Archive for the ‘Faith Lens Snapshots’ Category

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.

 

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.

Recently, I went camping near Burke, VA.  The weather forecast called for 50% chance of rain, but it never opened up. Only a lovely constant mist spritzed us as we played “croquisbee.”  What’s that you ask?  Well, it’s a cross between croquet and frisbee, of course.

Growing up in Florida, we didn’t camp much because mosquitoes are the size of rats, but while attending BYU, I frequently enjoyed camping. Much of it included marveling at the creative hand of God beneath a blanket of stars while lying on a tarp outside of Zion or Moab national parks.  The next morning would bring a hiking or canyoneering adventure. The best snapshots held in my mind capture the slight movement of the Milky Way across a vibrant blue-black backdrop of shimmering wonder.

On this excursion among the lush green Virginian landscape, I was friends with one of the hosts and another girl, but didn’t know many other people, so it was a great opportunity to become freshly acquainted around a campfire.

Myers-Briggs and Me

Through the course of some incredibly engaging conversation that in part addressed concerns for cultivating critical thinking skills in the rising “Digital Generation,” a fellow camping fella brought up the Myers-Briggs personality test. His perspective on the judging vs. perceiving portion was of particular interest to me. The words are poorly chosen, but in this case judging means that in dealing with the outside world, a person prefers to get things decided and perceiving means they prefer to stay open to new information and options.  He described himself as a perceiver, to which my friend agreed she was too. She said that when choosing a parking space, it’s difficult for her to choose because there may be one closer. I told her I’d prefer to park and be inside the restaurant instead of driving around and around the parking lot. She told me it’s funny I’d describe it as driving around and around because that’s just what happens. That would drive me nuts!

She said she read the book, the Paradox of Choice (Schwartz should have had more wardrobe choices in that linked video. I wonder if he was trying to prove a point or if he just has no style). This book describes how having too many options disables people.  She described an example in the book of a mall kiosk selling candles. It does better with less inventory because buyers are not halted with many options.  The fella asked me about my buying behavior. I said I go in with what I want in mind and when I find it, I buy it. I don’t care if there are five different shades or smells of candles available. Once I make a decision, that becomes the best option because it’s my choice. I got what I wanted and if it’s on sale, even better.  He asked me if I ever have buyer’s remorse.  I said if I really like it in the store, I like it even more bringing it home. After I decide, I don’t get hung up on what’s behind me at the store.

He described perceivers as essentially the opposite.  He said that even after a perceiver makes a decision, they constantly second guess themselves.  He said after he makes a purchase, he often looks back on the other options. He described how he finds his perceiver-ness influences his approach to dating.  He said he can see one woman’s good qualities, but then wants to keep looking for more good qualities in other women.  In my decisive mind, I thought it was unfortunate because it prevented him from really enjoying any of the women if he could decide on none of them. At that point I made a note to myself–Think twice about dating a strong perceiver, they may have high buyer’s remorse after “purchases.”

I also then realized that I consider decisiveness akin to manliness wondered if that was an unfair perception that I should change. I haven’t decided, yet.

Myers-Briggs and Some Mormons

We further discussed other aspects of the test and wondered which combination described the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.  We profiled Him as being both deeply contemplative, which is an “introversion” behavior and also well involved with people, which is “extroversion”.

Other than that, it was difficult to peg Him, so we moved on to our Church leaders. Here are the categories to provide context:

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

Before I show my preference for some Apostles over others, which a Mormon actually shouldn’t do, here’s some context on myself.

As I’ve already confessed, I’m a strong “J.” I’m also a strong “N.” This means I like ideas and interpretation. I’m almost evenly divided between introversion and extroversion and though I’m typically dominant in a “T,” the last few years, my “F” has developed significantly (serving a full time mission and loving people with the Spirit without conditions was the catalyst to my “F” cultivation). You could guess my “F” awareness from how often I’ve written about emotional literacy. I have found an increase in my sense of fulfillment and life satisfaction as I’ve understood and experienced more of this dimension of myself, but I rarely make emotional decisions. In making a significant decision, I usually have to think things through quite a bit before I allow my “F” to even have space in the matter.  But I’m very heightened to my “F” when dealing with other people.  Weird combo, but I like it. I’d change it if I didn’t like it.  This essentially amounts to me possessing both INTJ and ENFJ characteristics.

