Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Discussion of Suffering and Desire - and Salvation and Redemption

The following is a short conversation among some friends of mine about suffering.  I hope it makes sense and helps someone in some way: 

Friend 1) I posit that we suffer because we want suffering more than not suffering. We will suffer and cause suffering until we decide (collectively) to stop. This doesn't require a central authority (God) directing and orchestrating the suffering. In my own view, we can decide to no longer suffer. We can still experience physical pain, but spiritual suffering is a choice we make. We experience and cause suffering by wanting something else (anger, violence, revenge, theft, etc.) more than peace, especially more than giving up our mortal life.

Friend 2) This sounds like a Buddhist idea. I haven't studied a lot of the ideas, but a friend of mine was a Buddhist. He said that much suffering comes from wanting things. Fix your "wanter" and then you replace suffering with happiness. Not happy you don't have a nice house to live in? Then stop wanting it. Unhappiness gone.
Friend 3) To me suffering just is.  I know little about Buddhism but agree that all life is suffering, that it has a cause, and there is a way out of it.
Me) Rather than "fixing my wanter", I have worked on being at peace with the gap between what I want to be and what I am. Notice, I did not say "between what I want and what I have." There's an important difference. I also beleive there are plenty of people who simply are wired genetically to emotional suffering and others who aren't.  It's easy to overlook that.  It can be addressed and overcome, but it's not easy or natural.
That's where the idea of grace and mercy amid "failure" resonates so strongly with me. I live a life full of paradoxes, and it isn't easy to recognize them and strike an appropriate balance between competing extremes. It's the idea that there is "salvation / redemption" IN AND DURING what I call the "muddle in the middle" (the suffering) that inspires me to strive to become perfect ("complete, whole, fuly developed") while not letting my inability to do so in the here and now keep me from trying, regardless. (Personally, I like "redemption" more than "salvation".)
It's finding peace in the journey and letting go of the need to fight or struggle or suffer - and that isn't a natural thing, especially for those who are less inclined to let go than I am.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Maybe Our Bodies Aren't Temples: Suggest a Caption for This Picture (h/t: Mark Brown)

Words fail.  Just look and let me know what title / caption you suggest for this Halloween-appropriate picture. 

What Do I Call This Picture? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Atonement in the Simplest, Most Practical Terms I Know

In very practical terms, I believe that our "rewards" and "punishments" are determined within what we become.
In other words, in the end, we will BE our own reward or punishment - with grace / the Atonement providing the leeway allowed for us to muddle around and make mistakes as we become.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to Have the Greatest Love in Our Own Lives

A couple of years ago, in one of my New Year's Resolution posts, I started discussing the aspect of charity mentioned in I Corinthians 13:5 that says charity "seeketh not her own". I focused on my own life - what I learned from watching my father interact with my mother and what I learned as I served my future wife.

The next week, I developed that a bit further by focusing on another iteration of this same general principle - what I see as the ultimate expression of seeking not one's own. It is found in John 15:13, which says:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

I felt impressed to re-post today what I wrote back then, and I hope that impression was inspired and that someone who read it today will be helped in some way by it:
My main point today, as we delve further into charity seeking not her own is that this verse does NOT equate the greatest love imaginable as that which is exhibited by dying for someone. Rather, it is equated with the type of love that is required to "lay down one's life" for another. I believe dying for someone can be a form (a subset) of this type of love, but I believe in many cases it is the most simple, easiest manifestation of this type of charity. I want to use two common situations to illustrate this perspective:

1) When someone sees another in grave danger (like someone who is in a burning building), there often is a natural desire to save that person - even when the outcome might be one's own death. This is true in many situations even when the person inside the building is a stranger to the person who sees the predicament. This inclination appears to be a primal "survival of the species" instinct - or, if you prefer, the light of Christ that allows us temporarily in that situation to see someone else as worth saving at the cost of our own lives. It is "love" in a sense, but I do not see it as the greatest love imaginable.

