Archive for the ‘Enabling Power of Jesus Christ’ Category

Last week I received an email from Pandora with a summary report of how many thumbs up I gave on a particular radio station. It made me think of men.

What?

Yes, it made me think of men, who are more analytically on my mind because I’m reading the book Wife for Life. It’s written by a woman I knew as a teenager. She was a youth leader at the stake level, meaning she ministered to the young women in several wards (congregations). I only knew her from a distance, but I always admired her. Even at 14, I recognized that she was someone who expressed love easily and it made me want to be that way. My mission president’s wife also had that quality. Because of that influence, I started to try to be more expressive and open about sharing love. It prepared my heart to receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost and to feel more of the love of God. In turn, I was better able to share God’s love with others because I felt it myself.

We often never know the impact we can have on others just by being the best versions of ourselves. God changes us into that best version when we turn our heart over to Him.

My brother encouraged me to read Wife for Life. He said Ramona captured what motivated men, which was really fascinating to me because I feel like I don’t get men. I feel like I get women. In the past eight years I’ve been in five Relief Society presidencies (two at BYU and three in DC), so I’ve been in a lot of circumstances counseling individually with women about their lives, seeking inspiration about lesson topics and supporting women as they make significant life choices. The last two years especially during my lunch hour, my commute or lying awake in bed I would ponder the lives of individual women in my circle. Connecting with women and understanding where they’re coming from feels so natural to me.

With men, I’m very often lost.  I feel like after much explaining I’ve come to understand a few individual men, but I’m very often confused about how some really good men I know can be so good at life and seem to be so bad at relationships. Now that I think of it, there have been two men, my brother being one of them, who I appreciate how they think/thought about relationships. Both of them have been married, so that came after experience with women. It’s frustrating. Though Ramona Zabriskie argues in her book the woman has the power to bring happiness in a marriage, in my view, the man holds the power to getting into a committed relationship.    I guess both men and women need each other.:)

My home teacher (man assigned to visit the women in my house once a month to be available to serve when needed) told me that men are like dogs. You have to reward them with validation for good behavior. I appreciated his effort to be helpful, but I didn’t care for the analogy. I don’t want a dog, I want a man. And I thought it was demeaning to think of men in terms of dogs, especially good men. I told him I was really good at giving validation. (It comes naturally for a nurturing personality and serving for so long in a Relief Society capacity, I am well practiced, not to mention experienced with my own personal relationships.)

That’s why when I received the Pandora email, I thought of men. The summary of how many thumbs up I gave suited the dating scenario better in my mind. With Pandora, I choose my own station. I like all the songs on the station. Some of them I like more than others. When I give a thumbs up, it plays more of the music I like. I hardly ever give a thumbs down because I usually like all the music on the station. Even if I’ve previously given a thumbs up for a song, I’ll do it again because I’m pretty consistent. I think working with people, especially men in a dating scenario, is very similar. If I’m dating him, I already like what’s playing on the station. Some things I like more than others. If you encourage what you like, you get more of it. :)

Crazy Ladies

Back to the book Wife for Life. I’ve enjoyed reading it, but felt like much of it was more of a reminder of things I already believed. I’ve long thought that a woman’s self esteem has a huge factor in her relationships. It’s difficult to give and receive love if a woman doesn’t feel worthy of it. I’ve also long believed that I’m responsible to regulate my own emotions and usually as the woman is happy and satisfied, the home is peaceful. It’s my responsibility to work to be content.

But then I came to the section on the Crazy Ladies, chapter 9. This section gave me a brand new idea to explore about my emotional literacy.

Before reading this section I would have said I was a pretty good potential partner. I’m rationally inclined. I listen to understand. I respect individuality. I’m quite resilient. I have a deep well of patience when working with people. I’m rarely critical and I often check my ego. I’m open, affectionate, nurturing and usually content.

But oh man, have I been a Crazy Lady.  That’s so humbling to realize.

After a chapter about what husbands fear, she writes about the Crazy Ladies who emerge when “it feels like we cannot give another ounce, trust another inch, or be brave another day, in other words depleted…overwhelmed…stressed.”  The list is written from the husband’s point of view. The Crazy Lady comes out when a woman feels she’s not receiving the validation she needs and acts on her fears. She lists several Crazy Ladies on pages 85-89.  I felt like only the last one applied to me.

Ashamalee- “Ashamalee sometimes acts on her fear of disappointment, which triggers her husband’s fear of not measuring up. What she ends up communicating is: You are disappointing. You are inadequate. You are ridiculous.”

Stupidia-”Stupidia sometimes acts on her fear of being exploited, which stirs up her husband’s fear of becoming subservient and losing his independence. What she ends up communicating is: You are inept. You are foolish. You are obtuse.”

Irreleva-”Irreleva sometimes acts on her fear of losing her identity or of exploitation, which ignites her husband’s fear of uselessness. What she ends up communicating is: You are boring. You are useless.”

Betraya-”Betraya sometimes acts on her fear of inadequacy, exposure, intimacy, or of getting hurt, which stirs up her husband’s fear of neglect or loneliness. What she ends up communicating is: You are not as good as…or as important as…or as fascinating as…” 

Depressa“Depressa sometimes acts on her fear of abandonment, loss, or disappointment, which fans her husband’s fear of being overwhelmed by emotional demands. What she ends up communicating is: You don’t meet my needs. You don’t care enough…”

For each one she lists possible behaviors. I saw I had done some of Depressa before, but it didn’t really hit me until her personal example for Depressa. She described how she accompanied her husband on a European business trip. In Munich, all of his appointments fell through and because hotel arrangements had already been made, they were in the city for 5 days before needing to go to Stockholm. She was so excited! Five whole romantic days with her husband! But he didn’t share her excitement, “He just sat there poking his fish with a fork. ‘I was looking forward to working this week,’ he said.”  She was upset, as I imagine I would be too. What? I’d be hurt he’d rather work when he had the opportunity of 5 whole free European days with just me.

Ramona writes:

 Now, if I’d been in better form that day, I would have gently sat back down and taken a minute to think about what he meant in the context of the male drive to achieve and the male fear of uselessness behind it. I would have reached for his hand and said something sympathetic. I would have given him an hour or two (or however long it took) to process his disappointment without forcing him to justify it to me, without trying to fix it for him, and without trying to jolly him out of his gloom with cheerfulness. I would have just let him be. I would have graciously let him retreat into his mental cave, knowing he would come out of it all the sooner, taut and strong and ready to spring into romance. (p. 90)

But she didn’t. She was upset and therefore they both became upset. It took a while to recover. Talk about wasted time on their newly obtained vacation.

She writes: “Thankfully, Depressa rarely makes an appearance these days, but I still have to stay on my toes to keep her at bay.”

This recalls a few instances in my own life that make me cringe. I remember telling a roommate in one particular case, “I’m mad if he talks to me and I’m mad if doesn’t talk to me. Either way, I’m mad.”  I knew at the time what I really wanted was his validation and I resented the situation that prevented it. Even knowing that, I didn’t behave at my best form. It looks like I’m really good at relationships with women and friends; good at life, but not always great at romantic relationships. I’m so glad that God helps us change. The Spirit has often corrected me on things I should change and He’s softened the hearts of others to whom I needed to apologize when I’ve asked Him to precede me. I’m glad Ramona has taught me here so I can work on changing.  With some practice, I can stay on my toes, too.

Hermoine’s Crazy Lady

This section of Wife for Life reminded me of a scene in Harry Potter.  Harry, Ron and Hermoine have left Hogwarts in search of horcruxes to destroy. They don’t know where the horcruxes are or what exactly to look for. A horcrux could be any discarded object. They’ve been camping in the woods avoiding snatchers, constantly stressed about the impossible task before them.  Ron and Harry get in a fight and Ron leaves. In Ron’s defense, the dark magic in the horcrux they switch off wearing around their necks affected him.

On his return, Hermoine’s Crazy Lady comes out.  I totally get Hermoine’s reaction here. Of course she’s glad he’s back, but she’s hurt and angry that he left, especially when she needed him so much. She needs him to validate her feelings, assure her he regrets leaving and it won’t happen again and give her time to get over it. I’ve never behaved like Hermoine in this scene, but I’ve also never been abandoned by a boyfriend while trying to defeat the most evil wizard the world has ever known.  Good thing Crazy Lady didn’t have her wand.

Watch Ron’s face. Poor guy. If only he knew why Crazy Lady was coming out, he wouldn’t be so blindsided.

For some reason, I can’t get it to embed, but here’s the link.

Maybe if both men and women know why the Crazy Lady comes out, they can both handle well putting her back in her cage. :)

One could hope.

I love how much of Ramona is in her book. I love learning from her, so I can change and hopefully one day have a marriage like hers.

 

Hey there! I’m not really back to blogging, but the last month or so I’ve had two posts swimming in my head. I have almost a day on a plane and bus, so I have a little time. One post would include reflections of my most recent stint as Relief Society president in my singles ward. I was recently “released” from the position as we call it.  In this same post I want to write about an evening I attended addressing surveys of Church members experiencing faith crisis. The New York Times just published a piece on the man who prompted the survey and who I heard speak. See that article at “Some Members Search the Web and Find Doubt.” I appreciated journalist McKay Coppins’  response “Why the Internet Hasn’t Shattered My Mormon Faith.”  I’d like to write about my own sense of betrayal as I learned more about Church history and how I navigated through it. Make that how I’m navigating through it.

