24 December 2014

Whom Shall I Fear?

I shared this meme on facebook today:


Here is the fuller Christian context of that quote:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." ~John 14:12
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit." ~Romans 8:1-4
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:38-39
Or, in the English Standard Version: 
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:37-39
Danny Lee Silk wasn't saying we'd never feel anything from the atmosphere around us. Look at the words he used: because of our victory in Christ Jesus, we don't have to be affected, or infected, by what we experience around us. None of it has to change our course, impinge upon our faith, or inspire fear or despair. We don't ever have to lay blame, or responsibility, upon anyone else for what we do, or what we believe. Jesus has offered us all that He has . . . and as we seek Him, we can become more and more the way Danny described. Take Elijah, for example:
"Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind.

Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” ~1 Kings 18:25-27, NLT
Then there's Enoch:
 And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him. ~Moses 7:13
Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the mighty and powerful King of Heaven's Armies of the Old Testament. He is the tender and careful Good Shepherd of the New Testament. He is the Risen Lord, who will wipe away our tears, and He is the Glorified Messiah who sits at the right hand of the Father, an advocate for us with Him. He didn't go through all He went through just so we could be limited here. If one child of God was able to receive power from heaven to part the seas, or to raise the dead, or to set at defiance the armies of nations, or shut the mouths of lions, then it is within reach of us ALL to do incredible things, for our God is no respecter of persons.

So . . . what are we waiting for? What does your heart long to do, in the name of the Lord, to bless His children? Is it to sing praise? To heal? To hear and understand such that you can comfort those who mourn? To preach the Gospel of the Risen Lord, so all mankind can come unto Him and be saved? Look deep inside your heart, and see what God has placed there . . . because whatever He has planted in your heart, He has also provisioned for you, and He will show you the way to realize the dreams and longings you cherish.

Now, let's go forward in faith, and obtain the word of the Lord, as Enoch did, so, once we have obtained His word, and our faith grows ever stronger, we might do His will, and be conduits for His power in the earth. 

For signs follow them that believe.

 

23 December 2014

Some thoughts about Jesus

"Though thousands crowded around Him daily, He was sensitive to the needs of the individual- the infirm who touched the hem of His garment, the small of stature who sat in in tree to see Him over the multitude. 
After being betrayed by one he called Friend, the Lord of Hosts was taken by a mob to an illegal trial where He, the Great Lawgiver, was falsely accused and incriminated. The King of kings was then judged by mortal rulers, and taking the place of a seditious murder, the Scapegoat of Israel was condemned to death. 
At Pilate's command, the Gentle Healer was scourged, bruised, broken, and torn. Then the Carpenter from Nazareth carried his wooden cross through scorning crowds to Golgotha, where in ultimate irony, He, the only perfect person to ever walk the earth, descended below all things, being raised up between two criminals to justify a guilty race. 
Though appointed to be the judge of all mankind, He plead for the forgiveness of His tormentors. And while the world trembled in distress of His agony, He worried about the welfare of a woman, His mother. His death brought darkness to the earth. His resurrection brought light and eternal life. 
Little did the hypocrites who consented to His death know when they cried for His blood to be upon them that one day untold billions would plead for His blood to be upon them, not to condemn but to redeem. 
To us is His promise that those who lose their life for His sake shall find it, that through Him, scarlet sins may become white like wool, and that those who deny themselves of all ungodliness will inherit all that God has. 
Though the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, He has prepared many mansions for us in His Father's house. May we take comfort in knowing that the Creator of worlds without end still numbers the hairs of our head. He who clothes the lilies of the field will clothe us in spotless robes of righteousness. The One who cried, "Why hast thou forsaken me," has promised that He will not leave us comfortless. Someday the Man of Sorrows will wipe all the tears from our eyes." ~T.G.

"Come Unto Me", by Jon McNaughton. Used with permission.

22 December 2014

What Do I Want for Christmas?