2) When one's child or spouse is sick and in danger of dying, it is natural to feel something like, "Take me instead. I gladly will die in this person's place." That sounds noble at first glance, but think about it a little more deeply.

If the person offering to take the loved one's place believes in "heaven" or some other similar concept, the thought of death in this situation would bring feelings of peace and perhaps even a bit of joyous expectation. However, that death, in exchange for a spouse's continued life, for example, would leave the spouse alone - to deal with grief and pain, but also, in many situations, to deal with children and others who are devastated by that death. In other words, that desire to die for someone else is a selfish wish in practical terms, even if it is motivated by a sense of love.

I can't see that as an example of the greatest love imaginable.

So, what is left that would constitute such love and be consistent with the verse itself?

To "lay down" is an action verb - as opposed to "lie down", which simply means to "recline in a position common to sleeping". When someone lays down something, she takes something she has been carrying and lets go of it - placing it somewhere at rest and out of her grasp. I like to use the term "set aside" as a synonym - as in the following translation of John 15:13:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man set aside his life for a friend.

The Savior's ministry was the ultimate example of this, as his dying for others was "just" a subset of his living for others - the final "part" of the Atonement (excepting his resurrection), but nowhere near the entire Atonement. Think about the following:

A man was raised by Mary and Joseph. We have a story of him being taken to the temple as a baby; we read of him teaching the learned men at the temple when 12-years-old; and we find a statement in Luke 2:52 that he "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." (probably the least recognized, acknowledged and understood verse in the entire Bible) Other than that, we have no record of him until the age of 30, when he goes into the wilderness, is tempted, gathers followers, performs miracles and begins his ministry among the people.

Why is a record of the time between age 12 and 30 non-existent?

I believe it is because those were the years of "his life" - the life he "laid down" for his friends. He set aside his own life, and I believe it is important to realize that "Jesus had a life" that needed to be laid down in order to minister and preach and teach and heal and testify and die and rise again. We forget that simple fact so easily as we deify his ministry. 

I believe we hear nothing of wife and children and job and hobbies and travel specifically because that was "his life" that he set aside for us - and that, for me, is MUCH more powerful than if he had jumped into a lake to rescue someone and drowned. He set aside his own life and took up his cross, if you will. He left his own house and "ha(d) not where to lay his head". He might have walked away from the children in his own immediate and/or extended family, some of whom might have died during his ministry, and raised the dead relatives of others.

The example I gave last Saturday of my father setting aside his own life for his beloved wife is the closest example I know personally, but laying down one's life for others doesn't have to be so all-encompassing or singular in focus. It can be temporary, or sporadic, or "as needed". It can be short-term and involve multiple people. It can be as simple as stopping to help someone change a flat tire and being late to an important meeting as a result.

The key is being able to understand when laying down one's life is appropriate and noble - and, even more importantly, having a heart that is willing to act on that understanding and actually lay down one's life (seek not her own), no matter how long is required.
I want to share some advice in that regard with anyone who has been a member of the LDS Church for some time and is struggling to gain anything new from church:

When you go to church, lay down your life for that short time period and step into Jesus' ministry.  Start going primarily to find ways to serve people, not to be instructed. You can get the instruction you need outside of church, so whatever you get in church will be an unexpected bonus. I promise, there are lots of people who need to be served at any given time - far more, I'm certain, than need to be taught.

Focus on being the servant first (a savior to others) and be the student whenever that happens naturally. 

It really can change the life you lay down when you leave your house each Sunday. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Faithful" Members Can Have Differing Views of Scriptural Passages

The following experience happened to me a couple of years ago.  I came across my notes about it and thought I would post a summary here - as an example of how differently we can view scriptural passages and still be "faithful" members of the LDS Church. 

