Friday, August 31, 2012

Finding Peace Despite Heterodox Views

I was participating in an online discussion years ago about those who don't see some things in the same way as most of those around them - and how it's OK to think differently and not feel guilty about it.  In the course of that conversation, someone asked specifically about how others had managed to be at peace with their differences - how others could believe some things differently than what this person called "mainstream Mormonism" without feeling guilty.  The following was my response to that question:

I don't feel guilty at all at church about areas where I see things differently than many of the members around me. I'm so at peace largely because I consider myself to be a "believing, faithful member", even though I certainly am not "mainstream" in some of my beliefs. HOW I serve in the Church is somewhat out of my hands; WHETHER I serve in the Church is completely my own choice; IF I am happy and at peace at church also is completely up to me.

Honestly, a large part of that is because I have "broken away" mentally on a number of topics but remained firmly mainstream on others - and because my life is very orthoprax. I am part of a community I love, and I'm ethnically Mormon, on top of that. I haven't thrown out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak - and I absolutely LOVE the grandeur and breadth and depth of what I see as "pure Mormonism".

However, I don't expect everyone to see it the way I do, and that lack of expectation helps tremendously.
I've come to realize that those who "live Mormonism" and express their heterodox views carefully, gently, considerately and not in an apparent attempt to "convert" generally are accepted by everyone but the most extreme members. I've also come to realize that there are FAR more members who think differently about something than most people realize - mostly because so many of them are orthoprax. In other words, it's hard to tell if someone sees various things differently than others if their lives "look Mormon".

Finally, I maintain peace largely because I am trying to internalize the ideal of becoming Christ-like/godly as my ultimate objective. I'm consciously trying to be more charitable. I'm consciously trying to become more blessed by living the concepts taught in the Sermon on the Mount. I'm striving to be at peace with and within myself, and that effort is the core of why I am so at peace at church - and at work, and with my family, and in every other way. I am at peace personally, so it is much easier to be at peace inter-personally - no matter the setting.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

President Monson as Master Oogway (Kung Fu Panda)

Thanks were Given: The Sneaky Genius of Thomas Spencer Monson and Kung Fu Panda - John C. (By Common Consent)

This is one of the most profound anlayses of a General Conference talk I have ever read - and a very insightful look at the life and teachings of President Monson.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Elder Wirthlin on the Abundant Life

The following is taken from Elder Wirthlin's talk "The Abundant Life" - and it shows why he is my favorite apostle of all time:
The third quality of those who live abundant lives is that they, with the help of their Heavenly Father, create a masterpiece of their lives.
No matter our age, circumstances, or abilities, each one of us can create something remarkable of his life.

This idea of creating a masterpiece life is centered on personal revelation and my relationship with God. My life at church is just a manifestion of a part of my masterpiece - not the masterpiece itself.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Everthing Matters to Someone: Dealing with the Difficult to Understand or Accept

I rarely take the stance that "it doesn't really matter" as an exclusive answer, especially when I'm talking with someone else. What matters to any individual is what matters to that individual, and I believe the only way to get past that and find a constructive solution is take one of the following paths - or another one like these:

1) ___________ matters, but not as much as ____________.

This allows someone to put worth in something that is troubling, which I believe is healthy, because struggle does have worth, but it allows that person to prioritize - which necessitates a recognition that some things of worth just aren't worth enough to allow them to over-shadow other things of more worth.
For example, discussions about whether or not the Word of Wisdom constitutes divine revelation and about how it is used as a temple attendance requirement right now might not matter to someone as much as supporting those who are prone to addiction, participating in a unique social marker of one's community, expressing solidarity with one's ancestors and/or participating actively in temple weddings. Another example might be boredom at church vs. damage to a marriage by refusing to attend church with a spouse - which might be able to be "solved" by bringing a book to read when boredom hits. The admission that there might be something that is more important is what allows solutions to be discovered in many cases.

2) ___________ matters, so I will search for a way to view and/or understand it differently.

For example, the idea that the Church is "true" in some way might matter, but defining "true" as meaning it is perfect and inerrant might not be acceptable - so searching for an alternative understanding might lead to the idea that the Church being "true" means it points us to a unique, noble, good and otherwise untaught destination (in this case, truly becoming godly).

This allows someone to recognize that there always are multiple legitimate ways to view something, to take personal ownership of one's beliefs and paradigms, and to provide enough wiggle room to hold on to the possibility that their initial reaction isn't 100% comprehensive and Truth. Much of what I have constructed over the course of my life in the way of a "worldview" and a "theology" has come about because of my willingness to consider lots and lots of possible perspectives until I find one that resonates with my own soul - and that willingness, I believe, is the heart of why I am as happy and joyous and at peace as I am, both within and without the LDS Church.

