Monday, April 5, 2010

Seeing clearly

My eyes went bad at a very early age—around first grade. I started to realize this when I noticed that I couldn’t read the hymn numbers on the chapel wall even though our family sat on the second row. So my mom took me to the eye doctor and I got my first set of glasses. During the years that followed, I had to have my prescription made more powerful about once every year until I was about in junior high school. By this time, my glasses were quite thick and from time to time people called me “coke-bottle” eyes. Sometimes when I looked in the mirror, it seemed to me that my eyes appeared half the size of what they would look like without my glasses.

When I was a freshman in high school, my mom allowed me to get a pair of contact lenses. This, I was sure, would jumpstart my social life and give me a chance in the dating scene in a few years.

I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be for me to learn how to put my contact lenses in, however. Whether it was an exceptionally strong protective instinct or whether it was my own squeamishness about touching my own eyeball, the process of putting my contacts in took a long time. My father eventually gave me a little rubber tool that seemed to make it easier for me. On one end it had a little cup that I could place my contact in before applying it to my eye. On the other end, were two rubber prongs that could be used to pinch the contact off my eye. I used this tool for years before I became accustomed enough that I could put in and take out my contacts with just my fingers.

I remember when I first got my contacts, I was so elated about how I looked when wearing them, that I promised myself that I would never wear my glasses out in public again if I could help it. I appreciated the ability to see clearly in a way that seemed so natural.

My experience with contacts prepared me to better understand this scripture:
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. (Proverbs 7:2)
Our ancient fathers used the phrase “apple of the eye” to refer to the iris and pupil of the eye. They admonished us to see everything through the lens of the commandments and the law of the gospel.

When we are born again, it is as if we put on contact lenses that help us see things the way the Lord sees them. It also makes it easier for others to see us for who we really are—children of God—as they notice how our behavior changes.

Unlike contact lenses, however, we do not need to take these gospel lenses off every night before we go to bed. We are encouraged to keep them in all the time.

To keep our gospel vision from growing dim and blurry, we must frequently repent. We must also read our scriptures and follow the living prophets. When we do these things, Lord gives us eyes to see afar off and gives us an eye single to the glory of God. We see not just with physical eyes, but with spiritual eyes.

The idea of vision is used in prophecies and is used to teach important principles in the scriptures.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: (Isaiah 29:11)
Spiritual vision and prophesy was tightly associated with the authorship of the Book of Mormon and became just as important in the translation of it.

Nephi wrote of his father’s ability to see clearly.
…he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account. (1 Nephi 1:16)
Because Lehi had clear vision of the gospel and the truth, he shared his views with his children which blessed them to begin to see clearly as well.

These words were written about king Uzziah who reigned in Israel:
And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper. (2 Chronicles 26:5)
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
Righteous views contribute to our secular learning as well, which Daniel and his companions found out:
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (Daniel 1:17)
Cultivation of the Holy Ghost in our lives with a gospel view of the world will help us see clearly.



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Anthony E. Larson said...

There is much to learn in the metaphor of vision, as you point out. Have you ever read accounts of adults who were blind from birth with cataracts after those were removed? You would think that upon receiving sight, their life would improve. But that was not the case. Instead, vision only confused them. The depth of field concept eluded them. Even though they could see, details we normally pick out easily still escaped them. The experience induced so much anxiety that many chose to simply close their eyes and return to the sightless world where they were comfortable. Again, the analogy to spiritual progress is striking. It's been my experience that most Saints are not comfortable with new ideas or insights into the Restored Gospel. Even when carefully explained to them, they cannot "see" what is right before them. This is called a scotoma, a blind spot. I fear we have far more of them than we imagine.

Shelli said...

I remember putting on my glasses for the first time and almost crying because I hadn't even known you were supposed to be able to see individual leaves on the trees. The Spirit can be just like that when we allow Him to be. Thank you for your post.

Scott B. said...

My brother's eyesight went poor right about the same age as you describe--and it was discovered in exactly the same fashion: we realized he couldn't see the numbers on the Hymn list from the 3rd pew.

Fantastic post.