Tag Archives: Repentance

I Hope they Call Me on a Mission…

My favorite robot testicle blog (calm down, it’s a metaphor) posted an interesting Q&A with Craig Harline, the author of the book Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary.

(What a title! I haven’t read the book, though I am curious to after reading the Q&A.)

Having as many countries in the world as we have, and having missionaries who served in as many different decades as we have, I don’t doubt that mission experiences are as varied as the number of people who served LDS missions. Add in variables for different mission presidents and companions and backgrounds and expectations and emotional intelligence and…

That’s a lot of variety.

I feel like it would be tremendous fun to get some type of panel together, made up of Latter-day Saint men and women who served missions in different countries and at different times and under different circumstances, just to hear different answers to the same questions. Maybe that’s a fun project for later.

For now, I decided to answer these questions from my own mission experience. Continue reading I Hope they Call Me on a Mission…

The Potter’s Clay

I was reading through some of my old mission notes the other day, and came across a fantastic little lesson. It all starts with this scripture from Jeremiah:

“O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6).

The Potter’s Process

To those who may have taken ceramics in high school (or have seen the movie “Ghost” more than a few times) this may be old news. For the rest of us, though, this is how the ceramics process works.

First, you have to cut and wedge the clay. Wedging is done by rotating the clay and pressing it onto a hard surface. When done correctly, wedging homogenizes the clay and gets all the air bubbles out.

This is very hard work, but work that is absolutely critical. Air still in the clay will expand during firing, and the piece will explode in the kiln.

A piece is then molded and dried before making its’ way to the kiln, where firing takes place. Firing is normally done in multiple steps. The initial firing, referred to as bisque firing, is meant to harden the clay in order to make glazing easier. This first firing takes a few days, as the oven temperature slowly rises to almost 2000 degrees, then slowly falls before pieces are removed from the kiln.

If the temperature rises or falls too quickly, or if the wedging was poor and air bubbles were left in the clay, the piece will explode. It will be completely destroyed, and will likely destroy or damage pieces near it in the kiln.

Our Response to the Divine Potter

As our Heavenly Potter works us into the shapes he desires, we can respond in two ways.

Rebellious Clay

The first response is to rebel against his efforts, to push back against the wedging and the molding. Regarding this response, Isaiah asks,

“For shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16; see also 2 Nephi 27:27).

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9).

Isaiah essentially points out how silly it is to fight our Potter’s hands. It would be absurd for my own clay to start talking back as I formed it into a pot or dish! It’s dirt! It has no idea what’s going on, or what is best.

Humble Clay

This is why it’s so much better to respond in the second way, with humble acceptance. Contrasting the intelligence of a human potter and mud is an apt metaphor. Compared to our Heavenly Father, and just like the dirt, we don’t have a clue.

Additionally, the clay has no real value until it is molded. We could never become apart from the molding, pursuing our own course, what our Heavenly Potter could make us.

In the words of Isaiah, how better is it to say to the Divine Potter,

“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

In his hands we can be shaping into something special. As he wedges us, and we feel the pressure of being stretched and refined, let us remember his purpose. He wants to prepare us for the kilns ahead, and give us the fortitude to withstand the heat.

Firing and Repentance

Once clay is kilned, it’s practically permanent. While it’s possible to become malleable again, it’s so much harder than before the clay is fired.

First, scraps need to be soaked. And soaked. And soaked. The moisture was taken out of the clay over a long, hot process, and it will take a long, long time for moisture to return. It does not happen overnight.

Then the clay must be reconstituted. This is sometimes done with a machine that crushes and mixes the scraps into clay that can once again be molded and shaped.

But all is not done even after reconstitution. Again, the clay must be wedged, and wedging reconstituted clay is far more difficult than wedging new clay.

What can we learn from this?

First, we learn that repentance is hard. It is possible, and it is worth it, but that does not mean that it is without a price. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“I am convinced that… salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that [we] have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. [We] have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

“Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that [we], to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

“For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

The soaking, and the reconstitution, and the wedging after a life of sin will be difficult, and painful.

But I repeat, it is worth it. Isaiah tells us,

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Jesus Christ is our Savior. Should we, God forbid, reject his careful molding and shaping, his atonement provides for us to be soaked, reconstituted, and wedged so that we can be all he wants us to be.

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Spooky Mormon Hell Dream

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”.

