Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heavenly Kingdoms As Figurative Descriptions of Eternal Progression

I take the kingdom construct (Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial) figuratively as descriptions of the process of growth, so I absolutely believe in progression from "kingdom" to "kingdom" until each person reaches his or her own limit. I believe the final judgment happens only when that point is reached - and I think it happens long, long after we tend to believe. I take the classic breakdowns within the kingdoms to describe people in this life - and I think the general outlines in the D&C fit that time frame very well.

I believe God is WAY more charitable and powerful than we often envision - and I think he has eternity ("all eternity") to do what he wants to do. After all, "time is measured only unto man" (or however that quote is worded). Thus, I think we talk in terms that will motivate us here and now, but I think we see through a glass, darkly, when it comes to there and then.

Our theology is universalist in nature; our doctrine can't be as universalist if it is to motivate many people to act now. (opposition in all things means ALL things, even our theology and our doctrine) I get that tension, and I'm OK with it - even as I wish we could strike a balance that would work better for me and lots of others I know.

As to life without my loved ones, one of my favorite scenes from any movie is near the end of "What Dreams May Come" - where the husband thanks his wife for being the person he would rather be with forever in Hell than without in Heaven. It's a powerful message, and it's how I feel about my own wife - and children.

I can't imagine God feels differently, and I can't imagine he lacks the ability to make it all work out in the end. After all, charity is defined as the pure love of God - and it includes "long-suffering". I think we simply can't fathom what that term really means.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Is "The World" Getting Worse? We See from a Vantage Point of Relative Luxury

We often hear references in church talks to how the world is falling apart or declining, and those references often are included with "battle cries" that frame our interaction with "the world" in terms of conflict and war.  Frankly, I don't like how often those themes are stressed, even if they are valid in some cases, and I don't like warfare language in situations I don't see as legitimate, necessary conflicts.  

Yes, the world is worse than it has ever been - except in the cases where it's better; it's better than it has ever been - except in the cases where it's worse.

The difference, and especially the balance, generally is in the perspective of the observer.

Overall, I"m a glass half-full kind of person with regard to this topic.  I would FAR rather live in this day and age than at any other throughout history, especially given the relative luxury of living in the United States.  It's really easy to forget how good we have it, compared to the lives of the vast majority of people who have lived on this earth since its creation. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Grace and Charity: We Hurt Others As Much As Others Hurt Us

We are told that only God can judge our actions based on our understanding, our ability and the intent of our hearts, but that grand grace gets lost in translation at the individual level far too often.

We tend to be hardest in that regard (judging others) on those who are the closest to us, since we think we know them well enough to judge them righteously - and since our expectations are higher for them.

Think about it:

Whose lack of understanding hurts the most - and who is the most hurt by your differences with them?

I'm betting it's family, close friends and fellow congregants. It's easy to love someone, in theory and at the strictly intellectual or emotional level, if they are removed enough to not hurt you.

On the other hand, it's a lot easier to forgive someone for their view of you if you realize how hard it is for them to understand and accept your different views, beliefs and actions.

It's easy to focus on the hurt we feel and forget the hurt we cause others to feel.  I believe recognizing the hurt we inflict, usually unintentionally, is critical to obtaining true charity. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the End, What Really Matters?

When all is said and done, I believe what matters most is no more than that we search for and find peace and happiness, that we love and serve others and that we try to be the best people we can be on our life's journey.

We really can't know objectively about things outside our mortal vision (which varies from person to person), so, at the most fundamental level, all we are required to do is live according to the dictates of our own consciences, let us worship how, where or what we may.

The interesting thing is that, when you get to the heart of current Mormon theology (especially when you consider temple theology and vicarious work for the dead), the summary above is a pretty good one to describe the path to "perfection" (completeness, wholeness, full development) we call the Celestial Kingdom - and it's the heart of the Atonement within our theology. Our effort, limited though it is, is enough, through the grace of God and its limitless reach. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

If We Really Are Truly Christian, It Has to Start Here

Marlin K. Jensen, former Church Historian and member of the 70, held a Q&A session a few years ago with a group at Utah State University. He spoke of church leaders needing to provide an “atmosphere of safety and a welcoming place”. He went on to say:

“If we really are truly Christian, it has to start there. Being less judgmental. Being more open and welcoming and inclusive…so, if that environment can be created, and... it should be, but often in the church, when someone comes with a bit of a prickly question, he’ll be met with a bishop who number one, doesn’t know the answer. Number two, he snaps and says, ‘Get in line and don’t question the prophet, and get back and do your home teaching.’ And that isn’t helpful in most cases. So, we need to educate our leaders better, I think, to be sympathetic and empathetic and to draw out of these people where they are coming from and what’s brought them to the point they are at. What have they read, what their thinking is, and try to understand them. Sometimes that alone is enough to help someone through a hard time. But beyond that, I think we really need to figure out a way to live a little bit with people who may never get completely settled.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

God Bless the Humble Bishops of the World

We weren't there from the beginning, but our ward in the Boston area when I was in college was created from parts of three different wards. There were multiple ward-level leaders with the same previous callings in the new ward, as well as two serving Bishops. The ward drew from a poor area, a middle-class area and a relatively rich area - as well as a working-class, relatively uneducated population and a highly educated, consciously intellectual area. The first couple of years were rough.

The man who was called to be the Bishop after the first few years was one of the most humble, loving, gentle men I have ever known. By the time we left that ward, after six years, it was a very united, loving ward. It became an example of what the Church can be at the local level, despite tremendous odds.

God bless the good, humble Bishops in the Church.  They carry burdens that I would not wish on anyone, and they set the tone for the wards in which they serve. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

What Do You Love about Mormonism?

I have been asked the title question often, and the following are the first few things that jump to mind. I would love to get personal input about how anyone who reads this post would answer the question.

1) The core, base, foundational theology: "I am a child of God" is powerful and meaningful to me - because of the eternal growth / progression it teaches. "Becoming" is important to me - far more than traditional, verbal praising. I also LOVE that I can see the theology as far more universalist than many members believe.

2) The focus on strengthening families - even with the corresponding issues that focus can cause. I would like that focus to be expanded to focus on all families, regardless of their composition, but I like the focus.

3) The complexity: I love the fact that I have to think actively in order to build my own faith, but I'm wired that way. Conversely, I like the fact that so many others don't have to struggle actively to find a faith that resonates for them.

4) Generally speaking, the people: Mormons tend to be good, sincere people, and I like being around and with most of them.

5) The Church's welfare system: This one is personal to me, since I have been unemployed and helped more than once in my life.

There is more, but these are the ones that hit me first.