In the Skate Wild program at Skate Camp we teach young people not only how to make friction fire with their hands but how to work together as a team to achieve a goal; in this case fire. This group of young people were brought here on scholarship money that was raised last year … You can be a part in creating this amazing experience by following the link in my Bio to my Facebook page donating … $5k is the goal and we are a little over a 1/5 of the way there! If you already donated thank you for your support!
For the past 6 years (5 of which I have been a teacher) I have participation a wonderful summer camp called YMCA Skate Camp, located about 1.5 hours east of Fresno just outside the gates of the Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Forest. If you have never been to the Sequoias I highly recommend it.
Up here at camp I teach for a program called Skate Wild (formerly known as Elemental Awareness). We teach the basics of survival through skills that include – shelter, water, fire, and food. We do that through a series of activities that allow the youth who participate to experience a taste of each of these skills sets.
This place has grown near and dear to my heart. So, on my birthday for the last 2 years I have sponsored a fund raiser to help bring less fortunate youth to skate camp. My first year I was able to raise $1200, the second year $2400, and this year I’m shooting for $5000! (so far after almost 2 weeks we are at apx $1500!) https://www.facebook.com/donate/475503333001861/
This is here is an invitation to you to share in this experience by either donating to the cause, sharing it with your friends or asking me how you make be able to become a part of the program!
To make a donation please head over to my FaceBook Page – https://www.facebook.com/donate/475503333001861/
This little video is from the program Skate Wild that I teach at Camp. Head over to @skatewildfoundation to see the full video (link in the profile) was to learn more .. link in my bio for the fundraiser!
Film by my friend @filmalltay
Depending on what type of household we grew up in it can be hard to know how we will react to the mixing and melding of two unique people in a marriage. In the marriage a new household is created which blends not just two people but two sets of ideas, values and lifestyles. President Spence W Kimball in 1976 taught, “Marriage never was easy. It may never be. It brings with it sacrifice, sharing, and a demand for great selflessness. Many of the TV screen shows and stories of fiction end with marriage: “They lived happily ever after.” … We have come to realize also that the mere performance of a ceremony does not bring happiness and a successful marriage. Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within. It must be earned. It cannot be purchased with money; it cannot be taken for nothing.”
Till Debt Do Us Part
Bernard Poduska’s wrote in his book “Till Debt Do Us Part” about the idea of debt in a marriage. The debt he is talking about is not about financial debt, though that is a part of marriage and a subject worth discussing, but the debt he is talking about is the “debt” of connection and understanding. He says, ” It does not take us long to realize that we do not enter marriage empty handed; we carry a lot of “baggage” with us. For instance, we bring our levels of self-esteem, our willingness to adapt to change, our attitudes coward life, and our expectations and values.” When a new couple comes together they are adding to the collective “worth” of the union with their life experiences totaled into one for either the benefit or detriment of the relationship. In this article he talks about rules of marriage; they are:
- Explicit Family Rules – expressed verbally or posted on the refrigerator door (made public).
- Implicit Family Rules – are unspoken rules taught through nonverbal communication and repeated throughout childhood. Implicit rules tend to be just below conscious awareness, so we seldom realize we are following them until someone points it out to us.
- Intuitive Family Rules – these unspoken rules are concerned with more everyday kinds of issues, intuitive rules concern those that are more far reaching. Based on family heritage—the emotional legacy inherited by each person—an implicit rule includes any “ledger” of instinctive obligations char needs to be balanced, any need to “pay back” something “owed” to another, or to “pass on” something of value or importance (such as traditions or beliefs).
All three of these sets of rules play a part in shaping the structure of our individual, married and family lives.
“Gentlemen, You Can‘t Fight In Here! This is The War Room! (Dr Strangelove)
I hadn’t put much thought into these ideas until after reading the article Creating Healthy Ties with In-laws and Extended Families by James M Harper and Susanne Frost Olsen I knew what I wanted to write about. I had in the past been curious about this dynamic because early in my adult life I had these “family rules” ruin one of my most significant relationships. The reason I did not understand these substantial differences between myself and my ex was because I was blessed to have parents who have been nothing but kind and excepting of anyone myself or my siblings dated or thought I was going to marry. I also felt that I was a very understanding person who found it easy to compromise. I learned from Poduska in being the middle child that, “Some middle-born individuals may distort their willingness to be peacemakers—and to go along with the desires of others—into a dysfunctional desire to please others. Wanting to be accepted and liked by others becomes a top priority. They end up doing just about anything in order to avoid be ing rejected, often believing that they can buy the love and acceptance of others with gifts” In my naivety I learned that I had adopted this personality trait.