The other is this post about dating, prayer and choices. I’ve gone back and forth with myself about doing it. Then I re-read a few of my posts about dating, which made me smile because I forgot about them and realized this one fits right in. It makes for an interesting read and I hope that as I’m real, it can help others see how faith works in daily life—not just idealized in disconnected church sermons.

Here’s the point: Committed love is not inevitable. It comes by a series of choices to get there and then a series of choices to remain there. God helps us along the way if we ask. We have to ask because He works according to our faith and asking prepares us to receive what He will give.

(If this gets too long for you, just skip to the last section about prayer. That’s the best part of this post.)

“Web of Contingency”

It seems inevitable that my parents ended up together. I mean, I can’t imagine life without my family, or my mortal existence for that matter! Of course it was going to work out between them.  But that sense of inevitability only comes with hindsight. Of course Americans would win their independence. Of course American slavery would become illegal. Of course the Mormon pioneers would settle the Salt Lake valley.  Of course women would obtain the vote.  Of course the Nazis wouldn’t win the war. There’s a sense of inevitability that comes with looking backwards into the past. But these events brought with them great uncertainty and struggle.  So it is with marriage. Looking back on it for couples who are way passed the uncertainty and struggle of the decision process makes it all seem inevitable that they’d end up together.

But it wasn’t.

I like to think of achieving marriage in terms of how David Hackett Fischer describes the crossing of the Delaware River during the American War of Independence in his book Washington’s Crossing. When you read the words “this book,” think “marriage” and you’ll catch my drift.

We have seen how it happened: not in a single event, or even a chain of events, but in a great web of contingency. This book is mainly about contingency, in the sense of people making choices, and choices making a difference in the world. It is not primarily a story of accidents, though there were many along the way. It is not about what might have been, though that question is always in the background. This is a story of real choices that living people actually made. To study an event in these terms is to discover a dense web of contingency, in which many people made choices within a structure of relationships. (364)

Mormons heavily emphasize the concept of free will. God created us before we came to earth, the Mormon narrative begins, and we came into the world to choose God and gain experience. We grow into obtaining our eternal potential as we receive Christ’s Atonement and absorb His power to make us holy.

I once heard a bubbly Church speaker say that God has a path for each of us, we just have to discover it and follow it. I didn’t think that exactly aligned with how Mormons understand the purpose of life. It’s more like God has His gospel path for everyone and Christ is the gatekeeper. But, once on that path and received Christ, there are thousands upon millions of good paths we can choose while still on that gospel path.  What job you end up in, where you’ll live and even what partner you end up with isn’t predetermined. He can see some are better for us than others and will guide us toward those if we ask. He wants us to develop our ability to make good choices. We counsel with Him about possible paths on the gospel path while He gives us feedback from His omniscient perspective. “He approves more than He assigns” to quote a popular Mormon youth speaker.

Since we’re all making choices, it creates a “dense web of contingency” and it exists within a “structure of relationships.”

This means that Mormons don’t believe in predestined soul mates. But they do believe that once you choose a spouse, that person becomes your soul mate.

The Intersection of the Venn Diagram 

I think of potential partners in terms of a Venn diagram. One circle includes the men I could match up with. The other circle comprises those who could want to be with me. There have been men in my life with whom I wanted a deeper relationship, but they didn’t want it with me. Then there have been some men who were interested in a deeper relationship with me and I wasn’t interested. The great potential for a partnership lies in mutual interest—the intersection of the Venn diagram.

There’s not just one person in the intersection who is the destined one. Lots are possible, though the circle is not so big to include everyone who is single. Some people have large intersections and others small, but I believe there are sufficient amounts of possibilities for most everyone. Progressing to marriage happens through a series of choices within the intersection.

God works according to the faith we offer Him. If we ask Him for help in finding someone in the intersection, He will. Then once you’ve found someone in the intersection, He can advise you along the way if you ask. He cares about our lives and that includes our relationships.

God’s will, your will or both? Being willful? 

I think of God’s will in terms of my relationship with my Dad. It’s his will for me to be faithful to my knowledge of the gospel. He wants me to grow up and be a self sufficient adult who maintains a relationship with Him and still relies on Him for love and support. I think people often think of God’s will in very narrow terms, seeking to know the one thing they’re destined to be so they can be it.  My Dad wants me to be successful and there are lots of ways to be successful while still living according to my knowledge of the restored gospel. I believe God’s will is similar. The key is counseling with Him along the way so we can hear His feedback on our choices. God wants us to align our will with His. His will looks more like a good father than a dictator.

Then there’s being willful, meaning you make yourself unavailable to His Spirit and do whatever you want because it’s what you want.  Are you willful?

Women and Power in Dating

It’s hard to know who is actually in the intersection. That takes action and a willingness to be rejected. In other words, you gotta try.

I’m currently not sure how much true power Mormon women have in the dating process, beyond the power of prayer, which I’ll get to. I believe I have power over my own choices, but I’ve found relationships only progress if the man is actively moving it forward and I’m accepting or declining the forward movement.  What am I supposed to do then, just wait around for someone to pick me?  That seems so paternalistic. I do believe women  have power to encourage and create opportunities and show interest.

For example, there was one particular guy I thought was so amazing. He was deeply reflective and incredibly smart, polite, kind and opinionated . He was spiritual in a faithful, yet sometimes unconventional way (as I view myself to be).  But I didn’t know all those things at first. I just knew he was good looking. He started talking to me at our ward retreat. After a while they announced the last BYU/Utah football game was up. It was quite the feat to get the satellite signal to function while in the mountains near Camp David. To receive signal, it had to be set up on the lawn, so viewers grabbed chairs to relocate into the cold night air to see the large projector screen. I invited him to join me to watch, which he did. It was very cozy as we shared my blanket and continued talking while half watching the game. He had his arm around me. Or was that just his arm on my chair? I wasn’t sure. I think it was around me. We’d talk at subsequent Church activities and I invited him over a few times, but it never went much beyond that. Looks like he was in my circle, but I wasn’t in his. It’s too bad because he was so great, but at least I was trying—and doing what I could see was in my power.  You gotta try. Committed love isn’t inevitable. It comes about through the struggle of our choices.

Then there was another man. We were no longer dating because of his choice, but he’d left it open. And I didn’t want it closed. We ran into each other at a party and there was no way I was going to talk to him. I wasn’t over him, but that was deliberate. I could have gotten over it for good if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. I figured I would when I had to, if I had to. He came up to me, making it a point to touch me, bringing up things we had done together and updating me on his life.  He seemed different and I hoped that it could be different. At that point in my life I’d developed the belief that if a man likes you, he’ll do something about it and I’d already made enough of a fool of myself over this guy that if he did want to ask me out, he’d do something about it. I hoped he would for a while, but he never did and I tried to forget about it and sort of did. Then, months later I could bring a guest to an annual Christmas meeting for Temple workers in the upper room of the Washington, D.C. Temple. I’d attended this meeting before. It’s a moving experience. Everyone in attendance wears their Temple whites and the Spirit is very strong as faithful Temple workers sing gospel  hymns and listen to sermons on the role of the Savior. I thought through people I could invite and really wanted him to join me. I decided and then undecided to ask him for about a week and finally landed on the go for it side. I stared at my phone for about 15 minutes before actually doing it. My voice was a tinsy bit shaky as I asked. The answer was no  (well, it was “not now” which is neither here nor there at this point), but it was worth it to me to try. You gotta try.

More recently I was hanging out with a particular man, but I would have rather been on a date with him (see the difference between dating and hanging out at “Stop Hanging Out with Women and Start Dating Them” on the Art of Manliness and “Dating Versus Hanging Out” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks). We’d been on a date before. He’s really smart with lots of initiative and passion and he likes to hear my perspective on ideas he’s exploring. Our bishop had recently done the lesson on dating/marriage, which happens about twice a year or so in singles wards and we were talking about it. (That lesson happens apart from the weekly Relationships Sunday School class. Yeah that’s a thing.)  I told him if I were a (Mormon) man, I’d be very active at dating. I’d ask women out until I found someone I liked and then pursue a relationship with her. If it didn’t work out, I’d move on and keep moving until it works out. I told him I envied the Mormon man’s prerogative in the dating scenario. It’s true that other cultures have different norms, so our model doesn’t have to be this way. However, I believe that culture influences emotions and to be countercultural in this instance doesn’t seem to work out for too many women. Too bad our dating norms are strongly in the favor of the man. He said that we probably had different perspectives on how to be active about it and continued with saying, “But, there’s no better way to get Mormon women to respect you, than to ask women on dates.”  That made me laugh and I smiled in agreement. There are as many perspectives on dating as there are people who want to date. You gotta keep trying until it works. There are enough people, I believe, in each person’s intersection that it can eventually work out, but you gotta try. Committed love isn’t inevitable. It comes about through the struggle of our choices.

Someone’s Choice Does Not Change Your Worth

When I read again my post “God Knows That Dating is Tough,”  I remembered this important point. The way others treat us often has a direct influence over our self esteem. It’s hard to still feel good about yourself when you’ve decided to let someone in and they decide they don’t want to be there. Self-esteem is how we view ourselves, but our worth is eternally constant. No matter what others choose, how God feels about us never changes. Each of Heavenly Father’s children was worth the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. That’s priceless.

The Lord said it this way in a modern revelation:

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” Doctrine & Covenants 18:10 

Just because someone isn’t in your intersection or is in your intersection and chooses someone else, it doesn’t mean you don’t have tremendous worth.