The People of Hell
“Now he’s back with all you Cath’lics and Jews”

Do Latter-day Saints believe that Catholics, Jews, and those of other religions are in hell? Of course not.

The final judgement has not yet taken place, so where do we go when we die? We go to a place called the Spirit World to await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. In the Spirit World, the righteous who died with a knowledge of the truth have the opportunity to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who did not live it while they were on the earth.

Do we believe Catholics and Jews are being taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spirit World? We do. But this is a far cry from being in hell, or being eternally damned.

When the Second Coming arrives, the Final Judgment will soon follow. Who are they who inherit the highest glories in the hereafter? The Lord tells us,

They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

“And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:51-53).

The Lord is the one who will judge, and I’m sure there will be Catholics, Jews, and an atheist or two who will inherit heavenly glory. Yet all who do must meet the conditions the Lord has set, the conditions mentioned above, including receiving a testimony of Jesus.

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Spooky Mormon Hell Dream

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”.

The Missionary Handbook
“How could I break rule seventy-two?”

Mission rules are contained in the Missionary Handbook. It’s not a long laundry list of rules, though, so there is no “rule seventy-two”.

I’d be happy to provide some of the content for you, but unfortunately my Missionary Handbook (what we sometimes referred to as our “little white Bible”) is in a cardboard box back in my parent’s house in California with the rest of my mission mementos. If you want, feel free to order one from the link above. This is the new edition, released shortly after the missionary guide Preach My Gospel and the edition I used at the end of my mission, is not significantly different from the previous edition that was in use when I started my mission.

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Spooky Mormon Hell Dream

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”.

Guilt and Godly Sorrow
“I’ve lived with that guilt all of my life”

Elder Price is plagued with guilt about a petty mistake from his childhood. Is this God’s intent, to make us eternally miserable for each mistake we make make? Absolutely not! Guilt is a tool which God uses to turn us back to him. Paul tells us,

“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet, had a son who committed very serious sexual sins. Alma counseled his son directly, and then reassured him of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He said,

“And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).

To another son, he told of his own experience with godly sorrow. He recounted,

“But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins….

“Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!…

“Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (see Alma 36:5-28).

The world likes to believe in a sort of moral relativism, that “right” can be determined by the individual and that guilt is old religion’s way of holding us down. Guilt, though, is the natural consequence that is meant to drive us back to God. It’s a good thing! It’s our choice whether or not to let that guilt remain with us instead of changing our actions, and if we, like Alma, repent, we can be filled with marvelous joy and peace.

And what should we be keeping in mind as we repent? Elder Dallin H. Oaks tells us,

“From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

In his effort to become like Jesus Christ, Elder Price should not be concerned about a childish mistake decades old.

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Spooky Mormon Hell Dream

For a list of all the posts in this series, see here.

Background

Elder Price prepares to leave for Orlando, but remembers mistakes he made as a child and the nightmares he had of hell. He panics when the nightmares start again.

Full Lyrics – “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”

Elder Price: Long ago when I was five
I snuck in the kitchen late at night
And ate a doughnut with a maple glaze.

My father asked who ate the snack
I said that it was my brother Jack
And Jack got grounded for 14 days.

I’ve lived with that guilt all of my life
And the terrible vision that I had that night!

No! Please, I don’t wanna go back!

Chorus: Ha ha ha ha ha!

Down, down thy soul is cast from the Earth whenceforth ye fell!
The path of fire leads thee to Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Welcome back to Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!
You are having A Spooky Mormon Hell Dream now!

Elder Price: And now I’ve gone and done it again!
I’ve committed another awful sin!
I left my mission companion all alone

Oh God, how could I have done this to you?
How could I break rule seventy-two?
And now my soul hath just been thrown back into Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Chorus: Down, down to Satan’s realm!
See where you belong!
There is nothing you can do!
No escape from Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Jesus: You blamed your brother for eating the doughnut, and now you walk out on your mission companion? You’re a ****!

Elder Price: Jesus, I’m sorry!

Chorus: Jesus hates you, this we know!
For Jesus just told you so!

Skeleton 1: You remember Lucifer!

Skeleton 2: He is even spookier!

Satan: Minions of Hades, have you heard the news?
Kevin was caught playing hooky!
Now he’s back with all you Cath’lics and Jews
It’s super spooky-wooky!

Elder Price: I’m sorry, Lord, it was selfish of me
To break the rules, please I don’t wanna be
In this Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Chorus: Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!
Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler, Johnnie Cochran!
The spirits all surround you, spooky, spooky, spooky!