From the Beginning
In the spring of 2003 I had met an amazing young woman from Mesa Arizona. We quickly fell in love and for 5 months we communicated and started dating while she lived in Mesa Az and I in Oceanside CA. Quickly we decided we wanted to get married. We got engaged and set the marriage date for 5 months later so we had time to prepare and make all the proper arrangements. We started taking trips to visit each other at least twice a month and started to get to know each other better. In making these visits I knew I wanted to get to know her family better as well. I thought things were off to a pretty good start despite the distance between us, I was building a career in Southern California and she was finishing her school at ASU so we had our plates full but things seemed promising. On the surface things seemed to be going well but within weeks of declaring our engagement the three rules of marriage started to play a part in the dissolve of our relationship.
Family Rules; for Better or Worse
One of the situations that was the hardest for me was the enmeshment she appeared to have with her parents. Enmeshment as Olsen and Harper teach us is “a process in which parents and children feel they always have to be together … making it difficult for family members to separate feelings, and loyalty issues are distorted.” (pg 229) This enmeshment brought on another issue that was hard to resolve which is called triangulation. Triangulation is created when “communication either builds a stronger relationship with the parent than the spouse; or excludes the spouse.” (pg 330)
She and I would talk and make plans and set goals together. We communicated well with each other. Often we would spend hours on the details of our future. I felt really good about it. We would both a make an agreement on say a topic like where we would live or where we would work etc. I wouldn’t see her for sometime and then when we got back together she would tell me that she changed her mind on our decision. I would listen and work to make the changes needed to fit both of our ideas into our plans. I would then find out that her parents had been talking to her and this was one of the major reasons she would change her mind. At first I worked to make it work and try to consider their opinion. But every time I gave an inch it felt like they took a mile. I started to lose my voice in the relationship and it really started to affect my self esteem and my ability to make good decisions. I then started to get very angry. We would talk about her relationship with her parents and siblings and finally my true feelings came out and these feelings hurt her badly. No one wants their family attacked even if they know they are not perfect or have made mistakes. I was immature and didn’t know how to deal with this situation in the best way. I did not see the patterns or have the understanding to see how our relationship dynamics were playing out.
Eventually the choice had to come – was it her family or me – I may have pushed this discussion to this place but I did not know how to defend myself and my opinions in this situation. The explicit, implicit, and intuitive differences in our family rules were too much for our relationship to bear without having proper understanding and tools to help us work through these challenges.
I have since learned a few things:
- You cannot tell someone how to have their relationships with their family. That is their decision and you can either accept it and work with it or you can let go and move on. (By trying to exert a change of Explicit Family Rules by force or unkindness is a tactic that will always fail)
- We all have the responsibility to become more mature about our relationships with our family, mostly parents. This happens at different stages for different people. (How we mature and handle adult situations are rarely taught to us in words but are often expressed to us by Intuitive Family Rules)
- People say that when you marry someone you also marry their family. There is some truth to that. (All three family rules – explicit, implicit, and intuitive – play a part in this dynamic)
This level of conflict ultimately kept us from getting married was new to me. I had never had a bad relationship with any of my girl friend’s parents; even to the point that after I had dated a girl it was usually the parent who was calling me asking me to come back into their families life despite the fact that I was not dating that girl anymore. This was also hard for me because I came from a family were my parents while respected did not seek to control our lives. They asked questions and let us know how they felt but they never tried to keep us from being with someone we liked or do something we thought was best for us. I was very blessed this way.
