Posts Tagged ‘personal revelation’

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hi!

Thanks so much for reading this blog.

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

But, I’m about to stall its momentum.

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

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

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

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

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

So why a blogging break?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try it.

Tags: , , , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All good questions.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Here’s an example.

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

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

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

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

What should I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Was it God, me or just a coincidence?

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

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

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

 

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

Stay tuned.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

To my delight, Michael Shermer was Stephen Colbert’s guest this last week. It was interesting to see Stephen’s tone at the following point in the interview. He’s a practicing Catholic, so I wonder how much of this was portraying his conservative-pundit-caricature and how much was the real Stephen being playful with a nonbeliever.

Colbert: “You used to be a Christian, right?

Shermer: “That’s right.

Colbert: “Jesus misses you…He told me.

Shermer: “He did? Well why didn’t he talk to me?

Colbert: “Because you don’t believe.”

Shermer: “If being talked to depends on whether I believe or not, then that means it doesn’t really exist, it’s all up here in my head, which is the point of my book, that it’s all up here.

I sympathize with the criticism of prerequisite belief for a confirmation of God’s existence. On its face, first believing before you can believe smacks of the very kind of self-deception Shermer tags onto believers.

However, God works according to the faith we exercise.  If we thought of God as a painter, our offered faith is the medium with which He paints. The more we offer to Him to use, the more He does on the canvas. If someone doesn’t outreach to God, they’re not offering the faith that will produce miracles.

Compare Shermer’s I-won’t-believe-until-I-have-evidence  approach to this ancient American soon-to-be christian convert’s prayer:

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee…”

(Alma 22:18).

This man wasn’t sure if what he was learning from Aaron was true, but he was willing to ask with the hope he’d receive an answer. He also was willing to sacrifice to gain the desire of his heart, which is also a prerequisite to recognizing the Holy Ghost or in other words, receiving answers to prayers.

This  prayer was the catalyst of a spiritual experience that led him to be faithful to Jesus Christ.

From what I know about Jesus, Stephen Colbert was right, Christ does miss Michael Shermer. He’d like to offer Shermer the kind of communication that affirms His existence, but it would likely take Shermer’s initiation and humility.

Speaking of doubts, I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon. It would hurt his book sales.

(Surely, God can initiate with whomever He wishes, but the usual pattern is we outreach to Him in trust and He confirms. I must say the Apostle Paul doesn’t seem to fit this pattern of ask in faith first, then communication comes, but we don’t know the backstory of what’s absent from the record. As an observant Jew, he very well could have been seeking God’s will and received an unexpected answer on the road to Damascus.)

Here’s the video

The post “Magic Mormon Underwear Gets a Mention at the Believing Brain Discussion” and the post “My Response to the Shermer Lecture“ relate to my interaction with Michael Shermer.

Tags: , , ,

This post responds to Leah’s comment on this post.

Hi there – I have found your last two posts interesting. I’m a woman who was raised mormon and now consider myself a secular humanist/naturalist/whatever non-religious term you want to use. I was at the Shermer lecture and before you said you were Mormon – I leaned to my husband and said “she’s Mormon”. Mormon-dar? It’s a thing I guess. :) I can see a lot of the old me in your thinking in your posts, so it’s very interesting. I wondered about your comments above, you say that you have had answers to your prayers. You have probably had this question before, and I present it to you as I once presented it to myself – you have had answers to your prayers, you have had spiritual experiences, but what about those prayers that were not answered? Or just coincidences? Why does God answer YOUR prayer about finding your driver’s license but doesn’t answer the prayer about finding the missing child before she is murdered? Ok, I went extreme there, but I think you get my point. What about people who pray and get answers that a different church is true? What about Mother Theresa?! These were questions that hurt my brain and I’d be interested to hear your response. I’m not a great writer, so I apologize for the choppiness of my thoughts here. I also thought of this blog recently when I was watching this:   I think Chris puts a lot of my own thoughts into words and if you ever feel like giving it a watch and response I’d be really interested in that as well – particularly about his “water” example about 10 min. in. Oh, one more thought – how do you explain people like myself, or Chris in the video, who are happier and feel more “ourselves” and love this world and planet and human beings and  life more than ever AFTER leaving what is supposed to be the one true church and greatest happiness? Are you ever curious about that? Do you not think it’s genuine? That is one thing I never considered when I was Mormon (that people actually cared MORE about families and life and this earth AFTER leaving) so I don’t know what a “Mormon Insider” would say to that. :) Thanks!

