“How easily we forget what it means to be human … “

This last week I was listening to a podcast called OnBeing. The person being interviewed is named Jericho Brown. He is black, he is homosexual, and he is a poet.  He was sharing a conversation with the host called, “Small Truths and Other Surprises”.  As he was speaking he started talking about some ideas that are very central to this weeks conversation on pride and it’s ill effects.  

About a year and a half ago President Nelson introduced the concept of Ministering to the church. This call to ministry echoes the call of other Apostles and Prophets, namely the talk by President Oaks, The Challenge to Become. In which he is quoted as saying, “In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.”  In President Ezra Taft Benson’s 1989 General Conference talk Beware of Pride, he plainly and clearly lays out what pride is, how pride affects us, and how we can escape it’s negative influence on us.  When I read this talk I can’t help but think of this as a list of “to dos” and “to dont’s” and I was left feeling overwhelmed and defeated, as much of what he speaks of in this talk seems to apply to me.  

You’re asking yourself questions that I’ve been avoiding my whole life, and you think that’s a good time.”

You’re asking yourself questions that I’ve been avoiding my whole life

This brings me back to a our friend Jericho Brown.  He too has felt the overwhelming pressure “to do” and felt no room “to become.” He too, like President Nelson and others (the Savior as well), want us to have to have the opportunity to become; not just “to do”.  Jericho relates his story of how every time when he gets on a plane he gets asked, “so what do you do for a living?”  He says, “I very quickly tell them I’m a poet. Then I don’t have to worry about them talking to me anymore.”  I thought this was a very interesting answer. He goes on to say why, “Because (as a poet) intuitively or instinctively, people know, “Oh, you’re dangerous. You’re hugely problematic. You’re asking yourself questions that I’ve been avoiding my whole life, and you think that’s a good time.” Maybe this is how people  view us as Latter-day Saints?  And if they do not, maybe they should view us like this?   I think you could take out the word poet and interchange it with Latter-Day Saint and it would read something like this, “What religion are you?” “Oh, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and their answer would follow, either stated or implied, because people intuitively or instinctively people know, “Oh, you’re dangerous. You’re hugely problematic. You’re asking yourself questions that I’ve been avoiding my whole life, and you think that’s a good time.”  And I would ask, is that such a bad thing?  If people are not seeing us like this than maybe we need to take a look at ourselves and find out why not? 

The Gospel and the Poet

how easily we forget what it means to be human

Change out the words poetry (bold print) and exchange it for Latter-Day Saint or  the Gospel.  Mr Brown goes onto say, “I think the Gospel evolved to save us from ourselves. It questions our understanding of what it means to be a Latter-Day Saint and, in the process, deepens our humanity. History teaches us — and the daily news reminds us — how easily we forget what it means to be human. Probably no other art form is better than the Gospel at getting us directly inside another’s mind, experience, perspective. The ability to imagine someone else’s inner life is where compassion begins.”

I love this way of thinking as I feel it reflects on a deeper level the types of hearts that we are trying to develop. We are watching hearts changed by true repentance and submission to Heavenly Fathers will.  When we start to see others as objects, obstacles, and enemies maybe we should maybe reflect on something else that Mr Brown shares with us, “I’m interested in all of people. And there’s something in us that wants to really take people down to some sort of census report, I guess; and I’m not interested in census reports. I’m interested in how you got here today and how you managed to do your makeup in the car in order to do it. I’m interested in that. I’m interested in the fact that you got two kids, and you’re getting married, and now you’re pregnant, and you’re going to have another kid, and you’re trying to figure out how these kids are all going to call each other sister and brother.”  Maybe who we have trouble seeing is our spouse, maybe its our children, maybe its the people in our ward, maybe its our neighbors, or the woman in PTA who always seems to disagree with everything that you suggest?

How do we cleanse the inner vessel?

Our hearts and mind are connected together. If there is a “bad branch” on the tree we may have some success in saving the tree if we cut of the branch, but that will only be temporary. We must go back and find out what is at the root of the problem:

How is the soil?

Is the tree getting enough or too much sunlight or water?

“Is the tree getting enough or too much sunlight or water?”

Are there bugs and birds ravaging the fruit and bark of the tree? 

What I am trying to say is that all of these things are interconnected. Mr Brown goes on to say, “I’m interested in that. I’m not interested in this idea that everybody is only an identity, and I’m definitely not interested in this idea that there are blank issues, like women’s issues or black issues. If you are really good at hurting black people, you will indeed hurt the environment, I promise you. It’s true. It’s true. If you are really good at hurting women, you’re probably also interested in war — I promise you. Do you understand what I mean?”  It is my opinion that this is true. So how do we start shaping the opinions of our heart? How do we “become” like both Elder Oaks and President Nelson have asked?  How do we cleanse the inner vessel like President Benson mentions (Alma 6:2-4; Matt 23:25-26) in his talk? 