Now to the Apostles. Latter-day Saints have an open scripture cannon because we accept that God has called again living Apostles and Prophets in our time. When one of these speaks by the Holy Ghost, it is equivalent to Peter, James or John.  And actually, a living Prophet or Apostle trumps a dead one because the message is given specifically for the generation. We also believe that God speaks through the human instrument’s understanding to communicate the message, so that’s how the messenger’s personality can be discerned through scripture that is also a message from God.

We determined Elder Bednar to be a strong “N” and “T.”  He often teaches concepts with which Church members are well familiar, but adds new insight so we think about it in a new way. His last conference talk ”The Spirit of Revelation” is an excellent example of this. He used light as the metaphor to teach revelation. In some cases, revelation comes like the flipping of a light switch into a darkened room.  Most Church members have this perception of revelation. He also described the rising sun, even on a foggy day where there is gradual enlightenment. Someone could even miss how they’ve been enlightened if they are not careful to watch for it.  This completely changed how I will seek to discern the Spirit in my life. He also changed how I think about the hymns in meetings with ”The Tender Mercies of the Lord” and changed the way I think of the command to ”Receive the Holy Ghost.”  These paradigm shifts are incredibly satisfying for me as I wrestle to discover and decide my spirituality in partnership with God.

We thought Elder Holland was both an “N” and “F.” He seems to me both brilliant and kind, which is why I benefit so much from his teachings. I feel like he “mourns with those that mourn,” which is among the Latter-day Saint baptismal covenant.  This is reflected in his “Place No More For the Enemy of My Soul” address where he grieves over broken marriages because of the plague of pornography in the world, which the Church does not escape. The likely best talk to illustrate his “N” and “F” is his talk, “None Were with Him”, which was intended for those “who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned.” He then taught how Jesus Christ‘s role as our Savior included taking upon Him all these pains, so He can comfort us, “… Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.” Ideas mixed with feelings are a wonderful way to instruct me of the goodness of God.

Then there are Apostles who are strong in “S.” This means they focus on basic, everyday life circumstances. Though I am always attentive to them and seek to draw lessons from what they are describing, the Spirit doesn’t speak to me as powerfully through them as with those who are strong “Ns.”  I think that’s because the Spirit’s ability to reach us heightens as we understand. I know when I better understand something, that is usually when I feel the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost.  But, there are likely lots in the Church who are strong “Ss” that the Spirit speaks most strongly to them through these mouthpieces. The Church is a big tent. If every speaker was according to my preference, it would miss a whole lot of people. (I’m likely something of an outlier when it comes to broad Church membership.) It’s wise of the Lord to call varied personalities to lead His Church to meet the needs of His flock.

With that said, I think that our Prophet now, Thomas S. Monson, is an “S.” I also think that our preceding Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley was also an “S.” They usually use stories from people’s lives to illustrate basic gospel principles.  How does it affect the Church having the Prophet be focused on the basics of everyday living?  It means the message to the Church has taken on a “live a good life” tone, rather than the more hardliner tones of preceding generations. That sounds like a good thing to me, though I personally don’t get as much out of their addresses as other Apostles’.  Focusing on living good lives, centered in the gospel, may be the best approach to take the gospel to all the world as it encompasses more and more peoples and cultures. Man, the Lord really is good at what He does.

What do you think?

Here’s a demonstration of President Monson’s “S.”

“Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?” Open Access with Preparation

Just this last week a friend of mine told me about her friend’s friend’s description of their exclusion from a Latter-day Saint Temple wedding ceremony. (How’s that for degrees of separation?) This friend of a friend of a friend said he had to wait outside the Temple because he was “unclean.” It was a joke at which both my friend and I laughed because that’s not  how Latter-day Saints view it. If I had to choose one word describing those waiting outside the Temple during a wedding ceremony, it wouldn’t be “unclean,” it would be “uncovenanted.”

