Thursday, July 29, 2010

Passing the Mantle

OT SS Lesson #29 -- originally posted on Mormon Matters
The prophet Elisha is introduced for the first time in 1 Kings 19.  Elijah has recently had his encounter with the 400 prophets of Baal and the still small voice of God on Mt. Horeb.  On his way from the mountain to the wilderness of Damascus Elijah finds Elisha plowing in a field.  He passes by him and throws his mantle over Elisha.  And scripture says that Elisha arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.  Elisha doesn’t receive another mention until the end of Elijah’s ministry — when Elijah’s mantle falls from him as he is translated and is taken up by Elisha — and one can’t help but wonder about the relationship between the two in the interim.  How was Elisha prepared to succeed Elijah, and what relevance does this story have to succession in the Church today?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Should Mormons in the Diaspora Celebrate Pioneer Day?

Posted at Mormon Matters on July 24, 2010
It has only been in recent years that I have slowly become aware that not every convert to the Church shares my deep identification with the Mormon pioneers. I have loved the epic story of the trek to the Salt Lake Valley. I appreciate its archetypal connotations. My heart thrills with the stories of the pioneer heroes and heroines, and I consider each of their stories part of my legacy as a Mormon, though my LDS heritage begins with myself.
In the last few years there has been some grumbling by members who don’t have Mormon pioneers in their genealogy that it annoys them to celebrate the July 24th holiday, a commemoration of the day the first company of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. I think partly to appease these voices, there has been an emphasis on “modern-day pioneers”–those who lead the way for others to follow and who blaze trails in other ways than traditionally recognized. There’s a relatively new Primary song, “I Can Be a Modern-Day Pioneer,” there are more talks given by General Authorities on the subject, and there are articles such as the latest Mormon Times article “Pioneer Journeys of a Different Era.”  There is a sudden dearth of Pioneer Day activities in wards outside of Utah, and in our ward last Sunday the only talk which mentioned pioneers emphasized modern-day contributions rather than those who crossed the plains.
I just want to register a caution to those who wish to move away from the traditional veneration of these honorable forebears.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Divided Kingdom Today

OT SS Lesson #27 -- originally posted at Mormon Matters
“Take an old piece of clothing,” our SS lesson advises, “or a piece of paper that is cut in the shape of a piece of clothing and tear it into 12 pieces. Explain that toward the end of Solomon’s life, the prophet Ahijah prophesied that Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s 12 superintendents over taxes and labor, would take over much of the Israelite nation. To illustrate this, Ahijah seized the garment from the back of Jeroboam, tore it into 12 pieces, and gave 10 of the pieces to Jeroboam.”  The lesson teaches that the influence of wicked leaders was instrumental in dividing the kingdom of Israel after Solomon’s death.
The Savior taught that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Matthew 12:25).
I read this with some consternation, because lately I have been perusing a very interesting website.  It is a wiki collection of groups belonging to the Latter-day Saint movement put together by Alan Unsworth.  Does it surprise you to learn that there are at least 116 active groups and denominations which trace their history back to Joseph Smith, as well as 204 “Restoration Branches” and 154 defunct denominational groups?  And because many of these are secretive and insular, I don’t believe that this list includes them all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Question Solomon Couldn't Answer

OT SS Lesson #26 -- originally posted at Mormon Matters
Our Sunday School lesson this week attempts to deal with the conundrum with which we are faced when considering that Israel’s King Solomon, who was a paragon of wisdom having received this gift from the Lord, could make the decidedly unwise decision of marrying foreign wives and following them into idolatry.  
The lesson asks the following questions (answers provided):

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Latter-day Morality

from a post on Mormon Matters

You may not be aware of this if you grew up Mormon, but the LDS definition of morality is rather different than that which is generally accepted. Morality is very easily defined to Mormons — it means not having sex. That’s all. End of discussion. Immorality means having sex. That’s what we teach our teenagers, and that is the definition we carry with us from our church meetings into our daily lives.
Today I’d like to talk about some of the nuances to the word “morality.” The meanings that we don’t get in Mutual or Seminary or Sunday School. For purposes of this discussion, I would prefer to define “morality” as a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

When the Fourth of July Falls on the Sabbath

Originally posted at Mormon Matters
Yesterday’s activities began with a Pancake Breakfast over at the Church, followed by a softball game.  We loaded up several of the kids from the Ward, my children’s friends, and hauled them all to the beach in both of our vans.  Arriving home at 5:00, we joined some neighbors for a potluck and barbecue.  There were even some small fireworks lit out in the field behind our house.  I enjoyed the day very much.  It was a lot like what we’ve done on the Fourth of July in years past — but this was on the third.  As I read some of the facebook pages of friends from around the country, I saw that a lot of Mormons were doing what we had done.  I suppose that celebrating Independence Day in the U.S. a day early this year was an effort to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
But why is a celebration of our country’s freedom considered a non-Sabbath avocation?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Approaches to Psalms

OT SS Lesson #25 -- originally posted at Mormon Matters
The Book of Psalms is one of the most beautiful and meaningful books of the Bible, and it is agonizing to realize that our Sunday School schedule only allows one lesson to cover the entire oeuvre.  In this post, I’d like to outline several possible ways to approach a one-hour lesson on the Psalms, and to request your input as to which appeals to you personally.