Posts Tagged ‘putting off the natural man through the Atonement of Jesus Christ’

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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President Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet when the revelation was received in 1978. Ordaining all worthy males to the priesthood weighed heavily on his heart and he began petitioning the Lord concerning it. Elder Bruce R. McConkie was an Apostle during this time and in his biography, written by his son, he describes the experience of receiving the revelation.

A long discussion followed in which each member of the Quorum of the Twelve expressed himself.  Elder McConkie recorded: “A strong, compelling spirit of unity was in the meeting.  It seemed as though all of the Brethren were in effect joining in the prayers which President Kimball had recently been making on this tremendously important matter.”

President Kimball suggested that they go forward with the prayer. He said that if it was agreeable with the Brethren, he would be voice. He importuned the Lord with great fervor and faith. He asked that a revelation be given manifesting the Lord’s mind and will on this matter so that the issue could be resolved. “it was one of those occasions,” Elder McConkie wrote in his journal, “when the one who was mouth in the prayer prayed by the power of the Spirit and was given expression and guided in the words that were used and the sentences that were said. The prayer he gave was dictated by the Holy Ghost.

Afterward, President Kimball, his counselors, and President Benson, representing the feeling of all who were present, expressed themselves to the effect that never in their experience in the Church had they felt or experienced anything in any way comparable to what occurred on this occasion. 

The manner in which the revelation was given could not be more perfect. 

Reflecting on the timing of these events, Elder McConkie observed, “I think the Lord waited to give this new direction to his earthly kingdom until his Church was big enough in their day gained general acceptance in the Roman Empire.

(McConkie, Joseph Fielding. The Bruce R. McConkie Story; Reflections of a Son. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 377-379).

Here’s the BYU address Elder McConkie gave after the revelation in the same year, “All Are Alike Unto God.” He begins with this:

I would like to say something about the new revelation relative to the priesthood going to those of all nations and races. “He [meaning Christ, who is the Lord God] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).

These words have now taken on a new meaning. We have caught a new vision of their true significance. This also applies to a great number of other passages in the revelations. Since the Lord gave this revelation on the priesthood, our understanding of many passages has expanded. Many of us never imagined or supposed that they had the extensive and broad meaning that they do have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life’s purpose is to build eternal relationships.

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

 

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I’m not normally a people watcher. I’m split almost evenly between introversion and extroversion. When I’m in someone’s company, they have my undivided attention, which is a manifestation of my extroversion. My introversion manifests when I’m alone; I’m in the company of my own mind and heart, often giving only enough minimal  attention outside of myself to navigate my surroundings.

It was a wise moment when Eleanor Roosevelt said:

Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people.

This is why I’m not normally a people watcher. Plus, I also have a sense of allowing others their privacy. Watching them like a hawk and drawing preliminary conclusions about their lives seems to violate their right to privacy. And that feels rude.

However, this last week I was waiting in baggage claim for my ride with a heightened awareness of the people around me because of unexpected extra time. Several enthusiastic reunions warmed my heart and spread a smile on my face.  A few of them even quickened their pace to embrace their loved one sooner.  These grateful exchanges caused me to imagine what reunions are like after we cross over from mortality to the Spirit World.

As I was looking around, in my rare people watching moment, this cleverly crafted cart made me laugh.

After I was through laughing, I remembered my confusion over the virtue of meekness.

We’re supposed to be meek, but what does that mean?  How does that look? How do I act meekly?

At one point in my life, it seemed that being meek meant being a pushover.  How can it be virtuous to be a doormat?  How can I live a fulfilled life when I constantly allow others to take advantage of me?

Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Christ taught that He was meek and asked His disciples to be so, too:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

And Christ repeated this instruction in modern times:

Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (Doc & Cov 19:23).

An ancient American prophet included meekness as an inherited attribute when we “put off the natural man…through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19).

Being well familiar with these scriptures, I knew that if I was meek, I’d inherit the earth and I’d be more like Jesus Christ. I also knew meekness comes through accessing the Atonement, but I didn’t really know why the Savior wanted us to be pushovers. What benefit comes in being a doormat?

