Monday, January 18, 2010

Study in life and the gospel

This week feels like it has lasted a month. In a flurry, Monday's highlight was the arrival of my first shipment of supplies for Nature's Fusions – my new essential oil company. Tuesday through Thursday I was overwhelmed with projects at work, but by Friday I had finished most of my projects, as well as my application to the BYU MBA program. That night I auditioned for the Nauvoo pageant (the auditions went great; we have callbacks this week, so I'll let you know if I get called back). Saturday I went on a great riddle-scavenge- hunt-date that my brother made. Sunday was ward conference and home teaching, which meant that I was involved in Church activities for 13 ½ hours. And every spare moment I spent reading books on aromatherapy. Funny story: on Monday, after getting our oil shipment, I began unpacking the inventory. As I opened each box, I was greeted with a new mix of aromas. One smell was especially strong – and the culprit seemed to be garlic oil. I stuck it in a plastic bag and put it in a drawer to deal with later. After sorting the rest of the oils, I pulled the garlic back out and found that it was open and had leaked about a drop over the sides of the bottle. Most essential oils have nice smells. Some are stronger than others, but most are tolerable – especially if you only have one drop. Garlic, on the other hand, came with a warning on the purchase page – one or two drops could potentially fill an entire house with its pungent odor. That's what it did. Our room smelled of garlic, my clothes smelled of garlic, it got on my hands; everything smelled of garlic. Thankfully it wasn't permanent – it only lasted four days!

But with frustrations come more blessings. That first evening, my brother asked me for a fusion (oil blend) that would help him fall asleep at night, and another one that would help him wake up in the morning. After about an hour of research, I mixed an energy fusion for him called “The Toaster.” The name is based on a Garfield comic that he keeps near his bed back at home – Garfield is standing there with his eyes half closed, very obviously not wanting to be out of bed. “If we were meant to pop out of bed in the morning,” it reads, “we would all sleep in toasters.” I guess my brother feels the same way. I spent some more time researching oils for sleeping, put a few drops of oil in our diffuser, and we went to sleep.

I don't usually have trouble falling asleep, so I'm not sure if it helped us fall asleep faster, but the next morning both my brother and I were wide awake at 5:15 am. He never just wakes up early in the morning, so he commented that whatever had been in the diffuser had probably made a big difference. It happened again the next night, and the next. Since then, it has become our nightly diffusion.

My first order for a fusion outside of family was for a coworker who sometimes experiences painful back spasms. A few more hours of study and I had fusion for her that I thought might work. While home teaching last night, I noticed that a sister in my ward (who was just visiting the apartment) had broken her nose. She had a lot of congestion; when we got home we made an essential oil fusion and gave it to her at ward prayer. My brother came back from running this morning and asked what he could use on sore muscles. I mixed another fusion, he rubbed it on, and he didn't mention his soreness again.

My ability to mix an essential oil fusion that could potentially help someone didn't come overnight. Every spare moment for the past few weeks I've spent reading scientific literature, medical articles, websites, and everything else published on essential oils and their constituents. Clinical Aromatherapy by Jane Buckle. Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt. Hundreds of medical articles testing chemical constituents in petri dishes, then on rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, and people. Organic chemistry texts that explain the differences between and classify terpenes, phenols, ketones, aldehydes, alcohols, and oxides. I've learned about oil safety, useful applications, and run into a whole lot of pseudoscience.

My experience this week has felt akin to learning the principles of the gospel as a new convert. I know this may seem like a stretch, but it feels that way to me. When I first learned about aromatherapy, I was beyond skeptical. It looked, sounded, and smelled like something absolutely crazy... and, perhaps most of all, I wasn't comfortable with it because I didn't understand it. Many of the people I taught in the mission field felt the same way about the gospel – it was simply incomprehensible. When they saw its blessings in my life, they wanted to understand it, but it was like standing, thirsty, at the edge of a lake of knowledge with a straw. Where do you start? In the gospel and in aromatherapy, there are hundreds of basic principles. You could spend your life studying essential oil chemistry; many of us will spend our lives studying the gospel. The wealth of knowledge is staggering, and sorting it out into meaningful parts is tough no matter who you are. Each oil claimed to be useful for a hundred seemingly contradictory things... just as each gospel principle can apply to a number of different situations – if you know how to find and apply them. Applying the principles of the gospel into your life takes time, study, effort, and prayer. Learning anything else follows the same steps. An example: I remember meeting a family that had lost a family member on my mission – they were grieving and believed that they would never see their loved one again. We could have read any of a number of scriptures, but, in that situation, it makes sense to read about life after death, the Resurrection, and the importance of enduring to the end. But if I hadn't studied the Book of Mormon, if I weren't conversant in those terms, and if I couldn't find the applicable scriptures, then I wouldn't be able to use them for my benefit. In the same way, I learned about the potentially calming effects of monoterpene aldehydes, read medical articles comparing their strength, and then made a choice as to which ones to diffuse for my brother.

Each of us faces problems in mortality. And while essential oils, medications, and other interventions may be effective in physical, psychological, or emotional issues, the principles of the gospel are the only real solutions to spiritual trials and spiritual pain (and everything, in reality, is spiritual in nature). But principles of the gospel can't be easily applied without prior knowledge. It takes time, study, effort, and prayer to know how to best approach every situation. Without that knowledge, bringing up certain doctrines may make some situations temporarily worse. With that knowledge, we know that we have an answer that will bless the lives of others and bring them peace and joy.

I know that God is our Father. I know that Jesus is the Christ. And I know that as we seek to learn the principles of the gospel, the Lord will open up doors for us to bless the lives of others. I spent a few days reading about the bactericidal effects of essential oils on staph and MRSA – an antibiotic-resistant strain often called 'hospital staph.' Within days, my brother was diagnosed with staph and a good friend, who has gotten staph almost every time she goes to the hospital, underwent emergency surgery. You learn a principle of the gospel in the morning and that afternoon the Lord may prompt you to apply it to bless your life or the life of another of His children. My invitation to you is to spend time to learn more at the hand of the Lord. Read the scriptures. Pray. Read medical articles if you are so inclined. As you gain more knowledge, you make it possible for the Lord to use you to bless the lives of others in countless ways. I mean – that's what we do at the MTC, right? We teach missionaries the gospel, give them good study habits, instruct them in basic teaching skills, and then send them out into the world to be an influence for good. Go out and be missionaries!

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