Tag Archives: What Do Women Get?

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

Women of Power, Women of Influence

Don't Be A DummyThis morning, I was struck by this thought-provoking sentence: “I don’t know one of [my own circle of girlfriends] who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past.” I read this in a footnote to a talk in a recent LDS General Conference interestingly titled, “The Moral Force of Women.”

The entire two-paragraph context by author Jennifer Moses is good:

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn’t), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We’re embarrassed, and we don’t want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d “experimented” more.

Don't Short Change YourselfIn fact, the entire WSJ article is good, and not only because it stirred up a strident response. (See “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, Jennifer Moses, Wall Street Journal, 19 Mar 2011, Page C3). Here is a selection from the address that referenced Moses’ article:

[In the view of many in the world, in sharp contrast to God’s view,] there has long been a cultural double standard that expected women to be sexually circumspect while excusing male immorality. The unfairness of such a double standard is obvious, and it has been justifiably criticized and rejected. In that rejection, one would have hoped that men would rise to the higher, single standard, but just the opposite has occurred—women and girls are now encouraged to be as promiscuous as the double standard expected men to be. Where once women’s higher standards demanded commitment and responsibility from men, we now have sexual relations without conscience, fatherless families, and growing poverty. Equal-opportunity promiscuity simply robs women of their moral influence and degrades all of society. In this hollow bargain, it is men who are “liberated” and women and children who suffer most. (“The Moral Force of Women”, D. Todd Christofferson, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013. )

In his address, Christofferson also teaches us the importance of appreciating everyone’s influence for good, regardless of the ways they work all day: “A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing that it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood or fatherhood in marriage.”

Are Your Standards ShrinkingIn a second footnote are cited important words from another address: “If being ‘selfless’ means a woman must give up her own inner identity and personal growth, that understanding of selflessness is wrong… But today’s liberationist model goes too far the other way, stereotyping women as excessively independent of their families. A more sensible view is that husbands and wives are interdependent with each other… The critics who moved mothers from dependence to independence skipped the fertile middle ground of interdependence. Those who moved mothers from selflessness to selfishness skipped the fertile middle ground of self-chosen service that contributes toward a woman’s personal growth. Because of these excesses, debates about the value of motherhood have, ironically, caused the general society to discount not only mothers but women in general.” (“Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women”, Bruce C. Hafen, World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Switzerland, Plenary Session IV, 16 Nov 1999.)

Some may assume that these thoughts refer to virtue, to dressing modestly, or to the value of a working woman, rather than viewing them as a related whole. For me, the issue here is one of influence and of power. Women wield power and influence in diverse ways, and everyone should appreciate good work, independent of where a woman chooses to do it. I have learned for myself that, regardless of our views, it is selfish to say unkind things. We can learn to use our power and influence to build rather than to belittle, even if a person makes choices we would not make for ourselves. Women should not limit themselves to roles that others define for them. The far-reaching effects of the power and influence of women is well described in and certainly not limited to the why-do-we-let-our-kids-wear-immodest-clothes article by Jennifer Moses, Matt Walsh’s …Me?-Ha!-I-WORK! post, Sheri Dew’s two-are-better-than-one talk, or Julie Beck’s mothers-who-know address. “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.” (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, Page 3.)

Early in her life, my wife 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.

——– End of Post ——–

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

  • Poster, Don’t Be A Dummy: A mannequin wears whatever the world is selling. Your standards are higher than that.—www.lds.org/media-library/images/mormonads/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng#mormonad-dont-be-a-dummy-1118328 [Church standards of modesty apply equally to all genders.]
  • Poster, Don’t Short Change Yourself: The way you dress advertises your standards. Send the right message. (See For The Strength Of Youth, P. 8.)—www. lds.org/media-library/images/mormonads/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng#mormonad-short-change-1118313 [Church standards of modesty apply equally to all genders.]
  • Article, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, Jennifer Moses, Wall Street Journal, 19 Mar 2011—online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703899704576204580623018562
  • Address, “The Moral Force of Women,” D. Todd Christofferson, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013—www. lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-moral-force-of-women?lang=eng
  • Poster, Are Your Standards Shrinking? If it’s too tight, too short, or too revealing, it doesn’t fit church standards. Don’t stretch your standards to fit the world’s. (See For The Strength Of Youth, P. 14-16.)—www. lds.org/media-library/images/mormonads/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng#mormonad-standards-shrinking-1118383 [Church standards of modesty apply equally to all genders.]
  • Address, “Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women,” Bruce C. Hafen, World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Switzerland, Plenary Session IV, 16 Nov 1999 —worldcongress.org/wcf2_spkrs/wcf2_hafen.htm
  • Blog Post, “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?”, Matt Walsh—themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/09/youre-a-stay-at-home-mom-what-do-you-do-all-day/
  • Address, “It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone”, Sheri L. Dew, LDS General Conference, Oct 2001—www. lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/it-is-not-good-for-man-or-woman-to-be-alone?lang=eng
  • Address, “Mothers Who Know”, Julie B. Beck, LDS General Conference, Oct 2007—www. lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/mothers-who-know?lang=eng
  • Book, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (2011, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., United States of America)—www. lds.org/relief-society/?lang=eng

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Being Brave: Pre-mortality, Priesthood Power, and the Family Proclamation

A friend just shared this Vocal Point video with me, and an entire post popped in my head. The song is “(I Want To See You Be) Brave,” by Sara Bareilles. I thought of my wife, Kim, of our six adult kids and their families. I especially liked the sign that reads, “When I talk to new people.”

