Category Archives: Priesthood/Authority from God

Come Now, And Let’s Listen Together

Listening

Listening

Exquisite—That’s what it was. One of the most meaningful talks I’ve ever listened to was the one Neal A. Maxwell delivered as he was sustained as an apostle, “Notwithstanding My Weakness.” General Conference is an important time for any member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because we get to sit at the feet of a prophet and listen to the word of God. Like Mary of old, we want to choose “that good part”, and Elder Maxwell certainly helped us to do that. He spoke to anyone with recurring feelings of falling forever short. Maybe to each of us?

I was in the Missionary Training Center, getting ready to go to Argentina for two years to serve my mission. During General Conference, all of us missionaries wanted to take copious notes so that we might remember all of the wonderful ideas in these talks. Recordings were not generally available back then, and we knew that we’d be out of the United States by the time the text was available in the November 1976 Ensign. For Elder Maxwell‘s talk, after taking notes furiously for four or five minutes, wanting to retain quote after great quote, I paused to look around the room. All the other elders and sisters had already stopped trying to take notes and were just sitting there listening, hands and pens at rest, trying just to soak in the spirit of the rapid-fire, beautifully worded, carefully crafted text. It was like the lyrics of a song. I struggled for a bit longer to retain it all on paper, before I, too, gave up note-taking, rested my pen, and just sat and listened. It was an incredible moment for all of us. For weeks afterwards, nearly everyone said that their favorite moment in that General Conference was when they sat and feasted on Elder Maxwell‘s words, hands and fingers exhausted from trying to keep up. It was just sweet. Every time I re-read it, every time I listen to it yet again, I get emotional, just sitting — and remembering…

I invite you to read, watch or listen to the entire address from the October 1976 LDS General Conference. It is simply exquisite. It has something for all of us, and I hope you love it as much as I.

Putting The Fun In LDS General Conference

Putting The Fun In LDS General Conference

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Bonus Materials:

1. Great are the words of Isaiah, from which I take the title of this post: “Come now, and let us reason together…”

2. Article by Caleb Trujillo, “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”: http://www.byui.edu/pathway/news-index/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice

Article by Caleb Trujillo, 'Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice'

3. “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”, Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

4. LDS Hymn 21, “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”: https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice?lang=eng

5. Thoughts and experiences of various people on this topic:

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “Listening”—nature. berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article40.htm
  • Photo, “Putting The Fun In LDS General Conference”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/conference-events/general-conference?lang=eng&start=41&end=80&order=
  • Photo, “Article by Caleb Trujillo, ‘Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice’ ”—www. byui.edu/pathway/news-index/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice
  • Photo, Hemingway quote-Listen completely—izquotes.com/quote/82873 (Source/Notes:
    As quoted in: Ernest Hemingway: the man and his work, by John K. M. McCaffery, World Publishing Co., 1956)

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Hemingway quote-Listen completely

Are Mormon Woman Oppressed? Do Women Hold Positions Of Authority In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Our Family’s Answer.

Reader Question:
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, who happens to be Muslim, said to me, “People are always asking me whether or not I feel oppressed as a woman in Islam. And I don’t! Are Mormon women oppressed? Do women hold positions of authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

Family Answer:
This truly is a good question. And my friend was asking in the best way possible—with a sincere heart and mind. It was a “clean question”, a phrase we use in our family to indicate a question free of any agenda. She had no intent to pounce on my answer; her question was in no way mean-spirited; she was not intending to entrap or embarrass me or the Church. She merely was seeking information and was simply an open book. It was refreshing to see her approach, because this question, being truly a good question, unfortunately is not always asked in such a constructive way. In our family, and as Mormons, we believe strongly that sincere, honest questions are always a good thing. To gather answers to this question, we talked to our adult kids, and here are the answers we gathered:

rocks on a misty beachAuthority to act in God’s name and the fullness of gospel truths were lost in the centuries after the death of Jesus (Bible, Amos 8:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 2:3). For example, Christ established important roles for women disciples—As the Lord’s Church was lost in apostasy, this pattern of discipleship was also lost (Julie B. Beck, Ensign, Nov 2011). After this apostasy, people noticed inconsistencies between what the current church taught and what they read. They protested against these errors and taught the truths they saw in the Bible. Various people were inspired by God to fight against various false doctrines, and little by little, many churches moved closer to the doctrines of Jesus Christ. This process also created divisions and sects that taught a variety of conflicting doctrines. When Christ restored His authority to the earth, He restored this authority to everyone, in all walks of life. Specifically for your answer, He restored His authority both to the men and the women of the world. Here are some of the ramifications. We hope that some are meaningful to you.

