Monday, December 29, 2014

Watching Conflicts Between Well-Intentioned People Who Really Want to Do the Right Thing

We start by accusing the other, either verbally or silently, of that which we perceive as a wrong-doing, using that wrong-doing as an excuse to justify as reasonable and acceptable our (certainly not virtuous) act of distrustful  accusation.

Because we wish to maintain our perception of ourselves as in the right, we try to hide or deny our dismissive, judgmental attitudes towards those we accuse, playing polite and trying to behave outwardly in a civilized manner, but we cannot fool those we've accused.  Our attitude and feelings towards them are definitely clear to them.

Feeling obviously accused and judged, even though we may have never verbalized our accusations, they take a defensive stance, and, in turn, either silently or verbally accuse us as the ones perpetrating offence and antagonism, seeing themselves as innocent, wrapping their responses in polite phrases while seething inside, denying in turn the error of their own accusatory feelings and responses to us.

We in turn perceive their response to us and feel just as offended by it as they were by ours.  In our minds their defensiveness and accusations give us "proof" that we are acting on the higher moral ground and that we are justified in judging and accusing them of failure to do what is right.

Because we are so absorbed in our own feelings about the conflict and our feelings in response to their accusations we do not see what is going on.  We do not see that instead of trying to hurt us they feel mistreated and intentionally disregarded.  We do not see that in their response to us they are trying to deal with the judgmental person we have become; that they are only responding to the kind of person we've given them to respond to.

In sum: We concentrate on what we perceive as their misdeeds in order to find proof  and reassure ourselves that they are to blame, that they are the reason we're in this conflict, not us.  And they focus on our misdeeds to for the same reason.  And round and round it goes, tying us tightly  to our responses to each other into an endless, edgy conflict in which each blames the other and exonerates self.

It is the antithesis of dialogue and comprehension, masquerading as civilized discourse.

Adapted from C. Terry Warner's book "The Bonds that Make Us Free".

Monday, December 15, 2014

This quote reminds me of something said at the veil

"Recently I reviewed this Primary song. You’re familiar with it. It says, “Mine is a home where ev’ry hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood pow’r, With father and mother leading the way.” Mine is a home where every hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power.... It isn’t just when Dad is there. It’s not just when Mom is there. It’s not just when a priesthood ordinance or blessing is being performed. It’s every hour as covenants are kept."
Julie Beck, BYU Women's Conference 2011

Priesthood power, the power of God, given to his children,  is real.  It is real in the lives of women and men of God.  I have seen it, felt it, watched it, and been humbled to be a vehicle for its healing (both physical and spiritual) and enlightening effect in the lives of my brothers and sisters in ways that I feel are too profound to articulate.  And I have been aided, healed, enlightened and comforted by that same power of God conducted via the words, actions and ordinances of brothers and sisters who served as conduits of priesthood power as well.

There is 'power in the priesthood'.  And it's not just when an ordinance or a blessing is being performed, though we talk mostly about those since they are so clearly recognized by the ceremonial actions involved. And it's certainly not just when a church leader, male or female, oversees a meeting or counsels with others  or a decision is made, another time when people may see it, or think they are supposed to see it.  Those are the times where function makes us notice.  Those are the times that any even disinterested person watching will assume that "priesthood" is being "exercised".

But priesthood power, like an iceberg, has 10% of it visible to an uninformed observer, while 90% of power in the priesthood moves slowly and powerfully, observed only by those who submerge themselves enough to look and experience it and recognize it for what it is.

Throughout the ages different subgroups of people have been  ordained to take responsibility for the the visible 10% of priesthood work..  Instructions as to which groups should be called to do that and how many of them have changed multiple times even in the last 180 years, not to mention the changes in previous eras.  And since that seems to be a pattern it makes sense to me to assume that they will change again, perhaps many more times.

However, we sell ourselves short when we, men or women, so focus on the 10% of priesthood work that involves ordination that we ignore or fail to see or dismiss as irrelevant, or never employ or recognize the amazing 90% that is not tied to administration or ordinances but wields the power of God in amazing, healing ways.. And my experience is that way too many of us, both men and women, do exactly that.

" [F]or man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart," said the Lord to the prophet, Samuel.  And we think, sure, we understand that, it's about people.  But I believe it's not just about people.  Way too many of us are fully aware of the "outward appearance", the formal manifestations, of priesthood and are so very blind to the heart of what priesthood power, given by God to his sons and daughters, really is. 

Yes, that 10% is beautiful. Yes it is a blessing.  Yes, the people who do that 10% are often listened to (and also anathematized) more than others and, by some, are believed to have more "clout".  But it strikes me as ironic and sad when we don't see or understand or live or experience the power of the 90% that is more far-reaching than we even allow ourselves to imagine, and when we think that all there is to priesthood is that 10% of priesthood responsibility that is, for now, given to some 3% (if you live in the Philippines) to 27% (if you live in Utah) of members of the church.  We sell priesthood short when we believe that that 10%  of evident function is what priesthood entails..