Adolph Hitler: I started a war, and killed millions of Jews!

Genghis Khan: I slaughtered the Chinese!

Jeffrey Dahmer: I stabbed a guy and ****** his corpse!

Johnnie Cochran: I got O. J. freed!

Elder Price: You think that’s bad?
I broke rule seventy-two!

Hitler, Khan, Dahmer, Cochran: Hoh?

Elder Price: I left my companion!
I’m way worse than you!
I hate this Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Chorus: Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Elder Price: Oh, Heavenly Father!  Give me one more chance!
I won’t break the rules again!

I can’t believe Jesus called me a ****!

Chorus: Welcome, welcome to Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!
You are never waking up from Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

Elder Price: Oh, please help me Father!  Please let me wake up!
Give me one more chance!  I won’t let you down again!

Chorus: Down, down thy soul is cast from the Earth whenceforth ye fell!
This must be it, you must be there, you must be in Spooky Mormon Hell Dream now!

The Priesthood Part 3 – Power and Authority in the MIB

Ministering with Power and Authority

While I was a missionary in Hawaii, I spent some time as a Zone Leader. With my companion, I watched over the other missionaries within our (can you guess?) zone. From time to time we were expected to train these missionaries, and we would often try and come up with fun ways to teach principles so that they would “stick.”

One training I gave in Waipahu has pertinence to this discussion of priesthood, and I thought I might include it here. While it was tailored for missionaries, it definitely has application to all priesthood holders. I’ll include a link to the “rap” we made up at the end in case an ex-Hawaiian missionary stumbles upon this and it’s good for a laugh or two (with hyper links included to help with the inside jokes).

Authority – Welcome to the MIB

As I discussed earlier, authority comes not from learning, or wealth, or desire, or apostate ordination, but from a valid ordination done by one who holds the authority to perform such an ordination (Part I).  Because of apostasy that authority needed to be restored, and thus all those who hold the priesthood can be found only within the LDS Church (Part II).

When I was getting ready to serve my mission, I was ordained as an elder and the Melchizedek (or higher) priesthood was conferred upon me. I was then set apart as a missionary. My ministerial certificate, which I carried with me my entire mission, read like this:

This certifies that the bearer, (Elder Larsen), who is in full faith and fellowship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a duly ordained minister of the gospel, and as such has authority to preach the principles of the gospel and to administer the ordinances thereof. We invite all people to give heed to his message (emphasis added).

Being ordained and set apart was like being inducted into the MIB. I had the authority to do all the things I needed to. This authority is eternal in that it is somewhat independent of the choices I make as long as I have been ordained by one holding the authority to do so. What is dependent on my choices, though, is the power with which I minister and exercise my authority.

Power – Do you have the skills?

Unlike priesthood authority, priesthood power is not eternal. Instead, it’s conditional on us making good choices – Christ explained that to bear fruit as branches we needed to abide in him, the true vine (John 15:1,4-5).

What exactly are some of the choices we can make to access this great power? How do we abide in Christ in order to bear fruit? The answer is a cycle, or belt, if you will.

In the movie Men in Black, there is an item called “The Galaxy”.  The galaxy is not a group of stars millions of miles away, but rather a marble sized jewel and a source of great thermo-nuclear energy.

And it’s found on Orion’s belt – not the three stars that we use to find the constellation, but the collar of Orion the cat. Much like how that belt held a source of great power, the cycle (or belt) below is how we can access great priesthood power.

Faith

Every cycle needs a starting point.  For Will Smith, a beginning in the MIB meant being equipped with the Noisy Cricket.  It seemed small, but packed quite a punch.  For us, our start in this cycle begins with faith in Jesus Christ, and like the Noisy Cricket, faith as small as a mustard seed can pack a punch.

One reason that faith is so important is that it is through faith that we accomplish miracles in our ministry (see Ether 12:12-16; see also the entire chapter and Hebrews 11).

Faith is also an important starting point in the gospel because it leads us to repent, or change our behavior to become more like Jesus Christ.  And as we repent, we become more worthy.

Worthiness

If we are not worthy we will not have priesthood power, regardless of our authority.

Yet should we despair if there are parts of our life not in harmony with the gospel?  Of course not!  Having faith in Jesus Christ also means having hope that, through his atonement, we can conquer the natural man and become like the savior (see Moroni 7:41; see also Mosiah 3:19).  Elder Russel M. Nelson, a modern day apostle, visited my mission in September of 2006.  He told us, “Don’t waste today’s time worrying about yesterday’s mistakes.  If you haven’t repented, do so and move on.”