Then, just last year, my friend Lorena gave a talk in Church that revolutionized my view of meekness.  She races cars in her extra time.What’s it called when you race through an obstacle course?  I can’t remember, but that’s what she does.

In her talk, she relayed how the Spirit taught her what it meant to be meek while racing in one of these obstacle courses.  She described her car’s horsepower, which I’m sure a large majority of the congregation understood to be impressive. I wasn’t one of them, but I got the gist that if I were better informed, I’d be impressed.

She learned that meekness meant to choose to submit the possessed power to the commands of the driver. It meant to have great power and the self restraint to  control and obey with that power.

I totally get how God is meek now. He possesses all power and exercises a great deal of restraint in allowing our free will to unfold. We are meek as we purposefully submit our power to His.

Meekness doesn’t mean to be a pushover or a doormat. It’s submission of our will to God’s power, trusting that by Christ’s Atonement we access His infinite power to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts.  Through submission to His power, we become better than our own power could enable.

Now I want to be meek.

What does meekness mean to you?  How have you learned this?  Does the Spirit ever teach you through your recreational activities?

 

 

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2
Feb

Resume Envy

Posted by: benjamin    in Uncategorized

“This guy is impressive,” was my reaction to his bio.  I was prepping for a meeting at work. I pegged him in his mid-twenties and his list of accolades included:

  1. He graduated summa cum laude from his noteable law school,
  2. He has published 7 legal papers (some law professors haven’t published that many!),
  3. His blog gets 10,000 hits per month,
  4. He’s still heading up this nonprofit he founded in law school while currently clerking for a circuit court judge.

I wondered what his personal life was like. Does he get enough sleep? Does he have a wife/girlfriend? If so, does she feel like she has to compete with his interests? And if so, is she winning the competition?

My admiration for him made me want to do great things too, but I’ve recently been content with slowing down a bit. I usually try to be time efficient as much as possible, but just the last month or so I’ve purposefully been letting more time pass without completing anything. When people ask me how I’m doing, I say “good,” and these days, good has a different meaning. And I’ve been happy with that, but then I see the example of what other people are doing and I want to jump in the action of moving and shaking the world.

I can’t really do both, it seems, take it easy and do great things. Or can I?

Where should I focus my time?

Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormons) believe that this life is the “time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32).The best life lived submits to the Holy Ghost’s gradual sanctification process by daily accessing the power of Christ’s Atonement. This changes a person’s essence, no matter what their profession or position.

How we live matters. Our self improvement (best achieved through accessing Christ) will be carried over into the hereafter, “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:19).

I accept all this as true, so knowing this, how would God want me to spend my time? I’m usually satisfied with my day if I can:

  1. exercise
  2. commune with the Lord through quality prayer and scriptures study
  3. be productive and/or challenged at work and/or school
  4. visit with a person I care about over a meal, the phone or otherwise and
  5. study something that interests me

If I can do these type of things, I feel like I’m progressing and I’m satisfied with my place in life. I can still push myself to take on cool projects, but have recently tried to cut back to prioritize the most important things first. I want to build up what  I can carry with me into the next life, namely my relationships with God, family and friends and my knowledge (I have the resurrected body in the bag thanks to Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:22).

I sometimes wonder how I would focus my time as a mother. There was a time when I always assumed I would be a mom, but now I think of it in terms of “if.” If I get to become a mom, how would I structure the time of my children? Amy Chua’s memoir of raising her children in a Chinese model sparked public debate. Starting at age 9, her children could not have play dates and practiced their musical instruments for at least 2 hours a night. This kind of parenting produces top scholars and accomplished musicians. And I have often wished my parents were more like this when I learn about the training my friends had growing up, but what is the cost of living that way? Is it worth it?

I want a life where I have time to serve in the Church, explore my own internal world and develop my relationship with God and with others.

But we shouldn’t make excuses to narrowly focus only on ourselves. I still think God wants us to do great things. A modern prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, once said to BYU students, “You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world.” (Stand Up for Truth September 17, 1996).

