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Those of you who have read this blog over the years know of my past struggles with Anxiety and Depression. Many of you know my story and how I was able to overcome anxiety and depression.
Since writing the book, Discovering Light, I have been contacted by other bloggers, medical practitioners, and non-profit companies to share my story. I feel that anxiety and depression is something that is only recently being acknowledged and accepted in society and in order to help inform people, I welcome all opportunities to share my story.
One thing I’ve learned is that each person struggles with anxiety and depression in a unique way and there isn’t a cure-all for everyone. Many people struggle for years and feel terribly alone and isolated.
When one of the administrators of the website: With Real Intent reached out to me about a series they are doing on anxiety and depression and asked me to write an article, I gladly accepted.
The series is called Peculiar Minds and has articles from many different people who are or have suffered from anxiety and/or depression in various forms. It is very interesting to see what works for some people and how each person deals with anxiety and depression. I wish that there had been this type of site when I was struggling.
I encourage you to visit their site and forward this on to anyone who may be struggling at this time.
Last November, I wrote a post entitled ”The Democrat Party is Satan’s Plan?” and relayed an experience I had in Sunday School class with conservative members openly discussing politics and how they thought Democrats were following Satan. Needless to say, the article created a stir among both Republican and Democrat Mormons and Christians alike.
One of my friends I’ve met through this blog, who happens to be a Mormon Democrat, emailed me personally about the article I wrote and wanted to have a Democrat point of view heard on the blog. Although we differ in political views, we share many common religious views and as I’ve stated over and again, one of the purposes of this blog is to bring people together and closer to Christ regardless of our religious and/or political views. Therefore, I decided to interview him via email responses since he is a Mormon Democrat and I am not. Also, since today is President’s Day, I thought it would be good to share this.
Before I get into the interview questions, I’ll share a little bit of his background.
Background of my Mormon Democrat Friend
My friend lives in the Philedelphia area and is currently serving as the Stake Sunday School President. He works as a regional manager and is successful in his field. He and I have talked on occasion since we are in the same field of work and the conversations we’ve had have helped me.
He is married and has raised 4 children. Three of whom have served full-time missions. He has served throughout his life in the church accepting callings as Gospel Doctrine teacher, Young Men’s leader, Seminary instructor (similar to leading a bible study), and other callings.
He also serves his community and is currently the Judge of Elections in his town that is just outside of Philadelphia.
The reason why I share his background is because I think most Mormons (at least the ones in the West where I live) are Republican and assume that all Mormons share the same political view. If we saw my friend actively working in his church callings and community service, you probably wouldn’t be able to distiguish if he were Republican or Democrat unless you engaged in a political conversation with him. My hope is that this interview can open up some dialogue, tolerance, and understanding between Mormon Republicans and Democrats and that we can do a better job of working together respectfully in spite of our political differences.
Initial response when asked if he would do an interview
I’ll discuss them with you but I won’t get into a debate, argument or fight over them. One, that’s not me and two, my positions are constantly changing and evolving. As I gain new understanding and light, my positions change and evolve. This approach has served me well as it has allowed me to not just use the light and knowledge I’ve been blessed with to keep me on the right path but I’ve leverage the insight I’ve been given to deepen my understanding and see farther. I will say though, that I leave open the possibility up front that my views are wrong and may need to be abandoned tomorrow. Most of us make more bad decisions than we make right choices, are wrong more often than we’re right, myself, especially myself (!) included.
1. How have you been able to “keep the faith” so to speak while being surrounded by conservative Mormons who oftentimes say things very derogatory about your views?
It’s been challenging at times. I give as well as I get so I go easy on those who want to put me or my political party right up there with Satan. I know they are wrong. What else matters. Fact is most members of the church haven’t thought deeply about their political positions as they relate to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are more Republican and conservative than they are Mormon and Christian. I don’t see that changing anytime soon despite the very best efforts of the brethren to yank us back and get all of us to be more reasonable and patient with each other.
2. How do you see your political affiliation lining up with your religious beliefs?
As Harry Reid said in a BYU devotional last year, “I’m a Democrat (and a liberal) because I am Mormon.” That says it all.
3. What is your perspective on people of the same faith who are of a different political party?
They have as much right to be wrong as I do.
4. Where do you think Christian and Mormon Democrats and Republicans can find common ground?
Simple answer; We should unite around the church’s three fold mission, to which “caring for the poor and needy” was added last year making it a four-fold mission. Except it’s not called the mission of the church any more. Rather the handbook refers to the four functions as “divinely appointed responsibilities” Look it up in the Handbook of Instructions, I believe Chapter two, Section 2.2 to be precise. If more of us, especially me, would stop pontificating about the evils of the federal welfare system ( and it is evil!) and actually use the inspiration and the guidance of the sprit, to which we so often pat ourselves on the back for possessing, and do something significant and substantial to help the poor and the needy, poverty would be reduced and Zion would be established a lot faster.
