I am watching my little puppies play, secretly glad to have them back home, but also laughing at Rilke who looks so different since he finally got his first poodle cut.  He looks like a whole different dog!  Except he is CRAZY enough that I know it is him!

After I took my mother home yesterday, I had to stop halfway to get gas.  I sat there for a long time, texting some of my friends an essay that didn’t even make sense in English yet, because I was only getting the pieces as they came and needed the time to put them together.  They are the pieces I took with me to the Temple tonight.

Always, always, always bring pieces with you to the Temple.   I mean to say, that if you do pray every morning and every night, and if you do read your Scriptures every day, and take the bits of what you are learning with you to the Temple (often and regularly!), the Lord will put them together for you there at the Temple, and it is like watching a puzzle fall into place.  And the Spirit will tutor you and teach you what it means.

I promise.

So tonight, these were my pieces.

Because of something I learned while I was in Salt Lake City, I have been pondering “sheckinah”.  It is God’s “glory” or “presence” – think “pillar of light” and “pillar of cloud” that led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness (see Exodus 13:21).

The Hebrew word “sheckinah” indicates not just that it is the presence of God, but that it is His dwelling space.  It is the space in which He dwells; it is the glory that surrounds Him, that is Him. It is something beyond what anyone like me is able to explain, but we are taught it “plainly” in the Scriptures.  The Hebrew word for “tabernacle” (Temple!) is a derivative of this same root as this “dwelling”, and what it explains and implies (a little more directly than implying) is that the closer you are to that presence, the more easily, readily, able you are to perceive God.  It is so hard to explain in English!  But in English-mormon words what it means in a way, is that the closer you are to that sheckinah, the more thin the veil is, and the more you are able to see and/or know and/or experience of who and what the Lord is.

We know the Temple is the Lord’s house, and that just like in the Old Testament, this is where that “sheckinah” is/rests/dwells/comes.  We know that we go there to see that Light, to bask in that Light, to embrace that Light, to soak that Light into ourselves.  We know that if we go and worship there, we are taught and tutored and transformed, so that we can become more like our Savior, and that we are then expected to take that Light with us out into the world and love and serve others as He did.

So this is something I have been thinking about and studying since I was in Salt Lake City and learned something there, and what I learned was in response to the original question of how am I supposed to be a light to the world?  How can I light up my tiny corner of planet earth, and maybe make the world better in some tiny way?  It seems so lofty and noble and fairy-tale-ish, and I am nobody, except we are called to do that very thing!  ACK!  So how do I?   This is the question that was answered to me in Salt Lake City, and those precious hours in Temples there did unfold layer after layer, like one of those old-school scrolls unrolling, ever expanding in showing and explaining.

That’s all well and good and amazing enough, but when I come back to the “real world” of Emily World, how do I put it into practice?

So I have been pondering this and studying this and asking this.

Then yesterday, when I was driving back from my mother’s, I was listening to cd’s of the 2009 October General Conference.  This was super special because that was my first General Conference!  So the words were familiar and warm, like a sweet smell – a gift to my digital ear that was not there a year ago.  The words did warm my heart-memory.

I was listening specifically to a talk by Elder Oaks (CLICK HERE TO READ IT), which you can watch here if you want:

He talked about God’s love and God’s commandment.  How grateful I am that these were some of my very first teachings!  What repentance is has wrought, what healing it has brought, and what miracles of transformation the Spirit has accomplished “line upon line”.

He spoke a bit about agency, and how Satan tries to destroy it.  Stealing our agency has always, consistently, from the beginning, been the plan of attack by Satan.  As I listened – ah, still a miracle to me, the listening – as I listened, my brain began to vibrate in that Spirit kind of way, when understanding pours into me and cross-references fly through the air like starlings.