Humility and Humanity

I too believe that humility is the antidote for pride.  But I would take it one step further and say that is both that in recognizing the humanity of others that we can create humility in ourselves thus both are the antidotes of pride. Life is a complex intertwining of how we live in this world, how we see the world, and how we see ourselves in relationship to the rest of the world.  Some times as Latter-Day Saints we seem to have a very narrow understanding of the complexity of what it means to be human. We prefer obedience over authenticity and understanding and slogans over depth and meaning. When I was in Israel this thought came to me, “if you’ve been told you are the chosen people all of your life there is a good chance that you might start to develop an attitude.” Cannot the same be applicable today? President Gordon B. Hinckley taught from 1 Peter 2:9, ““Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” This however does not mean that we are better than others, it means we have a greater responsibility as he goes on to teach, “Truly, my dear young friends, you are a chosen generation. I hope you will never forget it. I hope you will never take it for granted.” It is my belief that when we are able to see others humanity we are able to be humble, which helps relieve us of pride. When we see others humanity maybe we are able to realize that maybe we don’t deserve everything we want in this world?  To do this we need to get to know people and we need to get to know ourselves. Great authors have told us stories that reflect back to us the lives of others, not to say that we are better than them, but to show us that ANY OF US can be that person – both the good and the bad, the righteous or the wicked, or the rich or the poor … Understanding the humanity of ourselves and others can help us be humble which then works to become an antidote to pride. 

We gladly give our time and energy to bless those around us.”

We can start with the words of Professor Goddard who asks us to start to change our opinion or how we see repentance. He says, “Many of us grew up dreading humility and repentance. (It) felt like an unhappy encounter with humiliation. But, as we mature spiritually, we come to recognize humility and repentance as heavenly blessings. We cast off the tattered ways of the natural man and put on the robe of righteousness.”  He goes on to teach us,“When we humbly turn our minds, our lives, and our purposes over to God, He will refine us. We will begin to see with new eyes. We feel with new warmth and goodness. We gladly give our time and energy to bless those around us.”  We must learn to rely on the surrender that comes in believing in Jesus Christ and His power to save, as Professor Goddard so boldly and plainly states, “In order to be saved, we must stop trying to save ourselves by our own power.”  

Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away

In this weeks reading I was pondering on Dr Gottman’s writings in the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. In chapter 6 he tackles the idea of turning toward each other, not away. Now this would seem like an easy or natural thing to do but ultimately we are human, and yes, we may find the idea of turning toward each other a hard thing to do. 

to turn the hearts of the husband to the wife and wife to the husband.” 

The work I am part of at the Anasazi Foundation reflects and honors the words of the scriptures that teach us “And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (3 Nephi 25:6) and I would add to this regarding this class, “to turn the hearts of the husband to the wife and wife to the husband.” 
Daily we watch how the young people we work with struggle to remove the distractions or “bids for attention” that Dr Gottman teaches about. The young people struggle with limitations like ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Or maybe they have chosen drugs, alcohol or pornography as distractions. Then there are more simple things like their friends, peer pressure, or indifference and laziness. Or maybe a combination of all of the above? 

I appreciated Dr Gottman’s teaching but would ask to go one or two steps deeper when we ask ourselves, “What are the “bids for attention” you or someone close to you use to turn toward one another?” It is easy to point the finger of blame at the limitations of ADHD, depression, anxiety, depression, drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc. These all represent to me a type of outward expression or distraction – and I would add to it the most vilified or obvious distraction – social media. And not to take away from the seriousness of these ailments and issues; but these are all external. They are to some degree an excuse for not looking deeper into the deeper issue of our heart; or better yet – where does the direction of your heart face? 
I have found in my work that when a person chooses one of these distractions they are really choosing to not look at their heart. Are you choosing to be selfish, self-centered, non-forgiving, holding a grudge, or staying angry or hurt? Are we willing to take a look at our heart and answer these questions honestly? 

Are your hands and heart clean and pure?

I was listening to a podcast today the man who was speaking said, “when I am serving others I find that I am also serving myself, not in a shallow self-serving way; but at a deeper level that is affecting my very being” 
Yes, it is true that we may get busy and finding the time to listen and respond to our spouse or children’s needs, but if the pattern of not answering our spouse or children’s bids for attention persist; we may want to stop and take a good look at our heart and find out where it really is. 

My brother Mat

I was thinking about these questions on a pretty deep level these past few months. I have a relationship with my brother that I really struggle with. As I read the chapter I started to see so much of myself negatively portrayed in this chapter. In one of my discussions with my brother he said to me, “you don’t want friends, you want fans” .. while that statement hit me to the core, there was some truth to it. I had been for years using my relationships to build up my ego, not to make true friends. While this is an over generalization of the situation, I felt deep down inside that this was Heavenly Father trying to teach me something. I have had to sit and look at what direction my heart is truly facing. It is not easy but Elder Bednar did teach in a BYU class that if you truly look to know yourself Heavenly Father will show it to you .. and from there you can start to change 

Adam and Eve – A Lamentation

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will we to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Elliot. 

