Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Realistic Self-Confidence vs. Reckless Self-Confidence vs. Confidence in the Lord

There is a fine line between proper and realistic self-confidence and reckless self-confidence. The latter (recklessness) often appears in the religious as a belief that the Lord will not let anything bad happen to you - that you can do anything without concern for the potential consequences - that you deserve to have good things happen to you and that nothing is an un-necessary risk.

There is realistically being aware of one's strengths and weaknesses, and there is being aware of one's strengths and blind to one's weaknesses - and there is being aware of one's strengths and blind to others' weaknesses (which is a weakness, in and of itself). I do not advocate blind and/or all-encompassing confidence. Even Ammon, who was one of the greatest missionaries in our recorded canon, gloried "in the Lord" - and humans have a tendency to think the Lord will help them get whatever THEY want, rather than what HE wants to accomplish through them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Perhaps the Funniest, Most Imaginative Comment in the History of the Bloggernacle

The following link is to a comment that came as #266 on a post that was so-so and in a thread that was frustrating in many ways.  Feel free to skip the post and the other comments; this comment made the whole thing worthwhile. 

Even if you don't agree with the politics of the comment, it simply was the most amazingly funny comment I've ever read.  From my long-term Bloggernacle favorite commenter, Thomas Parkin, enjoy:

My Top-Ten Folks I'd Like to See Compared to Korihor

Monday, May 28, 2012

Was Jesus Married? Is It Mormon Doctrine That He Was?

I have absolutely no problem with the idea that Jesus was married, but it's not something Mormons are "supposed to believe" - since it's not taught anywhere as scripture or "official doctrine". It makes sense to me, and I personally believe he was, but it certainly isn't official.

Perhaps the most humorous reason I heard for the idea that He had to be married is that the scriptures say clearly that He took upon Himself ALL of our afflictions - and He was a man.   Needless to say, I'm not going to encourage my wife to read this post. 

(By the way and for the record, part of why I like to believe Jesus was married is that the justifications for why he couldn't have been are just so lame.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Move Has Begun

We left NE Missouri yesterday morning and arrived in Oklahoma City last night - a LONG day on the road when you are caravanning with a moving truck, van and three children. 

Our stay at the hotel last night and this morning has been straight out of Murphy's Law of Moving Travel: everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.  (OK, not quite, but I've traveled a lot over the years, and this stay ranks right up there in the top five, at least.)  Nothing has been the hotel's fault, really, but it's been an interesting twelveo say the least. 

On the bright side, we get to see my parents and some of my siblings and their families in a few minutes - which is the whole reason we chose to travel this route instead of the shorter way we would have driven otherwise. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Yes and no.

They are as valid or invalid as we make them, at the very least - and a handful of mine simply can't be explained rationally without a spiritual component.

I wish I had a deeper answer than that, but all I can say is that I believe in something outside ourselves that can, for some, to varying degrees of strength and frequency, open them up to things that can be explained only as "spiritual". Again, I know that's the case with a few of my own experiences that were far more than just "valid". 

However, I also believe some people simply are not open (or as open) to such experiences, for some reason I just don't understand - and I wish we collectively respected that more in the Church. It's interwoven into various passages and verses in our scriptures (that not all have the same gifts, for example), but we tend to accept the more black-and-white, all-or-nothing verses and ignore the implications of the others. I understand that's human nature, but I wish it wasn't so prevalent.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jesus Today Would Be Teaching the Gay, the Disabled, the Divorced, the Homeless, the Illegal Immigrant.

Our Blue-Eyed Savior - nat kelly (Feminist Mormon Housewives)

This really is a thought-provoking post.  I hope that some of the wording in the post (or the blog name) doesn't over-shadow the central message of the post - which I really do believe needs to be understood more fully by all Christians, including those who are Mormon. It goes to the heart of Pres. Uchdorf's talk about being Jesus' hands - a talk I absolutely love. 