Working towards becoming worthy is not just important as a way to increase our priesthood power.  It is also important in that experiencing forgiveness increases our desire and commitment.

Desire and Commitment

The Sons of Mosiah are great examples of how experiencing forgiveness will increase our desire and commitment.  The scriptures say,

“Now (the Sons of Mosiah) were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.  And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them” (Mosiah 28:3-4).

This commitment, borne of experiencing the atonement, will also help us to be courageous in the face of opposition.  Because we have experienced this mighty change, we will want to share the gospel with others.  We will be eager to give dedicated service.

Dedicated Service

In reference to giving dedicated service on missions, Elder Henry B. Eyring said to Mission Presidents,

“Find some way to give (your missionaries) the assurance that one of the sweetest revelations they can ever receive is the revelation that comes with forgiveness and the feeling that they are clean if they are worthy…”  

Then in reference to the Sons of Mosiah, he said,

“The pure love of Christ came out of their faith, enough to repent, and an assurance… that the atonement worked in their lives.  When missionaries experience that change, you could not stop them.”

And as we serve, our faith in the Savior will grow.  The cycle will begin again, and grow in degree each revolution we make.  In time, we will become more and more like the Savior.

Conclusion

As we practice this cycle, we will find increased power in our ministering.  And like Will Smith in Men in Black, you can say: “I make this look good.”

Continuing the Series

  • Part 1 – Where does priesthood authority not come from?
  • Part 2 – The restoration of the priesthood, and why that restoration is so important.
  • Part 3 – Exercising priesthood power and authority with style – Men in Black style, that is.

Building on Mountains

The islands in Hawaii are all shapes and sizes, but, like all islands, they have one thing in common – there is only so much land before you start hitting ocean.  This finite amount of land can be problematic, especially when you’re looking for places to build homes that people can live in.  What’s more, these islands aren’t flat.  There are gorgeous mountains that rise of up the middle of each island, leaving even fewer places to build.

So the people of Hawaii got creative, and built homes into the mountains!

A Home Eroded

But building on mountains takes a lot of work.  Perhaps foremost among all this work is clearing out all the vegetation and growth in order to create a strong, stable, and level foundation for the future home.

A few years ago there was a builder working on homes with a beautiful view of Pearl Harbor.  I once lived on Aiea Heights Drive, and I can tell you that a morning view of Pearl Harbor is a very desirable thing to have.  Unfortunately, this builder was in a hurry – there were more homes to be built and more profit to be made.  Because of this rush, instead of scraping out the hillside and replacing the vegetation and top soil with fill material, he simply turned the soil over and built the homes on top.

Everything went fine for a while.  Unfortunately, the vegetation that had been turned over began to rot, and this rotting created air pockets which caused the mountainside to begin eroding and sliding.  These beautiful, multimillion dollar homes cracked and slid, and had to be abandoned.  They were eventually completely destroyed.

Covering Our Sins

While a prisoner in Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith received some of the most beautiful and comforting revelations of this dispensation.  In one of these revelations, the Lord says,

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because… they do not learn this one lesson— That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.  That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins… behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37).

What the Lord said about sinning is very interesting. He didn’t say that people are not chosen because they sin.  Rather, He said that people are not chosen because they cover their sins.  Everyone is going to make mistakes, and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The problem comes when we try to hide our sins instead of carving them out of our lives.  We become like that builder, and build ourselves on a weak foundation that is bound to erode beneath us.  We are left simply to crumble and fall, eventually to be destroyed.

Avoiding the Mountains

Why not just stay down in the valley, away from the mountains?  If we don’t aspire to such great things, then surely we have less to worry about.  I learned a lesson about shying away from responsibility in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.

For those that receive the priesthood, there is an oath and covenant that comes with it which, in part, requires that the priesthood holder magnifies their callings (Doctrine and Covenants 84:33).  The Lord includes a stern warning:

“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come”(Doctrine and Covenants 84:41).

But fear of breaking a covenant is not a reason to avoid such a covenant, for then there is no potential for growth.  The Lord continues,

“And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:42).

It’s clear that we’re not just here on earth to squander our time in the valleys of our lives.  Instead, our Father wants us to scale the mountains, build on them, and become priceless buildings.  He wants us to become even as He and His Son are (Matthew 5:483 Nephi 27:27), and He will never allow us to be tempted or tried beyond our ability to withstand (1 Corinthians 10:131 Nephi 3:7).

