Grateful Still

I am just sitting here thinking how grateful I am for the last few years and what the Lord has been doing with me to try to teach me.  And I am grateful God is patient and uses persuasion and not control or force.

The Lord is always gentle with me.

I have talked about this before, but I can look back over my life and see God leading me the whole time.  But He doesn’t push or force, and so I see that I have to show I really do want what I get, and I have to actually be willing to sacrifice what it takes to get it and what comes as a result.

I am thinking about the catalysts for what I have learned and experienced the past decade or so.  I think there are a few things that allowed the Lord to teach me so much more stuff, and to give me more experiences to learn from.

First, I had this love for Jesus and a desire to be like He was from a very early age, which I have talked about before on this blog.  I think that was a gift, and probably something brought with me from before this life.

Second, I studied certain things for decades.  And I was restless with the status quo.  Because of what I learned, I knew that experiencing the same things for decades, and really not learning all that much more, was not the way it was supposed to be.  Yes, I had great experiences with people and with God, but when I look back, I can see there was not a whole lot more insight or knowledge of the things of God that I gained, no matter how much I read or studied through those years.

Third, miraculously I was led to the further information I had been searching actively for, for all those decades.  I attribute that totally to God, but I also know that if I hadn’t been searching, He wouldn’t have forced the information on me.  And if at any point I had (or if I do now) rejected what I was being given, He would have stopped giving me what I didn’t want.

Fourth, I finally (after a long time of being foolish) took a step away from the control of men and followed what the spirit of the Lord was telling me, and then miracles happened that opened the way for me to learn so many things.

Fifth, that led to more stepping away than I ever imagined I might have to do.  I had to sacrifice what I had often before described as “my whole life.”  What I learned through doing that was that I had conflated an institution and the control of men with what was ACTUALLY my whole life.

Sixth, I learned that life could be even harder than I imagined, but that in the midst of that, I could still be thankful every minute for the greater knowledge and understanding I was given.  It is worth it.

I am thankful every day for this new path.  Many things are sad and hard.  Harder than I ever imagined things would be, as I said.  But never, not for a moment, have I felt it is not worth it.  Truth is delicious, as Joseph Smith said.  And the more I learn and understand, the more I realize I don’t know and don’t understand.  I have had to lay what I thought I knew, and what I thought I understood, on the altar, so the Lord could really teach me.  It is an incredible journey which both breaks you and heals you. And it doesn’t end, if you don’t want it to.

Another word about truth.  It may not always feel good to hear it in the first moment.  It may sometimes be VERY uncomfortable to hear the truth.  We may think truth is false at first when it goes against something we believe, when it makes us feel uncomfortable and bumps up against our cognitive dissonance.

Truth, or things God asks of us, do NOT always “feel” good or give us “warm fuzzies.”  There are examples of that over and over in the scriptures.  I used the example of Samuel the Lamanite in another post.  The people shooting arrows at him certainly took the truth to be hard because what he was saying went against what they believed.

But truth is worth whatever we have to sacrifice.  We may have to join Samuel on the wall and have arrows shot at us also.  In the 6th Lecture on Faith, paragraph 9, it says “the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God is obtained by offering sacrifice. And in the last days before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Psalms 50:3 – 5 [Ps. 50:1]: Our God shall come and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant unto me by sacrifice.” (reference here)  The words I put in bold in that quote show that we can’t just make a covenant “to” sacrifice, we make a covenant “by” sacrifice.

There is always sacrifice.  In the next paragraph from Lectures on Faith: “Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on Eternal life and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith, therefore they cannot lay hold upon Eternal life because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do, and without this guarantee faith could not exist.” (reference here)

I thought I was sacrificing before.  There was sacrifice for me before, but it was not the same.  It is clear there are levels upon levels of sacrifice.  We have only to look at the atonement to know that.

Anyway, it has been beautiful to me, this last decade especially, no matter the sacrifice.  And I am forever grateful.  I hope I can learn everything it is possible for me to in this life, and that I can do whatever the Lord wants me to do.  I only can with the Lord’s help.  That I do know.

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Beautiful Symbolism

Some of the most beautiful and misunderstood symbolism illuminated:

“this” and “that” Part 3

In a temple ceremony, a veil is used as a symbol to separate the initiate from the Lord. This is a symbol of the division between heaven and earth, between time and eternity, or between the sacred and the commonplace. Beyond the veil are the angels, gods and spirits (that). Here there are mortals.

Passing through that veil (that) happens in one of two ways. One way is to gain knowledge of God’s mysteries and living true and faithful to them. This is symbolized in the temple ceremony, but that actually happened in the case of the brother of Jared. “And because of the knowledge of this man, he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. And he saw the finger of Jesus, which when he saw, he fell with fear, for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord. And he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil. Therefore, he saw Jesus, and he did minister unto him.” (NC Ether 1:14) Temple rites explain that anyone who arrives at the veil boundary who has been true and faithful in all things is entitled to converse with the Lord through the veil. Once the Lord is satisfied they possess the required attributes, then they can enter into His presence.