The Gospel Doctrine teacher talked about Elisha and the prophetic mantle, but what I thought was fascinating was when he got to the story of the bears killing the 42 "children". (or "young men" - as it says in the footnotes) He said he has heard a lot of possible interpretations of that story over the years - and proceeded to list and explain briefly four different options. He then said, in summary:

"My own favorite interpretation is that Elisha must have had a terrible day and been in a really foul mood - and had to do some serious repenting after cursing them when he heard about the bears killing them after his curse."

He said this with a huge smile - showing that he was kidding a bit, but he explicitly mentioned that there is a period (the end of a sentence kind of period, not a length of time) between the cursing and the attack of the bears - and that there is NO direct statement that the two events had anything to do with each other. He said that he believes the writers (and mothers of small children) took the two separate events and put them together to create a folk tale in order to scare the children and/or young men of the area into respecting the prophet.
My point is not to endorse his view, even though I like it.  Rather it simply is to point out that we can view scriptural passages in lots of different, and even contradictory, ways and still be solidly believing, active, faithful members of the Church.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To Feel, Believe, Know, Do or Become

I believe what we DO trumps what we FEEL or BELIEVE or even KNOW when it comes right down to it - and what we BECOME is most important of all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Religions Die or Stagnate When They No Longer Are Relevant to the Masses

I had a statistics class in college in which the professor postulated that the driving force behind every revolution except the American one(s) was the result primarily of the governed people repopulating at such a higher rate than the governing people that they overtaxed the ability of the governors to care properly for the governed. The governed couldn't find work to support themselves, especially in times of agricultural distress - so rather than starve they revolted.

It was a fascinating theory, and I think there is a lot of truth in it.  I think, also, that there is an element of truth with that idea in relation to religion. I think religions die or stagnate when they no longer are relevant to the masses - when the needs of the masses are not met by their religious leaders - when the leaders lose touch with what is important to the members.  Frankly, however, the opposite is true, as well - that religions can die when the masses lose passion for what the leaders teach and demand only what they want to hear. 
If it was only about leaders teaching what members want to hear and will accept, it would be easy - but no real growth would occur, in most cases.  Members like to blame leaders for the decline of their religion, but, as often as not, it's the members themselves who cause the divide and disconnect - in numerous ways that are not the focus of this post. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why I Love "Mormon Underwear" - as Much as I Hate That Term

The garment (especially for women) is one of the things that I really love about the temple and Mormonism, even as I understand that many women struggle to wear such visually non-pleasing "underwear". 

First, it is the one thing that says starkly to me that women actually do "have the Priesthood" in an important and powerful way - even if they aren't "authorized" in our current time and culture to "exercise keys" and perform ordinances outside the temple. Seriously, the visual representation of men and women being "clothed in the garment of the Holy Priesthood" and carrying Priesthood symbols as they leave the temple and enter the world is wonderful imagery to me.

In other words, if I can say it in this manner, when you get past the outward appearance and how the world sees us and get to what is "below the surface" and how God sees us, all men and women who leave the temple carry the exact same Priesthood symbols with them - just as they both can perform Priesthood ordinances while they are in the temple. Wearing the garment, to me, is more about taking the temple out into the world (being protected from evil in the world as if you still were in the temple) than it is about anything else - which is the main reason I personally don't struggle at all with the concept of wearing the garment.

For what it's worth, I also would have absolutely no problem whatsoever with someone wearing regular underwear beneath the garment, particularly in order to keep the symbolism of the garment more sacred in their own eyes and not let it come to be seen as nothing but weird underwear. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shedding Our Black and White Glasses: or, Seeing the World in Technocolor

A friend of mine said the following once.  I have thought a lot about it over the years, and this post is what I would say to him if I had the chance. 

I used to believe things were black and white; now nothing is clear to me.

This might sound trite and odd, at first, but that is the first step, in my opinion, to the possibility of beginning to see a wonderfully complex, beautiful, vibrant, exhilarating creation in which real growth and enlightenment can occur.

There are two movies that capture visually what I mean: "The Wizard of Oz" and "What Dreams May Come".

