Saturday, February 27, 2010

Charity in How We Approach Invitations to Attend Church with Us

As I was thinking about charity envying not this week, my mind took a sudden turn. I was considering more deeply the implication of not hoping for bad to happen to others, and it led me to consider again something about which I feel passionately - how we view those who are not of our faith and the way we too often approach inviting them to worship with us.

I know that this is a departure from my normal resolution posts on Saturday, but I hope the impression to re-post something I wrote a little over a year ago (with a little editing this morning) is inspired and will help someone gain a new perspective on our worship service each week:

I would feel like I had died and gone to heaven if every member in my ward and stake openly and sincerely invited everyone they knew to sit with us as we worship in Sacrament Meeting simply because they love them and want to share our worship with them - no other strings attached.

I would love to see our chapels packed to overflowing during Sacrament Meeting, even if many of the attendees left the building and didn't stay for the other two hours - because they weren't interested in the instruction that occurs in those meetings.

I would love to sit with a gay friend and his partner and their daughter, to smell cigarette smoke residue in the pew behind me, to wave to the girl in the tank top in the back, to see what tattoo or earring the man in front of me had added the previous week, to be surrounded by every shade of skin imaginable, etc - even if I had to wish them a blessed week after Sacrament Meeting ended, and even if I had no realistic hope in them ever being baptized and joining the Church.

In all seriousness, I believe that if we lived the true heart of the Gospel better, these friends would be among us - especially if our efforts to share the spirit of our worship were not tied to "conversion" but were focused more on simple friendship and fellowship - on the joy and spirit and peace of our worship. I think many would accept the occasional talk about the Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom or Modesty in Dress, if it wasn't directed in a judgmental way at them and their lifestyle - if they knew our standards didn't change our love for them. (I realize many would not accept it, but I believe many would.) I have no problem telling the missionaries to stay away from a friend who comes to church with me, if that is what that friend wants. What matters to me is that my friend is there with me.

We have the temple for those who are committed to the LDS Church in a particular way - to be with a more "exclusive" or "self-selected" group of believers. We have meetinghouses for everyone who will share our simple, Christian fellowship - to apply the truly inclusive vision of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Often we confuse the two and, in so doing, unnecessarily limit who worships with us each Sunday.

Of course, I want my friends to accept the Restored Gospel, be baptized into the LDS Church and receive the blessings that enrich my life - but that's not a condition of my invitation to worship with me. I wish with all my heart that we could open our arms and embrace anyone who walked through our chapel doors, sincerely and lovingly and unconditionally - and that we brought more diverse people with us through those doors. I don't think we have to compromise our doctrinal standards to do so, but we certainly have to experience a collective mighty change of heart.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sharpening Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

One way to sharpen hunger and thirst is through deprivation - but another way to do so is to taste something so delicious that the mere memory of that experience makes you hunger and thirst for more.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Place of Suffering in Collective Consciousness

Comment #58 by SteveP on Counting Our Blissful Martyrs - Steve Evans (By Common Consent)

As I read this post I was thinking about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda who have killed about 900 people since mid-December, and slaughtered 45 people in a Catholic church. I thought about the different ways that Palestinians and Israelis tell their histories and the ways words like Martyr and persecution play out in such conflicts. My first thought was our deaths and persecutions aren’t even in the same league. Then, set straight, by Ardis’ comments, I realized that this isn’t the way to think about the deaths.

Those deaths touched others and touch us in ways that still define us and give meaning. The number doesn’t matter. We are infused with who we are and have become by those deaths. My ancestors were able to do really hard and amazing things, in part because of the stories and meaning those deaths provided. It’s sort of like (and don’t take me wrong here) a kind of collective consciousness. Lots of things give meaning to who I am. Lots of people have suffered far worse things than I have, but it’s my own sufferings that define who I am.

Can’t this be true for us as a people, too?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

They Knew Not Jesus in This Life

I have heard various people of other denominations and religions say they have a problem with the belief that Jesus is the “only way” to achieve happiness in this life and exaltation in the life to come. I believe this is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what the verses that teach this mean.

I always have interpreted that teaching to mean that the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ is the only way - which I take to mean the principles He taught and the end result of those principles, spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount and encapsulated in Matthew 5:48, Romans 8:17 and other passages in the Bible. That's the only interpretation that makes sense to me in light of perhaps the most fundamental reason for the Restoration - the need to re-establish the universal power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that Paul taught so clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 - especially verses 21-22.