I want the starving children fed--in my own little town, among the membership of the LDS church, and throughout the whole world 

I want the orphans, dependent upon the generosity of others, provided for.

I want the exploited rescued, and to have safe places for them to sleep and learn. 

I want the street children in Manilla, abandoned by their destitute parents who simply couldn't feed them, to have the basic things they need: shoes, school supplies, regular meals, combs, toothbrushes, a shower to use, and a safe place to sleep.

My family is operating under a tighter budget than we ever have had to before. We are living in the least square foot per person we have ever lived. And yet, compared to so, so many, even in our own little community, we are wealthy. We have a lovely little home. We have decent beds to sleep in. We have all the first world conveniences we want: cars that run reliably, gas to run them, washer & dryer, dishwasher, heat, air conditioning, electricity, running water, hot water, a roof that doesn't leak, and our floors aren't made of dirt. (Although sometimes during mud season the mats inside the front door might fool you for a minute.)

My children have a family that loves them, and a safe place to grow and learn. Contrast that with the early life of one of my best friends, who was born into prostitution to a sex-trafficked mother, and rescued at eight years old, after her mother's death, by God working an absolute miracle in the Canadian court system.

My children are well-fed, and are in no danger of suffering from the debilitating or deadly effects of malnutrition, unlike 80,000+ active LDS children in the world, and too many in my little town.

My husband and I love one another. Our marriage is strong--strong because we have learned to forgive, and are learning how to grow, both together and alongside one another. 

We definitely have our share of difficulties and trials. We are given weaknesses, after all, that the Lord may show forth His strength in us. But our basic needs are met. The Lord will continue to provide. I just wish we had endless income, so I could feed and clothe and house every cold, hungry, lonely soul.
      11 Wherefore, I must tell you the truth according to the plainness of the word of God. For behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people.
      12 And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully.
      13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches . . .
      14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
      15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
      16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
      17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
      18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
      19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2)
We don't have riches. But to those who might . . . please consider those who not only don't have riches, but suffer hunger and cold.
      34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
      35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
      36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
      37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
      38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
      39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
      40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)

19 December 2014

If the Internet Died Tomorrow

What would I wish I had said?

I would wish I had praised and proclaimed my Lord, one more time. He is Good. He is Faithful--always! And He is so much more than I ever dreamt. He has saved me from my sins . . . made a way for me to move forward in faith and hope and JOY, instead of the despair that was the very air I breathed, before . . . and I hope and pray that everyone can learn this for themselves, can taste of the goodness of His love, can experience the profound, revolutionary paradigm shift that comes when you have a radical encounter with the Love that is God. 

Jesus Christ is a GENEROUS God. He stands waiting to redeem us, every one, right now! He stands waiting for us to turn and face Him, wherever we are, so we can receive the good, good things He wants desperately to give to us. So He can enfold us in His embrace and know of His goodness. We cannot slog this out on our own!!! We cannot, ever, "get it right", no matter how hard we try . . . we were given weaknesses so we could be proven in the midst of the test that is this life, while Jesus was given the Spirit without measure, so He could overcome sin and death. We were given weakness. And because of that mortal weakness, we can never be good in the eyes of God, save under one condition only: that we receive the redemption He offers us, by virtue of His victory over sin and death, offered out of His astounding love for us. We can only be righteous when we are clothed in His righteousness. We can only be holy when He has made us so. We can only see His promises to the faithful fulfilled when we stop trying to earn them, and instead realize that, while the blessings and exaltation we all long for absolutely require diligence and effort, we cannot merit them! We must first receive justification through our Savior by the baptism of fire, and then do what He asks, in all humility, giving every day, every moment, every thought, word and deed, as best we can as a love offering to Him.

