Posts Tagged ‘faith in Jesus Christ’

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 

 

 

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The Salt Lake Tribune published an article Friday with bullet point suggestions to involve women more fully in the operations of the Church. Currently, only men hold the priesthood. Some women, such as many of the authors of the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives,  insist that women should be ordained to the priesthood just as men. They cite a great deal of historical evidence where women early in the Church administered ordinances and operated the Relief Society women’s organization as a completely independent entity. It was only in the 1950s  with the implementation of “correlation” that the Relief Society was moved as a subordinate to the First Presidency of the Church. Before correlation, the general Relief Society presidency made final decisions for leading the women of the Church. Now, they need approval from the First Presidency. Many Mormon feminists mourn this day.

I shared the article because I think it addresses some cultural changes that can happen in the Church right now without addressing the controversial demands to ordain women to the priesthood.

Mormons believe in modern revelation to living prophets. For a large portion of the Church population, this means they wait until they get direction from the top and then they “follow the prophet.” Mormons believe in receiving a prophet’s message and then seeking personal confirmation for themselves about the message by the Holy Ghost. However, many in the Church don’t seek this individual inspiration. That takes work and thought. Emeritus general authority Clayton Christensen changed my spiritual life in a 2009 conference I attended in Boston where he taught that we need to take more responsibility. Joseph Smith didn’t teach that top-down-obey model, he said. Joseph taught we should question and prepare ourselves to receive revelation and then be “anxiously engaged” and “do many good things of our own free will and choice and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doc & Cov 58:27).

Elder Christensen then cited examples where members did this and it led to Church programs that many today assume came by top-down revelation: singles wards, primary, and Sunday School.

My point is that as Church members, we should be looking around at ways to improve the Church rather than waiting for top-down directives before we use our agency to bring about good. I believe the kinds  of suggestions in the article can change Church culture in a way that ought to be changed. Many members chafe at any kind of criticism of the Church and believe the structure to be perfect. I believe we have many practices that we assume are affiliated with priesthood administration, but are really cultural norms that ought to change.

Many of the annoying attitudes in the Church about men and women grow out of generational assumptions of the 1950s about gender. I serve in a singles ward in a city with amazing women ages 18-31. I date men who don’t think twice about having a woman as a boss.  I don’t see the gender divide the article tries to correct  as much in my current ward as I’ve felt in others.  Many of those leading the Church lived in the world when women were either absent or their subordinate outside the home. Sometimes I feel patronized by current Church leadership for the well-meaning way they talk about tenderly treating women. This leadership training is an example.  I understand they want to involve women more fully and some women are hesitant to speak up.  I appreciate their effort to help women feel appreciated.  I view Prophets and Apostles as bringing their own experience to their teaching and God uses them as an instrument to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But, when we emphasize the differences between men and women, they need to be eternally true and not culturally formed. The opposite of motherhood is fatherhood, not the priesthood. Both motherhood and fatherhood are nurturing roles.

Lastly, many hankering for supposed women’s rights in the LDS Church emphasize the Bishop as a power position. Really, a ward is a cooperative community where we’re trying to help each other out. Bishops’ personalities and leadership styles vary, but my Bishop relies heavily on his Relief Society presidents (we have 3 of which I am one) and Elders Quorum presidents (leaders for the men and there are 2) to administer the ward. It’s a lot of work, but the kind of work that emphasizes others rather than exalting self. If people want a power trip, they should run for Congress. I lead the  administration and ministration of my Relief Society. This means I conduct Sunday meetings and pray about who should staff particular positions. I make visits to individual sisters and try to invite them to deepen their trust in God. It’s a nurturing calling. Callings rotate every so often. We switch roles. I won’t always be this sort of leader, but every disciple of Jesus Christ leads. That is constant. The Bishop’s responsibilities parallel my responsibility as a Relief Society president in many ways. The emphasis on power misses the whole point of the ward to help others to come unto Christ and receive the restored gospel.  The Mormon emphasis on free will and personal revelation doesn’t jive with power grabs by leaders. HOWEVER, leaders do and will COUNSEL with someone when they are not living commandments and invite them to change. If they don’t change and it’s serious, they lose blessings such as full participation in the Sacrament (Lord’s supper ) and other sacred experiences. The intention is always to help someone realign themselves with God and His commandments.

With that, your eyes are probably blurring from all this text, but you’re only half way!

Here’s the discussion of the article.

