Thursday, February 26, 2015

Judging Others Who Think and Act Differently than We Do

People tend to think God thinks the same way they think or, at least, approves of the way they think (no matter how they think and no matter their religious affiliation) - even with the clear statement:

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:8-9) 

That, alone, ought to give us pause and allow charity and grace more room in our hearts and minds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No Way in Hell: The Beauty and Power of Temple Theology

One of the core aspects of my testimony is that "God" is a father and mother who flat-out, no-way-in-Hell are going to condemn any of their children to roast forever just because they didn't place them in a situation where they would know of them and Jesus in this life. That would be sadistic to the highest degree, and I simply don't believe in that kind of God.

If there really is a God, and especially if there really are Heavenly Parents, the Mormon concept of all-encompassing grace and vicarious temple ordinances is an amazing concept - and it is powerful even if it only is figurative. I choose to take it literally because it fills, touches and enlarges my heart in a way I like - and it just feels good and true.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Do Things because I Want to Do Things, for Whatever Reasons Make Sense to Me

I follow the rules / keep the commandments according to the dictates of my own conscience and for my own, personal reasons.

For example:

I do not pay tithing as fire insurance or as a measure / token of righteousness; I pay it to help fund the Church.

I do not attend church to be blessed in the next life; I attend church to be blessed (sometimes) and to bless others (always).

I do not attend the temple to hold any particular calling or to get to the Celestial Kingdom; I attend the temple to commune with God in a quiet, reverent place and to remember to seal my heart to all of God's children.

I do not wear the garment for physical protection (or, really, even for spiritual protection); I wear it to remind myself of my relationship to God and because I love the symbols they include - and, frankly, because I've worn it so long it's a habit.

I could go on and on, but the point is that I do things because I want to do things - for whatever reasons make sense to me. I really don't care if others agree with my reasons; I care that others find reasons that make sense for them - for whatever they do, even if their actions are different than mine.

If I ask others to respect my right to make my own decisions, and to be accountable for my own choices, I simply must "allow them the same privilege", regardless of whether or not I agree with the choices they make. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Faith Crisis and Rediscovery: When Clarity Disappears and Unexpected Murkiness Surrounds

In a discussion once about Pres. Hinckley's statement that everything will work out in the end, someone said the following: 

“The worst that can happen is you die.”

Actually, in extreme situations, the worst that can happen is you live.

I love President Hinckley, and I think I understand and agree, ultimately, with what he was saying, but I also understand that much of what we believe we believe from a position of relative luxury and grace. Our theology encompasses the extremes, but (the collective) we seldom experiences those extremes – so we speak in platitudes that fit our non-extreme lives.

Often, those platitudes hurt people at or near the extremes, and, often, we can’t fathom why. Thus, faith trials and crises often arise when our general platitudes smack up against unexpected life and lose. Re-evaluating things we took for granted can be difficult – and, often, the most difficult situations are those where the former assumptions were believed the most passionately and deeply.

When clarity disappears and unexpected murkiness surrounds, faith is necessary – and, sometimes, it’s not so much losing faith as losing previous sight and having to discover pure faith (hope in the unseen) for the first time.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Participating in the Mundane Enough to Experience the Miraculous

Two years ago, the Sunday School manual focused on the teachings of Pres. Lorenzo Snow.  In one of the lessons, an experience was shared about Pres. Snow raising a child from the dead.  In a subsequent conversation about that story,  someone asked what our expectations of our leaders and ourselves ought to be with regard to the miraculous.

I have participated in hundreds of blessings over the course of my years in the Church. Most have been nice but forgettable; a few have been somewhat revelatory; a handful have been . . . powerfully connective to the divine.

My expectation of leaders and myself boils down to a willingness to put ourselves in enough situations where the revelatory and powerfully connective might happen, even though my experiences teach me that most of the time it will be nice but forgettable - that we will be there when God needs to reach down in a miraculous fashion and, figuratively, show us his hand.

My takeaway from the lesson is that Pres. Snow did that – participated enough in the mundane that he was there for the miraculous.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Two Hilarious Jokes about Men & Women

The first "cup" in hockey was used in 1874. The first helmet was used in 1974.

This means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brains are important, too. 