So maybe all the good ways I spend my time can’t be listed on a resume, but I count some of my non-resume items as my most important. I want to reserve my best for my relationship with the Lord and I want my family and friends to come next. Then the can-be-listed-on-a-resume efforts can have my leftovers, whatever they may be. It’s up to me to decide.

I just wish I could put “Excellent Friend” on my resume.

What more would you add to your resume?

 

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24
Jan

You’re just jealous…

Posted by: benjamin    in Faith Lens Snapshots

The foyer and seating room of the Metropolitan Opera.

Last week while in New York City, I experienced the Metropolitan Opera for the first time.  Both the opera house and the singing were breath-taking.

The current production, Tosca, has all the makings of a good opera, a self-absorbed diva, over the top descriptions of love, (Did Puccini really write for the lovers to compare it to a rainbow in the clouds???) a would-be rapist as the villain and everyone with whom the audience develops a relationship dies tragically.  I immensely enjoyed it, but I must admit, my 21st century microwave-instantly attention span was tested by the 3 hrs and 10 minutes of slow paced action sung in Italian. Luckily, there were English subtitles displayed on the backs of the seats in front of us or I would have missed out on most the story’s happenings.

From these subtitles I learned that the talented diva, Floria Tosca, was a terribly jealous woman.  Just before the audience meets Tosca, we see the portrait her love, Mario, is creating of Mary Magdalene. She is blond with blue eyes, though Tosca’s hair is raven and her eyes brown.  As the diva is calling, Mario begins singing about how much he loves Tosca when he discovers his friend Cesare who had long since been imprisoned for political dissent.  He has escaped and Mario promises to protect him.  He quickly prompts him to hide immediately, saying that Tosca is a jealous woman. The coast is cleared just as Tosca enters.

She greets Mario graciously, showering him with terms of endearment.  These dramatic expressions were a little too gushing for me, but maybe that’s the way opera rolls. Then she sees the blond portrait and switches into a completely different mode,  full of resentment and bittnerness.  He reassures her of his love, saying she is the only one for him and she appears to accept it, but then presses him for more assurance.

At this point my eyes were rolling backwards in my head. I whispered to my friend who was hosting me that she should just accept his reassurances so we ALL could move on.

Again she appears to be satisfied, but then she requests in a small voice that he change the portrait’s eyes to brown and the hair to raven.  He assures her of his love and she exits. Mario and Cesare then exit to find a safe hiding place.

Enter Scarpio, the worst villain I’ve ever met on stage. Later in the opera he sings about how he’d rather conquer women than woo them and move onto the next after the conquest. He lusts after Tosca, but [spoiler alert] she kills him before he can rape her.

I didn’t know all this when I met Scarpio in Act I, but I knew he was devious.

Scarpio found a fan in the hiding spot in the church that belonged to a woman who came to pray.  The fan’s owner happened to be the blond blued eyed woman that inspired Mario’s painting. Scarpio swiftly suggests that Mario is cheating on her with the fan’s owner and Tosca believes him in T-minus 2 seconds.:(  As she sings in the anguish of Mario’s alleged betrayl she viciously stabs the eyes of the portrait.

Yikes, diva.

Tosca, don’t you think your man deserves the benefit of the doubt? He’s assured you of his love over and over, over and over. For his part, maybe this is a big red flag that this is always going to be an issue in your relationship.  Some self examination is in order.

Whew. Good thing this is fiction.

Scarpio then suggests she confirm Mario’s wear abouts. Soon after her exit, Scarpio sends his men after her, suspecting that Cesare is with Mario.  Her jealousy leads to capture of both men and ultimately all of their tragic deaths.

Sad story, but I’m so cultured now.:)

Jealousy: It can’t be that bad, right? I like green.