Eric: ! Good share, [Rayleen]

Yesterday at 10:00am · Like

Forrest: some are inappropriate, such as the first one.

also…i never got a blessing from my bishop when advancing in the priesthood, is this some Utah thing?

23 hours ago · Like

Spencer: And what are women lacking that the Lord’s kingdom and structure are missing? It looks like a watered down church version of ERA from the 80′s.I’ve noticed the more people (women in this case) understand who and whose they truly are, the less they need a worldly profile and praise. They have plenty of god-esteeme they don’t need what the world offers, they already know their work is eternal and invaluable. There is a reason we don’t know more about heavenly mother…

23 hours ago · Like · 1

[Rayleen] I have several thoughts on this and will share them when I can.

22 hours ago · Like

Adam: disagree on a doctrinal level with most of these suggestions. Spencer, you are spot on.

22 hours ago via mobile · Like

Forrest: I still feel cheated on the whole blessing thing, i want my fair share dangit!

22 hours ago · Like

Adam: Once I get internet I can address these point by point. Difficult to do on a phone though.

22 hours ago via mobile · Like

[Rayleen] I look forward to it, Adam. Then I’ll respond to your points by point ;)

22 hours ago · Like

Matt: Forrest – it’s talking about ordinations.

22 hours ago · Like

Forrest: really? mine weren’t from the bishop…how odd

22 hours ago · Like

Forrest: Call women as Sunday School presidents, ward mission leaders and ward and stake clerks.”

the latter portion of this section indicates a lack of understanding as to the duties of ward and stake clerks. Much as the first suggestion is inappropriate (having a non-ecclesiastic leader in any kind of bishop’s interview) the duties of stake and ward level clerks, especially in regards to church discipline and related proceedings, are inappropriate for those without the authority to take part. That said I have known women to be called to positions of responsibility as far as ward clerical duties are concerned. I don’t know if that’s what they were getting at

22 hours ago · Like

Matt: I don’t think it’s suggesting that ordinations are from the bishops, indeed, it says that they mostly come from fathers. It’s just saying that the bishop would be a candidate to give such blessings to young women:
“Have bishops give girls a special blessing when they turn 12, 14 and 16. Their brothers get these from priesthood leaders, often their fathers, when they advance in the priesthood.”

22 hours ago · Like

Forrest: Ah I misread. Still an odd request since anyone can request a blessing from their Bishop at any time…I’m not sure I understand the need to codify or officially support (or mandate) such a thing for the sake of appearances

22 hours ago · Like · 2

Forrest: also “Lower the age for female missionaries to 19, same as young Mormon men, while letting them serve two years and as zone and district leaders.”

I’m not sure what the benefit of lowering women’s age would be. I always figured it was more of a protective measure of sorts. Women do serve as zone and district leaders in the absence of priesthood authority to do the same, though admittedly those situations in the mission field are rare exceptions

22 hours ago · Like · 1

Adam: Matt, aren’t fathers able to give blessings anytime? If the father isn’t available, aren’t there other priesthood leaders available? Why does it need to be a “special blessing” based on age?

Just a quick note on my first impressions of the article. Yes, some of the suggestions sound nice and fair, but its a distraction and a trap. It pulls our focus on the eternities into the here and now. From my experiences, this is a tool of the adversary to pull is off the path we should be on. (Big red flag!!) Those who understand the doctrines of the gospel know that our focus/goal is not the now, but the eternity. Those who understand the part women play in God’s plan (there is so much more to it than have babies) do not need the earthly spotlight.

It also creates an assumption that men aspire to these duties/opportunities/positions because of the prestige/power. That should not be the case and those doing so WILL be held accountable. So to say it unfair that women don’t share equal opportunity is to presume that there are women who would like to aspire to such things.

Additionally it assumes that every boy/man gets these opportunities women don’t. There’s no discussion of the necessity for the man to be worthy for such positions.

From a literary standpoint the article is biased. It doesn’t mention areas where women are evidenced to be equal or even superior, but only focuses on parts that, given a myopic perspective, display women as lesser.

Just a few quick thoughts. They are rough and unpolished, but its what I can give right now whilst waiting for my apartment move out inspection.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like · 2

Stephen: If the here and now doesn’t matter but eternity is whats important, then why would it matter if a woman were involved in anything mentioned in the article? If its not big deal that they’re not, it should be no big deal if they were, right?