My comment in the linked thread is #9. One excerpt from it:

I think during the early-mid 1800’s, Jesus was Mormon - in the sense this post highlights. He isn’t anymore, and I actually am glad he isn’t - for various reasons. However, I wish as a Church writ large we understood better who he is right now and loved “him” better and more fully than we do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Profound Experience about the Difference between Approaching Religion through Faith and Fear

A friend once shared the following with me.  I thought it was incredibly profound, so I saved it.  I came across it tonight, and I had the thought that I should share it here.  I hope it helps someone, somehow: 

For years, my Mormonism revolved around fear. Fear of losing my family, fear of being unacceptable, fear of rejection, fear of being unworthy, fear of my sexual impulses, fear, fear, fear to the core.

About a year ago, I realized that was no way to live. I began to live out of faith in God's goodness.

But I never extended that faith to the God of Mormonism. I assumed He was still what I'd always thought Him to be: scary, strict, demanding, unforgiving. He wasn't good. He was a distant stake president on a cloud somewhere who cared about me the way I assume my stake president does -- theoretically, not personally; out of obligation, not sincerity.

I had a long conversation with a good friend this afternoon and she asked:

"Have you ever lived Mormonism out of faith?"
The answer is:

"No, I don't think I have. I've never lived Mormonism out of faith in God's goodness."

I'm left wondering: what does Mormonism looks like when it's filtered through the lens of a loving God, not a punitive one? I've decided to give it a try. I have a feeling I might discover a very different religion than the one I rejected.

And I think it's the only way to give it a real shot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Accepting Slow and Incremental Change

The Church has moved somewhat slowly in some areas, but it also has moved quite quickly in others - and when it moves, it tends to move MUCH more quickly than other religions. It's a mixed bag in that regard, but I've seen too many organizations (including religious ones) that have moved too quickly and suffered terribly for it to want the Church to move more quickly on everything.

Of course, there are issues where I wish things could have happened more quickly, but as someone who has studied and implemented organizational change management, I recognize the principle articulated in the Allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5 - that the bad fruit can't be pruned faster than the strength of the root to absorb the trauma.

Something for consideration:

That's true of individuals every bit as much as for organizations.  Radical surgery sometimes saves - but sometimes it kills.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Interviewed by a Writer for the Washington Post

I had an interesting experience this week.  I was interviewed by a writer for the Washington Post who is doing an article about "questioning Mormons".  I was referred to her due to my involvement online with members who are struggling with some kind of faith crisis - and as someone who simply is inquisitive and "questioning" by nature. 

I enjoyed the conversation greatly, but I hope she doesn't misquote me in the article - if she quotes me at all.  I'm a "questioning Mormon" only because I question by nature.  In other words, I'm not a doubter or struggling in any way; I just question and want to understand everything better.  I try to be open to "further light and knowledge" regarding everything.  I try to understand how I personally feel about and see things - rather than accepting what others tell me automatically, without question.  The following is a simple summary of my memory of the conversation - not meant to be exhaustive and complete (since we talked for nearly 45 minutes), but meant only to provide the general outline of our conversation:

I think her focus is going to be on Mormons who struggle to be able to express their concerns in the LDS Church - how their questioning affects their membership and why. She mentioned the number of members who wouldn't give their names if they were going to be quoted and how she was struck by that. She also talked about attending church with an acquaintance and observing the general lack of dissenting voices. (I think she doesn't realize a large part of that is because the LDS Church is so participatory in nature that most members don't want to cause contention or problems when they might be the one teaching the class later that day or down the road a few years.  I think we all know that payback can be a . . . difficulty - and none of us want to encourage hard feelings and vocal, obvious disunity.) 