3) This is closely related to #1: ____________ matters to me, but it doesn't matter to _____________ - and that's OK.

For example, polygamy as an historical practice might bother someone a great deal, but it might not bother anyone else in that person's family, congregation or close circle of friends. Therefore, if a person has decided to continue attending church and/or being a valuable part of family, congregation or circle of friends, letting go of the need to try to make it matter to others by recognizing that it's OK if it doesn't matter to them can remove a huge burden from one's shoulders in a way that no amount of effort to make it important to others can provide.

There are other mechanisms, but these are the ones that are the most common and effective in my own experiences, both for myself and for those with whom I have spoken over the decades.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saying No; Asking Permission - A Powerful, Personal Experience

I normally don't link to current posts, preferring instead to highlight older posts that I believe deserve to be resurrected.  Today, I felt the need to alter that approach and post the link to a more current post that I think needs to be read, for some reason, by someone, now. 

I hope that feeling was inspired. 

Not a Legitimate Rape - Rachel Whipple (Times & Seasons)

My comment is #50.

You might want to skim over or ignore the comments that are focused narrowly on the legal terms for varying types of rape.  The main point of the post for me is incredibly important - a clear plea to withhold judgment in cases of trauma and paralyzing fear and/or dread.

We want so badly to understand and assign blame - even in cases where we can't accomplish the former and should run screaming from the latter.  In so many cases, our only response should be compassion and love. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Are Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching Effective - or Even Necessary?

For those who don't need regular visits, the HT/VT program isn't effective. However, for those who do need it, it can be a life-saver - especially for those in places where fellow members don't live close and for those who tend to slip through the cracks without assignment. In my opinion, it's not the program in and of itself that is the problem; it's the way it is run by too many members and local leaders. I believe the program is inspired - but too often the implentation is not.

I really do believe it is inspired, but it would be totally redundant and unnecessary if we loved and served each other as we should. In Zion, caring for others would happen without assignment. Until that day, I want HT/VT to continue - with some out-of-the-box, fresh thinking and implementation.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Shrek True: or, Can We Feel the Spirit Outside of Religious Settings?

If the glory of God is intelligence (light and trith) - and if all have the light of Christ - and if we are to study it out in our minds and hearts - and if all are the children of God - and if God speaks yesterday, today and forever, etc. - then I believe much of the divine work happens as a result of this world being populated by those who are inherently divine.

"God is in us" and "the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost" have very significant meaning in that context. If we are the embodiment of God's work and glory and grace, I have no problem believing we can "feel the spirit" in any type of situation - if we are striving to be in tune with it no matter where we are.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Intellect vs. Spirit - vs. Growth of the Whole Soul

I don't have any problems whatsoever with intellectual tendencies - as long as they aren't used to deny spiritual tendencies.

I think one of the great revelations of the Restoration is the idea that our spirits AND bodies are divinely ordained as conduits/tools of growth and inspiration ("I will tell you in your heart AND in you mind" - among others) and that reaching perfection ("completeness, wholeness, full development") cannot be achieved by the spirit alone. If intellectualism is defined as the denial of spiritualism, then I think it can be a stumbling block - but, without that very narrow definition, I think intellectualism is a vital part of the Restored Gospel.

I think the main problem when intellectualism is mentioned by a General Aurhority in a talk is that the intended meaning usually is that narrow definition (relying ONLY on the brain), but that meaning is not articulated clearly enough, and the message comes out as, "Don't think about it."

Friday, August 17, 2012

It Takes a Fine Meeting to Be Better than No Meeting

The last two wards I have attended have had wonderfully spiritual talks and Sunday School classes, generally - with enough boredom and lack of inspiration to highlight the normally excellent spirit and instruction. I think it's not unrelated that both wards have experienced and are experiencing greater growth than average in their respective stakes and regions - and that retention is very high, as well.

I believe strongly that the single most important thing we can do in the Church is make our meetings a spiritual feast that our members anticipate attending and mourn when they miss. One of my favorite quotes is, "It takes a fine meeting to be better than no meeting" - so I want our meetings to be fine.
The alternative for too many is to settle for no meetings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Sacrament in Sign Language

I once was asked if it would be appropriate for a deaf man to bless the sacrament using sign language, since it is important for the members in the congregation to hear the words and understand the prayer in the moment. 

My response was twofold:

1) Ideally, I would have the congregation open their eyes during the prayer in order to "hear" the blessing as it was signed - after spending time in all the meetings for every age group teaching everyone to understand the sacrament in sign language. 