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Emma: I think these are good ideas. And Adam, I have always aspired to be a ward clerk, so I guess the presumption is not too far off :)

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Adam: Except the doctrines behind them…. no.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Paul: Women already perform priesthood ordinances in the temple, and everyone who has been to the temple wear the garments of the holy priesthood, in exactly those words. “Priest” and “priestess” are obviously priesthood titles, as is evident by the words themselves, and those titles are one of the end states to which Mormons aspire. The Bible references priestesses (though their exact role is not entirely known).

In other words, I’m in the camp that believes that women have already had the priesthood in the LDS church for a long time, and have been given certain priesthood keys (e.g. in temple ceremonies) despite not being allowed to hold offices yet. I have no idea if the male church leaders are ever going to build upon the priesthood that women already have by allowing them to hold offices, but if they ever do make that transition, it will be somewhat of a formality, and not particularly revolutionary.

If you take a step back and detach the word “priesthood” from the social construct of male roles, you end up with the idea that a priest (or priestess) is someone who ministers in matters of faith and church procedures. The fact that no one in the top leadership of the church’s hierarchy has yet seen fit to formalize priesthood offices for women is on some levels irrelevant, because women already minister in many matters of faith and local day-to-day church procedures, but women are, for all intents and purposes, needlessly shut out from important matters that they really should be involved in, such as disciplinary councils, worthiness interviews, regional decision-making, and the declaration of doctrine. There is absolutely no reason for women to be excluded from any of these roles, other than existing conventions and traditions, and there are many, many reasons why including women at these levels can be good for everyone. Is it absolutely necessary for women to be given priesthood offices for this to happen? Although I’m tempted to say no, it’s not absolutely necessary, the truth is that I believe it is. Until women are able to hold priesthood offices, there will always be an inherent imbalance, and that imbalance is completely unnecessary. It could be undone quickly and easily, without changing any doctrine, and people will always wonder afterwards why it took so long to make such an easy change.

21 hours ago · Like · 1

Matt: Adam – of course they are. The point is to make a young women’s transition into adulthood as meaningful as priesthood ordinations make a young man’s.

21 hours ago · Like · 1

Adam: Matt, I’m just saying a fathers blessing would carry much more meaning than a hey, you just turned 14… time for a blessing.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Matt: Heh. As opposed to, hey you just turned 14, time to become a teacher? Fathers, of course, ordain young men, so perhaps we can agree that it should be church policy that young women be given special blessings by their fathers in the bishop’s office soon after their 12th, 14th, and 16th birthdays?

21 hours ago · Like · 1

Adam:  not supposed to be that way for young men either. The birthday means you are eligible for the office, not that you automatically get it. You must still be worthy, you must still be interviewed. Its also up to the bishops discretion if the young man is ready for such an office. Admittedly, that’s not always the way its run, but it should be.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Paul: I also believe that every “calling” at every level of the church is a priesthood calling, and not just in the sense that it was issued by a man with a priesthood title. I mean it in the sense that these are people who are ministering within the church, with authority to do so. Ministering with authority is the essence of what it means to be a priest/priestess, and every calling is exactly that.

21 hours ago · Like

Adam: Paul, I’ll agree with you to the point that women already hold the priesthood (in a different way than men). But how they operate in that is very different. As to the rest of it, we differ.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Matt: Indeed, Adam. And I think all of that would be usefully applied to young women as well: such a moment would be a valuable rite of passage and a renewed signal that the church takes the growth of young women as seriously as it does of young men.

21 hours ago · Like

Adam: They do though. They progress through the young women’s program. Keep in mind too that an ordination to an office isn’t a “blessing,” its an ordination. Typically a blessing will follow, but not always.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Paul: Ijust really think we need to dislodge the word “priesthood” from the calcified assumptions within the church that only men minister with authority. Women have already been ministering with authority pretty much since the beginning of the church, even though the men in charge haven’t seen fit to give them offices yet.

21 hours ago · Like · 1

Forrest: so why second guess current doctrine with what the Church should do? If your thoughts were true it would be what the Church *is* doing. Assuming of course that revelation is actually a thing. Don’t mix temporal social politics with divine revelation. The time when it is appropriate for such changes to occur will be the time it occurs. You need only look at the formal extension of Priesthood office to all worthy men as an example of that.

Obviously at the moment, for whatever reason, things are as they are for a purpose. And it is entirely inappropriate for anyone other than a bishop to be present in an interview except in very rare circumstances.