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1. Video by Sheri Dew: What do LDS women get? Are Mormon women oppressed?

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2. While serving on a Relief Society board, Lillian DeLong visited a rural area of Ghana. Her husband was in Priesthood meeting in another room, and she was in Relief Society meeting, each conducting leadership training. After it was over, a woman came up to Lillian. In her beautiful Ghanaian church dress, she shook her hand and kept saying, “This is a woman’s church.” Lillian asked, “What do you mean, ‘This is a woman’s church?’” And she said, “We have just been in the marvelous Relief Society that teaches us not only spiritual things but temporal things about how to make our lives and our children and our families better. And at the same time your husband is in the Priesthood room and he is teaching our husbands that the culture of the church does not allow for them to beat their wives and their children.”

And she said, “In this church, my husband and I get to go to the temple and we are going to seal our children to us. And I have seven of my eleven kids that are dead. And I want my children with me. This is a woman’s church because it protects me and gives me all of those things.” (Sharon Eubank, Director, Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities, “This is a Woman’s Church”, FairMormon Conference, Provo UT, 8 Aug 2014.

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3. In and out of the Church, Mormon women lead all the time; the influence of their leadership extends far and wide. As a global leader in the Relief Society, Sheri L. Dew taught us in Oct 2001: “Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.” (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, Chapter 8, “Blessings of the Priesthood for All: An Inseparable Connection with the Priesthood”, Page 128.)

I have learned for myself that women who know and live the gospel of Jesus Christ understand that “the priesthood of God is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women and children alike.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, as quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom, Chapter 8, Page 127.)

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4. Just as Isaac and Rebekah of the Old Testament put a lot of work into ensuring that their son Jacob and his future wife enjoyed the blessings of an eternal marriage (Julie B. Beck, Aug 2009, “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family”), my wife and I have put a lot of work into our marriage and into raising our kids. The two of us together are better than the sum of the two of us separately (Sheri L. Dew, LDS General Conference, Oct 2001, “It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone”). As Isaac and Rebekah did, we want to be the man who has the keys and the woman who has the influence, working together as a two-are-better-than-one closely-knit team to see that we are prepared and to bring about the work that God wants us to do, equally yoked in our responsibilities as spouses and parents. “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers should help one another as equal partners.” (Family Proclamation.)

“The world does not know us, and truth…demands that we speak… We are not inferior to the ladies of the world, and we do not want to appear so.” (Eliza R. Snow, 6 Jan 1870.) While women do not hold the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ, women leaders in the Church impact all of us. “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, Page 3.)

Early in her life, my wife, Kim, nurtured a strong desire to be a woman of power and a woman of influence. She decided that she could do that most effectively by choosing to stay at home to raise a family. Her influence on our six adult children and on their families cannot be measured. That is influence; that is power. We are grateful for her wisdom to wield these skills in such a way as to have a true impact on society.

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5. Established in 1842 for women 18 years old and older, the Relief Society is the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. The motto is “Charity never faileth”. President Julie B. Beck has taught us: “Relief Society should be organized, aligned, and mobilized to strengthen families and help our homes to be sacred sanctuaries from the world. I learned this years ago when I was newly married. My parents, who had been my neighbors, announced that they would be moving to another part of the world… This was before e-mail, fax machines, cell phones, and Web cameras, and mail delivery was notoriously slow. One day before she left, I sat weeping with her and asked, ‘Who will be my mother?’ Mother thought carefully, and with the Spirit and power of revelation which comes to women of this kind, she said to me, ‘If I never come back, if you never see me again, if I’m never able to teach you another thing, you tie yourself to Relief Society. Relief Society will be your Mother.’ Mother knew that if I were sick, the sisters would take care of me, and when I had my babies, they would help me. But my mother’s greatest hope was that the sisters in Relief Society would be powerful, spiritual leaders for me. I began from that time to learn abundantly from women of stature and faith.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, Pages 96-98.)

I have learned that the women of the Relief Society build faith and personal righteousness and help those in need. They have strengthened my family and my home.