“Rather, they progressed, until they reached the Lord’s presence.” Bruce C Hafen

I was really drawn to the reading by Bruce C Hafen, Covenant Hearts. Within this reading is the poem by Sister Romney, Lamentation. 

I have thought about this idea of Adam and Eve and what we learn from them regarding our lives – marriage, our relationship to God, and our deep motivations  (why we do things; what is it in our human nature that drives us).   It has always been one of my beliefs that the story of Adam and Eve, whether you take it literally, as metaphor, or as both it was a reflection of how God created us to be. 

One of the lessons that I learned so long ago was the lesson with the fruit in the garden. After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, Heavenly Father came to visit them. He had promised that visit, so the only surprise to Adam and Eve was that they now realized that they were “naked” or exposed or transparent.  When Adam and Eve heard God’s voice they hid. Why did they hide? The scriptures say it was because they were naked and they were afraid. But where or when did God say he was coming to judge them or chastise them? Never, He did not. Yet Adam and Eve hid. When questioned they started blaming each other and other things around them (the woman, the snake, etc).  This first lesson from Adam and Eve is a powerful one. It really sets up a pattern for our human interactions and relationship with God. How do we choose to see this relationship? 

“Quick, we must find him, A basket of bread and his coat, I worry, thinking of him wandering, With no place to lay his head” Lamentation

When we start to consider how we choose to interact with God it is easy to understand why a poem (which reflects I believe many peoples hearts) like Lamentation.  If there is any irony in the Gospel it is in the fact that often we have to “lose” something to “gain” something greater. I have not lost any children, because I have none, but I cannot even imagine what thoughts ran through Eve’s mind and what feelings ran through her heart that day she found out she lost both of her sons?   

“Dear God, Why? Tell me again about the fruit, Why? Please tell me again, Why?” Lamentation

To me one of the wrestles with God is to come to a place where we can understand the loses and look forward to the “gains” (or blessings) that God promises.  It was easy to put my heart and my thoughts with Eve on this journey.  In the questions for consideration it was asked, “How is marriage and family life similar to the experiences of Adam and Eve?”  The question really is, HOW IS IT NOT?  

After my initial post for class, I received a few questions from a fellow student and wanted to address them here.

One is what is your view on relationships?

I have always had some what of an up and down view of relationships. I think that relationships are good and I tend to idealize them. When I struggle with my own personal relationships I tend to have more of a negative view of relationships. I can see the pattern and I am hopefully able to course correct before I get too far down on myself and the idea of relationships.

Often how I feel in relationships

How does incorporating Heavenly Father in our relationships change a relationship?

I love this question for a few reasons. The most important thing that happens when we incorporate Heavenly Father into our relationships is that we start to change from the inside out. The gift to be changed from the inside out is something we couldn’t do without Heavenly Father’s help. Heavenly Father asks us to look at ourselves first and then ask Him where we need to improve. This way of change is so important because one thing we cannot change is if our spouse or family member changes. If they never change (the way we want them to) then at least we have changed and we are better for that.

How did Adam and Eves relationship change in the garden and out of the garden?

In the garden Adam and Eve were free from the trials and hardships of living a mortal life. They were in a perfect state, not knowing good from evil. They did not have any reason not to love each other. When Adam and Eve left the garden they were removed from God’s presence. In that they were exposed to life as we know it know. They, like us are expected to learn about life and love and how to rely on Heavenly Father in those pursuits. In this they would know good from evil and joy from sorrow. Heavenly Father knew that this would be the best plan for us so we could become like Him. We have been taught that marriage is the ideal proving ground for us to learn to love like the Savior and your Father in Heaven.

“Now they knew what it meant to be there, with Him, and with each other”
Bruce C. Hafen

The Four Horseman

I decided this week to focus on the Four Horseman scenarios because they hit close to home to me.  Here is brief overview of what the Four Horseman are: (from the reading: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/ The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling by the Gottman Institute) 

1. Criticism – is an attack on your partner at the core of their character. In effect, you are dismantling their whole being when you criticize. 

2. Contempt – When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean – we treat others with disrespect, mock them with sarcasm, ridicule them, call them names, and mimic or use body language such as eye-rolling or scoffing. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless. 

3. Defensiveness – is typically a response to criticism. When we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and play the innocent victim so that our partner will back off. Our excuses only tell our partner that we don’t take their concerns seriously and that we don’t take responsibility for our mistakes. 

4. Stonewalling – occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down, and simply stops responding to their partner. Rather than confronting the issues with their partner, people who stonewall can make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive or distracting behaviors. 