Now I would suggest we take a long look at what things might be doctrine and others might merely be custom, as I feel custom is sometimes (often) damaging to our interpretation of true doctrine.

21 hours ago · Like

Adam: I will have to return to the discussion later… my apartment management finally showed up.

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Matt: Believe me, I know what an ‘ordination’ is, and I think it’s notable that the writers of the Trib piece are specifically not calling for that sort of thing. Currently in every ward budget the Young Men’s program has several times the amount of cash as the Young Women’s program; though the two things exist, the point is that there’s a lot of signals in the church today that YM are what’s really important.

Forrest - I think you’re the one confusing present social politics and procedural custom with doctrine. Can you point me, say, to any canonical statement which indicates that women can’t be a Sunday school president, for instance?

21 hours ago · Like

Adam: Matt- 1) have you seen “every ward budget” as proof of your statement? 2) can you find any canonical statement referring to a Sunday school president (excluding possibly Doctrine and Covenants)?

21 hours ago via mobile · Like

Paul: If your thoughts were true it would be what the Church *is* doing. ”

While this statement is admirable in its expression of faith in the leaders of the church, the idea behind it has never been true. All meaningful changes in all eras of the church came only after the leaders were ready as human beings to make the changes. Extending priesthood authority to all races is a case in point, really. There never was a revelation barring blacks from the priesthood. The practice grew out of the prejudices of the time, mixed with scriptural interpretations that are today outdated, not because doctrines changed, but because the original interpretations were flat out wrong, and extremely harmful. No one is immune from misinterpretation. Not me, not you, and not the leaders at the top. Changes at the top can only occur when the leaders, as fallible human beings, are ready to make the changes, and that often takes a lot of time and re-learning, when it comes to undoing long-held assumptions.

21 hours ago · Like · 1

Matt: ‎2) Nope; and the Sunday school’s not in the D&C; it was founded in 1849. Which is why it doesn’t seem like it would be much of a big deal to set apart a woman as president, no? 1) Nope, but I don’t need to. Check the GHI. Most of the money comes as a result of the YM”s association with Scouting: fundraisers, the specific financial requirements that Scouting places on organizations that sponsor troops, and the like. The GHI specifically forbids YW from hosting similar fundraisers.

21 hours ago · Like

Matt: And I’m out myself. Been fun, all.

21 hours ago · Like

Forrest: Paul that is conjecture and personal opinion, not hard fact. The reality is we have no idea where the practice came from, stop trying to just lay it on racism.

you still support my point that when membership as a whole and the leadership are ready for such a change, if it be the will of the Lord, then that change will occur. Not before. The change in practice still came about as revelation even if the practice didn’t. With current social trends it could potentially become legal for people to marry more than one person of various sexual inclinations in the coming decades, do you think that will mean a return to plural marriage? I doubt it. Social progress is not, necessarily, the mode of the Lords operation, even if it might coincide as such.

My point is why should it matter whether they can or can’t be? Honestly I’d never even noticed until the article pointed it out. I would wager that it lies within the desire or need to have priesthood authority at the head of the educational portion of the local ward, much like a Bishop is the priesthood authority of the ward itself, a Stake president of the Stake and so on. Relief Society, Young Women’s, and Primary are notable exceptions to the common doctrine of priesthood authority guiding the church, and even those organizations still operate under priesthood guidance rather than independently.

In regards to your ward budget, how would you know? That’s wild conjecture and the reality is that depending on the needs of wards, the sizes of their programs, and ancillary programs such as BSA the clerk and bishop together will draft and approve a fair and reasonable ward budget covering the needs of all programs. Fair != Equal.

to further expound upon the doctrine behind worthiness interviews and disciplinary councils. It is the purview and authority of the priesthood (yet again) and one set apart as a Common Judge in Israel to not only deal with sin and transgression but to accurately and with inspiration guide the member back to living their covenants and full-faith and fellowship within the church. A young women’s president, though certainly concerned for the care and well being of her girls, has no place in those proceedings except, potentially, as a witness in some situations.

