Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Religion, Theology and Faith are Very Different Things

The ideal is to be self-sufficient - but groups are organized to deal with those who are not self-sufficient. I believe the following is vital to understand:

Religions, by their very nature as organizations, are designed to focus on helping the non-self-sufficient.

Thus, as individuals become more self-sufficient, they lose more and more their former need for the group that cared for them prior to their emerging self-sufficiency. Their only "need" is if they transfer that former need and help others become self-sufficient, also - if they trade places with those who helped them become self-sufficient and help others become what they've become. Otherwise, the group loses its former potency and benefit and becomes something that limits and restricts, instead.

How do I deal with that?

I separate "religion" from "theology" and "faith".

I attend a religion to be a help to those who once helped me (and still help me, in many ways), and I move "theology" and "faith" into my own, individual sphere.

I attend a religion (in which I "belong"); I construct a theology (that engages my mind and heart - my "whole soul"); I practice my faith (that looks forward to the ultimate end I desire).

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Talk Last Sunday: Testimony and Conversion

Here is the outline of my talk last Sunday.

I added my commentary to each numbered element.  If you have any questions about any element, let me know.


Testimony and Conversion 

1) "Testimony" means "witness" - which means something seen or experienced, felt or believed, certain or hoped. It does NOT mean "known intellectually". (Use court room example, then examples of spiritual witnesses: in church, in nature, in the temple, burning in the bosom, great peace or calm or love, sudden clarity, stroke of pure intelligence, etc.) Some people never have experiences they feel comfortable saying they can accept as proof of things others feel they know. Given this disparity of experience, I love the following verses:

2) D&C 46: 13-14

"To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful."

"The CofJCofLDS is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the church whose testimonies are sure and burn brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of their testimonies. I know of no sign on the door of our meeting houses that says, "Your testimony must be this tall to enter." - Pres. Uchtdorf, October 2014 General Conference (Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth)

Brothers and sisters, how true that is here in our ward depends on us and how completely we accept it.

3) James 1:22

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only."

"In contrast to the organizations of the world, which teach us to know something, the Gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something." - Elder Oaks, October 2000 General Conference (The Challenge to Become)

4) "I Am a Child of God" - The wording was changed from, "Teach me all that I must know," to, "Teach me all that I must do." I would love to see it changed once more, this time to, "Teach me all that I must BE."  (A friend suggested, "Teach me all that I CAN be."  I love that suggestion.)

5) "Conversion" means "change" - as does "repent". Thus, one repents (acts / does) in order to become converted (be). In other words, one changes in order to become changed - or to be born and raised and grown up again - or to become a new creature in Christ - or to become Christ-like.

6) Discuss reactive repentance and proactive repentance. (For reference here, the following is a lesson outline from my Sunday School class last summer that dealt with reactive and proactive repentance:

Repentance: A Deeper, Fresh View

In conclusion:

"Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair." - Gilbert Chesterton 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dealing with Other People's Expectations

I have reached the point in my life where others' expectations just don't concern me much anymore.

At the most basic level, I care only about my own expectations of myself (and I have to evaluate even those on a regular basis, to make sure I'm not being too hard on myself or too lazy), what my wife expects of me (since she is half of my own whole) and what I perceive to be God's expectations of me - but, since I am more of a grace / Atonement kid of guy than a strict obedience / damnation kind of guy, I don't tend to worry as much as some people do.

Planning is important; anticipation of possibilities is important; worry is harmful; unrealistic expectations can be damaging and even damning.

I've come to accept that my best effort is all I can give, so that's all that I can expect myself to give - and that means, sometimes, letting go of something or even taking a nap to revitalize is all I can give.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Judging Others Who Think and Act Differently than We Do

People tend to think God thinks the same way they think or, at least, approves of the way they think (no matter how they think and no matter their religious affiliation) - even with the clear statement:

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:8-9) 

That, alone, ought to give us pause and allow charity and grace more room in our hearts and minds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No Way in Hell: The Beauty and Power of Temple Theology

One of the core aspects of my testimony is that "God" is a father and mother who flat-out, no-way-in-Hell are going to condemn any of their children to roast forever just because they didn't place them in a situation where they would know of them and Jesus in this life. That would be sadistic to the highest degree, and I simply don't believe in that kind of God.

