Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spiritualism, Procrastination, and Graduation

Mom told me of a talk in Sacrament Meeting where a young woman got up and told the congregation, "I'm sorry. I knew I was supposed to write a talk, but I kept putting it off and never got one written." And then she sat down. Well why didn't she at least bear her testimony? some thought in disgust. They listened to the next speaker, who took their allotted ten minutes. And then, that girl got up again. "Today, I would like to speak on Procrastination," she announced.

Sometimes I like to think of myself as an expert on Procrastination because I've had so much practice at it.

Need a topic? Pick Sherlock Holmes!
Before I lost my status as a normal human being and became a missionary, I studied Mass Communication at the University of Utah: the greatest school on earth. It's a fancy way of saying I learned how to talk to lots of people. During my schooling, I took an Honors class every semester, and decided that I might as well get the Honors Degree which required seven Honors classes and one Thesis on a subject of my choice that related to my major.

Naturally after writing four major papers or projects on Sherlock Holmes or his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I had to write this final one on something similar: Spiritualism in Salt Lake City Newspapers from 1920 to 1930. Towards the end of his life, Conan Doyle devoted his life to the study of Spiritualism. Basically it boils down to a belief in spirits and the afterlife, and that you can summon spirits and see into their world through mediums, seances, and other not-approved-by-the-church means.

So I thought I would just spend my senior year of college writing this big, fat paper and be done with it. But, no, I picked the best darn Thesis Advisor on the planet, Dr. Mangun, who expected better things out of me and told me I needed to edit it before I could turn it in. My first draft was done Spring of 2012, and I walked with the other graduates with a thesis nowhere near completion. I extended my graduation so I could work on it.

I confess, I am the worst student of all time. I let procrastination, laziness, perfectionism, and fear cripple me. I would open up the document in order to write it, make a couple changes, feel guilty for not having worked on it in ages, open up an internet browser, and eventually close my thesis to play games on Facebook or something else incredibly useful. I did this over, and over, and over again. I could not force myself to work on it. Even worse, I knew that when I did get a new draft sent in that Dr. Mangun would be angry at me for wasting her time and taking so long.

Of course I didn't get distracted by indexing....
At some point though, I had delayed my graduation for three semesters, I needed to turn in my mission paperwork, and I wanted to just get this stupid paper on ghost stories done with. My deadlines could not keep getting pushed back endlessly. I completely rewrote my paper and sent it to Dr. Mangun. I don't know if I've ever worked so hard on a paper in my entire life. It wasn't just the writing and doing it that I had to get through; I also had to push aside and bury all those crippling feelings of guilt and embarrassment to even work on the darn thing. But when I submitted something I had a lot more pride in, Dr. Mangun wasn't upset. She was happy to finally hear from me and to work with me. After a few more edits, I had a thesis ready to submit to the Honors Department.
The reason I tell this story is because I have heard members of the church who haven't been  active in years tell me they don't know how to come back to church. To those of us who are active, the answer seems easy: just come to church on Sunday. But in a very small way, I think I get how they feel. I had this sort of conversation in my head every time I opened my thesis.

"I just have to write this darn paper. I just have to do it."

"You should have been doing this paper all along. Slacker."

"I hate feeling so guilty for not working on this. And I really am sick of writing about ghost stories."

"Check Facebook. Listen to music. Watch some Netflix."

"I like this feeling much better..." And then it would never get done.

The Adversary works on us with feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and even creates antagonists in our mind to slow down and halt our progress whether it is spiritual or temporal. I know Satan knew that if my Thesis was delayed, so was my mission. And it worked for a long time. But if you ever want to get anywhere, you have to push through or ignore those feelings and just focus on what you have to do.

We're warned in Alma 34:35, "For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked." 

I know I definitely saw how the devil had all power over me as I procrastinated. There is only one solution.

"Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." Alma 34:31-32

The rest of Alma 34 is amazing too. You just gotta do it. There's no way around it. Whatever you're working on, it has to be done. Just repent. Just start writing. Just go to church. Just talk to the bishop. Just fix whatever you have been putting off. And I promise, you will feel incredible relief afterwards, no matter how scary it is.
With a camera, anything is real!

Remember: fairies aren't real. Neither is Sherlock Holmes, unfortunately.

No comments:

Post a Comment