I was crystal clear with her about my situation and why I don't struggle even though I question pretty much everything. (having to accept the fact early in life that I see things differently than everyone else around me and my social capital from not being a threat in any way) I told her I am a fully active, serving, believing, faithful, dedicated member - who just happens to see some things differently than others.  (i.e., I don't question because I'm Mormon; I am Mormon and I question naturally.)  She asked about my background, so I gave her a thumbnail sketch. 
We talked a lot about placing Mormonism into historical perspective. (She mentioned how diverse and tolerant Judaism is, for example, and I pointed out that it wasn't nearly as diverse and tolerant back in the biblical days when it was being oppressed by various empires - and that Mormonism still is close enough to its times of intense persecution that it's unrealistic to expect it to be completely out of the woods in that regard.) I mentioned Pres. Uchtdorf and Elder Wirthlin and how there are top leaders who appear to be trying to move the Church toward a more accepting and less fundamentalist orientation, and I stressed the difference between that and what individual members encounter when they have local leadership that has an extreme protect-the-flock mentality and sees danger everywhere. (I used myself and an online friend as a prime example of the wide differences in local experiences.) I explained my settler vs. explorer analogy - that settlers establish barriers to ward of potential danger, while explorers are drawn to potential danger - that there is an inherent, unavoidable tension between them in most cases - and that neither approach is "bad" or "wrong". They just "are" - and I am trying to be the best "I am" possible for me - to live according to the dictates of my own conscience while allowing others to do the same.

I also taught her a new word - "orthoprax" (living one's life in a traditional manner) - and talked about how the mainstream actions of members generally can overcome non-aggressive heterodoxy (believing differently than the dominant group but not pushing for converts, so to speak).

We talked for a long time, but I'm not sure how much of what we discussed will make it into the article - or how much will be truly an accurate retelling of what I meant. We'll see.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"The Church" vs. "My Church"

I think it VERY important to distinguish between "the reality of Mormonism in which we live" and what I call "pure Mormonism".

I deal with "reality"; I revel in "purity". In other words, I absolutely LOVE what I see as pure Mormonism, even as I have had to slog through practical Mormonism in some of the places I've lived. What fascinates me is when the two meet (or almost meet) - like in a couple of wards in which I've lived. Mormonism is amazing when it "works" - and I've seen it work. There really is nothing like that - and those experiences mean a lot to me.

I understand totally that not everyone has had that type of experience, but the irony is that it "works" when the group as a whole quits caring about doctrinal distinctions and just accepts people for who they are and how they view things. Obviously, that's not possible completely for all, since there are still some bright-line separators for many members (like how many members view and act toward homosexuals, for example) - but when you see a church community that embraces everyone for who they are (even those whom it understands won't join it and whose actions it can't condone), you begin to see "pure Mormonism".

Last point, and it's a critical one:

"The Church" CAN'T make that happen. It just can't.

It happens locally, often as the result of a handful of people who simply refuse to not embrace everyone - who invite anyone and everyone to worship with them - who have no problem sitting with someone who reeks of cigarette smoke and has a visible tatoo - who would stand up in the middle of the sacrament being passed and hug a drunk who walked through the chapel doors.

I stopped requiring "The Church" to change long ago and focused on changing "my church" wherever I lived - not in some judgmental way, but simply by trying to be the person I want to be and the person others need. There's a HUGE difference between insisting that others collectively change and focusing on changing myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When Those Who Spitefully Use You are Family

A friend once shared his family situation with me - and particularly that his parents constantly badgered him about his marriage, since they didn't like or approve of his wife.  The following was my response to him: 

Patience is a virtue, and Jesus said to love those that spitefully use us.

It's hard - probably one of the hardest things there is - when the spiteful users are parents. This probably is your own Gethsemane, where you are pleading for the cup to be taken from you. It can't be, so I advise you to set inviolable boundaries - "acceptable minimums" that will result in temporary withdrawal if crossed.

Say to them something like:

"We love and always will honor you, but we can't allow you to hurt us by doing (or saying) _____________. We will never withdraw from you if you don't do (or say) _____________, but if you do we simply won't be able to see you or talk with you for _______________ (an established time frame)."