Let’s Give it Another Try
The last long term relationship I was in was with a woman who had 2 children.Her daughter who is a teenager and she also has a 9 year old son. As the relationship progressed I started to see patterns spoke about in Olsen’s and Harper’s article. Instead of getting scared or reacting negatively I worked hard to approach these hard subjects with love and kindness. I unknowingly started to recognize, study, and ask questions about the differences in our Family Rules. Unlike the first relationship I wrote about this relationship not only had the values of her upbringing, but the values she had created on her own being a single mother, as well as the values she created with her ex husband.
Unfortunately the relationship did not work out but I did again learn some important lessons.
- A mother’s love is a mothers love – and like the bears in the woods that will do anything to protect their young singles mom’s are pretty similar. While I was not a “threat” I realized how she had to move and operate to protect her children.
- As we get older the issue of in-laws is still there but it changes. Our parents get older and they also have grand children with our potential spouse. They have needs and often daughters feel more obligated than son’s to take care of their aging parents or grandparents. This is something that most people don’t consider if you are trying to date or marry later in life. Knowing that you may have a parent or grand parent living with you is a possibility.
- Although a person may be divorced the values they created for their family with their ex-spouse carry on through the children and family patterns acted out in their family unit. This unintentional triangulation, with the ex being missing physically but not emotionally from the equation caused me to feel undervalued and ignored in the relationship.
I was not sure how to end this post, but I know that I felt that being older and single took me out of many of these conversations that seem to be based around young married couples; whether it is about in-laws, school, children, child rearing, finances and the melding of family rules. I felt that while there was still a component of these issues in my personal conversations the dynamic did not feel the same. At this point most of us have built careers, were married already (I have not been married before), own a house, traveled the word, and maybe already raised children? It has been hard for me to relate to much of these readings for this reason; I feel like I am not the demographic that these lessons are geared for in the Church. However upon further study and examination I did find the readings to be helpful and interesting. I saw that age does not make a difference in the challenges we have to face when trying to bring two different people together but the thing that can and should differ is the maturity in how we handle these challenges. At times I feel very overwhelmed by these challenges. Mostly because I am not in a married or dating relationship and that seems to be not only the focus of our class (and classes in this major) but for our eternal progression. I often wonder if we has a church culture could have approached the idea of marriage in a different way? Did we teach love, or did we teach people to obey out of fear? Do we give members the proper tools to get out of or help work through these difficult challenges? I have to stick to the words of Elder James E Faust as spoken by the Prophet Joseph Smith, “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” This idea gives me hope in knowing that I can find the tools in and out of the church to help me find the joy and happiness that should be a part of this life; whether I am married or not.
After reading this weeks assigned readings I sat and pondered about how these ideas have or had not played out in my family and how that has affected my family and myself for better or worse.
That We May be One
My mother and father are two wonderful people, but also two very different types of people. My father is very quiet and reads a lot and is somewhat of a social introvert (which is ironic because he loves to be the center of attention), and is a logical decision maker. And on the other hand my mom is more sociable, likes lots of human interaction, and follows her heart. These two personality types could have ideally balanced out and there could have been a lot of happiness but for many reasons; some which I will never understand they had a very hard time making it work. President Eyring taught in his 1998 talk “That We May be One”, “All of us have felt something of both union and separation. Sometimes in families and perhaps in other settings we have glimpsed life when one person put the interests of another above his or her own, in love and with sacrifice. And all of us know something of the sadness and loneliness of being separate and alone.” This we are told is part of the human condition.
Both of my parents are converts to the church. My mom and my aunt were baptized at the same time and then my dad was baptized about a year later. I often wondered why my dad joined the church because he rarely talked about it and my mom was so vocal about her testimony. This difference in thinking and expression caused a heavy rift in my family. President Eyring also taught, “With the Fall it became clear that living in unity would not be easy. Tragedy struck early. Cain slew Abel, his brother. The children of Adam and Eve had become subject to the temptations of Satan. With skill, hatred, and cunning, Satan pursues his goal.” While my family situation has not been as extreme as Cain and Abel I saw that in my youth, my siblings often played my parents against each other because they knew that one would most likely disagree with the other and cause contention. You can only imagine what that does to those who are seeking to have peace and not contention. Our house unfortunately was often divided. And because of this I have often wondered if the Gospel did more to split my family or bring them together? President Eyring went on to teach, “We need hope that we can experience unity in this life and qualify to have it forever in the world to come. And we need to know how that great blessing will come so that we can know what we must do.” Daily I ask to understand what I can do to have hope and a desire to be a part of these blessings.