I believe that in heaven priesthood is shared and employed regardless of gender.  I believe that celestial life is, as the Doctrine and Covenants clearly explains, one of fully and equally shared light, power, and divinity and glory.  It is clear to me that inspired telestial and terrestrial patterns of organization (one of which we live with now) are simply that, inspired telestial and terrestrial patterns.  And I believe that we, as individual members of the church, including us women, don't even live up to those terrestrial patterns as they are given to us today..  

I have always believed that a child surrounded by 9 Christmas gifts that he refuses to unwrap in his frustration at not having, right now, the one his brother is currently opening is missing something important, not only in the presents that surround him but also in his understanding of what is possible and in his relationship with his sibling.  A child so responding is demonstrating juvenile behavior.

I believe it is good to rejoice in a gift that a sibling receives.  I believe it is good for each child to truly embrace and study and employ the gifts of power of healing, light, revelation, inspired leadership; the godly power: priesthood, that is given to God's children when they seek to understand it and wield it with light and truth.

"Yet, for different reasons, many of us live far below, or are unaware of, our privileges!" ~Neal A Maxwell  [The Promise of Discipleship, pp. 92-93] 

In my lifetime I have witnessed women in the church heal others, both physically and spiritually, through the power of God.  I have witnessed them guide and lead under unmistakably divine inspiration and watched God's power flow through them.  I have also witnessed women and men who have no idea that is possible, that think that such is only for those who do the 10% of priesthood work that is visible to the casual observer.  That is not so. But as long as we only see or experience the 10%, we will easily experience the frustration and sense of powerless that comes with that perspective.

To focus on what is not currently our prerogative without taking the time to fully learn about that priesthood power which is, in all it's glory (and I'm not talking about childbearing or childrearing or performing ordinances or overseeing meetings, or "presiding" in case you are wondering) available to us, is I think, short-sighted.  

"What has been your past experience or attitude when you have listened to or taught a lesson on the  priesthood? Be honest. Was your first reaction something like, “This doesn’t apply to me. This is for the men and boys over 12.” Or when you have read your scriptures and come to a part that mentions  priesthood, have you thought to yourself, “I’ll just skip this part. I don’t need to know this”? In the recent 2013 Worldwide Leadership Training, Elder Oaks emphatically stated: “Men are not the priesthood!” To me, that is a wake-up call as well as an invitation to all of us to study, ponder, and come to better understand the priesthood. Sisters, we cannot stand up and teach those things we do not understand and know for ourselves."
Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society President, BYU Womens' Conference 2013

As I said, I believe that priesthood power, the power of God, is freely and equally shared among God's children in celestial realms of glory.  And I also have come to believe that many of us, both men and women, are far from understanding or experiencing or recognizing or having faith to pursue and learn and know how that power, that huge, magnificent 90%,  is available to each of us, to work miracles through us, here on earth in its current, terrestrial, temporary earthly configuration.

If we cannot live up to our privileges and stretch and grow enough to "abide the law of a terrestrial glory" (Doc. & Cov. 88:23) how can we presume to think we are ready to abide a celestial?  Changing the law about the 10% will make things look better.  It may make some people feel better and some people feel worse.  But if we have only changed the outward, publicly observed 10% and do not seek to know and understand, as individuals, and look upon "the heart" of priesthood power available to work through us, that part which so many of us just barely know or which we feel is beyond our ken, we will continue to miss all that God hopes for us both now and in the eternities.  Changing the outward appearance is not what is needed.  We need to come to understand the heart.

I agree with Linda Burton.  We've been given a wake-up call.  We should not be shirking. We are called, as disciples, to study, ponder, understand and live the power of God.  The men and women I know who have done so are amazing, humble, powerful saints.  

Monday, December 08, 2014

S.R. asked "What do you do when your faith and your reality are in opposition?"

I thought about that for a while, looking at my understanding of "faith" and my understanding of "reality".

It turns out that I figure that probably neither my faith nor my perception of reality are 100% accurate.  And because of that, I try to live gracefully with that understanding of my own imperfect faith and perception,  which imperfection, I believe, is part of the life of every person whether they know it or not. So I have learned to primarily focus on trying to act according to the principles and qualities of life and interaction that I am learning are most essential to approximating my understanding of the teachings of Jesus in the books I believe are divinely inspired and the guidance I imperfectly receive through prayer. 

I believe that my (or anyone else's) understanding of what is, and what will be, or what we hope will be will always, to one extent or another, be "through a glass darkly" throughout my life. And I believe that faith ultimately consists not in what I expect, nor what others declare, nor what I hope will happen now or any time in the next 1000+ years, but rather in my determination to live and act, as best I understand, according principles that I understand to be of God, and according to whatever divine, loving inspiration I think I personally have (imperfectly) received up to that point in regards to my own interaction with others, regardless of my circumstances, the perceptions or understanding of others, or the contradictions surrounding me or my perceptions. 

In other words, living by faith in a contradictory world is, for me, choosing to live according to the light I have received so far, knowing that my perception of the light (and anyone else's) is imperfect, and continuing in spite of that. 

And I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that in order to live such a life charity and patience and gentle forbearance towards myself and others are as completely essential as is my commitment to light and seeking to walk with God.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Complementarianism in marriage.