If a woman is upset, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is.

If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Children and Testimonies in Sacrament Meeting

I love the beauty and purity of a child's heartfelt testimony.

I don't like Sacrament Meeting as the time and place for most such testimonies, but I have known and know some very mature children whose testimonies are not rote or coached and are just as valid as mine. I love hearing those testimonies in Sacrament Meeting. 

My youngest daughter is twelve, and a couple of years ago she had been telling us she wanted to bear her testimony for a few months. We simply told her that when she knew what she wanted to say and really wanted to say it, we would support her - but that she had to do it completely on her own and that we wouldn't tell her what to say or suggest anything to her.

She bore her testimony one month, and it was simple, sweet, sincere and moving - and very much a reflection of her and who she is. There was nothing that was rote or formulaic, largely, I believe, because that's not how her mother and I talk when we bear our testimonies and because we've never "practiced" bearing testimony with our children or coached them about what to say.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Long-Suffering: How Our Heavenly Parents Must Feel When We Finally "Get It"

When a young man who lived with us for a year (about eight years ago) sent me a message years later saying he finally understood what I had modeled for him about what it really means to be a father, I sat and bawled like a baby. When he left our house, mad at me for not being a man because I wouldn't beat him when I was upset, the only hope I had was that we had saved his life and that it would last. To read what he wrote to me so long after the fact . . .

I got a tiny glimpse of how our Heavenly Parents must feel as they watch us struggle, wanting deeply to make us see but needing to let us learn on our own, and then, seemingly miraculously, suddenly "get it".

 It was a moment I will cherish forever.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I Don't Care about "Plainer" Translations of Scriptures

I view scriptures as records of how people from the past viewed God and his relationship to them - and not much else, when it gets right down to it.

That's really important to me, but it doesn't say much about how WE view God and his relationship to US. Absolutely, it can and should influence us, but I believe in an evolutionary model of understanding that includes religious understanding - that "further light and knowledge" and "ongoing revelation" are FAR superior to past pronouncements of scripture, with the exception of the words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth.

I think that is axiomatic to Mormonism.

Thus, while I value scripture highly (from all faith traditions), I don't really care much about spending time trying to translate them more plainly - since, in the end, I believe translations reveal much, much more about the worldviews of the translators than they do about the worldview and intent of the original authors, scribes and abridgers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why I Don't Believe in Eternal Gestational Birth

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a post titled, "Who Gave Birth to God's Spirit Children?"  I had occasion recently to revisit a post on "Real Intent" titled, "Does Exaltation Mean Polygamy?" - and I added a clarifying comment in that thread to an earlier comment in which I said I was "appalled" by the idea of immortal pregnancy.  I am copying that comment here, along with links to the two posts I mentioned, in the hope that it will help someone understand why I feel so strongly about the belief in eternal gestational birth. 


It's not the idea that we will be creating life eternally that is appalling; in fact, I love that idea. That concept is one of my favorite in all of Mormon theology.  Eternal motherhood and fatherhood is beautiful and sublime - and, within Christianity, so unique.  To me, it is the very heart of the Restoration - the resurrection, if you will, of a murdered Divine Father and Mother (theologically)

It's the idea that creating life after mortality will be exactly like it has been for thousands of years on earth that is appalling to me (although understandable, given the inability of people in the past to imagine any other way that life could be created) - and a large part of the revulsion I feel for that idea is the wink, wink way men often talk about only having one child if we had to go through mortal pregnancy and delivery.  We joke about it, but we mean it.  We (men) glamorize it but absolutely don't want to HAVE to go through it, so we are fine and dandy, thank you very much, if they (women) are the ones who GET to go through it there and here.  (Notice the difference in the bolded words; they are instructive to me.) 

I just don't see the creation of immortal spirits as an internal, gestational process that involves "birth" in the way we understand that word here on earth.  It's that concept (eternal, internal conception, gestation and birth) that I find appalling - especially since, generally speaking, men are deeply grateful we don't have to be involved in that process beyond the conception stage.  The fun without the pain vs. (ideally, but not always) the fun and the pain. 

Yeah, I can understand why many men might tend to be totally OK with women giving birth like that forever, but I disagree - passionately.