After thinking about these things I started to look at my life and instead of trying to figure out my family I would look at myself and see where I am applying these principles in my life.
Doctrine vs Reality; is doctrine our reality?
Believe the church is true or not, that is a choice we all have to make, but when reading it is easy to see that the doctrine, advice, and counsel given in these readings can promote peaceful, respectful relationships in a family or within a group of people.
Elder Ballard in his 1997 talk “Counseling with Our Councils” he spoke about the unity and desire for peace when they came into their council. He taught about the joy we can have when we chose to share the burden and “Counsel with our Councils,” He shared the words of Lucy Mack Smith, who said, “We rejoiced exceedingly, it then appeared that those of us who did not realize the magnitude of the work, as if the greatest difficulty had been surmounted.” What a relief to all those who were involved to know that the work could now be shared; that Joseph would not have to carry the burden alone. He was never meant to do it alone, but he did have to wait for the time when the Lord allowed him to share those responsibilities and duties.
I believe that intention above anything else is the most important factor to consider. If any of those men in their councils wanted to bring the church down or push the church another way or “their” way it would never work. Nothing could be accomplished and their would be no unity. Now this may sound extreme but when we apply it to our marriage or family relationships it can become very clear where people’s intentions truly lie. We cannot force or make people want to be with us or in our family. I have seen it in my own (myself included at times) and it is in those time that serious introspection is needed about what you want from this life and where you want to be.
Elder Ballard went on to teach from the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith helpful ideas that will help us prepare to have the unity that we desire.
- Our Way of Being – The decisions of these quorums (or families) are to be be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and loneliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (D&C 107:30-31)
- Humility – Do your duty with a righteousness, and fear of God.
- Repentant – No man is capable of judging a matter .. unless his own heart is pure; and that we are frequently so filled with prejudice or have a beam in our own eye that we are not capable of passing right decisions.
As we take the time to align our hearts to God’s heart and will we can live out the second half and promise of D&C 107: 30-31, “if these things about in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord.”
We cannot do life alone and doing life with others can be difficult and trying. I have found in my personal experience that the words that I shared here are true. That looking at yourself first – recognize your way of being or desires, have humility, and ask for forgiveness (being repentant) we can be changed as President Eyring promises, “The Spirit puts the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention (see 3 Ne. 11:29 ). It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 13th ed. , 131). It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified family, a unified Church, and a world at peace depend on unified souls.”
This morning at breakfast my good friend Brian asked me that as a Latter-Day Saint if I thought that life began at conception. I was not taken back by the question as we have these types of conversations regularly. No, this did not turn into a discussion on abortion, but turned into a conversation that I feel strongly applies to the topic of this week.
In the reading, Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage by Sean E. Brotherson, he talks about the important concept of stewardship. I believe that this concept of stewardship is one that isn’t taken seriously enough in our LDS community, and most Christian communities for that matter. In the book of Genesis (1:26) it says, “26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” This idea of dominion is likened to and has worked in contradiction to the idea of stewardship. Kenneth W. Matheson of BYU said, “Some (people)develop inappropriate attitudes from mistaken interpretations of biblical verses. In Ephesians 5:22, (22 aWives, bsubmit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the ahusband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the bhead of the cchurch: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.) for example, women are encouraged to “submit” to their husbands. Some have erroneously believed that this scripture means women are to submit or yield themselves to their husbands even if they do so unwillingly. Under these conditions, neither the thought nor the act does much to promote marital oneness.”
It is easy to see how if these scriptures used incorrectly could lead to an unequal, unbalanced and unhappy relationship. It is my belief that how a man sees and treats the world is often how he sees and treats his wife and family. The behaviors are closely tied together (If you are really good at hurting black people, you will indeed hurt the environment, I promise you. If you are really good at hurting women, you’re probably also interested in war .. Jericho Brown, OnBeing, June 6, 2019) When someone takes on the idea of dominion and not stewardship over the planet and in this conversation, relationships, you can start to see where troubles would arise.
What Is Stewardship?