 It is not so much differing roles we play, but, rather, individual strengths that we bring to the relationship.  And as we express those strengths we can, via consideration and kindness and respect, mutually nurture the development and growth of each other as well.  Two different groups of strengths and inclinations coming together not simply to improve and complete the new family unit they create, but also to tenderly nurture and expand the capacities and understanding of both individuals.

“I have become a better person as I have loved and lived with [my wife]. We have been complementary beyond anything I could have imagined. Her capacity to nurture others grew in me as we became one. My capacity to plan, direct, and lead in our family grew in her as we became united in marriage. I realize now that we grew together into one—slowly lifting and shaping each other, year by year. As we absorbed strength from each other, it did not diminish our personal gifts.”    
~Henry Eyring, Remarks at the Humanum Colloquiem at the Vatican, November 2014

"Adam blessed God...and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying, 'Blessed be the name of God for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again, in the flesh I shall see God.'  Adam was thinking about his responsibilities.  He was trying to align his performance with the desires of the Lord.  Eve said, 'Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.'   Eve...embraced all, wanted to make sure that everyone was considered.  One response was not more correct than the other... The Lord intends that we use those differences to fulfill His plan for happiness, personal growth and development.
"By counseling together they arrived a a broader, more correct understanding of truth.
~Richard G. Scott, "The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness", General Conference, October 1996

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Eastern Way or the Western Way, particularly in regards to church life

Earlier this week I had a discussion with a friend from Vietnam about the customs of obedience to authority and the sense that expressing contrary opinions or feelings is deleterious to community or family cohesiveness.  Then, later, I read a piece on the value that modern Westerners, particularly Americans, place upon individuality and authenticity  when interacting with authority and posed the question of which is better, the Asian way of thinking about personal response to community and authority or the Western one?

 For me it is not a question of choosing to be authentic or choosing to acquiesce to authority. It is a question of a) being fully at peace with who I am and where I stand regardless of the views of those whose approval or lack thereof may be perceived as “important” and b) being fully aware not only of my own thoughts on any given subject but also fully aware of the timeliness, effectiveness, or lack thereof of my expressing those in any given situation.

Why? Because the measure of authenticity is not verbal expression nor how one is perceived by others. My authenticity is my personal commitment to being a person who knows her own ideas and lives and speaks according to them. And one of those ideas is my personal commitment to building light and understanding in the most effective ways I can conceive. Which idea plays wisely into my words and daily life.

I never express support for ideas that I think are wrong or which I feel are misguided. That kind of “support for authority” would be contrary to my own integrity. And I reject the notion that I must meet certain unwritten expectations order to be a “good mormon”. 

As a parent, I also understand that there are teaching/communication moments and there are moments when it is wise to wait a bit for a more mutually helpful time for communication and receptivity. Waiting for a better time, choosing to be quiet now and genuinely kindly vocal in a different setting the next day, is not inauthenticity. Choosing to do that is authentic to both my values of being true to myself and my value of creating understanding rather than fear or confusion.

I have Asian friends in Asia who talk about the damage to relationships that comes from acting entirely as acquiescent supporters. As an American I see the damage to relationships that comes from speaking and acting exclusively as “authentic” without regard to the receptivity or preparedness of coworkers or other members of a congregation.

I believe that it is extremely important to be authentic but that to do so only focused on your own authenticity is inconsiderate of others and hinders communication. I believe that taking into consideration the state of mind and heart of those you are with is important and that choosing to be silent about your own thoughts out of consideration for another’s level of receptivity at that particular moment is not inauthenticity, but is rather an authentic expression of an authentic commitment to the value of respecting the state of mind and receptivity of another.

My experience is that people can feel trapped and alienated from others when they feel like they must always “tow the line” of an organization or that they must act in accordance with a preconceived notion of what is acceptable. And it is also my experience that practicing “authenticity” (always saying exactly and doing exactly what you think in every situation regardless of the sensibilities of those around you) can destroy trust and seriously diminish a person’s ability to effectuate good change and can also seriously hinder others’ efforts effectively express their own authentic selves.

Neither the western nor the eastern modus operandi works well when it becomes the ultimate measurement of successful interaction. I believe that a wise blending of both, guided by consideration for the readiness of others, a gentle and confident self-acceptance of your own beliefs, and the Spirit of Truth is needed in order to both free yourself and also to free others to create true community, one that is both mutually supportive and individually authentic, together.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Making Bread

I'm making rolls today.  I haven't done much bread making at all ever since the house fire.  Life just started getting very busy and occupied with other good things.
But L. loves orange rolls.  And I love L.  And his cousin gave us a recipe he loves.  So I'm making rolls today and listening to music as I go.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the process of making bread.  The focus, the slower pace, the hands on, the watching it come together.
It's good to be reminded

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saviors on Mount Zion Parents

Sometimes people look at my little family and make some comment about our children growing up to be "good people" and say how impressed they are and act like they really respect me and L for raising them well.  They don't know that our kids were pretty easy kids to raise.  We got a pretty mild version of the childraising challenge as L. and I were both raised by generally reasonable parents who modeled some good parenting skills and our children were intrinsically pretty reasonable people from the get go.  Though the parenting we did was tiring and challenging and gave us many opportunities to develop creative solutions it was not outside the realm of normal, and the respect that we are occasionally shown for raising "good kids" is far out of proportion to the work we did.

