Posts Tagged ‘building eternal relationships’

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.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last post of pics from Florence.

What are the odds? My roommate told me that her bud Alex and I would be in Italy at the same time. I’m friends with Alex too. We’ve known each other for over 3 years and up until a few months ago, he was roommates with one of my close childhood friends.

A client with his architecture firm would be bringing him and his colleagues to Italy to evaluate materials for a building project.

This client was also courting his firm in hopes to secure future projects. This means there were lots of fancy meals and posh accommodations awaiting him in Italy.

Sometimes life is tough.

Once we both arrived, over email we realized we wouldn’t be able to meet up as we thought. My free days were the last two days of my two week study, Sunday and Monday. He was only staying in Florence through Saturday night. It would have been fun to get together, but it just wasn’t going to happen.

On Saturday my class toured the Pitti Palace. While hanging in the gift shop with my classmates, Alex walked by and stopped because he recognized my voice.:) It was phenomenal. In all of Florence, we would cross paths by accident!

He joined us on a tour of the Boboli Gardens. It was really entertaining that many of my classmates thought I just met him there for the first time.

He joined us for our night out celebrating my classmate’s birthday. It was really enjoyable to have Alex there, especially as the night progressed and we were the only sober ones.:)

Tags: , , , ,

I’m not above exploiting the labor of my 18 month old niece. As part of the family, she needs to learn to pull her own weight once in a while.

A friend of mine is on a spiritual retreat in India. His birthday arrived while he’s been away on this temporary trek. I thought we would bake him a cake, take pictures of it and send the pics to him. Then I remembered my pencil skirts are still too snug thanks to all that pasta and gelato I ate in Italy. I knew I’d eat more than my own share of that cake we would photograph. Instead, I went for plan b and employed the services of my adorable niece to create a cake to celebrate.

(As a general rule, I don’t share photos of my nieces and nephews, not even generally on my Facebook profile. But, I do have pics of this little one up as a baby. I guess I feel like they’re less snatch-able when they’re not that mobile. This will probably be the last time you see this little lady.)

This birthday is a big deal because Seun is in remission from two lethal forms of cancer. The New York Times recently covered his effort to recruit more African Americans to the national bone marrow registry and more importantly, the article includes his work in creating the first ever bone marrow registry in Nigeria. You can find the article, “Finding a Match, and a Mission: Helping Blacks Survive Cancer,” here.

Seun and I were friends long before his diagnosis. He was a tremendous person before cancer changed him, but now I’m even more proud of who he has become. As he has faced the uncertainty of his future, he sees the beauty in every day things that others miss. He has a courage about him that I’ve seen in no other person I’ve known. He wants first to make the world a better place for others. He has a reverence for life happenings that others take for granted. He wasn’t able to find a bone marrow match, but did receive a cord blood transplant and is now in full remission. Check out the article. It’s definitely worth your time.

Recently I asked him about  how he was feeling and he said his immune system was only two years old, so he’s still adjusting. This caused me pause. I didn’t realize that receiving the cord blood from a newly born baby meant that he received the age of its immunity, but that is how it works.

His mention of this is what led me to think that at this point celebrating his birthday is fun, but we really should be celebrating his second chance at life.

His rebirth.

It’s a wonderful cause for celebration.

People often say “everything happens for a reason.” I think they mean to imply that everything happens for a purpose and not just because there was a preceding catalyst. I think they mean that God is causing things like this to happen for our own good. My personal general view is that God created a world where people have free will and where the laws of nature unfold in their course. People commit injustices and disease happens, not necessarily because God singled them out for the “trial,” but because it is part of the human experience. We can come to know Him through mortality’s adversity by seeking the comfort Jesus Christ‘s Atonement provides, if we are willing to receive it. That’s how God makes tragedy fair in the present and in the end. He provides comfort along the way and provides for a triumphal victory when all is said and done. BUT, I can’t help but think that there is a great purpose in Seun’s redirection in life because he’s tremendously talented and capable, having the ability to bring about a bone marrow registry that would benefit not just Africans, but all the world (check out the video with the article where he explains how the diversity in Nigeria could benefit all the gene pool).   He’s already accomplished a great work and he has so much more to do in his life.