What it made me think of some of Nibley’s talks and writings that I have been studying about the atonement.  I love Nibley, not just because of his depth or vast knowledge (what he knew personally was far more than what he shared – he was actually very private, and did not initiate the publications of his writings), but because of his curiosity.  He asked questions, followed it up, then asked more.  It’s how he learned.  Listening to talks of Nibley is the first time I have ever heard anyone SPEAK the way that I THINK.  I do not at all claim to be a Nibley, and I know nothing when he knew much.  But I mean it is a DELIGHT to me to have discovered someone who can demonstrate the process, and who testifies of the treasures found because of it.  It gives me comfort and courage and sends me on amazing trails of spirit-tutoring.

But here is the thing about his writings and talks about the atonement. Nibley consistently brings any discussion of “atonement” back to its original context in the Old Testament, which was in respect to the rites in the Tabernacle of Moses (see Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers).  Here we are talking about, in my own basic words and paraphrase, of how the sin was transferred onto the scapegoat and the scapegoat sent out AWAY from the camp, and how the lamb was slain to atone for their sins, the whole process of both telling the story of the creation, fall, and atonement while also enacting their role in it.  Significant, yes?

All of it pointing to our Savior, both in His sacrifice for them (us!) and His welcome of us back home.

But while His sacrifice (or the old testament lamb as a type pointing to the Savior) was for all, the welcome back home is conditional upon our choice to return home.

The father could not welcome home the prodigal son if the prodigal son never did the work of going home.

But when the son left that environment and those people and changed his ways and did the work of walking home and had the faith that his father would be there, then when he did return home – the father was indeed there waiting for him, and he did welcome him home.

He embraced him.

But he could not get to the embracing if he had not done all the work to get home.

Even though the embracing was made possible by the father, who was standing there waiting – expecting, even.

The son still had to do his part of CHOOSING to go home.

So I was thinking about how this is part of what happened to me before I was baptized.

I was thinking about how I thought I had sinned so much, was already so bad, and already was not forgiven, that somehow all that turned into me believing I could not be forgiven.  It turned in to me believing that I was already condemned.  So it no longer mattered to try.   If I was no longer welcome in God’s family, then God’s rules no longer applied to me. So nothing mattered, and I became more and more miserable as life got worse and worse.

That was a “cunning plan of the evil one“!

When Satan could make me think that I was condemned already, then what did anything else matter?  He made me think I was lost, so why would I try to be rescued?

He tried to take away my agency, so that I would not choose the Gospel.

So part of what getting baptized meant was saying out loud that the Lord could still rescue even me.  It was CHOOSING to let the atonement work on me and in me, and CHOOSING to be forgiven by the Lord.

This was my act of faith:  believing that the atonement was (is) big enough, perfect enough, complete enough to save EVEN ME.

That’s the difference between being a child and knowing Jesus was real… and being an adult who truly puts FAITH into who He is, what He did, and believing that it applies even to me.

And that is how I am “given much”.

Which means, “much will be required”.

So it comes full circle, from choosing NOT to let the atonement work, to actually letting it do what the Savior intended it to do – which is to cover my sins.

Which means I must “go and sin no more” (John 8:11, Alma 39:9; D&C 6:35, 24:2, 82:7).

So I know it is true when Alma says I am NOTHING.

And yet, the Savior has redeemed me.

Which means, I am redeemed because of the righteousness of my Redeemer, not because of anything I have done.

Righteousness is brought to pass by the Spirit telling me how to act.

So much that when I got baptized, and began to learn line upon line, and started choosing what the Spirit told me to choose, the other stuff (old stuff, bad stuff) began to disappear.

I could just let it go, because the Spirit told me what to hold on to.   It was the iron rod!  This holding fast to what was good meant that, by default, I was letting go of what was bad.

It is so simple!

When I began to choose, I was reclaiming my agency.  The illusions of the evil one fell away, and the Spirit could teach me clearly – distinctly – what was real.