I would wish I had been able to find the words to plead with those I love to seek Jesus Christ. Not after the traditions of our fathers, but in plain simplicity. To dismantle the box we put God in. We've put God in a box! A beautiful, complicated, ornate, generations-old box! A prison out of which He cannot break, to be free to move and work miracles in our lives, because we choose, with the supreme right of our agency, to limit Him. To keep Him narrowly defined, confined to the role our own imaginations, our own understandings, assign. We do not do as Paul declared we could, and approach boldly the throne of grace, but view it from afar, as we would a monument, or a curiosity in a museum, too special for the use of the everyday saint, too reserved for those better and more spiritual than we are. And yet, and yet!, God spoke to Cain after Abel was murdered. God spoke to Alma the Younger as he went about seeking to destroy the church. God spoke to Saul as he traveled to where he would seek to kill more Christians. God spoke to Jonah, as he sulked in the desert because Ninevah repented. Our God will welcome your approach, no matter how unworthy you think you are. We're ALL unworthy creatures! That's why He did what He did, and gave us everything. So He could welcome us, whenever and wherever we sought Him, because He won the power to cleanse and forgive us. 

Jesus Christ IS the King of Kings! He is the Lord of Heaven's Armies, God of All Creation. He is the Living God, able to do all things! He is the God of Israel, who fought their battles, healed their sick, raised the dead, and then told His disciples that those who believed in Him would do greater things than that!

He introduced Himself to Abraham as the God of All Supply, El Shaddai. And He will provide for His own . . . and not stingily. He is Jehovah Rafa, Our God Who Heals . . . and He heals everywhere He goes. It is a product of proximity to Him.

But most of all, He is my friend. He said, in John 15:15: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." He has talked me through so many things, taught me profoundly beautiful things, chuckled at my mortal impatience and chided me in good humor until I could laugh at myself and try again. He has shared some of His secrets with me, given me beautiful dreams, taught me through His Spirit, and healed me of so many things that I've lost count. He loves to make me laugh, He delights in my efforts to master and learn to use the bewilderingly powerful personality He gave me, and in the joyful exercise of my intellectual and physical being. The more I learn of His perfection, the more I come to understand His love and affection for me, the more clearly I see my own frail mortality, and the more deeply humbled I am that He loved me so much that He gave everything--everything--that I could have peace and hope and joy and LIFE through Him.

Lord, I'm so amazed at Who You Are, and all You have done for Your children....for me. Won't You please reach out and touch the heart of every last person on this earth, Lord, so they might know--have first-hand, experiential knowledge--of what the Love of God really means? That each one can feel, in that impossible paradox, both their own insignificance in comparison to You and the immeasurable worth that Your devotion to them gives? Lord, show them  why You did what You did. Let them have a glimpse of Your goodness and Your absolute trustworthiness. Change for the best the way they see You, and everything else. Touch their eyes, Lord. Touch their hearts. Intercede for them, and open their understandings. Cast fear far from them, and fill the space that's left with Your Presence. Show them the easiness of the way, the lightness of Your burden, the simpleness of a walk with You. Show them they do not have to labor through this life in their own strength, dragging their load alone--but that You will take up the other side of the yoke and make all things possible as they believe in You! Please, Lord. This is my prayer. 

I know all of this sounds high-flying and optimistic, too good to be true, and that believing it all would just set you up for disappointment. I used to think so, too. 

But I was wrong. 

All of those amazing things in scripture? They're true!!! All of the promises God lays out for those who follow Him? He is bound to fulfill them when we do what He says! All of those signs and wonders that blessed so many during His ministry, and the ministry of others? They still happen, and they can happen to you if you truly believe, nothing doubting, nothing fearing

Our God is Good. You can trust Him.  

If He wasn't worthy of total and complete, throw-yourself-from-a-cliff-if-He-told-you-to trust, then He wouldn't be God, because He would be capable of betraying trust. And betraying trust is most definitely not part of the perfection of God. He is a God of truth, and cannot lie. 

You can trust in God. 

Try it.