After saying it, stick to it. They really do love you, even if they are messed up in how they express it and need to repent in this particular instance. It might take a long time, but they will get the message - and even if they don't, you will be a better person for taking a calm, measured, loving approach. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why I Go to Church

Church allows me to serve others who are different than I am in a community that I have embraced as my own. I don't go to church for my own edification. I go to lose myself in the service of others who need someone to love them. I go to try to become the example of what I hope we all are striving to become. I go to love those whom I wouldn't love naturally. I need more than just church to do all that, but I need church to do it fully.

People need me and my smile and my unique views and the knowledge I give them that they are OK in their own struggles, so I go.

I sometimes am the voice they can't express, so I go.

I often am the hug they never get from anyone else, so I go.

Ironically, when I'm not stressed out about insisting that others teach and help me, I nearly always am taught and helped the most. When I'm not insisting that others give me the Spirit, I usually feel it the most strongly. When I'm not insisting that others understand everything about me and my persepctive, I nearly always understand them and their perspectives better. When it no longer is all about me, I grow the most.

So I go.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Contributing Requires Participation

I know this is unnecessary for most who read my blog, but for some reason I felt it should be said anyway:

Breaks from work and vacations are fine and necessary for many, but we still need to go to work on a regular basis if we are to contribute meaningfully to the company where we work - and if we are to get paid for working.

That applies to church and our spiritual lives, as well.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Three Mother's Day Quotes from Sacrament Meeting Today

First adult speaker:

“Motherhood is like a roller coaster: there are lots of ups and downs, and sometimes you just have to close your eyes and scream.”

Second adult speaker, quoting a Native American proverb:

“The soul would have no rainbows if the eyes had no tears.”


“Heavenly Father, we speak with thee every day, and we look forward to the day when we can renew our relationship with Heavenly Mother.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When Life Gets in the Way of Blogging: God Truly Is Good

Ever since I started my new job as Assistant Director of Admissions at Sierra Nevada College in February, I  have had a hard time focusing the necessary time on my New Year's Resolution posts.  I have missed more weeks this year in that resolution than I did in the four previous years combined, I'm sure - although I haven't taken the time to count, ironically.  Tonight is no exception, but for a different reason.

Our Director's last day was today,  and the last week has been a whirlwind of very long days trying to get ready for my new added responsibilities as Interim Director of Admissions, starting Monday.  I have been going over all kinds of things, frantically trying to get a handle on everything I will need to start doing next week.  I also have been trying to contact prospective students in Hawaii - which means, since they are four hours behind us in Nevada, that I have been arriving at the office each morning at about 7:00AM and finishing my phone calls each night at about 11:30PM.  Yes, I'm tired - and I have not spent the time I normally would thinking about the post I want to be writing instead of this one. 

Oh, well.  It is what it is, and I am grateful for this opportunity - one I never expected or could have anticipated so quickly.  I am thankful that I was inspired to find and apply for the position that brought me here, and I am thankful for the college's willingness to trust me with this new responsibility.  I will be grateful to Culver-Stockton for allowing me to get into college admissions, which I love, and I am grateful for Sierra Nevada College giving me the opportunity I wasn't going to get otherwise. 

So, I hope I will be able to be more consistent with my New Year's Resolution posts from now on - but with my new position and moving my family cross-country in two weeks . . . At the very least, I promise I will continue to prepare my regular daily posts and links throughout the week. 

Wish me luck! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Do Prophets See God Face-to-Face - and Would They Tell Us If They Did?

A friend asked me once why our modern prophets don't talk about face-to-face visits with God - and he then added, "Like ancient prophets did".  The following was my response to him, to the best of my recollection:

1) I think in our day, such statements (even if totally true) would cause such ridicule and scorn within the world-wide media that they would do more damage to the Church than good.

