What Outcomes do We Expect of our Faith and Obedience?

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It finally rained today. The last six weeks or so have been quite dry—locally we received just 14% of the long-term average, some places received just 2%. In the midst of this dusty season I’ve found myself thinking that maybe I should go wash the car, clean the windows or wear my leather-soled dress shoes to work—surely tempting fate on such a grand scale like this would coax a few drops of moisture from the fleeting clouds!

So I did all three and voilà—rain! Ok, today’s showers have been forecast for the last week or so, but still, you never know—weather can be a fickle thing. Of course, I know perfectly well that attempting to control the weather by invoking some version of Murphy’s Law is unadulterated foolishness. Sometimes, though, when nothing else seems to be going your way, flights of fancy offer an appealing alternative to helpless reality. 

As a religious person, I’m aware that the line between magical thinking and faithful obedience can be a thin one, and that crossing it can lead to disappointment and bitterness. About a decade ago, for example, I found myself nonplussed—to say the least!—with the principle of tithes and offerings, which I had been practicing without reservation, when my personal finances became unmoored and I had to start over again from scratch. In my mind I knew that paying tithes and offerings doesn’t spare you financial calamity, but in my heart I was kinda disappointed that it hadn’t.

In another instance, a couple moved into our ward briefly to seek treatment in the final stage of a terminal disease from a doctor whose regimen involved lots of vitamin C and inducing fevers with a heat blanket. It didn’t strike me as promising, but we set about serving them in all the ways we could. After a few weeks, however, the patient succumbed to his illness. The surviving spouse had placed all of her faith in priesthood blessings that had promised a better outcome; when it didn’t materialize, it was too much for her to bear.

It was against this backdrop of my experiences traveling along the bumpy road of unexamined expectations that I read a recent article in the Church News outlining the reasons several Latter-day Saint women participated in the social media fast and what they hoped to gain from it. One respondent remarked that, “I hope to gain an idea of just how much time was wasted unnecessarily, and be able to prioritize my family first.” “Imminently reasonable,” I felt. Another indicated that,

I decided to participate because the prophet asked us to and I have faith that following his advice will bring me blessings […]. I hope to have more time and mental space to work on my goals like waking up early, exercising, eating better, working on my coaching business, writing, and reading the scriptures more etc.

“Indeed,” I thought, recalling the poet Henley: “I am the master of my fate; / I am the captain of my soul.” But I paused at this statement:

I will be disconnected for 10 days from social networks to follow the council of a loving living prophet who wishes the best for us these days […]. Eight years ago, I followed the council of Gordon B. Hinckley and survived leukemia. I don’t follow the prophets simply for health reasons — but I am anxious to begin my fast from social media, which I know steals a lot of time from us.

I’m not sure to what counsel by President Hinckley the individual referred, but I would be surprised if he had promised that the seriously ill would recover as a result of following it. At any rate, my first response was to recall the close relatives and friends who in the past eight years had suffered grim, lingering deaths despite a lifetime of faithful obedience to gospel principles and prophetic counsel. “What about them!” I wanted to shout. “How can someone bring something as trivial as a social media fast into play when the cemeteries are full of people who forewent birth control to have large families, sacrificed careers, planted gardens, devoted rooms to food storage, gave their disposable income to charity, spent evenings and weekends away from family to serve others; people who sacrificed much and endured to the very, bitter end!”

In the days since, I’ve thought about that reaction, why I was so bothered by this straightforward articulation of the familiar, canonized formula:  “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” I’m still mulling it over—and would welcome your thoughts—but my initial conclusion is that in my mind the sentiment crosses the line from the reasonable into the realm of the impossible. Resolving to spend one’s time more judiciously in pursuit of self discipline and worthy goals more or less within our wheelhouses is one thing. But foregoing earrings or social media or re-reading scriptures by the end of the year can no more alter the course of a terminal disease than a clean windowpane can call down rain from heaven. At least not in my experience, and I aim to avoid disappointment on this score. But what about your expectations of faith and obedience?