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We hope this answers your questions and helps you to understand us better, to understand better how women hold positions of authority in the Church of Jesus Christ and especially how Mormon women lead others, all the time and in all they do.

And let us know how we may help you further! If you find that you have any questions about religious issues that you’ve been wondering about or that you haven’t been able to get good answers to, feel free to continue on discussion with us. It turns out that there are a lot of people with questions, and most of them have given up on churches as a source of answers. In our family, it is our experience that answers are out there, that God wants us to have them, and that they tend to be answers we like and have learned to appreciate. Working together with Heavenly Father allows anyone to find certainty in uncertain times.

-Dave and the MormonPanorama Family

woman running on a beach

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Bonus Materials:

1. “You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory,” Sheri Dew, President and CEO of Deseret Book Company, BYU Devotional Address, 9 Dec 2003, Read: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=984,
or Watch/Listen:

2. “Mothers Who Know,” Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, LDS General Conference, Oct 2007, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/mothers-who-know?lang=eng#watch=video.

3. “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, 9 Aug 2009, http://theredheadedhostess.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/2009-beck-teaching-the-doctrine-of-the-family__eng.pdf.

4. “The Moral Force of Women,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-moral-force-of-women?lang=eng.

5. “What I Hope My Granddaughters (and Grandsons) Will Understand about Relief Society”, Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, General Relief Society Meeting, Sep 2011, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/what-i-hope-my-granddaughters-and-grandsons-will-understand-about-relief-society?lang=eng.

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, rocks-on-a-misty-beach—www. org/media-library/images/oceans?lang=eng
  • Photo, woman-walking-on-a-beach—www. lds.org/media-library/images/oceans?lang=eng

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Why Can’t My Brother See His Son’s Wedding? Our Family’s Answer.

Happy First Anniversary, MormonPanorama!

Exactly a year ago, I published our family’s first post, which was about my friend, Patrice. You may remember that she happened to need a bit of space after our earlier conversation. Here’s an update. Patrice is now consistently talking to me as a good friend, and we are able to open our hearts more to each other’s challenges. Her most recent challenge regards a nephew soldier who decided a while ago that he wanted to join the LDS Church and now is getting married in a Mormon temple. Patrice’s brother (the soldier groom’s dad) is unable to attend the wedding, and she is upset and asks. “Why can’t my brother see their wedding?”

That brief majestic moment after every sunset when you may see heaven and earth at the same time-TimHansenPhotography.com

That brief majestic moment after every sunset when you may see heaven and earth at the same time…

It’s a good question and not uncommon. I answered that our son, Todd, will be married next month and that we have several friends who happen not to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as friends who belong to our church but cannot enter the temple for a variety of reasons, who will fly to our town and then drive with us seven hours to a temple in the tiny town of Nauvoo, Illinois. They’ve attended past weddings of our other kids at other temples, so they know the drill and happily choose to see us enter the temple and hug us 45 minutes later when we emerge. It’s no biggy for them and, to them, worth the repeat travel. They don’t share the same faith that we do, but they want to be close by when our kids get married for time and all eternity, because they love us and love our kids and simply want to celebrate with us because these occasions are so important to us. I explained to Patrice that it’s possible to view this chiefly as a matter of individual perspective, that individually we may choose to view a temple wedding as a negative thing or as a positive thing. She did not accept that and did not appreciate any effort to place attitudinal responsibility on her shoulders or on the shoulders of her brother. But over time, again, I think the idea will grow on her in the future, just as in the past another idea grew on her over a period of several weeks, the idea that I, as a Mormon, might continue to be a person that she likes. In the meantime, I work hard to continue a good friendly relationship between Patrice and me so that we continue to talk about things that we feel down deep.

In our family, and as Mormons, we believe strongly that sincere, honest questions are always a good thing. To gather other answers to this complex question, we talked to our adult kids, and here are the answers we gathered:

Kim explains:

I know it seems hard when family and much loved friends are not permitted to attend temple weddings. Many times parents and siblings have looked forward for years to this eventful day. However, temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not simply houses of worship. They are sacred places whose holiness is maintained and protected by the worthiness of the people who enter them. Thus, only members of the Church in good standing can attend temple services, like weddings. However, everyone is welcome on the temple grounds, and family (including young siblings) and friends who are not able to enter the temple will find pleasant waiting rooms in most temples. Also, a temple wedding (called a “sealing”) is generally a short service, and the bride and groom are eager to greet loved ones when they leave the temple. Some of the happiest moments in my life as a parent have been watching my sons and their wives emerge smiling and happy from the doors of the temple.