17 December 2014

The Light and the Dark

One of the bloggers I love reading wrote the following:
I also learned that whenever and wherever the Lord or His angels appear, the adversary and his minions are likewise permitted to tarry (either to precede or to follow). There must be opposition in all things! (2 Nephi 2:15-16.) The faith that allows one to pierce the veil of heaven also permits the adversary to make his subtle appeals and present his perverse proposals. (Matthew 4:1.) One who sees God is also given to gape into the very jaws of hell. (Doctrine & Covenants 76:44-48.) There is no light without darkness. (Moses 2:4.)
That last phrase stuck in my mind, as passages of scripture have at other times, and I kept turning it over and over, until I realized that it was inverted. Light is not dependent on darkness for its existence. Light is more powerful than darkness. As a good friend is known to say, "When you walk into a dark room and flip the light switch, the darkness doesn't get to argue."

Light exists without darkness, because light is a positive, active, living force. Darkness is the absence of light. It is what exists when something blocks light, when something stands before it.

So, in my own mind, that last phrase reads thusly:
"There is no darkness without light."

16 December 2014

Words Upon Waking

One night a few months back, I crashed super-early. I woke up three hours later, at midnight sharp, with two lines from scripture running through my mind: "O, ye generation of vipers!" and "God is able of these stones to raise up seed unto Abraham." I figured I'd better look them up and see what God had for me to think about.

These weren't snippets I had read recently, nor had I been thinking about them on my own that day.

I Googled "of these stones to raise up seed unto Abraham", since that was the last thing that ran through my head, and found that both phrases were in the same chapter, Matthew 3:
"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Interesting.

15 December 2014

God is Perfect

God is good. Good is God.

God is love. Love is God. Love is of God: it is a part of, an element of, a natural fruit springing from Him.

If something not-good happens, it's a product of the fall, and the sin and death that exist in this world. It's not God's will. It's His will that we humble ourselves and come unto Him. Bad stuff does happen. Often. But it's not God's will. He doesn't speak, and give someone a dreadful disease, or destroy a family through addiction. He does not mete out harsh punishments to "teach us a lesson". That's what an abusive parent would do . . . and we simply don't have an abusive God. We also don't have to "get it right on our own" before we can turn to Him.

Hello . . . His strength is made perfect in our weakness! We don't see it until we run into our weaknesses, and turn to Him!

His grace is sufficient for ALL.

So, remember. God IS good.

14 December 2014

Mercy and Grace

Generally speaking, the acceptance of things as they currently operate in the LDS Church follows a basic premise: "God brought beauty and blessings out of the painful/sad/horrible/difficult/wrong/abusive/sinful thing that happened. Therefore, what happened was His will." That, combined with quotes like this gem from Marion G. Romney, seal the submissive acceptance of whatever does happen:
“I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.”
What this well-intentioned brother is talking about is God's mercy. His mercy is what turns trial into testimony, burden into blessing. In His mercy, Jesus holds back the punishment that justice demands, and blesses us, instead, hoping we will turn to Him in our extremity. Mercy happens, and can only happen, when we justly deserve a whole lot more consequences than we're getting . . . i.e. when we do something wrong, or stupid, and our merciful, loving God finds a way to turn that to benefit His work and to bless us.

Now, mercy is a distinctly different animal from grace. Our own LDS leaders define grace very well, in addition to the link I just provided. The church's website states: "grace is an enabling power".

When someone is gracious, they extend favor to someone who does not deserve it. It is the gracious response of a hostess that ignores the mud tracked onto her pristine floor by the shoes of the farmer's daughter who came to her home in town, or passes it off as nothing when it is noticed. It's the civilized response to another's discomfort, embarrassment, or pain. It is unmerited favor.