The atonement did FREE me from that depraved state, so that I am now – indeed – FREE!  I am free to choose!  It was thinking about these very simple things that did help me to understand what it means when we read about being a slave to sin (see Romans 7:8-12), and I see how my sin did put me into bondage.  I see how I choose bondage by choosing sin.  I see what an awful bondage it was!

Even my whole family – in context of the family proclamation – as each of us failed our individual roles in being a family the way Heavenly Father designed – we were SCATTERED and each of us suffered our own bondage.   It is so true!  We could be our own disaster story in the Book of Mormon!

But this is now my joy: to be free to choose, and the more I choose Heavenly Father’s way, the more I am transformed.

So this is my agency (which goes back to the talk by Oaks):  I am free to choose to be in bondage, a slave, as miserable as Satan is…. or, free to choose the happiness that comes from being whom I was created to be, like my Heavenly Father, so that I get to be my true self (a divine daughter!), rather than always fighting against myself or being trapped in things not of my Father (and so thus not of myself, in the true sense).

Becoming like my Savior, so that I may learn who I am in my Father, that is what becomes me – what makes me BECOME – so that I am one integrated whole self, whole in truth, made perfect (complete).

I can choose to let the atonement cover what is not of God, so that the Spirit can sanctify me exponentially toward infinite progress, or I can choose to limit my progress and be miserable as Satan (who did not get to fulfill the measure of his creation).

My life is a gift from my Heavenly Father, and living it my way instead of His way is “unrighteous dominion”.

Or, I can be true to the source of me, from the One who gave me life, and NURTURE me into life beyond this embryo state.

The best “embryo” talk ever is the one by President Kimball.  He also said that KNOWING is not enough.

It has to be a DOING.

So what am I doing?

In considering this, I realize that if pre-mortality prepared me for mortality, then mortality prepares me for eternity.

We know that this life is the time to prepare to meet God.

Preparing to meet God takes me back to the prodigal son returning home.  It takes me back to the Temple.

It takes me, in a way that surprised me, back to the creation story.

When I think of “meet”, I think not only of the embrace of the prodigal son and his father, but also of Adam and Eve.  I think of Adam and Eve because I think of “helpmeet”, and remember that helpmeet means “a companion who is equal and necessary in full partnership”.

Then I realize why I think of Adam and Eve when I am thinking of the prodigal son being embraced by his father, for because the prodigal son is – in that very moment – restored to his place in the family.

This is what the atonement does for me; it restores me to my place in the family of my Father.

But anytime I think of Adam and Eve, I am reminded that I am not yet married and commanded to do so.  But in this context, it is less harsh for not yet having done so and more in preparation for teaching me why and how and for what purpose.

For because, we may know in our heads that husband and wife are companions who are equal and necessary in full partnership, but we know in our hearts that husbands and wives are very different!

But this takes me back to sheckinah, for because this is part of the answer to my question about how to be a “light”.

And if you know anything about light, you know that it is made up of two very different properties, yet one without the other does not explain light.  Light has both particles and waves!  Light needs both properties to be light, to function as light, to exist as light.  Even though they are nearly opposite properties, so much that they even work differently more than work together, it is in the together-ness that they make up light.

It is so very male and female, in an un-scientific kind of way, with one piece of the whole being the packets that go out (the priesthood, the power, the authority), and the other piece being waves (the emotion, the spirit-ness, the intuition).

But even more fascinating, is how – like light – we are commanded not just to keep the commandments, but to OBSERVE the keeping of the commandments.  Mathematically, scientifically, the act of observing changes the results.

Oh!  Look at this silly cartoon clip that explains it:

Know what other dimension requires an observer?


Time is only a measurement, which requires someone to do the measuring.  It is a measurement between events.  Time only exists when there is an outside observer who thinks they are inside, sort of like being in your own black hole.

