Tuesday, June 30, 2009
"That is the root reason for enduring to the end of trials and difficulties. If you don't endure to the end, you can't look back and understand your suffering."
Comment #11 & #12 by Angie Gardner and Me - Come Let Us Anew (Mormon Momma)
Monday, June 29, 2009
As a Primary, Sunday School and Seminary teacher in three different decades, I have taught literally hundreds of children and adolescents in the Church, and there is one constant for almost all of them. Almost without exception, they want to be taught an ideal that will help them be happy - either as happy as their own family example or happier than that example. That applies to BIC kids from traditional families just as much as kids from any other situation. Of course, we need to be sensitive, but we can't teach the ideal to some and a compromise to others - ironically, simply because those others haven't experienced the ideal.
This same issue applies just as much to YSA & SA members. How do you discuss the ideal family, when there is a significant percentage of adults in the congregation who are divorced, separated or never married (be they gay or straight)? How do you teach adults to honor parents who were abusive - especially if they were sexually abusive? How do you teach respect for Priesthood authority to adults whose fathers (active, inactive or non-member) exercised unrighteous dominion - or whose mothers were critical of all men? What about the women married to active men who don't feel loved and respected and valued - or are abused in some way themselves? How do you teach respect for modern prophets to a Black investigator who risked her life for equal civil rights and has a testimony of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon but has a hard time accepting pre-1978 church history?You do it by being open and empathetic and aware and sensitive - and direct and frank and bold and unyielding - and, most importantly, in tune with the Spirit. You teach the ideal but recognize and acknowledge and don't trivialize the less than ideal. There is no collective magic bullet for all; there only is a caring heart and open mind and spirit for each individual. At least, that's my experience.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Mormon Matters will be hosting this event to highlight your favorite 2008 Mormon blogs and posts, and we'll be back again in 2009 to do the same. We are pleased to announce our collaboration with Ziff of Zelophehad's Daughters, the mighty numbers cruncher, who will handle results presentation at the end of this event.
We'd love to have your help in publicizing this event! Please announce it on your blog, facebook, message boards, or other sites!!
The following are the Niblets categories for 2008. You can make nominations by going to http://mormonmatters.org after Sunday, June 27.
Best big blog:
Best group blog:
Best solo blog:
Best new blog: (must have put up its first post in 2008)
Best blog layout/graphics:
Most memorable comment: (please include link)
Best overall blogger:
Best humorous post: (please include link)
Best historical post: (please include link)
Best spiritual post: (please include link)
Best doctrinal post: (please include link)
Best current events post: (please include link)
Most blatant example of navel-gazing: (please include link)
Best contribution to the Bloggernacle in 2008:
Thank you for your participation!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
As I contemplated this issue throughout the month, something hit me that is elementary - so basic that I couldn't believe I hadn't had that epiphany much, much earlier. It is something I have taught my children and students for years, and it is something I have preached as a core, foundational study technique for as long as I can remember. Somehow, with regard to this particular passage, I have failed totally to incorporate this simple mechanism - and that is embarrassing to me. Greater than the embarrassment, however, is a sense of gratitude that the Lord would gently whisper to me somthing that deserved a good roundhouse kick in the head.
The principle I have taught is nothing more profound than the following:
If the meaning of somthing is not clear immediately, or if there is something that simply seems "off" or wrong about a common niterpretation, I stress two things:
1) Parse the words themselves totally devoid of context, simply to understand the possible meanings.
2) Look at the context in order to narrow down the possible meanings to the most logical or plausible one(s) - often reaching the conclusion that there really is only one reasonable interpretation or meaning.
Frankly, when Matthew 7:7-8 is parsed without context, the beliefs I can't accept are the most apparent interpretations. They are worded in a very straightforward, unambiguous manner and appear to leave little room for interpretation. However, when the overall context (The Sermon on the Mount) is considered - and especially when the immediately surrounding verses are scrutinized - the straightforward conclusion is shattered totally, and a new understanding emerges.
To illustrate this, I am going to summarize and excerpt from the entire sermon, quoting only those verses or statements that influence directly Matthew 7:7-8 - then I will re-interpret those two verses in light of the overall message Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5 = Blessed are those who possess (obtain) certain godly characteristics; there used to be a standard (from which some specific examples are given), but now another standard is in place (from which the counterpoints to the examples are given); through acquiring these characteristics and acting in this manner, become perfected (whole, complete, fully developed).
