Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
1) Being raised in a house with a mother and five sisters
I had a father and two brothers, also - but growing up amid that much estrogen taught me patience and love in a very specific way. (*grin*) In the immortal words of Forest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."
2) Having a wife and four daughters
I have two sons, also - but see my explanation for #1 above.
3) Being different from my earliest childhood memories
I realized at the age of seven, while reading the Book of Mormon on my own for the first time, that I understood it differently in some ways than others around me - including my parents, friends and ward leaders. I realized at the age of about eleven or twelve, while reading Jesus, the Christ (by James E. Talmage) for the first time, that I wasn't alone in many of my views - but there was no way to share that epiphany with any of my friends. They already thought I was stuck-up simply because I talked differently than they did - but understanding it was ok to be different (even in some "fundamental, religious" ways) has been a great blessing in my life as I interact with others who are different, as well.
4) Repeating math I had learned already for 3 1/2 years in junior and senior high school
I am thankful in hindsight that I had to endure almost four years of repitition and boredom in my math classes, since essentially teaching my 9th Grade math class in the absence of an effective adult teacher led directly to my discovery that I love teaching. If I had attended a junior and senior high school that knew what to do with me, I probably would have ended up being a mathematician of some kind - and I honestly can say I probably would have missed many of the highlights of my life and careers.
5) Poverty on more than once occasion
I have been out of work more than once in my life, and, in one case in particular, it occurred as a result of taking a moral stance and being fired for it. That led to the longest period of unemployment in my life and perhaps my greatest personal trial of faith - but it also led to two distinct careers that have been incredibly rewarding for me, albeit not financially.
More importantly, in relation to this post about charity, it also taught me in no uncertain terms to appreciate and not condemn or judge others who are struggling - that there are good, righteous, intelligent, hard working people who are not blessed materially continually - that one's current financial condition is not an automatic indicator of personal worth - that the "Prosperity Gospel" might be valid at the communal level, but it isn't valid at the personal level. I knew that righteousness does not equate to wealth (or even comfort) from watching my father growing up - but my own poverty blunted my own prideful tendencies somewhat and taught me that anyone can struggle in ways that seem incomprehensible to them prior to those struggles.
6) My marriage to my "split-apart"
This is one instance where I refer to the definition of "endure" in my post last weekend - "to exist or continue". It has been my great privilege for the past 24 years (next month) to have been able to exist and continue as half of a unique whole. Mama has taught me charity in too many ways to list here - and she has been the single greatest blessing in a greatly blessed life.
Finally, I am thankful for having been able to "endure" through the schedule I set for myself when I first decided to keep a personal blog - and especially when I decided to post daily, except on Sundays. I also am thankful for the time I have spent getting to know others in group blogs over the past four-plus years. It has been time-consuming, but it also has given me glimpses into souls I would not have known otherwise - and that has taught me charity, as well, in a very real and important way. It has been enlightening, especially, to work with those who are struggling with their faith and testimonies - and I will be thankful eternally for that experience.
So, to all who read my thoughts here - occasionally or regularly:
Thank you for enduring with me!
Friday, November 26, 2010
I believe that ritual loses its power when it is not accorded respect and serious consideration - when it becomes nothing more than vain repetition in practical performance.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It's one of the aspects of Mormonism that is the most "glorious" to me, but it's also one of the things that I believe is generalized for a reason. Sometimes, the symbolic needs to have a literal alternative to help those who think and see literally, and sometime the literal needs to have a symbolic interpretation to help those who think and see symbolically. I believe this is the ultimate example, so I accept both ways of looking at it as "legitimate" on an individual level - and the literal option as the one that should be taught as the general, default presentation.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
There also is the aspect of trust and commitment: one couple is firmly committed and focused on the positive, while the other is almost looking for reasons not to get married. Even if marriage occurs, it’s hard to change that basic mindset and perspective. It’s hard to look for faults and reasons to avoid marriage for an extended period of time, then stop doing so once the wedding occurs.
Most people don't stop and think about that - the habituation of skepticism and critical evaluation (which is a topic for discussion with many more issues than just cohabitation and marriage).
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
I have enough things to "endure" that I don't need more - and, yet, 1 Corinthians 13:7 does say that charity "endureth all things".
