The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people."The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword" - Marvin J. Ashton (April 1992 General Conference)
What more can I say?
(I) talk of Christ . . . and (I) write according to (my understanding), that (my) children (and friends) may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26)
The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people."The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword" - Marvin J. Ashton (April 1992 General Conference)
I was struck by something years ago about women actually "passing" the sacrament. I have a wife and four daughters, I am gone many Sundays, my oldest son has been in college for the past two years and my second boy often is administering the sacrament, so on our pew each Sunday the sacrament is passed by women more than by men - and often exclusively.
There are two aspects that get melded together because of our imprecise terminology. It requires the Priesthood to "administer" the ordinance of the sacrament; it does not require the Priesthood to "pass" the sacrament. We use "pass" to describe what the deacons do, but, in reality, they are assisting the Priests in the "administration" of the sacrament. The Priesthood "hallows" or "sanctifies" and oversees the ordinance (grounds the practice in divine authority), but all are allowed to participate in the process of receiving AND giving - even young children, who are the only one's inherently "worthy" to represent the sinless one.
The key, in my opinion, is not who "passes" the sacrament to each and every member, but rather who "administers" the ordinance - who "oversees" the distribution to the body of believers. That administration can take any number of forms, including our current method of involving the women, girls and children in passing the sacrament.
I have been thinking a lot lately about conversion, and I have come to realize that a true and full conversion includes the whole soul - both body and spirit. If someone is not converted spiritually AND socially, that conversion is not complete. Joseph Smith preached community/kingdom building far more than "personal" salvation. In other words, a full conversion is spiritually (individually) to the Gospel and physically (socially, collectively) to the Church - carrying a personal understanding of the theology and doctrines, but literally losing social individuality within the greater unity of the Body of Christ.
In this light, I think ordinances strengthen both aspects of full conversion - the individual and the communal, the spiritual and the physical. They teach and reinforce the Gospel, usually in symbolic ways that can bring continued understanding of Gospel nuances, but they also tighten communal bonds as they are shared - as our eyes behold others participating with us. Lastly, they provide an actual, tangible experience that I believe becomes embedded into the very archives of our soul. That last point is as true of the sacrament (renewed baptism) as it is of the temple.
I have not experienced a “dark night of the soul”. I have never awakened one morning feeling lost and abandoned, questioning everything of which I once was sure. I have wondered occasionally about that - about why it seemed to have “clicked” so completely for me at such a young age.
1) I read the Book of Mormon for the first time in First Grade as part of a reading project at school. (I chose to read it; everyone else was reading Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears, etc.) By the age of seven, I had read the Book of Mormon and fallen in love with the way it made me feel - not primarily the doctrine in it, per se, but the way it opened my mind and heart to some incredible feelings and impressions. I am not a “visual learner”, and I don’t “see” what I read in the classic sense of being able to envision it in colorful detail. I “got” the words, but more importantly I “got” the “speaking from the dust” aspect - and that was more important than the words for me. (Not long thereafter, I read the New Testament and had the same type of experience.)
More importantly, I recognized places where it DIDN’T say what others believed it said. Even at that age, I was a parser - and I remember thinking that lots of people in my life, including many adults and leaders (and even former prophets and apostles) whom I respected and admired and revered, didn’t really understand some of the things I was reading in the way that they actually were written. I read passages and thought, “I can understand why people think it says ________________, but it just doesn’t say that.”
That was a foundational recognition for me - that faithful people at all levels in the Church could read the same words and understand them differently.
2) Growing up, I remember distinctly the words and example of my father. He taught me so many lessons, but the ones that came back to me as I read Andrew’s post were the ones that dealt with certainty - the ones that taught me what I could and couldn’t know. My dad is not a philosopher; he hated school and struggled there; in many ways, he is average Joe Mormon; he was and is, however, incredibly insightful and brilliant in his own way. Looking back, I have come to realize that he is the closest example of Christ-like, selfless service I have ever known. Many of my strongest “understandings” of the Gospel were shaped by what he said and how he lived, particularly when it comes to the issue of certainty and doubt.
I have no idea how many times I heard him say, “I don’t know if I believe that”, or, “That sounds good, but we just don’t know for sure,” or, “I’m not sure that’s how I see it,” etc.
3) As early as I can remember, I have understood the Gospel to be the core, fundamental, foundational principles of God. I also have understood that everything else is just details. I have understood that there can be certainty in the ideal - in the ultimate end - in the foundation principles, but I also have understood that everything we see and believe and extrapolate and conjecture and assume is subject to “further light and knowledge” - that even with more light and knowledge, we still will see through our glasses, darkly.