5. You brought up an article from 1998 that mentioned one of the church General Authority’s stating that there should be more Mormon Democrats. Why do you think they advocated this?
According to Elder Jensen, and I take him at his word since 1) he is a General Authority or was at the time of the interview anyway 2) the interview was conducted in the Church Office Building in SLC giving it an added emphasis and endorsement and 3) the interview was authorized directly by the Prophet and Quorum of the 12, he stated the brethren thought it wise the church not be perceived to be aligned with any one party, that there were times when the church would need the help of both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republican and that if 80 to 90 percent of the members are Republican, Democratic lawmakers would be less likely to come to church’s side in times of need. Now doesn’t that make a lot of sense! Don’t you just love the Prophet! Wouldn’t it be cool if more of us paid attention to what he and the Q of the 12 said and did? Just saying.
Although I don’t agree politically with everything my Mormon Democrat friend(s) believe, I think that it is good to try and understand their perspective.
This interview is just a first step, but an example of how we can open up and try to learn from others who may not have the same views that we have. The main thing I learned from this interview was that my friend has a sincere desire to follow the Lord as well as the prophets. Also, I definitely agree with his views that we should be more patient with each other since we are all fallible and imperfect.
If you are a Repbublican, what are your thoughts of this initial interview? Are there other questions you would have asked?
If you are Democrat, does this represent your views or are there other things you would have discussed?
Why do you think Elder Jensen pointed out that we need more Mormon Democrats?
Finally, what other suggestions do you have on how we can not only tolerate each other, but love each other as Jesus would have us do?
A couple of weeks ago we had Stake Conference (this happens twice/year and is a regional meeting when Mormon congregations gather together within a geographical region to listen to various speakers). One speaker who stood out to me was a young lady named Kayla. What stood out to me was her funny and enthusiastic attitude as well as her fresh approach to the Gospel. She described having grown up as a Christian and then leaving the faith for a while and then recently having an experience that led her to the Mormon faith, and having a relationship with the Lord once again. As she told her story, I witnessed the Holy Spirit come over her and it touched my heart deeply and I wanted readers of this blog to hear her story as well.
After the conference, I asked her if she minded if I asked her a few questions for readers and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. The rest of this post includes my questions and her answers.
Why did you decide to join the Mormon church rather than the church you were raised in?
A couple weeks ago I wrote about women holding the priesthood. The discussion turned from women holding the priesthood to a lively discussion on Heavenly Mother. Some of my Evangelical pastor friends who have followed my blog for a few years were shocked and appalled to learn that Mormons were openly discussing this. I think they kind of also felt a “bait and switch” because this is something they hadn’t heard of before in my writings, but more importantly isn’t mentioned in Mormon books they have such as: The Book of Mormon, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Doctrine and Covenants, etc.
The reaction of my friend reminded me of a similar experience I had while I was in Germany on a Mormon mission in the mid 1990s. As a missionary, you always are worried about what a member might say when you bring a potential convert to church with you. There are many strange things out there that prophets have done or said over the years that some members full heartedly believe. You invite people to visit church with the hopes that someone doesn’t say something “crazy” and scare them off.
On this particular day, it wasn’t a Mormon church member that scared our potential convert off, but a song called “O My Father“. Part of the song discusses that there is a Mother in Heaven. When my German friend read that verse he looked like someone had punched him in the gut as he turned and looked at me with a questioning look. Right after the service he ran out the door and we really never saw him again after that.
With this experience in mind, and the fact that the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother isn’t official LDS doctrine, I tried to explain that to my non-Mormon friends online.
Other LDS, or Mormon, friends who follow the blog jumped in and shared quite a few recent comments made by Mormon prophets and apostles who discuss us having Heavenly Parents. Even with all of the educating of the doctrine of having a Heavenly Mother, I have the feeling my Evangelical friends are still very uneasy with the concept.
Why Evangelicals are Shocked
I think there is an underlying reason why Evangelicals are shocked to learn of Mormons discussing having a Heavenly Mother, and that is the way Mormons view our relationship to who God is vs. how Evangelicals view our relationship to God.
In the book “How Wide the Divide?”, Stephen Robinson states the following about how Mormons view God:
Since Latter-day Saints take seriously and literally the scriptural language about becoming the children of God (Rom 8:16), it makes sense to us that the children will grow up to be like their Father. According to Scripture, God is the Fother of spirits (Heb 12:9). We are his offspring (Acts 17:29), and offspring grow up to be what their parents are…(How Wide the Divide, pg 80)
The Evangelical point of view of man’s relationship to God is described by Craig Blomberg in the same book as God being the “Creator” and man being the “creatures”. Therefore, God is like the sculptor who sculpts a statue. Although the statue is in the image of a human, the statue does not possess the traits of a human and is a completely different creature.
