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Recently I wrote a post asking the question about what being a “Utah Mormon” means.  I was surprised by the amount of visitors and controversy it stirred up.  As stated in my purpose, it isn’t my intention to hurt anyone of any faith so in order to keep things light-hearted I thought I’d do something fun with the Utah Mormon thing to end the discussion on a positive note. 

My father-in-law suggested a top ten list last night and I thought it would be fun.  I’m going to have you help me with a top ten list.  I have taken ten comments from readers of the post on Utah Mormon culture and will list them in random order.  What I ask of you as a reader is to help me rank the top ten comments and in awhile I’ll share the results.  In addition if you’d like to share any experiences or comments on any of these items, feel free to do so. 

I have tons of relatives in Utah and I was born and have lived in Utah as well so for those of you in Utah I hope you realize that the term “Utah Mormon” is simply a stereotype that I’ve heard floating around out there and thought it would be fun to discuss.  It isn’t my intention to hurt anyones feelings because heck, I’m probably a Utah Mormon myself!

O.k……(drum roll)….let’s get started!

What it Means to be a Utah Mormon Top Ten List

- I don’t know how to describe one, but I know one when I see one.

- “Utah Mormons” take Mormonism to the extreme

- “Utah Mormons” are characterized by their explicitives (Gosh!, Darn!, Heck!, and Fetch!)

- “Utah Mormons” think General Authorities are like rock stars (my wife loved this one…she shared with me an experience she had a BYU when some of her friends waited to see Elder Eyring and get their pictures and his autograph.  When they came back they were pumped and going crazy…like you’d see at a rock concert :)

- “Utah Mormons” love green Jell-o

- Except for being on a mission, a Utah Mormon has never ventured outside of the “Mormon Corridor”

- “Utah Mormons” are nice, kind, and loving people

- “Utah Mormons” may take for granted what they have

- “Utah Mormons” are innocent in their knowledge of other faiths and/or cultures

- A “Utah Mormon” is someone who would be content living in Utah County all of their days

 

In college, I skimmed through the book by Victor Frankl entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Recently I decided to read it again and spend a little more time digesting the concepts. 

For those unfamiliar with this book, it is a book written by Victor Frankl about his experiences in a concentration camp.  What is so impressive with this man is that before he was sent to the concentration camp he was a doctor of psychology.  He had been working on some essays and a book that defined man’s search for meaning and happiness and what motivates man to keep trying.  In his book, he describes how he was offered a position at a college in the United States before the Nazis came into Austria, where he lived.  Had he taken this position, he would have been safe and would have never entered into the concentration camp.  However, one day when he found out his parents were going to more than likely be sent to the camps he felt torn because he felt responsibilty to care for them.  He describes how one day he read in the Bible (Frankl was Jewish) to honor your father and your mother.  He took this as an answer from God and sacrificed his trip to America.  A few months later, he was caring for his father in a concentration camp as his father passed away. 

Going back to the concentration camp experience, Frankl describes what happened when he arrived.  First, they took all of his belongings, which only consisted of a suitcase, coat, etc. and disposed of them.  Next, they stripped the prisoners down to nothing and then shaved them completely naked.  Very humiliating. 

As I was reading this I had a thought about who we as human beings really are.  How would I view myself if I had a similar situation?  If everything was taken from me…my house, money, job, clothes…hair (that’s actually on it’s way out right now: )…how would I view myself?  Would I still view myself with dignity knowing that I am a child of God?  Would I still act and think thoughts about myself as a divine being with unlimited potential? 

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of someone who went through this when he was stripped down to nothing and whipped, beaten, and hung on the cross.  Jesus taught to love in spite of all hell coming at you and he lived the perfect example of how to do this in dignity.  He spoke with purpose.  He chose not to speak at times such as when before kings and people mocking him and showed quite dignity.  He taught to forsake all earthly posessions and to not set our hearts on riches.

Trying to love Jesus more fully and live His teachings is how we can ultimately find more meaning in our lives.  When all is said and done, we are nothing without Him. 