I hope those who are not able to be present at the sealing will still come to the temple and be among the loved ones ready to share in the joy of the day.

Amanda shares with us:

The temple is a sacred place for Mormons, designed in a symbolically similar fashion as the first tabernacle in the Old Testament. Only the Levites were to enter the tabernacle and perform the sacred ceremonies. As in the days of Moses, the Lord has again prepared a sacred place for His children to attend to worship him and make covenants. But He wants us to be worthy to enter. So He has asked us to first show our commitment to Him by being baptized and confirmed a member of his church. He asks us to keep His commandments and continually witness to Him by partaking of the Sacrament each week that we are true followers. Then we interview with a bishop, who is a judge in Israel, answering questions about our relationship with God and whether or not we have been true to the covenants we have made. The bishop can then recommend us to enter a temple. The Temple is the Lord’s house where He can physically visit, and which we must keep sacred. So only those who have made the covenants to walk His path as members of the Church, are allowed to enter. This is not to keep others out; on the contrary, we want everyone to experience the blessings of the temple, but as a house of order, God has specific guidelines on how He wants us to go about it.

Many members of the church with non-member families choose to have a ring ceremony after getting married in the temple, as a way to include their family members that are unable to enter the temple. Whether or not a couple decides to do this, it is still a joyous occasion to celebrate a couple wanting to commit not only to each other, but also to promise God they will be loyal. In this way, we strive to come closer to our spouse as we grow closer to God.

We hope this answers your question and helps you to understand us better, to understand better a marriage and sealing in a Mormon temple, and to understand why Patrice’s nephew feels so strongly about getting married there.

And let us know how we may help you further! If you find that you have any questions about religious issues that you’ve been wondering about or that you haven’t been able to get good answers to, feel free to continue on discussion with us. It turns out that there are a lot of people with questions, and most of them have given up on churches as a source of answers. In our family, it is our experience that answers are out there, that God wants us to have them, and that they tend to be answers we like and have learned to appreciate. Working together with Heavenly Father allows anyone to find certainty in uncertain times.

-Dave and the MormonPanorama Family

Couple-in-Love7

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Bonus Materials:

1. Why Temple Marriage?
https://www.lds.org/youth/article/why-temple-marriage?lang=eng

2. What to Expect at a Mormon Temple Wedding
http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/mormon/weddings/

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, Big Dipper: “That brief majestic moment after every sunset when you may see heaven and earth at the same time…”
    —timhansenphotography.com
  • Photo, couple-in-love7—www. lds.org/youth/article/why-temple-marriage?lang=eng

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Beyond Dirt, Beyond Opposition, Beyond Bullying

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange

Bullying begins early, especially when faith is involved. My friend who shoved my face in the dirt was one of many. In elementary school and junior high, when kids learned I’m Mormon, they would often ask how many moms I had. I remember wondering how much they really knew about the birth process.

I have Muslim friends, Catholic friends, Jewish friends, friends of many faiths, all with experience getting their faces shoved in the dust. Gritty, tough, beautiful faces.

 

Dirt and faith go together. Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to truth. Whenever the truth is revealed with regard to the purpose and destiny of mankind, there will always be a force to oppose it.

Faces Of Kevin At 3 Years Old

Faces Of Kevin At 3 Years Old

When our son Kevin was three or four years old, an older sibling had a soccer match after a week of rain. At the side of the field was a narrow 25-foot-long puddle. Kev quickly learned that if he ran and threw his body on the ground in just the right way, he could slide the entire length of the water. Before long, the families around us began to watch Kevin instead of the game. One photographer mom missed her son’s only goal of the season as she focused her lens on Kev. “Gotta set priorities. Look at that face!” she said, kept snapping shots, and gave us copies of her images later that week.

Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja

Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja

Years later, Kevin’s face was again caked with dirt, this time from the dry dust of Tijuana, made a bit muddy by the ample sweat of his brow. He loved working closely with friends from Mexico as they labored to teach the truth. At one point, weeks of opposition and criticism were taking a heavy toll. His close friends were truly discouraged, and it weighed heavily on his heart. Kev decided to rip his bedsheet in two and scribbled on his Title of Liberty, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”, and fastened it upon the end of a pole. He called his flock of fellow laborers together to encourage them and, in his strong voice, shouted in Spanish, “Whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and promise with me that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” After signing the rent cloth, Kevin invited them to sign. They all did. And their courage was restored. People started really talking with these young men once again, sharing feelings down deep and listening to them, as the weeks of opposition and antagonism evaporated, leaving only the local dust on their tired, smiling faces.

Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt, and you’ll find that it’s being kicked at someone standing for the truth. Sometimes, no one stands with them.

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny many defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited very clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”—Joseph Smith

Bullies will always assemble themselves. Why? Because someone is teaching the truth, and the truth will always be opposed. Time to labor harder, time to work smarter, time to smile that feel-it-deep-down smile…

Two men looked up from prison bars,
One saw the mud, the other saw stars.
—Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Defying Opposition

Defying Opposition

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Bonus Material:

Many of these thoughts are inspired by Lawrence Corbridge. Read, watch or listen to his entire address, “The Prophet Joseph Smith”, Apr 2014 LDS General Conference.

A Father's Gift, Liz Lemon Swindle

“A Father’s Gift”, Liz Lemon Swindle

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange”—www2. artsmia.org/blogs/new-pictures/category/mia-photo-exhibitions/
  • Photo, “Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja”, from private collection
  • Quote, “The Standard of Truth,” Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Volume 4, Page 540, from the Wentworth Letter, just before the Articles of Faith
  • Quote by Dale Carnegie, www. goodreads.com/quotes/420532-two-men-looked-out-from-prison-bars-one-saw-the
  • Photo, “Defying Opposition”, from private collection
  • Painting, “A Father’s Gift”, by Liz Lemon Swindle. Swindle tells us that this tender painting portrays the love of three fathers. Our heavenly Father entrusted the twins to John and Julia Murdock. When Julia died after childbirth, Brother Murdock entrusted them to Joseph, who brought them to Emma. Emma had just lost her own twin babies within hours of their birth. Joseph and Emma loved and raised the twins as if they were their own. See www. ldsart.com/p-10603-fathers-gift.aspx. Dave adds: To me this painting is about how a loving God follows opposition and trials by restoring smiles.
  • Painting, “Hope”, by Liz Lemon Swindle.  See www. world-wide-art.com/art/Liz_Lemon_Swindle.html. Peter and John were no strangers to criticism and antagonism, which had cost them dearly. Swindle teaches us about illustrating a tender moment just before their faces learn to smile again:

When Mary came to the tomb, she found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She ran to the disciples crying, “They have taken away the Lord…and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb.

What did they think as they ran? Were they simply curious to see for themselves? Did they fear, like Mary, that their enemies had stolen the body? Or did they remember His promise, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?

The decision that faced Peter and John that Sunday morning is the same decision that faces each one of us today. Will we doubt? Will we hope? Or will we know that He lives? I know that He lives.

  • Photo, “Smiles After Opposition”, from private collection

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Hope, Liz Lemon Swingle

“Hope”, Liz Lemon Swingle

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Smiles After Opposition

Smiles After Opposition

Wandle Your Way Home?

In my last post, we explored three ways in which Mormons are peculiar. For me, these significant three are like finding a treasure after a life-long search. They’re why my ancestors decided to be Mormons, why anyone has decided to be a Mormon, and certainly why I’m a Mormon. To illustrate, I’ll share the story of Wandle Mace, my great-great grandfather.

Wandle Mace, Younger

Wandle Mace, Younger

Wandle (pronounced not like magic “wand” but like “band”, rhyming with “candle” or “handle”) grew up in the early 1800s and was taught to read by reading the scriptures. In his journal, he records that he had memorized the New Testament by the time he was twelve years old. While in his day that was unusual, I know of others of that period who achieved the same goal, so it appears it was more common then than now, and with no TV, more achievable. For example, we know high schoolers today in the Amish/Mennonite communities of Oklahoma and Arkansas who memorize the New Testament before they graduate. Because of his education at his mother’s knee, Wandle knew that the many churches he attended around him did not teach the same things he knew for himself were in the Bible, and for years he searched for a church that taught those same things. He was expelled from some of them for teaching things from the New Testament that conflicted with their teachings, but he held to the things he knew to be true.