Matthew 6 = Don't be hypocritical; tackle the process outlined in Matthew 5 as a personal quest, not as a public endeavor; you can't serve two masters - heaven and the world; therefore, choose to serve heaven.
Matthew 6:33 = "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 7:1-5 = Don't judge others' journeys along the process outlined in Matthew 5; you will be judged in the same manner you judge others.
Matthew 7:6 = Treat sacred things with great respect and care.
Matthew 7:7-8 = Those who dedicate themselves to this process (acquiring godly characteristics, living the new standards of interpersonal relationships, avoiding hypocrisy, choosing to serve God, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, not judging others in their journeys and treating sacred things as sacred) will receive those things for which they ask (since they will ask only for God's will to be done - or for that which is proper), find what they seek (since they will be seeking internal godliness and interpersonal peace and fulfillment) and have heaven's doors opened unto them.
Matthew 7:9-12 = Those who reach this state will treat others as God treats them - as they want to be treated - in a godly manner.
Matthew 7:13-27 = This way to godliness is strict and there are many imitations. Follow the proper path and beware of false paths and guides.
Notice that the promise of Matthew 7:7-8 is at the tail end of the "path to perfection" - the ultimate result of that effort - a re-statement of the conclusion of Matthew 5 ("Be ye therefore perfect.") as a practical statement of what happens in that state of completion, wholeness and full development. In a way, the message really is that you get out of life what you put into it - but it is not a picture of a vending machine that emerges; rather, it is an image of a guide - a shepherd - a mentor - a teacher - someone who has laid out a clear path that leads to exaltation (real, practical, understandable, attainable "perfection").
In essence, in context, these verses say:
"As you journey on the path I have laid out for you, I will give you that for which you ask, allow you to find that for which you seek, open the door unto you as you knock."
What a powerful passage! What a beautiful message of inspiration and hope and empowerment - and ultimate, parental love!!
Friday, June 26, 2009
In the Book of Mormon, "this land" is not defined, but there are clear statements that many peoples were led to it - apparently, given the inclusion of the Jaredite record, over the course of thousands of years. The only obvious description is that it is separated by the great waters from the other lands from which the travelers were led.
My main question for those who want to limit "the promised land" to our current
So, the authoritative answer about Book of Mormon Geography is . . . "We don't know." Personally, I see no problem applying the "promised land" designation to the entire hemisphere
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The most chastised and threatened person in the D&C is Joseph Smith - and it's not really very close.
What was the most common reason for early apostasy among the Saints? Joseph's weaknesses and the other leaders' inability to support him as a prophet when they disagreed with his actions and decisions. They accepted his visions of eternity, but they couldn't accept the uneducated and flawed nature that co-existed with the visionary.
I think there is a reason the chastisements were included in the canonized sections.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Having said that, preaching an impossible ideal without understanding it is only an ideal is destructive. Preaching a physical ideal based almost solely on a subjective and cultural standard of beauty - nope, I don’t like that. I have four daughters, and I hope they NEVER want to enter a beauty pageant.
The Gospel is not a beauty pageant, and too often we forget that.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
By that, I mean that Matthew 5 & 6 go into great detail describing characteristics of godliness and attributes and actions that a follower of Christ should pursue in order to "be ye therefore ("in this way") perfect ("complete, whole, fully developed")." Those two chapters lay out what KIND of person a believer should be striving to become and some of the ways that such an effort will be manifest to those around them. THEN, after laying out how to strive to become, Jesus IMMEDIATELY adds:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, even so shall ye be judged."
He then talks about motes and beams and ends by talking about hypocrisy.
Think about that context and what it means.
He's NOT talking about judging the correctness of what people say - about making an intellectual or emotional decision about whether or not something makes sense or someone can be trusted or whatever. He's saying, essentially:
"I just laid out what each person should do to become like my Father. That is a personal journey that each believer must undertake. HOWEVER, I'm not giving ANYONE permission to judge anyone else as that other person navigates his or her own path. When that happens, INEVITABLY hypocrisy occurs, since we can't know what that other person truly is capable of becoming in the here and now - and we INEVITABLY condemn others for faults we also possess. So, simply judge not others' journeys along their own individual paths, even as you make "normal" judgments about other things you simply must judge as a result of being human."