The second way of passing through that veil is explained by Alma, “[B]ehold, it has been made known unto me by an angel that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.” (NC Alma 19:6)

The ceremony employs two veils to symbolize the separation between mortality and eternity, the sacred and the profane. The boundary veil is used during the ceremony to test the initiate before permitting the individual to enter into the presence of the Lord. The second veil is used to symbolize the role of the woman.

Except for what happens in the womb of the woman, everything in mortality is subject to entropy. Women have the ordained power to produce new life. Everything else decays and dies. Her power defies the universal effects of entropy.

The ceremonial boundary veil that acts as the divider between worlds represents when the initiate is tested by heaven. This takes place before they are permitted to pass from earth to heaven, from time to eternity and from the commonplace to the sacred. In direct contrast, the veil of the woman represents the transition of pre-earth eternal spirits into mortality, when the sacred becomes embodied. She, along with God, veils in flesh the spirits from beyond the veil. “You have clothed me with skin and flesh, and have framed me with bones and sinews.” (OC Job 4:10) Therefore, the woman’s veil represents the inverse of the other veil. The boundary veil symbolizes losing the flesh to leave mortality, and her veil endows the immortal spirit with mortal flesh.

Like her heavenly counterpart, the woman represents creation. This process, like that which is beyond the boundary veil, is sacred. Both veils symbolize the sacred.

Woman is veiled to show that in a fallen world, trapped by decay and death, creation continues through her. Life springs anew and what is sacred and pure is born into mortal life. It would not be proper to remove the ceremonial veiling from the woman unless the intention was to abort the symbol of new life and creation. It destroys the symbol of the sacred power given to woman. The destroyer, of course, seeks to end life and impose misrule and death.

Of all the symbols in the temple rites, some of the most important and least understood involve the woman. The role of man is knowledge and the role of woman is wisdom. In the paper Our Divine Parents, pages 35 through 38, there is a discussion about Moses’ parable of the creation of man and woman. The woman had a direct relation to the Heavenly Mother, from whom she obtained the power to produce new life. That power resides with the Eternal Mother, and had to be endowed by Her for the mortal woman to inherit that eternal power. The creation of woman was designed to preserve, despite the fall of man, the Divine Mother’s power allowing life to continue despite the relentless pull of entropy toward dissolution, decay and the grave. This originally elevated the woman.

The original of the portion of this post in blue print can be found here.

“Our Divine Parents” is a wonderful paper to read for much more amazing information on this subject.

You can also listen to the audio of the “Our Divine Parents” talk here.

Here is the YouTube video of the talk.

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More Symbolism

Beautiful and extremely important symbolism discussed:

“this” and “that” Part 2

Like the parables Christ taught, temple rites have always used symbols to use “this” act or performance in order to reveal truths about “that” which is eternal. Temples are a great storehouse of symbolism, or one great parable used to teach truths about God. For example, under the Law of Moses, the rites of animal sacrifice required for various sins and cleansings were used to teach about the future sacrifice of a Redeemer.

The Scribes and Pharisees did not understand Christ’s parables. Those stories meant nothing to them. If it had been left to the Scribes and Pharisees, Christ’s parables would have been discarded. Imagine what Christianity would lack if we did not have the parable of the Good Samaritan, or the mustard seed, or the lost coin, or the Prodigal Son because the Scribes and Pharisees saw no reason to retain them.

When it comes to symbols (this) representing something else (that), the temple clothing given in the initiation is filled with symbolism. Depicted in the beginning of temple ceremony are six days of creation. They include six organizing labors divided into increments called “days.” Day 1: organizing together disorganized material to form a world. Day 2: dividing the water from the land. Day 3: establishing the lights in the firmament as signs. Day 4: placing plant life. Day 5: placing animal life. Day 6: putting man on earth. Despite the interruption, the seventh day was ordained to be a time of rest from labor.

There are also six articles of clothing. Article 1: robe. Article 2: slippers, Article 3: cap. Article 4: apron. Article 5: girdle. Article 6: undergarment. Each of these articles of clothing is worn by the initiate to symbolize, among other things, the creation labors, or one of the six days of creation. The slippers represent to the initiate the second day of creation. Until the dry land appeared, there was no place for man to walk.

The temple clothing symbolizes other things as well. The slippers in particular have an important second meaning; one that is more intimate than the appearance of dry land on the second day of creation. Slippers are removed and then put on again as part of the temple clothing so as to draw attention to them. Unlike the robes, which are changed from one shoulder to another to symbolize progression, nothing is done with the slippers when the robes change shoulders. Once they are donned as part of the temple regalia, they are to remain on the initiate even while other articles are moved. This is because once a soul begins to walk in the path of righteousness they are never to depart from that path.