I believe that is why we can say that those of other religions who live according to those principles can be saved and exalted just as Christians in this life can be - that they lived according to the principles of the Gospel and the light of Christ they brought with them to this earth, even though they "knew not Christ in this life".

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Power of Worshipful Communion

We talk about individual conversion, but interestingly, the single best indicator of future baptism that has been identified in our stake is Sacrament Meeting attendance. It isn't referral source or "strong witness of the Book of Mormon" or answer to prayer - but Sacrament Meeting attendance. I think there is an entire week's worth of discussion on that one, but I simply will point out the communal spirit that hopefully attends that meeting. Each person must receive her own individual witness or feel his own individual desire to believe, but the one unifying thing many can share is the communal spirit that should fill our worship service.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Charity Envieth Not: Epic Fail This Week

I don't have any profound thought about charity envying not from my week - other than that it's a really hard standard to learn and practice fully. I have to admit I failed miserably this week wtih at least one situation, and I'm still trying to accept everything, let it go and not dwell negatively on it. What I will pass on is simple and probably obvious, but it's what struck me today as I took time to reflect on the experience in light of my New Year's Resolution focus this month:

It's really hard to be charitable and "envy not" when you accept responsibility for your own mistakes and watch others not do so for theirs - especially when their mistakes get blamed on you.

I have fought the frustration that accompanies such situations all week. I have admitted and accepted my own incorrect actions, but I have struggled to not "envy" someone else's situation - since I am paying for both my own error and those of the other person. Not only did I naturally want to trade places to some degree (envying the other's lack of accountability), but I also naturally found myself fighting feelings of hoping the other person was exposed for not being willing to admit and accept what was done to influence my situation.

I am coming to the conclusion that the only way I can let go of this and put it totally behind me, knowing the overall issue will not change, is to try to be charitable in my view of others, not have unrealistic expectations (not expect more of someone than they are able to do, just as I hope others don't hold me to an unrealistic standard) and realize that, in the end, I am as much to blame as anyone else.

In one way, at least, my focus (my resolution) this month helped - since it forced me to be more directly aware of my emotional reaction and gave me a way to work immediately on fighting my natural reaction. In another way, however, it reiterated a great, core principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - that every single one of us is a sinner and needs to be redeemed, even those of us who are striving with all our might to become more Christ-like each and every day. In that arena, at least, I am no better than anyone else - even those toward whom I struggle to exercise charity and whom I strive to envy not.

For that reminder, I am grateful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rambling Frustrated Thoughts on Motherhood

"What I’m really struggling with is how what I’m sacrificing is benefiting human kind. How what I am doing (full-time mothering) matters, especially if it only serves to provide the next generation of women to do the exact same thing. I guess I didn’t express that so well."

I think you have expressed yourself very well — it’s just easiest to respond to a slightly different question than the one you’re wondering about.

Millions upon millions of mothers have done some variation of what you’re doing, and God willing, millions more, including your daughter, will do it in the future. What any individual mother does may not benefit human kind in a monumental way, but that’s not the role of mothering. Each of us experiences mortality only once, and each of us needs a mother, or someone else in that role, and each of us experiences the benefits of being the child of a good mother individually regardless of how many millions of others have the same need. That is, it is irrelevant to your children that you are one of many millions — you are THEIR mother, raising THEM, and that’s the whole world to them.

Even so, I’m not convinced that your individual good mothering, including the drudgery, is of use to your family alone. I have a stake in this world, too, and the quality of my life, and the life of everybody else, depends in part on the fact that millions of mothers have raised their children to pick up their socks, avoid breaking eggs in anybody’s bed, and in general to function in society. I need doctors and clerks and policemen and seamstresses and bus drivers and plumbers; I need overwhelming numbers of people around me who have been raised not to rob or murder me, who have been taught to call 911 if I have an accident, who will cooperate with me in electing good leaders and financing clean water delivery systems, and who will drive on the right side of the road and stop at crosswalks.

I guess what I’m trying to say in brief is that what you are doing leads to everything good within the walls of your own home, and contributes to human kind in ways that are obvious and yet so subtle that you aren’t even aware of them. At least you’re not aware of them in those moments when you’re teaching your children not to tie your tights to the bedposts.