So what does stewardship mean? According to the Dictionary, stewardship mean, “1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward 2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care (Merriam Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stewardship). So then what is the definition of a steward? The same dictionary says, “one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (such as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts). This definition while helpful is limited as it assigns most things in life as being property owned by someone else for monetary gain.
The 5 A’s of Stewardship
President Russell M Nelson in an Area Conference on August 27, 1972 addressed what he called the “5 A’s of Stewardship.”
1. Acknowledge – “that God lives, that he is our creator and provider of all that sustains life.”
2. Author – “the Lord as author of this principle. He dignified the steward in his role of service as he declared: “… he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11.)
3. Accomplish – “effective stewardship may be done in the Lord’s own way through our study of the scriptures.”
4. Accountable – “… for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.” (D&C 72:3.)
5. Approbation – ” or reward for faithful stewardship. The Lord taught this as the parable of the ten talents, as recorded in Luke 19:12–27, in which the effective steward received a greater reward and the ineffective steward was asked to yield his stewardship.”
Let me quickly take these 5 principles and apply them to marriage:
1. As we acknowledge that God live and is our creator and provider, we realize that everything we have in this life is a gift! Our spouses are a gift.
2. Acknowledging God’s role in our life requires humility. Maybe you are not really “all that”? Maybe it is you who is lucky to be with a much better person than yourself? This is accepting His role as author and if He can serve us then it is quite obvious that we are to serve our spouse the way he would serve us.
3. I never really thought of the scriptures as a guide to marriage and often think the pressure to preform to a certain standard is scared most people to even act, or create their own doctrine around the doctrines of marriage and sexual intimacy. As we have seen with people who either break the laws of chastity – in and outside of marriage. So how can we accomplish our roles in the scriptures in our sexual lives? The scriptures in general invite the Spirit in and also help us be better people all around. We are foolish to think we can disconnect our spirituality from our sexual lives. To do so makes us a liar in one of those two aspects of our life as I believe they are all one, not separate categories. Seeing that the Lord is the author of your life and how he wants you to live it, include the idea of sexual intimacy in the story.
4. We are accountable. If there is anything I have taken away from this class is that Marriage is a divine institution ordained by God. I think our accountability in this situation goes without saying.
5. I have never been motivated by rewards, or at least I didn’t think I was. I had always thought that I was more motivated by love than just a reward. But if there is an approbation in being a good steward in our marriages (and other relationships) then I would hope it would be love, peace, and joy with those we love. That is something I think I would be happy to receive.
So let me bring you back to my morning conversation. My answer I think surprised my friend as much as it did myself. I answered, “I believe the life happens before conception. That if I am thinking in a Godly way, the life that is to be gifted to me and my spouse or partner was never mine to begin with. This life, or child, is someone that I should be thinking about, preparing for, and loving way before the actual act of conception happens.” And to me that is what it is meant to be a good steward. That I am thinking about life, my life and the lives of those I love and those that I will love in the future, well before (as well as during) my time with those people.
Let me end on the words of President (then Elder) Nelson from the same address, “”As we acknowledge the Lord as our creator, as the author of the gospel plan, then we know we may accomplish successful stewardships in life. We will be accountable in time and in eternity, but we will receive the approbation of the Lord for our efforts that have been lovingly and willingly performed.”
“Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth.”
This opening quote by CS Lewis in Goddard’s book “Drawing Heaven into your Marriage” really caught my attention and my heart. I can remember a few times in my life that no matter what I said it was not going to be able to to change how I acted, or should say reacted to people in my life who I claimed to have loved.
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20)
The first example of this is with my brother. I have struggled to love him as in my heart for so long I have blamed him for being the main reason our family is so fractured. I know logically that this is not true, but emotionally I let it sit and let it become a “truth”. I remember one night about a year ago and I walked into my home where both he and my nephew were hanging out and playing video games or watching a movie. I hadn’t seen my brother in a year. And instead of being excited and happy I worried more about what they were doing and not who they were and my relationship to them. There was no way taking back in words the way I reacted to that situation. The impression that I left with him was that I mattered more than him, my sense of order and need for control was more important, and that I didn’t truly love him.
