Saturday, January 30, 2016

Choice & Accountability

Choice and Accountability. 

As a teenager I learned frequently that I am responsible for my own choices. Not my parents' choices, friends' choices, my choices. Not the government's choices, not my school's choices, not my church's choices. If I disagree with their choices, I get to choose how to respond or react, but I cannot control the reaction of others to my choices. I am accountable for my actions and my reactions. 

I cannot hold others responsible for my choices, although they may certainly influence me.  Should my associations persecute me and cause me to hate my life, it is I who is responsible for how I react to their treatment.  

I cannot blame the world for my choices, actions, or lack of actions. I can only blame them for how they act upon me and my circumstances.  

Agency at all costs. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lehi's Intercession

1 Nephi 1:3-4 
For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.  
Historians estimate that this was referring to a time around 600 B.C.  At this time, Lehi was not described as being a prophet, himself.  But he heard the voices of many prophets, not just one, who were expressing to the Jerusalemites the great need to repent.  If not, their great city must be destroyed.

What were their great sins that needed repenting of?  Nephi did not take the time to explain specifics here, but he explains Lehi's reaction of praying as he went forth.  It does not sound like he entered his closet or even his bedroom here, but was out and about still, talking to the Lord with all his heart, in behalf – or in other words, in intercession – of his people.

I believe there is much we can do yet in coming to the Lord through the act of intercession, and not giving up hope for those we feel are in wicked paths.

Ironically Lehi did not run to the ecclesiastical leaders, enlisting their assistance in supporting the prophets who were rejected and mocked in 1 Nephi 1.  Nor did he rally other members to his aid.  He went straight to the Lord, en route to wherever he was going.

And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.  
And it came to pass that he returned to his own home at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.  
And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision... -1 Nephi 1:6-8 (partial)
Our relationship with the Lord is not dependent upon our acceptance into a crowd of believers (or non-believers, what have you), who accept or reject our message or beliefs.  Additionally it is not dependent upon our acceptance into clubs, churches, or other mortal groups of like-minded thinkers who can kick you out, although these can give great comfort or feelings of acceptance with their paper-based membership records.  If we believe Lehi's experience with the Lord was real, then in the first eight verses of the Book of Mormon we are shown a very efficient narrative on how to know the Lord in real life.  Pour out your heart to him in intercession of another, and he will manifest himself to you in one way or another, whether it be through a pillar of fire, hands, energy or love through the veil, or face to face.  If we follow the pattern established through Lehi's example, one can see that this part is just the beginning of what might be experienced while yet in the flesh. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thoughtful Questions on Official Declaration 1

Listed below is an excerpt of an address offered by President Wilford Woodruff, which was given following the release of Official Declaration 1.  It is included in the 1981 copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, held in LDS Scriptures:

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."
A few questions I would pose to the thoughtful reader:

1. What does "lead you astray" mean?  To lead one away from some one, some thing, or some belief or doctrine?
2. What would it look like for one to be "removed out of their place"?

  • Would it resemble being murdered with a gun, knife, or other weapon?
  • Would it resemble poisoning? 
  • Would it resemble being imprisoned? 
  • Would it resemble crucifixion? 
  • Would it resemble bleeding from every pore? 
  • Would it resemble being falsely accused or persecuted?  
  • Would it resemble being voted out? 
  • Would it resemble division, strife, or envy? 
  • Would it resemble death of natural causes? 
(photo source)

3. Does the fact that Christ, Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and the early apostles who walked and talked with Christ were murdered through weapons, crucifixion, persecution, and other means of early, untimely death were leading us astray?  Did God remove them, their "oracles", and their duty, because of their inaccuracy of teachings?  Or is this simply a new doctrine, unlike any doctrine previously taught in the scriptures, that untimely death means that one is teaching incorrect principles?  

Here are the first lines of Official Declaration – 1:

To Whom It May Concern: 

Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy–

I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false.  We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.

One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake city, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge.  In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.  

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.  

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved.  And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.  

-Wilford Woodruff
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

4. The yellow highlighted words stood out to me as words pertaining to legalese or public release/policy statements.  If this were to be regarded as a revelation from God, where is the reference to Him revealing the change?  All previous revelations contained some sort of directive, indicating that the Lord had given instruction.  This contains no such thing, nor any reference whatsoever to Jesus Christ or Father in Heaven.  Where is the Lord's voice in the matter?  

5. Why was this recorded in our scriptures as an Official Declaration, rather than a revelation?  What implications does this have for our current declarations, proclamations, and policy changes?  Is this acceptable to speak for the Lord without referring to Him?  Or is this inferring His name without declaring it, in essence implying it vain, without the power of His name included?