I encourage us all to take steps in prayer and read God’s Word so we can continually develop traits and find our ultimate meaning and purpose in life.

Because of the recent media on the Fundamentalist LDS group that “got busted” in Texas for abuse and polygamy the LDS church has made efforts to distance itself from this sect.  Below is a recent interview with the LDS public affairs representative regarding the churches current stance on polygamy and how it wants the world to view the LDS church:

 

Polygamy is a huge issue and it is a great concern still for members of the LDS church.  Some have concerns with polygamy and say the LDS church still “practices” polygamy in the sense that it is still a revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants section 132.  In addition, people are still married in temples for eternity to spouses after one spouse passes away, so polygamy is technically still a part of LDS doctrine. 

Depending on the Christian you speak with, they will either denounce or embrace polygamy.  Generally speaking, the Christian world claims the Bible to be the only word of God.  The Bible contains polygamy all throughout it’s text and depending on which Christian denomonation you speak with, they can argue for or against it.  Here’s a christian website discussing the issue: http://www.gotquestions.org/polygamy.html.  Here’s another website that has people, including pastors arguing for polygamy and that true Christianity should allow polygamy with other Christians arguing against it: http://www.answering-christianity.com/ntpoly.htm.  As you can see in many cases interpretations of scripture are a matter of semantics as to whether God truly “approved” polygamy in the Bible or not and are up for interpretation.

Those who follow the LDS faith could have an easier time answering the polygamy question than their fellow Christians due to the fact they believe in modern, continuing revelation. 

Joseph Smith stated “I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 324). The LDS website also says polygamy isn’t allowed unless God directs it.  Therefore, God can take away polygamy or ordain it through his prophets as he did through Nathan in the Bible (2 Samuel 12:8).  Currently the LDS church doesn’t practice polygamy on grounds of a reveleation from a prophet named Wilford Woodruff that is contained in the Doctrine and Covenants in the “Official Declaration 1.”

However, there are still some questions that remain for both LDS christians and other Christians who believe in the Bible:

If the LDS church wants to take such a strong stance against polygamy, shouldn’t the church completely take it out of it’s doctrine, since it is still supported in D&C 132?  Why or why not?

Also, if one is to consider himself/herself a true Christian, should they believe in polygamy because it is supported in the Bible?  Why or why not?

 

Recently my wife and I spent some time in the Florida Keys.  It was amazing and nice to get out of the cold Seattle weather.

One evening under a full moon, we decided to walk along the beach and enjoy the amazing smells and sounds of the ocean.  We came upon a pier that went a few hundred yards out into the ocean and decided to venture out there.  Upon arriving, we saw some local fishermen fishing off the dock.  Suddenly one of them shouted “that’s a shark!”  We ran over to the fishermen and sure enough…a little hammer-head looking shark had been reeled in.  We all became instant friends as we talked with the fishermen about amazing stories of crocodiles, sharks, varieties of fish, life on the ocean, and hurricanes.  I was intrigued by their comments…especially about hurricanes.  They told me stories of huge hurricanes where the surge from the ocean was so huge that the island was covered with water and sharks were swimming in the streets. 

Fishermen tend to be good story tellers, so I’m not claiming that everything they said was 100% accurate, but it was fun to listen to non-the-less. 

After their conversation, I thought about the natural disasters we’ve had (flooding, etc.) in our part of the country recently and I thought about the prophet’s admonision to “prepare for a rainy day.”  I wasn’t going to write about this until I read a post on the Millenial Star about the role of prophets.  One of the comments mentioned something about preparing for a rainy day.  I thought I’d share what my wife and I have been doing in order to plan and prepare for a disaster. 