If there really is a God, and especially if there really are Heavenly Parents, the Mormon concept of all-encompassing grace and vicarious temple ordinances is an amazing concept - and it is powerful even if it only is figurative. I choose to take it literally because it fills, touches and enlarges my heart in a way I like - and it just feels good and true.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Do Things because I Want to Do Things, for Whatever Reasons Make Sense to Me

I follow the rules / keep the commandments according to the dictates of my own conscience and for my own, personal reasons.

For example:

I do not pay tithing as fire insurance or as a measure / token of righteousness; I pay it to help fund the Church.

I do not attend church to be blessed in the next life; I attend church to be blessed (sometimes) and to bless others (always).

I do not attend the temple to hold any particular calling or to get to the Celestial Kingdom; I attend the temple to commune with God in a quiet, reverent place and to remember to seal my heart to all of God's children.

I do not wear the garment for physical protection (or, really, even for spiritual protection); I wear it to remind myself of my relationship to God and because I love the symbols they include - and, frankly, because I've worn it so long it's a habit.

I could go on and on, but the point is that I do things because I want to do things - for whatever reasons make sense to me. I really don't care if others agree with my reasons; I care that others find reasons that make sense for them - for whatever they do, even if their actions are different than mine.

If I ask others to respect my right to make my own decisions, and to be accountable for my own choices, I simply must "allow them the same privilege", regardless of whether or not I agree with the choices they make. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Faith Crisis and Rediscovery: When Clarity Disappears and Unexpected Murkiness Surrounds

In a discussion once about Pres. Hinckley's statement that everything will work out in the end, someone said the following: 

“The worst that can happen is you die.”

Actually, in extreme situations, the worst that can happen is you live.

I love President Hinckley, and I think I understand and agree, ultimately, with what he was saying, but I also understand that much of what we believe we believe from a position of relative luxury and grace. Our theology encompasses the extremes, but (the collective) we seldom experiences those extremes – so we speak in platitudes that fit our non-extreme lives.

Often, those platitudes hurt people at or near the extremes, and, often, we can’t fathom why. Thus, faith trials and crises often arise when our general platitudes smack up against unexpected life and lose. Re-evaluating things we took for granted can be difficult – and, often, the most difficult situations are those where the former assumptions were believed the most passionately and deeply.

When clarity disappears and unexpected murkiness surrounds, faith is necessary – and, sometimes, it’s not so much losing faith as losing previous sight and having to discover pure faith (hope in the unseen) for the first time.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Participating in the Mundane Enough to Experience the Miraculous

Two years ago, the Sunday School manual focused on the teachings of Pres. Lorenzo Snow.  In one of the lessons, an experience was shared about Pres. Snow raising a child from the dead.  In a subsequent conversation about that story,  someone asked what our expectations of our leaders and ourselves ought to be with regard to the miraculous.

I have participated in hundreds of blessings over the course of my years in the Church. Most have been nice but forgettable; a few have been somewhat revelatory; a handful have been . . . powerfully connective to the divine.

My expectation of leaders and myself boils down to a willingness to put ourselves in enough situations where the revelatory and powerfully connective might happen, even though my experiences teach me that most of the time it will be nice but forgettable - that we will be there when God needs to reach down in a miraculous fashion and, figuratively, show us his hand.

My takeaway from the lesson is that Pres. Snow did that – participated enough in the mundane that he was there for the miraculous.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Two Hilarious Jokes about Men & Women

The first "cup" in hockey was used in 1874. The first helmet was used in 1974.

This means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brains are important, too. 

If a woman is upset, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is.

If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her.