The journey of the saved soul remains ongoing until we are in the presence of God. The slippers represent staying on the path; having remained true and faithful in all things. This in turn qualifies the individual to converse with the Lord through the veil and receive further light and knowledge. A house of God must symbolize this, as explained by Micah: “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths.” (OC Micah 1:9; see also Isa. 1:6) The symbol of staying on that path is critical because that is the only way to obtain salvation: “none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the straight path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.” (NC 2 Ne. 15:1) Following this path has been the message delivered by true prophets among the Jews and Nephites. “Cry unto this people, saying, Repent ye, repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight[.]” (NC Alma 5:3; see also NC Matt. 2:1)

The slippers and other articles of ceremonial clothing represent one of the days of creation, or symbolize part of the creation itself. Wearing these six symbols means the initiate represents the creation. When the initiate enters through the veil into God’s presence, that entry represents redemption of the initiate, and also symbolizes the redemption of all creation. This means that the creating process continues even if only one couple is redeemed. Through the redemption of the man and woman as one, they will continue to create worlds without end. (See NC Eph. 1:11; T&C 69:28) Christ testified, “Moreover, those who are here on this journey with me will be added upon for evermore if they have faith in me. They will rise up to likewise generate endless lives, worlds without end.” (T&C 171: Chapter 5:16)

The symbolic journey of the initiate is also the symbolic continuation of all creation. There will be other souls created, and other worlds established like the world in which we presently live. Thus the journey on that path continues worlds without end. Taking off the slippers and putting them on again as part of the temple clothing is a profound symbol of eternal truth.

The original of the portion of this post in blue print can be found here.

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Symbolism

Symbolism and symbols are vital to humans, I believe.  I have realized more and more that it is the way to learn many profound truths, even from just one symbol.  Jesus used symbols to teach profound truths.

Some important points about some important symbols:

“this” and “that”

Symbolism substitutes one thing to represent another. There is always “this” that stands in the place of “that.” The value of the symbol is in teaching about “that” by employing “this” as a teaching tool.

In temple symbolism, the “this” used has no real value, but “that” holds eternal value. If an unbelieving person obtains access to “this” temple symbol, but fails to understand its relationship to “that” which is eternal, they have nothing of value. Likewise, when the symbol this has no meaning for those who believe in the temple, then it fails to have any value for the believer as well.

God’s highest truths frequently use symbols. Christ used parables to teach about that by using the familiar to substitute as a representation. He explained that this was to prevent those who were unworthy of the symbol from comprehending the truths. Seeing, they “see not” and hearing they “hear not.” (See, NC Matt. 7:2; Mark 2:13.) So we understand that merely getting this without understanding that is worthless.

Temple rites are a gift from God that is filled with this for that. Ignorance leads to apostasy because the ignorant cannot see that this holds powerful value to teach about that. Even the greatest symbols can become nothing when they are not understood and are discarded by the ignorant. Then “they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. For what does it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (T&C 86:4)

Before the temple endowment was given, God explained what He intended to accomplish through the future rites: “I say unto you that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places, wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory and honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.” (T&C 141:12) God intended the symbols to convey glory, honor and a gift or endowment upon the people who received them. The symbols are not the real thing, but they teach and point to the real thing that is required for salvation.

In the temple ceremony there are symbols for certain virtues that are called “keys.” These keys use hand contact and words as the symbol (this) to substitute for the actual virtues of obedience, sacrifice, chastity, gospel and consecration (that).

In the Egyptian ceremonial there was a symbolic weighing of the heart against the Ma’at feather, along with the 42 negative confessions that a person had not sinned, had not robbed with violence, had not stolen, had not uttered lies, had not committed adultery, and so on. These rites were intended to teach the person to avoid bad behaviors and acquire the seven virtues of truth, justice, balance, order, compassion, harmony, and reciprocity.

Like the ceremonies of Egypt, the restored temple rites were also intended to symbolize the acquisition of the virtues of obedience, sacrifice, chastity, gospel and consecration. The ceremony also put the initiate through a symbolic judgment in the presence of a judge who conversed with the initiate through the veil, asking for them to present the symbols (this) to demonstrate they had acquired and were in possession of the required virtues (that).

Anyone can learn of the ceremonial symbols without possessing the required virtues. But to satisfy the God-judge who meets mankind as they pass through the veil at death, the initiate must possess the actual virtues these key words and hand contacts represent. They must have the real thing.

Throughout the restored temple ceremonies the symbols are introduced sequentially, first on the right side. Therefore, interpreting the symbols focuses on understanding the significance of the right side.

