Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wonderful Equations

I have some fond memories of practicing my times tables in elementary school. I don’t know that math was my favorite subject (it always took a back seat to art), but the work came fairly easy to me. I remember taking timed quizzes with a sheet of paper, a clear transparency piece of plastic, and a felt tip pen. I thought the pens were cool. The sheet of paper had a large set of small equations. The transparency was placed over the paper to write the answers that could easily be cleaned with a small tissue. Then we could take the same quiz over and over until we had mastered the problems.

The initial concept of multiplication was difficult only when it was new. From there the math got better and better. The more I learned, the more it became easier and more powerful. Understanding banished fear and replaced it with confidence. I was no longer reciting trivial information for a quiz. My new understanding allowed me to use mathematics to figure out solutions.

Following multiplication I learned division, fractions, decimals, and percentages. I advanced to algebra and found that I enjoyed the more complex math problems with variables. It was fun to see that there was more than one way to solve a problem and still arrive at the same solution. I learned that equations were constant and didn’t change. If they did change, it was usually me that was wrong, not the problem. An equation, simply put, is the combination of some number of things that equals or equates to something else. If the comparison between two things is not equal, it is not an equation. Such a comparison is said to be false, or not true.

Not quite as true to my studies as I should have been, I remember one occasion in intermediate school where I got into trouble. The concepts we had been studying in algebra were very clear to me and I felt like I could move a little faster. So I spent my time in class pushing ahead with upcoming assignments (yet another example of my preference for speed.) Things were going well until I got to a concept that I didn’t understand. I went to my teacher and explained my confusion. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, but I was a little surprised by his reaction.

“I don’t want to teach this twice,” he said. “You will have to wait until the class catches up if you want me to explain this.” He may have been hurt that I wasn’t paying attention to his lessons, and rightfully so. Being a bit deflated, I took his suggestion to heart and decided to wait. In the meantime, I pulled out my deference to art and began to draw pictures during algebra. The problem came when the class did catch up and I no longer had any interest in redirecting my attention. After all, I was having a great time. Why spoil things? You can imagine that the lack of work, and interest, in the second half of the quarter didn’t do anything to help my grades. In fact I almost didn’t pass. I think it was the worst grade I ever had.

Another poor grade came in college while taking calculus. By that time, I had mastered algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Unfortunately there were a different set of odds against me. I had just gotten engaged to my lovely bride; it was April and I had spring fever; my class was first thing in the morning and wasn’t very appealing; and lastly, I had a teacher that I didn’t relate to very well.

My calculus teacher was actually a TA, or a teacher’s assistant. I’m sure he knew his stuff very well, but I had a hard time receiving the baton in the relay of information. Class usually consisted of him writing extremely long equations, one after another, on a chalk board for us to copy. Once in a while he would turn partially toward the class and ask, “Any questions?” When there were no questions, he would resume his notation on the board. Those were not wonderful equations for me. Somehow I got through it and look back at that time with a different fondness, just not for the equations or the class.

Since that time, I have discovered some wonderful equations that are worth noting. Different from most equations, they don’t make a lot of sense mathematically. Yet they have been very important discoveries in my life, and they do equate quite well. Take a look.

Equation 1: 1 x 1 = 7

Equation 2: 1 + 1 = 1000

Equation 3: 2 = 1

Equation 4: 1 + 1 + 1 = 1

At this point, you are probably wondering just how much I learned about math in school, and who passed my grades. Granted, I have taken some liberties here. The equations might actually be written differently if you are orthodox in writing mathematical expressions. But these equations help me state my point clear enough.

Equation 1 represents my family. My wife and I were married and decided to have children. We started with the addition equation of 1 + 1 = 2 and traded it for multiplication. We ended up with five more. You could also argue that 1 + 1 + 5 = 7, but that is too straightforward. Five couldn’t have happened without 1 x 1, which in this case does not equal 1. This particular equation has been one of the most significant of my life. I love my wife dearly, and we love our children. I often say, “My family is my profession, and my occupation just supports it.” I profess this equation wholeheartedly. It has brought me so much happiness, and keeps multiplying. If I were to substitute words for numbers, I could also say that family times love equates to happiness. I’ll let you be the judge for your own family equation.