21 hours ago · Like

Spencer: The only imbalance is people not understanding and accepting the perfect structure of the church (people of course not perfect). Anyone attempting to frame the church’s structure and division of duties between male and female from the worlds irrelevant and irreverent perspective will always be off base and in danger of much worse. it’s much like a church trying to claim authority from Peter or governments trying to force equal outcome instead of equal opportunity. Women do not hold the priesthood. It is not the structure of the Kingdom or order of God. They were not ordained on top of other key characteristics required for “office.” so don’t be confused by titles – this in no way diminishes the gender, purpose or power to perform miracles and such through faith. May I recommend drinking from the source instead of going downstream and the often quoted line from GA’s “behind every good man is an even better woman.”

21 hours ago · Like · 1

Forrest: thank you Spencer, well put. I too often get mired in administrative minutiae.

Also i mistakenly mixed certain things said by paul and matt in my last response, i apologize for the mistake, but my comments still stand as they are

21 hours ago · Like

Paul: The church’s structure has always been fluid. There has never been one perfect structure. The church in Joseph’s day started with the offices of first and second Elder. Those offices no longer exist. Later, apostles were added. There was a somewhat secretive Council of 50, which no longer exists. The office of seventy was a local office in every ward until it changed to a regional office and granted more of a General Authority status. My dad is a seventy, but was never a general authority. Stake missionaries no longer exist, and we have ward missionaries.

And that’s just in the latter-day church. The organization during the life of Christ was not as alike to our church as many like to think. And what about the organization during Moses’s life? Not really the same at all. So which of these organizational structures is the perfect or true structure? If you’re a believing Mormon, you have to say: all of them. And yet, they have at least as many dissimilarities as similarities.

21 hours ago · Like

Forrest: You would look beyond the mark and lobby for change though, whereas change must come from the top down at the appropriate time. The children of Israel did not tell Moses to go back up the hill and get a ‘better law’ they had less issue with, the Lord sent them the law they had to deal with.

Shifts in Church policy and structure occur as the Lord decrees, not as the people demand. You can be happy for eventual change, should it come. My testimony would not be shaken in the least if any of these things came to pass and were declared by a Prophet of the Lord. But until that day I will oppose this as what it is, a distraction from what is important: the salvation and spiritual nurturing of God’s children. Which none of this seems to really help.

20 hours ago · Like · 1

Paul: I’ll forever be grateful to Lester Bush for his groundbreaking research on the non-doctrinal history of the racial priesthood ban. President Kimball read and re-read it, highlighting key passages. Would the ban reversal have occurred without Lester Bush’s work? Impossible to say. But Lester Bush did the right thing, and so did President Kimball, eventually, after he was ready to accept the change himself.

20 hours ago via mobile · Like

Forrest: you’re oversimplifying the entire situation surrounding President Kimball’s revelation and would do well to investigate the situation further.

http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood

Mormonism and racial issues/Blacks and the priesthood – FAIRMormon

en.fairmormon.org

Sometimes God withholds certain blessings from certain people without explaining…See More

20 hours ago · Like ·

Paul: I’m very familiar with the writings about the circumstances, actually. Yes, of course I simplified things for the sake of a Facebook comment.

20 hours ago via mobile · Like

Forrest: Then you should realize that it almost didn’t matter the origin of the ban, the people required commandment, and the Lord supplied on the Lords time. Unless it was all the work of men which would invalidate the revelatory process.

This is the same, if the people require commandment to change then it will occur, if the change is of the Lord. Books written by men will not sway divine will, nor would they be required as proof as He knows the hearts of men. We as a people would do better to worry more for our own spiritual well being than every detail of church practice and doctrine that we can reasonably, in our own minds, rationalize away as “not really how it should be done”

20 hours ago · Like

Elena: Wow, look at how easily we have become distracted and divisive. I know how Heavenly Father feels about women and I know in turn how He has taught me to feel about myself and that is all that matters to me. Women, there are so many ways you can find to make your life fulfilling, special and impactive. We don’t need to get hung up on things like this.

19 hours ago · Like · 2

Matt: Forrest: this:

Shifts in Church policy and structure occur as the Lord decrees, not as the people demand.

Is not actually true. Primary, Sunday School, and the Relief Society, off the top of my head, began at the local level and were eventually adopted by the leadership of the church. Change happens both top down and bottom up.

15 hours ago · Like

Paul:  Greg Prince also has described the way the leaders in Salt Lake co-opted the youth program from his stake (in California I think?) many years ago and implemented it church-wide. Greg Prince has given whole presentations on this phenomenon in the church, which he has labeled “trickle-up revelation.”