For this initial post, I want to share just one thing that hit me as I contemplated this dilemma:
1) When I looked at the various definitions of "endure", one in particular caught my eye - particularly as it relates to the idea of charity enduring all things. It was, quite simply:
to continue to exist or last
What hit me in this definition is that there is not hint of negativity or "struggle" or suffering inherent in or necessary to continuing to exist or last. In other words, "endureth all things" does not have to be about increased pain or heavier burdens. It can be nothing more than the idea expresed in Pslams 119:112:
I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.
Translated into the context of my New Year's Resolution, it would read:
I have inclined mine heart to act in the ways outlined in the previous descriptions of charity alway (to internalize charity so that it will become a "natural" part of my very character), even unto the end.
In other words, perhaps the idea of charity enduring all things is more of a qualitative, longitudinal statement than it is a quantitative measurement. Perhaps it relates more to the statment that "God is love" - and the idea that we should strive to emulate and become like Him - than to the idea that the amount of our suffering is more important than how we deal with whatever we are given to endure. Perhaps enduring ALL things inlcudes blessings and things for which we naturally are grateful - since they also can change us and take us away from charity, if we allow them to do so. Most importantly, perhaps, is the idea that there is an element of conscious choice in this type of character development - that I can choose to "incline my heart" to react in a charitable way.
I have come to believe that "enduring more things" (as an initial step toward enduring all things) is a perfect concluding resolution for this year.
Friday, November 19, 2010
I don't know how many times I've had someone who is more liberal than I call me a conservative - or how often someone who is more conservative than I call me a liberal. Occasionally, it's really frustrating; generally, it just is amusing.
"At the extremes, a liberal is just a conservative with more friends."
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
How can you tell if something should be eliminated unless you've run it the way it was intended to be run? If you are going to eliminate something, what would you emphasize in its place? The main thing I would change is an individual recognition among the membership of what is good, what is better and what is best. If everyone took that responsibility seriously and only focused on the "best" things, much of the "good" simply would die away. Until the members take that responsibility on their own, however, I don't want the Church to eliminate things on a widespread level and "limit my choices" about what I can do.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Many people are bothered by the fact that most of the Book of Mormon was "translated" without Joseph looking at the plates directly - that he covered his face in his hat and "saw" the words appear through the seer stones. My response is quite simple:
What difference would it make HOW the plates were used, as long as the message on them (or conveyed through them) was conveyed and recorded?
At the risk of being offensive to some, as long as the message is inspired and gets recorded, I wouldn't care if Joseph dressed up in a monkey suit and dictated the words to a scribe as the plates swung back and forth on a vine - or if he rested his feet on them in a pail of milk - or whatever other ludicrous translation method that I could conjure. If the central point was tapping into a narrative that he couldn't "read" ("translate" in the orthodox sense) no matter what he did but, instead, relying on the power and gift of God (which is always what he claimed), then his choice to block out all light and focus intently on "seeing" with his "spiritual eyes" is about as "normal" as it gets.
I listen to many authors and song writers, for example, describe how they came to write their stories or songs, and it's interesting how many of them who wrote truly great stories and songs felt the words just flow out of them. It is interesting, particularly, how many of them talk about struggling to start then having the rest come gushing out all at once like a dam breaking. Many of them describe the experience in very religious terms, no matter their own religiosity.
Whether the plates were authentically an ancient record or not (and I accept that they were), as I read Joseph's account of how the translation process occurred, I am struck by the similarity between that process and the great authors and songwriters. He seems to have needed the plates at the beginning to act as the catalyst, but once the dam broke the entire narrative seemed to gush forth simply by his concentrating on it.