God's grace becomes active in our lives when we are following Him. His grace makes us more than we ever could be on our own . . . but it takes faith in Him. True faith, faith unto salvation. It takes us hearing God's word for us when we are turned toward Him, and then accepting that He has already provided all we need, will help us where we are weak, and perform amazing things through us--weak vessels though we may be. It takes us stepping out in faith--sometimes into total darkness, sometimes off a precipice into an abyss--for His Grace to become active in us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us why:
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
I'll repeat myself: grace makes more of us than we could ever be on our own. 

We have to venture into territory where we are unequipped--not because we have no talent or ability, but because our mortal nature and intelligence falls short of the task at hand. It takes us trusting God enough to move forward despite Him calling us into areas of our weakness. Our weaknesses are what allow us to even SEE God's strength. In my 35 years of Molly Mormonhood, I felt such deep devotion to God, and would cry regularly as I shared my testimony. And yet, I never let Him fill my weakness. I gave Him no quarter in which to show forth His power, because I did it all myself.

Do we deserve either mercy or grace? Definitely not. Christ's sacrifice and victory give Him the right to extend them to us. The question is, which power do you invite into your life?

Can we grow in situations where God's mercy is alone manifest? Absolutely. Can we learn deep truths, beautiful things, and be changed for the better through His mercy? Absolutely. But can we learn as much through the operation of God's mercy as we could through the operation of His grace? 

No.

Can we rise up as on wings of eagles, be made into new creatures in Christ Jesus through the baptism of fire that precipitates receiving the Holy Ghost, can we prophesy, heal, cast out devils, move mountains, or work any other work of the Lord Jesus Christ through mercy alone? 

No.

That takes faith, which calls down God's grace.

It's nothing special for a group of people to claim blessings have come to them from God. It's no different from any other group of people anywhere--believer or not. He blesses all people, as often and as richly as He can. He makes the rain to fall, the sun to shine, on the evil as well as the good. The wheat and tares grow up together, and He blesses them all with what they need to survive, and even thrive.

But Mormon gave us a key to know when a people have true faith in Jesus Christ:
"[H]as the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has He withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will He, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in His name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made."
Contrast that with what Jesus Himself told His disciples:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
Please. Take a look at your life. Are you doing the works that we "see", recorded in scripture, that Jesus did? Are you empowered by His grace, and His Spirit, to do even greater works than He did?

Or are you instead living according to this gem from N. Eldon Tanner?
"When the prophet speaks the debate is over."

09 December 2014

The view from where I stand.

This post has been a long time in the making.

I've been publicly silent on matters of the LDS Church for the last couple of years, as my world has been rocked, my faith challenged, pummeled and put through fire.

I'm not offended.

I'm heartbroken.

Throughout my entire life, both in my church and in my parents' home, I was taught that agency ruled supreme. A war in heaven was fought for that freedom to choose. Jesus Christ lived, died, and conquered death so not only could we choose, but He could save us from our inevitable, and sometimes tragic, failings.

I was taught that the priesthood can only be exercised through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.

I was taught that leaders should and would honor, obey, and teach scripture. That the "standard works" are the standard by which ALL other teachings, doctrines, policies and procedures must be judged.

I was taught that we are to love one another, as Jesus did. Not as Lucifer sought to "love" his brothers and sisters by compelling them to choose as he wished.

I was taught to love and serve Jesus Christ.

But I didn't realize how much I depended upon and trusted in my leadership until this whole experience began. Having leaders that don't trust you puts an entirely new spin on things. On everything.

I had to find Jesus. Really and truly find Him, for myself. I no longer had the approval of those that I had relied on my entire life for validation and identity. I had to learn who Jesus thought I was. For real.

He was found.

In fire.

And overwhelming love.

That changed me, fundamentally. Totally. From the inside out. I KNEW. I know. And I couldn't hide it, not in my demeanor, not in my smile, not in my voice. I had a confidence in certain things that felt like a lion roaring in my chest. And even though I didn't feel as though I formed my words differently, and I didn't speak any louder, my comments in Sunday School were suddenly received very, very differently. Others heard it. And the overall response was discomfort. Distance. Uneasy silence in the very room in which I had taught and participated in lessons for years, with full acceptance and respect.