Comment #39 by Ardis Parshall - Rambling Frustrated Thoughts on Motherhood (By Common Consent)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Beauty and Power of a Joyful Noise

The Arlington Ward Priesthood in Boston in the late 80's - early 90's had an amazing men's chorus. The sisters used to delay starting RS until after the a cappella hymn in PH opening exercises was done, just so they could listen to the men sing. We had every part covered, with 3 or 4 brethren improvising different parts each verse. It was an amazing experience to have the brethren be so much more musically gifted than the sisters, who were quite good in their own right.

My first church solo was at my cousin's missionary farewell; I was six-years-old. It's been probably about 5 years since my last solo in church. That's the worst part of my callings over the last few years. Nobody thinks of asking me to sing other than in the choir. I think they just assume I'm too busy - or that I am at the pulpit enough already.

Otoh, I've been in small branches and groups (and an occasional ward) where I felt like I was singing a solo - and my kids have mentioned numerous times that they also feel like I am singing a solo. I don't do quiet singing.

With all of that background, my favorite musical experiences at church have been: 1) sitting next to a bishop who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket but sang with all his heart, nevertheless; 2) singing in a ward choir with a sister who was totally tone deaf, knew it, but still loved music enough to want to praise God through song.

Truly, there is power and beauty in making a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kissing God Good Night

Comment by "back&then" on "My Struggle with Formal Prayers" (This Blog - Feb. 14, 2009)

It is kind of like living in your parents home. They know you love them, they know you communicate with them, they know you, it is ok. They don't need evidence of your affection.

In France we "kiss good morning" members of our family as well as we "kiss good night" before we go in our bedroom. This is right before we go in our bedroom for good and we don't intend to come back in the living room or the kitchen, a way to say "you won't see me until tomorrow". Not doing it is perceived as being either rude or weird or heartless (unless you really don't do it in your family which may happen) and I see formal prayers as a way to "kiss good morning/good night" our Heavenly Father. It does not mean that I am not going to communicate all day long with Him, it does not mean that I am not going to think of Him. It is a way to show my affection because I take one minute of my time that is 100% for Him and nobody else. The world may explode I am not going to stop my prayer like when you hug someone, you only hug this person.

It is also a time for me to turn to him 100% even if it is to say "dear HF. Too tired tonight. Can't think straight. In the name of J.C, Amen" and having to turn to Him, having to "face Him" in the only way we can "afford" right now on earth forces me to keep myself in check not in the big things (this is easy to do) but in the little ones such as my mood or the spirit I am in.

I see formal prayer also as a way of being polite with God not in a distant way but in a way that shows the respect and gratitude I have for Him and therefore the respect I have for my own divine nature.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Socio-Economic Status and the LDS Church

There is a fascinating paradox within Mormonism. There is the general perception among many that this church caters to the poor and uneducated and ignorant and desperate. In fact, if you ask members themselves to identify the "best potential converts", I would be willing to bet that many would identify exactly this group - the poor, humbled ones.

Contrast that with the actual demographic descriptions that often are published in comparative studies of various religions. In all of them I have seen, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are aggregated as (among, at least) the most educated believers in the world - with a standard of living that also is near or at the top of the lists.

The question in my mind that rarely is discussed or addressed in these studies is whether both of these seemingly opposing claims are true - that the nature of the Gospel that we teach appeals to the poor and oppressed initially and then, in very real and practical terms, inspires and motivates and literally "empowers" those who stick with it to raise their education and/or standard of living - if not with the initial converts, then at least with their children. I suspect the "middle class" perception of the Church from the outside is a result more of this growth from generation to generation (how 2nd and 3rd generation Mormons appear and live) than it is to the status of converts when they first join the Church.

In that sense, if those around them tend to remain in poverty while Mormons (outside of America) tend to raise their standard of living in ways measurably different than those around them, then perhaps that contributes to the impression that these Mormons are more "American" than "native" - simply because they act and dress and carry themselves more "middle-class" than their friends and neighbors. (Fwiw, I have heard critics say that converts in poorer countries join the Church simply to "get a better education and make more money". How's that for a warped criticism - whether it's true or not?)

It would be an interesting way to explain the oddity that those in developing countries who become established in Mormon culture tend to raise their standard of living relatively high enough to have excess within their culture, while those who have enjoyed multi-generational prosperity tend to succumb more to the allure of their prosperity, over-extend and lose it. (Sounds like I'm paraphrasing the Book of Mormon, doesn't it?)

