Thursday, December 28, 2006

Power, Freedom, and Grace

I picked up the book "Power, Freedom, and Grace" by Deepak Chopra recently to read as part of my spiritual triathlon readings and meditations. It seemed the "right book" to meditate upon when I read these words in the first chapter:

There is a reason why you were drawn to this book. Perhaps your soul is extending an invitation to you--an invitation to get in touch with the deepest part of yourself.

Reading this small volume has indeed been enlightening. There are several sections which have brought back experiences I needed to remember and write down. For example, here is one of the quotes I encountered.

...the real you--that you that we call pure consciousness, the field of intelligence, the inner self, the soul, the spirit, the infinite consciousness, the Being within you...If you get in touch with this presence, if you really become intimate with it because it's your own inner self, then you will know experientially, without anybody telling you, that this presence was there before you were born, and it will be there after you die.

Before I joined the Church I had concluded that there was some part of my essence which had always existed and I couldn't imagine that it would ever cease to exist. That is why the teachings on the premortal existence of spirits resonated so much. Sometimes I wonder if LDS who are taught this from an early age have an advantage or a disadvantage. It could be a disadvantage if it keeps one from gaining the experiential knowledge of one's own soul of which Chopra speaks. On the other hand, the teaching could encourage the search for a more intimate knowledge of the inner self.

Slowly, by spending time in silence, you notice that the scenery comes and goes, but the seer is always there. You realize that you are not the scenery; you are the seer, the witness of the scenery. As you shift your
identity from the scenery to the seer, everything starts to slowly awaken. You glimpse the soul, and you begin to experience more expansive states of consciousness...

I experienced this one time in the temple. I had arrived and finished the session early in the morning. I sat in the celestial room for quite a while, until the next session came through and left. And still I sat as time began to have no meaning. Two more sessions came and went, and I observed, detatched. People seemed to enter the room, move about, and exit hundreds of times. Then there would be a space of rest and contemplation. I seemed to see temple work being done over a period of many years, in many different places around the world. My being seemed to be above it all and disconnected from time and space.

In my conversion, one of the great appeals of Mormonism was the mystical experience of a living prophet, and the promise that each member could receive personal revelation. Years of experience in the Church have taught me that these manifestations must remain personal. Following commandments and the performance of good works are emphasized in talks, lessons and publications. It's not that we don't believe in personal encounters with Deity, rather, they are inappropriate to discuss publicly. Unfortunately, I have allowed the mystical to be relegated to the background of my spiritual life.

I do believe that the praxis of religion is important to the development of the soul, and I don't intend to deemphasize this aspect. But perhaps there is a reason I am being drawn back to the transcendental facet of religion. Perhaps my soul is extending an invitation to get in touch with the deepest part of myself.

The Baptism Blues

My youngest child turned eight this week. I'm not having the Baptism Blues because they grow up so fast, etc, etc. No, my angst stems from the fact that she is the first of my chilies to be baptized in Utah...and have a Stake Baptism! I first attended one of these illustrious events last year when I was asked to direct the music. I really was taken aback by the impersonal nature of the affair. In the mission field, baptisms are very intimate. Family, friends and ward members gather to celebrate this special rite of passage. The day of the baptism can be scheduled on the child's exact birthday, if desired. The eight-year-old often picks the music and the speakers. Mothers make refreshments. Siblings give prayers or lead the music. Talks are given directly to the child. In contrast, the Stake Baptism I attended was huge. The entire chapel was filled to overflowing. Children were called out of the chapel by wards to go into the baptismal font area. It seemed like a cattle call.

I'm really trying to have a good attitude toward this, so my baby girl will have happy memories. But I miss being out in the "mission field," and the precious experiences that all of our baptisms were.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Last Ten Years

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I enjoyed reading about Connor’s last ten Decembers, and thought I’d treat you to the same. I did pretty well at remembering, not because I have kept a journal every year, but there are always the yearly Christmas letters to look back on!

Dec 2005
First Christmas in Vernal. We tried to make it through Dec without turning on the heat. Many families in town were using their wood burning stoves and keeping themselves nice and toasty. After a most cruel and unusual punishment to the family, we turned the heat on 80 degrees and left it there until June 1.

Dec 2004
Houston, Texas. Christmas Eve we went to eat at Wings and More, where our daughter was working, so we could all be together as a family. That evening it actually snowed for about 15 minutes. (Houston had not seen snow for 10 years.) We all went outside and danced in it. Three of my children were wearing flip-flops.

Dec 2003
Houston. Attended the Ward Party and ate a cranberry jello salad prepared by a native Texan which had jalapeno peppers in it. Ouch!

Dec 2002
Houston. Spent the entire vacation recovering from teaching Early-morning Seminary. Sat in front of the computer in PJs and slippers, searching the internet for genealogy finds. (Connor: 20 year anniversary of returning from the mish! I also got back in Dec.)

Dec 2001
Houston. Began serious study of Hebrew, started a study group on Isaiah with 7 other Mormon housewives, started writing a book on Isaiah. (still working on it!)

Dec 2000
First Christmas in Houston. Turned 40 in November. Growing up, I always thought I’d be alive in the year 2000, but that I would be Really, Really Old.

Dec 1999
Calexico, CA. Took Christmas pictures in our backyard. Tried to make the kids wear cute little Christmas sweatshirts. They sweat their brains out, cried, took off all their clothes, did not smile for the picture.

Dec 1998
Calexico, CA. Birth of my eighth child on Dec 22. Came home from the hospital Christmas morning. Seven children were waiting around the tree for us to come home so they could open presents. Opened the door to a great cheer!

Dec 1997
Calexico, CA. Drove 30 miles on Sunday evenings to participate in the Master Chorale. Put on a big Madrigal Feaste production in which myself and my older girls were involved. Had to repent of cursing done while I was sewing 5 elaborate medieval outfits.

Dec 1996
First Christmas in Calexico. Still in recovery from living on a graduate fellowship for 3 years when DH went back to school for his doctorate. Purchased Christmas presents of underwear, socks, jeans, none of which had been replaced for 3 years.

Fighting at School and Abroad

This was originally posted at Exponent 2. Go there to read the comments that were made.

As the Christmas season progresses, some liberals have been asking why Americans tend to get involved in war so easily. Yesterday the answer became very clear to me: we teach our little ones to fight. I was attending a Christmas luncheon with several sweet middle-class ladies from the neighborhood when the subject of fighting in school came up. Nice Mormon lady #1 said, “I teach my kids not to ever provoke a fight, but if someone picks on them, they should beat the heck out of ‘em.” I wasn’t exactly shocked to hear this, because the very same attitude has become all too prevalent in American society. I listened carefully to hear the reactions to her comment. All of the nice Mormon ladies in the room agreed that their child should hit back.