2) I think the focus in our day is much more on gaining a personal witness of things and not relying on the witness of others than it was in the beginning of the Church. I think that has to be the case as a religion (or any organization) grows and matures. The beginning of almost anything can be grand and epic and chaotic and confrontational, but for it to sustain growth and mature the "radicalness" must give way to stability and steadiness - and claims to have seen and talked with God face-to-face don't fit stability and steadiness.

3) I think such statements (even if totally true) would create an expectation among believers that would lead to intense efforts to see God literally face-to-face - and implicit ranking of righteousness of the apostles by the general membership based on who said they had seen God thusly. That's not a good situation.

4) Finally and foundationally, there are almost NO claims of seeing God, the Father, face-to-face in our canonized scriptures, and there are very few claims of seeing the pre-mortal Jehovah or the resurrected Christ (especially after the initial post-resurrection visits to groups), face-to-face either - at least that are recorded in such a way as to completely rule out visions rather than actual visitations.

Think about this:

When in the entire history of our canonized scripture do we have accounts of face-to-face interaction with God, the Father?

Adam: the beginning of mankind (but only in the Garden of Eden - pre-mortality, if you will)
Moses: the beignning of the creation of the nation of Israel (and, based on our understanding, this was Jehovah - not the Father)
Jared: the beginning of the divine settling of the promised land, if you will (again, this was Jehovah)
Jesus: the Mount of Transfiguration (implied only as a physical visit) 

What other prophets in our scripture have, without question, written about seeing God face-to-face - not in a vision, but actually face-to-face? Look at the following: 

Nephi and Jacob: the beginning of the Nephite civilization? (in vision)
Jesus: the beginning of Christianity? (We have no clear, unambiguous record of Jesus seeing God, the Father face-to-face in mortality.)
Paul: the beginning of the missionary focus of Christianity? (in vision)
Joseph Smith: the beginning of the Restoration? (In the case of the Father, it appears that this was in a vision, not face-to-face - thus, "The First Vision".)

Notice something? Every instance in our canon that is explicitly face-to-face is in an Old Testament time period or setting. Maybe this is one of those "as far as it is translated correctly" issues - or maybe it is that those who see God face-to-face simply don't talk about it. I don't know.

Thus, I don't think it's how God generally works, and I think if He does appear thus to someone He probably adds the "go and tell no man" command to most of the visits.

Just my opinion, obviously, but it's how I see this issue right now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Be Wary of Applying "The Prosperity Gospel" at the Individual Level

All the studies I have seen make it clear that the LDS Church membership as a whole is one of the best educated, most financially well off of any Christian denomination - especially after the second or third generation in the Church.

That's not a boast. It's not good or bad, imo - except to be good in the sense that it enables the Church membership as a whole to give enough to self-perpetuate. That's a good thing. However, general prosperity can lead to pride and a focus on money - and our canonized scriptures are replete with examples of what can happen to communities in that condition.

As I have said in numerous settings, I actually do believe in the general concept of communal prosperity through dedication, hard work and "goodness". It's when that general prosperity gets conflated with individual prosperity, and when individual wealth and individual poverty become markers of worthiness and goodness that it becomes a problem - and, unfortunately, that is a very natural human tendency in all communities and groups.

Professional athletes are admired and revered by many. Why? They are rich.

Movie stars are admired and revered by many. Why? They are rich.

Business tycoons are admired and revered by many. Why? They are rich.

At least in the Church, many local leaders (and General Authorities, for that matter) are not rich - so that should mitigate the natural tendency. It does for many, but it doesn't for others. That's not an indictment of the Church, in my opinion, but rather a statement about how strong our natural tendencies are.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Can We Know That God Loves Us?

As for how we can know God loves us, that's something I think we individually have to see and feel and experience for ourselves.