A dear friend once told me how she appreciated that I wasn’t a jealous girl. I asked her what prompted such a generous compliment.  She told me how she was explaining to her sister the difficulties she was having with her then roommate. She felt like she couldn’t talk about how she loved her job or talk about how excited she was about her new boyfriend because her roommate would become resentful and abrasive.  My friend then told her sister how she assumed every girl was like me in being happy for their friends’ success, but she was learning that wasn’t the case.

I was happy she was happy I was happy in her happiness.

There’s lots of reasons why I’m not a jealous person. Two of them are because of my Dad and because of my America-loving idealism sub-paradigm. (The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is my first paradigm. The second is the Constitution.) My Dad always told me that I could do and be anything I wanted. I believed him and still do. So when I see others’ success, I feel like it’s a demonstration that what they’re doing exists in a realm of possibility for me. I don’t see it in terms of if they’re winning, I’m losing as if there’s some zero-sum equation of success in which I’m competing. Further, the American dream centers on the creation of opportunity through hard work.  Keeping my feet engaged in the hard work of chasing my dreams is intensely satisfying. Why wouldn’t I be happy for others who are doing the same?

But I have been jealous. Twice. One was a one time event and the other was for an extended duration.

Enter hot lacrosse boy in my early college days on stage left. We’d been close for years and he always wanted to be my boyfriend, but I kept him at a distance (I had walls then that I’ve since dissolved, gratefully).  He finally moved on, but we remained close friends. Enter new blond girlfriend at his lacrosse game on stage right when I drove 2 hours to see him play.  He was so hot all sweaty after the game. From the stands, I saw him walking across the field, but his smile was for the blond girl waiting by the fence. I WAS SO JEALOUS. It’s a nasty emotion. I remember thinking, “Why am I feeling this way? What is my deal?” I felt it the strongest when he reached out and hugged her.

The other was for most of the recovery of an ended relationship.  I was crazy about him, but in the end I found out he was more interested in keeping alive the memory of his previous love who devised and implemented her own bailout than he was interested in me. In my view, she deserved none of his love, but even in her absence she was getting what I wanted.  I WAS SO JEALOUS. It’s a nasty emotion.

Jealousy isn’t rational. Maybe I was being too hard on Tosca. Naaahhhh.

Once we’re stripped of jealousy, we can better know God

In a revelation to Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord promised the saints that if they stripped themselves of jealousies and fears and sufficiently humbled themselves before Him, “the veil would be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual” (Doctrine & Covenants 67:10).

The Lord went on to explain how man is able to bear His presence, “For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God” (Doctrine & Covenants 67:11).

King Benjamin, an ancient American prophet, taught that the “natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

It’s beautiful that it is through Christ’s power, His Atonement, we are able to put off the natural man. When we rely on Him, we can strip ourselves of jealousies and fears and sufficiently humble ourselves before God to receive revelations He has for us.

Christ’s power can wipe away jealousy. It’s a nasty emotion. I never want to own it ever again. I’d much rather shed my natural tendencies and receive a greater portion of the Spirit of God.

Joseph Smith taught that God did not give any revelation to Him that He wasn’t willing to give to anyone else. They just needed to prepare themselves to receive the communication.  It’s not a zero-sum game in God’s practice of providing revelations. He wants to reveal Himself to His children. We just have to prepare ourselves.  One step is kicking the nasty emotion of jealousy by accessing the Atonment of Jesus Christ.

 

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Faithful Latter-day Saints (Mormons) frequently think differently than the current public. The public often views living God’s guidelines, which are called commandments, as someone telling them they can’t do something or they have to do it. Faithful Latter-day Saints live these guidelines because by faith they see the opportunity to be schooled by God in how to draw closer to Him. As a result, when faithful Latter-day Saints properly wear the sacred underclothing associated with the endowment ceremony in the Temple, it draws them closer to God.

The public also often views “Mormon Temples” as secret and exclusive places because a person must be a baptized member of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints and currently be living the commandments to enter. Plus, members do not talk about the specifics of Temple ordinances outside of the Temple. However, Temples are not secret, but sacred and God wants all of His children to prepare themselves by baptism and commandment keeping to be able to worship there. It is literally the House of the Lord.