I appreciate people in my life who by their friendship, teach me about God.   That’s Seun for me.

Anyway, back to that child exploitation.

I set up an assembly line to put her to work.

She did it all by herself.

That isn’t true.

Viola! Finished.

Don’t worry, she got a nice long break after she submitted her work product.

Tags: , , , , ,

When my sister and I were little, our Mom made us dresses for Easter every year.We loved them. It was an exciting part of Easter. As we got older, when she was able to provide it, we’d go shopping for them.

Those are fun memories.

This week, I was at Ross to get a few things now necessary because of  my new move.

Of course, I had to browse the dresses.

I’ve written before about a more mindful approach to my purchasing behavior. When I saw this dress, I just had to have it. I paused wondering if all the lace dresses I’ve pinned on Pinterest  influenced my want or if I couldn’t have lived without it regardless of my virtual pinboard. Still working on that one.

As I went back and forth with how I really  shouldn’t buy more clothes because I have plenty, I justified it to maintain tradition.

It’s now my Easter dress.

I really like the waistband and the length.

And the pockets.

And I love love love the lace!

I also like how I didn’t have to do that much with it to “make it modest” as a Mormon  girl would say. I wear an underclothing as a reminder of my covenant with God. I promised Him to always remember His Son and keep His commandments.  It makes clothing shopping a treasure hunt and a venture in creativity.

Since this underclothing, called  “the garment,” has short sleeves and covers cleavage, if I were to have it, I added a brown undershirt to the crème dress. I liked the length because the garment falls a few inches above the knee.

Just a day in the life of the average Mormon woman.

I’ve written several times about wearing the garment. The post Mormon Underwear: A Constant Personal Reminder to Always Remember Jesus Christ and Keep His Commandments explains the doctrinal background and belief behind the practice. The post MacGyver Groupie and Lengthy Leggings shows some of the attempts to make clothes modest. And the best one was the time when I asked Michael Shermer  a question at Sixth and I about his new book and once he found out I was Mormon, he asked if I “wore the underwear.” It’s worth checking out: Magic Mormon Underwear Gets a Mention at the Believing Brain Discussion.

This week BuzzFeed reporter McKay Coppins tweeted a conversation between Time magazine columnist Joe Klein and Buzzfeed head honcho Ben Smith.

 

Speaking of Mitt Romney, Klein said:

 “I don’t know what the extent of this is, but I think the fact that he’s a Mormon, leads him to be mistrustful about the outside world and what it can handle about him…I think there’s something very close to the core of his being on a very personal level, and this is just speculation on my part, to mistrust the rest of the world.”

Joe Klein’s analysis of Mitt Romney speaks more to his own mistrustful mindset than it does of Mitt Romney’s.  A Pew study recently found that Mormons are among the most happy and settled of Americans.  They are characteristically optimistic about the world and its possibilities. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s inspiration for their Broadway hit came from their personal acquaintance with Mormons who seemed to them ready to burst into song at any moment. The theme of Mormon cheerful naivete runs throughout their production. And being a member of the Mormon community myself, I can vouch that we have an optimistic worldview. Because of our view of God as our Father, the possibility of repentance made possible by His Son and how we view the purpose of life and its difficulties, it makes for a doable go at life. Oh, and I almost forgot the strong community support. Friendship expanded with the Holy Ghost makes life very beautiful.

Mormons are, however, on the defense.