All four of these are emotional topics for me but I will share a little about how and where I saw the Four Horsemen sneak into my life. 

Criticism – Even if I didn’t say the words out loud I can think of many times that I unfairly judged someone for some irrational standard that I was holding in my head about anything from how they dress, where they are from (like Utah, Idaho, or Arizona), their political party, music they listen to, etc.  I used to think that for me this was a way of protecting what I held to be important. I spent most of my teenage and young adult years defending the things that I believed and cared about – music, art, skateboarding, political ideas, civil rights, equality, etc – After I was tired of trying to explain myself to people that I thought would just never understand what I was thinking about I just became defensive and mean; cutting people down for the simplest things before I even took a chance to know who they were and what they thought about any topic that was on my mind. I was judging and criticizing anyone who I thought wasn’t like me. 

Contempt – I found that whenever I went into a new relationship I felt like I had the best intentions. I tried to love as openly and unselfishly as possible. After some time (sometimes quickly and sometimes after a few months) if the girl I was dating decided that they wanted to be out of the relationship I started to treat them with contempt. I blamed them for the things that I was not getting out of a relationship like – commitment, marriage, having children, and worse of all a sexual relationship.   It took me a long time to truly be honest with myself and see where and how I was treating these women with contempt. I was not respecting their agency and desires to either love me or not love me. Looking back I was so mean and I can see how I tore down some of them ruining their self esteem.  Thankfully one lady I dated stood up to me and told me I was wrong. At first it was a huge insult and shock to me; but thankfully I listened. From that one time I finally stopped and looked at how I was treating these women. I am still working through this issue. A few talks by Elder Neal A Maxwell, But for a Small Moment, Things as They Really Are, and Swallowed up in the Will of the Father, taught me SO much about my relationship with myself, Heavenly Father, my existence here on earth, and especially my relationships with others.  I am grateful for these words and his prophetic leadership and counsel. 

Defensiveness – There was a song some years back where the answer to a call and response to a chorus that was blaming someone for bad behavior was, “It wasn’t me”  Some people unfortunately live in that space and rarely are aware of how their behaviors affect those around them and with whom they interact with.  Luckily I was blessed with a great sense of self awareness but it still hasn’t always kept me from not wanting to take responsibility for my part of disagreements and arguments. In the definition of defensiveness I was taken with the phrase, “Our excuses only tell our partner that we don’t take their concerns seriously and that we don’t take responsibility for our mistakes.” I think this idea is also very married with the idea of contempt.  I cannot count the times I have dismissed others ideas or concerns, not taking the time to listen, and not caring about what they have to say or how they feel.  Sometimes this was because I thought they were just going to tell me something I already knew, or maybe they were going to correct or criticize me? or maybe even worse, I didn’t think they were intelligent enough (or worth enough) to have an opinion that matters. 

Stonewalling – Over the years with my younger brother I had become the master of stonewalling. I was always busy, always engaged in something “more important”, I was acting busy, being distracted and flat out ignoring him.  This sent a message to him that I may not be able to erase. He wanted me to love him and listen to him so badly he would endure my awful behavior towards him.  

Being honest with who we are is a very hard thing. While most of you (hopefully) are not as bad as me when it comes to these traits it is wise to be aware when we are even starting to flirt with these ideas. Let me tell you a little story about the sister of a girl I was dating for sometime. 

When I first met her I was invited to spend Easter with her and her family. All the extended family was there. As we were getting food ready in the kitchen, her older sister’s husband showed up late with his bean casserole. He was happy and eager to share as this was his pride and joy and his contribution to the big family celebration. When he brought it in his wife (my girlfriend’s sister) started to make fun of him saying things like, “oh, it’s not any surprise you brought the beans, it’s what you always bring.”, “where the beans worth it to be late?” and other cutting remarks all masked in laughing and “messing around”.  Others joined in and kept on belittling the guy for his humble efforts to the dinner. I could see in his body language and facial expressions that he did not find it funny or nice.  He slowly started to shrink from the happy smiling guy he was when he walked in the door. About 8 months went by and the news came out that he had cheated on his wife and he was divorcing her and moving onto another relationship. Everyone in my girl friends family was shocked and couldn’t believe this was happening. They had seven children and had been married close to 15 years. At that time I sat and wondered a few things; one of them was, could you blame the guy? He was constantly the butt of jokes and ridicule and eventually he found somewhere where he could be loved and have his offerings (bean casserole) appreciated by someone. While this doesn’t make infidelity ok, to me it was easy to see that how he was being treated and the lack of appreciation for who he was/is wore him down and he moved on; unfortunately in a very destructive way.  

This example was a huge lesson to me that how the little things we say, maybe even in good fun and in jest, can really wear someone down, break them, and put them past the point of return. 