The LDS church is huge on planning and preparing for emergencies, getting finances in order, and many other things necessary for today’s uncertain economy.  This website is great to educate yourself on how to plan and prepare: http://www.providentliving.org/welcome/0,10803,1653-1,00.html

In addition, I’ve found a great website to order food supplies, etc.  We order something each month to add to our food storage.  This website is awesome and has the lowest costs out of any that I’ve seen: www.beprepared.com.  I think it is good to start with basic things like a 72 hour kit (www.code72.net) for each member of the family and then move up to food and water storage, extra clothing, etc.  If you set aside some money each month to spend on this, it could be the best insurance you have.

I know this isn’t the typical post, but I thought I’d share this for those who haven’t started their home storage.  If anyone has any other suggestions or ideas they’ve used in planning, feel free to share!  No one wants to get caught in a crisis with sharks swimming in their front yard!

P.S. I just had a thought that in addition to temporal storage we need to be constantly focusing on spiritual “storage” preparing to be closer to the Lord.  This is a whole post in and of itself so I won’t go into details, but feel free to share your ideas on this…

 

Recently one of the members of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons or LDS) gave an excellent talk entitled “Faith of our Father.”  This talk is excellent for those in the LDS church and all Christians.  I was especially moved by the following remarks:

When my own family contemplates the phrase “faith of our fathers,” often it is the Lutheran faith that comes to mind. For generations our ancestors belonged to that denomination. In fact, my son recently discovered that one of our family lines connects back to Martin Luther himself.

We honor and respect sincere souls from all religions, no matter where or when they lived, who have loved God, even without having the fulness of the gospel. We lift our voices in gratitude for their selflessness and courage. We embrace them as brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father.

We believe that it is a fundamental human right to worship “Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”4

As I reflected on these comments my thoughts turned to my sister and brother-in-law who are members of a non-denominational Christian church.  They are youth ministers and feel called to help youth know Jesus.  I’ve been touched as they’ve shared their experiences with me of miracles they’ve seen with prayer, healings they’ve witnessed, places the Lord has called them to go, etc.  It has been a great example to me of how to turn one’s heart over to the Lord and serve as He would serve.  If you want to check out their website it is under my “Evangelical” section of this blog under “Ignite.”  You can read more about their ministry and how the Lord is working in their lives.

Next, I thought about my mother who is a member of another Christian faith.  She is another great example of following her heart and following the Lord.  She is always calling me with some great scriptures she has read and something she’s heard from one of her favorite pastors on Christian radio.  I also love praying together with her and the sincerity she as a Christian shows for the Lord. She is another great example of a righteous woman who has turned her heart to the Lord.  I’m grateful for her example.

I then thought of some of my friends from other faiths who have helped me throughout my life.  Many of whom have commented on this blog from time to time.  One such friend commented in one of my earlier posts entitled “Receiving and Recognizing Answers to Prayer” when she made a comment on how prayer is a sacred conversation.  Some more of my Christian friends made some good comments and analogies on the “Making our Hearts a Manger” post a couple months ago.

Also, there are many of you who frequent this site who are at varying stages in spirituality…most are Christian and a few do not profess any faith that I have learned from and respect.  Some of you I’ve emailed personally and responded to personally and I appreciate your example of continuing to learn and grow and the desire to be closer to Jesus.  It helps me with my relationship with the Lord. 

I want to thank you personally for sharing what you have learned and continue to learn.  I feel we all are from the same God who created us and that He works through us as we are willing to learn and come to Him through prayer.  Sincere seekers of truth in all religions and faiths sharing their ideas and spiritual growth are what makes us all grow closer to God and Jesus Christ.  I hope we can all continue to learn and grow together.

Today I was at a company and an African-american gentleman visited my table.  We talked politics and of course religion.  We talked about how regardless of religion how God loves us all the same.  We talked about the Spirit we’ve felt in various churches and other situations irregardless to church affiliation.  When he found out I was LDS he was a little suprised.  He then told me he agreed with a lot of LDS teachings but because of past prejudice towards blacks and receiving the priesthood he couldn’t endorse the LDS church.  I told him I could understand his situation and didn’t blame him for feeling that way.  I went on further to say that I disagreed with the statements Brigham Young and many other apostles had said about blacks being an inferior race.  We talked some more and then he said something that I’ve heard in the church, but didn’t realize non-LDS Christians said.  He told me I wasn’t a “Utah Mormon.” 