Comments

  1. I have been contemplating just these things as I’ve been studying Nephi’s vision. 1 Nephi 13:11-19 seems to, in modern terms, justify the genocide of Native Americans at the hands of the ‘more faithful, humble Gentiles’ who were given the land earlier promised to Lehi’s posterity (2 Nephi 1), contingent on their obedience and faithfulness to God. It made me wonder what will happen now, as our land, writ large, seems to slide into rampant materialism, racism, and political corruption. As I attend my ward, full of people whose faith leads them to myriad political destinations, I wonder what we should take from this? Just really wondering how to read this and liken it to our day. It’s troubling on so many levels.

    But I do think that if we ourselves focus on doing all the good we can in all the ways that we can, and recognize that political dissonance in our ward families (unspoken in our ward circle, but ever present) is less than our temple covenants, our genuine efforts to follow the Spirit, and to minister after the pattern of the Savior — perhaps we will at least have personal peace in this life, come what may, and eternal life in the world to come. Perhaps we are best off not to hope for more than this from our faith and obedience.

    But perhaps the best we can DO is have faith, work for justice, and vote.

  2. I don’t believe in a vending machine, but I do believe in miracles. (Recognizing that a interventionist gods are out of favor in progressive circles.)
    I synthesize these positions by recognizing that I do not find any cause-and-effect to miracles. Zero predictability.
    As a practical matter this returns me to the position my father taught me–to expect nothing and give thanks for everything.

  3. I wonder if the problem isn’t most often in we ourselves determining what blessing we are “owed” for a given act of obedience: I will pay my tithing and then God will owe me financial success. I will do the media fast and then God is bound to give me more time in my day and less arguing from my kids. I will do this weird thing my mission president suggests and in return God will make those people be baptized.

    It doesn’t work that way, of course, because we aren’t running the show. I do think that in some way, some often undefined or unrecognized way, God does bless us for faithfulness — but it’s Him, not us, who writes the terms of the contract.

  4. our genuine efforts to follow the Spirit, and to minister after the pattern of the Savior — perhaps we will at least have personal peace in this life, come what may, and eternal life in the world to come

    This too is my hope.

    the position my father taught me–to expect nothing and give thanks for everything.

    A sensible approach indeed.

    I wonder if the problem isn’t most often in we ourselves determining what blessing we are “owed” for a given act of obedience

    Yes, this is insightful.

  5. I admit that I find D&C 130:21 much less persuasive than I once did. It encourages us to think of our relationship to God in transactional terms, and that’s useless. God’s love is not for sale. Also, it’s nearly impossible to predict what we need according to God’s love and wisdom, so even if we knew which lever to pull to get what we want, we would usually be pulling the wrong one.

    On the other hand, the law of the harvest is true, to a limited extent. Our actions do influence outcomes. One of the best things about a community is that together we can magnify the best outcomes and mitigate the bad ones. That is true of both religious communities and political communities. Maybe the most fruitful way to read D&C 130:21 is as an exhortation to us collectively.

  6. To me, the most helpful reading of those verses is that the law irrevocably decreed is the law of the Father’s love for his children, and the obedience that is the source of all blessings is Jesus’ obedience to that law. So when we receive any blessing from God, it is by the grace of Jesus, because of his obedience to the will of the Father.

    I think Ardis is right. We can expect to be blessed when we honor God (not because we deserve it, but because he loves us) but we have no right to name the form that blessing comes in. And I’d add that we can blind ourselves to the blessings that do come when we have a set expectation.

  7. Adding to Ardis’ thoughts. One my struggles, not only on behalf, but on those others who give their all in full faith – then lose, is that my desires are often set by talks from our pulpit and our scripture. Even simple “Ask and ye shall receive”, etc. We have a God of lost car keys. We, through our Priesthood (which no one else on the earth has) have the power to “act in his name”, “to call down blessings” upon loved ones, etc.

    This creates the personal paradigm Ardis is referring to. Life, health, wealth, safety, direction are all promised blessings we are taught again, and again.

    For me, the only way to get over it, was to be disappointed a plenty. Today, I have to fight my cringe urge when others make those same statements. Perpetuating our dependence on a hope that I don’t think is fair to God or man.