With the issues I have had with my family relationships over the years it has always been easy to blame others behaviors on why are family did not have good relationships. This last year I came to the frustrating realization that despite all the good work I have done with youth and with families, that I could be all the good things I wanted be with everyone BUT my family; the place where it should matter the most.  While it hurts to be this honest I know there are not many other ways to change completely.  Elder Bednar in a talk at BYU Idaho said that if we ask Heavenly Father to see ourselves as we really are than we should be prepared for what it is we see. It will be an invitation (if we see it that way) to truly draw near to the Savior to use the atonement to become who He wants us to be. It will put us through the refiners fire and help us understand life as both Elder Bednar and Elder Maxwell taught us  to see “things as they really are.” 

One last thought from the talk from Elder Wirthlin in the 2007 General Conference. As Elder Wirthlin was giving his talk, he started to shake, tremble, and lose his balance. Without missing a beat then Elder Nelson, stepped up behind his beloved friend and stood behind him to support him while he shared his loving, Christ-filled words.  As I watched this most tender moment my heart was filled with love and compassion and the Holy Ghost. I was so touched by Elder Nelson’s love toward his brother it brought tears to my eyes. Just thinking about it now does the same. In that moment I felt just one little step closer to understanding God’s love for us and how he wants us to treat his sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. I am grateful for the example of men (and women) like President Nelson; for his kind, loving, never ending service towards his fellow men. 


“Is the Holy Ghost inspiring our minds and softening our hearts and encouraging us to do and to become better?” David A Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

In this weeks reading I was particularly drawn to the talk given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He, as he always does, step by step lays out the doctrine and then how to turn that doctrine into an action.  Being in the Marriage and Family Degree program you have probably read the Proclamation of the Family numerous times; maybe ad nauseam? So not to belittle the topic or try to regurgitate information you have already heard I will try to focus on what I thought was an important part that I think many of us over look.  Near the end of the talk Elder Bednar asks,

 As we consider the importance of our personal example, do you and I discern areas where we need to improve?

Is the Holy Ghost inspiring our minds and softening our hearts and encouraging us to do and to become better?

These two questions sparked my spiritual imagination and I felt inspired to dig deeper into these two questions. I would like to unpack these two questions and share some of my thoughts on them.

As we consider the importance of our personal example, do you and I discern areas where we need to improve? – For me, this has been a daily part of my life for many years. I have always found that self reflection, meditation and prayer have been helpful ways to slow down and try to see myself more clearly. While these are tried and true ways for me to see myself more clearly, there is nothing more compelling then actual experiences that in the moment test this question. Children are both honest and perceptive. They watch our every move and often repeat the things we say and do the things we do. They do not discern if we are right or wrong, only that we did or said what we did. If you ever want a mirror of what you are compared to what you think you are hang out with some young children for awhile. I can guarantee you will come home with a short list of at least 5 things you can do better or improve upon.

Is the Holy Ghost inspiring our minds and softening our hearts and encouraging us to do and to become better?”  

In Alma 5:14, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/5.14? Alma asks the question, “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” This idea of having the Holy Ghost be in our minds and softening our hearts is not new to us as Latter Day Saints. I would like to think that most of us seek this “mighty change” in our hearts, but what if we struggle to do this? This struggle throughout my life has been very real. After my last break up with someone I was very much in love with, I started to ponder this question with more prayer and with a more focused intent. I have failed miserably in my attempts to date over the years and years ago with my engagement to a wonderful young lady that fell a part as well. It was then I realized that I had started to lose faith, and yes before I knew it my heart had become hardened. I was able to see that I was finding contention with the doctrine, I wanted to pick fights with people who believe the  doctrine, and often say, “it works for others, but not for me.”  And eventually I found myself far away from the words of God and the blessings that come with His community and communion. 

So what does one do to regain the soft heart needed to feel and hear the Spirit to be built back up to the blessings that President Benson describes in his talk “What I Hope You would Teach Your Children about the Temple”? 

These blessings being:

  • You will receive the spirit of Elijah, which will turn your hearts to your spouse, to your children, and to your forebears
  • You will love your family with a deeper love than you have loved before.
  • Your hearts will be turned to your fathers and theirs to you.
  • You will be endowed with power from on high as the Lord has promised.
  • You will receive the key of knowledge of God (D&C 84:19) You will learn how you can be like Him. Even the power of godliness will be manifested to you (D&C 84:20)
  • You will be doing a great service to those who have passed to the other side of the veil in order that they might be ‘judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (D&C 138:34)

With this question in mind, I started a journey to truly know who the Savior is and how He loves us. When we understand who He is, our relationship to Him and how He will love us, we can start the journey of our heart back to him.  Elder Bruce C Hafen of the Seventy in his talk Covenant Marriage speaks about the need to “lay down our lives” for others. In this talk he tells the story of a mother who sat by her young son encouraging him to complete a school assignment until he was finished. Upon completion of the assignment, she said, “I made up my mind that I couldn’t leave him, no matter what … I didn’t know I had it in me.” As I read this story I was reminded of a song that I love called Reckless Love by Bethel Music, the lyrics say: 