In my own case, I can point to specific times when I truly feel like God has reached into my life and made themselves manifest - understanding that my choice of words to describe those experiences is slanted from the descriptions of my upbringing.  There are certain things I've experienced that I simply can't ascribe to anything other than God - or, more generically, the divine outside mortal understanding.  Those experiences have not been ones where I was slapped around indifferently, so I interpret them as evidence of God's love. 

How do I justify that or explain it when others are sold into slavery and prostitution as children - or suffer greatly and die of AIDS through no fault of their own - or are abused throughout their lives by someone close to them - or are raised in any environment of terror and/or deprivation?  I really can't - because I understand both experiences intellectually and have no idea, ultimately, why mine are mine and others' are others'. 

I don't know - so I am left with the classic definition of faith - the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Preach the Gospel and Administer in the Ordinances Thereof": Some Possible Alternative Meanings

My New Year's Resolution topic for this month is the Fifth Article of Faith.  In its entirety, it reads:

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof. 

Nearly always, when I have heard someone talk or write about this Article of Faith, that person has focused on the first part of what it says - the idea that someone must be called of God and that such a calling must be the result of prophecy and the laying on of hands by those who have the authority to act in the name of God.  That focus is fine, but my resolution for this month is to focus on the part that gets overlooked and, I believe, misunderstood in the vast majority of discussions regarding the Article of Faith itself.  That ignored part is the final clarifying statement - that the laying on of hands is by those who are authorized specifically to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances of that Gospel (and not necessarily anything else) - AND/OR that the calling of God ratified through prophecy and by those in authority to lay hands of confirmation is specifically for those callings related to preaching the Gospel and administering in the ordinances of the Gospel (and not necessarily anything else) - AND/OR that only men "must" be called in this manner, while women can preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances of that Gospel without such a formal process of calling and laying on hands. 

Those are very different readings, but each is a reasonable parsing of the actual words themselves.  The purpose of this post is to present each interpretation in short, summary form and set the stage for my other weekend posts this month, in which I hope to explore each possibility in more detail - and also look at some of the cultural and policy implications of the less traditional interpretation. 

1) If the final phrase is focused on those who are authorized to lay hands of confirmation on one who is called, the wording overall suggests that such authority is limited to those who can preach the Gospel and administer ordinances of the Gospel.  Such a reading can fit nicely into the standard construct of men who hold the Priesthood ordaining other men to receive that Priesthood, thus perpetuating the man-driven structure in which the Gospel is preached and ordinances are performed - but it doesn't have that narrow application if read strictly on its own, without the reinforcement of our modern organizational and "authority" structure.  It also is a bit circuitous when used to say only men can hold the Priesthood - meaning it presupposes the Priesthood has anything to do with what it being taught (since the Priesthood is not mentioned directly and only can be inferred if that belief is held prior to reading it).  I believe that is important to understand, at least, no matter what conclusion(s) one reaches ultimately.   

2) If the final phrase is focused on the calling through prophecy that is being confirmed by the laying on of hands, the wording suggests that the authorization process of that calling relates ONLY to preaching the Gospel and administering in the ordinances thereof.  The questions that spring to mind immediately with this interpretation are:

"What is "the Gospel"?  What is meant by "preach" the Gospel? What are the ordinances of that Gospel?"

3) If the final phrase is focused on the idea that only a man needs to go through this process, but women are not required to go through it, it opens a plethora of possible implications that are mind-boggling and tradition-challenging for many members - and I only will say that such a reading would not be completely foreign to the early Mormon saints

Finally, I hope to be able to discuss at some point this month the fascinating use of the following wording: 

"administer IN the ordinances thereof" 

as opposed to

"administer the ordinances thereof" 

What are your initial reactions to these possibilities?  Have you ever considered that there are potential readings that are different than what is assumed generally today?  Have you ever seen this particular Article of Faith as perhaps our most complex and difficult to parse without the over-whelming influence of our current culture and administrative policies? 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Is God a Metaphor?