It’s not that Romney’s Mormonism, if he’s not a complete outlier from these common trends, makes him mistrustful. It’s that Mormons feel misunderstood by the world around them, which was another finding  from  the Pew study. Here we are enjoying a rich spiritual life and then Robert Jeffress calls us a cult. What?  You can sense my defensiveness in the response to it: Jeffress: Cults–any religious group not Evangelical Christian (Catholics get a backhanded pass).  Klein here represents many in the media who just don’t get religious people, let alone the religious group of the Mormons who are new to the public consciousness. He knows of the cult name calling, he’s heard of the posthumous baptisms and he doesn’t understand it, therefore, he doesn’t trust it.

My take is that Romney carries the optimism characteristic of Mormons. It’s clear in how he talks about America, which he likely uses as a surrogate to talking about his faith. He’s not mistrustful of the world. But because many of the gate keepers to his nomination in the Republican party consider Mormonism a cult and because many in the media that report on him come from secular backgrounds and lack understanding of religious motivation, it’s just a much better strategy not to talk about his faith.

As a Mormon myself, I wouldn’t want Mitt Romney to be elected president just because he is a Mormon. However, I definitely wouldn’t want him to be denied the presidency only because he is Mormon. The same policy goes for candidates’ race and/or gender. Yes, their experiences inform their worldview and it’s important to understand who they are because of it, but let’s be sure we’re not projecting our own mistrust on others instead of accurately understanding what motivates them.

Further, Klein shows more of his mistrust after Ben Smith responds very well to his suspicions. (I wonder if Smith is Jewish, he seems to get the religious approach to life and respect it. If he’s not Jewish, maybe he’s just done his due diligence as a journalist to understand people in his American community. Good for him.)

Well, there’s the underwear…,‘ Klein says.

Smith draws the very similar comparison to making fun a yamaka. This is something that is deeply meaningful to someone else. It should be respected, whether you value it personally or not.

Wearing the garment for me is similar to taking Communion with me everyday. When I have to go about the demands of daily life where it’s easy to forget God, I have a constant very personal reminder  of my promise to remember Jesus Christ. It’s a tall order to “always” remember Him. (Mosiah 18:9-10) God has provided me tools to be better at my effort. I appreciate it.

In short, I have a rich spiritual life because of the framework the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides me. It includes practices, such as wearing the garment, that I’m happy to talk to about when people are respectful about it. Mormons are optimistic about the world and their place in it, but get on the defense when they’re misunderstood. I don’t expect others to suddenly want to adopt the practice themselves, but as citizens of a shared American community, the First Amendment especially requires we respect others’ pursuits of conscience. When members of the media, such as Joe Klein, misunderstand religious communities and their motivations, it creates a glaring blindspot in their competency as journalists.  May he bring himself up to speed  if a Mormon is in the next general presidential election.

 

From this blog about Mormon Temples 

Mormon Temple Wedding: A Ceremony Centered in Christ

“What’s in a Name?” A Whole-lotta Faith in Jesus Christ

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“He has great taste,” my friend said before we began yesterday’s leadership meeting.

“I picked it out,” I replied. I had just told her that Steve, a man I taught as a full time missionary, bought me the dress for my birthday I was wearing. It’s probably one of my new favs.

It’s a Shabby Apple dress. Some Latter-day Saint business women run this company. Turns out there’s a market for stylish modest clothes.

You can find previous posts about how Mormons wear a special underclothing as a reminder of their covenant to remember Jesus Christ at:

 Magic Mormon Underwear Gets a Mention at the Believing Brain Discussion

 Mormon Underwear: A Constant Personal Reminder to Always Remember Jesus Christ and Keep His Commandments

MacGyver Groupie and Lengthy Leggings

This dress is called Overboard and can be found here. It doesn’t come with the belt pictured.

I got this red belt at a BYU lost and found sale for $2.00. I’m just waiting for the day when some BYU grad (there are many in the DC area) reveals they lost one just like it.

Several people at Church independent of each other told me that I looked like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. The married missionary couple said it, the ward clerk and my friend who is “investigating” as we call it when someone is considering joining also mentioned it.