Asking God to Help with Dating

Now to what inspired this post in the first place. A few years ago, the Prophet spoke on marriage  in the priesthood session of general conference and this talk became a recurring theme in my singles ward. In the talk, he expressed concern about single Latter-day Saints hanging out in large groups and not going about purposefully searching for a spouse. I got sick of hearing about it because I didn’t think this applied to me, but I didn’t want to feel like the Prophet’s counsel didn’t apply to me. I prayed sincerely to know what I should do about dating. I really wanted to know if I would never get married so I could grieve the loss of the dream and quit waiting around for something to happen that wouldn’t and move on with my life. After lots of work in the form of prayer and humbling myself, I got an answer to “be patient and trust me.” I was happy to receive a clear answer, but also felt like He wasn’t answering me as I asked. Hello?! Does being patient and trusting mean I should give up on this marriage hope or not? But pursuing that felt bratty. I decided to let that go and just pray for help to be patient and trust. I’ve been consistent with that since, though many mornings and nights it was more to just check the box (hey, praying for the same thing for years can lead to your fervency to wane). God did bless me with the patience and trust for which I asked. Gratefully, after a while I lost my angst about dating.

But, a few months ago things happened that motivated me to revisit the “What should I do about dating?” question.

I couldn’t sleep because I was replaying old tapes in my mind and it was seriously upsetting me. After earnestly praying what I should do about the dating thing, I felt better and went to sleep. The next day during my scripture study on the Metro a very clear answer came into my mind to “pray he’ll have the courage to pursue me.” This made sense to me and I started meaningfully including it in my prayers with faith. The next day someone I had previously dated emailed me and wanted to talk. I didn’t think much of it. Essentially the last time we talked apart from in-the-hall-at-Church-chit-chat was a train wreck. I felt like he was making choices based on assumptions about me without just asking me in the first place. When I said I just wanted someone who wanted to be with me and then you decide the life details after that, I didn’t take well to his response.  Now he was looking for some feedback. Over the years at various times, I’ve sought feedback from men I’d dated after time passed and we were on friendly terms. I was looking for info to help me change for the better. It was never a bad experience. He appeared to be doing the same. Because he wasn’t asking me out, I didn’t feel the need to make it a priority. About a month passed before we ended up chatting and then only briefly.  At the close, I wished him luck.

A few weeks later he asked to meet again. This time it was different. He said essentially since we had that terrible ending (my words), which was about six months previous, he’s been thinking of me and more generally of what he should do about dating. He’d received some impressions from the Spirit and subsequently had a “paradigm shift.”

Then he went on.

Then I responded.

Who knows what will happen with this. Committed love isn’t inevitable, it comes about through the struggle of choices. But here’s some thoughts that come to me about it from the benefit of hindsight:

His humility was absolutely disarming to me.

I had nothing but respect for him for the tremendous courage it required to tell me what he did.

Because of the humble confidence he carried by acting on what the Spirit inspired him to do, I changed from hardly caring to see him to finding him very attractive. Worth noting, right?  :)

I’m also humbled about the timing. He’d been thinking about it for months and right after I prayed with faith and the Spirit gave me to “pray that he would have the courage to pursue me” he contacted me.  1. Cool he’s so responsive to the Spirit and 2. Cool the Lord gave me specifically what to exercise faith about.

I believe others would have similar experiences through acting on answers to prayer and trusting God.

You’re almost to the end of this mega-long post!

I learned many, many things this round as a Relief Society president. The most valued thing I learned was a re-learning. It is how to exercise faith in prayer, receive an answer, recognize the answer and to act upon it.

Most everyone dreams of committed love.  If you involve God in the process, I believe He can help guide you to someone in your intersection. Then you have to continue to make choices. Ask Him for help in those moments too.

God cares, even about dating which can seem silly, but actually has consequences that reach into forever.

May you reach out to Him as He reaches for you, so your forever can be eternally learning the true meaning of the commitment of love.

Related posts:

Can’t you see the I’M the answer to your prayers? 

Mormon Apostle: Question Your Guts Out 

God Knows Dating is Tough 

 

 

Hi!

Thanks so much for reading this blog.

I appreciate that someone actually reads it! I started this venture a few years ago. For a while there it was a billboard in the desert. Then BAM! The Mormon Moment happened and there was much more to say. Er, write. And lots more interested people. I’ve been trying to get it to be a billboard in the city. Right now it’s hanging out somewhere in the suburbs.

But, I’m about to stall its momentum.

You see, blogging is a lot of work. You have to think up stuff and then compose that stuff into some readable form. Some people can crank out substantial content like it’s no big deal. Good for them. It takes me a bit.

When I started this project I was working full time and doing my Mormon thing. Since then, I added evening grad school to my full time job and was called as one of the lay ministers for the women in my congregation (ward), the Relief Society president. Depending on the week, I spend about 10-15 hrs fulfilling this responsibility.   Full time work plus grad school was demanding, but doable. Adding in being RS pres makes it very difficult. As I rely on the Lord, I feel Him enabling me to do what I need to do. That’s His grace for you.

This talk by a modern Apostle has helped me tremendously:  “Real-Life Education.”  Here Elder Eyring describes his experience in his demanding grad program. It was Harvard, but he doesn’t name it. At this stretching time, he was called as a branch president, which is an even more time intensive calling than I have. He felt disadvantaged because his classmates were studying while he was serving people in the Church. As he put the Lord first, he was able to both serve Him and be successful in his program.

As I’ve done my best to set my heart first on serving the Lord, I have felt similarly blessed.

Need help being successful? Try it. What He’s done for Elder Eyring and for me, He’ll do for you. He’s no respecter of persons. He works according to your faith. If you offer it, He’ll work a miracle with it.

So why a blogging break?

I need the brain space. I’m starting the thesis phase of my master’s, which is very demanding. When I’m blogging, I usually think about various ideas for a while and then finally carve out time to compose one of them. I need to sweep out my brain to make space for thoughts about religious liberty in Early America, not about how to communicate a modern Mormon worldview online. Plus, for revelation to happen, I have to give it brain space. Revelation is when God speaks to my mind and my heart by the Holy Ghost (Doc & Cov 8:2-3). It’s a process and God requires that I offer faith by thinking and praying about what I want help with before I receive His communication (Doc & Cov 9:7-8).

It was this week that I realized I needed to take a break. One of my counselors in my Relief Society presidency is moving to Manhattan for a job, so I need to pursue inspiration on who should take on her role when she leaves. This last week, I’ve been thinking about how to write about Mormon views on sexuality.  I haven’t given the new counselor question the thought that would prompt revelation.  I’ve also spent some more time than usual this week doing Relief Society work and I didn’t get to work on my thesis at all. It was then I decided I wanted to table this for a while. I’m just clearing out some brain space.

I have two semesters to finish my thesis. Don’t worry, it will go by so quickly, you will hardly miss me.

Please don’t cry. That could be bad for your computer. Oh come on, dry those tears. There, there. It will be okay.

I was percolating several ideas for posts that I never wrote.

  • I never composed a post about Mormon views on sexuality. I was especially considering this the last two weeks. It was entitled “Sex, Pork, and Porn.” It was going to be a good one, but time consuming to do. I was going to do it this last weekend, but didn’t get to it.
  • I also never wrote about how and why Mormons abstain from alcohol and how I navigate that as a professional in Washington when it’s generally part of building rapport.
  • I never wrote about American Exceptionalism in Mormon thought in the early Church and the form it has taken in the present.  I believe this to be different from the American Exceptionalism of the Republican party.
  • I never wrote part 2 of this post about Black Mormons. A post related to this, but not necessarily a part 2 can be found here. It discusses the  New York Times op ed by John Turner. Also, this related HuffPo article on the topic is very good.
  • Lastly, I wanted to write about  the contraception requirement in the HHS mandate as an affront to religious liberty. Many in the media represent opposition to this requirement as men making decisions about women’s bodies or a fear  of an increase in female promiscuity. Stephen Colbert represents this view here. The beef is not that contraception, including abortion, is already readily available to women, but that it’s a violation of conscience to require Catholic employers to provide contraception, abortion and sterilization benefits to employees when it has long been in their faith tradition to reject it.  It’s also an affront to require tax payers to fund these procedures when it violates their conscience. I share the Becket Fund’s view on this.

I wish I could have cranked those out. Maybe I’ll hit those first when I return.  Also, when I return, I’ll have a lot to say about religious liberty since I’ll be thinking, researching and writing about it for the next six months.  I’m considering doing some vlogs where I give brief talks on religious liberty. I’ll revisit that idea later.

I’ll still be reading my daily Google news alert for “Mormon” and tweeting articles worth reading. You can check that out at my Twitter account.  Hopefully things will die down after this election. *fingers crossed*

This really isn’t goodbye. It’s until next time. So, until next time be good. Stay out of trouble. God is a reality. Learning  through the Holy Spirit the reality of God’s nature is the greatest adventure of mortality. It’s worth the pursuit.

Try it.

I’ve been corresponding with a man who came across this blog and found it beneficial, especially the posts about doubting.  I just emailed him a talk I gave in my singles’ ward about six months ago. Now I’m thinking, I’ll just share it more broadly. It’s mega long as far as posts go, but you can take a bathroom break midway.

It’s extremely personal, but faith is personal and I prefer to provide an example of someone working through the development of faith.