The parents that get my deepest respect are the "saviors on Mount Zion" parents.  I have known and loved some of them during my lifetime.  They are amazing.  Really, truly, knock-my-socks-off amazing.  When I am with them I understand clearly that I am in the presence of giants and am way out of my league.  Though they often doubt their value and definitely don't think they are anything special, they ARE.

 Carlfred Broderick, in his essay, "Having Gifts Differering" articulates pretty well the process of discovering "savior in Mount Zion" parents and what an amazing experience it is when you realize who and what they really are.

So rather than describe that myself, I'll post excerpts from Broderick's essay below.  Enjoy.

"The term 'savior on Mount Zion' is ordinarily reserved for those engaged in vicarious work for the dead.  Truly, Saints who selflessly devote themselves to genealogical and temple work deserve the title...

"But I believe that the term might also be applied to another group of Saints.  These having been called to sacrifice for the sake of saving the living, often of their own household.

"I first began to think in these terms as a result of counseling two women who had hard life assignments....
"The first [insert story of a woman who chose to marry a man who turned into a philandering jerk and encouraged irresponsible behavior in their teenage children who, understandably, responded well to that encouragement].

"I watched this good sister struggle with her rebellious family over the years, and I am ashamed to admit that I had sometimes judged her harshly.  For example, if she had asked my opinion...I could have told her before she married him that her husband-to-be was more committed to her than to the gospel.  Also I felt that she had been overly permissive with her children.  In short, I self-righteously  judged that if she had made better choices (as I had, for example) her life would have turned out better (as mine had, for example).

"It eventually became necessary to excommunicate her husband, and in agony of spirit she asked me, her stake president, for a blessing...

"In that blessing I learned a few things that even now make me burn with shame for my earlier spiritual arrogance toward that sister.  The Lord told her that  she was a valiant spirit in the premortal existence who had volunteered for hazardous duty on earth.  Not for her was the  relative ease of rearing naturally obedient children.  She had (perhaps rashly) volunteered to live her life in the front lines, as it were, of the continuing battle for men's souls.  Twice, the Lord continued, she had been given the option of an honorable release from this difficult assignment. (After the blessing she confirmed this). Twice she had been on the operating table at death's door and was given the free option of coming home or going back to face her challenges.  Twice she had squared her shoulders and returned to her difficult family...

"When I took my hands off her head I bowed my head in shame, realizing that I stood in the presence of one of the Lord's great ones, truly a savior on Mount Zion. True to her promise, she is succeeding against all odds in her mission....

"The other case involved a man who came from a background and [his] wife...  Together they were  rearing a quartet of healthy young boys.  The problem [we were addressing] was the wife's recurrent bouts with anxiety and depression.  We got into her background and discovered that she had been raised by an abusive, alcoholic father and a neurotically sick mother who stayed in bed all the time and let her little girl do all of the cooking and cleaning.  She confessed that she was full of rage at her parents for so badly abusing her and full of envy for others who had experienced a normal, loving, family relationship.  She said that on several occasions when she had seen little girls being hugged and kissed by their loving fathers in Church she had to get up and leave.  'The Lord knew what he was doing,' she [said] 'when he sent me only boys to raise.  Girls would have been too hard.'

"Then she turned to me and said, 'Where is the justice? How can God pretend to be just and send some little girls into homes where they are loved and petted and made to feel like somebody and others into homes where they are beat and molested and abused and neglected?  What did I do ... to deserve such a family?

"I felt inspired at that time to tell her that [in truth] she had volunteered in the preexistence to be a savior on Mount Zion, to come to a family drowning in sickness and sin and to be the means of purifying that lineage.  Before her in that line were generations of ugly, destructive, family relationships.  Downstream from her purifying influence ever generation would be blessed with light and love.  The role of savior, I said, is to suffer innocently for the sins of others that still others may not suffer.  

"There can be no higher calling."

As I said, if you know one of these parents, you know someone who receives my deepest respect and admiration.  I am always humbled and in awe when I come to know them and understand who they are, what their work is, and what they are doing.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Exercising Faith When Doing So Also Puts You in a Place That Includes Pain or Sorrow

Faith in God, the first principle of the gospel, is not knowledge.  "Faith really is enduring to the end in the face of not knowing or experiencing confirmation" * before OR after you act on that faith.

Acting with faith in God is easiest if the thing you feel God calling you to do looks logical and good and pleasurable and is intrinsically so when you do it.  It is harder when the thing you are called to do looks hard, but as you struggle through it you find intrinsic goodness in it.  It is hardest when it looks hard and it is painful to go through and you feel exhausted and drained and beaten for as long as you do it.

Singing well in a really good choir or acting in a fun church skit might be an example of the first.  Teaching a class of students who you find challenging or raising rambunctious children may be an example of the second.  Gethsemane and Golgatha are the ultimate examples of the third.