Latter-day Saints believe that in every “dispensation” in which God has dispensed the gospel of Jesus Christ, He has made a covenant with His people designed to instruct them of His nature.  In the Old Testament, Jeremiah records the Lord’s description of the ancient covenant,

“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33 ).

This covenant relationship is no longer limited to only the Jews as it was in ancient times.  Now anyone can be adopted into the “House of Israel.” The covenant relationship begins at the first ordinance, which is “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins by one with authority.”  Though baptisms are open to the public, later ordinances of the covenant akin to baptism are administered in sacred “Temples.”  Temples are open to anyone willing to (1) be baptized by restored authority into Jesus Christ’s modern Church (2) live God’s commandments like keeping the Sabbath day holy and observing the Law of Chastity and (3) strengthen their commitment to God by making further covenants. So God’s covenant is no longer limited to the Jews only, but in order to enter the “House of the Lord” also known as a  Temple, you have to willingly enter into a modern covenant relationship with Him. This often means many friends and family members do not observe Temple wedding ceremonies.:(

In a sense, every time a missionary knocks on someone’s door, it is an invitation to the Temple. However, no one is entitled to enter the “House of the Lord” without first spiritually preparing. We are guest in His home and He sets the guidelines.

(Photo of the Washington, D.C. Temple  from Chance Hammock Photography)

Chapels are Different than Temples

Latter-day Saints hold weekly Sunday services and social events in chapels. These are open to the public. Here’s a video describing the logistics of a Latter-day Saint worship service. Temples are special, sacred spaces where Latter-day Saints make covenants with God and seek personal revelation. In a similar way to how the ancient covenant people did not speak the name of God to show Him respect, Latter-day Saints reverence the ordinances of the Temple by not speaking of them casually. Material posted online and else where depicting specifics of Temple ordinances is highly offensive to a Latter-day Saint.

Prerequisite Covenant to the Marriage Covenant. What Does the Covenant Include?

A covenant ceremony, called the endowment, precedes the covenant of marriage. The following is a modern prophet’s description of what the covenant includes in the endowment:

“In the Temples of our Lord we learn obedience.  We learn sacrifice. We make the vows of chastity and have our lives consecreated to holy purposes” (President James E. Faust “Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.” August 2001 Ensign).

This covenant requires us to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change the desire of our hearts.  A modern Apostle describes this process as:

To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin

(Elder David A. Bednar “Clean Hands and Pure Heart, Nov 2007).

Mormon Temples Made Simple YouTube video describes well Temple practices in a respectful way.

Marriage is the Crowning Covenant in the Temple

The crowning covenant with God in the Temple is the marriage promise to care for another in a selfless, Christlike way. Latter-day Saints believe that God intended marriage to extend beyond the grave. Adam and Eve were married in their immortal state prior to the Fall and their ability to die (Genesis 2:23-24). The book of Matthew records the “power to bind on earth and in heaven” was given to Peter (16:18-19). Since God’s authority to administer ordinances was lost from the earth with the death of the Apostles, He restored this power in our time (Doc & Cov 128:9-10). If the couple is true to each other and to God, they will remain married after death.

Because of the sanctity of the Temple, photography isn’t permitted.  Wedding pictures are usually taken outside. Here are a few of my friend, Brittany’s, wedding. (She met her husband, Paul, on an internship in Denmark from her D.C. area school.)

Centered in Christ at the Altar of Sacrifice

I’ve attended several wedding ceremonies in the Temple.  They are incredibly beautiful.  The rooms are typically small and attendance is limited to preserve its sanctity and avoid making it too much of a social event. The couple kneels at an altar, facing each other and holding hands as the “sealer” performs the ceremony. The altar represents personal sacrifice to God and the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden and were gradually learning the steps back to God’s presence, they were commanded to offer a lamb in sacrifice to look forward to Christ’s Atonement (Moses 5:5-8). Ancient Israel also offered animal sacrifice, but as they fell away from the truth they became too focused on the form, rather than pointing their minds to the Savior. Because the people in the Book of Mormon left Jerusalem about 600 B.C., they also had the Law of Moses. It is clear from this record that the animal sacrifices were drawn to point their minds to the coming of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 13:28-35).