When Dorothy opens the house door after landing in Oz and the movie suddenly goes from black and white to full color, and when Robin Williams' character sees the watercolor landscape world - that is what excites me about the elimination of black and white thinking. I have found great awe and grandeur and expansiveness within Mormonism that would have remained hidden to me, personally, if I had not shed my black and white glasses. My "testimony" or "faith" is stronger now than it's ever been, and seeing a "pure Mormonism" that is not black and white has been the major cause of that additional strength.

I still see through my glass, darkly, but at least now I see many things in technicolor - and I really do believe there is a vitality and depth of color in "pure Mormonism" that I haven't found elsewhere.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mormonism's God Really Isn't the God of Mainstream, Protestant Christianity

Frankly, I see more similarities in the "big picture" theology of Mormonism to Buddhism than to most of Christianity - and I really can understand why other Christians say we aren't Christian. When I use the standard LDS Church vocabulary, I call it a restoration of ALL things - not just all things Christian.

(Just as quick examples: There is a strong strain of reincarnation [multiple life stages of growth and development culminating in oneness with the divine] in our theology - even though it is not the classic Buddhist version. There is a strong sense of focus on finding and creating ancestral ties - even though it is not the classic Shinto, Buddhist or Catholic version. It's much more of a combination - a melding of theologies, if you will. There are MANY examples of this within Mormonism.)

How does that affect my view of Jesus?

It really doesn't affect the core of how I view him and his mission, but it does expand his role for me.

Whether I view his life and death as having a literal saving component or as being purely symbolic (and by "purely" I mean "fully" not "merely"), I see "Jesus" as a universal Savior and his life and death as a universal model. (much like the name "Elias" means simply one who is sent to represent, leading to someone being "an Elias" - and much like "Adam" being a universal designator of "man" and "Eve" being "mother" - and much like we speak of individuals being "Saviors on Mount Zion") In this view, the terms Savior, Redeemer, Creator, Judge - and even God - become conditions and roles rather than unique titles for only one Being - with Jesus becoming the one who is the Exemplar of all these conditions and roles to bring us toward Godhood, not just God. He is the Model of one who became man to become God again - and, in so doing, bridged the previously unbridgeable chasm that lay between GOD and his children. He "marked the path and led the way" not just to God, but to Godhood. He is not just God, but rather he also is me - and you and all.

To me, pure Mormonism isn't about Christianity; rather, it's about Christ and Father as emulative goals for all. It's not about a chosen people; it's about humanity being chosen. It's not about us OR God; it's about a real, binding relationship between us AND God, our Father (and, beautifully, Mother). It's not about individual salvation; it's about inter-connected unity and exaltation.

I know that gets lost often in the clash between theology ("Mormonism") and organization ("LDS Church"), but this post is about Mormonism, not the LDS Church - and the transcendent nature of Mormonism largely keeps me aligned "faithfully" to the LDS Church. It's what makes that "duck" a unique and singular "swan" for me, to a large degree - or, more precisely, it's the venue in which we are taught that we ducks actually are created to become swans and that the same is true of all around us.

Finally, Christianity, as it is conceived and presented and believed by many, many Christians, isn't truly a universal theology. (It is for some, most notably many Catholics, but it is not for many, most notably the vast majority of Protestants.) It's a world-wide religion, but it's not a universal theology - nor even universal for this world. It doesn't posit that even the majority will be saved, much less that all will be saved and an unknown number exalted. (a larger number, in my opinion, than even most Mormons believe) Mormonism really is a world-wide religion with a universal theology - and it posits Jesus as the great mediator / savior / redeemer of all creation (even in "other worlds"). Again, whether or not that is taken literally or figuratively / symbolically, it is a transcendent concept that is fundamentally different than the view of Jesus within the rest of Christianity.

Jesus really is different in Mormonism than in Christianity - primarily because he isn't limited to being a "Christian" Savior / Redeemer / God within Mormonism.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's the Point of the Temple?