I differ a bit in my approach to a school fighting situation. I tell my children to walk away! Tell the teacher! Come home and report the incident to your parents so they can call and have a civil discussion with the perpetrator’s parents! Wasn’t this what your parents taught you? Wasn’t this what Christ taught?

No wonder Americans feel that if they haven’t started the fight, they are perfectly justified in jumping into the fray. They’ve been taught this by their mommies. Like Helaman’s warriors, mothers’ teachings have a great influence. Americans in general and Mormons in particular are especially driven by an internal mandate to keep the world safe for democracy.

I have a suggestion. Instead of sending soldiers with camouflage uniforms and guns over to other countries to “keep the peace” and help set up governments, let’s send over politicians. With briefcases and palm pilots. They can help keep the peace. They can teach principles of politics and government. Send over as many politicians as we have troops. They can walk the streets of Baghdad teaching little children how to set up email accounts. If there aren’t enough politicians, send the young business students in their three-piece suits over to campaign for capitalism.

This Christmas season, I send out a plea. Teach your children not to play with guns. Don’t give your teenager a hunting rifle for Christmas. Model conflict-resolving skills. Read to them about peace and humanitarianism. Preach Christ’s teachings of turning the other cheek. Yes, we must take action to keep our homes, families, and society safe. But let not these actions involve violence. Teach the children not to hit back.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Good Neighbor Award

It's snowing in Vernal! We just got back from a big swim meet in SLC, the light was fading from the sky, and the driveway was completely covered with the white stuff! I grabbed the kids and a couple of shovels and we started in on it. It's a really long, wide drive, with a circular part, and it can take an hour and a half to finish. We'd barely started, when Brother Wilson came roaring into the drive in his little tractor with a snowplow attached. Like a maniac, he scooted up and down as we grabbed the little one (who was making snow angels in the middle of the driveway) and moved out of his way. Five minutes later, he was on his way to the next driveway, and so on down the street.

Good neighbor award to Brother Wilson today!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Giving in to Peer Pressure

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I post this Christmas meme at the risk of boring myself and everyone who visits here to death. I would much rather be discussing problematic doctrines. But I can't resist doing anything Jana tells me to do!

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Eggnog. And Hot Chocolate. And another cup of each. And one more for the road.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree? He wraps them. But first (s)he has to get all eight children to bed. On Christmas Eve. So (s)he is very, very tired when (s)he finally gets them all wrapped, and sometimes might turn into a bit of a Grinch on Christmas morning.

3. Colored lights on the tree, or white? Colored some years. White some years. This year it's white, to go with the 50 angels on the tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope. Too many teenaged girls in the house.

5. When do you put your decorations up? On a Monday night, sometime after Thanksgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Ham, homemade rolls, and jello, jello, jello. I love all the different jello dishes at the Ward party. See? there really is a TBM hiding deep down inside.

7. What's a favorite holiday memory from your childhood? Going out for pizza every Christmas Eve and then attending the midnight Christmas candlelight service.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? My parents always told the truth about Santa. He was just a fun part of the celebration. I tell my children the same thing, but they refuse to believe me.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes. It is always the present from the Swedish side of the family. Family tradition has it that the Swedes open all their gifts Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? One year I framed all the family picture Christmas cards I had saved over the years and hung them on the tree with big red ribbons. This year I have lots and lots of angels.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Snow is something you only love up to a certain age. I have now reached that age.

12. Can you ice skate? I went last year with my Cub Scouts. I pulled them around for 3 hours and did not injure myself!

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? When I was 16 and my dad took me and a selected group of friends to see "Jesus Christ Superstar."

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Hearing from everyone I have lost touch with over the years, Christmas caroling and concerts.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Homemade fudge.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Our family Christmas Nativity program on Christmas Eve.

17. What tops your tree? An angel. But when I was growing up we had a light spinner that threw colored light all across the room. I wish I could find one.

18. Which do you prefer - giving or receiving? I don't like giving or receiving. I like the "doing" part of Christmas--caroling, going to parties, decorating, etc.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Everything from Handel's Messiah, especially the Hallelujah Chorus and He Shall Feed His Flock. Also like "Emmanuel" by Amy Grant. I listen to Christmas music all season long.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck! Peppermint stick ice cream though, is a different story.

Now tell me the truth. Did any of you actually read this?

The Virgin Birth

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Yesterday the Narrator shared with us a paper for his Mormon Theology class entitled, “What do we Really Really Believe—Facing Harder Issues.” I thought the paper was quite fascinating. I became interested in one of the examples in which Robert Millet teaches a woman what Mormons “really believe” about the Virgin Birth of Christ:

After the meeting an LDS woman came up to me [Robert Millet] and said: “You didn’t tell the truth about what we believe!” Startled, I asked: “What do you mean?” She responded: “You said we believe in the virgin birth of Christ, and you know very well that we don’t believe that.” “Yes we do,” I retorted . . . “I’m aware of [the teaching that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary], but that is not the doctrine of the Church; that is not what we teach in the Church today. Have you ever heard the Brethren teach it in conference? Is it in the standard works, the curricular materials, or the handbooks of the Church? Is it a part of an official declaration or proclamation?”

Millet’s point (at least expounded by the Narrator) is that true Mormon Doctrine has “sticking power,” and if it isn’t taught in the Church today, it isn’t what we “really, really believe.” According to Millet, “True Doctrine. . . is taught and discussed and perpetuated over time.” A belief is ‘unstuck’ as “falsehood and error [are] eventually. . . detected and dismissed” by Church leaders.
This was the first time that I had heard that the Father being the literal parent of Christ was being downplayed in the Church. So I did a little poking around to see just what kind of “sticking power” this teaching had. Here are a few things I found:

The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was
the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood- was begotten of
his Father, as we are of our fathers. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses,

The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of Husband and Wife; hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father: we use the term lawful Wife, because it would be blasphemous in the highest degree to say that He overshadowed her or begat the Savior unlawfully... Inasmuch as God was the first husband to her, it may be that He only gave her to be the wife of Joseph while in the mortal state, and that He intended after the resurrection to again take her as one of his own wives to raise up immortal spirits in eternity. (Orson Pratt, The Seer, page 158)

They tell us the Book of Mormon states that Jesus was begotten of the Holy Ghost. I challenge that statement. The Book of Mormon teaches No Such Thing! Neither does the Bible...Christ was begotten of God. He was NOT born without the aid of man and that man was God! Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1:18)

I likewise believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ. With all my soul I believe in him, and I put my hope of peace in this life and of exaltation and happiness in the life to come in the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe he was a Son of God in the same sense that we were sons and daughters of God in the spirit, and I believe that he was and is the Son of God in the flesh. I do not believe that Joseph was the father of Jesus Christ, although I do believe that he was a good and great man. I believe that Mary was the mother of Jesus as my mother was my mother, and I believe that the father of Jesus Christ in the flesh was Elohim, my Eternal and Heavenly Father.” (Elder Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1948, Second Day Morning Meeting, p.77)

God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the son of God, and that designation means what it says. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 742)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost" (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg.7).