There is a good spiritual lesson in there for anyone who wants to look for it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Tribute to Charity: My Father Had a Stroke This Week

My father had a stroke on Wednesday. The artery in his neck is 95% blocked, and he will have surgery to try to correct that problem next Wednesday. Since my New Year's Resolution posts this month are focused on charity envying not, I want to repost something that I wrote a little over two years ago when one of my nieces died unexpectedly.

Much of what I know of charity envying not (and charity in totality) was learned by watching my father - particularly as he laid down his own life for the woman he loves. He never once begrudged what he might have had, but rather did what it took to serve his family and others in his own, individual, consciously chosen path. I hope someday I will be as good a man as he is.

Here is an edited version of what I wrote in November of 2007:

My father called this morning to tell us that my niece had died.

My father’s words to us were concise. He is not given to emotional displays, and his natural stoicism was evident in his call. He said two things: “Treasure your children every day of your lives,” and “Keep animals out of your house.” I was struck by how this conversation with my father encapsulated him so perfectly. To understand this, you need to know my father.

My mom has a rare form of schizophrenia. My father was unaware of this, as was everyone else (including my mother), when they got married. He found out after the birth of my sisters (twins), when she was overwhelmed and her mind wouldn’t shut down and allow her to sleep. She had what was termed a nervous breakdown, which led to her clinical diagnosis.

From that moment forward, my dad shielded my mom from every care of the world so her condition would stay in remission, if you will. By all practical measures, he became my father and my mother. My mom wanted more children, so he agreed - knowing that meant his responsibilities would increase accordingly. He shouldered all of the financial, household, emotional, physical, disciplinary, organizational, educational, etc. responsibilities for his family and allowed his wife to be seen by the community as the incredibly spiritual woman we knew as our mother - a modern Mormon saint. People in town admired his work ethic, but they never realized what he was doing behind our doors - because he never once mentioned it in any way to anyone.

Until her first breakdown, my father served in various leadership positions in the Church - for example, serving in a Bishopric before the age of 30. After that, he literally laid down the life he had been pursuing and focused on serving my mother. He waited nearly 30 years to serve in another position that required he spend significant time away from home - until his children were gone and my mom could function without the stress associated with raising them. He left an extremely well paying job with incredible advancement opportunities to go back to the small town where my mom was raised, simply to ease her stress and allow her to function normally. He became an elementary school janitor for over 20 years, took a 50% pay cut and focused on loving and serving his kids - both at home and at his school - in relative poverty.

Not holding a high-profile church position or good-paying job, he came to be known in town as a salt-of-the-earth farm boy - a good man, but certainly not a leader. I bought into that perception until my mother’s second breakdown a few years ago, when her “sleeping pills” stopped working and her whole personality changed. It was only after this experience that I finally saw my father for what he is - as close an example of the Savior’s single-minded dedication to service and family as anyone I have ever known.

(The full post can be read at:

Today, as I contemplate charity envying not, I think of a man lying in a hospital - robbed of the physical strength and vitality that allowed him to work multiple jobs for years to provide for his familty and allow his beloved to remain at home and undistracted by the real world around her. I spoke with him last night, and the voice I heard was foreign to me. It hit me for the first time in real terms that my father is an old man - and that he now will need to receive the same type of care and attention that he gave so freely for decades.

I love you, Dad - and I will be grateful eternally that I learned at the feet of such a wonderful, Christlike man.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Killing Faith

I have no idea whatsoever if I chose my beliefs or how much control I have over my choices now. I believe I can choose, because I don’t like the alternative - and because I personally feel like I am choosing. What I feel most strongly is that I have made a conscious choice about HOW I reach conclusions - that I sit down, weigh my options, analyze what has brought me joy and decide to make decisions that will enhance and build on that joy. Perhaps that isn’t really a conscious choice; perhaps it simply is part of my inherited, genetic make-up. I don’t worry much about it, since it feels like conscious choice to me.

Having said that, I also believe that one of the greatest fallacies believed and taught by too many members (not by the Church or in the doctrine) is that all people experience the Spirit and construct belief in the same way. We tend to extrapolate the “burning in the bosom and stupor of thought” that was one person’s way of getting spiritual answers to all - which excludes me, since I don’t feel most of my impressions and answers that way. We tend to mis-read Moroni 10:3-5 and assume that ALL investigators and members who read and pray about the Book of Mormon will “know” (generally through a burning in the bosom) that it is true - which excludes many who have a desire to believe and would be wonderful members of the Church but who never join because we tell them they can and should “know” in the same way we know. When we insist that everyone can know, and that they should know, we literally are killing faith.