As the months passed, things continued to deteriorate. Well-intentioned ward members said the expected phrases, and I knew well the tone they used . . . I had used it before, many times. It was the sincere feeling of one who had absolutely no idea what the other person is going through, and the chasm is so great between the speaker and the hearer that the hearer feels powerless to speak out, to speak up, to actually say what is going on and to be heard. And, for the first time, I was not the speaker of those phrases. I was the hearer. And I had so little hope of actually being heard, of being understood, that I couldn't speak.

And I can tell you this: the number of active, faithful, true-believing Mormons that have any idea of what actually goes on in the hearts and minds of those who go "less active" is so small as to be statistically insignificant. "Oh, they were offended," is the most common response. I wasn't offended, unless you consider the word in light of how Matthew 18:6 in the King James Version was translated:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Children have no pride to offend. But you can definitely hurt them.

I have had to work through some pride . . . after all, I'm no longer a child. But I'm not where I am right now because my pride was offended. I am where I am because I, along with my family members, have been hurt and betrayed. Not just by some members of our ward--those supposed to be as family to us--but also by leadership of the church at every level, leadership that actively teaches and preaches contrary to the Word of God.

Leaders who say, "you will do this my way, because I am your priesthood leader", when their opinion or personal preference varies from the directions I have received directly from the Lord, or even scripture.

Leaders who say, "if I hear you have talked to anyone about your beliefs, you will be excommunicated".

Leaders who, in response to scripture that contradicts the position they hold, say "Let's see what our current prophets have to say about that".

Leaders who say, sustaining is like an oath that binds us to obey, who say "look to us", and "we cannot lead you astray".

Leaders who hold up the basic business leadership practices of Babylon and call them continuing revelation. Leaders who preach a leadership-based version of vox populi, vox dei

In response to leaders who stand in agreement with those things listed above, at whatever level they serve, I say:

  • The man we revere as the founding prophet of the LDS Church said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."
  • The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that correction is to be done clearly, early, through teaching and persuasion, with love.
  • God will never contradict Himself. When He says something, He means it. He knows the end from the beginning, and doesn't need to correct Himself or take "do-overs". He gets it right. The first time.
  • Oaths to follow men began with Master Mahan, and have only wreaked havoc since then.
  • Setting oneself up as a light is the very definition of priestcraft.
  • The wisdom of the corporate world, the checks and balances their boards use to amass wealth, are no substitute for the unmistakable, ringing truth of the Word of God.
  • Unanimity never has, and never will, be a sure way to determine God's will.

07 December 2014

What "sustaining" now means.

On September 23rd, Vern and I met with our bishop, at the bishop's request. This is the email we received two days before:


We met in the bishop's office, and he clarified that he wanted to discuss the fourth question in the temple recommend interview, because Vern had made a couple of comments in Gospel Doctrine just before that which weren't in agreement with the instructor's views. The question he wanted to discuss was this:
#4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church? 
I'll leave Vern's story for him to tell. Mine is simple. After he was done talking with Vern about this question, the bishop asked me if I sustained the leaders of the church as prophets, seers and revelators. I opened my mouth to answer that I sustained them with my prayers and faith, as the Doctrine and Covenants encourages, when he cut me off and asked:
"If you lived in the time of Brigham Young, and he said the saints were going west, would you have gone?"
 My answer was straightforward and simple:
"If God said "Go", I'd go. If He said "Stay", I'd stay.
I left that office without a recommend, because, according to my bishop, my answer did not satisfy the current requirements of sustaining leaders.

It has been strange, not being a "card carrying Mormon" for the first time in my life. It's even more strange, having run afoul of this strangely-morphed version of the faith I have loved my whole life. And yet, I'm grateful for the overt insanity of the last couple of years' interaction with my leadership, as it has revealed a great deal of the traditions of my fathers.