Thus, God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father. That is why he is called the Only Begotten Son." (Gospel Principles, pg.64).

For Latter-day Saints, the paternity of Jesus is not obscure. He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman (see Virgin Birth). Jesus is the only person born who deserves the title "the Only Begotten Son of God" (John 3:16; Benson, p. 3; see Jesus Christ: Only Begotten in the Flesh). He was not the son of the Holy Ghost; it was only through the Holy Ghost that the power of the Highest overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35; 1 Ne. 11:19). (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, Jesus Christ, Fatherhood And Sonship)

Talk about “sticking power!” God’s literal paternity of Jesus has been taught in the Church for 170 years. I found no evidence that this doctrine is now being dismissed by Church leaders. Has anyone heard anyone besides Robert Millet preach the Virgin Birth (other than our usual apologetic that she was technically a virgin because her relations with the Father were with an immortal being)? Have Mormons become ashamed of this teaching? I’d like to hear if this teaching bothers any of my readers, what in particular they are disturbed by, and whether they believe the Church is trying to effect a change.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

God is Love

I had the most amazing experience as I embarked on my “spiritual triathlon” training. The first day was inaugurated with a 20 minute meditation. I sat down in a sunny spot on my living room floor and crossed my legs. I had determined that I would meditate on the phrase “God is Love.” I resolved to keep it simple, and not to delve into the nature of Deity or my own shortcomings or anything too deep or depressing. So: God is Love, I thought. And immediately I felt a huge powerful sensation overwhelm me. This was no warm feeling in the bosom. I felt like I was having an orgasm inside of my chest. And it wasn’t the only peculiar reaction I was to experience. Since I am a P.E. major and (sometime) athlete, I am pretty familiar with my heart rate—I can tell when my heart is beating at the optimum rate for exercise. Well, the funny thing about me is that when my heart rate is slow I have a difficult time finding a pulse. I can only feel it after I’ve done a bit of exercise and my heart is pumping pretty fast. So in this meditation I start feeling my heart rate. It is thumping in my ears and my head—and it’s Really Slow! Like, abnormally slow. So I just sat and pondered about how God is Love and I’m pretty sure I connected with some type of force outside of myself which caused some strange sensations and physical reactions. And it had the result of making me feel very, very good about myself, in fact: I am loved. And the feelings I’ve encountered in the last few months when I’ve felt that I haven’t been loved are so much the opposite, dark, and heavy.
I found that I could only meditate for about 10 minutes before I lost control of my thoughts. I had to peek at the clock to see how long I’d been meditating. I stuck it out for the remaining 10 minutes and the feeling didn’t go away, but I had to really keep saying to myself, “God is Love,” instead of being immersed in it like I was at first. So I see that I’m “out of shape” spiritually and I’m expecting that it will probably get easier to do. But all day long I could revisit the mantra “God is Love,” and I got that powerful feeling to come back to me. Now I feel like I can relate to people who have had “ecstatic experiences” because ecstatic is really a great word for it. And I wish my writing was a whole lot better than it is because I want to be able to describe this experience sublimely and perfectly.

This writing thing is a lot more difficult than the meditation because I start to try to analyze and wonder if I should trust what happened or if it was just some kind of psycho-physical or depressive-manic thing. Especially putting it out there for people to read. I guess I’m sensitive to what people’s perceptions of me are, and I know I might look like a kook or idiot or people will wonder if it is all for real. But I guess it is part of taking off the mask. I’ve suspected for a long time that that real face of mine is just not going to fit in any which where.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Spiritual Triathlon

I've been thinking about offering a triathlon training class over at the Rec Center, so I was online checking out some of the suggested triathlon training schedules. The schedules for the sprint triathlons look something like this:

First Week:

Mon 40 min Bike
Tue 15 min Swim, 20 min Run
Wed off
Thu 35 min Bike
Fri 20 min Run
Sat 30 min Swim
Sun off

Then they get progressively more difficult for 16 weeks until you are ready for the race.

Suddenly I had a great idea for a personal training program: I would prepare for a Spiritual Triathlon! You know, the kind Enos did when he prayed in the forest all day and all night? The longest I've ever done something like this was when I did a contemplation for about 2 hours at Moon Lake one time. So, since I'm probably a bit out-of-shape, I put together a training program for myself for the next 16 weeks. It's going to start out pretty easy. I will concentrate on three areas.

1. Prayer/Meditation/Contemplation--I want to try several different forms
2. Reading--Scriptures and writings of Spiritual Seekers
3. Journaling--setting down of spiritual ideas into writing

This will be in addition to my(rather pitiful) regular prayer/scripture study time--which I must admit lasts no longer than 10 or 15 minutes before bed.

I'll push myself a little more each week until March 31st when hopefully it will get warm enough for me to go out into the mountains and do my Spiritual Triathlon. Here is my schedule for this week:

First Week:

Mon 20 min Meditate
Tue 30 min Write
Wed Temple
Thu 40 min Read
Fri 3o min Write
Sat 20 min Meditate
Sun Rest

I'm hoping that as I begin to meditate and write my reasons for doing this will become more clear and I will start to move in some kind of direction. Also, I hope to be directed in what I'm going to be doing out on the mountain all day! Anyway, it's my attempt to get myself going in some sort of positive direction. I haven't had much energy to do anything else of value, and this seems to be enticing to my spirit.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Taking Off the Mask

Years ago I read a section in C.S. Lewis’ small book “Beyond Personality” that tells the story about “someone who had to wear a mask; a mask which made him look much nicer than he really was. He had to wear it for years. And when he took it off he found his own face had grown to fit it. He was now really beautiful. What had begun as a disguise had become a reality.” The author’s point was that the Christian should dress up as Christ—behave as if they really possessed the attributes of the Savior. Eventually these things would actually become part of their personality.

That young, idealistic girl who read the story immediately put on the mask. I’ve worn the mask for years, trying to become the perfect Mormon girl.

I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. The face beneath has not grown to fit. The mask was comfortable for a while; especially when I was a SAHM of eight, fulfilling callings in the Church and pouring all of my energy into keeping the family going. But as far as helping me become more like Christ, the mask has been a miserable failure. Pretending to be kind and sweet to all I meet has not made me more kind. Pretending to be obedient, humble and submissive has made me a hypocrite.