“So, what is done in a Mormon Temple ceremony? What is this Mormon underwear all about?”

In an endowment ceremony Church members strengthen their commitment made at baptism to keep the commandments. At baptism, Mormons promise to “mourn with those that mourn” and to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places” (Mosiah 18:8-10).

The practice of baptism as an ordinance was given to Adam and Eve as part of the process to overcome their fallen state. They first were instructed to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and they would receive the Holy Ghost” (Moses 6:57-61).  God is consistent with His formula of overcoming the Fall, therefore in our time we too exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as the first steps to overcoming our fallen state.

As the Lord prepared Adam and Eve to exit the comfort of the Garden of Eden and enter the challenges of the world, He made “coats of skins” as a covering for them (Genesis 3:21). Where did the coats come from? They likely came from a lamb that was offered as a sacrifice that Adam would later learn symbolized the Savior (Moses 5:4-8).  Any time that God has had His gospel in its fullness on the earth, He has introduced wearing the garment among His people.

In the endowment ceremony held only in the Temple, members strengthen their promises made at baptism and are symbolically clothed in the garment as a constant reminder to them to keep their promises or covenants.

Then, during the weekly Church Sunday services held in chapels, members renew their promises made with God by taking the Sacrament or “Lord’s Supper.” By doing so members “witness” unto God “that they are willing to take upon them the name of [Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:7).

What!?! Always remember Him? How is that done in the daily grind? God is a Master teacher. He designed the garment as a very personal reminder to help His children remember, remember, remember the two way covenants they have made with Him. God is perfect and faithful in keeping His end of a covenant (Alma 37:17).  His children need help keeping their end. He designed the garment to be a help.

Specs and Guidelines for Faithful Members in Wearing the Garment

Guidelines for wearing the garment are best explained in “The Temple Garment: An Outward Expression of An Inward commitment”

  • The garment is a sacred reminder of Jesus Christ and the covenant to live His commandments. Treat them as such.
    • Pictures of the garment on the Internet (or other mistreatment) are extremely offensive to members who understand and honor  its sacred purpose.
  • Avoid placing it in a position where it can be mocked. It is sacred.
  • Keep it covered.
  • Wearing it properly fosters modesty.
  • The tops have short sleeves and the bottoms fall a little above the knee.
  • It should not be cut or altered to follow the fashions of the world.
  • When worn faithfully and properly, it will be a shield and a protection.
  • It should be worn night and day.  In activities where the garment cannot be worn, like in swimming or athletics, it should be restored quickly instead of lounging around without wearing them. We should look for occasions to wear it, not to take it off.
  • It is associated with the endowment ceremony (“Mormon Temple Ceremony”), which members receive when going on missions, getting married or when they consider themselves spiritually prepared to strengthen their commitment to the Lord they made at baptism.

My personal practice

Preparing since my youth. The standards of modesty in dress for the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints stem from the coverage established by the garment. As a teenager, my shirts always had sleeves and the hem of my shorts fell closer to my knees than my hip sockets. I even designed my own prom dresses and had them made because it was practically impossible at the time to find modest prom dresses that were not the epitome of frumpiness. As a teenager, my early commitment to modesty taught me to put the Lord first before the changing trends of the world. It probably benefited my heart more than it benefited anyone’s eyes. I didn’t have to change how I dressed when I received my endowment (which was at 21 years old) and started wearing the garment. I was looking forward to making the covenant and having to change my modesty standard would have distracted me from the significance of the promise I was making. I’m glad I took the time to prepare.

Rockin’ the modest fashions Modesty excludes lots of fashion trends, but Latter-day Saints don’t dress like the Amish, thank heavens. A lot can be accomplished by layering. Whoever came up with the business model for Downeast and Shade are now making bank. These companies began with shirts that can be worn under spaghetti strap shirts and the like. I especially like wearing these kinds of shirts even if you can not see them because I like to smooth over the line between my low-rise jeans and the waistline of the garment bottoms, which falls a little above. I also like to rock the midcalf bottoms when I wear leggings or certain kinds of jeans so I don’t have a line at my thigh.

