Friday, January 13, 2017

The Restoration Is On-Going, and We Can Be Restorers or Destroyers

According to Jacob 5, the tree will continue to be pruned right up until the end - and I see that as a pruning of incorrect traditions and misunderstandings, not as a pruning of people. It doesn't make sense to me, in the actual context of the allegory, to make it about people. Therefore, anyone who assists in proper pruning, undertaken at a pace and in a way that doesn't damage the root, is part of the Restoration, in my opinion.

Pruning to maximize production can be tricky, as anyone who has lived in orchard country knows (or even in application to business organizations), so it generally can't be done through radical surgery or, often, by removing every bit of infection all at once. "Here a little, there a little" works far better in many cases. There have been a few times in Church history when radical surgery was necessary (ending polygamy and the Priesthood ban, for example), but there was extensive collateral damage, as well. It was necessary, but risk management includes minimizing damage and maximizing recovery - not just eliminating infection.

That is a long-winded way of saying I believe many who agitate, to varying degrees, are part of the Restoration - while others (those who insist on too radical changes too quickly) are part of the Destruction. I can't always know exactly where that line lies, so I tend to err on the side of allowance and care - but if I believe someone is firmly over the line, I don't mind the pruning shears being taken away from them. Above all else, I believe in pruning my own tree to the best of my ability and not insisting on pruning others' trees for them or being in charge of the overall pruning of the orchard.

I'll express my views to the directors and managers of the orchard, but I won't try to grab their shears and start pruning for them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We Must Be Open to People Outside Our Usual Circle of Friends

In this Church our wards and our quorums do not belong to us. They belong to Jesus Christ. Whoever enters our meetinghouses should feel at home. The responsibility to welcome everyone has growing importance. The world in which we live is going through a period of great upheaval. Because of the increased availability of transportation, speed of communication, and globalization of economies, the earth is becoming one large village where people and nations meet, connect, and intermingle like never before.

These vast, worldwide changes serve the designs of Almighty God. The gathering of His elect from the four corners of the earth is taking place not only by sending missionaries to faraway countries but also with the arrival of people from other areas into our own cities and neighborhoods. Many, without knowing it, are being led by the Lord to places where they can hear the gospel and come into His fold.

It is very likely that the next person converted to the gospel in your ward will be someone who does not come from your usual circle of friends and acquaintances. You may note this by his or her appearance, language, manner of dress, or color of skin. This person may have grown up in another religion, with a different background or a different lifestyle.
So, my brothers, it is your duty to reach out to anyone who appears at the doors of your Church buildings. Welcome them with gratitude and without prejudice. If people you do not know walk into one of your meetings, greet them warmly and invite them to sit with you. Please make the first move to help them feel welcome and loved, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

After your initial welcome, consider ways you can continue to minister to them. I once heard of a ward where, after the baptism of two deaf sisters, two marvelous Relief Society sisters decided to learn sign language so they could better communicate with these new converts. What a wonderful example of love for fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel!

I bear witness that no one is a stranger to our Heavenly Father. There is no one whose soul is not precious to Him. With Peter, I testify that “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
- Gérald Caussé, "Ye Are No More Strangers", October 2013 General Conference

Friday, January 6, 2017

Some Excellent, Practical Advice to Help Us Find Peace

I almost never share things here that I find being forwarded on Facebook or other similar sites, but I came across this one today and want to share it with everyone here:

1. Make peace with your past, so it won't screw up your present. 

2. What others think of you is none of your business.

3. Time heals almost everything, so give it time.

4. Don't compare your life to others, and don't judge them. You have no idea what their lives are all about.

5. Stop thinking too much; it's okay not to know all the answers. Many of them will come to you when you least expect it.

6. No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.

7. Smile. You don't own all the problems in the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The LDS Church Also Evolves in Its Understanding and Its Recognition of Past Mistakes

"Seventy years ago this Church was organized with six members. We commenced, so to speak, as an infant. We had our prejudices to combat. Our ignorance troubled us in regard to what the Lord intended to do and what He wanted us to do … We advanced to boyhood, and still we undoubtedly made some mistakes, which … generally arise from a …lack of experience. We understand very well, when we reflect back upon our own lives, that we did many foolish things when we were boys … Yet as we advanced, the experience of the past materially assisted us to avoid such mistakes as we had made in our boyhood. It has been so with the Church. Our errors have generally arisen from a lack of comprehending what the Lord required of us to do. But now we are pretty well along to manhood … When we examine ourselves, however, we discover that we are still not doing exactly as we ought to do, notwithstanding all our experience. We discern that there are things which we fail to do that the Lord expects us to perform, some of which He requires us to do in our boyhood. … While we congratulate ourselves in this direction, we certainly ought to feel that we have not yet arrived at perfection. There are many things for us to do yet.” 
- Lorenzo Snow, General Conference, April 1900

Friday, December 30, 2016

Why Is the Gospel Sometimes So Hard to Find?