My eiphany is that I am comfortable living in my own “dark night” that is similar in practical result as other’s (one that is not cut off from God but simply cut off from certainty about the details) but that came about quite differently than it does for most. I have lived there for as long as I can remember. I have never believed in the certainty that many describe prior to their own dark nights, so I have never felt abandoned by its loss. My “dark night” appears “light” to me, because I don't remember a time when I believed I saw things clearly and completely. I just see them as clearly as I am capable of seeing them - which I understand and accept as “darkly”. I have never been shaken by doubt of detail or radical change in doctrine or policy, because my testimony has never been founded on certainty of detail or doctrine or policy. There are things I feel completely comfortable saying I “know” for myself, but I have never felt like anyone else had to “know” anything with certainty to enjoy the fruits of the Restoration.
I see my own understanding in I Cor. 13:9-13. In full text, it reads:
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
I believe I know in part, and I believe our prophets prophecy in part. I believe that will change someday, but I have no idea when that will be. There was a time, prior to my first reading of the Book of Mormon, when I thought as a child - that everything was black and white and I could know it all; I put away that belief at a very early age. I believe I see through my own glass, darkly and, therefore, only in part; I believe someday I will know fully.
Verse 8 is the bridge between the characteristics of charity and the outlook charity provides. It says:
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
Given this perspective, I live now with faith and hope that I will understand and know more fully on an on-going basis as my future unfolds. The greatest thing I can do in the here and now, however, is to be charitable - to obtain the characteristics in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 and allow them to grow within me and change me into the type of person who can accept wherever I and others are in our own individual spiritual maturation processes.
I believe firmly and deeply in the PRINCIPLES of ongoing-revelation and charity exercised in how I must view others - that what I believe now differs from what I believed as a youth and young adult - that what I believe now differs from what I will believe in the future - that what I believe now differs from what others believe now. I believe that this charity God gave me as a youth will not fail me, even as prophecies and tongues and knowledge fail all around me.
In my youth, this was an unconsciously proactive embrace of the core concept embedded in the dark night; in my adulthood, it is a light shining in darkness. I like to think of it as the long-extended bright night of my soul.
The growth of the Church stems from the strength and depth of the testimonies gained and developed by the membership prior to and following baptism. That is a given. However, frankly, I think the Church blossoms in direct proportion to how well regular members and local leaders understand the concept of friendship and fellowship - since I think that is the essence of what Jesus taught and lived. Yes, He taught ideals that often were even stricter than the original 10 Commandments, but He also put His arms around anyone who would open up to them - living among saints and sinners alike and, particularly, embracing those whom no others would embrace.
I wonder sometimes, "Who are the lepers in our modern society - or even in the Church? Who is the women taken in adultery? Who are the untouchables Jesus would have touched - the unembraceable ones Jesus would have embraced?" I then wonder, "Am I touching and embracing them in any significant way?"
Mormons hate gays.
Anyone who voted for Prop. 8 is a bigot.
Remember, we are talking about people who literally do not want homosexuals to exist!
Satan is behind the opposition to Prop. 8.
All Mormons who didn't contribute to the campaign and/or voted against Prop. 8 (no matter if they said anything publicly) don't accept the prophets and should lose their temple recommends.
Gays are out to recruit my kids to be gay. It's not about them; it's about converting straight kids to become gays.
Judge not, that ye be not judged.1 Corinthians 13 speaks of this type of charity and forbearance, with verse 12 being an especially powerful summary of the difficulty in understanding others enough to not revile them - particularly a phrase that generally is overlooked as spoken by a prophet:
For now we see through a glass, darkly . . . now I know in partRecognizing that we don't see and understand fully - and developing the humility and charity necessary to cut others some slack, not judge them and accept what they say as honest and sincere (even while disagreeing ) - is critical to avoiding reviling. Similarly necessary is the meekness to not need to "win" every discussion - and not see everything as a battle between us and an "enemy". Sometimes - I would say often - it is fine simply to agree to disagree and move forward in love and mutual respect. In order to do so, however, we must see others as our equals in the eyes of God - and that is not an easy thing to accomplish. It does not come naturally. Rather, it must be a conscious decision and constant effort.
There is a difference between "murmuring" and "complaining" - and the difference is fascinating and counter-intuitive, but extremely important. (Murmer: to mumble or express privately an expression of discontent. Complain: to tell of one's pains, ailments) We are commanded not to murmur, imo, specifically because such pronouncements are done in a way that breeds discontent. (Think of someone slipping secretively among a group making soft comments to stir up anger or dissent.) However, in a very real sense, part of our prayers is supposed to be focused on our pains and ailments - asking for help dealing with and/or overcoming them. If we don't "complain" in that sense, we aren't acknowledging the atonement by trying to get help with our problems.
Look at D&C 121 and 122. If Joseph Smith hadn't complained, he (and we) might not have gotten one of the most beautiful reassurances in all of recorded scripture. We are commanded to endure to the end (and to endure well), but I can't think of a single instance when we are commanded to suffer in silence - except when it is to abstain from a public display of suffering, intended merely to highlight our suffering for public adulation.The same is true of repentance. It is totally dependent on recognizing our weaknesses and mistakes and transgressions and sins and, literally, complaining to the Lord about them. Of course, we should not complain to someone who cannot alleviate our pain (like to a mechanic about our blood pressure or a reporter about an internal family matter), but we must complain to the proper person to see any problem fixed. It's the attitude (complaining in humility) and the focus (complaining to the right person) that are critical.