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine”

Reckless Love

At our work two of the principles we teach are

1. Light attracts light

2. Light chases away all darkness. 

As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, not only are we filled with the Light of Christ, we also are given the promises that Christ’s light can change our hearts.  I thought of the story of the young boy and his mother, I thought about the lyrics of this song, and I thought about the families that I work with, who when all seems lost they continue to fight on for what they believe and the family love that they desire, I thought about my mom and all that she does to bless me and our family despite the “wolves” that came into our house often and with great force.  Am I willing to leave the 90 and 9 to find the one who is lost?  Will I allow Christ’s light into my heart so he can “light up the shadows” in me? Being older and single in the church is not an easy thing. As I searched the scriptures and the words of Prophets and other inspired men and woman, a single female pastor at the local Christian church shared this thought with me from Romans 12:1-2 TPT, it says:

12 Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

While I have heard many an Apostle and Prophet tell me words that reflect these two verse of scripture, the words had never hit me in the way they did this time. I love the promise when we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit that says,

This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”  

To me this means surrender – surrendering our will to honor His – this takes faith.

This promise in scripture gave me peace the last few days and has given me strength to take one step at a time and try today, tomorrow and the next day. 

The doctrines are clear, there are is no doubt about it, but sometimes as Elder Hafen in his talk Covenant Marriage describes it as “the wolves come in” and we are left confused and defeated. He warns us of three kinds of wolves:

  1. Natural Adversity
  2. Our own imperfections
  3. Excessive individualism

For those of you who don’t know, wolves hunt in a very particular way.  Wolves hunt in a pack. They surround their prey and from a distance, one wolf or then another runs toward their prey and make a small attack. As this is happening another wolf comes in from the other side and does the same. The prey may have strength for some time before this barrage of multiple attacks but eventually the confusion and the attacks wears them down. When the animal shows the signs of defeat all of the wolves strike at once leaving the animal no way to defend itself and therefore falling prey to the wolves.  Elder Hafen picked the right animal to describe the attacks made by the Adversary against as we try to defend ourselves.

Every Marriage is tested repeatedly by three kinds of wolves – Elder Bruce C Hafen

WE however, are promised that when we “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11–18 – https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/eph/6?lang=eng) we can be strengthened, protected and upheld. 

To return to my first point, learning to know who the Savior is and how He loves us is where I am starting. Without that testimony it is hard for me to even imagine the eternal blessings that come with marriage.  We are all in different places in our journey; but as we seek to serve and help others where they are at we can all grow and benefit from each other. This I know to be true. 

Obergefell vs Hodges Part 2

As part of our assignment we are asked to post a comment on our classmates comments. I will not use their real names for privacy sake but wanted to share their opinion along with my comment that came with it. Here is the first comment and my response

Comment –

Church vs State

Government is governed by worldly laws. Church/religion is governed by heavenly laws. Large religious organizations do not have the right to influence those laws. There is a difference between defending a religion and not allowing those who disagree with a religion to do and act as they please.  America is a country of freedom and I for one am eternally grateful for that the fact that I can practice whatever religion I choose. But I also am also glad that the Catholics can, the Protestants can and the Atheists as well. We all have our own beliefs, opinions, desires and dreams and now it is becoming more and more common to have different gender preferences as well. Do I wish that everyone believed in God the way I do? Yes! It brings me so much joy and eternal happiness. Do I wish that everyone had the same political views? Yes! There would be so much less contention in the world. The reality of the situation is though, no one will agree with everything at the same time and we, as God loving people, have to be accepting of those, and loving towards those who do not agree with us. Oppression is never the answer. That is why I agree completely and wholeheartedly with the Government’s choice to allow gay marriage whether is it in one state or all states. 

Where I draw the line is if the government creates a law where all churches, are required to perform gay marriages because that will affect my religious beliefs. I do not agree with gay marriage and I myself will never seek a partner of the same sex but that is my personal opinion and I believe that because I believe in a heavenly law. I also strongly believe that I should not drink coffee or alcohol, but you will not see me protesting outside of a Starbucks saying that these people are all sinners for drinking coffee. They have their choice and I will respect their agency. I believe that church’s resources do not need to go towards preventing laws but finding ways to help their members stay strong and faithful if they do struggle with same sex attraction. I am a true supporter of agency and I will do everything in my power to show those around me how I find happiness in this life but never will I try to mix up church and government