 

Dear Leah,

I’m so glad you dropped in. I was amused by you pegging me as a Latter-day Saint at the lecture before I announced it. It could have been the soft glint of my gold CTR ring, but it was likely the impish grin I shot back to my friend when Shermer started razzing on polygamists and called them Mormons.

Your questions are sending me in several different directions. I need to be brief tonight and will respond more fully another time about Chris’ video. I’ve watched it in full and read most of the comments.

Your questions about my view of prayer would make this post very long, so I’ll save it for another day. Stay tuned.

What about Mother Theresa?

From this question, it seems to me you’re asking how I make sense of religious people outside of what I claim to be Christ’s restored Church. I think there are lots of people who were placed in circumstances to influence God’s purpose for mankind, but their life situation did not include access to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (meaning seeking to fully receive the Atonement of Jesus Christ by living in a priesthood covenant relationship with God). Martin Luther King comes to mind.  He wouldn’t have been effective if he was LDS. People don’t really care for Mormons, much. As a Protestant preacher, he was able to appeal to a broad audience and was powerfully able to draw on legitimacy higher than the state for rights claims. His leadership eventually influenced the potential  ordination of every faithful man in the Church. The great reformer, Martin Luther, also comes to mind as a man of God who fulfilled a great purpose in God’s plan of salvation, but did not have the fullness of the gospel in mortality.

The 138th section of the Doctrine and Covenants describes how those who did not have the opportunity to hear and live the fullness of the gospel will get the chance to accept it in the Spirit World. The Spirit World is the place where all departed spirits go before resurrection and judgment.  God holds us accountable to knowledge we have; if He did otherwise, it would not be just.

As a tremendous woman of God, I’d expect Mother Theresa will continue to seek to do God’s will, even while she awaits resurrection in the Spirit World.  I’d say for people like her, accepting the fullness of the gospel there will be seamless.

 

- how do you explain people like myself, or Chris in the video, who are happier and feel more “ourselves” and love this world and planet and human beings and  life more than ever AFTER leaving what is supposed to be the one true church and greatest happiness? Are you ever curious about that? Do you not think it’s genuine?

As a strong advocate of religious freedom, I’m committed to respecting others’ free exercise of conscience, especially if the decision is not to believe. I read a book recently by a Georgetown professor who worked for the  State Department in the International Religious Freedom commission. While making the case that religious liberty is an inherent right, he wrote the following:

An undersecretary of state once told me that his most powerful existential questions had to do with his tennis swing, not the existence of God. This was a cordial but pointed jest, designed to refute my argument that the search for transcendence is universal. It reflected a point of view that should not be trivialized, much less ignored

(Thomas F. Farr World of Faith and Freedom p. 22).

I don’t trivialize or ignore your decision to walk away from belief in God. I’m happy that you have found happiness and contentment in your life. For me, I enjoy lots of things that are seemingly apart from a faith experience. I enjoy my work, I like to exercise, I enjoy my friends and family and other things. However, I have experienced the greatest amount of joy through accessing God. I want Him to mentor me. I want to  know Him better and discover His will and pursue it. It’s what is most important to me. The more I understand about Him, the more insatiable my motivation to seek after Him becomes. But as Dr. Farr invites his readers to recognize, not everyone views life as a search for transcendence. Some are happy thinking about the beauty of their tennis swing.

Because there are these different shades to which people are interested in God, it makes sense to me that heaven has multiple levels, as described in the  76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Heaven is organized to accommodate the level to which people were interested in internalizing the gospel of Jesus Christ. For those insatiably seeking to know God, their level of heaven would be living with Him and continuing to know Him throughout eternity. For those who weren’t interested in such a venture, they ultimately settle in a comfortable place that reflects the degree of God’s glory they pursued.

Have you ever wondered if there is a God, why would He put mankind through a mortal experience where He cryptically remains hidden from proof of His existence?  I’ve wondered that and since I saw Harry Potter this weekend, can describe it best in this way. [spoiler alert!]

After Voldemort kills Harry, he ends up at the railroad station King’s Cross where he speaks with Dumbledore.

 

Harry: “I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?”

Dumbledore: “That’s up to you.”

Harry: “I’ve got a choice?

Dumbledore: “Oh yes,” Dumbledore smiled at him. “We are in King’s Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to. . .let’s say. . .board a train.

Harry: “And where would it take me?