Now the mask is popping off with a vengeance. (Picture Jim Carrey in reverse: me trying to hold the mask on my face, the mask throwing me every which way trying to pull itself off.) I know the mask’s days are numbered. But I’m afraid to show my true face. I haven’t seen it for so long. Is that true face an ugly, warted monstrosity? Is it a failure to live up to the commitments I made and become a truly Christlike person? Please don’t discount this possibility. This is the point of view of all who are dear to me and I halfway believe it. But somewhere deep down I wonder if my true self might be nice to look at. It might be nice to live with. It isn’t what I was aiming for, but it might be all I have.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Put on Black

I put on black,
My head I bow.
You like me now.
You like me now.

I put away my chartreuse scarf,
And colored things I used to wear.
My second piercings now are bare,
I gel down my unruly hair.

I do not have a lot to say.
My makeup now is quite subdued.
I seem to cook a lot of food,
I don’t go swimming in the nude.

I nod and murmur when I should,
I shut my mouth, my thoughts I still,
My questions and my quirks I kill--
My secret longings none can fill.

The ward is suddenly so kind.
I’m not as different now, you see!
A call has been extended me
To teach Relief Society.

Sedately I walk down the aisle,
The Bishop’s wife sits by my side,
She nods at me; you smile with pride,
I feel a tearing deep inside.

I clean the toilets and the hall,
Read stories to my sweet sunbeams.
We never argue now, it seems.
I wonder where I put my dreams.

Your temple marriage now is safe,
You hold my hand that wears the ring.
I never dance, I never sing,
You would not notice such a thing.

I’m all in black,
I’ve kept my vow,
You like me now,
You like me now.

But this is what
You do not see:
I don’t like me,
I don’t like me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Kind of "Fold" is This?

(Posted at Exponent 2 blog--go there to see some interesting comments!)

The other day I had a rude comment on my blog by an anonymous poster. This poster berated me for my opinions and urged me to “come back to the fold.” I continue to be surprised that the perspectives I present on my blog and in my comments on other blogs are perceived to be so apostate. I realize that my viewpoint is probably not mainstream, but I don’t know why bloggers reading my posts immediately assume that I am not a member in good standing.

As far as I can ascertain, the following opinions of mine are those which have drawn the most acrimony:
1. I don’t believe Church leaders are infallible.
This is something I taught to people on my mission. I don’t believe I’m doctrinally incorrect here. I see leaders as people much like myself who are doing the best they can and will occasionally make mistakes. When mistakes are made, I see no problem discussing them in a respectful manner, without covering them up or pretending they don’t exist.
2. Faithful endowed women hold some type of “priestesshood” which we do not understand completely at this time. Latter-day revelation goes so far as to tell us that we have a Heavenly Mother, but goes no farther. Perhaps we will not be able to increase our understanding very much by discussing the matter, but we can harm no one by our speculations, hopes, dreams, poetry, or attempts to move toward a theological understanding of the feminine.
3. The Church’s official stand in regards to politics is strict neutrality. We are reminded of this over the pulpit on each and every election day. Members are free to hold any political position that they deem righteous and in accord with their personal integrity. As members of the Church, we should be able to maintain any political position, and though others certainly may disagree heatedly, they should not call into question our Church standing due to our political views.
4. Certain practices in the Church are “policy” related rather than doctrinal. An example of this might be that we don’t allow guitars in the chapel. Withholding the priesthood from blacks is a policy which is no longer practiced today. Who we give welfare help to or who should be excommunicated are both policy related issues and may vary in different wards throughout the Church. It is usually a mistake to attempt to attach doctrine to those things which are policy related.

After receiving criticism from the anonymous poster, I responded by outlining my level of activity in the Church. But I felt angry that I needed to justify myself on my own blog. What kind of “fold” ostracizes good members who may be pied, spotted, straked or just a little different? How do people who actually are less active ever gain the courage to come back to a “fold” which is so intolerant of diversity, or for that matter, sin?

I address this to you who consider themselves part of “the fold.” Do you think these opinions place me outside of the pale of true Mormonism? Are my opinions simply diverse, or are they dangerous and subversive? You are welcome to browse my blog

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Counterpoint--A Place At the Table

The most difficult and poignant session at the Counterpoint Conference dealt with the question: “Is there a place for our gay brothers and sisters in the eternal family?” Though it wasn’t mentioned at the conference, Carol Lynn Pearson’s recent book “No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones” was on my mind. I had just read the press release announcing the book with this quote by Rabbi Harold Kushner:

“Thank you, Carol Lynn Pearson, for reminding us that the task of any religion is to teach us whom we’re required to love, not whom we’re entitled to hate.”

I wish all of you could have met these eminently lovable children of God who addressed us at the conference.

Tina Hatch intelligently and emotionally described her attempt to integrate Mind/Body/Spirit. She explained that truth production in Western thought is centered on white, male, middle-class, institutional point of view. Differences are misunderstood and feared. She has found through much struggle and spiritual confirmation that happiness is possible outside of the traditional hetero experience. Said Tina, “I am whole the way I am. God created me and told me I am good.”

Hugo Olaiz spoke about the position of the LDS Church on homosexuality. He claimed that the position they have taken in the Proclamation is very recent. He said that it is not based on the teachings of Joseph Smith, but rather a tactical effort to combat homosexuality. Hugo nonetheless believes that leaders are more willing to admit there are genetic factors. He says there is no need to rewrite our theology, but calls for the following actions:
1. Call them what they are.
2. Stop endorsing support groups promoting changing orientation
3. Stop condemning same-sex families.

Kathryn Steffensen, the mother of a gay man, found little support when her son came out as gay. “When he came out of the closet, we went into the closet.” Kathryn says that there need to be more positive gay role models. She founded Family Fellowship to meet a need for support. She decided in her journey never to overtly challenge the institutional Church—they have the power to keep people out of the Church. Instead she vows: “we’re going to make the world better for you.”

LeGrand Olsen bore a powerful testimony of his spiritual convictions. He discovered he was gay in spite of his strong witness of the Church. “There is no peaceful dealing with this,” he lamented.

Another Speaker gave a personal account of her experiences as a lesbian in the Church. She and her partner have been excluded from many family events. They have made a place at their table for all who desire friendship. She sees no similar inclusion for gays in the Mormon Church.

