Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Thy Will On Earth"

In my personal life, I have had opportunities to ponder what it means to be a member of this Church. As I watch people with experiences like mine churn against the practices and doctrines of the Church, I wonder if it is only a matter of time before I, too, fall away. Insight into why I can't seem to give up has come slowly and piecemeal. I'm not sure there is one large answer. All I know, is that I cannot turn my back on this Church any more than Joseph Smith could deny that he had seen a vision. It is not a perfect Church, and I do not understand it all. But I know it is Christ's church, and I can't deny it.

Not long before I graduated with a 4-year degree in veterinary medicine, I looked into vet schools. In the two years of my study, I had not truly realized how difficult it was to get into vet school, nor how expensive it was once you got there. I had spent two years carrying nearly the maximum credit load while working the full 20 hours/week I was allowed to work. I pulled a high B average, which is not bad but was less than I was capable of. I had gone year-round, and I was exhausted.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Friend to Hate

There is a meme that gains in popularity daily. It teaches that judgment, pain, and discomfort are bad. Tolerance, permissiveness, and acceptance are good. If we love someone, it says, we should never judge them. We should never hurt them. We should never make them uncomfortable or make them question what makes them happy. Tolerating their differences is required, celebrating them is ideal. Allowing people to do whatever makes them happy is the key to happiness. Accepting who they are will bring the most joy.

And it is all a lie.

"Acts of a friend should result in self-improvement, better attitudes, self-reliance, comfort, consolation, self-respect, and better welfare. Certainly the word friend is misused if it is identified with a person who contributes to our delinquency, misery, and heartaches. "—Marvin J. Ashton

I am in the middle of what could probably be termed the Long Chastening of my life. I have felt pain beyond what I thought I could bear. I feel separated from God, judged for my choices and found wanting. Yet all my pain and sorrow and feeling judged is nothing compared to what the Savior felt in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He suffered inexplicable pain to atone for the world while his closest friends fell asleep.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Getting Old and Becoming a Somebody

I did not post an Odyssey post last week because, even though I pondered the talks, I could not come up with anything to say. That just about happened this week, too. Writing on demand is not easy for me, nor is fitting into any group of people, which is why I decided to join in this writing effort. I thought, perhaps, it would stretch me outside of my comfort zone (as if I even have one any more) of personal development. And, it is a patently incredible idea which I would like to support.

The only talk from the October 1972 Friday Morning Session that had any real hope of squeezing through my cloudy brain this week was the one by the only name most people probably wouldn't recognize, titled "Becoming a Somebody".

Whether because I'm in that liminal area between young and middle-aged, or because I'm in the liminal area of being a single in a Church that emphasizes families, but with no real hope or intent to build an eternal family any more, or because I'm in the liminal area of being pushed so far past what I am capable of, I don't even know where I'm going any more, I have been fighting the growing feeling that I'm missing something.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why the CES Letter is Utterly Irrelevant

This morning as we were getting ready for work, I brought up the recent CES Letter excommunication of Jeremy Runnells with my kids. As I was talking to them in under-10-years-old terms about some of the biggest big-ticket items, the reaction of the antiMormon world, and the reaction of the Mormon Apologetics world, my mind started thinking about a friend of mine who is thinking about investigating the Church.

I've not been the best representative of the Church to him. My testimony is more of the "lots of things are really hard about this Church, but God wants me here, it is led by Him, and I believe it," type, less of the "It's true! Everything is awesome!!!" type.

Despite allegations from disaffected and ex-Mormons, I think most of the Church is along those lines. I've not met many people who are of the "believe at all costs" types. Most of us, especially converts, believe because we have received personal confirmation from God. It's people who have been raised in a heavily Mormon world who seem to struggle more with it.

But, as I am a failure in the Gospel on so many levels, I often see myself examining my beliefs and actions from a third-party point of view. Especially as I watch my children begin to form their own testimonies. What, exactly, is the difference between someone who believes and someone who doesn't? It's not knowledge, as most ex-Mormons would have you believe. Nor is it insulation from opposing points of view. Nor is it buying into the lies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Testimony of Jesus

Not one talk from this session of the April 1972 General Conference impacted me as much as this one by Bruce R. McConkie.

Bruce R. McConkie is an interesting character. The author of the controversial "Mormon Doctrine," I have not often heard his name spoken of with much other than contempt. I've never listened to him speak, nor read much of his writings but excerpts from that book. I knew that he was one of those most outspoken in favor of the doctrine of the curse of Cain and the policy which withheld priesthood blessing from African blacks. I had formed in my mind an image of a rigid, unbending, maybe even stubbornly argumentative man, confident in his own opinion, and determined to convince everyone else around him.

Even knowing that he flipped around completely when the Priesthood was extended to all worthy males, saying that the new light and knowledge that had been received completely erased his previous understanding and opinions, I still assumed that was largely because of his testimony of authority, and that he had to go through extensive self-humbling to accept the point.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Woman-centered Church

The last session I listened to for the General Conference Odyssey was full of talks for men. This is natural, I thought, for a Priesthood session. But then I realized that this week is actually the priesthood session, and last was a general session even though it was geared so heavily towards men.

Both last session and this are incredibly male-centric. All the talks are by men, to men, and for men. Women may be able to extrapolate something useful from them, but it is clear that women were not a primary focus.

It struck me as I was listening how very different our church is now than it was before. Conference now is peppered with feel-good talks. Things to tell us we're doing okay, that "[the Savior] knows when you are lost,"and that "we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed." Even the Priesthood session urges men to "be good followers" so they can lead, and that priesthood comes with a price.

By contrast, the talks of the Priesthood session of the April 1972 General Conference are laden with telling men that they are strong, that they must take responsibility, that they "have a right to preside".

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Despised and Rejected

Like Hugh B. Brown, I'm going to be brief in this post.

The world may not be any worse than it was when this Conference was held. I don't know. But I do know that people don't like religion much these days. It's well enough if you believe in a tame religion, something that means little more than trying to be a good person and never, ever foisting those beliefs onto someone else. But if you truly feel that your religion is something worth admitting, sharing, and even suggesting to another person, you are the vilest of people.

I've seen that opinion of the religious shared in multiple venues by multiple people. I daresay it would be a majority of Americans who feel that way.

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