Parley P. Pratt

Parley P. Pratt

Eventually, Parley P. Pratt knocked on Wandle’s door, talking about a church that matched in every respect the teachings Wandle had learned as a boy, the three same teachings that Elder Holland described. Wandle explained to Parley that while he was glad finally to find someone who taught the truths found in the New Testament, that fact alone did not give Parley the authority that Jesus Christ held allowing him to teach these truths. Wandle said that, before they were to continue on discussion, he would need to know that they possessed this authority from God.

Three months later, when Wandle’s baby Charles took sick, Wandle and his wife called in the elders to bless and heal Charles. Parley returned, Charles was healed, and Wandle and his family decided in their hearts that this church indeed included the power and authority originally established by Jesus Christ. It was insufficient to teach the proper things; Wandle knew that they had to be taught with proper authority in order to be from God. And Wandle recognized that the holy priesthood, which had been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signaled the return of divine authorization, for which he had been watching and waiting for many years.

Wandle was not alone. People before him and after had similar experiences regarding authority. If you wish, feel free to view the experiences of Vincenzo di Francesca, which are similar to Wandle’s, in the movie How Rare a Possession—The Book of Mormon. (Length: 63:19.)

I will always be grateful for great people in my life who are willing to teach things they feel down deep, even when it’s difficult, even when people around them disagree with them. Like them, I feel that it is important to stand strong for correct principles, even against tremendous odds, and I am glad to see my adult children all standing tall for what they have learned for themselves to be true. Wandle would be pleased.

Wandle Mace, Older

Wandle Mace, Older

What Makes These Mormons Peculiar?

Peculiar? Is that bad or good? Why should we be a “peculiar” people of all things? (See Deuteronomy 14:2Deuteronomy 26:18Titus 2:141 Peter 2:9.)

Austin Hall, Harvard Law School

Austin Hall

“Why do these Mormons stir up such emotions in people, and why are they not considered Christian by some?” As we approach General Conference next month, authority issues are as relevant today as ever. Interesting questions and answers from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as he spoke at Harvard Law School. Answers below.

Returning to my academic roots in New England, I am reminded today of—and stand with—a marvelous congregational cleric who, a century ago, had a little parish in Springfield, Massachusetts, about equidistant from New Haven and Cambridge, which seems appropriate. He said 100 years ago:

Henry Martyn Field

“The loss of respect for religion is the dry rot of social institutions. The idea of God as the Creator and Father of all mankind is to the moral world, what gravitation is in the natural; it holds everything else together and causes it to revolve around a common center. Take this away and any ultimate significance to life falls apart. There is then no such thing as collective humanity, but only separate molecules of men and women drifting in the universe, with no more cohesion and no more meaning than so many grains of sand have meaning for the sea.” [Henry Martyn Field]

Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter (Gesupietrochiave), by Pietro Perugino (1481-82)
Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter (Gesupietrochiave), by Pietro Perugino (1481-82)

We are not considered Christian by some because we are not fourth-century Christians, we are not Nicene Christians, we are not creedal Christians of the brand that arose hundreds of years after Christ. No, when we speak of “restored Christianity”, we speak of the Church as it was in its New Testament purity, not as it became when great councils were called to debate and anguish over what it was they really believed. So if one means Greek-influenced, council-convening, philosophy-flavored Christianity of post-apostolic times, then we are not that kind of Christian. Peter we know, and Paul we know, but Constantine and Athanasius, Athens and Alexandria we do not know. (Actually, we know them, we just don’t follow them.)

Thus, we teach that:

1. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are separate and distinct beings[, both divine,] with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. As such, we stand with the historical position that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].” [Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Paul F. Achtemeier, ed. (1985), Page 1099]

Studying the New Testament

Studying the New Testament

We take Christ literally at His word—that He “came down from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him that sent [him].” Of His antagonists, Jesus said they have “hated both me and my Father.” These, along with scores of other references, including His pleading prayers, make clear Jesus’s physical separation from His Father, subordinating Himself to His Father, saying regularly, in one way or another, my Father is greater than I. However, having affirmed the point of Their separate and distinct physical nature, we declare unequivocally that They were indeed “one” in every other conceivable way—in mind and deed, in will and wish and hope, in faith and purpose and intent and love. They are most assuredly much more alike than They are different in all the ways I have just said, but They are separate and distinct beings as all fathers and sons are. In this matter, we differ from traditional creedal Christianity, but we do feel that we agree with the New Testament.