The key in my mind is NOT the historicity of the plates (which I personally accept, since I can't know for sure), but rather the authenticity and power of the recorded message (of which I personally feel sure). In other words, I accept the historicity of the message, even though I can envision a scenario where the plates themselves might not be historically authentic - or might not have included the ancient record - meaning they might have been a "prop" God used to open the eyes of a prophet and seer in order to record what He had promised earlier prophets and seers would be preserved for a later day. I can envision that possibility, but I choose to accept the Book of Mormon as truly historical - and I have absolutely no problem with the translation method as it was described.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The women in the council were engaged in the conversation. We haven't always encouraged that as we should. (Elder Holland)
International areas don't have models for how to run the Church. The CHI generally is the only "model" they have. (Elder Gonzales)
My fondest wish is that we could remove the word "meeting" from our vocabulary - as in, "We are going to a meeting." I wish we could view them as "revelatory experiences" - and that won't happen unless we strive to make them such experiences and quit viewing them just as meetings. (Elder Bednar)
There is great power in group synergy - when WE decide we will act together. Women are just as important as men in everything we do. (Elder Ballard)
We have to decide what counts. The Savior didn't count statistics and numbers. What counted to him was caring, love, service, ministering, blessing, etc. We need to make a new beginning in the Church and count as He counts." (Pres. Julie Beck)
The following are from Elder Packer's closing remarks - and reminded me of why I sustain him as a prophet, seer, revelator and apostle:
This CHI is meant to provide "simplification and flexibility". "Let me underline that."
Pres. Clark once said that too much regimentation can remove revelation. We are in danger of that happening in the Church.
ALL meetings should be conducted by the Spirit. It is time for our young men and young women to prophecy and for our old men and women to dream dreams.
There is a danger of establishing the Church and not the Gospel. Planting the Gospel in our hearts MUST accompany having the Church in our lives. Busy-ness can't replace testimony.
Families are not tools to staff the Church; the Church is a tool to serve families. Don't over-burden families!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
May your weekend be blessed and your spirits renewed in some way. I'll be back to my regular schedule on Monday.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
In LDS theology, we talk about “redeeming the dead.” I think at least a portion of this means that we undo their errors and create a better world on the foundation–but also the ruins–of what they’ve left to us. Sometimes, we simply rearrange the ruins like a puzzle which makes a different kind of sense in a different kind of world. They bequeath both a legacy and a burden–and we are called to responsibility.
I love this perspective on redeeming the dead, and I pray that my own descendants will redeem me in exactly this manner. To do so, they will have to see me as redeemable, even if some of my beliefs seem ignorant (or even abominable) in the lens of 20/20 hindsight 150 years later. I pray they use that hindsight charitably and realize I was doing the best I could with what I know, just as they will be doing as they look back at me and forward to the judgment of their own descendants.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
My mother is a saintly woman in many ways, but she also has a rare form of schizophrenia. If she gets overwhelmed, her mind won't shut down and she has a nervous breakdown. I'd love to be able to have deep, nuanced discussions with her, but they would get her mind spinning so fast it would be extremely detrimental to her well-being. I understand that, so I keep our Gospel conversations simple and faith-promoting.
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with her intellectually. She was a straight A student in school and a top-notch legal secretary before her disability surfaced. She just can't handle things that would "rock her reality", and she can't multi-task, and she can't worry about things. Her life needs to be lived on an even keel - and what my father has done to protect her leaves me in awe. [If you are interested, you can read my tribute to him here: My Niece Died This Morning.]
It might be easier for me to realize, since my mother's situation is a medically diagnosed condition, but the concept is the exact same for all: If someone can't get what you believe, and if it causes intense pain to try to make them understand, stop! Don't inflict that pain on them. Quit being selfish and be selfless. Put their emotional and spiritual well-being ahead of your own.I learned that lesson vicariously from my father, and it is profound and life-altering. Frankly, it's probably the most important advice I can give on the topic of understanding and love and acceptance. If you want to be loved for who you are, love others for who they are - truly and sincerely, without expectation of reciprocation. Treat them truly as you would want to be treated. After all, "We love Him, because he first loved us." (I John 4:19)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
"When the prophet speaks, the debate (for the general membership of the Church as a whole) is over."
"When the prophet speaks, the decision-making process for each and every individual member is over."
Knee-jerk, automatic, or hyperbolic rejection is never justified.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
The following definitions are very similar, but I want to combine them into one comprehensive definition for the beginning of this month's contemplation:
–verb (used with object)
1.to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.2.to believe, desire, or trust.
–verb (used without object)
3.to feel that something desired may happen.4.Archaic. to place trust; rely (usually fol. by in).
Charity believes, desires and trusts, with reasonable confidence, all things - through its trust in and reliance on the promises of God (expressed as faith in Jesus, the Christ).