  8. First, when I was on the BYU track team we had a faith off. One group praying for rain and one group praying for sun. Immature (I was a freshman) but shows how faith and prayers shouldn’t work. Second, my wife and I did three rounds of in vitro. My wife felt very strongly and impressed that she’d get pregnant. It didn’t work. We’ve since adopted three great boys but also had at least a dozen failed adoptions. But it rocked her faith. Having kids is not just a righteous desire but a commandment and a covenant in the temple. having the prophet reiterate that in conference with no acknowledgement of the many women struggling with infertility didn’t really help. Tying blessings, even when they’re righteous desires, to our actions can be very faith destructive.

  9. I guess I expect help and to know he is there for me. I would hope to get at least that. I am going through a difficult challenge right now, and no I don’t feel that. I feel like I have been abandoned. If this is really a loving relationship me being “obedient” should produce something positive. If the rule is “you do everything you are told and God will do whatever he wants” then I’m not sure its really a loving relationship.

  10. Suomalainen says:

    “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

    A few thoughts:

    a) WHAT is a blessing of God? I was once told my child in a priesthood blessing that my unborn child would be a blessing – and he is. But he is also a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice and a lot of agony. It is my experience that whenever the talk is of blessings, it really is talk of sweat and blood. Abram was promised to be the father of a great nation, but then felt he had to sacrifice his own son. What we think of as blessings of God may not be what God thinks of blessings of God.

    b) WHEN is a blessing of God? My own opinion is that many of the blessings are to be received either in the hereafter or in generations yet to be born, not in the now. Aka, Abraham would be a great father to a multitude of nations… but not while he was on this earth. Lehi was promised the promised land, and I am sure when he was promised this, he didn’t see all the suffering, strife, wars and death coming. In fact, if you read Lehi’s promises at the beginning of the Book of Mormon and then square it with the outcome of the journey into the promised land, it wouldn’t be too cynical to call it a complete failure in earthly terms. In the aggregate, seen over generations, it was a blessing for the whole world. I agree with Loursat’s analysis above about the collective. I believe everything that goes on in the temple is basically an indication of this too.

    c) What are these “Laws” and can we know them? I don’t think so. I don’t think, for example, that the blessing of paying tithing is financial reward. Or that the blessing of keeping the word of wisdom is health. God certainly has not said so. In other words, obedience to what? We can’t know God’s laws (I don’t think commandments = eternal laws for example), and so it is completely unclear what specific thing we need to be obedient to in order to receive specific “blessings.” In fact, Jesus seems to be getting at this when he basically gets rid of the 10 commandments and instead proposes the 2 Greater Commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbor as Thyself – and he does not attach any specific blessings to them. If anything, the keeping of these are more likely the blessing in itself.

    Having said this, I have also experienced miracles in my life – and I experience them as miracles precisely because I feel I didn’t do anything or keep some kind of mystical law to bring them about. They are gifts. Often, and simply stated, it is prayer and faith that make me more aware to the blessings that are all around me, not only me individually, but the church or earth as a whole. I am blessed with some really great things in my life, and I have no clue what I did to deserve them. In the temple, I have often had an inkling that maybe it wasn’t I who “did” it, but my ancestors, forefathers and foremothers who did something very right, and through them I am blessed. It is a nice thought for me, too, that my good actions on earth might one day bless those who come after me – and my own blessing will be in and through them and in their joy more so than in my own. (I guess this could be a depressing thought to some and doesn’t necessarily fly well with our individualistic Western cultures). I also struggle with certain things (are those blessings or curses?), many, if not most of those passed on to me via genes, human DNA, and my family history.

    Of course, there are certain immediate and individual blessings when we don’t do heavy drugs for example, but I really do think the greatest blessings of God are meant to span generations. So far, I’ve really lucked out in marriage for example and I don’t know why – everyone that has come before me (that I knew personally) has literally experienced marriage hell. I don’t think I am better than any of them. I do think they made promises at one point to God that they kept – and there is some kind of reward in that, sometimes in the here and now, but always eventually.

  11. We have such a limited understanding of how the universe works. God understands how all the laws work together, but we don’t. Trying to reverse engineer the actions necessary to achieve a desired outcome is usually an exercise in hubris. We like to think that doing A gets us X, when the relationship is more like ABCDEFG results in XYZ. I can’t just sacrifice a few cattle and expect it to rain.

    Maybe the commandments aren’t payment into a heavenly service contract, but are given to teach us how to be good to each other.

