Saturday, October 29, 2016

Just Some Mormon Halloween Humor

Scary movies with a Mormon twist (Not all mine; a group of friends got together and brainstormed them.)

Pet Seminary
Rosemary's Baby Blessing
Personal Priesthood Interview with a Vampire
Come Ye Children of the Corn
I Looked Out the Window and What Did I See?
Dawn of the Dead: Early Morning Seminary
So I Was Sealed to an Ax Murderer
Israel, Israel, God is Calling from the Basement

Here are some Halloween movies that almost sound like they could be referring to vicarious work for the dead if someone doesn't understand what happens in temples:

House of 1000 Corpses
Return of the Living Dead
Corpse Bride

This one that sounds like Mormon slang to avoid swearing:

Jeepers Creepers

Any additional titles would be appreciated.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Knowing a God Whose Ways Are Not Our Ways

I have thought periodically about the tension between the idea that life eternal is to know God and the statement that God's ways are not our ways - as well as the complete and obvious lack of objectivity when it comes to human perceptions and conceptions of the divine.

I have been asked, in one way or another, about how I view God given this paradox, and I have struggled to answer that question concisely - as everyone who knows me will understand.

The following is my attempt to explain how I view God, given my recognition of the competing statements within our canonized scriptures:

I have solved the central dilemma for myself simply by acknowledging that I don't really know God objectively and avoiding any kind of dogmatic definition in the first place. Thus, I am free to take whatever I like from any and all views - even if that means I have conflicting, paradoxical "definitions" operating simultaneously.

It's really liberating to be able to say,

"I love the concept of God being my Father, but I also can see great value in Voltaire's absentee clockmaker God - and that God condescended to become human to know us at the most basic, intimate level - and that God is a condition that allows all of us to be gods - and that god is collective unity - and that God is the spiritual unifying essence of the universe - and that God is a conceptual ideal for which we can strive - etc."

I really don't have "a definition" - or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I accept and embrace an unrestrained definition that allows for alteration through addition as I encounter new views from which I can take something that resonates with me. I tend to reject the either/or constructs and accept instead a both/and framework.

For what it's worth, that is my basic approach to pretty much everything that I can't prove conclusively. It eliminates a lot of angst and adds wonderful surprises to my life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Labels Are an Excuse to Mistreat or Ignore

Elder John K. Carmack had a wonderful article published in the March 1991 Ensign titled "Unity in Diversity. He wrote: 

"Labeling a fellow Church member an intellectual, a less-active member, a feminist, a South African, and Armenian, a Utah Mormon, or a Mexican, for example, seemingly provides an excuse to mistreat or ignore that person. . . . Each of us should be fair to everyone, especially the victims of discrimination, isolation, and exclusion. Let us be careful not to snicker at jokes that demean and belittle others because of religious, cultural, racial, national, or gender differences. All are alike unto God. We should walk away or face up to the problem when confronted with these common and unworthy practices.

Quoted by Chieko Okazaki, "Lighten Up", pg. 22

Friday, October 21, 2016

We Sometimes Take Important Things for Granted

I have a friend who once responded to a question about his favorite aspects of the LDS Church, and his reply reminded me of how often we who have been raised in the Church (particularly those whose membership is multi-generational) take some basic, important things for granted and lose sight of how rare and special they can be to others without our background.

I am bolding the part that hit me the hardest:

1) The sense of belonging.

Being part of a "club" or family where everyone is accepted.

As an introvert, being involved in social activities, like pot-luck dinners, that I wouldn't be involved with otherwise. Knowing that I can disappear to the kitchen and do the cleaning or cooking, etc and it is encouraged and not seen as weird..

Knowing you can walk into any ward and feel at home.

2) The health code.

I come from a background of generational alcoholics, it is a pleasure to be able to go to events and know that I will not be sneered at for not drinking, knowing I will not be involved in an alcoholic fight, there will be no violence and my children will not be subjected to that. Knowing I can take my kids to church/events and my son is not at risk of an asthma attack from 2nd hand smoke.

The hope that with church teachings as back up, my children will continue my lead and break the cycle of generational dysfunction.

3) The moral grounding.

My children are seeing wholesome values in action, and it is normal behaviour (not just mum and dad saying so).

They also are taught and shown clear boundaries and limits of what is acceptable.

The focus on families in a world where they have very few school friends with both parents in the home.

I realize that none of these reasons are specifically Christ-centered, but, as a convert with a faith crisis right now, these are the things that I want to stay for. The people are kind, good and honest - and I don't want to lose that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Avoiding the "Too Syndrome"

“Sometimes we have what I call the Too Syndrome. We feel that there are some people we can’t really extend full acceptance to because they are too something--too old, too young, too liberal, too conservative, too rich, too poor, too educated, too uneducated, too rigid in religious observances, too lax. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, if the traveler who fell among thieves was like other Jews of his time, he felt that Samaritans were too ethnically impure to worship in the temple; I don’t think he felt that the wine and the oil poured on his wounds were too Samaritan, do you?