We tend to talk more about the first and second kinds of moving forward with faith.  We don't talk much about the reality of the way that third kind plays out in many lives.  Perhaps it is because of the belief that "righteousness brings happiness" or our strong inclination to celebrate joy.  But the fact remains, as Jesus' experience bears witness, sometimes acting on faith involves experiences that are extremely painful, that do not seem to offer any relief as we go through them, and that others who watch us as we act upon that faith will view as a pointless tragedy and as a result will counsel us to avoid doing what we feel called to do.

Jesus life and the life of his early apostles contain examples of all three kinds of faith experiences, including the one that teaches us that sometimes living by faith involves experiencing something that reminds us of Gethsemane or Golgatha.

Thanks to D. for his post who reminded me of this.

*You can read D's post HERE


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Abraham 3 and 4 "Gods"

Have you ever noticed the location of the speech pattern shift from "God" to "Gods" between Abraham 3 and 4?

Abraham 3:20 And the Lord thy God sent his angel...

Abraham 3:23  And God saw these souls that they were good

Abraham 3:24  And there stood one among them that was like unto God and he said unto those that were with him: We will go down for there is space there and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

Abraham 4:1  they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth

What happens between 3:24 and 4:1?

"And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And on answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.  And another answered and said: Here am I, send me.  And the Lord said: I will send the first."

Jesus is chosen to be the savior of the world.

He becomes, as he said during his mortal ministry "one with the Father".  He becomes, as Abinidi tried to explain before Jesus was born, intrinsic to the trinity, a being who is God.

And, so, in chapter 4, Jesus  isn't referred to as he is in Abraham 3:24 where Jesus is "like unto God".  He has become God.

And "Gods" are the ones who create earth in chapter 4, and one of them was the Father and a second was certainly Jesus, for, as John wrote, "all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."

I've heard it surmised and postulated that the references to "Gods" in the last couple of chapters in Abraham refer to other heavenly beings, Gods like our Father in Heaven, co-equals with him on some cosmic scale independent of our worship of God the Father here on earth.

But I think it's rather likely that the change from "God" to "Gods" at exactly this point in the narrative is a strategically placed conscious effort to more clearly indicate the changed, God-nature of Christ: who he becomes as he volunteers for and is given the task to be the Savior of the world and commences his part in the Creation.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My friend, B., makes lovely photographs

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
John 2:23 
In the King James version the word "miracles" is used as the English translation.  However, the Revised Standard Version uses the word "signs".
The Greek word here is different than other words also translated into the English word "miracles" in the Bible ("teras" and "dunamis").  Teras is a marvelous thing with no particular moral significance.  Dunamis means "power".  It's at the root of the word "dynamite" and refers to a power that effectuates undeniable change.  But the word in this passage is "semeion".  It means an act that reveals something about the character of the person doing the action.
In this passage, John is indicating that Jesus' actions that others observed while he was in Jerusalem manifested to them something about the character and nature of God, with whose will Jesus was in complete harmony.
However, Jesus did not articulate aloud who he was at that time.
   But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
John 2:24-25
He knew the nature of men, how they may misunderstand words or jump to conclusions based on their assumptions when something is articulated.  Declaring his messiahship would have been destructively interpreted by the people in Jerusalem at the time.  So he simply let his actions speak, and those who could truly understand what those miraculous actions signified about his holy character and the power and nature of God learned what they needed to know.
When you read the "signs" manifested in Jesus acts, what do you learn about the nature of a loving and powerful God?
Which made me think....
In temples there are signs mentioned.
Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.  ~Brigham Young (Oration delivered on laying the South-East Cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple, April 1853, Journal of Discourses 2:31) 
We may see them or memorize or remember those signs, but do we seek to see and understand what they might also teach us about the nature and purpose of our loving and powerful God?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Am Way Blessed

"surrounded by all the things many people would literally die to give their families. Clean water. An abundance of food. Good health. Access to doctors, hospitals, medicine. Security. Safety. A support network. The ability to vote. The freedom to have a different opinion and not fear for her life.”
Brooke McAlary

Friday, October 10, 2014

to them gave he power to become the children of God John 1:12-13 Elucidating William Barclay

John states that we can become sons and daughters of God (heirs) only through our receiving Jesus Christ. This obviously isn't the generic "I am a Child of God" that denotes all of us having come from his presence, but rather the child or heir that Jesus spoke about during his ministry.   And the next verse states that this heirship does not come from any human impulse or act of human will; it comes entirely from God.  We cannot make ourselves heirs with Christ. What we have is an invitation from God to become his sons and daughters by entering into the relationship with Jesus Christ (receiving him) that he offers us and becoming empowered by that to, through his grace, become his heirs.

What God offers we are free to accept, delay or refuse.  A father may offer his child his love, his advice, his friendship, and the child may refuse it or prefer to ignore and take another path through life.  So it is with what God offers us.  He offers us the right to become his heirs, to truly be his children in all things, but we are not compelled to accept that.

Why "to them that believe on his name"?

Herbrew thought and language had a way of using "the name" that's interesting.  It did not mean a person's appellation, but rather his nature.  For instance, Psalm 9:10: "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee." does not mean that  those who know God's is called "Jehovah" will trust God, but rather that those who know God's character, or nature, or what he is like, will be ready and willing to trust him for what they need.