I was going more for the Fourth of July picnic in the middle of winter look, but whatev.

Remembering teaching Steve makes me smile.

An area leader came to our mission and promised us that if we contacted all the “part member families” in the ward, then by Christmas (in 6 weeks), we’d be teaching someone who would accept the restored gospel.

My companion and I prayed diligently in every single prayer, which as a missionary is a whole lotta prayers, that we could realize that promise in our little part of the vineyard.

Our ward clerk printed a list of everyone who did not have a member spouse.  Then we went about outreaching to people on the list.

I’ll never forget that day. Steve says he knew “it was over” when he saw us walking up because he felt it in his heart. We had no clue. At this point lots of people had shot us down, but we kept praying and kept inviting. We believed someone would be ready.

He had been taught by Sister missionaries years before, which is how he came into the Church. He had gone “less active” as we call it when someone has been baptized and quits participating in the community of Christ.  He was even an ordained high priest and served in that capacity for years before going less active. Being a high priest and walking away is a big deal to Mormons. Because such a person has a great deal of knowledge, God will hold them accountable to that knowledge.

Bishops had visited him many times before to invite him back and so did other missionaries. To put it politely, he wasn’t very nice to them.

Now was his time.

I asked if we could teach him the missionary lessons. Gruffly, he said he already knew the lessons—he even used to teach them himself.

“Then we can teach each other,” I replied.

“There’s no point in me going to Church because I’m not worthy to take the Sacrament,” he said.

“Then you can become worthy,” I replied.

The Sacrament to a Latter-day Saint is a sacred ordinance reminding us of the body and blood of Christ. It renews the baptismal commitment to always remember Jesus Christ and keep the commandments. If you quit keeping commandments, you are to abstain from the Sacrament until you realign yourself with them.

Steve said he was drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, both are against the health code we believe is revealed from God for our time.

He agreed to have us back.

When we returned we were prepared to invite him to quit coffee right away and in later visits we planned to work with him on the cigs.

It was a Sunday when we came back. I was the one that invited him to stop drinking coffee.   He said he would and that he would stop smoking, too, and if he could stop smoking by Wednesday, he’d be to Church on Sunday.

I wish I had a picture of our faces. I hope I get to see that at judgement when my life is reviewed. We were surprised to say the least.

I asked if he was sure.

He was.

And he did.

Now he serves in the Dallas Temple every Saturday.

It was his time.

And we did find a part member family that we were teaching by Christmas and who later received the gospel by baptism. Well, they found us. We wouldn’t have otherwise found them because they weren’t on our list, but that’s another story.

I have lived over and over in my life that when we exercise faith through prayer, the Lord gives us spiritual power to bring about His goodness.

As I’ve mentioned before, God is really good at connecting people who should meet at the right time if we but exercise faith in Him. He works according to our faith.

I believe that a modern prophet prayed about where I should be called as a missionary and by the spirit of prophecy, I was sent to connect with certain people at the right time and invite them to come unto Christ and receive the restored gospel.

I’m not feigning modesty when I say it’s amazing to see it’s God working through me. Realizing answers to prayers isn’t because I have stored up awesome-ness. It’s God. But I do have a part in preparing myself to be His messenger.

Feeling the power of God move through me has forever changed my life. It motivates me to continue seeking after Him.

As I do, I meet  people like Steve.

That makes life oh so good.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Life’s purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God.

I make sense of the purpose of life through the framework of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One of its tenets includes the pre-mortal existence of mankind in the presence of God, “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth…for in heaven created I them[1]. In this state, we had a consciousness of the goodness of God and accepted the transition to a mortal existence. Since early Sunday School, children learn that the purpose of life is to come to earth to get a natural body and gain experience by
learning and growth. I have heard this narrative so many times it is now trite and serves me little in trying to make sense of life’s purpose. Therefore, I emphasize different aspects of revealed teachings to create my own guide. I center it in the development of faith in Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith, who I accept as a prophet equivalent to Abraham, Noah, Moses or Peter, taught that faith is a principle of power, “But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth”.[2] I believe for those God first created spiritually to increase in power, He designed an environment for them to exercise faith.