My take away is that Heavenly Father loves the drug addict or the hippie or the ultra-conservative LDS member (or anyone else) every bit as much as He loves me - and that He will reward those who reach Him in the 11th hour every bit as much as He will me even if I reach Him in the 1st or 3rd or 7th hour. It's all about letting go of the idea that I'm special in comparison to anyone else - in recognizing that I'm just as much of an inconsequential nobody as anyone else who needs grace and forgiveness AND that I'm just as much of a glorious god in embryo as anyone who stands and speaks for the Church in General Conference.
"All are alike unto God" is the essence, and until I stop thinking I'm better than those who don't see things as I do I'm violating the spirit of Matthew 7:1-5.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I have heard people claim that our use of the Book of Mormon somehow denigrates the Bible. That is ignorant hogwash. Mormon was very clear in his statements that he edited the records in his possession and created the Book of Mormon to do two main things: 1) bring people to Christ; and 2) convince people of the truthfulness of the Bible (the record of the Jews). When I read his own words, especially in the last chapters of his own "book", I simply can't see Mormon claiming that the Book of Mormon is more important than the Bible. Rather, I see him begging people to take the Bible seriously and accept it as a testament of Christ's divine mission.
"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts." (
Think about it: He "exhorts" people to "remember" things that are not included in the record he is compiling - or, at least, included only tangentially by reference. He is asking people to use a desire to know of the validity of the Book of Mormon to base their "pondering" on a remembrance of the mercy of God as recorded in the Bible. Without the foundation "score" that is "settled" in the Bible,
Thursday, June 18, 2009
When Jacob talks about polygamy in the Book of Mormon as a means to raise up seed to the Lord (Jacob 2:30), similar to other posters, I don’t interpret that to mean numbers at all.
I think of when Christ was trying to teach the people of his day when he said that God could raise up seed to Abraham of “these stones” — I read that to mean that he was trying to drive home the point that lineal numbers in and of themselves meant squat.
On the other hand, when Christ and various prophets in the scriptures venture to teach us about becoming God’s seed or a son or daughter of Christ, it seems that they are repeatedly pointing us to a significant qualitative change in the individual — a sacrificial abandonment of one’s own will to wholly carry out God’s will forevermore and covenants are always a part of that process.
Personally, I have come to see the Nauvoo women in particular who entered into the practice, not as being those who raised up seed to the Lord but AS BEING THOSE WHO BECAME HIS SEED in the initial spiritual crucibles many of them went through in entering into PM and in ongoing acts of wholly abandoning their cultural and personal preferences/norms to devote themselves to continuing therein as a matter of following God’s will no matter what it required.
In other words, imho, the righteous Nauvoo men and women who entered into PM were themselves the seed that were raised up unto the Lord and with that covenant, God now not only had his gospel again on the earth, He truly had a people.
Comment #77 by Laura on Why BIV Totally Would Have Slept with JS - StevenP (By Common Consent)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
If we were more active in actual missionary work, we would retain more of the people whom we bring to church with us and are baptized as a result.
I think too many members still see the conversion process as a linear progression:
1) missionaries find people; 2) they teach people; 3) they invite them to church; 4) they baptize them; 5) we fellowship them once they are baptized - or at least, once they are close enough to baptism to have the PEC start discussing a HT assignment.I believe if we viewed the conversion process the way that Preach My Gospel describes it, we would be approaching it very differently. It would be:
1) WE invite and bring friends and family and acquaintances to church; 3) the missionaries teach them whenever they are ready AFTER they start attending church with us - no matter how long that takes; 4) WE baptize our friends and help them prepare for the temple.
We should be the central part of the process, but too many members still view their role as secondary and supportive of the missionaries. It should be the other way around - just like the ideal that has been preached for quite a while.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
"I believe that God is the most powerful thing in the universe. I believe that God loves me and will never stop loving me, even if I do something wrong.
We should repent if we do something wrong. Jesus who died for our sins lets us repent. Jesus loves me as much as God does. He is my older brother.