Dumbledore: “On,” said Dumbledore simply.”

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows p.722)

For those who choose to live life according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, including God’s commandments, they always go “on.”  This is why God created the earth- life experience and gave His Son. It is by the development of faith in Jesus Christ that we increase in spiritual power and we go “on.”  Going “on” includes changing to gain holiness more like God’s. We become more holy through the exercise of faith in Christ. If God wasn’t so cryptic, we would miss out on the development of faith and trust in this power greater than ourselves. God wanted to provide all His children the opportunity to go “on.” Good people who are disinterested in the gospel ultimately live in a place like Harry’s King’s Cross.  Harry’s at peace (p. 712) and it’s a pleasant place, but that’s the end. No trains will be coming to take these residents “on.” They don’t change beyond what the were like when they arrived.

The joy we receive in this life and in the next is directly proportional to the degree we choose to receive the Atonement of Jesus Christ.   We access the power of the Atonement through trusting in it, or exercising faith.

I absolutely consider your claims to happiness as genuine, but your happiness would not be my happiness.

I hope that wasn’t incredibly dissatisfying for you.  And I hope it won’t be interpreted as self righteous. It’s really more of an attitude of may we all receive the desires of our hearts, in this life and into life’s later phases.

Thanks again for your questions. My life is a little crazy right now, so I will respond to prayer questions and Chris’ video another time.  Thanks for giving me writing prompts!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 

This post relates to this post.

“I know it’s not my brain,” I told my friend on our way home from the Michael Shermer discussion at sixth&i. I was trying to explain that my spiritual experiences weren’t imaginary.  He responded simply, “How do you know it’s not your brain?” He wasn’t trying to make me feel foolish for my claim. If he was willing to treat me that way, I wouldn’t choose to spend any discretionary time with him. He just wanted to hear how I could be so sure. He’s not sure there’s a God and he’s not sure there’s not. Whatever the truth is, he just wants to know it. I like that about him. I’m increasingly more appreciative of self-honest people these days.

“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you,” I told him.

This is the part where I’d refer to the profile I wrote for this blog, but I see now that it’s deleted. Shoot. Anyway, I would have used it to demonstrate that the ongoing questioning process is key to my walk of faith. Some people feel like their faith is shaky when they start to question things they previously accepted. One of the most often repeated invitations in scripture is to “ask.” It is usually coupled with the promise and “ye shall receive.” I’ve lived that promise, more than I can count. As I have had innumerable experiences with the Divine (one described in the post “Why I Believe“), it increases my confidence to deepen in my questions and seek more.

Through this process, I have a few personal beliefs that others in the Church accept as true, but I personally think are more products of our culture. Some of Latter-day Saint belief (and other faith tradition beliefs, too) is based on logical inferences drawn from writings accepted as revelations. We have the words of prophets, living and dead, and we have the Holy Ghost whose role is to “teach us all things” (John 14:26). Then, God invites us to make sense of it and ask along the way to fill in the gaps and gain a personal understanding of truth.

I’m finding it’s a lifelong process to really take this venture seriously. As I am open and willing to reexamine what I’ve previously accepted, I come to better know God. It’s highly motivating to continue forward.

Though as a general practice I like to think myself special, I’m not alone in this approach.  I have lots of Latter-day Saint friends who approach their faith similarly.

The stereotype that people of faith are close-minded likely comes when people attack them, which seems to be the style of the atheist/non-theist community (you can see the comments in the previous post for an example of this). If my friend had treated me this way, first we wouldn’t be friends much longer, and second, I likely would have appeared close-minded because I would end the conversation.

 

After that Background, Here’s my Response

This brings me back to Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain: From Gods to Ghost and Politics and Conspiracies and my own brain activity. His thesis is that the brain naturally looks for patterns as it processes its environment.   The brain then forms these patterns into belief that people confirm with self-selected proof, ignoring evidence to the contrary.  Further, through these beliefs, the brain can even produce experiences perceived as supernatural, especially when someone is alone or sleep deprived.  These perceptions are fired by neurons in the brain, self produced by these formed beliefs.

I think he’s right, to a point. It’s a usable thesis to generally explain some instances of why people believe as they do. It especially applies to prejudices and stereotypes. I’m hoping that in his book he has something stronger with regards to experiencing the “supernatural” beyond the examples he provided in his lecture. He personally stayed up for 72+ while driving and hallucinated human forms on the side of the road. Once he slept, it ended.  He also used an example of prisoners in solitary confinement. These hardly match similar circumstances of those who claim to have been visited by heavenly messengers or other comparable reports.