I am glad to see a few slow changes in policy toward gay members of the Church. No longer do leaders excommunicate members who come out as gay simply for their orientation. Some few gay members hold callings in their wards. I realize that change has been very slow. I wonder if Carol Lynn Pearson’s new book will be as widely read as Goodbye I Love You, and if it will stimulate the changes that she hopes it will.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Counterpoint and Excommunication

I never finished blogging about the Counterpoint Conference—life got in the way—but I intend to finish. It just won’t be as fresh news as it could have been. One portion of the Conference that stirred me was the keynote speaker, Gay Blanchard. Gay was awarded the “Eve Award,” a recognition by the organizers of the Mormon Women’s Forum which honors those who have made contributions to enrich the lives of Mormon women that may not be noticed by the community as a whole.

Gay, a sweet white haired woman in her eighties, stay-at-home mom, wife, musician and playwright, began at midlife to diverge doctrinally with her local leaders on the subject of the Atonement. As I’ve been following along with some of the discussions lately occurring on Atonement Theory, I realize that the Mormon Church does not teach a comprehensive Atonement Theory. In fact, there has been considerable latitude in the doctrine that LDS leaders have espoused along these lines. Apparently, Gay began to reject a salvation by works paradigm.

From some of her writings available on the internet, I obtained this quote by Gay: “the whole purpose of the Law of Obedience is to convince us that we can't keep all the contradictory rules required of us by religious leaders over the centuries. Trying to do so is truly an education. We grow in our understanding of ourselves and of others; we assume responsibilities; we learn about the gospel. If we are awake, we learn painfully our many limitations. We work and work and work at trying to perfect ourselves one thing at a time, at trying to make ourselves worthy, at trying to work out our salvation. But we do not progress into higher law.” Gay says that for most Mormons “their journey stops here: working at trying to be obedient to the whole letter of the law.” Once we discover that we are unable to keep all of the commandments, we become open to experience a mighty change of heart and begin to rely on the grace of Christ to save us. This sounds not so different than some recent LDS authors, notably Steven Robinson. However, several decades ago, these thoughts were not so acceptable.

Because of Gay’s teachings on this subject, she was excommunicated from the Church. The decision was later appealed and changed to a disfellowshipping. However, much damage has been done to Gay and her family through this action. Of a large family, only one of her children continues to be active in the Church.

Lavina Fielding Anderson and I discussed this briefly in the hallway after Gay’s speech. “It might be easy for me to remain active in the Church after an excommunication,” she said. “But it’s different for the children. I don’t think I could stand a Church that did that to my mother.”

I grew up in a church that did not excommunicate or disfellowship its members. I find it a difficult policy to accept. Why does our Church feel the need to cut off members who continue to desire to belong? Even if there is sin, or doctrinal misunderstanding, it seems to me that these things would be corrected more easily from within than from without. I would prefer to leave it as the Lord’s prerogative to cut the sinner off from his presence.

I would love to hear some of my readers’ thoughts on excommunication.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Counterpoint Conference/Session I

This is for any of the curious who were not able to attend the Counterpoint Conference sponsored by the Mormon Women’s Forum at the U of U on Saturday. I’d like to give some of my perceptions on the talks. But first, I must laud and honor the amazing presenters who gave speeches at this event. Months ago, I volunteered to “help in any way” with this conference, and was promptly assigned a spot on the program. But as I discovered Saturday, I was very, very outclassed, and I think next year I will ask if I can help set up the chairs. The first group of women who spoke were so striking and articulate that I never recovered from a case of severe intimidation. Although I have warned my children many times never to begin a talk with an apology, I had to bite my tongue hard not to start my speech by blabbing how much my knees were shaking, I wasn’t prepared, I had a cold, I’d only received the assignment two hours ago…
Anyway, my notes won’t do them credit, but here’s a taste of what was said in the first session.

On the topic “How well does the LDS Church support real mothers?”

Jennifer Moore, senior attorney with US Securities & Exchange, was married to a gay man. On 9/11/2001 her world came crashing down and her divorce became final. She spoke on the difficulties of having her circumstances define her in the Church. She feels that though the Church does a good job of supporting most mothers, it does not support all mothers. For her, Church became a place where she felt an acute personality crisis. She was equally uncomfortable in a family ward and a singles ward (which she named “the Church’s answer to a bar.” She now laments segregation in the Church according to marital status. Through telling her story, Jennifer called for the Church to “build a structure that supports me instead of who I wish I could have been if things had been different.”

Kristy Finlayson, pharmaceutical representative, grew up hearing beautiful words of the prophets honoring motherhood. She developed the desire to be a mother and have this type of influence on the world. In time she came to discover that a pedestal, like any prison, is a confined space. She spoke of her budding feminism and realization that she had been trained to defer to male authority instead of develop her own spirit. Kristy discussed the lack of importance of women in eternity. She herself would never willing be cut off from the lives of her children, and wonders why this seems to be the case with a Heavenly Mother. In view of statements by Pres. Kimball—pattern and role of mother prescribed before foundation of the world—and Pres. Woodruff—motherhood can only be done by mothers—Kristy firmly believes that a mother will still claim this divine role in the eternities. She does not believe the Heavenly Mother could be as uninvolved in our mortal lives as our theology reflects. Because of this exclusion, women are left without a clear vision of what we may become.

Sarah Ray Allred, a postdoctorate neurobiologist and stay-at-home mother of 2, discussed how Church rhetoric compares with actions. She noted that support of mothers varies with each ward. How does the Church characterize value? Motherhood would seem to have more value than anything else, offering more opportunity to develop Christlike attributes. Sarah offered several suggestions to enhance the Church’s support of mothers:
Stop pairing motherhood/priesthood. The current juxtaposition of motherhood with priesthood is unnatural.
Create callings to support mothers such as mothers group coordinators
More reaching out by individual women.

Marguerite Dreissen, former professor of law at BYU, spoke of the ambiguity she has encountered in the church as a result of her race and compared it with what we face as women. There has never been a time in all of history when people actually lived what was taught. There is much angst over the grand chasm between the promise of what can be and where we are. Jefferson stated that all men are created equal, but at the time the phrase “all men” only included free white property-holding males. Our understanding of those words have expanded with time. So will our understanding of woman’s place in the Church. The seeds are there.

After listening to this session I was left with the impression that the women who spoke basically saw the existing Church structure as being supportive of women. Our organization and underlying doctrine contain potential to strengthen mothers. Several problems which may exist:

1. Difficulty in reaching out to and socializing with those with perceived differences. There is still a void in the socialization of married and single mothers, and employed/nonemployed mothers. Isn’t this something that can be ameliorated by the efforts of individuals? Is there indeed any organizational change the Church could make that could make a difference here?