We have nothing to fear.  God has chosen us, and we may be called as well as we repent of our sins and come unto him.  Look to the mountains and build, confident that God will join with you and make you something you could not build on your own.  Build, and find that view.

Honolulu from Tantalus Drive

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount – Mountains

What lessons can we learn from the Sermon on the Mount? Below are some of my thoughts.

“He Went Up”

Before giving his Sermon on the Mount, the Savior had gained popularity because of the miracles he had wrought. Just a few verses before that great Sermon, in Matthew 4:23-25, we’re told,

“…And his fame went throughout all Syria…. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.”

This group followed him because of the miracles they had seen, including the miracles of healing, and not necessarily for the doctrine he taught.

What I find intriguing, though, is that before he begins his Sermon on the Mount, he draws the proverbial line in the sand. The scriptures tell us that, “seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain” (Matthew 5:1). Presumably, the multitudes were aware that this was going to be a time for preaching and not for miracle working, and “his disciples came unto him” (emphasis added). Those who were not disciples – members of the multitude more interested only in miracles – stayed behind.

Did the Savior command people to stay behind? It would be hard to infer that, particularly since at other occasions he bids all to come unto him. He simply climbed a mountain. Members of the multitude remained behind because hearing the message was not worth the effort.

My Mountains

The Law of Moses, given on Mount Sinai, was conversely brought down to the people. This was done both figuratively and literally. Moses carried it down to the people waiting below. We also know that it was a lesser law, meant to point forward to the gospel of the Savior. The Gospel of Christ, given (in part) as the Sermon on the Mount, invites us up, again both figuratively and literally. We have to climb the mountain to receive it. We know that it is the higher law, meant to aid us in governing not only our actions, but our thoughts, feelings, and even inactions.

I like to think that I follow the Savior, or that I’m generally a good person. When I really examine my behavior, though, I realize how greatly I fall short. And what keeps me from living the gospel? I am too complacent and comfortable at the foot of the mountains, and feel like it would be too much to climb up to where the Savior is.

What are my mountains? What are yours? The greatest blessings in life are available only from following the Savior and inviting his Spirit into our lives, but so often I think about my short term comfort and refuse to climb and be up with him. May we remember that real joy is found with the Savior, up with him on the mountain tops, and not complacently resting at the mountain foot.

Continuing the Series

Elder Jensen Apologizes for… Prop 8?

The other day I came across an article on the website Mormon Matters by an author known on site as “johndehlin“.  The article was entitled “Elder Marlin Jensen Apologizes for Proposition 8”.  I’d link to it for you, but since then it has been removed because “virtually everyone” found it to be “totally objectionable” (there is now an “Undo” in it’s place).

Basically, the author was an idiot.

That may sound like a strong accusation, but I consider “idiot” generous.  The author was cunning and deceptive, “wresting” the words of a General Authority of the Church to fit his own self-righteous opinions (see 2 Peter 3:16 and Doctrine and Covenants 10:63).

I feel strongly about this.  Let me explain why.

Oh, the Insanity

Why did I have such a problem with the article?  There are three reasons.

Disunity in Church Leadership?

First, the title of the article is intentionally misleading.  It infers that Elder Jensen is apologizing for Prop. 8, or in other words, for the LDS Church’s involvement in supporting and passing the proposition.  This inference carries with it the claim that a General Authority of the Church would speak out publicly against the Prophet and Apostles that lead the Church, and that there is discord in Church leadership.

Certainly Church leaders disagree on occasion.  While this is a mostly conservative church, there are many political liberals.  In the past, one has even become a counselor in the First Presidency. What’s more, I can guarantee that the group of 15 men that I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, who come from such diverse backgrounds, do not agree on everything regardless of political preference.  And the hundreds of men who serve in the quorums of the Seventy come from even more diverse backgrounds and countries throughout the world.  This does not lead Church leaders to backbite publicly or lobby in order to garner support for their views.  The Church is led by Jesus Christ, and when decisions are made, leaders sustain those decisions.

Obscure Citations?

Second, the author used an obscure quote from an obscure stake conference that was little more than a sentence long.  It quoted Elder Jensen as saying, “As far as it is within my power to do so, I apologize.”  There was nothing more referencing what he was talking about other than the title of the article, so this quote reinforced the inference that Elder Jensen was acting contrary to Church leadership and apologizing for their involvement in Proposition 8.