To teach Christ’s gospel using symbol, part of the temple ceremony included putting a robe on the left shoulder and tying a girdle around the waist on the right hip. By putting the robe on the left shoulder, the right shoulder was left uncovered. Anciently, clothing was valuable, and most labor was manual. A bare shoulder could become calloused through work, and if scratched or cut, could heal. But a torn robe took effort and time to repair, and any injury to the garment would shorten its life. Therefore, clothing was protected from this daily labor when possible by leaving the weight-bearing shoulder uncovered. Leaving the right shoulder bare in the temple ceremony symbolized that at that stage of the initiation there was still the need to carry a burden on the right side. The work was not done.

The belly is the symbolic center of our appetites and passions. Tying the bow of the girdle on the right side symbolized the need to bind the belly, or control the appetites and passions that so often lead to sin and conflict. The bow symbolized the effort required to conquer the unruly body.

There was also a bow over the right ear for the man, the bow having three loops. Placing these over the right ear symbolized the need to hear, or hearken. The three loops above the ear symbolize first the Godhead who are above. These loops secondly also symbolize the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whose names are often used to identify the true God. By obeying the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the person can accomplish the labor symbolized by the bare shoulder and bind the inappropriate appetites and unruly passions portrayed in the knotted girdle on the right hip.

When the individual achieves these required developmental improvements symbolized in this robing, then they remove all these accouterments and put them on again. Removing them was the symbol that all progress made will not be enough if you are unwilling to lay them aside, sacrifice what you have obtained from God, in order to receive more. Nothing can be gained if you are unwilling to change as often as God may require of you. Even if you mourn the loss of what you must lay aside, when God asks it of you it must be done to progress further.

As the symbolic journey continued, the robe and girdle were again donned and changed. This time the robe moved to the right shoulder and the bow is tied on the left hip. Because the symbols are interpreted from the right side, this movement shows that the hard work has been accomplished, and the robe can be safely worn upon the shoulder. The physical battle is over and the body has been controlled. They have won honor through their progression in light and truth. There is no longer a knot or tie on the right hip, but only the smooth girdle surrounding the belly because desires, appetites and passions have been defeated. Progress has been made. This is why they were part of temple worship.

The previous part of this post in blue lettering was reprinted here with permission from the author.  That original post can be found here.

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A Quote

The quote:

“Although the Lord invites all to come to Him, only a few will accept the invitation
to come. You may wonder why; but it is because men are unwilling to accept
what is offered. They want authority in this world. They want praise and honor
from men. They cannot accept His invitation until they lay all such things aside
and realize that any honor, any authority, any power comes only from heaven.
Without a connection to heaven there is no power, no authority and no honor.
Heavenly power or authority can only be exercised by fully mirroring the will of
heaven, and never by acting independent of that will. Man’s own will cannot,
does not, and never will be allowed to govern. Even though someone may be
ordained to hold priesthood, called to an office, or given the right to decide
matters in the Church, that does not empower them to contradict the will of
heaven. Men cannot substitute their desire for heaven’s; because whenever
they do that, the acts they perform while only pretending to follow heaven will
condemn them. They use the name of God in vain anytime they follow their own
desire, while falsely claiming they are doing heaven’s will. Men who try to
conceal their sins, who in their pride claim authority over others, who claim the
right to control or manipulate others, whose ambitions set their agenda, cannot
and do not conform to heaven’s will. Heaven itself withdraws from such men,
and when it does they have absolutely no priesthood authority or power. Such
men are left to themselves, and oftentimes they seek to exercise yet more
control, more authority, and more feigned priesthood rights over the humble
who suffer under their claimed presiding authority. When such ambitious men
subjugate these humble Saints, they are fighting against God. They will come
to learn too late for their own salvation that they have been on their own errand
all along, and not the Lord’s. Unfortunately almost all men fall victim to this false
illusion of control over others. As soon as someone believes they have been
given the authority of heaven, they almost immediately begin to abuse their
fellow man with claims about the right to control, manipulate or coerce them.
This is why so very few have ever really accepted His invitation to come unto
Him. There really is no authority in the priesthood He gives to men. The
priesthood is an invitation to come and learn to persuade others by the power
of example, to convince others by the things which you will endure for their
sake, to show love without pretense and without calling attention to yourself. It
is an invitation to service. It is an invitation to seek after heaven itself. When
someone accepts that invitation, and meekly submits to the gentle influence of
the Holy Spirit, they will learn more by showing kindness to their fellow man
than they can ever learn through any other means. Such men will rebuke
others only on those occasions when heaven would rebuke; but even then they
will immediately show increased love. They will not fail to show unceasing love,
even to those who required a sharp word. Such men always show love to
others as the most important part of their example. Such men will convince
those to whom they minister that they would give their lives to save them
because their love is so strong. Anyone who is in contact with heaven will love
all their fellow men. They will meditate night and day upon the things of heaven.
They will be able to enter into God’s own presence because their lives are so
lived that heaven willingly accompanies them. They will deserve residence in
heaven, and therefore heaven will take up residence with them. God will be
their companion. Love will be theirs because they will never try to control,
dominate or subdue others. Because of their love, the power of heaven (which
is love) will be with them forever and ever.” 