14 hours ago via mobile · Like

Paul:  From Greg Prince:
“Trickle-up revelation is arguably the most important force of revelation shaping the day-to-day church in which we live. If you doubt that statement, consider the Relief Society, Mutual Improvement, Sunday School, Primary, Welfare, Genealogy (Family History), and Young Adult programs all began as grass-roots initiatives on the part of Church members, and were then embraced by the central Church. This means that phrases such as “magnifying one’s calling”, “Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”, and “be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a good work. And out of small things proceedeth forth that which is great”, are not platitudes, but a real call to action. I have been a first-hand witness and participant in the birth of the Young Adult program in Southern California in the mid-1970’s and a first-hand witness of Lester Bush’s landmark on blacks and the priesthood in the mid-1970s. A Church that not only allows, but expects its members to assist in continual transformation by placing their unique gifts at the altar has my vote.”

Source: http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/10/17/why-they-stay/

Why They Stay

www.wheatandtares.org

Sunstone has had a recurring theme over the past 25 years or so titled Why I Sta…See More

13 hours ago via mobile · Like ·

Matthew: Wow, more comments here than on the original SLT post! I’ll throw in my two cents, something I rarely do on facebook–but don’t worry, I wont be back to debate or respond. My thoughts generally on the article are that the author(s) are trying to address what they consider tradition and practice, and not doctrine, and so can with greater ease be changed by the church. And I love the suggestions–I think that each of them are fair, don’t diminish the role of the priesthood or the church while recognizing the contribution and status of our women in the church. I would love to see any of these enacted, and actually might go suggest to my bishop in bishopric meeting (I am the ward clerk, although my wife wishes she was!) on Sunday number 4, blessing the young women as they progress. In our ward, we have a surplus of young women without fathers or fathers in the church, and wanting for support and encouragement. What would be wrong with, when they change from beehive to mia maid, for example, the bishop recognizing this achievement of activity and giving them a blessing of support and encouragement?

And I both support and sustain the prophet as the vehicle for the revelation for almost all of these points and recognize that people can suggest and point out the benefits of such things to him and his counselors. Why shouldn’t the brethren investigate avenues of equality that are not inconsistent with church doctrine?

8 hours ago · Like

Michelle: To add to my husband’s thoughts (which I agree with): I think one of the nice things about the first suggestion is that it will avoid a potentially awkward situation, namely, a young teenage girl alone in a room with an older man asking her questions about the law of chastity. I think that the bishop, as a judge in Israel, would be able to invite a young women’s leader, relief society leader, or a parent to be present during the interview (if the girl is okay with it). Then if counsel is needed on issues sensitive in nature, the girl can work with someone her own gender, not just an older guy.

Also, my understanding is that revelation comes from a combination of two factors: asking and listening. I’m sure that if there is a sizable group in the church interested in such changes to policy (not doctrine), then the brethren would be more likely to even be aware enough to ask about it and receive the revelations of policy changes.

 

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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.

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While in the Convent of San Marco in Florence and the Church of San Damiano in Assisi, I learned about cloisters.

Cloisters are a central architectural feature of the living space for those who have committed themselves to religious life. It represents the shared space of the community of Christ and is meant to be a sanctuary for reflection and communion with God. They usually are cultivated with beautiful flowers to represent the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived in God’s presence.

They usually have wells in the center as a symbol to Christ as the Living Water. The Church of San Damiano has this design.

They can also have a tree at the center as a symbol of the Tree of Life, like at the Convento de San Marco.

The cloister is the predecessor to the modern courtyard. It’s a shame it has lost so much of its depth.

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My parents are worried about me being in another country. Washington, DC is far enough for them. I’m posting some pics for them to get a sense of where I’m staying. It’s a gated community kind of place.

Margaret Rockefeller Strong Larrain donated the Villa Le Balze to Georgetown University in 1986. When she inherited it, she wanted to donate it for an educational purpose. She invited universities to submit proposals and Georgetown beat out the likes of Harvard, Yale and Stanford for the chance to educate their students here. It could have been because her lawyer was a Georgetown alum.:)

The garden courtyard.

The view, part of it. My camera’s zoom is really good.

The greenhouse

The dining hall where we eat almost all of our meals prepared by Italian cooks. Lunch has two courses, starting with pasta and dinner has three courses, starting with pasta. Seriously, my jeans are already a bit snug by this point.

One of the two libraries. This is the room where I’m currently sitting.

Upstairs hallway to some of the bedrooms, including mine.

