but very truth speaking manner) "It makes your generation feel badly? Imagine how I feel?!" So there is a veracity to it that takes a bit of scope to understand it I think. All I know is that I felt a bit rebuked for treating it so lightly. I suppose familiarity breeds discontent, but that doesn't make it any less true.

And I have met a bunch of fairly marginal people in my life - but I think that, ratio wise, the majority of the people I've had more than 20 minutes conversation with at a random bus stop have all struck me as exceptional in some way. Something about them sparkles or stands out - even if its not something I consider to be in the "communal contribution" set of talents - something about them is fairly amazing. Maybe that’s my rose colored contacts though.

Rachel said... much to think about. I believe this calls for a night of snacks and chatting. But I'll hit on this point first - I don't think that being noble and great has very much to do with talent and skills. I think it has more to do with faithfulness. Our talents were given to us to facilitate that greatness. We know that there were varying levels of faithfulness in the pre-mortal world just as there are now and it's the faithful, in and out of the church and in and prior to this dispensation, that make the best leaders. I don't think that some are created better, I just think that some exhibit more faithfulness, and that has nothing to do with our physical ability.

I do feel like leaders use this verse kind of haphazardly in clumping all the nobel and great ones into the church in this dispensation but I also feel that when they use it they do so to inspire us to be faithful. Everyone should consider themselves to be one of the noble and great and act accordingly. Notice that God doesn't name any of them except for Abraham. Why shouldn't it be you or me?

Liz said...

Liz, I understand what you're saying, and it's not that I don't think there isn't any credence to it, it's just that I think the way it is used promotes feeling of superiority (not that that's their intentions), an "I'm better/more faithful than you" kind of view.

Rachel, Like I said in my post, my issue is about the timeline. If it means that over the eons we chose the right and proved our faithfulness, that's one thing. But, if it occured when the intelligences were organized (which means something different to me) than that's when I have the problem. In the end, it's all speculation, so it doesn't keep me up at night. It's just something I think about occasionally when I ponder on all who have come before me. (Oh, and I totally agree that it is used more now to inspire us to live with more faith.)

Ms. Liz said...

So when can we get together at my place for some idea exchange? Next week sometime? Friday night perhaps?

Rachel said...

But the scripture doesn't say that it occured when the intelligences were organized. It says that he looked over the intellegences that were organized and there were noble and great ones there. We don't know how long those spirits had been in existence or how long they had to develop.

I like to think that our spirits were created as blank slates but with certain propensities. Like gifts of the Spirit. Some of us were created with the gift of being faithful or believing or happy (just like we're given mortal bodies with gifts) and they come naturally. But those gifts are still available to everyone. When Abraham saw the noble and great spirits I bet that some of them were created with gifts that naturally led them to being that way but I think there had to have been some who had to work to become noble and great as well.

Liz said...

Liz, I think that would work for me. I'm always up for a round table discussion with insightful people.

Rachel, I know, the timeline isn't specific, so as such, I can agree with your views on it. (And this is the only scripture we have that discusses this idea, so we don't have a lot to go on.)

Also,I agree with the tabula rosa idea for the intelligences, and that all gifts, whether inherent or not, are available to His children through righteous desire/effort.

But, it's still just one of those things that's not my favorite when it's used in such a blanket (and yet priveleged) format, what can I say? (And I'm not suggesting that this is in anyway what the speakers intend.)

Maybe you could join us at the round table powpow? ;-)