"I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent - if you are informed.
Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ‘From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth - O God of truth deliver us’.”
(Hugh B Brown. Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958)
This past week, I have seen much of courage and zest, but I have seen much less of modesty.
I look at the resolution I made at the beginning of the year, and it strikes me once again how totally and thoroughly my Father in Heaven knows me.
I am focusing this month partly on not reviling those who revile me (personally or as part of a group) - and I never imagined when I made this resolution last December that many would be openly reviling me this month, simply because I am Mormon. However, that is exactly what is happening in
The most ironic aspect of this week is that I also faced reviling from others (including some church members) due to my vote for President-Elect Obama. A few of them even questioned how I could hold a temple recommend because of my vote. I can't even begin to describe how disturbing that is to me, to have my spiritual worthiness impugned because of a political decision that is seen as too "liberal" by some members of the Church.
Due to my views on these two issues, I was reviled by others as being both too conservative and too liberal. Irony, thy name is politics.
This post is not about Proposition 8 fundamentally, or even about the issue of gay marriage - or about the Presidential election; rather, it is about the irony and awfulness of outrage and reviling.
As I said in my post last Saturday, "to revile" is ""to address or abuse with contemptuous language". As I read comments on theads about Prop 8 and the election this week, and particularly when I watched the protest (and near riot) outside the Los Angeles temple grounds something struck me - HARD.
There were some members who said some truly terrible things - who reviled homosexuals and those who supported gay marriage. They were a small minority, but they existed. That is truly and deeply disturbing to me. The Church, however, urged calmness and compassion and love and acceptance of people even while asking for opposition to what those people believed. Of course, that is a difficult distinction to make for those who don't accept the Church's basic, foundational understanding of the Law of Chastity, but the Church itself never issued hate-inspired statements.
What struck me was that the protestors at the Los Angeles temple had succumbed to the natural tendency to construct a straw man as a target for their outrage - and their reviling. (I say "straw man" intentionally, since the Mormon vote was only a minority of the vote. Perhaps it was the most visible and became the public face for many, but those who voted for the proposition came from many backgrounds and religious denominations - many.) The protesters created a monolithic Mormon caricature and directed their anger at that symbolic target - embodied in our temple. What struck me most forcefully, however, is that as a result of their inability to avoid reviling, these people were acting exactly like the caricature they had created. They were "haters" in every sense of the word - FAR more so than the people and the organization they were protesting. It took police officers deployed on the grounds to stop a riot, something that was not an issue from those they labeled "haters".
I have never understood the admonition, "Revile not," more than I have this week. When I made this resolution, I understood that reviling stands in opposition to love and the pursuit of perfection, but even last week I did not understand how completely and overwhelmingly opposed to the Plan of Salvation succumbing to reviling truly is.
I don't want to become like the protesters I saw this week. I don't want my life to be consumed by hate, especially hate that is directed largely at a caricature. I don't want to fill my heart with hatred and anger toward an entire group of people simply because I disagree with their moral and political views - no matter how repugnant I find those views. Most of all, with all my heart, I do not want to become the mirror image of the caricature I am protesting.
I do not write this post in an attitude of reviling. I write it hoping somehow that those who are now in the gall of bitterness and anger and even hate (ON BOTH SIDES) will recognize the destructiveness of that path, examine the result of continued reviling and commit to follow the Savior's admonition (no matter their moral and political beliefs) in Matthew 5:44-47 to:
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
I have come to believe that the only way to rise above the natural tendency to revile and hate is found in the verse I quoted in my post on Wednesday (1 John 4:19):
We love him, because he first loved us.
May we first love those who revile us.
There is a very specific purpose for each meeting we attend on Sunday (Sac Mtg = communal worship and spiritual renewal; Sun School = doctrinal study; PH/RS/YM/YW = personal and communal growth and service, practical discussion, organizational planning; Primary = too many to list and truly the most challenging, exhilarating, frustrating and exhausting), and even when I'm not learning anything new in a meeting I feel a responsibility to listen intently, observe those around me and try to help them learn from that meeting in whatever way is possible. Sometimes that is by verbal contribution; sometimes it is by smiling at a speaker; sometimes it is by nothing more than a reverential focus.
I have found that I can GROW in almost any meeting I attend, as long as I'm not hung up on having to LEARN intellectually during the meeting - and sometimes I learn amazing things from a meeting or someone in that meeting when I might otherwise think they and it can't teach me anything new.
I have found in my life that my attitude is MUCH more important to what I get out of church meetings than what is said in those meetings. It really isn't even close.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Give more freely and do not revile as quickly.