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Saying some things: Race and the Priesthood

Those who know me have heard me open my mouth about some things already.  I have been writing some stuff on this blog that upsets people.  I am not super courageous, and pretty much every time I write something on here, I get some pushback that hurts me.  But that’s just too bad for me, because I need to just suck it up and be brave 🙂 . And if people say things back to me, it is important for me to listen to those things and try to understand and learn from what others think and feel.

There is much misunderstanding between people.  Language is so imperfect, and experiences are so different.  And sometimes we won’t fully understand, but that is where love has to come in and cover it all, and pride has to go away.

For several months now, I am feeling over and over that it is important to speak what I see as true, particularly when it is speaking truth to what I see as tyranny (paraphrasing Jordan Peterson there).  So I have to gather my courage.  I just have to try to be sure that what I am saying is OK with the Lord for me to say.  And I try to always do that.

So, some of this is about me, because in my soul I have some things I want to say, and none of us know how long we have to say things.  And the reason I want to say some things at this point is because when we see things that are just wrong, that are harmful, we need to be brave and open our mouths.

I have also talked about so many things which are so beautiful to me!  But I have learned to my sorrow that some things that are beautiful to me, when the Lord shows me truth, are distressing and seem awful to others.  It is true that many things that are true are ugly.   But truth itself is not.

Being a member of the Mormon Church for most of my life, I was taught to spread good things that I believe.  Mormons believe in missionary work.  They believe that when you learn truth, you have an obligation to share that truth.  I have said a lot of stuff in my life that was what I understood as truth at the time that I now see differently.  We all see truth a bit differently, even people within the same religion.  That’s ok.  And we all evolve and grow in our understandings.  When we don’t do that, that is what I believe is the definition of being damned – being stopped in our progression.

When we are super sure we have the truth, and are not willing to listen to others, we have surely damned ourselves.  I believe that is what it means to be hard hearted.  We may end up being those who stone the prophets without even realizing it, those who shoot the arrows at Samuel on the wall.

We are often sure we wouldn’t ever do that.  We either are sure what we know is right, so we see no reason to listen to some stranger on the wall; or else what that stranger on the wall is saying doesn’t feel good to us.  It upsets us.

And anyway, that’s not our Prophet on the wall.  That guy on the wall is clearly ignorant, or crazy, or angry, or disgruntled, or uninspired, or not speaking soft words, or a tare, or maybe even apostate.  That guy on the wall is dangerous to listen to.  Maybe that guy has already said stuff we don’t think is true, so we aren’t going to listen to any more.  We have been warned about guys on walls, or guys who write blogs or certain books, or guys who might possibly say anything that we deem to not be exactly in line with those we have already designated as ones through which truth will come.

And also, if we listen to those guys on the wall, it could be very dangerous for us.  We might be deceived.  We might believe what they say.  We might then be identified with them, and called the same bad things as them, and be punished as them.  So it is scary.  And so we cut ourselves off from so much truth we could get by listening to others.

The thing is, everyone has truth to impart.  We can learn from everyone.  Almost every group has their own view that is valuable for us to know and try to understand.  And we will never know that part of the truth unless we listen with an open heart.  We walk a razor’s edge here in life.  We have to learn to discern.  We have to learn to choose.  We have to learn through looking at and considering various and opposing ideas, and hard and even ugly things.  If we always shield ourselves from everything, we will stunt our own growth.

In my life it has been a very thin thread upon which much growth in my life rests.  I can see many threads I almost missed that have been of vital importance to my whole existence.  I shudder to think how many I may have missed entirely.  I do believe that if we desire to progress we will get other chances, at least at some point in the eternities, but maybe not in this eternal round.  Why wait?  I am sure the Pharisees wanted truth, but they thought they had it, and so they missed Jesus.

It is always a razor’s edge.   Some truth seems beautiful to us.  Some does not, although to me it always has ended up to be good to know even ugly truth.   I do not believe it is OK to cover up even ugly truth.

Yes, we have to forgive.   And we have to apologize.   And we have to try to understand.  And until we understand, we can still express sorrow for having caused hurt.  I have had people who didn’t remember hurting me, but who still apologized because they did not want to have hurt me, and their apology still healed me.  But it is good to try to give people what they need to heal, if you can.