Welcome into my head and examples of my dating life.:) (As if you weren’t already there.)

Here are links to previous posts about doubting

Doubting and Wrestling

Doubt: Religion’s 4 Letter Word

Why I’m Not Disillusioned by Sketchy Scriptures

My Current Explanation of Life’s Purpose

I’m just copying and pasting what I wrote for myself to deliver it. I’ll go back and edit it soon. Well, maybe not soon. Maybe sometime.

Talk starts here:

My topic is “A Nation Where the Gospel Can Flourish”

The fullest blessings of the Atonement are only possible through priesthood power. The greatest potential God has in store for us lies in a covenant relationship with Him, which comes through priesthood.   I could speak about how the creation of the US Constitution fostered an environment that made possible the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and priesthood. If this was my direction, I’d be sure to note that America was only the cradle for this work. God’s purpose was to bring all the world access to the full blessings of the Atonement of His Son.

However, I’m going a different direction.  I wanted to share some ideas that you could put into practice when you leave Church today. We’re in this nation where the gospel is flourishing, now what? Mormons are starring in politics and on Broadway these days, so people want to know what they believe.

How do you talk about your faith with others who do not share your conviction in the Restoration?

You have GOT to figure out what you will say and how you’ll say it. How do you explain why some Christians don’t accept Latter-day Saints as Christians? How do you explain the garment? These are recurring questions and there are many more. You need to prepare and prepare well. I’m not going to talk about this either, but I invite you to take the approach of simply educating others about what Latter-day Saints actually believe. For ideas, you can go to my blog about LDS beliefs, mormoninsider.com. As you take this educating approach, you’ll help others overcome stereotypes and misconceptions and you’ll have more opportunity to share with those who are sincerely searching to know God.

So what AM I going to talk about? I’m going to talk about how I personally cultivate my faith, including how I respond to doubt. I believe as you think more deeply about why it is you believe, you will be better equipped to talk about it with others. I’ll also talk about how I seek to recognize the Spirit.  Because I think it may be a topic of interest to some of you, I’ve chosen dating examples to illustrate what I mean by these two topics.

When I saw the Tony performance of “Just Believe” from the Book of Mormon the Musical I was conflicted. It made me laugh and cringe at the same time.

In a June 27 CNN interview, Richard Bushman who is a Mormon Studies scholar at Claremont and the media’s go-to faithful Latter-day Saint spokesman said the musical is like “looking in a fun house mirror; the reflection is hilarious, but not really you.” I agree with him. What I found most disconcerting was how Elder Price resolves his crisis of faith. He rejects his concerns by repeatedly telling himself to “just believe.” From the song:

I allowed my faith to be shaken. What’s the matter with me? …I must be completely devout, I can’t have even one shred of doubt…I am a Mormon! And a Mormon just believes.

From the Bushman interview:

Specific doctrines aside, the lines that will most distress Mormons in the Price lyrics are the repeated phrase “just believe.”

Poor Elder Price has had his confidence shaken and doesn’t know how to react to his dawning disbelief.  All he can do is repeat over and over “just believe.”  To prove himself valiant, he must turn off the lights and shut the door on his doubts.

For me “just believing” meant turning the light on, not turning it off. (end of quote)

This was Elder Price’s style of responding to doubts. How do you? Do you have doubts? I do. When I hear people say they don’t have any doubts, I wonder if they’re thinking deeply about their faith.  I suspect they’re either not digging deeply enough or they’re at a Brother of Jared level of faith. Maybe there are other options.

Yet, God commanded us not to doubt, “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not” (Doc & Cov 6:36), so what’s a girl to do?

Doubt and questioning are different.

Doubt means distrust. Questioning with faith means you trust God or have confidence in Him.

In doubting you reject God until He gives you an answer. By questioning with faith, you trust He will provide , according to His perfect judgment.

Moroni 9:21 “…whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him, and this promise is unto all…”

The most oft repeated invitation in the scriptures is “ask” and is almost always coupled with the promise “and ye shall receive.”

A faithful Latter-day Saint believes in personal revelation. Instead of not thinking of concerns by putting them out of your mind, I invite you to ask God about them, expecting He will help you understand.

One of the leading purposes of the Restoration was to restore an accurate knowledge of the nature of God, namely He is not an essence everywhere and nowhere without parts or passions, but He is a well involved Father who grieves over His children, as Moses chapter 7 shows us. When we better understand who God is, we can begin to trust Him or have faith in Him.

From the third Lecture on Faith speaking of God’s character:

“…unless [we understand the goodness of His character] the faith    necessary for salvation could not exist; for doubt would take the place of faith.”

So here’s the first dating example.

After conference, with its emphasis on marriage, I was frustrated.  I think this is part of Church culture and not necessarily how Heavenly Father wants us approach it, but there’s this sense that if you’re not married in the Church, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.  Once you fix it, then you’ll be able to fulfill the commandment of marriage. There’s another sense that if you’re not married it’s because you don’t value it or you are playing around or too focused on your career or whatever. (As if a promotion at work could kiss you goodnight.)

It turns out, in order for a marriage to happen there has to be two people where both are willing to develop a relationship and make this sacred commitment together. It’s a matter of agency.

After conference, I was reviewing my past dating experiences and wondering if I should have done something differently at one time or another. Because I had this agency focus and because I believe God wants us to gain experience, which often comes through struggles, I felt alone in the process. I began to be resentful toward the Lord that He left me alone when I’ve always done my best to stay close to Him.

During this time, I was praying to know what I should do with this message of marriage from conference.

Then my brother visited with his 3 yr old daughter.  As we were hanging out on the Mall after the Natural History museum, she was all over the place spinning around in circles and pulling up grass, hiding behind trees and my brother was letting her play.  When she went too far, he’d chase after her and bring her back close to him. She was then free to choose which activity she wanted to do.

I had the thought, which I believe was from the Spirit, that this how God cares for us.  He’s not far removed, leaving us alone in our struggles. He lets us choose what we want to do. We can play with the grass or spin around in circles. There are lots of options. But He’s always close by, watching attentively, as any good father would. When He sees we are heading in a direction that could be harmful for us, He comes after us.

It is part of the Restoration that God is our Father and is deeply involved in the lives of His children.  When Heavenly Father revealed Himself with Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith, He in part was opening the dispensation to restore the knowledge about Him.

As this thought came to me and I made this connection, I realized my worry and frustration came from doubting God’s character. I did not trust that He was involved in my life and that He would have stopped me from making a poor choice, even though I have always sought the Spirit.

So I changed my mind to align with what the Spirit brought to my attention.  He’s well involved and watches attentively over me.

So how I deal with doubt, when I have them?

  1. I remember past witnesses of the Spirit. Such as the times I have felt and understood by the Spirit that my sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ’s Atonement. And the times I’ve felt that same Spirit through the pages of the Book of Mormon. I remember that Joseph Smith translated that Book of Mormon, which is evidence he was a prophet. And I remember times when the Spirit has witness to me the reality of God as my Father.
  2. I take this knowledge and put it into practice with faith. In other words I make the decision to trust God.
  3.  I ask for more knowledge by the Spirit with faith.

I invite you to address your doubts with this process.

I must add that after I had this change of mind, which is also known as repentance, I remembered an LDS friend of mine who I greatly admire once told me about a revelation she received. This was when she was single, she’s eternally married now. It was after she diligently questioned with faith to receive a time frame of when she would marry. Would it be sooner or more like when she was 40 or 50 or even in the next life? She’s fantastic, and I’d say, a hard woman to match. I think she intimidated a lot of men. As she told me about it, I recognized that this personal revelation was how she could have such peace and confidence about marriage and dating, even in a culture that seems hyper occupied with it.  She could even have this peace when she didn’t have any prospects.

I believed that God would do for me what He had done for her. He’s no respecter of persons. I started questioning with faith for myself on the same topic.

My question was different than hers and I received my own answer.

I testify, as I changed my mind from doubting the Lord, to trusting Him asking Him with faith, I received my own revelation on the topic, personalized for me. Responding to doubt with this approach will give you confidence to move forward with faith. God wants to provide this kind of communication to you, so your faith could increase. And this way, you can break up without going to pieces.  In addition to being our well involved Heavenly Father, He is able to arrange introductions between people who will use their agency to choose each other.

I invite you to respond to doubt by directing your mind to the true nature of God and asking Him in faith what you should do to receive the desires of your heart.

Further, you have to be willing to act. You can’t expect this kind of revelation and help if you want God to do your work for you. As Elder Bednar said in his morningside to us:

Do not pray as objects,

One of my former mission companions and now forever friends visited me this weekend. It was so good for my soul.

Katarina came from Sweden to serve on Temple Square in Salt Lake City with hundreds of other sister missionaries from around the world. Proficiency in varied  languages is crucial on Temple Square, since it is a highly trafficked destination for international visitors.  Good thing she’s fluent in English, Swedish and German, not to mention additionally conversational in Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and ASL. (We’ll get back to that ASL.)

At midpoint serving on Temple Square, sisters transfer to a different mission in the States for the door knocking form of finding in missionary work. It’s way more effective when people are coming to you with curiosity, but both experiences are meaningful and now cherished. Katarina and I were companions when she came to Texas from the Square.

She’s been to the States a few times before and this time came for 40 days visiting former companions around the country. She hit Los Angeles, Seattle, St. George, Salt Lake/Provo, a city in Arizona, Washington, D.C. and is finishing up in New York City. When I asked her if she wanted to see the Mall, which the iconic American memorials line, she said “I want to do what you do” implying she didn’t want to be a tourist.