Metaphors are used to represent something else, but the thing being represented by the metaphor often is "real". Thus, I don't see God as a metaphor; I see how we describe God as our best guess as to what God is like. Our descriptions, therefore, are emblematic and symbolic. They are metaphors.

If someone describes God as an authoritarian dictator who demands obedience and punishes every mistake, that description might represent a desperate need for security and order. It is symbolic of what that person needs or wants most at that moment - or simply what that person was taught as a child and what was needed by the person who originally formulated that particular metaphor. Calvinism's extremity God of hardcore predestination is that metaphor on steroids - as it posits God as the great puppeteer and barbecue master. Yes, it's a metaphor (and, yes, I loathe that particular metaphor) - but it's grounded in Calvin's perception of reality.

If there really is a God, or if there really is godhood, or if there really is some type of higher consciousness and never-ending existence, the metaphors we use to talk of God are based in reality to some degree. The only way that our metaphors are not "real" in some extra-worldly way is if our existence ends when we die as mortals. That simply doesn't resonate with me at all, so I choose to believe that our metaphors of God (the ways we construct our descriptions of the divine) are based on reality - even if they are constructed while looking through a glass, darkly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Should We Obey "Commandments" Even If We Don't Believe They Come from God?

I believe commandments are and always have been mortal attempts to explain how those mortals feel it is best to act toward each other and God. Some are established by those accepted as prophets; others are built up over time.  At one extreme, commandments included human sacrifice; at the other extreme, commandments are denied completely. In the middle, where I and the majority of people live, commandments are our best ideas about how we should act and show our devotion to God.

I really like the core principles underlying most of the "commandments" we have in the LDS Church. I don't like a lot of the hedges we've built around some those principles, and I don't like a lot of the practical extrapolations we've created - so I don't focus much on them, even as I live many of them simply for the sake of a community I love.

In the end, for me, it all boils down to the commandments on which all others hang. If a rule helps me feel closer to God and my fellow mortals (if it helps me love God, myself and others), I "obey" it without question or hesitation. If it actually makes me feel further from God and my fellow mortals (if it doesn't help me love God, myself and others), I don't.

The stuff I mentioned in the second paragraph constitutes a third category - those "commandments" that neither draw me closer to God nor pull me further from God. Those are the ones I see as "rules" or "general guidelines" or "counsel" - rather than divine commandments. Those are the ones about which I simply don't care - and many of those are the ones I follow simply for the sake of the community. I don't do so "just to make others happy" - but I don't fight them when I know others won't understand and my fighting them will make people unhappy or cause them pain, much like Paul's admonition in the Bible to avoid eating meat in front of those who abstain from meat.

I don't need to have everything I would want in an ideal world, and I don't need to have everything I would want if I lived alone. I'm fine with making concessions in areas that I think are inconsequential - and the more confident I am in my own beliefs and charitable I become in my view of others, the more things become truly inconsequential to me.

I obey lots of rules that others consider to be commandments simply because I don't care enough to make waves and cause difficulties. Why fight the insignificant?

A Priesthood leader asks me to wear a white shirt every Sunday due to my calling? Fine; I couldn't care less, so it's not worth fighting. I wear the white shirt. 

Tea is prohibited in the Word of Wisdom - in the area where I live? Fine; I couldn't care less, so it's not worth fighting. I don't drink tea. 

A prophet asks women to wear only one pair of earrings? Fine; I couldn't care less, so it's not worth fighting. I support my wife and daughters in wearing one pair of earrings.

I'm not saying everyone needs to see the things I've listed above the way I see them, and I understand totally if some people place more importance on them than I do and, therefore, don't act as I do with regard to them.  I'm not concerned nearly as much about the specifics as I am about the principle, which I summarize as follows:

Life's too short and precious to waste time fighting about the inconsequential. I love people too much to cause them to suffer over what is important to them but not important to me. I couldn't care less, so I don't fight.