Friday, December 30, 2016

Why Is the Gospel Sometimes So Hard to Find?

A friend of mine who has struggled mightily to figure out what the Gospel means to him asked the title question a few years ago, and I have thought about it occasionally since then. I have tried to come up with as concise an answer as possible, and the following is my current response:

Because we, as humans, tend to build hedges about it - often in our deep need for safety and security.

Walking the pure Gospel line can be dangerous, in real ways, so we tend to gravitate away from that danger and substitute the pure Gospel for a safer model - a good rather than a best, if you will. In practical terms, we become modern versions of the ancient Israelites - but we don't recognize that similarity, given all of our differences with them.

Also, as another friend once said, maybe it's because we each have to find it for ourselves.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Partnership Is More Important than Rigid Roles

“The Church has nothing to fear from the strength of women. On the contrary, it desperately needs women--and men, too--who are not trapped in dysfunctional roles that involve playing out scripts that don’t really work. Partnership is a mutually supportive relationship that recognizes and honors both the differences and similarities between men and women, that draws deeply on the strengths of both, that focuses on working toward mutually decided goals, and that celebrates the contributions of both in the home, in the community, and in the church and kingdom of God. Help both men and women to work for partnership and to move away from the limitations of rigid roles.” 

- Chieko Okazaki, "Boundaries", p. 16

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Danger of Living in the Past: A Principle for Personal Consideration

I was watching a TV show with one of my daughters a while ago, and the following was a line that I want to share. It has a lot of applications to faith (too many to try to list here), and it highlights one aspect of my own philosophy that is important to me:

When you live in the past, you lose the present.

It's not easy - not at all - to let go of many aspects of the past (and the bitterness that accompanies some of those aspects), since they contributed to the present in real and tangible ways - and it's not healthy to let go of the past in lots of ways, but it's really important not to live in or obsess about the past (whether that is one's own past or a communal past). All we have is the present, and the only healthy objective is to make the best on-going present possible. Living in the past is perhaps the best way to not allow that to happen - to limit in a very real way the growth that is possible by letting go of the past.

Again, this is applicable to lots of aspects of life, and I am not going to try to make a list. How it applies will vary from person to person, so, as the title says, this simply is something to consider.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It Is Important to Be Interested in Many Things - and to Understand Many Perspectives

"Suppose one man likes strawberries and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof either that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good, to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live. What is true in this trivial instance is equally true in more important matters. ...

The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another. Life is too short to be interested in everything, but it is good to be interested in as many things as are necessary to fill our days." 
- Bertrand Russell

I think this is true of perspectives, as well. Understanding the same thing in as many ways as possible does the same thing as being interested in as many things as possible.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Samaritans in Our Lives: Some Might Be Surprising

I gave a talk in a ward years ago about charity in which I asked the congregation to consider, very seriously, what their first reaction would be, internally, if they were in the middle of the administration of the sacrament and any of the following people walked into the chapel:

- a drunk man, reeking of alcohol and cigarette smoke
- a teenage girl with multiple tattoos and body piercings, wearing a mini skirt, tank top, fishnet stocking and combat boots
- two adult men holding hands and obviously a couple

I told them that they could understand their level of charity through that simple reaction as much as perhaps through any other way - and I told them that I hoped, eventually, every one of them would react immediately by thinking, "Thank God they found us," and by standing up and asking the person or couple to sit next to them for the rest of the meeting.

Yes, we have Samaritans, publicans, sinners and lepers in our lives, and we ought to think long and hard about who they are.

Maybe, for some people who are different than the stereotypical norm and/or who are struggling in some way with their faith, those "others" are the traditional, orthodox members in their lives; maybe, for some people who are the stereotypical, orthodox members who are rock solid in their faith, those "others" include active but different members in their lives.

That's worth considering, at least.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Ideal Is to Live in Your Own Best Way

“How . . . do we put the Savior first without putting down other people or their religions? We don’t have to insist on being right all the time. When my parents drank tea, I sat with them and drank hot water. Make compromises. Find ways to serve. Minimize the areas of conflict. Don’t retaliate. After all, you want your family to see that you’re a better, happier person as a result of belonging to the Church.

Be spiritually independent enough that your relationship with the Savior doesn't depend on your circumstances or on what other people say and do. Have the spiritual independence to be a Mormon--the best Mormon you can--in your own way. Not the bishop's way. Not the Relief Society president's way. Your way.” 

- Chieko Okazaki, "Lighten Up", p. 98-99

Friday, December 2, 2016

Now Is the Only Important Time in Our Eternal Lives

I believe strongly that now is the only important time in our lives, since every other time is nothing more than a continuation of now, even as I try to consider all future possibilities when I make decisions that will affect my future.

I see the past as "previous nows" and the future as "future nows", which means that the present is all we really ever have - so I love the concept that time is measured only by humans and that everything is present to the Lord. I understand the philosophical arguments against that view, but I like the idea that dealing in the present is critical because, "Sufficient unto tomorrow is the evil thereof" - or whatever the exact quote is.

The Buddhist concept of karma is wonderful in this regard - and it is badly misunderstood by most people.