I realize that it is very good to let some things go, particularly things between individuals; forgive and be done with them.  But if people cannot heal, or cannot be kept safe, or cannot progress because they are on a train to destruction, then it is probably not good to keep the things causing that hidden and covered up.

The Savior forgave and atoned for those who crucified Him before they even did it.  But the truth of what happened still got told.  How could we learn if we didn’t even know about it?  We can tell about and learn about truth without even blaming people.  But I believe we still need to know about it to learn not to repeat or perpetuate it, and to know how to repair the damage of bad things.

I believe this quote: “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation.  If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” J. Reuben Clark

Now, if anyone has still hung in there through that whole thing, which was really a preface to this and future posts, here is what I want to talk about today:

The issue of Race and the Priesthood and the Church.  Here is the Church’s essay on Race and the Priesthood.

Since I am a white woman, I am going to mostly let the brothers and sisters of African descent in the Church talk about it (in links below).  But I do have a tiny bit of my own experiences, since I had to try to reconcile it in my mind as a convert, and since I have children of African descent.

When I joined the Church, and for most of my time as a member, I had the mistaken idea that if Joseph Smith had the first vision and if the Book of Mormon was true, that it was all true.  I very much conflated the Church with the Gospel.  The Lord showed me that that is a false way of looking at it.

So, because of what I thought, I had a very hard time with black people not being allowed to have the Priesthood nor Temple blessings.  I didn’t know how to reconcile it with what I believed, which was:

2 Nephi 26:33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

There were a couple books I read that helped me deal with my cognitive dissonance over this issue, because even though I was totally overjoyed with the June 1, 1978 change, I still struggled with the fact that it had ever been denied.  Those books were:

A Soul So Rebellious by Mary Sturlaugson Eyre

All Are Alike Unto God by E. Dale Lebaron

I read them a long time ago, so can’t remember lots of what was in them, but they did help me.  Still, it was not quite enough, and so mostly I didn’t think a lot about it.   I was super thankful that the change had happened way before we adopted our children, though.

It took me decades to realize I didn’t have to reconcile it; I could just realize that things went wrong, and that didn’t negate other truth.

One thing I have heard several times over the past week or so is people of African descent in the Church saying that they can’t be the only ones standing up, there have to be white people standing up, too.  And it can’t just be going to their black friends after an “incident” and saying how sorry they are.  White people need to be standing up in the moment.  Speak the truth in the moment.  Point out hurtful things in the moment.  Have your black brothers’ and sisters’ backs in the moment when they need it, even if they aren’t in the room, or even in your ward.  Correct erroneous ideas.

I totally failed at that in one particular instance quite a few years ago.  We had just moved into a new ward, and on our very first Sunday in Gospel Doctrine class the teacher actually told a terribly racist joke during his lesson!  I was totally stunned and horrified.  I had black children.  But I sat there and said nothing.  I could have even done it in a kind, gentle way, but I didn’t.  It was totally out of fear, fear of offending, fear because we didn’t know anyone in the ward yet, fear of not saying the right thing.  I really regret not saying something.  I didn’t stand up for my own children in that moment.

I am sure I have failed at other times, but that is the time I remember.  In trying not to fail now, I am saying something about this, but mostly letting the people it affects most talk about it.  I have shared many of the things I have listened to from Sistas in Zion and others on my Facebook page.  It is dismaying that I know almost no one listens to what I have posted.  Maybe it is because they don’t have time to listen to them, but I do wish people would realize that this is important if you are LDS.  Very important.  These are your brothers and sisters.  Listen to how to help them.  Don’t just ignore them because it is me posting that stuff 🙂 .

A little while ago a fake apology for the Priesthood ban that was supposedly from the Church was posted.  It looked like it did actually come from The First Presidency, and many people believed it.  Many Mormons and others were overjoyed to read this apology, because they thought it was true.  When it was found out that it was a fake, it hurt many, many people.  It hurt some of my personal friends who are black.  That made me very sad.

Here is one of the videos I posted where those feelings are expressed.  I am posting it here because I hope many people will listen to it, so they can help with this issue, but mainly the broader issue, which causes great pain to many.  In this, she talks a lot about the broader issue, and not just the fake apology issue:

(There have been many articles in the media about all of that incident that you can look up, if you had not heard about it.)

Yesterday the Church did a celebration for the 40th anniversary of the June 1, 1978 change.  I was able to watch most of it on the live stream.  I really loved the music and the stories.  If you missed it, you can watch it here.

This is a pretty good article about the Priesthood ban and the history of it.

Today was the Wander No More: 40 years after the LDS Priesthood & Temple Restoration conference.  I have been able to watch some of it on live streaming.  I have really enjoyed it.  Here is the keynote address, which I really liked.  You’ll probably have to turn it way up and listen closely to hear it well, but it is worth it:

 

I have put these links hoping that everyone in the LDS Church will become familiar with these issues and struggles for many members – so that people can be understood, and so that people can have each other’s backs.