I really love the concepts and principles taught in the temple - what I see as the grand morality play that is performed in it and the "moral(s) of the story".  That is due to a large degree on the fact that I don't care all that much about the specific details of the ordinances and ceremonies.  Those have changed over time and might change in the future; it's the principles and concepts that resonate most with me.  Just to focus on one aspect today:

I think there is great value in the concept of making and keeping promises - and that there is even greater value in doing so with regard to things a person views as sacred.  Again, I don't care as much about the specific detail of sacred ceremonies - as long as those who participate gain something important to them as a result of their participation. 

In the case of Mormonism, that means I don't care as much about whether or not the person sitting next to me in the temple is getting the same things out of the experience as I am as I do about whether or not each person is getting something from the experiences that is important to her.  I don't care if something hits my wife but doesn't hit me - or if someone sees something as literal that I see as figurative - or almost any other discrepancy between the experiences of those who attend the temple.  I just want each person to sense or touch the divine somehow - or "learn" something new (not necessarily from the words of the play but perhaps from what registers in their hearts and/or minds) - to walk away with something that is of value personally - to leave committed to "make and keep sacred covenants", regardless of how that concept is interpreted individually. 

Whether in a Mormon temple or anywhere else, I see a dichotomy between those who understand promise / covenant making and those who don't - and between those who sense or recognize "the sacred" and those who don't. I think the details are FAR less important than the concept - and I believe strongly that too many people obsess over the details and don't learn the concept on an individual basis.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Superstition, Faith and Scientific Hypotheses

If we define superstition as "explanations of the unknown" and faith as "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen" - then they are very similar in practical terms. Similarly, if we define scientific hypothesis as "the best guess prior to the discovery of conclusive evidence", we begin to see how vital a role belief in the unknown is - no matter what form it takes or words we use to describe it.

It's not "faith" (or even "doubt") that is the core issue; it's the approach we take to having faith or doubt that matters. It's our willingness to accept that we need "faith/superstition/hypothesis/etc" in order to grow and learn.

Do we try to understand whatever we can - and not disparage those who also are trying to understand whatever they can simply because they don't understand exactly as we understand (or even don't accept that of which we are convinced)? Do we leave ourselves open to modify our understanding? Do we accept that not all can be open to the same degree - and that there must exist a tension between total openness (and the risks it brings) and limited openness (and the security it provides)?
These are the questions, in my mind, that are the most critical - and they all point to the importance of accepting that we don't know all things and need to be open to further light and knowledge.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Genealogy, Temple Work and Understanding Ourselves

I'm not sure I (individually) can ever be perfect (complete, whole, fully developed) without an undersdtanding of how I came to be who I am - and that is possible, to a large degree, only by knowing something of my genetic heritage

That's why adoptees usually long to know of their birth parents - and why those with traumatic amnesia flounder until they rediscover themselves - and why orphans and only children often are the most enthusiastic genealogists. There is a deeply embedded drive in humans to know who we are.

Temple work, in my opinion, takes that drive and channels it universally - and I really do believe the symbolism can be powerful and must be taught explicitly. 

I also believe temple work really isn't about the dead but rather about us - but that's a topic for another post.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Many Global Issues Really Are Local Issues

I think it’s instructive how many people equate their own local experience(s) with “The Church”.

Those whose local units are wonderful, warm, spiritual places often have a hard time understanding those who leave, while those who live in areas with major problems of various kinds (or one overwhelming problem) often struggle to understand those who stay – since both often project their experiences as representative of “The Church”. 

We really do have two distinct churches within the LDS Church – the global one and the local one.

I dare say more people leave because of the local one than the global one – and I dare say many of the things that many members see as global issues really are examples of the global water not getting to the end of the local row.