The bathroom

Our room, there’s just two of us, so it’s not as cramped as it looks.

The view from the bathroom.

There’s also a classroom space for our evening lectures and we’re locked up inside gated walls. Not too shabby.

I’m really grateful to be here and I appreciate fellowshipping with Georgetown students. They’re very bright and many of them are faithful Catholics, which I appreciate. There’s not much of a religious presence on Georgetown campus apart from their values banners and usually empty chapel. Since I go to school at night after work, I don’t get to interact as much with my peers as I would have in a daytime program. However, it still draws people of faith. This weekend we went to Assisi where St. Francis lived, served and died and now holds a huge basilica in his honor. Our conversations the whole weekend were full of theology and open, authentic respectful discussion. When everyone else was drinking wine and I consistently declined, it came out that I was LDS (Mormon) which only adds to the the discussion.

Learning for me is a spiritual experience. Hearing others’ views  expands that process. That’s beautiful to me.

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I’m using this puppy for the first time this week.

This week I’m going to Italy for a two week study abroad to learn about the changes between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

When I started my now job, I felt like a shrewd negotiator when I secured these two weeks to finish the final course of my Masters program without consuming any vacation time. Now that I know my boss better, I’m not so surprised he granted it to me. He’s a former professor and still a scholar and he told me “there will be a quiz” when I return. He wasn’t kidding. It won’t be with pen and paper, but he’s going to want me to share what I learned and it better demonstrate I spent my time well.

I should be finished reading several books at this point, but of course I’m not.

I’ve spent the last week reading these:

The Renaissance: A Short History by Paul Johnson

The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert

I’ve especially enjoyed reading Johnson. His text flows smoothly and he provides personal descriptions of each leading historical figure like a talented novelist. I now want to have dinner with almost every person I’ve met through his pages, including Machiavelli (wouldn’t want to be friends, but dinner would be interesting).

It’s worth reading for more than his description of people. The passage of most interest to me so far has been the following:

One feature of the English scholarship, at both Oxford and Cambridge, was its spirit of criticism. This is an immensely important point, and is worth dwelling on a little. Of course the critical spirit–that is, the tendency not simply to accept texts at their face value but to examine their provenance, credentials, authenticity and contents with a wary eye–was not invented in Oxford. It was a Renaissance characteristic, and one that was to prove fatal to the unity of the church, once it was applied to sacred texts and ecclesiastical credentials. It long antedated the Renaissance, needless to say. Indeed it went back to Marcion in the second century A.D., who first subjected the canonical texts of the New Testament to careful exegesis, accepting some and rejecting others. But this kind of approach was rare in the Dark and even in the Middle Ages; it is odd that churchmen-scholars of the caliber of St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas paid so little attention to the integrity and background of the texts that came down to them, and on which they commented so copiously. But so it was. Thus the revival of the skeptical approach of Marcion was one of the most striking aspects of the recovery of antiquity and the most explosive. (p. 53)

I want to study more about how the further development  of critical thinking tactics later influenced how people during the Renaissance period thought about religion and how it affected the power of the Church. Fascinating.

I still have to read these:

Since I still need to pack and tomorrow night, I just can’t help but watch the season finale of Once Upon a Time, I’m thinking I’ll read summaries online of King Lear and Dante’s Inferno and read Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King in full. My boss specifically told me we would discuss this book because he used to assign it to his grad students as an example of engaging narrative on a topic that could potentially be dry and tedious.

If I finish a sufficient amount of reading before boarding the plane, I’m going to read the next of the Hunger Games book in the series, Catching Fire while en route. It will help me manage jet lag because I’ll have to keep reading. For the first one, I stayed up until 3:00am.:)

I’m anxious and excited all wrapped up into one. The David‘s going to be so happy to see me, finally.

 

 

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8
Apr

The Easter Ham Was a Smashing Success

Posted by: benjamin    in resurrection

I’m terribly pleased with myself about the successful turn out of this Easter ham. My Mom should be happy to hear I’m making strides in my underdeveloped cooking skills. :)

She believes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and I tell her that the kind of man who would interest me wouldn’t have a 1950s gender roles mindset. Okay I don’t say that, but I think that is part of the dynamics affecting our differing perspectives of what it is men want.

Either way, my ham totally rocked it today.

Happy Victory-Over-Death Day!  (Celebrated well with my dead piece of pig.)

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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

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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,

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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?

 

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