I thanked him and told him that when I lived in Utah (Provo) I didn’t really feel like I fit in.  However, I later reflected on what is a “Utah Mormon” anyway?  I mean, I was born in Utah…does that make me a Utah Mormon?  I do my home teaching every month, I read scriptures, I pray, attend temple, church…all of it.  So why would he say I’m not a “Utah Mormon”? 

One of my other friends of another faith told me one time I was the coolest Mormon he’d ever met.  Maybe you can help me out…what is your definition of a “Utah Mormon” and why would someone outside of the church think Utah Mormons were “uncool”? 

In General Conference this week one of the Twelve Apostles, Jeffrey Holland said (paraphrased) that many Christians err in the verses in Revelation 22:18-19 that state:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

  19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book 
President Holland goes on to state that the “words of the book of this prophecy” are pertaining to only the book of Revelation and that having additional scripture such as the Book of Mormon is not adding or taking away from the book of Revelation.  He says many Christians err in that they think the “book of this prophecy” is the whole Bible and that many books in the Bible were written well after the book of Revelation was written. 
If this is the case, one could argue that even though Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and other scripture, he did indeed add to the book of Revelation in at least five chapters which you can view here (make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the Book of Revelation translations).  One could argue that the hard life Joseph led and the imprisonments he had to face, the many babies that he and Emma had that died, and ultimately what caused his death were all part of the curses described in the book of Revelation.
The curse in Revelation doesn’t only mention adding to the book, but taking away from the book as well.  One could argue on the other hand that Joseph Smith wasn’t adding anything, but he was restoring the “plain and precious truths” that were taken out of the Bible as the Book of Mormon suggests.  One could argue that the “curses” that came as a result were persecution that has happened to other earlier Christians who translated the Bible or to those who don’t have the “fulness of the gospel.”  One could argue that Joseph Smith was persecuted because Satan was trying to thwart the work from progressing, etc. 
I can see why someone could side on the first option.  Especially those Christians who believe the Bible is all God has revealed and ever will reveal and that further revelation isn’t necessary and that throughout all the years there hasn’t been anything taken out of the Bible.  However I personally disagree with this.  I feel that continuing revelation is necessary and that many truths were indeed taken out of the Bible throughout the years.  In addition, if God had prophets and apostles before why wouldn’t he have them now?
What are your thoughts?

In the Bible, James talks about pure religion, which (summarized) is visiting the less fortunate and lifting them up.  This is the essence of humanitarian efforts throughout the world and according to James what religion should be all about.

As a member, I give 10% of my income towards tithing and an additional 5-10% towards what we call fast offerings or humanitarian efforts. During Priesthood Meeting this past Saturday, Bishop Burton gave information on the humanitarian efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   I was touched deeply as I saw the impact the LDS church has had for good in the world and felt honored to have donated a fraction of the money for such good causes.  It was also good to see that the LDS church teams up with other organizations such as the Red Cross to help those who are less fortunate in the world to have a greater impact.  I will include some highlights and information regarding the humanitarian efforts of the LDS Church. 

Humanitarian Efforts

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides relief and development projects for humanitarian purposes in countries all over the world. Projects operate without regard to the nationality or religion of the recipients.
  • Humanitarian service may include emergency response to natural disasters, such as an earthquake or a tsunami, or man-made disasters, such as the effects of war and famine. It may also be part of a longer-term effort to meet serious and more entrenched human needs, such as the need to alleviate disease.
    • Within hours of a disaster, the Church works with local government officials to determine what supplies and food are needed. Materials are then immediately sent to the area.
    • After urgent needs are met, the Church looks for additional ways to help with the long-term needs of the community. The Church’s approach is to help people become self-reliant by teaching skills and providing resources for a self-sustained life.
    • Donations, principally from Church members but also from people around the world, are used to make relief projects possible. One hundred percent of the donations given to the Church’s humanitarian services are used for relief efforts. The Church absorbs its own overhead costs.
    • The humanitarian services arm of the Church sponsors five ongoing global projects to help people become more self-reliant. Initiatives include neonatal resuscitation training, clean water projects, wheelchair distribution, vision treatment and measles vaccinations.