As a Mormon, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I  believe that we lived with God before we were born. True of anyone. And by celestial design, none of us remember — It was all veiled at birth. For eons before we came here, we studied hard, acquired knowledge, and learned skills, all with the goal of trying our guts out to live as God had taught and to do whatever we could to keep ourselves and others on the narrow path back to him. As we prepared with him for the moment of our birth, we knew that we would learn more from life on earth, because here we would be able to learn to walk not by memory, not by sight, but by faith, for the first time making decisions on our own in an environment where Heavenly Father was no longer around. As he sent us off, I wonder if he was singing to us a similar pre-lullaby message of “I want to see you be brave!”

This idea of a pre-existence changes many a perspective. I see my body not as mine, not to do with as I please, but as a temple of God, a gift from him, a house for my spirit now that I’m no longer with him. Such a view demands that I treat my body with respect and not with selfishness. The idea of a pre-mortal life and the idea of your body being a temple and not your own are ideas that permeate the popular post of Mormon blogger Seth Adam Smith, “Marriage Isn’t For You” (at his blog or at Huffington Post). His earthly father taught him, “Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.” While I heartily agree, I also counsel our kids as they head to the altar that marriage is so dang fun (for themselves as well as for their spouse).

These ideas and others are discussed concisely in the LDS Family Proclamation. These ideas help protect me, keep me be safe and secure. These perspectives, these teachings, are why families are so important. Families help us get ourselves back to God.

And in addition to giving us a family to help, God went further to give us another gift, both urgent and important. He allowed us to have a portion of his power. He gave us his priesthood, the authority to act for him, to do what he would do, if he were here with his ample arm around us, whispering what he would like us to know, to do, to be, to become. 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?”

I can see how God sent ALL of us here well prepared, not just to thrive, but to fight to find our way back. When we’re unsure of the path, he continues to guide us. We call that prayer, and it works like a phone. With a bit of effort, it’s a two-way communication device. Beats a cell phone or Star Trek communicator with a stick.

Dieter Uchtdorf taught us to be brave against doubt when he said, referring to another’s phrase which was first penned in 1924: “It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” (See F.F. Bosworth, Christ the Healer (1924), Page 23, as quoted in “Come, Join With Us”.)

Most importantly, these perspectives shift my thinking, so that I tend to view life through a lens of patience and peace. These ideas give me hope and humility. Seth’s dad is spot on — It isn’t all about me. Sometimes, I don’t want my stinkin’ thinkin’ shifted, but if I learn to adjust my vision to a more godly perspective, I realize that it was short-sighted to fight the shift in thought. I hope it makes me a better husband, a better father, a better man, a better person. It helps me be brave.

From the lyrics of Brave: “Show me how big your brave is.”

Seeing Ourselves As Brave -- Being Brave For Others

Seeing Ourselves As Brave — Being Brave For Others

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

  • Video, “Brave by Sara Bareilles—BYU Vocal Point (a cappella tribute)”—www. youtube.com/watch?v=XeX3r8j66Qk
  • Blog Post, “Marriage Isn’t For You”, Seth Adam Smith—sethadamsmith.com/2013/11/02/marriage-isnt-for-you/
  • Blog Re-post, “Marriage Isn’t For You”, Seth Adam Smith—
    www. huffingtonpost.com/seth-adam-smith/marriage-isnt-for-you_b_4209837.html
  • Document, The Family: A Proclamation to the World
    www. lds.org/topics/family-proclamation
  • Video, “Lean on My Ample Arm”—www. youtube.com/watch?v=iWn48w7vX80
  • Hymn, “Lean on My Ample Arm”, music, recordings, lyrics—www. lds.org/music/library/hymns/lean-on-my-ample-arm?lang=eng
  • Video, “What Do LDS Women Get?”—www. youtube.com/watch?v=-QYlDLChzig
  • Address, “Come, Join With Us,” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, LDS General Conference Oct 2013—www. lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/come-join-with-us
  • Illustration, Seeing Ourselves As Brave — Being Brave For Others—https://www. lds.org/media-library/images/primary/illustrations?lang=eng#children-barking-dog-778662

——– End of WebCredits ——–