A faithful Latter-day Saint would choose wearing the garment properly even one day over not wearing it (though not wearing it during swimming or athletics is appropriate). For example, a friend of my sister’s asked her to be a bride’s maid, but the chosen dresses were strapless. If the bride was set on having all her bride’s maids wear exactly the same strapless thing my sister would have declined the invitation. Gratefully, my sister and the bride were friends and the bride knew how important it was to my sister, so she had a little jacket to go with the strapless dress and if you ask me, she was the most beautiful of all the bride’s maids, but I’m incredibly bias in this department.

Shield and Protection I’ve heard stories about how the garment has been a shield and protection to faithful members when they needed it. I usually accept them as folklore, such as burn victims who received no damage where the garment covered them. Though I do not count these as impossible, I don’t wear the garment properly because of these rumors. However, I have heard from a more credible source, my Dad, that before he was a member and knew anything about the garment, he was logging with a man who faithfully wore it. This man got his chainsaw stuck in a tree and when he pulled it out, it kicked back and sawed through his chaps, but the fabric from his garment got caught in the chain and it cut the chainsaw’s engine. My Dad, characteristically aware of his safety tells the story as he thought, “I have to get me some of those.” J Now my Dad understands the much deeper significance of wearing the garment than viewing it as chainsaw protection.

While at Brigham Young University for college, I frequently went canyoneering in Zion National Park, which I consider the closest place to God on the earth apart from the Temple. My roommate, who at the time was not endowed, asked me if I was going to wear the garment on the trip. Pine Creek at that time of year was expected to have several swims and some people were wearing bathing suits under their hiking attire. Since, I was looking for an occasion to wear it, rather than not to, I told her jokingly (but it was one of those jokes that she knew I actually meant) that if I got into trouble in a canyon, I hoped I could cash in on some of my blessings I was storing up from wearing it properly.:) Later trips progressed us to bigger and better canyons including wetsuits where I continued my same attitude and practice.

More than a physical shield and protection,  it is a spiritual one. As I previously discussed the Lord views breaking the Law of Chastity as next to murder on His list of serious sins.  I think of how one would first have to discard the garment, which is a sacred reminder of their promise to keep God’s commandments, including the Law of Chastity, in order to break it.

The locker room

My first two years of college I played on a women’s volleyball team for my school in Florida. I’ve often wondered what I would have done in the locker room if I had been endowed then (I had yet to serve a mission, so I had not yet received my endowment). As a team, we practically spent all of our time together either in the classroom, the weight room or on the court, so we all became friends. In hindsight, if I had been endowed then, I would have talked to each teammate individually about the significance of the garment and if there was a complete consensus of respect from everyone and I didn’t feel like I would be putting it in a position to be mocked, I would have been fine with changing with the group. However, the locker room at the gym I attend now is a different story. I only see those people in the locker room. Sometimes they are the same people, but since I’m quite modest, I try to give others as much privacy as possible and try not to even look in their direction. It doesn’t exactly foster friendship. Since we’re not close and since I have no inclination to break the ice with a first hand lesson in religious diversity, I just change in the stall.

“So like that’s kind of weird.”

American cultural ideas of what underwear should look like (and how we should look in it) mostly comes from Victoria Secret marketing and similar sources. Covenanted and faithful Mormons wear underwear day and night that acts as a special reminder to always remember Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments and well, that’s not ordinary. It’s quite extraordinary, actually. God began instituting the wearing of the garment with Adam and Eve and He has reintroduced it in every time period the gospel has been on the earth in full, including the present. I sincerely love what wearing the garment does for me. It changes my heart every time, which is all the time, I remember its significance and it draws me closer to the Lord. I consider it a privilege.