Evidence this important should never be so obscure.  It should be well documented (that’s why we have General Conference) and multi-sourced (talks from multiple Church leaders, wide support in the scriptures, etc).

Biased, Unathoritative Sources?

Third, the remainder of the article was a forwarded e-mail or letter written by a (random) member that attended these meetings.  She had some fringe opinions of her own, and expressed her gratitude that at least some members of the leadership in the Church were admitting their error.

Perhaps the author of the article realized that his quote from Elder Jensen was obscure after all.  He might have thought that citing a lay church member with obvious bias would add strength to his position….  Unfortunately, it was just further perpetuation of the lie that started with the misleading article title.

Idiot.

What Elder Jensen Meant

Elder Jensen was not, in case there is any confusion, apologizing for the LDS doctrine of the family or the LDS support of Prop. 8.  For a much better description of what went on at that stake conference, see the document here by Carol Lynn Pearson.  It seems that Pearson may have biases of her own based on personal experience, but her account is much more balanced.

Elder Jensen had attended a meeting for members of the Church in the area who “continued to feel wounded in the aftermath of the Proposition 8 campaign.”  Many of those in attendance were those who, perhaps like Pearson, had personal experience with homosexuality within their families.  The involvement of the Church brought this issue very close to home, and the meeting gave them a chance to vent.

Pearson comments that after members at the meeting had been given a chance to speak,

“[Elder Jensen] said he had heard very clearly the pain that had been expressed and that “to the full extent of my capacity I say that I am sorry.””

But he also told them that the position of the Church will not change.  Personally, I don’t see how anyone could expect the Church position to change.  The Family: A Proclamation to the World makes the doctrine clear, as do the words of many Church leaders.  Life may be difficult for those with homosexual tendencies, or for those related to those with homosexual tendencies, but the Plan is not going to change, and the commandments are as applicable to them as they are to those faced with alcoholic tendencies, or those addicted to drugs or pornography, or those pre-disposed to violence, hatred, or ignorance.

But the wonderful message of the gospel is that the atonement is also just as applicable! Homosexuality may be something that some people have to live with, but the peace of God surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and the power of the atonement reaches everyone.

Fringe Opinions

I hope that you’re not missing my meaning.

I’m not out to get those who don’t fit some Utah cookie-cutter view of Mormonism (I’m from California, by the way, and I don’t really fit the Utah cookie-cutter, either).  I’m all about sharing opinions, even (and perhaps especially) fringe opinions.  I have some of my own, and I believe that sharing and discussing leads to greater universal understanding and edification. It’s so important to be able to ask questions.

But offering dishonest or manufactured information, intentionally misleading others, is wrong.  If you can’t back up your position logically and truthfully, then perhaps you need to spend a little more time thinking about it.  And if you don’t have time to think about or study your position, perhaps you’re best left out of the discussion.  In the words of W.K. Clifford,

“But,” says one, “I am a busy man; I have no time for the long course of study which would be necessary to make me in any degree a competent judge of certain questions, or even able to understand the nature of the arguments.” Then he should have no time to believe (“The Ethics of Belief,” found here).

Follow the Prophet

There will always be doctrines within the Church that will conflict with the personal opinion of someone, somewhere.  As the Church grows to include a variety of peoples and cultures, many will find that they have opinions or traditions that conflict with gospel principles.

Elder Holland, in one of my favorite General Conference addresses, addressed the thinking that the Church leaders are out of touch with society.  He’s had a stellar career both inside and outside of the Church, which is something to keep in mind as he references his personal and professional life.  He said,

“Some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.

“As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live. It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it” (Prophets in the Land Again).

I don’t have a gay brother or sister.  I’ve had very few gay friends.  But if I did, it would not change my desire to faithfully follow the prophet.  I sustain the Prophet and the Apostles as men who lead this Church through the inspiration of Jesus Christ.  It is his church, not theirs, and God will never permit any of them to lead the Church astray – “it’s not in the program” (See Official Declaration 1).  When they announce a position that I find contrary to my own, I hope to have the strength to follow them and live in greater accordance with the Savior’s gospel.

May we not, as members of the Church, mentally stone the current prophets while polishing the sepulchers of past prophets.

For further reading on this, another great article in addition to Jeffrey R. Holland’s address mentioned above is one written by Ezra Taft Benson called “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.”