Some Humanitarian Stats

  • In 2003, the Church sent its first shipment of Atmit to Ethiopia to help relieve the starvation that 12 million people were facing. The first shipment comprised 80,000 pounds of the mixture.
  • In 2006, 54,840 wheelchairs were distributed in 54 countries: Albania, American Samoa, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Barbados, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
  • As part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ vision treatment program, volunteer ophthalmologists assist medical care providers around the world with training and equipment to treat simple vision problems. Since 2003, the Church’s efforts have assisted 20,000 people. In 2006, training was conducted in 10 countries: Albania, Argentina, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kiribati, Mozambique and Nigeria.
  • From 1985 to 2006, the Church has shipped 54,905 tons of food and 107,061 tons of other supplies to more than 150 countries.  In 2006, the Church provided $14.9 million (USD) in cash and materials in response to the conflict in Lebanon, the earthquake in Indonesia, for refugees in Burundi, Sudan and Uganda, and 76 other disasters.
  • There are many other stats that you can view online.  Bishop Burton gave the updated statistics in his talk and I’m assuming that information should be available by the end of this week.

    How You Can Help

    If you are interested in contributing to these efforts there are numerous ways you can do so.  I know that in our church we put together emergency kits for the people in Mexico during the floods last year.  You can also simply donate money and many other opportunities as well.  For more information on how to help check out this website: http://www.lds.org/library/page/display/0,7098,6433-1-3298-1,00.html

    I am very grateful to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and feel the Lord has blessed me abundantly.  I am grateful and feel it a privelage to give my money and know 100% of the money is being used for helping others. 

    One of the main concerns many people have from other faiths is that for certain sins within the Mormon church the members need to confess to their Bishop.  LDS bishops are considered “judges of Israel” and therefore the concept is they sit in judgement in place of the Lord.  This practice isn’t uncommon as I know the Catholic church also has confession. 

     I’m unfamiliar with the history of confession and if someone knows, that would be great to add to the comments.  I did however go through the scriptures and see what I could find scripturally in support of or against confession to a person rather than the lord. 

    Conflicting scriptures:

    Morm. 8: 20 man shall not . . . judge: for judgment is mine.
    D&C 20: 13 by them (the scriptures) shall the world be judged.
    John 12: 47 I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world.
    Mosiah 29: 12 better that a man should be judged of God than of man.

    Scriptures of People judging in place of Lord:

    Ex. 18: 13 Moses sat to judge the people.
    Obad. 1: 21 saviours shall . . . judge the mount of Esau.
    1 Cor. 6: 2 saints shall judge the world.
    1 Cor. 6: 3 know ye not that we shall judge angels.
    1 Ne. 12: 9 twelve apostles . . . shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
    D&C 29: 12 to judge the whole house of Israel.
    D&C 58: 17 appointed to be a judge in Israel.
    Morm. 3: 18 twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged . . . by the twelve whom Jesus chose.
    Morm. 3: 19 this people . . . judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land.

    Lord is judge:

    Isa. 33: 22 Lord is our judge.
    John 5: 22 Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.

    Final Judgement:

    D&C 29: 12 to judge (Christ’s apostles) the whole house of Israel.
    D&C 88: 99 (1 Pet. 4: 6; D&C 138: 34) be judged according to men in the flesh.
    D&C 137: 9 Lord, will judge all men according to their works.
    2 Ne. 28: 23 stand before the throne of God, and be judged.
    1 Ne. 15: 33 stand before God, to be judged.
    Alma 11: 41 rise from the dead and . . . be judged.
    Alma 41: 3 men should be judged according to their works.

    I would love to hear peoples’ thoughts on why or why not is it necessary to confess sins to clergy?

    Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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