Why Mormons Build Temples

 

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2
Mar

Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity

Posted by: benjamin    in sexuality

Preface and Purpose

About a year ago a friend of mine who knew I was Mormon asked me about the final book of  Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. She pointed out that Meyer was Mormon and that (spoiler alert) Bella has a daughter with Edward.  “They’re married,” was my response.  I found the question curious and was slightly frustrated when an interruption prevented us from talking further. I suspected that my friend wasn’t sure if Mormons believed in or practiced sexuality.

Sometimes people say outrageous things for the shock factor and I’m not going for that with addressing this topic.  However, I do frequently purposefully push myself to exercise courage.  If I think something is right or I should do something, I weigh it and once I make the decision, I then jump in with both feet. My purpose with this blog is to discuss topics that would be very difficult to ask someone in person.  Sexuality, especially when someone feels it is a sacred topic as Mormons do, isn’t exactly broached easily or if it is easily addressed, it probably is done disrespectfully.  However, I know the Lord feels strongly about His “Law of Chastity.”   I know that because when I was a full time missionary and authorized by Jesus Christ to call God’s children to repentance, I felt the Spirit of God move through me the most powerfully when we were teaching this law. I no longer have that authorization to call others to repentance as full time missionaries do, but I can share the doctrine and my personal practice of it. With that as an introduction, let’s jump in with both feet, shall we?

The Doctrine

The best I’ve ever read the “Law of Chastity” taught was by the then president of Brigham Young University. I recommend his talk which is addressing those in the Church, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments.”

Mormons live the “Law of Chastity” which is to only have sexual relations with a legally and lawfully married spouse.  That translates to complete abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity in marriage.  This doctrine’s roots predate the creation of the Earth.  Mormons believe that each person who has lived, lives or ever will live on this Earth first received life as God’s spirit child before coming to Earth (Abraham 3:22-28). Life’s purpose is to gain a body, which will be resurrected regardless of merit (John 5:28-29) because Christ was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:21-23) and to “prove” ourselves or in other words of our own free will, choose to love God and accept the power offered by His Son, receive His grace by a lifetime of obedience and be changed into a holy creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17). (I plan on blogging about the Mormon belief of grace and works. In a nutshell we exist by the grace of God and we receive a greater portion of His grace as we use our free will to obey God’s commandments.) We show God we love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). He then blesses us with His grace or His Spirit and we come to know Him and become like Him (John 17:3) (Matthew 5:48).

For some reason, God designed sexuality to be what brings His spirit children out of their “first estate” (see Abraham 3:22-28) into the mortal world. What a beautiful gift! It brings spouses closer together and also brings children into the world. Mormons tend to have large families because they want to provide loving homes of faith for Heavenly Father’s spirit children waiting in the Pre-Mortal Existence for their turn in mortality.  Church counsel with regards to birth control is it is between the husband, the wife and the Lord and couples should honestly evaluate their motivations when choosing to postpone having children.

Breaking the Law of Chastity An ancient American prophet who lived about 73 B.C. learned that his son lusted after a “harlot” and broke this law.  With grief, he asked his son, “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood and denying the Holy Ghost? (Alma 39:5) What!?! Sex outside of marriage on God’s list of serious sins is right next to murder?  Absolutely. Why? He’s most concerned with how His spirit children come into the world and how they must leave the world.

How far can Mormons Go Before Marriage? Mormons can do whatever they choose.  God designed mortality to be an environment where opposites exist and His children can “choose liberty” through Christ or “choose captivity” through the devil (2 Nephi 2:27). How far should Mormons go before Marriage?  Mormons believe in modern day Apostles and Prophets. Mormons view these leaders just like Moses or Paul are giving them counsel.  The explicit direction for unmarried Mormons and the law of chastity is the following:

“The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.

When you obey God’s commandments to be sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the Temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of a loving family. You protect yourself from emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage.

Do not have sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. Satan may tempt you to rationalize that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable when two people are in love.  That is not true…Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”

Living the Law of Chastity while not married for Mormons can be viewed like fasting.  They avoid the temptation as much as possible until the time is appropriate to break the fast, which would be at marriage. (This should not be indented, but the technology isn’t working with me.)