I understand the tendency to want to see clearly, in black and white. I just don’t like it, because it excludes many people and puts unrealistic expectations on many other people - people who could find great joy and add great worth to the Church without those expectations.

My own summary: Who cares “how” someone comes to believe and/or accept and/or follow? It doesn't matter to me if someone can say, “I know” - or just “I believe” - or just “I want to believe; strengthen my unbelief.” I believe it’s much more complicated for myself than I personally understand, so as long as someone is willing to worship with me, I don’t worry how they got there. I just care that they got there. I’ll let the Lord sort out how much control we all have over our choices, believing that such a determination will be merciful in the end.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Understanding the Past When You Don't "Agree" with It

I have heard many people complain about former situations with which they disagree (like polygamy or the Priesthood ban) and say something like the following:

They could have acted differently. What they did was wrong; I wouldn't have done that; they could have done something else.

I would posit that the chance for something to have happened differently than it did is 0% - since something would have to change about the situation in order for it to happen differently. It’s legitimate to try to learn from history in order to act differently now or in the future, but saying that someone should or could have acted differently than they actually did is imposing unrealistic expectations on them. They acted how they thought they needed to act; they would have to have been different to act differently - and they were who they were, doing the best they could, while dealing with what was in front of them at the time as they, like us, saw through their own glasses, darkly.

I am positive my own descendants will look at much of what I have written and said and wonder how I could have believed such silliness. I only hope they realize that I "shouldn't" have acted or believed any differently than I did, since I did the best I knew how.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Most Unique Mormon Beliefs Are Found in the Bible

I find it fascinating that the preponderance of scriptural authority that is quoted or referenced in my conversations with most other Christians is from Paul or the "early Christian fathers" who wrote the creeds. I often point out that most of our interpretations and beliefs which differ from theirs are based on what we believe the Bible teaches (particularly in the Gospels, James and the epistles of John) - and I get countered with Pauline pronouncements with nary an acknowledgment of the irony.

For example, I have a hard time seeing how there would be an argument over the whole grace/faith/works discussion - or the individuality of the separate members of the Godhead - or, especially, the physical nature of the resurrection - if the Gospels were used as the doctrinal foundation, with the apostolic epistles interpreted through the lens of the Gospels. It seems foundational that the words attributed to Jesus would carry more import than the words of the apostles - or, phrased differently, that Jesus' words would be the key used to unlock the authentic meaning of the apostles' words. The fact that the opinions of the theologians who formulated the Catholic and Protestant creeds would be quoted as counters to the words of the Gospels and the first Christian leaders (Peter, James and John) baffles me, but I have seen and heard it happen too many times for it to be shocking anymore.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Charity Envieth Not

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Last month, my New Year's Resolution focus was on the first manifestation of charity - that of suffering long in kindness. This month, my focus is on charity's second characteristic - that of "envying not". As I tend to do, I want to look first at what this phrase ("envieth not") means - followed throughout the month by why it is important, how it is internalized and how it flows from suffering long in kindness.

Envy often is looked upon as covetousness - and, in fact, in some modern dictionary usages the verb "envy" is listed as a synonym of the verb "covet". However, in its original meaning "envy" carries a much more fundamental connotation. From

c.1280, from O.Fr. envie, from L. invidia "envy, jealousy," from invidus "envious," from invidere "envy," earlier "look at (with malice), cast an evil eye upon"

Thus, charity does not look at others with malice or in an evil manner. "Malice" is defined as:

desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness

This aspect of charity (like long-suffering and kindness) is a foundational one, since it defines the very eyes with which someone sees others. In a very real way, someone is able to look upon others without malice and evil specifically because of one's long-suffering and kindness - recognizing that all the myriad types of pain and suffering experienced in this life come from living this life, not strictly from the people who surround us in this life. Thus, someone who possesses true charity is able to look past the instrument of suffering - kindly seeing the inevitability of suffering and not allowing herself to get caught up in a maliciously evil mindset that would eliminate kindness in her actions and reactions.