My Response –

“I enjoyed your open minded view point in your blog post. I was living in Southern California when Prop 8 was being endorsed by the church.  This was the first time in the history of the church as I understand it that the church stepped out and made an asking of their members to support a certain political position.  I was very hesitant to step into that arena as something in me was not sitting right. I have great compassion for people with same gender attraction (If you grew up in theater or music chances are you have met or made friends with at least one gay or lesbian person), and I knew quite a few people who have been in long standing monogamous same sex relationships.  I saw the difference economically it could have on a partnership if you were straight vs gay. This was very upsetting to me. I tend to not get into the “politics” of things because the conversations get to limited. I never understood why can’t we just have same sex unions or offer the same financial benefits to ALL people regardless of their sexual orientation?  Elder F Whitney Clayton showed up in our ward the Sunday before the voting day. He had a very candid conversation with us about what was going on and we were allowed to ask any questions we wanted. I did ask a question, I asked, “what happens if we lose?” He answered, “Good brother, we will lose, its just a matter of when and where.”  Sometime about his answer and his speaking that day reminded me about obedience, something akin to the saints who were asked by Joseph Smith to walk to Zion’s Camp to protect the Mormon Settlers. God will ask us to do things to see how obedient we are and how much we trust him.  That day I decided to be obedient and trust the Lord even though I didn’t fully understand what was going on.  As I have learned more about the principles this week, I do believe marriage is sacred and important, but what I learned on even a deeper level is about agency and how we can so easily give our agency over to others that do not have our best interests at heart. 

I will probably always be a more liberal or open minded leaning Latter Day Saint and I am Ok with that. I appreciate what you wrote here and it helped me go through my mind and secure some of my own ideas, values, and beliefs.  I was with a young person the other day at my work and he was being very disrespectful. I got very upset. He said to me, “Dan, I guess we are just going to have to agree that things that you find important, I don’t find important.” And in that moment of reflection I realized yes, he was right, he and I do not share the same values, ideas, or way of living. It made me sad that he chooses to live a different way or see other things as important but that is not in my control. What I can control is how I see him and if I choose to love him. This I can do. I can love many people that I agree with and do not agree with and sometimes the people I disagree with are not who you would assume they would be.  Life is interesting for sure.”
I felt my response was worth sharing here for a few reasons. Mostly because I have this tendency to see things through the worlds eyes as well as spiritual eyes. I am not 100% sold on the spiritual reasons all of the time because often the secular reasons resolve an injustice that I am seeing in policy or laws. I also want to be more faithful and trust that God sees things that we do not see and He wants us to trust Him as we navigate these difficult waters. Right now the Church has not reversed any of it’s opinions on same-sex marriage or relationships but it is making a very vocal and concerted effort to promote love, tolerance and understanding to those we do not understand or agree with, especially regarding same-sex attraction and marriages. I did not see that coming back in 2008 when Prop 8 was a discussion we were having. I am glad I trusted and voted with the idea to be obedient to what I felt God was asking me to do. It has been a walk of faith and I know the Church’s leaders are asking the members to dig deeper and truly learn how to love and accept those who they do not see eye-to-eye with or completely understand.

Example 2

The first person I was able to agree with easier. This next example is of someone that I really struggle with understanding and loving. I am being asked to love as well, because obviously he and I do not see eye-to-eye about this subject

Post – “

I think that with the busy nature of our days, it is easy to not consider the importance of the doctrine concerning marriage. The church teaches us that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that this is the nature or order of Heaven as well. The Supreme Court decision allowing nontraditional marriage does not seem to coincide with the previously defined wording of marriage, nor does it seem to line up with what scripture says about these issues. While I understand that there are many people who support this decision, this is one that is personally hard for me to understand.

I personally have always felt that if things do not effect me, then it’s none of my business. I have never been a fan of government intervention into the private lives of it’s citizens. While the freedom loving side of me does not feel that it is the governments place to tell grown adults how they should live their lives, or who they should love, I also understand the doctrinal side of the equation. While the world seems to exist in a mostly gray area, scripture and the prophets have made clear their thoughts on this issue. 

President Nelson cautions us to never be embarrassed of the Gospel, and to stand up for traditional marriage and traditional values. While there may be many things in this world competing for our time and attention–including the media, we should always know that we have a Heavenly Father that we can look to for advice. I know that if we diligently seek him, we will know in our hearts what is right. As President Nelson said, we do not have the capability to make something moral that God has deemed immoral. Having the chance to have an eternal family is one of the greatest gifts that our Heavenly Father has given us, and we should guard and protect such a precious gift. Our steadfastness and ability to hold onto the simple and precious doctrines our Gospel could have an unbelievable effect on the world around us. We never know the lives that could be changed simply because we were willing to guard and protect the institution of marriage.  