My own efforts to develop faith independent of my parents began as a teenager.  After months and months of spiritual searching in prayer and scripture study, I received a powerful spiritual experience through the Holy Ghost that confirmed to me the existence of God and His awareness and concern for me. It increased my confidence to continue to outreach to Him and I not infrequently received further assurances.  As a full time missionary for almost two years, my faith expanded as I received immediate answers to my prayers. As my faith in Jesus Christ swelled, I felt the spiritual power of which Joseph Smith spoke and had a strong sense of the purpose of life. Then, at some undetected point, I entered a new phase of a development of faith.

God turned Deist on me, or at least He seemed to deal with me more like a clockmaker who set His world in motion and declines to intervene in its happenings. Without deviating from my usual efforts of prayer, scripture study and meaningful worship, I sometimes feel like God leaves me alone.  I am sure of His existence and do not believe His concern for me has changed, but He has provided fewer and less immediate assurances to me of His involvement. At this same time, I have become more mindful of life’s inequalities and tragedies. Often the self absorbed enjoy the comforts of marriage and family when the best swallow the pains of loneliness and neglect. Sometimes the promiscuous produce unwanted children when committed married couples taste the emptiness of infertility. Some inattentive parents overlook their children when involved parents bury theirs. The Mississippi overcomes homes, tornados demolish an Alabama town when tsunamis engulf and kill thousands in Japan. And some of the most admirable people in my life suffer with cancer when others live superficially, seeking to be incessantly entertained. Where is God? Is He still far removed?

This is the wrestling phase of my faith’s development and I see it as key in the purpose of my life; the cultivation of faith and the increase of spiritual power. This is where I have come to better know God.[3] My faith is not irrational. Every day it is a decision. I analyze the evidence available to me and  form a conclusion. Though I may feel little or no reciprocation from Him, I choose to piece together many past assurances from Him and choose to continue in trust.  Life’s purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God. This comes not in the instant gratification to prayer requests or in knowing that every life question has a direct answer.  It is also not in the perfectly equivalent servings of blessings based on faithfulness.  Faith and therefore spiritual power comes by wrestling before God. It is in having just as many reasons to withdraw my reach to Him and walk away, but in choosing to increase confidence in Him, even when I feel He leaves me alone. The purpose of life is to have the opportunity and the right to walk away and the deliberate choice to stay. In that, there is spiritual power.

Life’s purpose is to change from selfishness to godliness.

By faith, I participate in the process of exterminating the rats within me.  C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.” In the times of my life when God has been very quick to answer me, I was less aware of the existence of any rats. They were easily hid when I decided to open the cellar. When I have felt God leave me alone is when the cellar door has been thrown open. It has been then I can see my impatience, sense of entitlement or my self-pity.  The purpose of life is to access the power of God by faith to change these rats to their inverse form, patience, gratitude and humility.  The purpose of life is to provide me with the opportunity to use the power of God to diminish my ego and to have repeated opportunity to avoid re-inflating it. The purpose of life is to draw on God’s power by faith to have the secret imaginations of my heart be infused with virtue and integrity, rather than self-aggrandizement or pride.  As I increase in faith in God, I feel empowered to be open, authentic, discerning and giving and I welcome God’s all-searching eye to pierce my heart.

This process is both deeply inward looking and interdependent on the people around me. If I were to withdraw from the world into a lonely cave, I may be able to dig out the rats of the dark secrets of my own heart, but how will I have opportunity to develop compassion, patience and kindness?  How will I share in the grief of a close friend who lost their brother or help relieve the burden of someone devastated by a natural disaster?  The purpose of life is to draw on the power of God by faith to turn from selfishness to godliness.  I cannot accomplish such a tremendous change. It only comes as I consistently outreach to God to endow me with such power. The power to change comes by faith.