These are just some questions to consider.  It seems that there are a lot of things coming down the pipe that model this sort of transaction.  It would be wise to consider what is revelation and what is personal persuasion and opinion.    

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ether 12:14

Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost. Perhaps we should not be so faithless as to suppose it is worth giving up on making any effort of harvesting fruit from our labors. Are we not servants in the vineyard? 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Oh Say, What is Truth -

Oh say, what is truth? 
'Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce
and priceless the value
of truth will be when
the proud monarch's costliest diadem
is counted but dross and refuse.
Yes, say, what is truth? 
'Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire
Go search in the depths
where it glittering lies
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
'Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
The sceptre may fall from the despot's grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes
But the pillar of truth
will endure to the last
and its firm rooted bullwarks outstand the rude blast
and the wreck of the fell tyrant's hopes.
Then say, what is truth? 
'Tis the last and the first
For the limits of time it steps o'er
Tho the heavens depart and
the earth's fountains burst
Truth, the sum of existence will weather the worst
Eternal, Unchanged, Evermore.
- John Jaques, 1827-1900

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sabbath Day Playdates

"Gather it six days, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there is none. "  And it came to be that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none.  And YHWH said to Mosheh, 'How long shall you refuse to guard My commands and My Torot?  See, because YHWH has given you the Sabbath, therefore He is giving you bread for two days on the sixth day.  Let each one stay in his place, do not let anyone go out of his place on the seventh day.'  So the people rested on the seventh day. - Exodous 16:26-30 

The New Year is upon us and this year I've been quite reflective of Sabbath Day activities.  Our local leaders have fallen suit in encouraging us to keep the Sabbath Day holy, per the recommendations and encouragement from the First Presidency.  All good things, right?

Several years ago, we had lived in Utah, and as taught and encouraged then too, we sought to spend the Sabbath together as a family.  This translated in my brain to mean that "friend" activities would be excluded, although home teaching/visiting teaching was questionable.  Depending on the ward or how they remembered (or forgot) the First Presidency letter from years ago (encouraging us NOT to do this on Sunday), I may or may not feel it appropriate to allow my kids to play with their friends on Sunday.

(photo source)

Well in this ward, during this time, I felt it my duty to keep our family tightly knit together, alllll day.  I hoped we could read scriptures and watch church videos and all those wonderful things.  Except that in large measure, we didn't do these things, and my kids began to resent that I didn't let them play with their friends.  After all, what were we doing that was any different than any other day, with exception of not going shopping?

On more than one occasion, I declined a friend to play with my son.  At the time the main boys coming to play were dealing with things at home.  One did not have a father in the home.  Not my business, really.  The other two would come over and inevitably my son would end up with bumps and bruises, due to their fist fights or hill rolls or some other battles with Light Sabres or plastic swords.  I didn't appreciate them as much as I should have, and would send them home, saying we were doing things as a family that day.

Shortly after (or perhaps even during) this time, those latter two boys had their father leave their mother for another woman.  And the boys jointly got diagnosed with varying Autism spectrum disorders, making a lot of their behavior more understandable.  I was so judgmental.

Since moving out of that area, these boys have also wound up in the care of the state or other agencies.  I don't know all the details, but their mother (and my friend) frequently posts on Facebook, asking for prayers or help dealing with the hurt of her situation.  How she wishes the boys could come home to live with her.  How she longs to find a suitable husband (and father) for her boys, and she wishes that their own dad would pay them just the slightest bit of attention.  They just wanted love.

I look back on this period with quite a bit of regret.  At present, where we live, there are also boys with which my son can play, however at this point, the roles are reversed.  The parents of these new local boys are largely disinterested in having their sons play with mine.  My son is seen as a little more "rough" or in some ways, distasteful (thank you autocorrect for turning the word "fine" into "fag" in that text).

So now my son looks forward to seeing his friends at Church on Sunday.  Only the friends from Church are likewise ardent believers that to keep the Sabbath Day holy, they must retain their time together as a family, not sending their boys out on playdate trades.  I miss those years when I was a kid when my mom sent me to another family's home half an hour away, because they were good people she trusted me to be with.  And I look back on those years when I too wouldn't let my boy play on Sunday, and realize that the law of restoration is real.  What we give out is returned to us again, sometimes in this life and sometimes in the next.  But inevitably it is returned, in some way.

More than once have I wondered if those boys were coming to my home because they sensed something there beyond my son, perhaps something that they were longing for in their own home?  Or perhaps they just wanted to play, and a boy up the street = fun!  But I sent them away, in lieu of keeping the Sabbath holier than playing somehow allowed.

Repentance is a wonderful thing – I am thankful to the Lord that I have another day to seek His forgiveness, and theirs and their mother's, for my piousness and unrighteous judgment.  I wish I could do more.