2) As a second option, I would have another Priest verbalize the prayer as the deaf person signs it. 

The most important thing in this case is that a worthy man be able to participate in administering the sacrament, since there is no good reason to keep him from doing so.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"The Church is the Same Everywhere" - Except It's Not

A decade abroad - Norbert (By Common Consent)

Comment #18 is both hilarious and profound. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Everyone, Eventually, Will Stand All Amazed

My own simple description of the classic Mormon take on the here-after is that:

1) Those who try will be rewarded so generously that they will be astounded - and "stand all amazed". 

2) Those who coast along and don't really try will be rewarded in a loving and gracious manner - and "stand all amazed".

3) Those who don't try at all but revel in harmful things will be rewarded more than they appear to us to deserve - and, probably, "stand all amazed".

4) Only those who punch God in the face intentionally will be punished - and, ironically, from the other perspective, probably "stand all amazed".

5) We will be where we will be the most comfortable - including the God-punchers.

I really love that, personally.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Importance of Being Charitable in How We Interpret Others' Words

I am a parser by nature, but I also choose to parse specifically to avoid "getting the impression" and "reading too much into (people's) comments". I have found in my life that when I don't parse, and especially when I rely on reading between the lines for what people "mean to say", I often end up being wrong about what they really meant to say - and sometimes I end up being radically wrong. I have learned this the hard way in too many situations, and I determined quite a while ago not to have it happen again. I have not succeeded completely in that, especially because all of us really do mis-speak occasionally and partly because I don't always follow my own commitments, but I believe MANY of the things we castigate people for saying and believing are things they don't say, don't believe and would be mortified to know that someone thinks they have said and believe those things.

My own general rule is to believe that someone doesn't mean more than what they say. I know enough liars (including those who will say anything) to know that's not a universal rule, but I still choose to believe that about someone until they prove me wrong. I also grant people the right to change their minds about things, so I try not to pull out old quotes to dismiss newer ones. (Now, if the "old" quote is only a week prior to the "newer" one . . .)

My point is quite simple:

I take a lot of time and spend an inordinate amount of effort trying to make sure I say only what I mean to say - and that I actually say what I mean to say. Seriously, it probably takes me FAR more time per word to write these posts than it does for anyone else who posts and comments here. I use all kinds of disclaimers and qualifiers to avoid extremes and overly-broad generalizations. (Just as an example, I have reworked and reworded this paragraph at least three times already - just to make sure it is worded as well and clearly as I am capable of wording it.) I still screw up sometimes and write something that doesn't convey exactly what I mean, but I almost never write something that requires someone to read between the lines to find what I really mean.

I think lots of people are like that - but their ability to accomplish that objective varies radically. I still grant them the consideration of only holding them to what they actually say - since that is what I desire from them. I don't want to be held accountable for what someone thinks I am implying or assumes I probably mean; I want my words to be taken on their own merit and addressed for what they mean in and of themselves.
When I do that, I find I am offended less often - and I am able to pinpoint more precisely exactly why I am offended when it does occur. I also am able to converse with the other person more productively - since they don't end up getting defensive over my misunderstanding of their words. There is not much else that can derail a conversation more quickly than insisting that someone said what they themselves "know" they didn't say.

Why did I write this post?

Mostly, it was to encourage everyone who might read it to slow down a little when they communicate (especially online), focus solely on what others actually say and look for ways to view what is said charitably - even if they then move on to real disagreement with what it said or written. In this case, I believe the Golden Rule is about as universal as it can be.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Understanding What the Book of Mormon Actually Is

Journal Writing or Making Crap Up - Hawkgrrrl (Wheat & Tares)

My comment is #3, which I am copying here:

First, Hardy’s approach to the Book of Mormon is what I’ve tried to preach for decades. It is a great book in that it tries to look at what the BofM actually says (and, importantly, doesn’t say) – not what we assume and have assumed it says. I HIGHLY recommend the book.
To the main point of the post, I have never been able to keep a journal as a record of what happens in my life. That sort of journal bores me to tears, and it was my own private Hell when I tried to “keep a journal”.
Now, I write my personal blog, mainly to record what actually is important to me – my thoughts. That’s probably more than a little narcissistic, but I like the pensieve analogy in Jacob’s comment. I want those things recorded so I don’t forget them – and so I can see the evolution of my beliefs over time as I go back and review them – and so my children and their children will know what was important to me (and how my views hopefully evolved over time).
Do I censor myself when I blog? Sure, to some degree – but less on my personal blog than when I comment in a forum like this. Here, I try to be very careful that I am not misunderstood (which often doesn’t work), while I often add more detail and nuance on my own blog. I write with a purpose and a “mission” – so, of course, I self-censor. I’m fine with that, however, since I’m not writing a “history” – and I think that’s one of Hardy’s main points about the Book of Mormon abridgers.
The “writers” of the base texts wrote histories, but the “authors” of the Book of Mormon didn’t. Two different purposes – two different approaches – two different results. Until we accept those differences and stop treating the Book of Mormon as something it’s not (a history of objective facts), we will struggle with understanding and appreciating it for what it actually is (a journal of subjective thoughts and beliefs). 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Truly Loving Others Requires Different Actions in Different Situations