After Christ fulfilled His Atonement, He commanded the discontinuance of animal sacrifices and instead required a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20). As a couple kneels across the altar, face to face, holding hands, they are to offer this to God as they enter into a covenant with Him and each other.

A Latter-day Saint marriage ceremony is centered in Christ.

Maybe a Ring Ceremony, Usually a Paartaaay

Latter-day Saint couples often hold a reception to celebrate their union. These are not held in the Temple. Because only covenanted people observe the Temple marriage ceremony, many Latter-day Saint couples hold a ring ceremony at their reception hall (exchanging rings is not a part of the Temple ceremony). At a ring ceremony, a couple may design a program that involves all of their well wishers.

Here are a few pics of Brittany and Paul’s reception.

Unity in Marriage

I have many friends who move in together prior to marriage.  Even my new favorite royals, “Wills & Kate” lived together for years before finally marrying. If my friends aren’t religious, it’s normal in my mind for them to move in with their significant other once they feel a sense of longevity. However, as mentioned previously, Latter-day Saints covenant to live God’s Law of Chastity which is only to have sexual relations with your spouse. We do this simply because God commands it, but there are obvious benefits. In doing this, we prepare ourselves to create a unifying bond with someone special that will deepen loyalty and devotion. It is beyond my ability to imagine sharing something so special with someone who had yet to decide they wanted to keep me forever. Breaking up is hard enough without creating such strong emotional bonds without the foundation to support them. (I’ve written about this topic on this blog several times, including Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity and others.) God has commanded union in marriage and sexuality is part of the process, but the union is more than physical. Emotional, spiritual, mental and physical unity is built through a lifetime of kindness, love, sacrifice, admiration, appreciation, hard work, synergy, cooperation, obedience, faith, grace, sanctification and more. A modern prophet describes the command to be united in marriage as:

“The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would be part of His Church: ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine’ (Doc & Cov 38:27). And at the creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity. . . . The Savior of the world spoke of that unity and how we will have our natures changed to make it possible. He taught it clearly in the prayer He gave in His last meeting with His Apostles before His death. That supernally beautiful prayer is recorded in the book of John. He was about to face the terrible sacrifice for all of us that would make eternal life possible. He was about to leave the Apostles whom He had ordained, whom He loved, and with whome He would leave the keys to lead His Church. And so He prayed to His Father, the perfect Son to the perfect Parent. We see in His words the way families will be made one, as will all the children of our Heavenly Father who follow the Savior and His servants: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (John 17:18-21). In those few words He made clear how the gospel of Jesus Christ can allow hearts to be made one. Those who would believe the truth He taught could accept the ordinances and the covenants offered by His authorized servants. Then, through obedience to those ordinances and covenants, their natures would be changed. The Savior’s Atonement in that way makes it possible for us to be sanctified. We can live in unity, as we must to have peace in this life and to dwell with the Father and His Son in eternity” (Elder Henry B. Eyring Ensign, May 1998, 66).

 

Is it too much to say that Mormons are incredibly romantic?

God designed love stories with eternal possibilities. Your love story can be eternal through the power of Jesus Christ and living His restored gospel. Latter-day Saints live in a way to write their own eternal love stories in partnership with God.

 

 

 

“Why We Build Temples”

Frequently Asked Questions about Temple Marriage Ceremonies written for Latter-day Saints

Frequently Asked Questions about Temple Marriage Ceremonies written for people unfamiliar with Latter-day Saint belief

“The Blessings of the Temple” YouTube video

Check out Brittany’s amazing blog: The House That Lars Built 

The picture of the Washington, DC Temple was taken by Chance Hammock. Check out his work.

“Excuse me, is that your bag?”

Is this phrase burned into your psyche? No? That could only be possible if you don’t ride the DC metro rail system where the perky recorded woman’s voice asks us to quiz our fellow commuters when we see any unattended bags.  We’re all fighting terrorism together. So if you “see something, say something.”

There are other DC metro rail practices. For example, don’t be an “esca-lefter.” This means if you are standing on the escalator, stand on the right to allow those walking up a left side passage. Tourists have a difficult time with this one. If you come to visit, remember conformity to social norms isn’t always something you should resist.