Okay, let’s go to The Tombs, then.

The Tombs is a restaurant established by Georgetown University alum  just blocks from its campus at 1226 36th St NW. Naturally, it’s a hangout for Georgetown students. Think the Max on Saved By the Bell only way cooler.  I was first introduced to The Tombs when one of my Jesuit professors offered to host our class there on the final day of our Religion in Latin America course.  He called it the “den of iniquity” because it’s a favorite bar for students.  It was one of those jokes he really meant.:) It was nice of him to host us since he had no department budget for such privileges. I wanted her to get  to see what an American university scene was like.

Then she made me envious when she said the Swedish government pays for all university, even masters degrees. I almost ended our plans for the evening reasoning she’d had a cushy enough life, but we already had some friends meeting up with us. I had to save face.  On we went.

We talked about the American university sports system since the Georgetown basketball away game flashed on flat screens around us.

We also talked about American food. My dish was dee-lish-us. Lamb ravioli. I’m definitely not a vegetarian. I highly recommend it.

 

Spending time with Katarina was so good for me. We picked up like we saw each other only yesterday, rather than years ago. Recalling experiences I haven’t thought about for years brought smiles to my face. Here’s one.

Katarina had an assignment on Temple Square to learn American Sign Language to support incoming visitors. Missionaries studying language add 30 minutes to their morning study for its acquisition. I studied ASL at BYU. It was my way of evading another math class since BYU allowed for a language to take place of a math credit for social science majors. However, I wasn’t that proficient. I had classes conducted completely in ASL, but had yet to gain fluency myself. Katarina taught me her gospel vocab and I shared what I could remember.

After some time daily practicing ASL, we saw two people signing in the parking lot of our apartment complex. However, we didn’t take the 40 steps to go over and talk to them. We went on our way. That night, while kneeling for prayer, Katarina said she regretted not talking to the Deaf girl we saw that day. She said she’s been spending all this time studying and we pass up the rare opportunity to invite someone to learn about the Savior’s restored gospel in their own language of ASL. I  shared her sentiment. We decided to pray for another opportunity.

For weeks, IN EVERY SINGLE PRAYER, which is a whole lotta prayers as a missionary, we prayed for “another chance with the Deaf girl.” Over and over and over. Again and again and again.

Then BAM. One day, we ran into her again. We didn’t miss our chance this time. We talked with her in a comprehensible way and asked if we could teach her. She agreed. Her boyfriend joined us.

My sign had never been so good as that lesson, neither has it been since. When teaching the “Message of the Restoration” the Spirit heightened my ability to communicate. It flowed more smoothly than I’d ever been able. We invited the couple to Church and they attended where a professional interpreter in our ward made the meetings more accessible to them.

Then they quit opening the door to us, which was unfortunate. Though LDS missionaries are persistent, they still get the hint.

I believe that we can influence God. Jesus taught in the parable of the unjust judge a woman received her request from the unjust judge simply because of her repetition in asking. Then, what of God? He’s a perfect Parent with the best interest of His children at the forefront of His priorities. I know when my nieces ask repeatedly for me to spin them around and around, I cave like a mushy mess because they love it so much. I want them to be safe, happy, well adjusted little ladies and as long as those parameters are met, I’m happy to do as they request of me, especially when they’re so grateful. I’m hardly a pushover, okay sometimes I am. This is how I view God. I believe that though the “Deaf girl” was not interested in being taught, God performed the miracle of opening her heart because of the faith we offered Him, enough to grant us our request. We just wanted another chance to talk to her. We received what we asked and beyond.

May you influence God by the faith you offer in the form of prayer. He will respond to what it is you request as long as it is within His parameters for your safety and eternal happiness. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:2)

Katarina and I attended the Washington, D.C. Temple this weekend for an ordinance session conducted completely in ASL. It’s the third Saturday of each month at 3:45pm. Signing again reminded me to remember, remember that I can influence God with my prayers.  He gave us “another chance with the Deaf girl,” He can do other things too.

In what way will you influence God?

 

Last night I was frustrated.

It all started on my metro ride home when I was thinking about the things I needed to do for the evening. Before I could get to them, I thought, I need to address unresolved tasks for my Church calling (responsibility) that I had worked on tying up on Sunday, but couldn’t connect with the people I needed. I’d called them several times since. I also emailed them. I hadn’t heard back.

As I walked home, calling one back and again reaching only a voicemail, I was getting more miffed.

They had approached me at Church for something they needed my help with so they could fulfill their calling.  I went through the work of doing just what they asked for and now they weren’t returning my calls? I know you love your smart phone, show it some love and use it to call me.  It feels like such a waste to keep trying and not getting results for the same issue. Everyone’s busy, I know, but couldn’t they take 30 seconds and compose a text, at least? Go ahead, I have unlimited texting. If it was more of a priority for them, they’d respond to me. These thoughts all ran through my head.

Then this morning I was listening to this talk as I was getting ready for the day (there’s nothing like listening to a modern prophet’s voice while doing your make-up). This talk was directed to priesthood holders and their responsibility for service, but like most of the time, the content of the talk sometimes isn’t what does it, but it’s seeking to learn more of God through that scripture puts my mind in the state to receive messages from Him through the Holy Ghost.

“You don’t always call me back, either, you know,” was the thought that came into my mind (I might have been putting on eye-liner at the time).

I stopped.

What?

Then I made the connection.

I had felt sorry for myself for too much of the previous evening because people wouldn’t call me back. But there are lots of times I get promptings from God through the Holy Ghost and I don’t respond to Him.

For example, almost nightly recently, I’ve had the idea I should improve my prayers, specifically through not kneeling on my bed and doing a face plant into my pillow. There have been times when my prayers are so filled with the Spirit that I feel in communion with Him, times I cherish. In my mind and heart, I feel like He’s very close by and I know something of His will.

Recently, not so much.

Because of this, I may even sometimes mix up requests and ask my family to be blessed before I eat them. I excuse myself because of my fatigue, but I know I’d be much more attentive if I wasn’t snuggled up in bed where I’ve trained myself like one of Pavlov’s dog to soon slip into slumber.

The constant recurrent thought to stop doing this before I pray is the kind of pressing thought that I know it’s from the Spirit. I’m not sure how long it’s been, a few weeks? A month? That’s a long time not to respond to Heavenly Father’s calls. It’d only been a few days for my complaint and they probably had a good reason. Me, I was just being lame and lazy.

I decided to change my frustration with my lack of immediate gratification in call-backs. After feeling remorseful for my poor attitude, I spoke with Heavenly Father in prayer about it. I thanked Him for the perspective, and asked for forgiveness and the chance to be a little more like Him in how I fulfilled my calling. And oh yeah, about that face-plant-prayer-thing, I’ll get on that, too.

Claim I Wish Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling Addressed in the Intelligence Squared Debate

This isn’t a rare occasion. I get corrected like this all the time. As I seek the Holy Spirit more diligently and I’m willing to respond to its pressings, it happens more frequently. I consider it part of my lifetime transformation to become more holy through using Christ’s Atonement by repentance. The beginning of this transformation was a one time event. Evangelical Christians call this “being saved” when you “let Jesus into your heart.”   I believe that beginning experience, which I wrote about in the post “I’m Mormon: Enlightened or Brainwashed,” began a life long process of sanctification for me. I was relieved of the guilt of my sins (forgiven), but now I need to be changed from its effects. I have to choose to yield indivdiual shortcomings and missteps to God (repentance).  The more I seek Christ’s forgiveness as I recognize my missteps, I receive a greater portion of His grace.

This process makes me a better person. As a result, I’m slow to be angry in traffic. I’m slow to think others are incompetent when their customer service isn’t what I expect. I’m slow to be rude. I’m motivated to serve my community. I am more thoughtful in my relationships with my family and friends. I attribute all these polishing aspirations to this process of conversion I’m living. It’s gradual and subtle. I could have missed it this morning, but I was putting myself in a state of mind to hear God’s gentle nudging and I chose to respond.

This brings me to the claim I wish Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling addressed in the recent debate hosted by Intelligence Squared. Intelligence Squared poses a motion and invites renowned representatives to debate it. Their most recent motion was “The World Would Be Better Without Religion.” The evening begins with the audience casting a vote for or against the motion and the winner is determined by influencing the greatest amount of change in the audience’s opinions. I was surprised that the audience chose the side for the motion, not just because I’m pro-religion in society. Those advocating for it, meaning arguing the world would be better without religion, frequently cherry picked random scriptures to demonstrate religion’s silliness. These scriptures hardly applied to the religious experience of anyone.  The opponents used rational facts and statistics to justify their claims that religion makes the world a better place.

I wish those wanting to eliminate religion from the world discussed not whether religious belief was delusional, but that it’s possible to participate in an ennobling process equivalent or better to what I’ve described (and is a common narrative among religious people) without these alleged delusions about God. In my mind, when discussing God in the public forum, it doesn’t matter if there’s really a God. What matters is how those who claim belief in a God behave as a result of it. I wish they were able to come up with some explanation that there is a substitute for the drive for spirituality that would move me to change my attitude in the way I’ve described. It was such a slight error, but because what I believe was the Holy Ghost corrected me, I became remorseful and redirected. I changed and I changed for the better. This influence of the Holy Ghost diminishes the likelihood of repeating the error. Though I likely will repeat the error in different forms, I believe these errors will come  less often.  Because of these small course corrections, the possibility of being uncivil to others in my community is increasingly unlikely.

