Frameworks #4: The End

Posted on August 10, 2008 by

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And now for the conclusion of this cliff-hanger saga 🙂 First, I’m going to start with my answer to the question from #3. Then I’m going to try and tie it into the “gospel frameworks” from #1 and #2.

“What does the gospel do?” I want to say that the gospel doesn’t do anything. I want to say that, but it’s not true. However, for this next little bit, let’s pretend that I said the gospel doesn’t do anything. If we’re looking for the gospel to solve any of our problems, spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, social, or any other kind, then we’ve put our expectations in the wrong place. Rather, let’s say that the gospel provides us with tools, or gifts, and we use those to solve problems on our own.

My first analogy for this is a gym. A gym membership won’t make you thin, healthy, and strong, but using the gym equipment will. Even hanging out by the gym equipment won’t make you thin, healthy, and strong. Only using it will. (Speaking of which, the leg curl machines were great for hanging out on in high school weightlifting, because they make it easy to look like you’re working out when you’re really just sitting there…)

My second analogy for this is homebuilding. The builder’s tools don’t build the house, but they allow the builder to build the house. In addition, the more use he makes of his tools, the better the house will be. He could build with just a hammer and nails, but without a saw, level, square, and chalk line, the results may not be pleasing, or even safe.

The gym equipment and the builder’s tools are the principles of the gospel. Some of them come immediately to mind — scriptures, prayer, church attendance, etc. But the gospel encompasses so much more than just those. And the more of them we discover and use, the more joy we can find in them.

The authorities that teach us — We immediately think of the prophet and our other church leaders. Some of our other authorities are not even living people — the scriptures, past leaders, the Holy Ghost, and the temple ceremonies. We receive guidance and direction from each of these sources — guidance about how to live and about God’s plan. These sources provide more than enough material to spend the rest of our lives studying, and if we do they will challenge us. They are not always clear, and they do not always agree with each other. How we make sense of them, prioritize and apply them is a large part of our gospel study and living.

However, the extent of our gospel authorities reaches beyond even this large repository of teachings. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us to sustain our governments, and to seek knowledge out of the best books. Our church leaders have taught us that there is truth to be found in many faiths, and throughout the world, and that all truth belongs to the gospel (but that it’s up to us to find it!) We learn from both the scriptures and from past prophets that God expects us to also learn from our own experiences, and from the learning of educational institutions. So to our already long list of authorities, I can add government, literature, inspired words from other faiths and cultures, science, and personal experience. These belong to the gospel also.

The gospel does the same in each area of our lives. It gives us responsibilities, communities, and activities. Some of them we hear a lot about — serving in the ward and in the family, our home teaching and missionary work, the Word of Wisdom, tithing, and the law of chastity. Some of them we don’t hear so much about — serving in our community and neighborhood, taking time for personal enrichment, reflection, and rest, and bringing our families together through recreational activities. But they’re all part of the gospel, the things we hear often and the things we hear seldomly

The gospel is big. It’s like Disneyland, with far more to do and see than we have time for. And that’s  encouraging to me, since it means that if it’s not working for me, I have plenty of latitude to explore it in different ways.

Perhaps it is overwhelming, even discouraging. Fortunately, failure is also part of the gospel, perhaps even the central principle of it. The foundation of the plan of salvation is built for failure.

Of course, the gospel isn’t something you either succeed or fail in, with nothing in between. Rather, Heavenly Father has given it to us in manageable pieces, and he allows us to manage each of those pieces separately. Success is also part of the gospel, and it comes a piece at a time, and not all at once.

This is the picture of the gospel I mentioned at the start — the gospel that doesn’t do anything, the gospel that makes us do instead. This is the gospel that challenges us to step up and become active participants in our own lives. This is the gospel I love. However, as I said at the beginning, it’s not a correct picture of the gospel. I make it sound too harsh, too demanding. The gospel is so much more than this. It’s so big, so overflowing with everythingness, that it does do many things on it’s own, with very little effort on our parts.

The truth is, it blesses even the lives of those who live it in the most passive way, who attend their meetings, read their scriptures, and say their prayers and never give it more thought than that. Just hanging out at the gym won’t help you much, but just hanging out at church can. For many, that’s enough, and they find hope and peace enough there. And for others of us, we get to explore more deeply, experiment with its principles, and build our own gospel frameworks.

What is the gospel? It is the everything God has prepared for us, to bring light, peace, and satisfaction into our lives.

We each have individual gifts, and with that we each have individual needs. When we look at how big the gospel is, all the principles and institutions it encompasses and provides, we can come to a personal plan that uses these principles to meet our needs — that is a gospel framework. Whatever our needs — attention, knowledge, service, suffering, work, leadership, wealth, health — the gospel gives us a way to find it. To answer my question, “Does the gospel address depression,” I must say, “Yes,” if only because anti-depressants (like every other good and useful gift) are part of the gospel.

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Posted in: Church, Family, Home, Musings, Work