You guessed it. I’m not an escalator stander. And I especially feel like a champion when I’m not a stander at the Rosslyn metro stop. That escalator is a tremendous beast and it’s a definite stroke to my ego when I trek up the left side the whole way up.  Just this last week a white bearded cheery man standing on the right….ahem, as I left him in my dust…said to his companion, “here comes someone with energy!” I flashed him the most sugary smile I could muster at the moment.

You see, I’m one of those former high school athletes that still has the heart of a champion, but sits in front of a computer for about 8 hrs a day, not realizing those days are long since passed until I try to bust it out like the good old days and end up heaving for air.  When I knock it out on the metro, I reassure myself “I still got it!”

Get the logic?

Get that it’s my ego?

Yeah, that’s an easy one to call, but the problem with the ego is that often others can see it when you can’t. That’s why Christianity often describes pride as causing blindness.  It doesn’t make everyone blind, though, just you. Heads up.

It revolutionized my life and my spirituality when I started to be aware of my ego and my weaknesses. Once I was able to be aware of them, I could start to work on changing them.

The closer I’ve gotten to Christ, the more convicted I am by my weaknesses. But, the Holy Spirit provides enabling power to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own. It’s amazing how the Lord makes demanding requirements of us and then gives us the power to meet the requirement’s demands.

As I personally engage in this ongoing process, I have to “dig deeper” like Shaun T says in those Insanity videos. (It’s a great workout and I love the powerjacks.) Digging deeply inside myself makes me better aware of who I am and helps me understand more of who I can become as I access the power of Christ‘s Atonement in my life.

And my favorite part about it is it makes me more secure because I view myself more as a work-in-progress rather than in need of masking imperfections. This makes me better able to give of myself in relationships that are important to me. Because of digging deeply and working with the Lord on my weaknesses, I see others more for their potential and increase in patience and admiration for them. It also makes it difficult to offend me. And I love that.

This week in my Religion and Politics in the U.S. class, we discussed New Age religion. The book we read, What Really Matters by Tony Schwartz described some retreats where people purge themselves of repressed emotions by specific practices. I thought it was fascinating and wanted to discover any of my own repressed emotions, so I can liberate them, but I was skeptical of the sweeping claim.  I told the class I was doubtful that in several weekends, you could identify years of repressed emotions and get over them, if you really wanted to. My classmate who is a man in his upward 60′s responded saying he had done such weekend retreats and in several weekends you can have cathartic experiences that reveal all your repressed emotions. The caveat was you have to go in willing to submit yourself to the process. He said it’s important to do such activities in groups because you can often see yourself and your weaknesses in other’s behavior and personalities. Now that’s being willing to lay aside your ego. It was a much softer and humbler side of this man than I anticipated was present in him.

It would be tremendously easier to remain on the surface of myself and with the world, but I find that intensely dissatisfying. How do people live their whole life without searching for deeper meaning? Do they feel numb instead of alive? The American economic model lends well to superficial living, materially, emotionally and spiritually. It takes work to go a different direction.

Digging deeper is a much better way to live. I highly recommend it.

But I’m not ready to give up feeling like a champion dominating the Rosslyn metro escalator. If you see me coming, be sure to stand on the right and make room for my ego.

One of my most favorite classes in my masters’ program at Georgetown University has been my Religion & Politics in the U.S. class. Both are taboo topics in polite company to avoid possible offense. No class session has been boring in the slightest and often class members end up hanging around after to further the discussion.

It’s interesting for me to navigate both an academic community addressing religion and a faith community in which I am fully immersed.  Within my faith community, we frequently take for granted truth claims that many view with high suspicion. It has taken me some adjustment not to feel defensive in these scenarios and to comfortably communicate the viewpoint and motivation of a person of faith.

In a recent class on theories of pluralism, our professor, who I have come to greatly admire and appreciate, framed the discussion in terms of where we were personally on the scale. She provided the following theories:

 

1. Exclusivistic Model: Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ there is no salvation.  All those who do not accept Jesus in their heart at some point in their life spend eternity in hell.

 

2. Inclusivitic Model: God can be found in all world religions, but Jesus Christ has come to