To "trust in the name of Jesus" therefore means to put our trust in his true nature.  He was the embodiment of kindness and gentleness and service towards us.  It is John's central doctrine throughout his gospel that in Jesus we see the very mind of God, the attitude of God to men.  If we believe that doctrine, then we also believe that God is like Jesus, as kind, as loving as Jesus was.  Therefore, according to John's thinking, to believe in the name of Jesus is to believe that God is like him, kind and loving to those who struggle, who are lost, who seek him, etc. etc..

And it is only when we believe that about God, that we can trust him enough and become close enough to him to respond openheartedly to what he offers us in terms of a relationship and submit ourselves to him and become his children.  And that, combined with the divine cleansing power of Jesus atonement for our sins empowers us to become truly God's sons and daughters, joint heirs with Christ.

How essential that understanding of the nature of God is!  How difficult it is to build a relationship with a God who you see as stern, judgmental, cold or distant, demanding, impatient or disappointed in us or in others with whom we struggle.  How much easier it is to build one with a God who we know acts, thinks and responds as Jesus does and therefore learn how to be that way ourselves as we approach God.

This is what Jesus opens to us: the possibility of moving from being intimidated or indifferent acquaintances of  our God that we perceive erroneously and, instead, opening ourselves to a trusting close relationship that is one of an attentive, responsive son or daughter and heir in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

"All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood."

The following things are referred to as appendages to priesthood in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“the offices of elder and bishop”, “the offices of teacher and deacon”, Doc &  Cov 84:29-30
the Aaronic Priesthood, Doc & Cov 107:14
“All other authorities or offices in the church ” Doc & Cov 107:5
Looks to me like we all, men and women, if we work in any church capacity, work in the role of appendages (extensions of or additions to) priesthood (the power of God)
Which brings to mind:
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches."   John 15:4-5 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

"Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?"

It's one of the questions on a temple recommend interview.

First "restoration"
"Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.” (9th article of faith) Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."  

Dieter Uchtdorf, April 2014

Secondly  "the gospel".
“Behold, I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto youthat I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
“And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world."
3 Nephi 27
Do I believe in that gospel?  Do I believe that our understanding of it has increased in the "latter-days" through divine revelation and will continue to increase through divine revelation from God.
Though at first glance it may look like a question about  church history or the church as it was in early Christianity here now, or even Joseph Smith,  it doesn't say that.  It's a question about restoration and the gospel.  Good to think about.

Though I think I'd change "happy" to "like Him" if the lyrics were mine.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

What an Old Friend Said He'd Learned from the Example of My Father

"Be more patient
Have good humor
Listen to what the person is really saying, trying to understand what is in their heart"

~Mark Tanner

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meeting Up with Cleopus, another disciple and Peter, Luke 24

"It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
 "And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
 "Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs....
"And  [after their encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus] they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon."

Two things I notice.  

First is that one of the disciples on the road is named in the text: "Cleopas".  The other is not.  Cleopas' name appears once more in the book of John in chapter 19:  “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

The commas make the distinction of individuals not perfectly clear but it is likely 4 women that are referred to here:
Mary the mother of Jesus
Her sister
a woman named Mary who is designated by her relationship (wife) to Cleopas
Mary Magdalene

If not it could be five:
Mary the mother of Jesus
her sister
another Mary 
the unnamed wife of Cleopas
Mary Magdalene

These four (or five) women are mentioned as having been present for the crucifixion.

On the third day after the crucifixion we find Cleopas heading to Emmaus.  Some scholars think it may well have been his wife with whom he was traveling home on that journey and who hurried back with him to Jerusalem to deliver the good news.  If so, add her to the women who loved him and mourned him and to whom He showed himself and conversed after his resurrection.

Second, the disciples greet the two disciples with the news that yes, they've heard.  Simon [Peter] has seen him too.

That's one interaction that we don't have recorded.  We have records of Jesus interaction with Mary Magdalene, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and, later, with 10 of the apostles, and still later, with Thomas, but not this one with Simon Peter.

His interaction with Simon Peter, if added chronologically to this list, would probably be number 2 or number 3.  

This Simon Peter, who was, most likely, still wracked with guilt about and deeply repentant of his three-time denial of affiliation with Jesus and who had made the trip back to the empty tomb (with John in John 20) desperately hoping against hope that the story the women told might be true.

Jesus decision to spend time with Simon Peter so soon after His return says much. I believe, about His compassionate, forgiving, helpful, connected response to an individual who feels deeply the remorse for his temporary abandonment of his connection with the Savior and who loves Him and deeply wishes there were some way to be with Him again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Linda Reeves recently referenced a talk given by Spencer Kimball when I was a child.

So I looked it up that old conference talk.  And below is the section she referenced.

This is good for me to remember in my life full of favorite activities and causes and responsibilities that I enjoy and that call for my attention.

"'Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shall cleave unto her and none else' (D&C 42:22)

"And, when the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving. And, to the woman it [could be] paraphrased: 'Thou shalt love thy husband with all thy heart and shall cleave unto him and none else.' 

"The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse. ...