Life’s purpose is to build eternal relationships.

I was beginning to ponder the meaning of life when I was assigned “sealings” on my bimonthly shift at the Washington, D.C. Temple.  Because of the belief that each person on the earth must receive gospel ordinances administered by God’s priesthood authority, Latter-day Saints perform proxy ordinances in the Temple for the deceased, which will take effect only if accepted on the other side by the person passed away. Unique to Latter-day Saint belief is that God intended marriage to endure beyond the grave and this authority to “bind on earth and binds in heaven” has been restored in our time.[4] I was not paying close attention to those in the sealing room as we administered the sealing ordinance for deceased people, but one fellow Temple worker joked about the meaning of life.  My attention turned quickly to him, thinking it was curious this topic would come up when I was deeply considering it. He had asked the question in jest and another Temple worker responded with a playful point. Then the responder became serious saying, “I think the meaning of life is embedded in this ordinance.” It took me back because it opened my mind to a thought I had yet to consider. The best way to increase in the power of faith is to live in a covenant relationship with God, which happens when two people agree to live in marriage.  In marriage, there could be  many reasons to withdraw and walk away, but when they choose to increase in confidence and trust in each other and in God, even when they feel left alone, they deepen in their commitment and are positioned to see an increase in faith and power. In building a marriage that will last beyond the grave, each person has to draw on the power of God by faith to change selfishness to godliness because their weaknesses are heightened as they deeply affect another person. Sacrifice in marriage inherently invites the increase of power by faith to become more like God.  In this way, we can better know Him. We are brought closer to Him as we become more like Him in the sharing of His power by faith.  The purpose of life is to build eternal relationships.

The purpose of life is to wrestle with God, become more like Him and create and nourish relationships that extend through the plains of eternity.  I want to live my life aligned with these purposes so that I can live with peace.  It first starts with my mind and my heart.

What do you think?  Does life have a purpose? If so, how do you view and explain it?

 


[1] Moses 3:5 in the Pearl of Great Price, found in canonized scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

[2] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2000), 2.

[3] “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3).

[4] “It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?” (Doctrine & Covenants 128:9)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“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.

Tags: , , , , ,

Did you know that the Bible reports of others resurrected after Christ?  I don’t recall ever hearing anyone talk about this, but it’s so appropo during the Easter season.

“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52:53).

I wonder who they were. I’d guess that Abraham, Noah and Moses would have made the short list. I’d nominate Isaiah for His witness of Christ and include Job for His testimony of the resurrection and ironclad faithfulness. If it were up to me, I’d also throw in Ruth, Sarah, Leah and Rebekah just to have some women representation, but maybe that’s my modern view of equality of the sexes. Come to think of it, Latter-day Saints believe resurrection becomes a family affair, so I bet every prophet who was resurrected also enjoyed the resurrected companionship of his wife.

During the Savior’s post-resurrection visit to the Americas, He chastized a prophet named Nephi for not including a 40+ year old prophesy about how others would be resurrected in America after His own resurrection:

“Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant, Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there are many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so? And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled. And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them? And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written. And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded” (3 Nephi 23:9-13).

Talk about being called on the spot for not doing your homework!:)

It seems it was important to Christ that people knew others were resurrected after Him.  I wonder why we don’t talk about it more in the Church and why the broader Christian community doesn’t seem to highlight the Bible reference.

Huh.

Anyways,

Moroni was the final prophet writer of the Book of Mormon. He buried the record in about 421 A.D.. When he appeared to Joseph Smith to direct him to the location of the hidden record, it was as a resurrected man (JSH 1:30, 32).

I wonder just how many people have already overcome death by the reception of their glorified body. That’s incredible just trying to fathom the concept. Whew.

 

Tags: , , , , ,