A friend of mine who has struggled mightily to figure out what the Gospel means to him asked the title question a few years ago, and I have thought about it occasionally since then. I have tried to come up with as concise an answer as possible, and the following is my current response:

Because we, as humans, tend to build hedges about it - often in our deep need for safety and security.

Walking the pure Gospel line can be dangerous, in real ways, so we tend to gravitate away from that danger and substitute the pure Gospel for a safer model - a good rather than a best, if you will. In practical terms, we become modern versions of the ancient Israelites - but we don't recognize that similarity, given all of our differences with them.

Also, as another friend once said, maybe it's because we each have to find it for ourselves.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Partnership Is More Important than Rigid Roles

“The Church has nothing to fear from the strength of women. On the contrary, it desperately needs women--and men, too--who are not trapped in dysfunctional roles that involve playing out scripts that don’t really work. Partnership is a mutually supportive relationship that recognizes and honors both the differences and similarities between men and women, that draws deeply on the strengths of both, that focuses on working toward mutually decided goals, and that celebrates the contributions of both in the home, in the community, and in the church and kingdom of God. Help both men and women to work for partnership and to move away from the limitations of rigid roles.” 

- Chieko Okazaki, "Boundaries", p. 16

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Danger of Living in the Past: A Principle for Personal Consideration

I was watching a TV show with one of my daughters a while ago, and the following was a line that I want to share. It has a lot of applications to faith (too many to try to list here), and it highlights one aspect of my own philosophy that is important to me:

When you live in the past, you lose the present.

It's not easy - not at all - to let go of many aspects of the past (and the bitterness that accompanies some of those aspects), since they contributed to the present in real and tangible ways - and it's not healthy to let go of the past in lots of ways, but it's really important not to live in or obsess about the past (whether that is one's own past or a communal past). All we have is the present, and the only healthy objective is to make the best on-going present possible. Living in the past is perhaps the best way to not allow that to happen - to limit in a very real way the growth that is possible by letting go of the past.

Again, this is applicable to lots of aspects of life, and I am not going to try to make a list. How it applies will vary from person to person, so, as the title says, this simply is something to consider.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It Is Important to Be Interested in Many Things - and to Understand Many Perspectives

"Suppose one man likes strawberries and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof either that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good, to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live. What is true in this trivial instance is equally true in more important matters. ...

The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another. Life is too short to be interested in everything, but it is good to be interested in as many things as are necessary to fill our days." 
- Bertrand Russell

I think this is true of perspectives, as well. Understanding the same thing in as many ways as possible does the same thing as being interested in as many things as possible.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Samaritans in Our Lives: Some Might Be Surprising

I gave a talk in a ward years ago about charity in which I asked the congregation to consider, very seriously, what their first reaction would be, internally, if they were in the middle of the administration of the sacrament and any of the following people walked into the chapel:

- a drunk man, reeking of alcohol and cigarette smoke
- a teenage girl with multiple tattoos and body piercings, wearing a mini skirt, tank top, fishnet stocking and combat boots
- two adult men holding hands and obviously a couple

I told them that they could understand their level of charity through that simple reaction as much as perhaps through any other way - and I told them that I hoped, eventually, every one of them would react immediately by thinking, "Thank God they found us," and by standing up and asking the person or couple to sit next to them for the rest of the meeting.

Yes, we have Samaritans, publicans, sinners and lepers in our lives, and we ought to think long and hard about who they are.

Maybe, for some people who are different than the stereotypical norm and/or who are struggling in some way with their faith, those "others" are the traditional, orthodox members in their lives; maybe, for some people who are the stereotypical, orthodox members who are rock solid in their faith, those "others" include active but different members in their lives.

That's worth considering, at least.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Ideal Is to Live in Your Own Best Way

“How . . . do we put the Savior first without putting down other people or their religions? We don’t have to insist on being right all the time. When my parents drank tea, I sat with them and drank hot water. Make compromises. Find ways to serve. Minimize the areas of conflict. Don’t retaliate. After all, you want your family to see that you’re a better, happier person as a result of belonging to the Church.

Be spiritually independent enough that your relationship with the Savior doesn't depend on your circumstances or on what other people say and do. Have the spiritual independence to be a Mormon--the best Mormon you can--in your own way. Not the bishop's way. Not the Relief Society president's way. Your way.” 

- Chieko Okazaki, "Lighten Up", p. 98-99