I believe that Mormons who feel we are the literal offspring of God have this in mind when they discuss having a Heavenly Mother. A very good example of this is the song I mentioned previously, “O My Father”. A portion of the song reads:
I had learned to call the Father, Through thy Spirit from on high,
But until the key of knowledge Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.
Mormons take the biblical scripture literally to mean that they are the offspring of God. With that thought in mind, many Mormons assume that it is logical that God has a wife (Heavenly Mother) who conceived our spirits. Evangelicals view man’s relationship with God much differently in the sense that God created us and formed us in His image, but we are not literal offspring of God.
If you are not a Mormon, what are your thoughts about the concept of a Heavenly Mother?
If you are a Mormon, why do you think there isn’t much discussion surrounding having a Heavenly Mother? Do you consider the concept of having a Heavenly Mother to be speculation, or do you consider it to be an official doctrine?
The conversation was interesting because there were some investigators (people considering joining the Mormon church) as well as some “seasoned” Mormons in attendance. When I asked questions about the importance of scripture, I noticed that most of the non-Mormons revered the Bible and most of the Mormons in the class acknowledged the Bible, but didn’t hold it as high as the Book of Mormon.
Mormons’ View of Scriptures
For those of you who are not as familiar with Mormons’ view of scriptures, I’ll briefly go over each scripture along with some quotes by LDS prophets on each.
If you ask a Mormon if they believe in the Bible the answer will always be “yes”. However, for most Mormons there is a little asterisk next to that yes because, according to Mormon belief:
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly (see Articles of Faith 1:8)
Mormons believe that there was an apostasy after the original apostles died and over the years, parts of the Bible were removed, therefore the Bible is not the complete book that it once was.
In fact, the Book of Mormon has scriptures that discuss the “plain and precious truths” that were taken away from the Bible, thus making the Bible an incomplete book as to containing the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith worked throughout his life on what he called the “inspired version” of the Bible, which includes additions to the King James Bible that he received through revelation. Although he never was able to complete the version, Mormons have the Joseph Smith Translation included in many of their scriptures (they do not claim this to be the official Bible, but have it to offer “insight”.)
I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book (Book of Mormon Introduction)
Many Mormon Apostles and Prophets have voiced of the importance of the Book of Mormon and even declare blessings that will come into ones’ life when studying the Book. The late prophet, Ezra Taft Benson said:
It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance. (see talk: The Book of Mormon: Keystone of our Religion)
Since this talk was given by Ezra Taft Benson in 1986, I feel that many Mormons have focused heavily on reading the Book of Mormon above any other scripture, which is what I witnessed in the Sunday School class.
The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) are revelations that were given to Mormon prophets (mostly Joseph Smith) dealing with various doctrines and organizational structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) that aren’t found in either the Bible or Book of Mormon in detail.
Some of the key revelations (in my opinion) include: how to receive answers to prayer, organizational structure of the Church, Priesthood defined and execution of callings within the priesthood, revelation on the Three degrees of glory (heaven), and The Word of Wisdom (no alcohol, coffee, etc.).
The Pearl of Great Price (PGP) has two books (Moses and Abraham) that Joseph Smith translated from papyri that was found. It contains more details on the first books of Genesis in the Bible.
Joseph Smith’s history is also included here. The history is mainly his account of his First Vision, or when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to reestablish Jesus’ church.
In addition to these books, the PGP has the Articles of Faith (similar to a Creed), a revelation from a later prophet declaring it illegal to practice polygamy anymore, and a revelation extending the priesthood to black members.
One of the unique aspects of Mormonism is the claim that their church leaders are prophets, or mouthpieces, for the Lord. As such, most Mormons believe that the writings of the apostles and prophet found in Church publications such as the Ensign are to be considered scriptural.
Which Scripture is Most Important?
A case can be made for each scripture. For example, without the Bible, there wouldn’t be any of the other scriptures because Joseph Smith was led to pray for guidance from a scripture he read from the Bible.
On the other hand, Mormon prophets have declared the Book of Mormon the most important book…but if Mormons only had the Book of Mormon, they wouldn’t know exactly how to run the church and additional components to the faith such as the Word of Wisdom, eternal marriage, etc. wouldn’t exist.
Finally, I can see how some people would feel that Modern-day Prophets’ revelations trump all of the other scriptures (such as doing away with polygamy and using water instead of wine for communion).
Just for fun, I’ll close with a poll for you to rank what you feel is the most important scripture.