The skeptic’s approach is to think critically, meaning you look for evidence and draw conclusions based on it, which I appreciate and practice. Some people find me intolerable because I sometimes ask questions that require them to show what evidence led them to their conclusion.  The skeptic’s model of truth discovery declares that if there’s no substance to an assertion, it should be rejected. Because of the critical thinking approach, they view faith in God claims as comparable to belief in Santa Claus and fairies.

This is the part that atheists/nontheists will find terribly dissatisfying. My faith operates in a model that shares similar aspects to this evidence-based approach, but relies on the Holy Ghost to confirm what is substantial.

 

My truth discovery model with regards to faith

Alma, an ancient American prophet, in a discourse on faith invites readers to “experiment on the word” and to “exercise even a particle of faith.”   Are you a skeptic and don’t have any faith to exercise? Alma says simply the desire to believe is enough (Alma 32:27).

The process in which I engage to explore truth claims is the following:

  1. I have an idea.
  2. I pursue that idea. Alma describes this as giving “ place, that a seed (the word) may be planted in your heart.” (Alma 32:28).
  3. I discern by the Holy Ghost if the results are worthy of keeping or tossing out. Alma says you can identify it as a good seed if it enlarges the soul, enlightens the understanding, and/or begins to be delicious (Alma 32:28). Further, he says that if it is light, it is good. (Alma 32:35).
  4. I cultivate the good idea by rinsing, repeating and pursuing more good ideas.

What I anticipate is incredibly preposterous to an atheist/nontheist is that this experiment can’t be physically measured; it is only spiritually experienced. And yes, it happens in the mind and some could clearly apply Michael’s model and self-deception claims to it.  I’m not trying to disprove him because I don’t think it’s possible to prove either way. I’m just trying to explain my worldview. There have been times when I completely wanted something so badly that I would have willed it so, if possible. I’ve received answers to prayers that were completely different directions than my mind was petitioning for.  If it was my self-deception, I anticipate I would always get or believe exactly as I was seeking. This isn’t the case.

I’ve also tested and pursued ideas that turned out to be a flop. They didn’t grow and enlighten as other ideas I’ve tested.

Being tutored by the Holy Ghost requires humility and a willingness to act on any enlightenment received. I’m currently living and experiencing this process and at times have had my mind and heart enlightened and filled with light as I’ve considered the things of God. I have a certainty that not only there is a God, but that He cares about me.  I’m not certain of a great many other things in the Church. I simply believe them. I’m still working on the certainty. It takes a lot of work.

The enlightenment by the Holy Ghost is a different experience than other pursuits of the mind. I wish I could explain this, but am currently not able to. This is likely what is so frustrating to an atheist/nontheist. Since spirituality is experienced, individually, it’s difficult to put into a box for display and evaluation.

During the post-lecture book signing, Michael asked me if I was raised Mormon. When I replied yes, he said, “of course,” as if I wouldn’t believe in gods, ghosts, politics or conspiracies any other way. I must say that I feel it was to my advantage to be raised within a framework to test ideas through the spiritual process I’ve explained.  I was able to amass lots of communication from God by the Holy Ghost before my secular world taught a different framework of discovering truth. I have three very smart friends who are currently trying to step into new areas of faith, but I believe they are operating from the perspective of show-me-proof-then-I’ll-believe.  This is the scientific model. I’m this way too because of my smarty-pants education. But I have the advantage of countless answers to prayers through the medium of the Holy Ghost under my belt that motivates me to continue believing and expanding spiritually.

Because this process requires humility, it only works if someone “becomes as a little child” as the Savior taught (Matthew 18:4). It’s a lot harder for adults. I can feel that in myself, which is why I feel so advantaged to have had many passed experiences in spirituality with the Holy Ghost  before I arrived to my less-trusting phase of life.

This process is rational in that it is a series of decisions made in my brain. Michael described neurons in the brain producing experiences. I suspect he may be right.

Now, I actually do think it’s coming from my brain.

I think that God perfectly navigates nature as its best scientist and as the creator. It’s a new idea to me that perhaps as the Holy Ghost is instructing me and enlightening my mind, He’s actually firing neurons in my brain to do it.  It’s a little unromantic-sounding, but if it’s the truth, I’d accept it. :)

 

 

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Remember my shameless bait to draw out insights from the  tremendous reservoir of Internet users?