The only reason this relates at all, in this long Emily World random writing, is because of the symbol of the circle in the square, of heaven meeting earth, reminds us of the second law of thermodynamics – except the sqaure moved out – which combined with what we know of light, if we were playing around with the math of it, gives the white hole to the black hole… excepting that white holes cannot exist because of the second law of thermodynamics… UNLESS you moved the square back over the circle, like the symbol of the Temple.

And that, not getting into nerdy wormhole science, creates this:

(That’s a National Science Foundation image.)

If you take out the science fiction, this is mathematically where and how a new universe would be born.  That’s why it is fascinating to us, because of the shape it creates, which is a symbol we have been given and has been interpreted even in the most ancient of art.  Even more so, the other shape it reveals.

So, that is what I want to share later, when it is the right time and place and there is someone who cares and is Nibley-curious enough to figure it out.

Here is the brand new 2010 image done by Andrew Hamilton (Colorado) and John Hawley (Virginia)… CLICK on the picture to see it move:

Now that is incredible, to input mathematical formulas into a computer and be able to get an image of a pillar of light, in a context that requires opposition and observation (implying agency) and in so doing makes creation possible.  Fascinating and familiar concept.

So this is what takes us back to sheckinah, and to Adam and Eve, so that not only is that the same as us, but also photons are always moving, but interactions with atomic scatters will cause them to either be delayed or advanced.  How is that not mortality?!  How is that not our work to climb the ladder?!

And we even see that in the diagram of the light itself:

Which, if you turned it up, would give the same DNA-spiral-staircase as the Jacob’s Ladder turned through ongoing repentance.  It’s lovely!

Also, photons can be absorbed by nuclei or molecules, which provokes nerve impulses (discovered by George Wald in 1958 as he worked with the retina).   This science-information is fascinating when considering the 1879 talk by Erastus Snow in which he said “the wonderful mechanism of the nervous system, through which the spirit makes its impressions upon the body…”

All of that to say that what I learned from the Oaks talk was about being judged not just based on what I do here, but also what I accomplish and who I become.  Judged not only for how I lived this life, but judged to determine what I qualify for in eternity… which means I must let the atonement work – not just in cleansing me from the past, but also in becoming something of my potential.

For example, while my mother was here, we watched a movie about Queen Victoria.  This is one thing my mother and I have always enjoyed together, my whole life, the study of the history of the royalty and especially the queens, with Queen Elizabeth always being one of my favorites (of course!).  But when I study these Queens, one thing that is evident is that everyone always knew whether the Queen would be good or bad by what kind of student they were as a child, and how willing they were to be taught, and how well they could channel their passions for the greater good.   They knew what kind of Queen she would be based on her own response to her family dynamics regardless of what they did, and how well she played with others.

Always, her wisdom was not measured by success, but her success was measured by wisdom (not the same as knowledge).  And her wisdom was measured by her ability to discern the true nature of things and respond accordingly, including how and when and from whom to accept help… as well as her ability to endure the experiences that developed that discernment.

The people always loved best the Queens who loved them well.

As we talked about in Institute, I was PREPARED in pre-mortality to succeed in mortality, prepared for what I needed to do here, for my role here.  In the same way, my mortal life does prepare me for what is to come – and how well I am prepared will determine how much of that I get to do, who I get to be.

I know it is basic LDS doctrine, and I am botching it all up trying to explain it from the perspective it came to me yesterday.  But you know better than I do, more than I do, and so do understand what I am trying to say.

Back to the sheckinah – because Moses had seen the Light, and knew the Glory (the process of that and how and what it teaches us is a different blog!).  Because he knew that Glory, he was also able to discern false lights and knew the difference.  He said, “Where is your glory” (Moses 1:12-15)… but he could say that because he knew the difference.

So we, I think, should work to learn the difference.

I need the atonement to be able to stand the Light.  It must cover me, so that I can know.  The more I seek the Light, then the more I can discern what is NOT the Light.  This protects me, but also helps me to become.

This is why I need mortality to learn that Light.

Always I must come back to it, through repentance, climbing ever upward through that spiral.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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