The Open Canon Continues: President Thomas S. Monson

The Open Canon Continues: President Thomas S. Monson

2. Next, we also differ from fourth and fifth century Christianity by declaring that the scriptural canon is not closed, that the heavens are open with revelatory experience, and that God meant what He said when He promised Moses, “My works are without end, and…my words…never cease.” We believe that God loves all His children and that He would never leave them for long without the instrumentality of prophets and apostles, authorized agents of His guidance and direction. The Book of Mormon and other canonized scripture, as well as the role of living oracles, witnesses to the fact that God continues to speak. We agree enthusiastically with the insightful Protestant scholar who inquired, “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls its Bible? …If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today…about matters that are of significant concern?” [Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon, rev. ed. (1995), Pages 255-56.]

3. Lastly, for today, we are unique in the modern Christian world regarding one matter which a prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called our “most distinguishing feature.”

Peter, James and John Confirm the Keys to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

Peter, James and John Confirm the Keys to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

That is, divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it, there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of questions and anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them. Breaking ecclesiastically with his more famous brother, John, over the latter’s decision to ordain without any divine authority to do so, Charles Wesley wrote:

How easily are bishops made
By man or woman’s whim:
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?
[Quoted in C. Beaufort Moss,
The Divisions of Christendom: A Retrospect (n.d., “no date”), Page 22.]

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can answer the question of “who laid hands on him” all the way back to Christ Himself. The return of such authority is truly “the most distinguishing feature” of our faith.

Thank you for your courteous attendance. I will be pleased to devote the remaining time to your questions. I leave my love, my witness, and a personal blessing on every one of you for whatever righteous need you may have, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I think that’s pretty clear, don’t you? Again, from Elder Holland:

Clearly, acting with divine authority requires more than mere social contract. It cannot be generated by theological training or a commission from the congregation. No, in the authorized work of God, there has to be power greater than that already possessed by the people in the pews or in the streets or in the seminaries—a fact that many honest religious seekers had known and openly acknowledged for generations leading up to the Restoration.

It is true that some few in that day did not want their ministers to claim special sacramental authority, but most people longed for priesthood sanctioned by God and were frustrated as to where they might go to find such.

Clarity can be wonderful, huh? And it’s all for free. Just as Christ used His priesthood power freely to bless others without charge and taught everyone to do likewise, today we use His priesthood power freely to bless others. (Avoiding “priestcraft”; see in New Testament Matthew 10:8, Acts 8:9-18 (especially Verse 18)1 Peter 5:2, or in Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 26:29Alma 1:12, Helaman 7:53 Nephi 16:10.) God has designed it so that we use his priesthood only to bless others; for example, I cannot use the priesthood to give myself a blessing.

Through me, my sons also have this authority to bless their own families and to carry on the work of righteousness as God would do himself if He were here counseling and coaching us. I have learned for myself that true strength comes from magnifying the priesthood. Clearly, that makes me peculiar. I also know that everyone has the blessings of this authority available to them.

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Watch or listen to Elder Holland at Harvard Law School below. Or read.

2. The priesthood of God isn’t for some and not for others — It’s for any of us, for all of us. It applies equally to people of any gender, in any country, of any position in life. For example, watch how Sheri Dew answers the great question: “In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what do women get?”

3. Why is authority important? An 18-year-old learns one reason.
“Sanctify Yourselves”:

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

4. Pilots get lost if they don’t follow their instruments.
We get lost if we don’t follow the commandments.
“Mormon Spiritual Vertigo”:

5. Sometimes, answers are long in coming. Sometimes, answers come quickly. Either way, healing happens on His time, and that’s for an important reason.
“He Will Give You Help”:

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “Austin Hall” of Harvard Law School—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Austin_Hall,_Harvard_University.jpg
  • Article, “Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s Remarks to the Harvard Law School: Mormonism 101”, 20 Mar 2012—www. mormonnewsroom.org/article/harvard-elder-holland-mormonism-remarks
  • Photo, “Henry Martyn Field”—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Martyn_Field_(minister)
  • Photo, “Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter (Gesupietrochiave), by Pietro Perugino (1481-82)”—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gesupietrochiave.jpg
  • Photo, “Studying the New Testament”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/scripture-study?lang=eng
  • Photo, “The Open Canon Continues: President Thomas S. Monson”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/latter-day-prophets?lang=eng&start=41&end=80&order=
  • Photo, “Peter, James and John Confirm the Keys to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/church-history?lang=eng
  • Photo, “Open Canon: Bible and Book of Mormon”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/church-history?lang=eng

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Open Canon: Bible and Book of Mormon

Open Canon: Bible and Book of Mormon

Let The Storm Rage On — Committing To Fight The Good Fight

Quick: What do you think of when you hear this word? “Ordinances.”

Okay, that may be a bit strange. Try this one: “Covenants.”

What went through your mind? Good? Bad? Ugly? Modest? Fight? Commitment?

Sometimes (often?) I feel a need to fight against expectations. At times those expectations are of good behaviors, at other times of bad. In the movie “Frozen”, the character Elsa seemed to feel much the same way:

Not everyone appreciates her the way I do, but I love the way Idina Menzel sings. To me, the good in this song is inspiring. But not the bad. In the song, good and bad are juxtaposed, in opposition to each other, just as they are in life. And as in life, I thank Heaven for the bad. By Celestial design, the bad helps me to recognize, appreciate, and embrace the good. Some of the lyrics:

I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
Cold never bothered me anyway. (All good.)

…the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all. (good)
It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. (good)
No right, no wrong, no rules for me. (bad) I’m free. (good)

Let it go, let it go. (good) That perfect girl is gone. (bad)

Good, bad. Bad, good. What the heck does it matter? Well, according to the prophet Isaiah, it matters a lot:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness…

“The emphasis on truth as the way things really are suggests that it contrasts with the way things seem to be, no matter how convincing that deception may be. One such truth is the reality of evil. As Isaiah pointed out, at the heart of moral relativism is an inability or unwillingness to recognize evil.”
Daniel L. Belnap

Dave, what does this good-evil stuff have to do with ordinances? I thought you’d never ask. Ordinances in any faith community help us to shun evil, to choose the right, to commit to be good. It draws a line in the snow. It draws a line in the sand, in the dirt, on the concrete.  A bar/bat mitzvah means “son/daughter who is subject to the commandment, to the law of God”. The first pillar of Islam is kalima shahadah, meaning to promise/testify/witness my word to God. Christian baptism is a covenant with God to repent, to be clean before Him, to accept Christ’s invitation when he said, “Come, follow me.” Ordinances and covenants are a two-way promise: We promise to follow God; he promises us certain blessings.

One thing I really, really love about being a Mormon is that my faith is full of ordinances. At eight years old, I was baptized. At twelve, I was ordained to the priesthood. At twenty-four, my wife and I were sealed for time and all eternity. Then our family gets to go to the temple together and do it all for others. Over and over. Each time, each ordinance, is a line in the snow/sand/whatever. Each is an additional level of commitment and reverence to God. Throughout life, we all make decisions. Ordinances help. They help us choose the right. They help us witness to God and to others that we will choose good over evil.

So, do what Elsa did. Do what you think is right. Be brave, and do it your way. Stay modest. Thumb your nose at a world that wants you to take your clothes off, and keep them on. Instead, yank off the gloves, and pull no punches. Stretch your powers as far as they can possibly go, and then stretch them a bit more. Say what is on your mind and in your heart.

FIGHT. Commit. Draw lines with ideas. Fight the good fight. Fight the good fight of faith.

I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on — Good never bothered me anyway.

Elsa Ready To Fight

Elsa Ready To Fight, Gloves Off

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Just like Elsa has powers she must learn about and learn to control, so do we. Listen or read Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s address regarding ways to tutor ourselves in having our hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another, entitled, “Building Spiritual Power in Priesthood Quorums”. (Length of audio: 16:18.)

2. Listen or read how God’s covenant with Abraham blesses us all. (Length of audio: 12:36.)

3. Read more about moral absolutes contrasted with moral relativism in an address by Dallin H. Oaks, “Religious Values and Public Policy“, Ensign, Oct 1992.

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Illustration, “Else Ready To Fight, Gloves Off,” www. moviefanatic.com/gallery/frozen-elsa-idina-menzel/

——– End of WebCredits ——–