I’m convinced I wouldn’t be so teachable without what I believe is influencing me, the Holy Ghost. If I didn’t believe I was receiving messages from God to make daily decisions to change and if I didn’t believe God was giving me grace to change my heart and make me more like Him, I see no other source in my life to direct me to become ennobled. The messages I receive from media outlets seek to persuade me to consume more and more because I deserve it.  Chapman and Grayling had scoffing tones. Should I model this behavior?

In Rabbi David Wolpe’s closing remarks, he spoke of his grandfather as a boy in Auschwitz who questioned his grandfather about using butter to light a menorah. When the boy questioned him for using the scarce ration for this purpose, the grandfather told him that they have learned they could go three weeks without eating, but they could not go one day without hope.  Through my spiritual changing process I have hope, not just hope for heaven. (Those critical of religion often focus on what they see as a self-interested pursuit of  a post-mortal reward. So let’s just focus on this life for now.) As I enjoy and respond to what I believe is God’s calling, I’m more teachable, I’m more patient, I’m more loving, I’m slow to overreact, my mind is sharper and I remember things more quickly. My joys are deeper and my life is a more fulfilling experience. I see the wonder of the world around me and value the individual worth of every person. Is there any secular substitute for my pursuit to respond to God’s call and change into who I believe He wants me to be?  That is the hope that is within me, which I cannot live one day without.

I wish they’d addressed that claim. It is after all, a common claim among most religious people. Yeah, there are those crazies who use God to justify murder and other outlier business, but what would the world be like if the millions of people who are living a process like I am lost their directing system? Would the world be a better place? What would replace it to compensate for this loss? That would have made for a much more sound debate (rather than quoting Old Testament scripture about women grabbing at men who are in conflict with their husbands).

Interested in the debate? Here  it ’tis:

Debate: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv

I’m still primed up from the Mormons-aren’t-Christians claims coming from Pastor Robert Jeffress’ and those who share his views of Christianity. My post Jeffress: Cult—any religious group not Evangelical Christian (Catholics get a backhanded pass) directly responds to his “cult” and “non-Christian” label for people in the Latter-day Saint faith community.

Hence my creation of the page “I Believe in Christ“ found at the top right of this website. There, I set out to generate a summary of my reliance on the merits of Jesus Christ, but it ran way too long. Instead, I’m going to make that page a list of summaries with links to posts I write directly about who I believe Jesus Christ is and what I believe He has done for me and for mankind. These will provide snapshots into my Christianity. I won’t be able to communicate it in full and it will take some time to develop out, but I invite you to follow the process.

This is the first post for the “I Believe in Christ” summary page.

Christ Lived the Holocaust, Literally

I believe that during His Atonement for mankind, Christ lived the experiences of those who both inflicted and endured the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Let me explain.

Unique to Latter-day Saint belief is that Christ not only suffered for the sins of the world, but during His Atonement He experienced everything that came into the world as a result of the Fall of Adam. It is this way He overcomes the fallen world.

Somehow, in some way, in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, He experienced the tragedies of every person who has lived and will ever live. This includes pains, sicknesses, fears, anxieties, desperation, despondency, bereavement, loneliness—everything—that happens, even most often by no fault of the griever.

It is no wonder that He bled at every pore.  Luke described Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Why? He lived it so He can comfort people who seek His comfort and meet the demands of justice while extending mercy.  This way He is empathetic, not just sympathetic.

An ancient American prophet, Alma, expanded the Latter-day Saint understanding of the Atonement beyond suffering for sin only with these words:

And [Jesus] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

To my mind, this personalizes the Atonement for me beyond just knowing Christ died for my sins. He knows my heartaches because He lived them that He may know first hand how to comfort me if I seek it.  (Then I feel it in my heart when I am comforted by His power.)

Humans are capable of tremendous kindness, but also capable of inexcusable horror.

People of the earth throughout its history have experienced soul wrenching pain. Humans are capable of tremendous kindness, but are also capable of inexcusable horror.

I was in high school when I began to understand, even to a limited degree, the degree and amount of terror throughout the earth’s history. Christ lived each individual person’s pains and sorrows during His Atonement. The Holocaust is especially instructive for me. There are no words to explain what the Nazi Party under Hitler’s lead committed. Terrible events pepper the earth’s timeline, but the Holocaust is what fuels my imagination of the Savior’s suffering for mankind.

This scene from the 1993 Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List depicts the Cracow Ghetto Massacre. The Nazis take a small portion of the ghetto’s population for internment in a labor camp and murder the rest. (Warning: this is really graphic, though I did choose a milder scene from the movie that would still show the travesties of the genocide.)

I believe that during the Atonement, Christ experienced the atrocity each person lived that day and night. During the offering of Himself as a sacrifice, He lived the fear and horror that every individual on the earth has ever felt. The Holocaust, namely the events at Cracow in this instance, was only a small portion of His suffering.

I imagine the victims’ fear, anxiety, uncertainty and helplessness by the hands of the Nazis who dehumanized the Jews to vermin. But it’s not just in my imagination. It was real. Christ living it for each individual person was also real. By suffering these pains and horrors He offers comfort and also is able to overcome the fallen world.

I believe that Christ both lived victims’ atrocities that night and also bore the sins of the inflictors.

Christ, the Son of God, was sinless and guiltless. His whole mortal life, He never took a wrong step, not even a minor one. I cringe at thinking He bore the guilt of what the Nazi soldiers did that night.

This scene from the film (Warning: graphic language and behavior ensues) continues the ghetto’s liquidation. The soldiers hunt hiding people and murder them without conscience.

It shows how bad the Nazis were. It seems like fiction, only it was real.

It grieves me to think that Christ was stained with the sins of these murderers. But He also was stained with my own missteps. Learning of Him changes my heart.  Learning of Him diminishes my desire to sin. Learning of Him increases my willingness to receive a greater part of His Atonement.

He has done for me and for mankind more than I can understand. From what I do understand, (by the Holy Ghost through scripture study and prayer) it leads me to faithfulness to Him.

 

(Latter-day Saint media standards can be found here. I watch fewer and fewer movies and TV shows these days because they often promote a standard of morality that grinds against how I choose to live my life in light of my knowledge of God. However, I do watch movies and read books that portray actual historical events, even if they are graphic and disturbing.)

The best video yet on the MormonMessages Youtube channel released this week.

The video features young Jamaican born Latter-day Saint Chris Cook who serves as his congregation’s bishop (volunteer pastor) in London, England. In it he talks about his experience with the Book of Mormon. The animation, camera work, his dashing smile, and sincere witness of Christ make it the best video yet!

Mormons (Latter-day Saints) believe the Bible to be a compilations of revelations written down by ancient apostles and prophets at or around Jerusalem. We cherish it as scripture to teach about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His commandments. As this video’s animation beautifully illustrates, Latter-day Saints also believe that God led a prophet during Jeremiah’s Old Testament ministry to what we now call the American continent ..  His family carried with them the Law of Moses, which looked forward to the coming of Christ.  (At this time the Law of Moses was in a more pure form than what the Saduccees and Pharisees were practicing at the time of Christ’s mortal ministry. It was practiced as a means to instruct about Christ’s future Atonement)

The  descendants of this prophet , named Lehi, who first came to America built a civilization. Many believed in the future coming of Christ and many did not. God called prophets among this people to teach them about the coming of His Son and His gospel which includes faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and continuing in faithfulness. When this civilization ended in war, a prophet abridged the many revelations received and recorded over the years into one book.  This book is now called the Book of Mormon because Mormon authored the digest of the  abundant scriptures.  The record climaxes with the physical visit of Jesus Christ in America after His resurrection near Calvary’s Hill  (3 Nephi 11).

Latter-day Saints hold that the Book of Mormon is evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the first in a modern line of called prophets by God. This bishop is referring to this belief when he says, “It makes sense that God will continue to speak to us.”

Some of my favorite highlights from Chris Cook’s witness of Christ and the Book of Mormon are:

When describing why he believes the book is of God, he explains his experience in these ways:

“A feeling of peace, my mind was enlightened.”

“I came to a knowledge that the book is true gradually. It was by little experiences on that page and little experiences on that page, always accompanied by the Holy Ghost.”

In response to a scripture describing the afterlife (Alma 40-11-12):

“Where I’m from in Jamaica, it is a very superstitious place. It was a very unpleasant thing to contemplate death. This scripture points out to me that it is a part of God’s plan. There is a place prepared for people that die. I’m grateful I was able to come to that knowledge and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that experience.”

He describes the results of reading the Book of Mormon in his life:

“It left me with the feeling that I never want to do another bad thing for the rest of my life.”

“The way the Book of Mormon has changed me the most, it has filled me with the desire to be more like Jesus Christ.”

The Book of Mormon has done the same for me.

As I carefully study from its pages in companionship with other scriptures such as the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, my desire for sin dissipates. That desire is replaced with the want to be more like Jesus Christ. Through the pages of the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, I’m living a wonderful, glorious process of coming to know Christ and through knowing Him, becoming more like Him.

 

With two Mormons running for president in 2012 the Mormons-aren’t-Christian claims are back in circulation. These trigger in me a condition I frequently suffered as a teenager where my eyes roll backwards uncontrollably into my head. I thought I was long since cured of these symptoms, but nope. I guess not.