"Marriage presupposes total allegiance and total fidelity. Each spouse takes the partner with the understanding that he or she gives self totally to the spouse: all the heart, strength, loyalty, honor, and affection with all dignity. Any divergence is sin—any sharing the heart is transgression. As we should have "an eye single to the glory of God" (D&C 4:5D&C 82:19) so should we have an eye, an ear, a heart single to the marriage and the spouse and family."

From his talk, "Spouses and None Else", which you can read HERE

My mom and dad, who live this.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When I Am Tempted to Think Highly of My Own Enlightened Insights: Miriam and Aaron and Numbers chapter 12

"When we have spiritual ego[tism] we have an over inflated sense of our own spiritual ability and understanding. We begin to think that we are somehow unique, that God has told us or given us something that others don't have....We don't ask questions sincerely desiring an answer or direction. Instead we ask a question, already thinking that we know what the answer should be. The problem is that, when the answer comes and it isn't what you were expecting, it can be really hard to humble yourself and accept [it].

"In Numbers 12 it tells how Miriam, and her brother Aaron,  both spoke out publicly against Moses for his marriage of an Ethiopian woman. This Ethiopian woman has a fascinating story...and there are several possible reasons for why Miriam and Aaron confronted him about her. I won't go into all of them in this post, but suffice it to say that the real issue wasn't his marriage but deeper doubts that Miriam and Aaron had about his role as the prophet and his ability to receive revelation from God.

"Miriam and Aaron had both been blessed with spiritual gifts, specifically the gift of prophecy. In fact, Miriam's gift was so powerful that she was known as "the prophetess".  She had the ability to speak with power and with authority. So when Moses did and taught something that she didn't like she questioned his ability to receive revelation, saying, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?" (Numbers 12:2)"

You can read the rest of Heather Farrell's essay on  Miriam here:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Luke 24:4-5 Seeking the Living Among the Dead

As a seeker of truth and enlightenment it is easy to consider the veracity of Jesus as a person who lived and breathed and taught divine truth, to read his words and the stories of his life, seeking to understand his teachings and his way of living as we do the words and lives of other wise and good and inspired figures in history. As Christians we generally give him more credibility due to the divinity that we believe he embodied, therefore giving considerably more weight to what we find in the pages about him and his life than we do to other long ago divinely enlightened individuals whose words and lives we read about. And that is good.

But are we missing something?

"Some of us, when young, were presented with a writing book. At the top it had a line of...writing; below it had blank lines on which we had to copy it. How utterly discouraging were our efforts to reproduce that perfect pattern! But then the teacher would come and, with her hand, would guide our hand over the lines and we got nearer to the ideal. That is what Jesus does. He is not only the pattern and the example. He helps and guides us and strengthens us to follow that pattern and example. He is not simply a model for life; he is a living presence to help us to live.

It may well be that our Christianity has lacked an essential something because we too have been looking for him who is alive among the dead”

~William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, pp.292-293

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Chaff and grain together

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
― From "A life for a life" (published in 1859) by Dinah Maria (Mulock) Craik

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Luke 22:20 repentance, forgiveness, sacrament, reconciliation, friendship, atonement

I was thinking today about the process of repentance, which generally consists of coming to understand that there's a better way and learning to love that better way and wanting to live that better way, and loving the author of that better way.  And I was thinking about how discouraging it can feel when you are at the point where you understand the better way and appreciate that better way and are struggling through the process of coming to want to live it more than you want to give in to the allure of the alternative, which also has its attractions.

There's that long part of struggle as your better self seeks to override your indulgent self.  The battle swings back and forth and you are unhappy with your setbacks that inevitably come as that struggle continues. It's easy at that point to feel like a hypocrite approaching God, knowing what you know about your heart's struggles between the earthly and the heavenly.  And it's tempting to fear approaching Him honestly about your mistakes.  I find that at such times I unrealistically hope in my heart of hearts that He has been too busy to notice them, and my  disgust with how long the battle's been going on inclines me to feel like He must be disgusted too.

But the news of the gospel is that God is totally approachable and that admission of failure by a child who honestly wishes she had done better and is willing to keep trying to do so, is welcomed with love.

"This cup is the new covenant made at the price of my blood, which is shed for you."

A covenant is a sacred promise between God and me.  He never breaks his promises.  I, being human, in spite of my efforts, break that new covenant that I made at baptism, consistently, with sin.  And usually it's with a sin that I've committed many times before, in spite of my desires to abandon it.

In Old Testament times the sacrificial traditions were meant to mend that break between God and his children, offering sacrifices to atone for the sins of those offerers, making them feel worthy again to approach God and be welcomed.   God was to be revered, honored and feared, and reviewing one's status with God in the times between sacrifices when the sins would accumulate before expiation had been given was sobering to a God-fearing individual. .

But Jesus' sacrifice was one, over-arching, universal one which "wrought out [the] perfect (complete) atonement through the shedding of his blood" (Doc & Cov 76:69).  And in the verse in Luke he explains that his life and his death is a new sacrifice which signals a new covenant between God and man.