Of course, there are global leadership issues that cause some to leave – but a local ward, branch and/or stake that functions like it’s supposed to function often is one of the prime reasons why many people stay, even when there are some "big issues" with which they struggle.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Truly God Knows Us Personally: My Children and the New Missionary Age Policy

When I heard Pres. Monson announce that young women now can serve full-time missions beginning at the age of 19, I was ecstatic - but my joy was initially intellectual, for the most part, at that point. 

This announcement is HUGE, in my opinion. As of today, marriage no longer is the de facto first goal for Mormon teenage girls; the first goal now can be a mission, college or marriage. In other words, there is no “waiting period” for girls that says, implicitly at the very least, that they should serve missions only if they can’t get married. In that sense, there really is no difference now in “practical life planning”, if you will, for Mormon teenagers – male and female.

Then, as I processed my intellectual response, I looked at my youngest three daughters who were in the room listening with me.  My teenage daughters were on the verge of tears of joy when they heard the announcement. Their excitement was palpable. The youngest didn't understand fully the import of the change, but she also was beaming. 

What happened next changed the way I saw the announcement - adding a deeply personal element to the entire situation.

My oldest daughter who is in college right now called me. She hadn't been able to watch conference due to her responsibilities at school, so she hadn't know about the announcement until I texted her to see how she felt about it.  She gave me permission to share the following:

She has been feeling strongly for the last couple of weeks that she needs to prepare to serve a mission. In the temple this week (to do baptisms for the dead), she got an overwhelming impression that she should go on a mission “immediately”. She is barely 20, so she assumed that meant next summer when she turns 21.

She was in tears today when she told me she had contacted her Bishop and asked to start the process of being able to leave “immediately”.

To me, that’s what it’s all about, at the most fundamental level. 

My girls are happy. 

That really is all that matters right now. 


Just to provide the complement to my daughter’s experience:

I also texted my second son (22 years old) and told him I hope he doesn’t question his personal revelation to not serve a full-time mission, what with the policy change and all. Part of the wording now is “worthy and ABLE” – and his personal situation makes him unable to serve a full-time mission and remain true to his responsibility to his fiance.

As he was pondering and praying about it, he was out with the missionaries one evening and realized he could be involved in teaching the Gospel very actively whether or not he served a full-time mission – and it hit him later that night as he was reading his Patriarchal Blessing again that it never says he will serve a mission. Instead, it says he would preach and share the Gospel “in the spirit of missionary work”. He and I are grateful for a Patriarch who was inspired to say something so personal and visionary / revelatory to him.

Each person is different, and each person has to make the decisions that are right for him or her. Nobody can make those decisions for them, not even their parents or their church leaders.

I’m grateful - deeply and profoundly grateful - that God knows us personally and is willing to reach down into mortality occasionally and speak directly and individually to his children - even when what he says to one is very different than what he says to another one.  The fact that two of my children could receive such different revelations about the exact same question comforts me greatly. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Solution to Widespread Apostasy

The solution to the concept of a great apostasy, in my opinion, is NOT converting everyone to the LDS Church. Rather, it is enlightening everyone with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - even if that means never mentioning Jesus to some but instead using their own terminology and common beliefs to accomplish the same objective.

Jesus actually didn't establish a church during his ministry. He didn't have to do so; he was his own church, in a way - a classic itinerant preacher. Once he was gone, however, establishing a church became absolutely critical to spreading what he taught ("the Gospel") to the whole world. That "humanization" of principle was the beginning of apostasy, since it introduced mortals into the transmission of immortal principles - and we still are involved in the work of getting back to the ideal and the pure, even within the LDS Church.