I like that at church you don’t have to stay as long as at school. Also, I like learning about history and the gospel.
I am grateful for my family and that they do not dislike me. I’m glad that we are sealed together."
Monday, June 15, 2009
"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice (SINGULAR) of my servants (PLURAL), it is the same." (D&C 1:38)
This verse says "it is the same" when the servants speak collectively (plurality of individuals) as a united body (singularity of message) - not when any one or two or six speak as individuals. That's worth considering.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
As I said last week, I struggled a bit in setting this resolution - since I don't view God as a vending machine that will give me whatever I want if I just give it the right coins. What struck me is that I have had experiences where I knew I was praying for the Lord's will to be done and, later, realized that what happened really was His will. In other words, I didn't realize at the time, but after "enduring to the end" I was able to see His hand in the process and realize His will had been done.
This led me to contemplate the idea that I should be praying to know God's will AS it unfolds, so that I can recognize it happening in the moment. If I can learn to accept His will no matter what, I then can ask for those things specifically that I know He desires of and for me, seek to find His will, knock on a particuar door that must open in order for His will to be accomplished, etc. If I'm not asking, seeking and knocking for my own desires alone but rather for His will (and whatever of my own will meshes with His will), I have full confidence the passage that is the heart of my resolution this month can be actualized - that I can ask and receive, seek and find, knock and have it opened to me.
Friday, June 12, 2009
In college, I had a Comparative Religion professor who used "literalist" and "interpretist" when it came to "historical religion" - meaning "one who takes religious statements and stories literally" and "one who looks for interpretations, allegories or morals and, generally, ignores questions of historicity". I really liked that distinction, since it removes the condescension and negative connotations inherent in quasi-political terms like "liberal" and "conservative". I also like the "black and white" vs. "gray" description I've heard from lots of people. The first one tends to see everything clearly (or at least believe they see clearly) - which qualification shows my own perspective, the latter. One tends to state things as absolutes; the other tends to use words like "tends", "most", "many", "I think", "I believe", etc.
Frankly, I am a combination of the two - and it drives some people nuts on both "sides". I am a hardcore parser, since I hate defending what I don't say or believe just because someone assumes what I don't say. That tends to be associated with literalists and black-and-whiters, but it's just common courtesy to me. (Golden Rule) I live a VERY conservative lifestyle, and it leads many people to assume I have a strictly conservative, literalist view, but philosophically I am very interpretive and see gray in most things. There are certain things that I feel totally comfortable claiming to "know", while there are many things I simply believe, accept or don't worry about understanding for now.
Ironically, both extremes legitimately can be called "lazy" by the other. Those who see in black and white (literalists) can be said to be copping-out and avoiding the pain of nuances and contradiction; those who see gray (interpretists) can be said to be endlessly avoiding having to make a firm decision by eternally wandering in the middle.
Summary: I believe in moderation / balance in all things, including terms like liberal, conservative, intellectual, orthodox, literalism, interpretive, etc. I think if you can be characterized too easily as one thing or another, you probably aren't thinking enough - that if there is no "internal opposition in all things", you probably are too sure of yourself. However, I also believe there are certain areas, concepts, principles, commands, etc. that really can be grasped as universal and undeniable - that really do constitute absolutes. It's figuring out individually what those things are for me and allowing others to reach different conclusions for themselves that is the central issue, imho. That is inherently a painful process, but it's where I think the real growth occurs – the muddle in the middle.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
“Judging righteously” is perhaps the most over-used, mis-applied concept in religious history. I look at judging righteously as meaning making the exact same judgment that Jesus would make - based on both actions and the condition of a heart. All of us are required to judge actions, words and situations in a way that informs our own actions, words and responses, but not one of us should extend those types of judgments to the point of divisiveness, personal rejection, condemnation, or any other result that shuts the door on future fellowship - even with our enemies and those that spitefully use and persecute us.
For example, I truly hate and loath what a friend of mine did to his daughters, but I am commanded not to pass judgment on him - unless I am in a calling where that is required. If I knew absolutely everything that had contributed to his actions, then perhaps I could judge righteously, but I don’t have that understanding and knowledge. Therefore, it is not my right to pass judgment on him, even as I must pass judgment on his actions.I don’t know enough about anyone who contributes to a blog to come CLOSE to a proper level of understanding to judge their faithfulness.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
We have two competing commandments - or at least it appears that way on the surface. The greatest one is, “Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself,” “Love one another,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or any number of ways to phrase it. The other one is, “Preach the Gospel.” Christ said that the world would hate those who represent him, but he didn’t say that meant we should preach in such a way as to antagonize by our own actions. He generally didn’t do that, and neither should we.