The second example was when I was in a relationship with someone with whom I was going to marry. We were engaged and both of us started having doubts. I remember this thought and image that came to my head. We were sitting in the Temple in the sealing room. We were to be married. I was looking across the alter into the “eternity” shown to me in those mirrors. And in that moment I realized that I could not with honesty and pure intent say “I do” to eternity with this beautiful person. I knew then that I needed to back out and end the engagement. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life. Knowing in my heart that I loved this person but that I wasn’t in alignment with what God needed me to be. Ever since that day I have looked deeply (more than I already do) and sought to find the places in my heart that needed to be right with God so I could with all honesty say “I do” for eternity with someone who the Lord would allow me to be with.
“The natural man is likely coming to find that resentment and vindictiveness come more easily than charity” (Goddard pg 108) in both of the stories I shared I realized that I literally became what Goddard described in that phrase. I had let resentment and vindictiveness take over my heart. I have struggled for years to let myself forgive and be forgiven. I was a in turmoil for years.
A Contrast In Charity
Marvin J Ashton is quoted as saying, “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone else’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down.”
I did not grow up in a predominantly LDS area of he country; I grew up just outside Cleveland Ohio. We were the minority and to be honest most people didn’t know what a “Mormon” was nor did they care. The interesting thing about that is the only reason I became conscious of my “Mormonism” was when I was judged by other kids in my ward who were from out west (Utah, Arizona and Idaho). I never believed in judging people and didn’t care if someone was a Latter-Day Saint or not; yet I was being taught to be very aware of it all the time. Phrases like “we are a peculiar people” and “You are a chosen generation” I am starting to wonder if these statements were a good thing or a bad thing? I know that the intention of the prophets was not to cause us to judge each other but to strengthen us! President Gordon B Hinckley has even said, “In saying this, I do not wish to imply that all is well with all of them. There are many who have troubles, and many who live far beneath the high expectations we have concerning them. There are also those who waver in their faith and who are troubled and frustrated within themselves. There are some, I regret to say, who step over the line of acceptable behavior and suffer great tragedies in their lives. (Ensign, May 1992, 69).
I still truly believe this although I fear too many LDSaints have taken on the other attitude; one of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
Let me give you an example that is akin to the story of Jesus visiting Simon’s home and a woman burst in uninvited. She was an “embarrassment” to these men. She was judge as a “tramp” a “prostitute” and “a blight on the community”. I think there are so many layers in this story. There is for one the gender inequality and way the men of that time saw this woman. Secondly, I think there has always been this attitude of self righteousness that was in that world and unfortunately in our world as well. Let me give you an example. When I was at work, a young girl from Rexburg was in our program. She was not LDS. I pretended not to be LDS just so I could see what she experienced living in a predominately LDS culture. At first we joked about not drinking caffeinated soda and not being able to jump on trampolines on Sunday afternoon with friends. Then she hit me with this, she said, “I was told by some of my friends that they couldn’t play with me because I was not baptized” I immediately started to weep. I apologized. I told her that I was LDS and I was so sorry that people treated her that way. I was embarrassed for the church and for me. I made me think back to when I was young and the Utah/Idaho members of my ward told me that I wasn’t a good Mormon or a proper Mormon. It is something that I still struggle with to this day. I love this story so much because Jesus lovingly taught Simon and the others that they were no better than anyone else. He said, “Simon, you have treated me with coldness and disdain from the moment I set foot in your house. You have not shown even the fundamental courtesies. In contrast, this woman who has no social obligation to me has poured out every devotion of kindness. Her many sins are forgiven because she loved abundantly. Meanwhile those to who whom little is forgiven, seem to love little.” It is a lesson we can all continue to learn from.
I have been pondering this whole week what it means to be a Latter-Day Saint and if it is worth it? If this intentional act of seclusion and exclusion has been worth it or if it is the right thing? I have learned much in the Church and I have learned a lot outside of the church. I am very grateful for both experiences.