2. Lack of clear doctrine and teachings on the Heavenly Mother. There still exists an unwillingness to strive for revelation more aligned to the concerns of women and mothers, though the seeds for these teachings are there. Individuals can do little to effect change in this area, since we are strictured in our very relationship with the Divine Feminine. For example, we are asked not to pray to her, write about her, or theologize on her nature.

3. The motherhood/priesthood juxtaposition. Most people I have heard express opinions on this agree that motherhood coincides with fatherhood and priesthood with priestesshood. I believe that as Church leaders put more thought into this, they will gradually discontinue the practice of equating motherhood and priesthood.

More to come…I’ll continue later with my thoughts on the Keynote Speaker and the other two sessions in this Conference.

Friday, October 6, 2006

The Culpability of the Church at Mountain Meadows…and Elsewhere

I got all hot under the collar over some comments I read over at T&S lately. But rather than ruin the spirit of a beautiful post by Margaret, “We Have Nothing to Apologize For…But Should We Do It Anyway?”, I thought I would blog about my thoughts here.

In speaking of incidents for which the Church has need or has no need to apologize, the issue of the Mountain Meadows Massacre is usually our event of choice. But before one renders an opinion upon the culpability of the Church at Mountain Meadows, one should do some thorough research. Those who have not read Juanita Brooks’ seminal work, or any of the more recent publications such as Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets, or even this discussion of the subject on the FAIR website might make a statement such as the following by Mark Butler:

“One can only apologize for something that one was morally culpable for. I do not think the Church was morally culpable for what happened… we see that the MMM perpetrators were not true members of the Church at all, but rather the most vile of apostates. The Church cannot go around taking corporate responsibility
for the actions of lunatics, outlaws, and murderers.”

This statement merely showcases how ill-informed Mark Butler is on the subject of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. First, there are compelling reasons for believing that Brigham Young, acting as governor of the territory of Utah, and prophet, seer and revelator of the LDS Church, did by written letters and verbal messages “aid and abet in the said murder as accessory before the fact.” (Bagley) But even those who refuse to believe that Brigham Young was involved have been forced to confront the reality that “some 50 Mormons taking orders from local ecclesiastical leaders actually went out and tricked these 120 people out of their encampment with a white flag and then proceeded to murder them in cold blood with the exception of 17 small children.” (FAIR) This was not simply the independent action of a small group of “lunatics, outlaws, and murderers.” The Mountain Meadows Massacre was committed by an entire community of True Blue Mormons, who under the direction of their priesthood leaders, believed they were performing a religious duty. Like it or not, the Church was deeply involved in this tragedy.

But Mountain Meadows is not the only locale at which mistakes were made by the official arm of the Church. Joseph McGee, neutral Missouri resident who observed many of the tensions between the Mormons and the Missouri mobs at Gallatin tells of several incidents which happened in the county. He relates,

“…the Mormons were overrunning Daviess County. On the morning of 1838 October 18, 150 of them came to Gallatin & finding but 17 men in the place they run them out, & took possession of the town. They removed the goods out of Stallings store House & burned the house. They then took the goods to Diammon. (Adam-ondi-Ahman) They burned my (tailor) shop after taking all there was in it, leaving me only the suit of clothes I had on my back. They took me prisoner & after keeping me about 2 hrs. They turned me loose & told me to git.”

After going to his father’s house, Joseph McGee describes how “we could stand in our door yard & see houses burning every night for over 2 wks. The Mormons completely gutted Daviess county. There was bearely a Missourians house left standing in the county. Nearly every one was burned. Their flight from the county had been so precipitate, that they left all they had behind taking only their families & teams. The Mormons secured all their property & took it to Diammon & there placed in what was termed the Lords storehouse, to be issued out to the Saints, as they might need.” After Governor Boggs ordered troops to be sent in, the “Lord’s storehouse” was thrown open for the Missourians to look for their goods. McGee found three pairs of pants from his tailor shop there, but they were in such poor condition that they had to be thrown away.

Our official LDS retelling of the events in Missouri are quite different than that of Joseph McGee. As emotions were running high in this frontier town, I am sure there were many regrettable actions on both sides.

I am proud and stirred by our Mormon pioneer heritage. I honor the sacrifices that were made. But there is much of Mormon history that makes me ashamed. I believe that even men acting in official priesthood capacities can be mistaken. Fortunately, they can also repent and apologize. As a rank and file member of the LDS Church, I would like to apologize for anything in our history which has caused pain and sorrow to others. I would like to tell the Fancher party how much I regret what happened at Mountain Meadows. I wish I could make amends to the 17 children who had to grow up without their parents. I would like to tell Joseph McGee that I am sorry we took the clothing from his tailor shop. There are many, many others we have wronged.

Some of us would like to apologize.

Monday, October 2, 2006

These are a few of my Favorite Home Teachers

Our family was once assigned a Very Busy Home Teacher. He traveled around the state, and was gone quite frequently, but he was very diligent. He came to our home with his 14-year-old son. They had been assigned to us for about 3 months when he was unable to make his usual visit. It was the last week of the month, and he was out of town. We got a phone call one evening from the young son. Could he come and see our family? Of course we agreed, and he appeared at our doorstep with his friend, another Aaronic Priesthood holder. Both boys were too young to have their driver’s licenses, so the 16-year-old sister had driven them the 15 or so miles to our house. They gave us a well-prepared lesson and a prayer. After their visit, my Mia Maid and Beehive remarked that they didn’t seem like the same rowdy boys they knew from the ward. The mantle of the priesthood had descended upon these boys as they served our family. These boys came on their own to Home Teach us about once every three months while we lived in that place.

It’s not easy to visit a large, rather unorthodox family. It’s been a struggle calling everyone together for a Home Teaching visit, and if we do succeed, it is then too loud to hear any kind of lesson. My favorite Home Teachers have been those who have used their creativity to get to know and influence our family. I remember vividly a visit where my little girls were demonstrating their back handspring skills in the living room. The 17-year-old Home Teacher, to his dad’s surprise, stood and did a back handspring in his clunky army boots. What respect the girls gave him after that demonstration!

The home teacher we have now showed up in his work clothes at our home last May. He had his rototiller, and he spent the evening helping us prepare the soil and plant a garden in our back yard. One Sunday evening recently he arrived and saw that we had picked a large batch of zucchini and yellow squash. He spent the visit in the kitchen, preparing a dish of fried squash for us to savor.

For me, what makes a great Home Teacher is the amount of time he spends getting involved in our personal lives. I don’t care if he comes to the house every month with a lesson, but if he sends a card on a birthday or attends one of the kids’ soccer games, he will have my attention when he has advice to give.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Recycled Conference Talks

I posted this at BCC--go there to see comments.