There are many reasons why the early Saints were persecuted as harshly as they were, but one of them is how arrogantly they proclaimed their chosen status. I have read most of the published anti-Mormon stuff from the pre-Utah years, and that is a central theme. That arrogance and attendant pride is the central reason given for the demise of the United Order, as well.We can fulfill the command to preach the Gospel as well as the command to love others, but we can't do it with an antagonistic spirit.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
My resolution for this month is to ask God for more specific desires and is taken from Matthew 7:7-8, which says:
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
I am conflicted by this passage specifically because the most straightforward, parsed interpretation (which is my standard initial approach in every case) turns God into something like a vending machine - giving something to anyone who puts enough money into the slots. When I read the words, I am torn somewhat, since I don't see God as that type of being. I believe obedience is rewarded, and I have no problem with the idea that I need to ask, seek and knock - but I do have a problem with the way that this passage is used to justify lots of practices and interpretations with which I disagree strongly.
As I thought about this post, however, something struck me that I had not considered perviously - and it was an eye-opener for me:
When I actually read it again (both verses in conjunction with each other - as two separate statements), it hit me that the parsed meaning does NOT equate to the vending machine analogy. There is a huge difference between that analogy and what the words themselves actually say. I am going to break it down phrase by phrase and show, hopefully, what I mean.
"Ask, and it shall be given you. - For everyone who asketh receiveth."
The first part (verse 7) seems to imply that the person who asks will receive exactly that for which s/he asks. The second part (verse 8), however, is the echo / resolution. It doesn't specify such a direct, one-on-one relationship. Rather, it leaves the receiving open-ended and non-specific. Also, the first says "it" shall be given you (placing the emphasis on the giver); the second turns the emphasis around and says those who ask "receive" (placing the emphasis on the asker accepting whatever it is that is given).
This same re-orientation applies to the other two phrases about seeking and knocking - leaving what will be found and what lies behind the door open and unspecified, and putting the responsibility directly on the seeker and knocker rather than the provider and the opener.
This perspective has been interesting for me to ponder, as it opens all kinds of interesting possibilities for what will be received, found and opened. More than anything else, this has led me to recommit to continuing to ask, seek and knock - even if what is given, uncovered and revealed is not exactly what I expected when I asked, sought and knocked. I need to believe "it" will be right for me, regardless - to believe that God knows me well enough to allow me to receive, find and reveal what will help me personally return to and become like Him and His Son - even if that is slightly or radically different than what he provides for someone else.
Friday, June 5, 2009
This is going to sound strange, perhaps, but women now are facing as a group what men should have been facing for centuries, but too often haven't - how to properly balance occupation within the overall circumstances of life that include family. For many years, especially with industrialization, men (unfortunately) have had the ability to neglect wife and kids - by claiming that their wives would raise them while he provided for them.
When everyone worked on a farm, this arbitrary separation often didn't occur, and it still doesn't occur in situations of real poverty. "Traditional roles" aren’t traditional; they are fairly new to the history of the world for the "common" couple. They appear historically in times and circles of wealth, when two incomes are not necessary to sustain life and relative comfort.
I sustain and honor stay-at-home-mothers, but I also understand it's a relatively modern luxury that used to be reserved for only the truly upper class. It is difficult in so many ways specifically because it is not "natural"; it is something that must be accepted and learned and acquired - and it is absolutely critical, in my opinion, to accept and honor the flexibility articulated in the Family Proclamation that allows for adaptation in personal circumstances.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I try to live absolutely everything I understand - and even those things I don’t understand yet. However, HOW I live those things differs considerably in many ways from how another deeply believing member sitting next to me in Sunday School or HP Group or Ward or Stake PEC or Sacrament Meeting lives those same things. Both of us believe the same basic things, but each of us lives them in a slightly different way because we understand them in a slightly different way.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Just something to consider when raising children.