Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To Change or Not to Change

Last night as I was waiting for my brain to shut down so I could go to sleep, some of my twisting and twirling thoughts snapped into place like pieces of a puzzle, revealing an epiphany hot off the press. The purpose of church just clicked to me. How long have I been going every Sunday and the real objective of it has seemingly passed me by? Yes, I know it's to feel and to share the Spirit, to instruct and to be instructed, to serve and to be served, and most importantly to renew our baptismal covenants as we remember the sacrifice of Christ for us. So what have I missed for all these years? Change.

According to the Bible Dictionary, repentance involves change. "The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world." Taking the sacrament isn't just a time to remember Christ or our covenants, but to repent, or to change. How do we know what to change? Well there are a series of talks and lessons during the three hour meeting that give us plenty of suggestions! When was the last time you heard a talk and then acted on what was taught to you? Too often we go to church just to feel good and be fed, then we go home and life continues without a change. Christ has promised us water that we will never thirst again. But when we are fed at church, how long does it last? How do we drink so that it will "be in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life"? (John 4: 14) I believe that the way to never thirst again is to repent by changing our lives to fit the principles we learn about each week.

So we go to church, listen to talks and lessons (or give them) and we feel good because we have felt the spirit. But have we changed? Here are some examples. I gave a talk on visiting and home teaching a few weeks ago. I discussed the importance and purpose of the callings as well as other specific aspects necessary for us to be effective. Yet, I am seeing no change. My first thought was that I must have done a poor job in my talk as I was obviously unable to convey the specifics that I had learned in my own study. While this may be true, I began to think about the last time I had listened to a talk and changed something I was doing to be in accordance with what was taught. I couldn't think of anything recently. Just last Sunday a talk was given about Zion and how to make wherever we are be Zion. I thought it was a great concept. But did I change anything about how I was living so that I could do what was taught? I'm going to have to go with no on that one. Not too long ago the lesson was on the Sabbath day. How many of us committed to a higher level of Sabbath day keeping and how many of us just kept doing what we've always done?

Church is not just to make us feel good for a few hours, but to teach us how to feel good every other day as well for the rest of our existence. In order to progress in the gospel and truly use Christ's atonement, we must take what we learn and do it. Every single week. One step at a time. Can you imagine how close to perfection and God we could be if we just worked on one attribute each week? That's 52 things in a year alone that we could improve in our lives. In the next 5 years that would be 260 specific and conscious improvements! (Assuming of course that we continue doing all the past ones when a new one is learned). This is progress. This is using the atonement in our lives, not just remembering the sacrifice. This is the purpose of going to church every week: to change.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Am Brain Damaged!

I am sure that some of you may have been aware of this fact for some time now, but I am just now beginning to come to grips with it's reality. What has caused this sudden realization after 25 years? A book called blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I am only just beginning, but Malcolm Gladwell is explaining how your subconscious mind can figure things out faster and sometimes more accurately than your conscious mind, allowing us to make decisions in the blink of an eye instead of thinking things through in a logical and rational manner. Sometimes something "just feels right." He is careful to explain that there are ways we can blind even our subconsciousness, though, so it's not like our subconscious mind will always "tell the truth."

As many of you know, I have struggled with decision making my whole life. It is quite difficult for me to decide even the simplest thing without first weighing out the pros, cons, and consequences of any given choice. Gladwell talks about the research of a neurologist named Antonio Damasio who studied patients with damage to a part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which lies behind the nose.
"The ventromedial area plays a critical role in decision making. It works out contingencies and relationships and sorts through the mountain of information we get from the outside world, prioritizing it and putting flags on things that demand our immediate attention. People with damage to their ventromedial area are perfectly rational. They can be highly intelligent and functional, but they lack judgment."
That pretty much sums me up! Highly intelligent (j/k!), mostly functional, rational, etc. So the reason why I have to look at every menu item before making a selection or why it takes me hours (or days) to play a game of chess (think of all the options and consequences associated with each move!) is simply because I am brain damaged!