I’ve listened to all four sessions of Conference, and I feel refreshed. I even have some things I’m going to work on. Honesty, for example. (I’ve got a little pile of pens on the counter that need to go back to the workplace.) When the Ensign comes out next month, I’ll put it in the magazine rack in the bathroom and we’ll all page through it. I’ll read through the blogs and the comments about Conference, and I’m sure M&M will quote liberally from the talks for the next 6 months. But…must we listen to recycled conference talks again and again in Sacrament Meetings?

I’m not sure exactly when this practice began. It sort of snuck up on us. One day we were listening to members’ ruminations on any subject they chose. Some were great and some were pretty bad. Yes, there was false doctrine preached over the pulpit. So we went to Sacrament Meeting Themes. Speakers were assigned to give a talk with a theme that was carried over throughout the meeting in talks and music. This seemed to help the false doctrine a bit. And we still had the personalities of the speakers and their own personal stories to add interest to the meeting. This is where we became acquainted with the new couple in the ward. We were able to compare the amazing growth in our young men as they spoke to us in farewell and homecoming missionary talks. We heard how members applied doctrine to their own lives.

This new trend of being assigned a Conference Talk upon which to base our discourse in Sacrament Meeting is one I dislike intensely. Not because I didn’t enjoy the CT’s. But when the talk was given by the GA or Church leader, it was their personal take on a gospel subject. Perhaps it was the word of the Lord revealed to them. When reprocessed by another person, it loses its immediacy and power. We lose the opportunity to receive direction from the Spirit and teach others. The practice discourages thinking by the average member and encourages passive acceptance.

The best use of recycled Conference Talks I’ve seen happens when the speaker takes the talk as a text—similar to what Protestant ministers do when they preach using a quote or a scripture as a text. The talk focuses on the theme of the scripture, but the preacher will bring in other references, personal stories, and other thoughts to bolster his/her message. The worst scenario happens when an LDS speaker paraphrases the Conference talk and quotes it liberally. Even the most interesting of Conference talks can completely lose their potency. But no matter how well a speaker reuses a Conference talk, this technique is ineffective in Sacrament Meetings.

I wonder how deeply entrenched this convention has become. Are there some Bishops out there who still resist assigning Conference Talks as themes? How would a Bishop react if a member countered the assignment with a suggestion of their own for a talk? Will this deplorable custom continue, or are we doomed to endless years of fusty, faded, watered-down Conference crumbs?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Singing the Song of Songs

I was disappointed when we skipped the Song of Solomon last week in Gospel Doctrine. Of course, I wasn’t surprised. As we study the Old Testament every four years, if the book is even mentioned, it is to summarily dismiss it with the notation in the Joseph Smith Translation that the Songs of Solomon are not inspired writings, and thus do not belong in the Biblical canon. Nonetheless, the Song seems to me to have some commonality with the D&C and deserves a closer look.

I first noticed a similarity in language between Solomon’s Song and the D&C when I came across these words, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” This verse comes from Song 6:10 and describes Solomon’s Shulamite princess to whom his song of love is directed. To D&C scholars these words call to mind Section 5:14 and 109:73 where the Church comes forth from the wilderness of darkness “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” I’m not the first to blog about this similarity. But to me, the appearance of these verses in the D&C gives credence to the view held by some Christian theologians that Solomon’s love song to the Shulamite is an allegory or type of Christ’s relationship to the Church. Solomon is not the only one to use this poetic form. Jeremiah tells his readers, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” (Jer. 6:2) In Isaiah and Jeremiah the “daughter of Zion” is a figure meaning “the covenant people.” Thus Jeremiah, Isaiah, Solomon, and others liken the Church to a beautiful woman.

In my view, the Latter-day Saints, with the interpretation of this allegory plainly stated in the D&C, are uniquely placed to understand and appreciate the Song of Solomon. Many images which appear within the verses seem fruitful for further study. For example, a familiarity with the Old Testament Temple calls this edifice to mind while reading these verses from the Song:

King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem. (Song 3:9-10)

Here we see the Temple as a chariot, built to bring the covenant people into the presence of Deity. Other interesting images found in the Song include fruit that is sweet to the taste, the adornment of the bride, the banquet, the fig tree, the vineyard, frankincense and myrrh, seeking, washing of the feet, the entreaty to “return,” and the “sealing” of love. These themes are repeated often enough in other, more acceptable scriptural passages that it is difficult to understand why they have been neglected and rejected by Latter-day Saints.

Mormons seem to find it uncomfortable to uncover a celebration of sexuality in the scriptures. They hesitate to compare these images of love to their chaste conception of Christ’s love for his Bride. This may have as much to do with our dismissal of this unusual book as the note in the JST. But to me the Song is a spiritual enticement. It seems to call to me with the voice of an ardent suitor. I place the Savior in the role of the beloved lover in the Song and thrill to these words: “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me…”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Modesty--For Boys

This post debuted at BCC. Go there to read tons of comments, and see how everyone missed my point.

Of my eight children, I only have one boy—“the little prince.” He’s grown up with quite a knowledge of the female psyche, but has his own way of looking at life. Now that he is close to turning 12, I’m starting to reevaluate adolescence.

One of the big issues for the girls was modesty. Preached long and loud in Young Women’s, it sometimes looms larger than having a testimony of Christ. We’ve had to come to terms with modesty in our home. With their 100% Church, YW, and Seminary attendance, I feel that my daughters understand the principle. I support it, but let them govern themselves. I’ve learned to let them choose their clothing, and say nothing except when asked. Usually then I will tell them they look beautiful and stunning. I’ve helped put sleeves on prom dresses. I’ve listened to them agonize over unfair Standards Nights, where only the girls are targeted, and agreed with them that impure thoughts are the boys’ problem.

But now…along comes this young man of my own.

YM is generally neat and well-dressed. He wears swim trunks without a shirt while swimming, but otherwise wears a shirt in the summer. I’ve discovered, though, that boys have different “modesty” issues.

Do boys realize it is offensive to burp and fart loudly and without apology? Why isn’t this receiving any emphasis in Youth programs? Why don’t they drill into the boys how much this bothers girls and women? Why don’t they send the boys home from stake dances for burping along to the tune of the alphabet? Why don’t they get into trouble for lighting farts at Scout Camp?

I hope the Church will help me teach my boy modesty.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Singing A Capella

This was originally posted at BCC.

Last Sunday my daughter had her missionary farewell—oops, I mean, she gave a talk in her singles ward, along with another young man who was going on a mission. The two sang an arrangement of “A Marvelous Work.” The boy’s father, an accomplished musician, accompanied them on the piano. I, the proud mother, thought they did a fabulous job. Except, in the middle of the song, the piano stopped playing. At first, I and the rest of the congregation simply thought they were singing a cappella. Their voices blended wonderfully. But then the boy cast a glance at his father, and I realized the pianist was frantically searching for a missing page. He finally found his place, came in on the last page, and all had stayed on key. My daughter told me later she was shaking and clinging to the podium during the “a cappella” section.