Notice that this phrase ("envieth not"), as defined in this manner, does not carry the connotations of possession that generally accompany its use in modern times. In other words, there is no delineation of wanting what another has in this phrasing. That is covetousness - and envying, in this usage, can rear its head no matter of socio-economic status. One can look upon another with malice and an evil eye even if that other person is almost exactly like one's self. Malice is the desire to hurt someone else, and envying not carries a connotation of being totally unconcerned about differences of any kind - of not being upset and angry in a way that causes someone to desire to cause another to suffer.

This ties directly to my point in one of the resolutions posts last month that someone who truly has learned to suffer long in kindness will not attempt to transfer his own suffering needlessly onto another. Developing that type of kindness for those with whom we are close is relatively easy compared to what "envying not" entails - extending that type of kindness to others, even those who cause the suffering we feel.

My final point this weekend is that "envying not" deals most purely with our outlook - our perspective - our vision - our thoughts concerning others. Our actions are secondary to this aspect of charity; they merely are the manifestation of whether or not we envy (look at other with malice and and evil eye). Certainly, the most obvious proof that we "envy not" is found in how we TREAT others - but it is found most fundamentally in the subtleties of how we SEE others (which is exhibited outwardly, I believe, most purely in how we SPEAK of others). Many people would never dream of harming others and causing them to suffer in direct, tangible ways - but many of these same people do not hesitate to speak maliciously of others and wish evil upon them.

Thus, if I am to "envy less" this month, I must decrease not only my actions that cause direct and obvious harm to others, but I also must decrease my words that wish harm on others - and decrease the "evil" thoughts that cause those words. "Envying not" fundamentally is about changing the way I SEE and FEEL ABOUT people.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Faith and the Resurrection

The reason the disciples had such a hard time understanding and accepting the resurrection was because they had no frame of reference to envision a physical, spatially-limited God. When Luke 24 describes their reaction to the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, it is explicit that they thought they were viewing a spirit. After all, they had a long history of recorded angelic/spirit visitations. Mary herself had been visited by an angel, and Moses and Elias had appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration in front of Peter, James and John. A spirit God they could understand.

Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate that the resurrection did not result in a spiritual condition. In Luke 24:39, he said explicitly, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." He then ate in front of them to drive the point home completely. THEN, and only then, "opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." (v.45)

Personally, I don't think it takes much faith at all to accept and believe in the limitless, formless, passionless, vast, spirit God of the Westminster Confession. That's pretty easy, frankly, since ALL religious traditions include that type of belief. It's much harder to understand and accept a physically resurrected, tangible, spatially-limited Being - but that's the message of the unique God of the New Testament. That takes real "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" - since no other religion teaches it. It's easy to quote other verses to make the counter-argument, but to do so one has to ignore the words that are attributed to Jesus, himself. I'd rather work from the opposite assumption - that Jesus' words represent the best picture and the other verses need to be interpreted based on those words, even if it takes more faith to do so.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

With Sharpness vs. Sharply

Too many people misunderstand "reproving betimes with sharpness". "Sharpness"- as used in this context - does NOT mean "with raised voice" or "harshly" or anything like unto it. It means "with precision" or "directly on point" - like the difference between operating with a scalpel or with a steak knife. If means getting right to the heart of the issue and not letting other things or issues get in the way. When you add "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost" qualifier, I believe that very little of our mutual conversation actually fits this verse.

Too much internet conversation - devoid of direct and visual observation and feedback - includes reproving not with sharpness but merely reproving sharply when not moved upon by the Holy Ghost. That is what we need to fight - the natural (wo)man tendency to let our emotions influence how we speak with each other and allow those emotions to puch things past the line where civility resides.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Only Religious Constant in Scripture is Change

Although God is the same yesterday, today and forever, the structural and social and symbolic has changed multiple times throughout scripture. Baptism replaced circumcision; the Jewish dietary system was modified in the early Christian Church; women in one society were told to remain silent, but almost no Christian denomination still follows that prior constraint; Paul dictated comparative hair length (again, at least in one society), and that has been abandoned in our day; polygamy was practiced by many Old Testament prophets but not by later societies. Eternal principles might not change, but the practical lives believers have led throughout time have changed in nearly innumerable ways.

I understand the difficulty of many in accepting the changes that mark the history of Mormonism, but I am struck by the double standard this imposes on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every other Christian denomination that has been around for as long as our church has some aspect of its current practice and belief that is different than when it was founded - and different than what is described in the Bible. The fact that change occurred (even major change) is not the issue; whether or not that change was inspired is.