What’s the latest dish on this hashed and rehashed topic?

Pastor Robert Jeffress, Dallas megachurch pastor of 10,000+, recently introduced presidential hopeful Rick Perry at a political event with his “emphatic” endorsement. He explained his preference for Perry, “ a competent Christian,” to Mitt Romney, “a competent non-Christian” because the Southern Baptist Convention has labeled The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints as a “cult.”

Here’s the video of the CNN Anderson Cooper interview with Jeffress.

That Anderson Cooper, he’s not just a pretty face.  He presses Jeffress to justify his reasoning. Theological vs sociological cult? Maybe I should have called that “reasoning.”

I get why Evangelical theologians don’t consider Mormons Christian, but cult? Really?

There are some doctrinal differences between Latter-day Saints and Evangelical Christians, which are the catalyst for the “non-Christian” label. I’ll get to those differences in a minute. (If there weren’t differences, they’d be the same belief system!)

But first, cult? Really?  In the interview Jeffress says, “I know that’s a loaded term.” Loaded? Yeah. When I think of cult, and most Americans likely think similarly in this instance, I think of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. You know the one. The creepy wide-eyed horns-wearing guy chants kalima and rips out the heart of the scared-stiff human sacrifice-ee while worshippers sway back and forth. (Even though its hokey, it still affronts my delicate sensibilities.)

When I think of cult, I also think of the cult suicide  groups of Heaven’s Gate, Solar Temple and People’s Temple. These are fringe groups small in number.

Turns out, the Romans considered early Christians a cult too. Maybe any newly formed small religious group with which mainstream society is not familiar is a cult. But with a worldwide membership in the double-digit millions, the Latter-day Saints have outgrown its “sociological cult” possibilities, so the Southern Baptist Convention has to search for other definitions.

Theological cult? It seems to me what Pastor Jeffress means by “theological cult” is anyone that is not Evangelical Christian. He responds “absolutely” in response to Anderson’s question if Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims are all cults. Oh, and Catholics get a backhanded pass.

If I were the Southern Baptist Convention’s English teacher reviewing the position paper arguing that these religions were “cults,” I’d circle their chosen word with a red pen and write “w.c.” out in the margin, meaning word choice. It’s a pejorative word, Pastor Jeffress admits to this, which doesn’t correctly describe their intentions. It seems “false religion” or “faulty belief system” or even the biblical word “heathen” would better fit the definition he offered in the interview.

In my opinion, the best synonym for the word “cult” as described by Pastor Jeffress would be “non-evangelical.”

‘Mor-own-knee’? You obviously haven’t talked to any Mormons

Pastor Jeffress mispronounces the name of the ancient prophet who delivers the Book of Mormon record to Joseph Smith for its translation. Latter-day Saints pronounce this name, Moroni, as More-own-eye. He calls him More-own-knee.  When I was a missionary in the Dallas area we could always tell when there was a recent sermon on Mormons in megachurches in the predominantly Baptist area. One hundred percent of these people with whom we talked who knew of the name Moroni pronounced it like Pastor Jeffress.  This tells me they’re not personally acquainted with any believing Mormons.  They’ve formed these opinions, labeling religious groups as “other” in a monolithic environment of mostly Baptists where they’ve likely never talked to a Latter-day Saint about their views of Christ, let alone a Hindu or Buddhists about their spirituality.

When I was in high school, a Baptist friend of mine was telling me what she’d learned about my faith while attending her church. When I got frustrated, she asked, “What do you learn about my faith?” I remember responding with naivete that would now take effort not to be sarcasm, “We don’t learn about other people’s faith. We just study the gospel,” I told her.

Anyone in my Dallas faith community want to invite P. Jeff over for dinner? He needs to be personally acquainted with some Mormons. He ought to hear how Latter-day Saints live their lives seeking to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

“It has never been considered as part of historic Christianity” It’s True, Mormons Aren’t Evangelical Christians.

Okay this is getting long. I have lots to say, but will pare it down. Latter-day Saints believe that Christ’s Church, with pure doctrine and the permission to officiate in ordinances of the gospel, like baptism, was lost from the earth with the death of the Apostles after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. It was restored again when God called Joseph Smith as a prophet just like Moses to reorganize it. “Historic Christianity” as Pastor Jeffress calls it includes the creeds that followed this New Testament era. It was in this period that truth about the nature of God diverged from the New Testament teachings of the Savior, namely about the Godhead. It morphed into belief of the Trinity. Because Latter-day Saints believe that Christ is the Son of God and united with Him, along with the Holy Ghost in perfect purpose, but not in physical form, Evangelicals do not consider them Christians.

Mormons are unabashed in distinguishing themselves apart from mainstream Christianity in the ways  which we believe God has corrected misconceptions. This is one of them. It’s annoying that Evangelicals don’t consider Mormons Christians for this reason, but for the most part, Mormons don’t care.

Here is an address from a modern Apostle describing the divergence of the creeds of historical Christianity from New Testament teachings. This includes an explanation of the Latter-day Saint belief in the Godhead and not the Trinity.

 

Pastor-in-Chief?

It’s interesting to me that the Evangelical community seems to be interviewing for the wrong position. The commander-in-chief is not the pastor-in-chief. Historically, the president does not lead the country in religious observances. But we do need someone who can direct the most powerful military in the world, who can build consensus in a bitterly divided political environment and who can set policies that won’t send the economy spiraling further down the tank.

Why require a president to have the same theology as you?  I know a good many wonderful Mormons who faithfully seek Christ that I definitely wouldn’t trust to lead the country. Their worldview is important, but it’s only important to me how that worldview would affect the country’s direction. I’d not only want a good person as president who is temperate, loves this country and its people, but someone who has the skills and experience to lead it to prosperity. It’s of nominal importance to me if they believe in the same afterlife as I do. Choosing a president is an earthly decision for our earthly existence. It’s strange to me to make the most important consideration in the question a theological one.

God’s opinion of my worship is what’s on my mind, not Evangelical Christians’ opinions

I’m okay with Evangelical Christians not considering me a Christian. I want to respect their doctrine and belief in that doctrine. If they believe you can only be Christian if you believe God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost to be one in the same entity and the acceptance of revealed word beyond the currently canonized Bible  excludes you, then that’s fine by me. I’m not petitioning membership in their congregations. It’s just annoying because those who don’t know much about Mormons get these snippets of  Mormon-aren’t-Christians conversations without knowing the reasoning behind it. The truth is, my whole life is a worshipful walk to know Christ.

I pray in His name morning and night and in my heart throughout the day.

I feel the burden of my sins lift as I offer them to Him in humility.

I daily study the scriptures in an effort to align myself with His teachings. This includes the Bible and books that I believe are equivalent revelations to the Bible.

Every page of the Book of Mormon is a testimony of Christ as the Savior of the World. Its climax is His physical visit to the American continent after His resurrection near Calvary. (3 Nephi 11)

Weekly I take the Sacrament (aka the Lord’s supper) where I believe the blessed bread and water turns my mind and heart to God in a ceremony of recommitment to live His commandments.

Once a month I serve in the Washington, D.C. Temple to respect the covenant I’ve made with Him to always remember His Son and keep His commandments. (see my post Mormon Temple Wedding: Ceremony Centered in Christ)

I wear the garment as a reminder to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (see my post Mormon Underwear: A Constant Personal Reminder to Always Remember Christ and Keep His Commandments)

As a young woman living in a modern world, I purposefully live biblical sexual standards (see my post Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity)

Coming to know Christ in my daily life is the most fulfilling pursuit of my life. The more I know of Him, the more I crave. The more I request the application of His Atonement in my heart, the more I am changed and purified.

It’s unfortunate for Mitt Romney who wants to be president to have to break through the Evangelical community’s barricade to the Republican nomination, however, it is of little consequence to most Latter-day Saints who thinks what of them and their Christianity. They just go on living their lives of faith.

If a Christian is someone who seeks Christ and His gospel for their personal salvation and lives in a way aligned with His commandments, then I am a Christian. If a Christian is someone who believes that God will no longer reveal His word to prophets in my time as He has in times passed. Then I’m not a Christian.

Either way, I’ll let God call me by whatever name He chooses. I gave my heart to Him a long time ago.

 

Further reading:

Slate:Mormon Moment: Pastor Robert Jeffress may be doing Mitt Romney a favor by bashing Mormonism.

The Economist:  Mormons are Christians 

Fox News: Yes, a Mormon Can Win Support from Evangelicals and Other Christians In a Run for High Political Office-Written by an LDS Bishop in the singles scene in my area.

Washington Post: No sex on campus-This is a great article about student Muslims and Christians uniting to resist the casual sex/hook up culture predominant on their college campuses. This is the approach Evangelicals should take when considering community involvement. Theological differences shouldn’t stop groups from forming partnerships to create a better world.  The Evangelical current tactic is less effective.

Ensign: “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Gordon B. Hinckley, 2005– “…the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ…the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of [Latter-day Saint] worship.”

 

 

 

 

The post “What would a MormonInsider Say About…“  responded in part to Leah’s questions. This post continues with some more parts.

I met him when I was in his city on business and later attended a meeting with several Latter-day Saint young single adults. He had a boy-next-door-grown-into-a-studly-man charm about him. He was spiritual, kindly, thoughtful, and brilliantly innovative. Did I mention he was also easy on the eyes? We’d been in touch a few times before my flight was laying over in his city and he picked me up from the airport.