No?

For the month of March, I offered a $10 gift card each to the top 3 MormonInsider visitors willing to both share posts with others and share their perspectives on the posts.

We can call these people top sharers. Everyone loves someone who shares good things.

Thanks to Elisabeth for sharing a specific example of the difficulty navigating the difference between being meek and being a pushover at “Blessed are the [pushovers] for they shall in inherit the earth“?

Thanks to Paul for sharing his satire, revealing the sometimes unacknowledged ridiculousness of gender expectations at “Can Women Ask Out Men and it Work Out?

Thanks to Afton for frequently sharing, especially for her perspective in “Do I Need a Man? A Woman with Needs or a Needy Woman?” I’m glad she added the insight about how fulfillment in life and in dating has more to do with how much you give of yourself, rather than looking for others to fulfill our needs.  I like how she looked to Christ to support her point.

A special thanks goes to Anonymous on “Modern Apostle’s Message: Question Your Guts Out.” She responded to the following instruction by Elder Bednar:

“Girls, if you’re getting serious with someone, you should ask,

Tags: , , , , ,

How excited would you be if you were a Christian living in Corinth and Paul the Apostle came to town?  The modern day equivalent happened this weekend here in Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C.. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that as God has restored His New Testament Church in our time, He has also called Prophets and Apostles as modern day special witnesses of Jesus Christ. Elder David A. Bednar was the modern Apostle who visited.  The Prophet and Apostles address Church membership twice a year in world wide broadcasts, but with the growth of the Church, it is uncommon to have an opportunity to hear them in person outside of the conference center.

I was anxious to see what he had in mind to teach us.

He began with saying that we likely all came waiting to hear what the speaker had to say, but we should have come seeking what the Holy Ghost would teach us. As we gather together in a congregation, seeking the Holy Ghost, there is a greater outpouring of the Spirit and thoughts will come to our minds and feelings to our hearts.

With that, he informed us this would be a Q & A. He said that no question was a foolish question, but some are better than others. He provided a few examples of better questions and then opened up the microphones to the about 1,800 in attendance.

The 2 hour meeting started 10 minutes early and ran 10 minutes late and I was mentally engaged the whole time.  It could have been much longer if it were only up to me because of the presence of the Holy Ghost.

At the close, Elder Bednar asked how many of us received an answer to a question we had, but no one asked anything related to our chosen question.  He identified that as the Holy Ghost teaching us and invited us to continue that questioning process through the Spirit with the Lord.

I really wanted to ask him my question and was disappointed that I wasn’t able. But it was only then I realized that I received some instruction from the Spirit regarding two other things that I’ve been weighing that weren’t related to my readied question or to anything anyone was able to ask. Wow. I would have missed these two concepts if he hadn’t asked the question.

I’d summarize his message as, “Question Your Guts Out.” Those are my words, of course.  I could say it differently, like “Instruction on Seeking Personal Revelation,” but the former phrase captures more of my sentiment for it.  I think many in the Church feel guilty about questioning what they have previously accepted to be true.  Truth has so much depth. The more we work to understand it through the Spirit, the deeper our understanding and greater our ability to recognize nuance and colors in what we may have previously viewed as black and white. As I mature, I rehash out my faith through asking questions, seeking the Spirit. It facilitates revelation, as Elder Bednar taught.  I ask very difficult questions that bring me to a point where it seems like the issues are irreconcilable; they can’t fit perfectly into my previously crafted faith box. But I don’t want to be in that box and I don’t think the Lord wants me there either.  That box was a step to get me to where the real faith action is happening and I’m only just beginning to get there.

I believe God wants us to constantly question. The difference between doubting and questioning is whether I choose to reject God until He gives me an answer or if I choose to continue to trust Him, believing I will receive a better understanding and an added measure of peace.

As I wrestle with questions, rehashing my faith, I gain added insight from the Holy Spirit. I gain more spiritual depth through this revalatory process in action.  Elder Bednar wanted us to learn that we should be questioning with the Spirit.

I question and I trust because I have had too many tutorials from the Holy Ghost not to have reason to trust or question. I should question my guts out.

Questions asked by members of the congregation

“We’re commanded to forgive. How can we forgive those who hurt us and it’s not our fault?”

“How can we be closer to the Savior when it’s to the Father we pray?”

“You often speak of keys.  What is it that you would have us understand about keys?”