Father Richard Rohr has said, “I’m afraid as a clergy man myself, I don’t think organized christianity is fostering that kind of seeing, that kind of humility, that kind of inclusivity. We are mainly known for being an exclusionary institution … We need to love the the “crack” instead of seeking to create the so-called “normal”. That’s what is always getting us in trouble. That’s why we can’t deal with black people (or Mexican people), why we can’t deal with gay people, or anyone who isn’t so called ‘normal’. It’s just undone Christianity, it’s why we are known as an exclusionary institution, cause we are always asking “who isn’t normal”, as if we are of course, that is the false assumption.”
I know from years of experience that I cannot change the hearts of others, only God can do that. I do know that I am responsible for my heart and how I see others. On an Instagram post from Black Therapists Rock it said, “when we avoid conflict to make peace with other people you start a war within” I let myself start a war within because I wanted to avoid conflict.
I leave myself and you with this promise from the Book of Mormon “wherefore my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:47-48)
In taking on these words and living up to and in the promises made in Moroni we can truly do what is taught in this scripture, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9.)
This week was full of wisdom and counsel that made me stop and think many times. I came up to the mountains outside of Sequoia National Forest to work for the next 9 weeks.
As I took time in my busy schedule I wanted something to help me quiet my heart and be more open to this weeks teachings. I decided to start with President Faust’s video. What a great place to start. Listening to him reminded me of him when he was with us and how he taught and how kind and loving he was as a prophet and apostle and mostly as a man. I am grateful for how he consecrated his life to build the kingdom and serve Heavenly Father’s children.
My Consecrated Life
I sat with this idea of consecration long before we even started this class.
A few years ago I was sitting down looking at my life and wondering what I could do to prepare myself for my future. I had decided to go back to school and start a new path. I was working in my 3rd year in behavioral health and was starting to have experiences in that work that lead me to believe that I would be a good teacher or maybe even a therapist. I thought about what it would take for me in the church to be the kind of man that would attract a partner who I could go to the Temple with. I used to be a Temple worker in San Diego and I had a small taste of what it meant to live a life that allowed me an experience in consecrating my time and talents to a purpose bigger than myself. I shaved my beard every Saturday morning and spent 5-6 hours on those days helping others make their own covenants. At this point I was probably just starting to understand my own covenants. I had served in callings in both young men’s presidencies as well as two Elders Quorum Presidencies. I thought about my personal life in a new way that helped me start to see myself in a new way. Little did I know I had already started my path to living a consecrated life.
My Life Consecrated
Here are some areas in my life that I have a clearing chosen to be consecrated to building the kingdom in my life
School – by choosing to attend BYI Idaho online I have chose a school that will help me keep a gospel focus on my studies.
Degree Program – I have always known that I was called to serve others – in and out of the church – like I mentioned earlier I had started to focus my thoughts on how I could serve others. The fields of Therapy and Education both are opportunities to serve others in my work.
Personal Life – being single I had to make some hard choices about what I wanted my personal life to be. Here are just a few examples:
1. Morality – it is not easy being morally clean when you have no one and nowhere to express those needs and feelings. Making this choice has never been easy for me and I am hoping that somewhere it pays off; though to be honest I am not sure how invested I am in this idea anymore. Time will tell.
2. Service – I chose to lend my life to service. Every Sunday afternoon I volunteer my time to working at a Homeless Hospitality House called Andre House in Phoenix. I have become part of a wonderful community of the poor, the homeless and other like minded Christians who seek to serve on a daily or weekly basis.
Two years ago I was listening to a podcast called OnBeing. In this particular episode the host Krista Tippett was speaking to a Jesuit Priest named Father James Martin. In hearing Father Martin’s story the words that he spoke resonated deep in my heart. After years of growing up in the Church I had never heard the Gospel of service spoke in such a way; so much that I even considered becoming a Jesuit Priest. The Spirit spoke to me strongly about my personal calling here in this life. I knew then that I had a different path, or at least one that was to be uniquely my own. I have never socially fit into the LDS Church but have always had a strong love for God and serving Him and his children. When I heard this message I felt a deep understanding that I did have a path that fit me; that fit the way God speaks to my heart. I firmly believe that God has a way for all of us to find our way back to him and live a life that He would be proud of; in or out of the LDS church. If I have two core beliefs they are
1. Find your calling that God has laid out for you.
2. Don’t wait to be called. Find your calling and go out and serve – and in that service you could most possibly find your calling!