- Chieko Okazaki, "Aloha," p. 98-99

Friday, October 14, 2016

History Tells Us All Extraordinary Leaders Were Flawed

I have studied enough history to know that pretty much every extraordinary person who changed history in a significant way was deeply flawed in some way - or can be dismissed easily by someone who doesn't want to accept him or her as what s/he claimed to be.

Seriously, from a non-Christian perspective, without the Savior and Redeemer reinterpretation of the promised Messiah's mission, Jesus of Nazareth was an abject failure - just one of multiple rabble-rousers and would-be-reformers killed by the Romans in that era. I'm not saying he failed or that he was just another guy who got lucky by having Saul/Paul spread his message; I'm saying it is the easiest thing in the world to look at his life and laugh at the claims about him. They simply aren't supported by "the facts" - but I still have no problem believing he actually could have been God's chosen representative to save and exalt His children. I can take that literally or figuratively - or both. I love what he taught, so I accept it came from God - even as I understand the intellectual questions that can't be answered satisfactorily.

Moses was an escaped murderer; Samson's sexual obsession with an untrustworthy person led to his capture, blindness, and eventual death; David's lust caused him to conspire to murder his desire's husband and eventually led to civil strife and the death of his son; Noah got dead drunk and fathered his own grandchild; Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to his god (which is seen only as acceptable because future generations saw a Christ-type in the story); Gandhi had some weird issues; Winston Churchill was a mean drunk; etc. 

I admire Joseph Smith, overall, even as I don't accept some of the things he did as being of God but rather being a result of his natural man. I like that he described himself as a rough stone rolling and that he was the most chastised person, by far, in the D&C.

I just wish we all accepted his self-evaluation in those times of candor. It would allow us to accept him for the person he really was, not the caricature we have created in his place.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Education: The Great Conversion Process

We must not limit the scope of our education. We must seek learning out of the best books, no matter their source. 

What a miracle is the human mind. Think of its power to assimilate knowledge, to analyze and synthesize. What a remarkable thing is learning, the process whereby the accumulated knowledge of the centuries has been summarized and filtered so that in a brief period we can learn what was first learned only through long exercises of research and trial and error.

Education is the great conversion process under which abstract knowledge becomes useful and productive activity. It is something that need never stop. No matter how old we grow, we can acquire knowledge and use it. We can gather wisdom and profit from it. We can be entertained through the miracle of reading and exposure to the arts and add to the blessing and fulfillment of living. The older I grow, the more I enjoy the words of thoughtful writers, ancient and modern, and the savoring of that which they have written.

Under a divinely given mandate, we are to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.) And “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” (D&C 130:18.) 

- Pres. Hinckley, "I Believe", August 1992 Ensign

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Nature of Judgmentalism as Opposed to Charity

Judgmentalism carries a connotation that is completely negative (never used in a positive way), so it must be different than making necessary judgments in our lives.

I think judgmentalism is making judgments without understanding all the factors that contribute to what is being judged and, thus, judging incorrectly to one degree or another. When it comes to judging people themselves (as opposed to their actions), we rarely or never understand all of the factors completely, so we are commanded not to judge them (assign them an eternal reward or punishment).

I think judgmentalism is a pretty good way to phrase the opposite of charity, although most people don't compare them directly.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Judgmentalism does none of that.

Unfortunately, however, it is one of the single biggest "natural" instincts we have.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On Expecting Miracles to Occur Regularly

“The very purpose for which the world was created, and man introduced to live upon it, requires that the laws of nature operate in cold disregard for human feelings. We must work out our salvation without expecting the laws of nature to be exempted for us. Natural law is, on rare occasions, suspended in a miracle. But mostly…like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, (we) wait endlessly for the moving of the water.” 
- Elder Boyd K. Packer, “The Moving of the Water”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Competing Messages during General Conference

I had one particular thought from General Conference that I want to share here. It isn't new to me, but I think it is important at a time when different views often cause strife and bitterness: 
As often is the case, there were two talks about God and his love that showed the different views of individual leaders. One was closer to universal, long-suffering love, grace, and mercy, while the other was closer to conditional love leading to judgment dependent on obedience. (Those are broad approximations, so please don't nitpick them.) 
I know it drives some people nuts to have such different perspectives taught at General Conference, but I WANT differing views preached by the leadership, specifically because it illustrates that differing views among the membership are okay. In this case, I can focus on one and set aside the other - and the person sitting in front of me in church can do the same thing but focus on the talk I set aside. That is a good thing.  
Seriously, I LOVE the fact that not all the talks contain similar messages and that some simply don't move me - or even that some teach things with which I disagree. 
I hope none of my friends want total uniformity and homogeneity in the Church, since there is a richness in full orchestral music that is absent strictly in a melody, so we shouldn't pine for it in these talks. We should celebrate the simple fact that even our top leaders see some foundational things differently, be thankful some of them resonate more deeply within us than others, and be happy that there can be something for everyone at some point in the meetings.