  12. I think this mentality, that, “I do x and God will give me y,” is toxic. In a way it’s an attempt to preserve the illusion of control. The story of Alma the Younger is a blatant rebuttal of the idea that every good thing that happens to us is the result of our righteousness.

  13. Ryan Mullen says:

    While I certainly accept that outcomes are uncertain and some are unpredictable, I’m not sure that I believe in miracles. The difference between the two, at least for me, is in whether God intervenes to alter the course of events. I just don’t see any evidence that God has done that nor am I aware of a logical framework that requires God to.

    So what do I expect of obedience then? For me obedience is a starting platform. It is framework for developing strong relationships within the community that can then be leveraged to accomplish good on a much grander scale than one can individually. But obedience is not and should not be an end of itself. Obedience is not a means of securing blessings, but of providing them.

  14. nobody, really says:

    I remember some knucklehead missionaries who came up with an idea of “John the Baptist Month” – they were going to get up every morning at 4:30, be out on the streets at 7:00 AM, tract until 10:00 PM, and live on a diet of locusts and honey. With no locusts in the local grocery stores, they substituted brown rice instead. P-days would be for laundry and more tracting. Every rule would be followed with exactness. In return, the Lord was going to bless them with forty baptisms. Our mission president lauded them at each zone conference, spouting how the Lord would be bound because they were working so hard.

    They didn’t get a single baptism, ended up rather sick, and the mission president openly mused on how they must not have had enough faith – after all, everything else had been sound reasoning.

    I’m firmly of the belief that we should never make goals that depend on the Lord altering the agency of others. And schemes like this are like going into a car dealership, announcing that I am going to pay fifty dollars a month, and that the dealership will provide me with a new sports car, insurance, and unlimited gas. We don’t get to dictate the terms of the contract with the one in a position to provide the contracted benefits.

  15. I was blessed once in a priesthood blessing that the baby I was pregnant with after losing a previous one would live, but he didn’t. I had all the faith in the world that it would work, the priesthood holder that blessed me was wracked with guilt, thinking minor sins may have made it his fault that the baby died.

    I went on to have 6 living children, and I think in the grand sum of things I have been richly blessed. I have never asked for another blessing and the priesthood holder has only begrudgingly complied with others’ requests when he couldn’t get out of it, though he is worthy.

    I ordered a copy of my grandma’s patriarchal blessing that she received as an adult from a visiting apostle. I had heard of it, but never seen it. In it, he blessed her that the baby she was pregnant with would live and bless them. She never had a single baby survive pregnancy and went on to adopt my father and his sister. A more faithful person had never lived than my sweet grandmother. She never told us the content of the blessing, but named my father after the apostle that gave it. She clearly saw his adoption as the promise fulfilled.

    I have seen faithful people be miraculously healed from terminal cancer, and innocent children die from it despite outpourings of faith from our LDS community. I am not sure why God heals some and not others. I am not sure why priesthood blessings or promptings sometimes don’t come to fruition.

    My faith on these matters is weak. I pray anyway.

  16. James Stone says:

    “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

    We do receive blessings from obeying God’s laws and his prophets. However, those blessings may not be the ones we were hoping for.

  17. James, I mostly agree. I believe God blesses us for following his commandments. And I believe he blesses us for following the prophets insofar as the prophets are asking us to follow his commandments. I don’t believe the idea that if the prophet tells you to do something wrong and you do it, God will still bless you for being obedient. The light of Christ is given to all people to know the difference between right and wrong, and we’ll be held accountable for following that light no matter who tells us not to. I think we generally can rely on the prophets, but I don’t believe that following the prophet frees us from accountability for our actions.

  18. jaxjensen says:

    I like to think of Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni headed off to the land of Nephi to teach the Lamanites. They had been told/promised that they would return home safely and so they acted accordingly. Thus Ammon wades into a 1-on-10/20/50? conflict with full confidence that he will prevail… and he did. In fact the scriptures say he was looking/waiting for something like this so he could exercise his power.

    For him, obedience = personal protection because he had been promised such. I doubt very many have received such a promise from the Lord, though I hear it told to us constantly that such blessings will be the result. About as close as I’ve ever received is that if I’m obedient I’ll “prosper” or “be blessed.” Nothing in that about health, protection from danger, wealth, obedient kids, or anything of the like.