I don't fight about quite a few things with which I don't agree totally or even largely - because I try to weigh and balance the costs and benefits of fighting about them against loving others as myself.
Most times, in most situations, love of others wins over speaking out; sometimes, love of others requires I speak up; always, love of others requires I speak carefully and thoughtfully whenever I speak up.
I have regretted every instance of when I have failed to do so. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Perpetuating "Underground Doctrines"

Underground Doctrines - Ardis Parshall (Keepapitchinin') 

I don't agree fully with everything Ardis says in this post, but I think the central issue she raises (Why do we feel the need to create and perpetuate "underground doctrines"?) is a very important one about which everyone should think.  My own comments are #3 & #4 (really, one comment split into two, since I hit the submit button too quickly on the first one). 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Beauty and Danger of Pure Mormonism

I have a friend who had been raised in a home where he was taught that every single policy, rule, commandments, word of counsel, request, etc. was of exactly equal importance - that in order to be a "good member" he had to do everything, all the time.  He had not been taught about the many instances within our scriptures that talk about "a time for ____ and a time for ____" - or "it is not requisite that (you) should run faster than (you are) able" - or all the other ways to teach the principle of balance and prioritization. 

He asked me the following questions, and I am including my answers to those questions. 

First, I need to make it crystal clear that the following is my take only - the world according to Papa D:
Which "laws" do you think are necessary for becoming like Him?

The ones that deal with internalizing love, including some that aren't obvious at first glance. Probably not much else, since everything else hangs on love.
Do all LDS policies, rules, etc. fall into that camp?

Absolutely not - and I guarantee there is unanimity in the top leadership of the LDS Church with that answer.
Are some laws more important to keep than others if we are to become like Him? If so, which ones?

See my first response. (Wow, that was easy. *grin*)

Which laws from God (as defined by the LDS church) have unintended consequences, and when (if ever) do those unintended consequences outweigh the benefits?

All laws, policies, rules, etc. have extraneous consequences, some that are not "ideal". The policies, rules, hedges about the laws, etc. have unintended consequences - all of them. The consequences outweigh the benefits whenever they do. 

I really don't mean that last answer to be flippant. Each one of those policies, rules, hedges, etc. will have different consequences for different people - and even for the same people in different circumstances, which means each of us ultimately has to answer that question for herself.  I simply would add that distinguishing between God's law and man's best attempt to figure out God's law is not an easy exercise, which is why personal revelation, agency and accountability are such a central part of Mormon theology. 
That's both the beauty and the danger of pure Mormonism.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Tribute to Sister Chieko Okazaki on the Anniversary of Her Death

Sister Chieko Okazaki passed away one year ago today.  She was one of my favorite speakers and General Authorities of all time.

The following is an excerpt from the tribute on Mormon Mentality linked below.  It is the best summary of why Sister Okazaki was loved by so many people:

Why is it that this woman had such an impact on so many? I think that Chieko had the ability to empathize with the difficulties that people face in this life, reflect on how the gospel applied to those situations, and then to express her understanding in speeches and books in a way that conveyed her love. 

Below are tribute posts and threads that were written when she died last year:

Remembering Chieko Okazaki (Part II of many) - Kristine (By Common Consent)

A tribute to Chieko Okazaki: a sister, in wisdom and kindness - Janice Bouck (The Exponent)

Chieko Okazaki. 1926-2011 - Stephanie (Feminist Mormon Housewives)

Farewell, Chieko - a random John (Mormon Mentality) 

Remembering Chieko Okazki - Angela (Segullah)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Moving Tribute to One of Our Most Under-Appreciated General Authorities of All Time

On the anniversary of his death, I want to link to a tribute to Marion D. Hanks written when he died last year.  Elder Hanks was an amazing man, but he is relatively unknown, I think, to many of the current LDS Church membership. 

In Memoriam: Elder Marion Duff Hanks - Margaret Young (By Common Consent)