I had called him about meeting during my 4 hr long layover. He didn’t know I was flying stand-by on my brother’s flight benefits, which meant I hadn’t booked my flight before I talked to him. He didn’t know if he wasn’t able to meet me, I would have taken the earlier flight, leaving enough of an evening to enjoy the company of friends in my ward back in Washington, D.C..  It was my idea to hang out in the terminal. He had a better one. We hiked to a point that overlooked the city.

I was totally digging him. It would have been the beginning of a beautiful story if only he was interested in me, but he was not responsive to my shameless flirting. (I’m not of the camp who think men are stupid.)

While descending the hike, he was going on about being thirty-something and still unmarried. He said he must be doing something wrong because he’s been sincerely praying about it for years and it escaped him. “Can’t you see that I’M the answer to your prayers?” was the thought that crossed my mind. I looked away to broadly grin at my private joke.

I could have been an answer to his prayers, if he wanted me to be.

Leah asks about recognizing answers to prayers. How do you know they’re not just coincidences? What about unanswered prayers and why does God seem to answer yes to frivolous occasions and fail to come through when it really counts?

All good questions.

The truth is, if handsome/charming guy ended up liking me, I probably would have attributed it to being the answer to his prayers and him to mine. I never would have considered it a result of my self-interest and/or biological factors; I really would have enjoyed kissing him. (I’d have to be his girlfriend, of course. I’m not the non-committal make-out type. But, you guessed that already.)

Usually when things happen in our favor, it’s really easy to attribute it to God. For example, after a tornado, when one house is standing and the one next to it is demolished, someone could say God protected it. So how do you know it was really Him and not just chance, luck or nature’s course simply unfolding?

Leah posed her questions on my claim of receiving answers to prayers on this post where I was describing the truth discovery process by the Holy Spirit. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s an answer to prayer unless the Spirit confirms it. And the Spirit doesn’t confirm things to me as often as I’d like because it requires effort to take the mental action otherwise known as exercise of faith.  It requires diligent pondering, remembering past witnesses and deciding to trust that God will continue His pattern of communication that I’ve already experienced. By the phrase confirmation of the Spirit, I mean that my mind his enlightened with a simultaneous impression on my heart that I am able to conclude in the moment with certainty that it’s not my imagination, but the Holy Ghost. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite diligent in seeking the Spirit, but only the most important things get the required attention.

In the post “My Current Explanation of Life’s Purpose,” I described how sometimes I feel like God leaves me alone, even when I remain diligent in seeking Him. I believe that the times of greatest growth in faith, for me at least, have come when I feel I’m not being heard. In those times, I look back, remembering past witnesses and decide to remain faithful to what has already been made known to me when I could very easily walk away. So, perhaps those unanswered prayers are purposeful in how God shapes me into who He knows I can become.

 

Without the Spirit’s confirmation, I don’t know for sure that it was God. I just infer it.

Without the Spirit’s confirmation, I can’t say that I know it was God and not chance. Usually, if something happens for which I have been praying, I simply infer it was God; I don’t know for sure.

Here’s an example.

With the recent downturn in the economy, the leadership of the nonprofit I’m with decided to focus all resources on the core mission. My position applies to the core mission’s expansion. They cut me back from full time to part time, which does not cover my living expenses (gone are the days of BYU housing rent at less than $300 monthly). The break was nice for a while so I could breathe and sleep because working full time and going to school at night is very difficult. To cover my expenses, I started using more student loans than I originally planned when I began my master’s program.

Several things weighed on my mind. I’m committed to “provident living” as it’s known the Church, meaning that I should live within my means and only go into debt for education, a modest home and I can’t remember the other one right now. Though my debt was to further my education, not all of it was necessary and therefore contrary to this principle. Also, I purposefully decided not to pursue a law degree and pursue a liberal studies degree.  I won’t be qualified to work in a particular trade when I finish my program.  I chose enriching coursework with an end that requires me to forge my own way to form the unique career path that I envision. This was a relatively safe decision when I was employed in a job I loved.  It wasn’t looking so hot once my circumstances changed. Lastly, the unemployment rate is over 10% nationwide. I often considered how if I continued living in part off the student loans in addition to the tuition loans, I could finish my program and have to start waiting tables to meet the demands of paying them back. Sheesh. Being an adult is the pits sometimes.

I wanted a new job in my field, but it is really small and specified and I prepared myself to have to take a detour job to pay the bills, if I could even find that. I started praying that I could find a new job in my field and began networking with the organizations whose work I admire.  Many of them operate partially off government grants and with the current tenor of Congress and its deficit decreasing efforts, the story was the same at all those I approached. They’d love to have me, but they have no funding for me and I could volunteer.  I did do some volunteer projects here and there while I continued networking. Unfortunately, I can’t eat off goodwill. For the summer, I picked up a full time temp job in addition to the part time job with the nonprofit while taking summer school and I continued networking. It was going to be tight for a while, but hey, girl’s gotta do what she can.

Then BAM!  The Bishop of my ward called me into his office and asked me to take on an ongoing time consuming “calling” or responsibility.

What should I do?

I decided I didn’t have time to continue looking for a job and take on the responsibility of my new calling. In prayer, I told that Lord that I’m unsure how the job thing was going to work out, but I would trust that if I prioritized serving Him first, it would be fine. I didn’t know what would happen; it could be one of those painful growing experiences, but I viewed it as a chance to put God first in my heart and my life.  If not at this moment, then when?  My life could turn into a long series of special circumstances that put my own needs first before the Lord and I don’t want to live that way.

I accepted the calling and quit thinking about finding a new job and put my mind and heart to pondering how I could seek the Spirit to better help those over which I now I had stewardship to access Christ’s power more fully by faith.

A few weeks later, a friend of mine forwarded a job posting to me she saw while on a website she rarely visits. She knew that I was part time with my nonprofit, but didn’t know I was officially looking and then officially quit looking for the time being (hey, she’s recently married, so we don’t keep up like we used to, you know how it goes). Her find sounded promising. Bleary eyed at midnight, I composed a specified cover letter, updated my resume and emailed it in. The very next morning the executive director emailed me wanting to schedule an interview. He was clear that they would not extend beyond the posted salary range because they’d already budgeted for the year, but assured me the benefits were good and that the next year they could readjust the salary.  I was pleased to hear that the position had a steady revenue stream, so it wasn’t from a temporary grant.

I came into the interview well prepared to make a case for myself.  He opened by telling me that since the job has been posted in the last month, 212 people applied. He was interviewing 12 and I was first because I wrote the best cover letter. “You told me what I couldn’t surmise from your resume,” he told me. He also liked that I said I look forward to a conversation where we could see if we were “a good professional match.”  He said most people assured him in their cover letters they were a perfect fit for the job. He made clear that he would solely determine who was the best fit for the position.

Ends up, this is a position he’s been wanting to expand for several years, but he’s very particular on who should fill it. Though his board has been pressing him on it, he’s been exploring it at his own pace.

After the interview, I used the weekend to draft some recommendations I thought they could do within the next year, based on my experience. I also mailed him a thank you card referring to some specifics from our conversation.

We corresponded for a week over my recommendations while he completed the other 11 interviews. I was preparing to negotiate for the highest end of his salary range, since I knew what it was. The day the interviews closed, he emailed me asking me to accept a director position, rather than the advertised manager position.  Along with the increased position, he offered an increase salary beyond the advertised range that reflected the responsibility of a director.

It was like getting a promotion without asking for one and before I even started.

I was grateful a thousand times over. It’s work that I would do for free if I didn’t have to make a living. I’m specialized in a very small niche and this position seems tailor made to my greatest strengths. Of course I accepted (like I’d be blogging about it if I didn’t). I later came in to discuss some specifics and he was beaming that I was just the person he has had in mind to realize the vision he has for this new expansion.

 

Was it God, me or just a coincidence?

So, was this an answer to my prayers?  After all, I must say I rocked the interview.  I wrote a cover letter according to what my quick Google search taught me at midnight since I couldn’t remember exactly how to write one. I used my brain to conjure up some recommendations and I cordially sent a thank you note. That was all me. Oh, and my friend by chance could have been on a job database when she didn’t have a reason to look for a job  and decided to pass along a possibility to me. But when I have been specifically praying for help about something beyond my control and it falls into my lap better than if I planned it myself, I’m highly suspicious Providence had a hand in it. I have found that God is really good at arranging introductions between people who should meet if the required faith is offered to work such a miracle.  I’m just what my new boss has had in mind for the last few years for the position and what they want to do is exactly what my very unique job at the nonprofit prepared me to do for them. Coincidence? Of course I don’t think so, but it’s only an inference. The Spirit hasn’t confirmed it to me, but I’m connecting the dots on this one.

The Lord told Joseph Smith, “I, the Lord,…delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (Doc & Cov 76:5).  I’m choosing to live my life in a way that puts God first, trusting that as I do, He delights to help me out. This isn’t the first instance in my life where I seem to get a beautiful break, but I don’t do it for what I can get. I do it because of what I want to give.

I can’t really prove it was God, but I don’t require proof to continue this path of experimentation.

 

Next up, I’ll respond to why bad things happen to good people, which is what I think Leah means when prayers are not answered before a child is murdered. Then I’ll write up my long time promised Black Mormons part 2 post because my response to Chris’s post will make more sense in light of understanding some views I have, explained well through relaying the history of race in the Church. It might rock a few socks, but hey, let’s keep things authentic here at the MormonInside.

Stay tuned.