There are things to be fixed.  All is not well in Zion.  We have been warned about even saying that.   2 Nephi 28:21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Maybe if we can realize and understand the problems, we can help to fix them.  I think it starts by hearing truth wherever it may come from, and trying to understand each other.  And then love.

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How it began for me

I talked some in an earlier post about how I felt about Jesus and God from a young age, as far back as I can remember.

But there was a huge event which changed my whole life, and I believe my whole future eternally (although I don’t see that as linear any more, but that is another topic).  That event was joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It sort of began when I was twelve, and in 7th Grade in Junior High (that was where we went instead of Middle School back in those olden days 🙂 ), and I met my first friend who was Mormon.  She became my dear friend, and we are still friends today.

It was so long ago, that there are only certain incidents I remember well, but I know she started even at that time talking to me about things about the Gospel and the Church.  One memory, for example, that sticks out that happened early on, I think, is us sitting in a stairwell at school and talking about dinosaurs, and how did they fit into the Genesis story, and Adam and Eve being 6000 years ago, etc.  I loved talking about that kind of cool stuff.

Sometime after I joined the Church, she told me that it was scary for her to bring up Church or Gospel stuff with me because she didn’t know how I would take it.  It’s always high stakes when you are in the Church and truly believe it all, because you want your friends and everyone you love to believe it, too, and you are taught you have a responsibility to tell them about it.  But you also never know if telling someone about it will make them feel pressured and judged, and/or if they will think it is all too weird and not be your friend any more.  Lot’s of stress there always.  I was sad when she told me it had been stressful for her, because even if I had not eventually joined, I would not have even thought of not being her friend because of it.  I learned later that she had a valid fear (although not with me).  I have learned that religion does divide, even people who love each other.  But I was young and naive then and couldn’t see as clearly that it so often does that.

My memory is that until we were 15 or so the talks we had weren’t super often, nor super intense, but somewhere around the time I turned 15, I think, things ramped up 🙂 .

Anyone who knew me for years in the Church has probably heard me talk about this event, and it was huge for me.  My friend invited me to a Church Young Women’s Standard’s Night (I think that was what it was called).  It was held at someone’s house.  I remember we were all sitting around in a circle, and they went around the circle and each young woman bore her testimony.  During their testimonies they talked about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and I’m sure lots of other stuff.  The things they said struck me to the core.  It was this crystal clear knowing that what they were saying was true, and this was an incredibly huge thing, and I started to cry.  I think I was crying sort of uncontrollably, and I remember going into a bedroom in the house, and my friend and maybe some other girls came in with me.  They were all happy because they figured I was feeling the Spirit and feeling this was true.

So many of the incredibly pivotal spiritual moments in my life are only more fully understood as I look back on them later.  Later I can see so much more of what things mean, or what the Lord was trying to teach me then, and also more of what an eternally important moment that really was.  This was one of those times that was huge even in the moment, but as the years go by, I can look back and see that it was even more vital in my life than I even had an inkling of at that moment.  It is one of those things that almost everything in the future hangs upon.  And I cringe sometimes when I look on those moments and think, “What if I had chosen not to go, or somehow missed what the Lord was trying to tell me?” because my whole existence would be different.  I sometimes wonder if I have missed some of those things.  But the ones I know about, the Lord has usually made pretty clear effort to get me to notice, but there still is always the choice to reject those things.  It certainly is a precarious existence!  It’s a good thing we have the Lord on our side and eternities to go.

The next part of that same experience is something I probably haven’t talked about as much, because it took place when I was alone that night, praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true, if Joseph Smith did have a vision, and if he was a Prophet, and if so, if  I should join this Church.  I still remember lying in my bed and praying those things with all my heart and soul.  My memory is that I was in prayer with the Lord for a really long time that night, and that it was wonderful!  This glorious feeling of light and love stayed with me, from during that meeting and into that night.  It really was that night that I knew I was to join the Church, and that those things were true.

I can’t remember how much my friend had told me about the Church and the Gospel before that night, but I know my interest ramped up after that 🙂 .  My friend was super smart.  She was also very well read and well taught in the scriptures and the doctrines of the Church.  We were probably not your normal 15 year olds.  And certainly she was not the normal 15-16 year old you would generally find in the Church today as far as her broad knowledge base.  And she was very spiritual.  I remember once spending the night at her house, and we were lying in bed for hours talking about angels, and seeing angels, and all the stories and possibilities of that.  I felt angels with us in the room that night.