Let’s Get Personal: Keeping My Thoughts Clean

When it comes to my own personal practice of the Law of Chastity, I believe it begins in my thoughts.  It is not a sin to be tempted. It’s a natural product of my mortality, but it is a sin for me to invite the thoughts to stay and relish in their message. In a revelation to given to a modern Prophet, Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded to “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” and the promise He offers for doing this is “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God…” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45). I want to remain transparent before the Lord so I can remain in His confidence.  I know He can read my thoughts and the only way I can wipe them away so He forgets  them is by my repentance (Doctrine & Covenants 58:42).  For the past 12 years, I have been training my brain and now I’m pleased that I act out of reflex that when I receive a thought of a sexual nature, I immediately dismiss it and ask the Lord to forgive me and give me the strength to keep my thoughts clean.  Sometimes it is harder than others depending on my environment, but I have felt the strengthening power that comes from the Source of all goodness when I have petitioned Him for it. He is quick to answer prayers when we are quick to be obedient.  I have been blessed for it.  I prefer to be more like Joseph of Egypt than David of Israel.  When Potiphar’s wife desired Joseph, he quickly fled (Genesis 39:7-14).  When David happened upon Bathsheba bathing, he chose to linger.  This led to acting upon his thoughts, committing adultery, which then led him to commit murder (2 Samuel 11).

Since We’re Getting Personal: Chastity While Dating

I should preface this section saying I am not a hopeless romantic.  I believe that my ideas of love have been tainted by Hollywood and Disney, so perhaps I overcompensate to a “realistic” view to fault. That’s why this man was so out of the ordinary.  I met him once upon a time and the more I learned about his character, the more I trusted him and felt safe on multiple levels.  When we were in a room full of people and he would wink at me, I felt like we had a secret that nobody  else knew and if we tried to explain it, no one could understand.  Being fiercely independent, I was fascinated with feeling the motivation to take care of someone else before myself. The anticipation to see him again was like when I was a kid waiting for December the 25th and finally seeing his face was like Christmas morning. When he reached out for my hand, it was like he was reaching for my heart and when he held me like he didn’t want to let me go, it felt like coming home. Long doorstep scenes could possibly be what makes the emotional roller coaster of dating worth it.  After almost a year or so, depending on how you count, this man told me that I was not the girl for him.  That’s the way the dating game goes.  Once that is decided and clearly communicated you shake hands, appreciate the good plays, try to analyze when and how you dropped the ball and then move on to other worthy opponents. (And when your stats are the inverse of batting 1000, you’re quite prepared for the disappointment.)

But now that I’m putting this in context of living the law of chastity, what if neither of us were committed to living it?  What if we followed the commonly accepted customs of sexuality in our present society? When I found him delicious, what if I didn’t put on the brakes? What if we didn’t have long doorstep scenes, but rushed and inattentive farewells as we both went to work the next morning, he to serve ”the man,” who was “a jealous mistress” and unable (or unwilling actually) to give me another thought?  I was moved to give of myself and it ended up that he didn’t want any part of me, let alone all I had to give.  How devastating that would have been.  It would have destroyed all that is good about me and left me bitter and broken. Self gratification outside the bonds of marriage is inherently selfish.  It would not have been about giving, but of getting and would have carved a deficit in my soul that only the Savior with His infinite bank could replenish.

Love: The Ultimate Deterrent for Sin

Why do I live the Law of Chastity?  I see that God in His wisdom wants His children coming in and out of the world in the best circumstances possible and that I’m avoiding emotional demolition and the risk of disease, but I live the Law of Chastity because I love Jesus Christ.  I know that during His Atonement, He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind including my own.  The very thought of Him in His purity taking up the guilt for my sins, especially the idea of my potential selfish sexual gratification, makes me cringe. I wish I had words to communicate how the thought makes me taste imaginary bile. Like Joseph, I want to preemptively flee from anything that may have caused Christ to be defiled.  I love Him with a deeper love that I can express and that is why I, as a Mormon, live the Law of Chastity.

 

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