 "'By my life and my death [He says] I have made possible a new relationship [covenant] between you and God.  You are sinners. It is true.  But because I died for you God is no longer your enemy, but your friend.'  ~William Barclay

As I struggle with my own recurring sins I need to move out of the Old Testament way of thinking (okay, once I get these sins better taken care of then I'll feel better about discussing my sins with God) to a New Testament way of thinking (okay, I'm still working on these sins, but my desire and my covenant is to ally myself with Jesus who's atoning sacrifice can be brought to bear in my life now, making God much less scary to approach).

When I approach God on my own my predominant feelings are a sense of failure and a wish that my sins could be unmentioned. Approaching God wrapped in the covering, love-soaked, atoning cloak of a Savior I've covenanted to follow who is God's beloved Son and who pleads the cause of those who seek to do and be good (Doc & Cov 38: 4) is an opportunity to realize that I can be received with compassion by a Father who not only sees all my sins that I struggle with, but also desires, above all, to assist my further alliance with his Son.

I still feel badly about my sins, either way.  Neither path will allow me to ignore them.  And both require that I continue the struggle.  But the latter path is the one Jesus offers us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Luke 21: 36-37

And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.

"Jesus spent the day amidst the crowds of the Temple; he spent the night beneath the stars with God. He won his strength to meet the crowds through his quiet time alone; he could face men because he came to men from God's presence." 
~ William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 261

Need to remember to make time to spend nights beneath the stars with Him.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When Saints Differ

Recently a decision was made in a stake in my state not to participate in a particular service opportunity. I am not privy to the reasons why, but my best, most understanding guess is that the stake president felt that the nature of the service, though it was compassionate, was too closely related to a topic that is currently warmly debated by the two major political parties, and that, though members of the stake could freely volunteer to serve on their own, having that service sponsored by the stake would create antipathy and division among church members who held opposing political positions. Basically the stake president had a good finger on the spiritual pulse of his stake.
In other words, they, like many of us, had not, as a group, learned the lesson of the people of Ammon and the Nephites.

We often discuss the heroic nature of the “sons of Helaman”, young sons of Ammon's people, who, not bound by their parents' oath of non-violence and full of faith in God, went to war alongside their Nephite brothers to defend their homes and families from annihilation. We don't often stop to consider the geopolitical state of the place where they and the Nephites were living. Basically, there were two groups of people living in proximity under one government there, one group convinced that they should lay down their lives rather than take up weapons to fight, the other, convinced that they had a moral obligation to fight against aggressors.

When the Lamanites began to attack and kill Ammon's people some of them were, naturally, sorely tempted to set aside their moral convictions and religious commitment to non-violence. It would have been easy for their neighbors, the Nephites, to encourage them to do so and to resent their position of non-violence when they were all threatened by the Lamanite armies. And those of Ammon's people who were not inclined to pick up their weapons of war, but were determined to maintain their standard of non-violence could easily have looked down upon the Nephites who chose to fight back, seeing the Nephite belief as less noble or inspired than theirs.

However, remarkably, these two groups, ones we might consider political opposites in their positions when it came to matters of military aggression, did not despise, argue with or contest with each other. Instead of becoming divided by their differing political opinions, they supported each other in their respective rights to act according to their moral positions. The people of Ammon were supportive (and likely also grateful) for the protection of the Nephites who volunteered to fight off the Lamanites who were attacking them. It would have been a natural human response to be, instead, simultaneously dismissive of the Nephites' position that military might is a necessary skill to learn, perfect and use. It would have been easy for them to insist, therefore, that their sons choose non-violent response as well. But they did not. They allowed their sons to make their own choices.   Remarkably, the Nephite position was similarly respectful. They actually encouraged the people of Ammon who had made a sacred commitment to non-violence to maintain that commitment while, at the same time, intending to do whatever was necessary to fight of the Lamanites who sought to destroy them both. They respected the people of Ammon's moral response to a terrifying situation even while they felt a moral responsibility to respond in a way that was directly the opposite.

Here were two politically opposing views in a desperate time, each held by people who understood that they were divinely tied to each other by their faith in God. The result of that understanding was not only eventual victory over the aggressors (at a terrible cost, as is often the case), but even, perhaps more profound, a sense of unity of brotherhood and respect for freedom to respond according to conscience had played out between those two groups and had transcended their widely differing and opposite personal responses to a political crisis. What could have created division, resentment and discord, instead created mutual respect for differing positions and willingness to honestly respect and coordinate with each other's choices of how to respond.

It is interesting to contemplate just how much that amazing phenomenon may have played into the successes in the chapters that followed both during the subsequent war, and also in the peace between them in the years that followed.

I whole heartedly believe that “If ye are not one, ye are not mine”. And I believe that that doesn't mean that we must all see eye to eye or agree on issues. I believe that the story of the people of Ammon and their neighboring Nephites teaches that  we can love and respect each other enough to work respectfully, unitedly and for the common good, each in a way that he or she feels called by God to do, in spite of how different our calls to action may be, or how widely our political and social positions differ.

It is hard to do, but I believe that peaceable, mutual respect in spite of glaring, seemingly insurmountable differences of deeply held opinions about what course of action to personally take is one of the keys to Zion.