Also, I believe we cannot "know" something in practical terms until we have experienced it. Much of my "hope" is in things that I will not experience until after I die - and I have no expectation that I will one of the very few in our recorded history to have experiences that will enable me to say I know through my own experiences about those particular things.
Friday, November 5, 2010
1) People simply experience things differently.
Members tend to over-generalize the most common examples onto everyone (like Oliver Cowdery's burning and stupor), but we are taught that the gifts and fruits of the Spirit are various and diverse. Some experience a unique calm; others a flash of insight ("pure intelligence"); others a cessation of worry or doubt (a "settling of the issue" feeling); others a sudden burst of joy; others, like me, a sense of peace. Whatever the specific manifestation, the person generally recognizes that they feel differently about it - that they no longer feel racked or tormented or pained by it. The "suffering" has been removed. That's enough for me.
2) I also believe the intensity of the feeling of forgiveness generally is commensurate with the level or degree of unrighteousness inherent in the actual sin. ("Your joy will be as sweet as your anguish was bitter.")
3) Most of us, however, don't go from sinning in a vile manner to sudden and full repentance. Most of us change gradually from one stage to another (line-upon-line, precept upon precept), so our recognition of the change (repentance) and the subsequent forgiveness is not nearly as intense as someone like Alma - or Zeezrom. Think about it: How many times in the entire scriptural canon do we read of experiences similar to
I really would rather not descend to the point where such a conversion and intense forgiveness would be possible, since I don't want to risk not being able to change. God had a specific mission for
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
What I mean is that as long as He suffered beyond what any human could suffer, as long as it was deep anguish and emotional/spiritual torment that would drop even the strongest of all to His knees and cause him to beg for it to end (exactly like what Alma described), then that symbolically would qualify as "godly suffering". As long as He was overwhelmed and couldn't continue on His own (needed the additional,angelic strength to get through it), then it would qualify as "a surrogate lamb (the Son) being sacrificed by another (the Father)" symbolically for the sins of the people. Remember, in that culture, just as in ours, in many cases the alternate payment doesn't have to be exactly what is owed; it can be a payment of "everything one possesses" or "one's all". If Jesus gave His all, that "all" symbolically would wipe out the debts of our "all".
There is MUCH of the application of the Plan of Salvation into our mortal existence that can be figurative without losing an ounce of power and "reality" - since symbols are "living" and "real" and "powerful" in every sense of the word.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
An acquaintance once asked me the following question in an on-line conversation:
“When you tell (your children) about stuff like the priesthood, do you also give them the option to not participate, or to postpone involvement until they receive their own testimony of it? I'm just curious because you seem to be fairly tolerant of unbelievers, and you have a lot of parenting years under your belt (much more than me.)”
I look at things like the Priesthood pretty directly: I believe, and I teach my kids that I believe. For example, all of them have seen the effects of blessings, more than once in undeniably miraculous ways - and I have shared with them experiences with blessings where they weren't involved. I believe they can't gain a real testimony of something unless they experience it, so I encourage them to experience it. When it comes to the Priesthood, I don't want them to "postpone involvement until they receive their own testimony of it", because I don't believe they can gain a real testimony without involvement in it. They might gain an intellectual or vicarious testimony (a belief of some sort), but that's not a real testimony, in my opinion. They have gained as much of a testimony as is possible as a recipient of ordinances (the boys and the girls), but the boys need to be involved on the other end to really understand it fully - just as the girls need to understand their own power through prayer and being in tune enough with the Spirit to give the same type of advice (verbal blessing) that the boys would give in a formal, Priesthood blessing.
Of course, if they don't feel ready for something, I won't push or pressure them into it. My oldest son postponed his mission two years in order to reach a natural break in his schooling, and I wasn't sure for a while if he really would go. It was his decision, and, looking back, the overall timing couldn't have been better.
Finally, as to the "exclusivity" of the Priesthood, I believe it is limited (pun intended) to the areas where the Article of Faith says it's necessary - to preach the Restored Gospel and administer the ordinances thereof. Outside of those specific responsibilities, I don't believe there's one bit of difference in the prayer of the righteous - no matter the religion or denomination or gender of the one offering the prayer. The prayer of faith is the prayer of faith, and God is no respecter of persons.