This incident made me ponder the times when we are singing a cappella through life. Sometimes it feels as if the Lord has deserted us; left us without accompaniment in this lone and dreary world.

Is he really right there with us all the time, totally involved in our lives, and due to lack of spiritual sensitivity we just can’t tell? (a la “Footsteps in the Sand?”) Does he withdraw for a time so that we can learn and grow? Or has he placed us here to make our own way through life by faith, with little or no personal contact? At times in my journey, I’ve subscribed to each of the three positions.

1. The most scriptural support comes down on the side of the first option. “and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt 28:20) In fact, D&C 59:21 warns us that God’s anger is kindled against those who do not acknowledge his hand in all things. I would like to think that the Lord himself is continually taking a very personal interest in the details of my small life. But the only people I know who really live this philosophy are just a bit kooky. My friend TJ, a born-again Christian, believes much as Corrie Ten-Boom that any little flea that comes along is there for a cosmic purpose. Whenever TJ so much as drops an egg on the floor, she will loudly proclaim, “Praise the Lord!”

2. When mankind turned to wickedness in the days of Noah, Jehovah told them, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Gen. 6:3; see also 2 Ne. 26:11 and D&C 1:33)
Perhaps this is true not only for the wicked, but for all. In the temple, where Adam and Eve stand as representatives of the human race, the Lord tells them that he will go away, but he will return and give them instructions from time to time. Many mainstream Latter-day Saints seem to hold this view.

3. You need not run the risk of being branded an apostate if you hold the third view. It is a comfortable place for Latter-day Saints who believe that “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) We have the scriptures and the revealed word of the Lord to direct us through life. This is enough to guide us and bring us back into the Father’s presence without the necessity of his personal intervention in the affairs of the common person.

How are we to know if the Lord is carrying us through the sand when it feels as if we are singing alone into the wind? Does a strong faith necessitate a belief in his ongoing presence? Should we strive to assimilate one of these paradigms, or is it OK to just follow what we’ve been told, cling to the podium, and wait for the accompanist to come back in?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Revelation

Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners are so named because they respond to learning in different ways. Visual learners are responsive to stimuli they can see. Auditory learners do well in traditional classrooms because they learn by hearing. Kinesthetic learners grasp concepts better when they can feel and handle models of the material being taught. I believe that revelation is given to people in a similar way, according to how the individual can best process the information.

Lehi’s vision was given to him in images. When he described the vision to his family, he told them all the things he saw. “I saw in my dream a dark and dreary wilderness,” he states. “I saw a man…I beheld a large and spacious field…I beheld a tree…I beheld that the fruit thereof was white...I cast my eyes round about…I beheld a river of water…I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi…I cast mine eyes toward the head of the river, that perhaps I might see [Laman and Lemuel]…I saw them, but they would not come unto me…I beheld a rod of iron…I also beheld a straight and narrow path…I saw numberless concourses of people…I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building…” Because of the things which Lehi saw, he made conclusions about what the Lord wanted to communicate to him. Lehi began to fear for Laman and Lemuel. He preached to them and exhorted them to keep the commandments of the Lord. This dream was given to Lehi in a visual manner. Other visual revelations recorded in scripture include Moses’ vision and Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead.

Enos had an experience with God that was no less immediate than that of Lehi. His revelation, however, came in an auditory form. Enos carried on a conversation with his Maker. “I did raise my voice high that it reached the heavens…there came a voice unto me…and I said, Lord, how is it done…and he said unto me, because of thy faith…when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire…I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them…the voice of the Lord came into my mind…after I, Enos, had heard these words…I prayed unto him with many long strugglings…after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me…I did cry unto God…and the Lord said unto me…” Because of the things which he heard, Enos went about among the people prophesying and testifying. His auditory experience with the Lord had a great effect upon him. Other auditory forms of revelation in the scriptures include Samuel’s call and instructions to Elijah.

Alma’s revelation came in a kinesthetic form. As he went about with the sons of Mosiah persecuting the people of the Church, an angel appeared to them and spoke, saying, “seek no more to destroy the Church of God.” Immediately Alma fell to the earth. Although he had seen (visual) and heard (auditory) the angel, the revelation came to Alma kinesthetically. For three days and nights he could not open his mouth. He states that the angel spake more things, which were heard by his brethren, but he could not hear them. “I was struck…I fell to the earth…I did hear no more…I was racked with eternal torment…my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins…I was tormented with the pains of hell…for three days and three nighs was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul…I could remember my pains no more…oh, what joy and what marvelous light…my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain…my limbs did receive their strength…I stood upon my feet and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.” Alma’s experience, which came kinesthetically, had such an effect as to completely change the course of his life. Other examples of kinesthetic revelation are the shocking of Laman and Lemuel and the lightening of the burdens of Alma and his people.

Often a revelation will employ two or even all three of these methods in order to bring the word of the Lord to the listener. In Joseph Smith’s vision, he felt the power of the adversary, saw God and Jesus Christ, and heard their voices.

In cases when I feel that I have received revelation, it has come to me in a rather auditory form. I compare it to what Joseph Smith described as “sudden strokes of ideas,” which I recognize as pure intelligence. These ideas come as words, and I am often able to write down exactly what is being communicated. My husband, on the other hand, experiences revelation very visually. It is usually in the form of dreams, in which he sees images that he recognizes as having symbolic meaning. Many members of the Church have felt kinesthetic revelation in the form of “a burning in the bosom,” or a warm, peaceful feeling.

Do you experience revelation in any of these three forms? Does it come in one way more often than others? Do you feel that the revelation is being sent to you in the manner in which you are best able to receive and learn from it?

Friday, September 8, 2006

Wherein You Tell Me Who I Am

Who am I?
I do not know
My heart beats fast,
Your heart beats slow--
You tell me that it isn't so
I nod my head, away I go.

Who am I?
You tell me then.
You tell me what,
You tell me when--
Though knowing is beyond your ken
That's why I've gone away again.

It is a strange anomaly
I keep your words inside of me
Although they only cause me hurt
And keep that true self in the dirt

That must be me, all veiled in black.
I wish that I could call me back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Day of Reckoning

One long, sharp needle
Of pine, assaulted by storm
Falls, to pierce the ground.

One sad, sharp tear
Of pain, I the assaulted,
You who pierce my heart.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Article of Faith #1

Soft rain
Falling from high
Makes me feel that there may be One
Who sheds more tears
Than I.