I was allowed by my parents to go to Young Women’s meetings with her during the week.  It was arranged that I would take the discussions from the missionaries on those nights, since I had to take those before I was allowed to be baptized.  The missionaries thought I was “golden” and that I was really smart, because I already knew all the stuff they were teaching me.  I already knew it all because my friend was teaching it to me before the missionaries did 🙂 .

The group of youth in that ward at that time were pretty much amazing.  There were at least two others who joined the Church shortly before or near the time I did.  And it seemed to me all the youth were incredibly interested in really learning and understanding the gospel.  We had youth leaders and teachers who would talk to us about anything.  We could ask any questions, no matter how far out.  This was back in 1973, and things weren’t nearly so correlated then, and people really seemed to study a lot, and asking questions about off topic or weird stuff was not shut down.  So, I learned a lot pretty quickly.

I was baptized on March 24, 1973.  That summer I decided I would read the whole D&C while I was visiting my Dad’s in NY for several weeks.  So, I did.  I learned a lot from that, too.  I read lots of the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I don’t remember when I read the Book of Mormon all the way through the first time, but I was reading it, too.  I read some, maybe all, of the Lectures on Faith early on, and I remember older members of the Church saying they were sad it had been removed from the scriptures. I knew about having your Calling and Election made sure, and having the Second Comforter early in my membership (maybe before I was baptized, but I can’t remember) because of things I read and things I was taught.

Anyway, the other day I was thinking about all the doctrines and teachings that I remember as being reasons why I wanted to join the Church and why I loved it so much from the beginning.  I joined because it was really clear the Lord was telling me to, but I had certain things I loved the most that were my most important reasons.  Quite a few of them were things that I already believed, or had inklings of before I even knew about the Mormon Church.  (When I met my friend, literally all I knew about Mormons was that there was a guy named Brigham Young who had lots of wives, and who was the leader of the Mormons, and he went out to Utah and settled there.  I had never even heard the name Joseph Smith and knew nothing of what they believed.)  These are the main things I remember trying to tell everyone around me in my family and my other friends who were not Mormons when I was a new member, because I was very naive, and I thought, “if they know these things, they will surely also see that this is true”:

The Book of Mormon is a true book, and it tells about Christ visiting America after His resurrection.

We lived a pre-mortal existence.  We existed with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and our family and friends before we were born on this earth.

It’s not just heaven or hell after we die.  There’s lots more to it.  And we can still be with our family there.

The Lord didn’t just quit talking to people at the end of the Bible.  There are living Prophets who literally talk to God and tell people what He says.

It is possible for anyone to see Angels and Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in mortality.  And Jesus Christ and His Heavenly Father aren’t the same guy.

There should be no paid clergy. (I was a bit distressed when the D&C said something about Bishops being paid, but they weren’t anymore, and I didn’t know about that until I read the D&C, I don’t think.)

There are other things I learned and believed, and lots of nuance to those things I listed, too.  But those are generally the main points I remember telling people about because they were the main important and beautiful things to me.

The very interesting thing, to me, is that I realize that all of the things that were the big things for me then are still things I believe now.  It is so amazing to me to look back and see the Lord teaching me aspects of these things from my childhood until now.  Of course, I have a broader or shifted view of these things, but the concepts are things I have been being taught pieces of all my life.  I am very grateful.

I am incredibly grateful for the path the Lord has taken me on.  I have to say, “Wow!  This has been HARD!”  But I wouldn’t trade the knowledge of truth for an “easier” time.

I am so thankful that I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973 when I was 15 years old.  I am so thankful to my friend for teaching me about it and about the gospel.

Many know I am on a different path now than they think I should be on.  Many friends and some family are sad or confused by what I believe.  Generally, I think, the people who feel that way don’t actually know what I believe, even though I have tried to write some of it on this blog.  Still, it is such a small sliver of the journey I have been on that gets written about on this blog, that the whole picture is not seen at all.  And that causes a lack of understanding.  And I keep being taught new things, too.  And human beings always misunderstand each other anyway 🙂 .

And it’s Ok if people are on a different path.  If you think I have gone astray, you don’t have to fear that if you hear, or read, or know the same stuff I know, that you will fling off and do something you don’t want to do!  You don’t ever have to do or believe anything you don’t want to.  Another thing the Church teaches is that agency is paramount.  The Lord won’t take your agency away.  Others will, though.  Almost everyone will try to, even unconsciously.  We all do here in this telestial state.  Even the best of us often try to save each other through inappropriate means.

But searching out knowledge is important.  I would say to be incredibly wary if people tell you not to seek certain knowledge, or not to read or learn certain stuff.  Teaching and learning discernment is vital, but controlling others is not.

So, this post is to tell some of the beginning of my journey, for my children and grandchildren and anyone else who has any desire to know it.  It has been a cool ride, and that is how it started!  In another post I think I will write about what I believed about those topics above even before I learned about the Church, and a broader view of what I believe about them now.

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