    So in my opinion a lot of the blessings I hear people say they expect from obedience are not things that we’ve ever been promised. I think we hear a message saying ‘things will work out’ and we imagine it working out how WE want it, rather than how the Lord envisions it.

  19. Unrealized expectations broke my faith. I did not believe in the prosperity gospel but rather in the security gospel. The security gospel is not a get rich quick scheme but rather like an insurance policy that helps to prevent or mitigate the worst case scenario. After losing my daughter in death I was trying desperately to understand. Should I have done more? Where God’s promises ambiguous?
    Surprise! Bad things happen to good people – even tithing paying, priesthood magnifying, LDS people. My wife and I have had many resulting conversations about blessings. It mostly comes down to perception. In a way every good thing is a blessing from God. Therefore even very bad people who have good things in their life are blessed. The scriptures seem to indicate that God is not displeased when we ascribe every good thing – every morsel of food or breath in our bodies – to Him. What is a blessing and what is an operation of the natural world mixed with random luck becomes a matter of perception.
    I respect people who see blessings everywhere and hope that they are never forced from their perceptions like I feel that I was.

  20. Loursat says:
    “the law of the harvest is true, to a limited extent. Our actions do influence outcomes. One of the best things about a community is that together we can magnify the best outcomes and mitigate the bad ones.”

    I think this is very relevant. It is about connections and bonds of love. It has been common to try to understand commandments in terms of how they help us develop/express love for God and/or our neighbor. If love is the penultimate virtue, the greatest of these, and perhaps the primary principle we are to learn while we are here, this is not a bad way to look at this question of outcomes. Love, after all, is God’s most basic, most defining characteristic. Our Stake President is fond of teaching that the definition of hell is that moment when we realize what we could have achieved and realize what we have missed. I love him and feel a kind spirit in his words, but that definition has always felt transactional to me. I much prefer the definition given by Dostoyevsky’s Father Zossima: “hell is that suffering that occurs when you have lost the capacity to love.” Maybe the only outcome that matters in obedience to any principle is the extent to which it increases our capacity to love. This has also been, for me, a spiritual yardstick to help me weigh the revelatory power of a commandment.

  21. I recall a testimony where the person mentioned how their family had fasted for their uncle to get a good probation hearing on his upcoming hearing. The hearing didn’t go well and their uncle was still in prison. They then talked about how even though the blessing they were hoping to receive from the fast didn’t come, they still felt better about the situation than they would have otherwise. The testimony attributed a blessing of an outpouring of the Comforter from having enough faith to fast vs. receiving the outcome they were fasting for.

  22. This is such a good post Peter. And I’ve received amazing insights from almost all of the comments, especially CK, Ardis, and Loursat but also everyone else. Thank you! Just what I needed today!

  23. Mike R Harris says:

    Dear Mormon says, Your comments strike me as sincere, humble and filled with faith. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Let me join john f. in thanking you all for your great comments.

    The security gospel is not a get rich quick scheme but rather like an insurance policy that helps to prevent or mitigate the worst case scenario.

    Now that you mention it, this description fits me to a t.

  25. Geoff - Aus says:

    First there is no gospel principle/law called obedience. I believe the meaning of “there is a law…” is that if we want to develop a particular quality, there is a behaviour that will lead to that result.
    This life is not about doing things (obeying rules) it is about becoming a loving and complete person. So if I feel that I am held back because I have a temper, then I can look for the way to overcome that problem. That is how I understand it. A law of natural consequences. I used to believe it applied much more widely, after the order of you are the sum total of the decisions you have implimented, but not so sure any more.

  26. Geoff - Aus says:

    Peterlic, Not sure if your story of a 6 week drought was just a story, but have seen news stories of the UK and other parts of Europe having a very dry summer. I live in The state of QLD in Australia. QLD has an area of 1,852,642 square kilometers (about 2.5 times the area of Texas) and 2/3 of QLD has been drought declared for 5 years now.