“How would you recommend we prepare for marriage?”

“How can we make decisions in the confidence of the Lord and have the courage to act on the decision?”

Snippets of Elder Bednar’s responses:

“Get a copy of the Book of Mormon. Not expensive. Read it marking every reference to Jesus Christ and especially how the people were ‘strengthened in the Lord.’ As a servant of the Lord, I promise as you seek this, you will receive [the ability to forgive].”

“The best questions are inspired of the Holy Ghost and specific to the person.”

“Learn to love living the gospel. It’s NOT living the gospel that is hard.”

“Priesthood keys were restored so ordinances would be efficacious in time and eternity, making covenants with God, and the channel for revelation opened.”

“We didn’t receive a text message from Moroni.”

“[speaking of marriage] If you take a strong person and a weak person, you get one less strong person. But if there are two strong people together, [look out].”

“Girls, if you’re getting serious with someone, you should ask, ‘Have you ever been involved with pornography?’ If the answer is no ask, ‘What do you do to protect yourself?’ If he is bothered by you asking the question, then you know the answer.”

“It is more important not to shrink than to survive.”

“Moral agency is the opportunity to act instead of being acted upon. We are to act and not simply to be acted upon.  We are to be agents, not objects.”

“Do not pray as objects, ‘Heavenly Father, get me out of here.’ Pray as agents, ‘give me the strength to get out of here.’ There is enabling and strengthening power in the Savior’s Atonement.”

“If you live the gospel, you get more commandments. They are private, personal commandments, not institutional commandments…  They are a source of joy.”

“Revelation comes as a conclusion, not a reason.”

“Everything you need to know about revelation is in the sequence. ‘Faith is of action and of power.’ Act first in accordance with the teachings of the Savior. Peter didn’t know he could walk on water. He looked to the Savior [heeding His invitation] and stepped out on the water. Don’t sit on the side of the straight and narrow path revving your engines.  Press forward, with steadfast faith in Christ. ”

My Question I Didn’t Get to Ask

I had a 2 part question in mind that I didn’t get to ask: ”In this month’s [Church magazine publication] Sister Julie B. Beck  taught that because the family is centered in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, if something is ‘anti-family, it is anti-Christ.’ What guidelines can you recommend to help us accurately identify forces that are anti-family, so we don’t incorrectly label something as anti-Christ? Further, how can we stand for the family without being zealots or fanatics?”

Looks like I have this one to add into my questioning process through the Spirit.

How does questioning affect your spirituality?  Why do you think some spiritually inclined people are hesitant to question their faith?

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

For my most recent birthday I asked my parents to get me new scriptures. I wanted the compact version where the Bible is a separate book from my “triple combination,” which includes the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.  My last set of scriptures were also the compact version, but all four books of scripture were combined to make a massive brick.  Depending on the direction and time of my study, sometimes I only want to carry one or the other.

I also wanted a new set because my preceding set are beautifully marked up. This isn’t a bad thing, but when I read them, I am reminded of the ideas I’ve had in the past instead of seeking new inspiration. It’s been challenging reading from naked pages, but I welcome the challenge. It stretches me to remember the context of the scriptures I’m trying to recall instead of thinking of the visual markings. Plus, I like finding scriptures new to me that teach basic gospel principles, such as faith and repentance, that aren’t the classic scriptures I’ve heard so often that they’ve unfortunately  lost their punch.

Also, I learned as a full time missionary of the benefits of using a study journal. I record impressions or ideas I have while studying the scriptures in addition to summarizing my life’s happenings.  This decreases the amount of marking I’ll do in my new set.  I’m wondering if I want to mark this set at all.  I still haven’t decided.

My dear friend’s mom made me covers for my new set! This protects the bindings when I lug them around in my bags.  Before I’ve begun a scripture study these days, I usually spend about 2 minutes just showering them with admiration.  I do that with other things in my life too. It’s one way I manifest my gratitude.  About twice a week, I have similar moments over my current residence.  I found it after diligent prayer over a year ago.  I’m still just as happy now about its proximity to the metro, cuteness, price and wonderful roommates as the day I moved in.  As long as I don’t mark on these covers, I’ll probably never want to replace them.:)

I was concerned that the debut of my new scripture covers would cause rampant covetousness throughout my “ward” (congregation) this Sunday passed. Thankfully, I think it all turned out well.:)

Check them out. They’re worthy of admiration!

 

Tags: , , , ,