Equation 2 represents friendship. Consider what happens when two people who think alike combine similar ideas. The result can be a thousand new ideas that are a thousand times stronger than the ideas of one person alone. I am starting to see a new equation that involves exponents, but I’ll let you use your own creativity to write that one. When ideas, feelings, and experiences are shared between friends, each one makes a connection. Each connection makes a friendship exponentially stronger. That is the power of exponents and friends.

Equation 3 represents revelation. It takes two things to receive one confirmation of truth, a pure heart and a clear mind. Thus 2 = 1, or 1 + 1 = 1. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation….” (Doctrine & Covenants 8:2-3) Receiving inspiration in only one place does not follow the equation. If the equation changes, it is usually me that is wrong. I am grateful for inspired checks and balances.

Another example of this equation is marriage – two people who become one in many, many ways. Consider the instruction that followed the Biblical creation of the world. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) When a husband and wife become one, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and in every way possible, they become a very strong “one.” The stronger the relationship, the greater potential there is for happiness.

Equation 3 can also be used to describe the people of Zion. “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18) When our hearts and minds – the instruments for revelation – are one with God, we find true unity. Few things can compare in beauty as a soul that is one with God.

The final equation, number 4, is the most significant of those I have listed. It is a variation on Equation 3, but it is more complete. For me it represents perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

While they are one God, each has a different role. God, our Father, is the almighty being whom we worship. He grants us blessings and answers our prayers as we pray in faith in the name of His Son. Through Jesus Christ, the Father created all things. He created us in His image.

Jesus Christ was born on this earth to take upon Him our transgressions and redeem us from both sin and death. As we exercise faith in Him, His teachings, and His sacrifice, it is possible for us to return to the presence of the Father. Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, He is also our advocate with the Father.

The apostle John recorded the teachings of Jesus regarding His role and the role of the Father. It is because of their unity that we can have perfect faith in Jesus. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19)

“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28-29)

“I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

Jesus demonstrated perfect unity with the Father by submitting His will to
Him. Jesus did only that which He was taught, and He did so for His Father’s Glory. In so doing, Jesus became the Father. He was given the power and authority of the Father, and His atonement allowed us a resurrection and rebirth spiritually. By subjecting His will to the Father, Jesus became one with Him. Before making His eternal sacrifice, Jesus prayed to the Father that all this might be done so that we might also become one with Him.

To make this possible, Jesus taught that He and the Father would send us the Holy Ghost to teach us. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me….” (John 15:26)

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13-14)

Because the Holy Ghost, like the Son, does nothing but the will of the Father and the Son, we can trust Him completely. He will guide us and show us the way. As we submit to His promptings, the Holy Ghost will teach us how to submit our will to the Son, thus submitting our will to the Father. This is the only way for us to return to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is one eternal God.

Here then is the beauty of a new equation. 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. When we are willing to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and become a saint through the atonement of Christ, we become one with God. Then, each time we successfully reach out to others and encourage them to believe in God, have faith and repent, and then submit their will to God, we add another 1 to the left side of the equation. It is the will of God that all of His children be one.

Just as my math took a back seat to my interest in art – or the things I valued more – so should we put our own interests on the back seat in deference to the things of God. There is no other way for us to become one unless we are willing to do what Jesus did. The initial concept may be difficult when it is new, but as we practice we will have greater confidence in our ability to follow God. Fear will be replaced with understanding. Practicing the same quiz over and over will help us to master the problem.

There are some mathematical equations that always make sense on paper. They look right and they are logical. Other equations may not make sense during a time of trial or temptation, but they are still real. If we trust in these wonderful equations – particularly those that are designed to make us one with God – then our efforts to do so will equate to lasting happiness. God will not let us down, and He will not lead us astray. He is always willing to help us with our math if we let Him.

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This is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am solely responsible for the views expressed here.