  27. Kristin Brown says:

    jader3rd – I liked your story for it shows many of our blessings for obedience are spiritual. This has been true in my life. I have been astounded by the peace, joy, confidence, hope, increased faith one can feel through life’s turbulent times. The gifts of the Spirit are blessings that change our nature as we remain true to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  28. Thanks, Peter, for these thoughts. Mortality is filled with difficult experiences, and answers to prayers do seem rather random from our perspective. The quip that God is more like a slot machine than a vending machine rings all too true. I’ve pointed out before that God protects his missionaries . . . except when he doesn’t. And we could say the same for answering faithful prayers and honoring priesthood blessings. I know of a mission president whose wife was diagnosed with cancer. She received a blessing from an Apostle promising her she would overcome the disease. She was dead in months. So even lofty position doesn’t seem to make a difference. Maybe in the hereafter God will explain why he sometimes granted desired blessings and most often didn’t, but for now we seem to be at the mercy of uncertainty.

  29. Geoff, it really did rain yesterday after six weeks of hardly measurable precipitation, which was just the coda of a summer that was too dry and too warm.

    even lofty position doesn’t seem to make a difference.

    Yes, I think when it comes to divining the will of the Lord we all see through the same dark glass.

  30. I don’t have anything to add except to say I appreciate the post and liked reading it. I also aim to avoid disappointment on this score.

  31. Thank you, all of you. I needed to participate in a faithful group struggling with these issues today.
    Like you, I have both seen tremendous blessings and severe lack of blessings in my life and struggled to find the correlation between my actions (my faith) and the Lord’s blessings. Perhaps part of the error in my thinking is in not counting my trials as blessings. Although the process has been long and hard, they have changed me into a different person, one more willing to listen to the Lord, one more charitable and one who does not make as many Friends of Job’s false assumptions about the lives and trials of others. I have been refined and am watching others be refined through serious problems that will not resolve in this life. All the ill will not be healed. All the blessings promised will not be received here and some blessings promised may have been falsely promised. Faith is actually belief in things that are true that we cannot see. But we need to know the total truth to have perfect faith. That knowledge is usually kept from us.

  32. Perhaps the correct line of thought is that obedience brings on greater trials designed to better strip us of pride and prepare us to be celestial residents. And to remind us that we accepted the conditions necessary to end up there long ago and said we really, truly did want to be there. Our obedience actually signals to the Lord we are ready to progress. And miracles are the Lord’s way of mitigating the intensity of the trial. Like the angel who was sent to comfort the Saviour during the Atonement.
    The problem is not to become bitter or to draw the wrong conclusion from the test. Very difficult, especially when people attempt to explain away what happens to us with convoluted logic that denies the clear meaning of the words used in blessings. Sometimes the priesthood holder is just wrong. So are we.

  33. As someone who sees all too clearly the failures in my faith and the prices I have paid and am paying for them, I am barely hanging on, waiting for the miracles I need. And I am frightened that they will not arrive in time.

  34. When I was young, my Heavenly Father directed me to marry a specific man at a given time and to be sure I married in the temple. He also had previously warned both me and the man that terrible things were going to happen in our lives.
    Our marriage did not survive those terrible things and I have felt frightened and sometimes intensely bitter at the consequences of my divorce, the horrible comments and misjudgements from others, the loss of much desired blessngs, and the inability to give complete trust to the Lord because I expected better protection from God for my obedience. I was wrong; that is not promised.
    We in the Church not only question the Lord’s failure to behave in ways we consider reasonable, we also judge others in and out of the Church. If they are blessed with outward success in their marriages and careers, it is a sign they are righteous. We never consider there might be some other thing entirely going on. The person might be on an errand for the Lord we do not know, and quite frankly, have no right to be informed about. No right because we have to earn the right to that knowledge, which we fail to do with our lack of charity toward others.
    Following my former husband’s death I finally found one of my answers, a terrible genetic mental illness. I spent several years pondering my desires for eternity, then applied for and received a sealing cancellation. When I first spoke of this I received an impression from the Holy Ghost of surprise, followed by acceptance. I am still completely lost as to why the surprise. When is God ever surprised?
    I am still trying to find some logic or pattern in all of this. Does obedience to a terrible request, even if imperfect, keep us from receiving blessings? The D&C said it does to the early Latter Day Saints who attempted to build Zion. But who then would ever be willing to attempt great tasks if the failure to succeed means loss of all blessings? And why would the Lord ask us at a time of our lives when we are not yet ready, struggling with multiplication but being asked to do calculus. It seems a perfect pattern to inspire despair.

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