One of the reasons I love the Allegory of the Vineyard in Jacob 5 is that is describes, in simple, clear and unmistakable terms, the condition of apostasy as an ever-present, even pervasive condition that will not be conquered until the very end. In my opinion, the Great Apostasy hasn't ended; it simply has been tackled in a different and more comprehensive way.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mormonism's View of Authority Is a Combination of Protestant and Catholic

The following is a simplified generalization, but I think it is a useful and reasonably accurate one:

Martin Luther and other Protestant leaders of the Reformation realized very clearly that they did not have "The Priesthood" as it was understood at that time within Catholicism. In rejecting Catholicism, they also rejected the idea that God's authority was vested exclusively and totally in a few people through an ordination process (who were the only people required to read and know the word of God, and, therefore, stood as intermediaries between the people and God) - replacing that concept with the idea that God's authority was vested purely in His word (The Bible) and all true believers had the ability to read His word and act according to their own understanding of it ("the priesthood of believers").

Of course, this has been limited over time to be only those understandings of the Bible that don't contradict their own interpretations - which is ironic, given the foundation of the Reformation. Thus, in their construction, all who are "true believers" (not Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, and other deluded cultists) have the right to act in God's name (as true Christians), but God's actual authority lies only in the Bible.

So, the overall Mormon view of authority is kind of a combination of Catholic and Protestant views - since we maintain a formal, capital "P" Priesthood for the performance of binding ordinances but couple it with the general idea of a lower case "p" priesthood of believers who can read and act according to God's universal word, even though we don't talk about it in those terms. The "additional" aspect within Mormonism is that it posits that "His universal word" includes more than just the Bible - that it includes whatever he has said to all (truly universally) - and that individual believers actually can receive His unique word to them, even if it contradicts, occasionally, His universal word to all.

Therefore, in a nutshell, the Great Apostasy, as it is defined within Mormonism, began when the apostles no longer were able to gather and replace those who were being killed (to continue the ordinance-performing Priesthood) and was further entrenched when the priesthood of believers was eliminated by the Catholic Priesthood organization that removed from them the right and ability to read God's word and interact with God directly within their own spheres. The Reformation addressed the foundation of the second of these issues (allowing regular believers to interact directly with God through exposure to His word), while the Restoration addressed the extension of the second issue (re-establishing truly personal revelation as a universal right) and the first issue (re-establishing binding Priesthood ordinances).

Monday, October 1, 2012

This is MY Faith; Nobody Can Make Me Leave.

If I were to try to explain succinctly how I have gained peace and joy and growth in the Church while seeing many things differently than many of the people around me, I think I would say that I determined to craft "my own faith" within my "faith community".

I decided CONSCIOUSLY that my faith is my faith - and that there is so much good and right and true and inspiring and ennobling and empowering within what I came to call "pure Mormonism". Frankly, I made that conscious decision much earlier in life than most people do - simply because I recognized much earlier in life than most people do that the way I read and saw things was quite different than most of the people around me.  (Seriously, when you are 7 years old, are a natural parser and realize that you believe the Book of Mormon and Bible you are reading really don't say what your Bishop and parents think they say in some cases . . . When you can't discuss Talmage's "Jesus, the Christ" with the other Deacons . . .)
One of the things that helped me is that I am drawn more to the "big picture" than to the "details". I'm a philosopher more than an engineer. Those who obsess over the details struggle more when they are faced with being different, I believe. Also, I'm not an angry person, by nature. I was raised in a peaceful and accepting home, generally, and that has helped tremendously. 

Also, in the name of total openness, my personality lends itself more to not caring what others think about me than many others' personalities do for them. In other words, it's easier for me to say, "This is MY faith, and I don't care what you say or do. Nobody can make me leave." With that foundational decision, I have spent decades honing my heterodox orthopraxy - figuring out CONSCIOUSLY what I can and can't say and do and retain equilibrium within the community - and, just as importantly, how to be a visible leader there. It also helps to find obvious role models, who are there at all levels - like Joseph B. Wirthlin over the last decade or so. 

I guess my attempt at being concise would be to emphasize that I made a conscious decision - and that decision involved a serious pursuit of charity and an intentional focus on principles and ideas over obsession about humans and their foibles and follies. It wasn't instantaneous, but it now is deeply ingrained and essentially natural - in that my first response to most things now leans toward charity, even though I'm still working on it in many ways and situations.