My response –

“Thank you for your post and I appreciate your ability to articulate your thoughts and convey understanding to a very complicated and emotional subject. 
I personally struggle with this whole issue of marriage because I have seen traditional marriages that end in divorce because of alcoholism and addictions, abuse, and infidelity. I have also seen a few good traditional marriages work, unfortunately one of them was not the marriage of my parents. I am not convinced one marriage type is better than the other as people do good things and awful things regardless of their sexual preferences. 
I struggle when people see things so black and white because as you said, “the world can be seen in grey”. When real people and real emotions come into the mix then things get “grey” and there are no easy answers, solutions or conversations regarding the topic of marriage, family, same sex attraction and the LGBT community. 
I do concede and say that despite my own personal experiences and feelings it doesn’t change the doctrine. So in my experience it has been a walk of learning to have compassion and empathy for those who I feel are bullies (religious or political), and have lifestyles that I do not understand or have an experience with. 
I feel as Latter Day Saints we are not just being asked to defend principles and doctrine but we are also be asked to learn how to truly love people like the Savior did. In my opinion President Nelson, the  Pope and other spiritual leaders of our day are trying to teach us to step past the letter of the law and engage deeper in the spirit of the law. 
Thanks for helping keep a space to have a positive and helpful conversation about this subject “

I often wonder why the world has to be this way when it comes to something as simple and beautiful as the family? If the stresses of day to day living don’t tear us apart as a family this type of discussion can. I personally don’t feel connected to many members of my faith and their faith and my faith hardly to seem comparable or recognizable to me. Have I moved too much towards the “world’s opinion”? Or have those who are ultra conservative become cold and intolerant to the world in their piety and “righteous” judgements of the world? I think it may be a little bit of both. I know this conversation is far from over and I knew that I feel compelled often to speak out for the counter opinion to the topic because it is something I feel compelled in my heart to defend. I know that I can remain open and continue to learn; just like I did from this reading assignment. In knowledge in there is understanding and power. I am grateful to be in a place where I can experience the full impact of this concept.

Obergefell v. Hodges

This week in class we were asked to read the Supreme Court Case of Obergefell vs Hodges. If you are not familiar with the case it is the case from 2014 that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. As I read the case there were some ideas that caught me by surprise regarding the case and the justices opinions.

To let you know what my opinion on the subject is, I don’t have a problem with same sex marriages or unions. To those of you familiar with most religious opinions on this topic it is the contrary. I would have to say my heart tends to fall more on the side of social justice and not religious perfection and idealism. I am often confused why we just don’t clear up the language used in these conversations and be more specific to what we want to communicate. I personally find the discussion tiring because it feels like to really hard heads continuously hitting each other over and over and not making much sense because neither side will budge. One says it is their “right” while the other claims divine authority. If you took the time to explain that from the view point of the Plan of Salvation verses the fact that the word “marriage” does mean union and that many things “marry” in this world and the union of two things (humans included) all fit under that definition. What would be helpful would be if that if there was a consensus to agree that the definition of “marriage” is between a man and a women is the only sanctioned way bring life into this world then you can start to unravel the language surrounding this complicated and emotional topic. Hence the whole topic of the matter at hand.

I may start to digress so I will start off with some of my observations about the court case – which I did read from front to back. It is quite interesting and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to have a deeper understanding not so much of marriage but of democracy and the use of power to create and maintain laws over the people of any country; in this case ours, the United States of America.

I thought it was interesting that none of the dissenting Judges on the Supreme Court had a strong opinion on traditional marriage, but were more worried about the hubris and audacity that the other Justices displayed in their majority opinion and how they went about it.  

To quote Justice Roberts: 

“Indeed, however heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever; the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause.  And they lose just when the winds of change were freshening at their backs.” 

“Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of today’s decision is the extent to which the majority feels compelled to sully those on the other side of the debate” 

“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it. I respectfully dissent.” 

Justice Scalia 

“A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy. Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant.  not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America.” 

“But what really astounds me is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting same-sex marriages in 2003” 

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.” 

“Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth with the fall.”  

As I read and listened to the arguments in this week’s reading I find it hard to take “hubris” from either side of the aisle. The talks and reading I was most moved by was the reading of the Supreme Court findings and rulings as well as President Oaks. President Oaks plea to find understanding and work with a heart of cooperation was refreshing and hopeful.   I also like that in these two readings none of the authors spoke in a condescending way (nor did President Nelson) towards the audience; assuming we just agree with them, making broad statements but not necessarily backing up the statements to any extent.  It was good for me to see both sides and listen to each argument. I think in the end I can back same-sex marriage or unions because there were laws that were pointed out that denied same-sex couples social rights in terms of money, hospitals, wills, etc. I however do not agree with how the Majority of the Supreme Court ruling went about it. The blatant disregard for the voice of the people and change the Constitution was appalling. It reminds me of the unrighteous judges of the Book of Mormon. I would back Scalia’s quote, “Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth with the fall.”  As I watch the world change, one of my biggest fears is the misuse of language, which teaches false principles and distorts truth. It reshapes morals and ethics and takes away the clear understanding of how things really are. When I was younger I read Neal A Maxwell’s “Things as They Really Are.” Understanding life in an Eternal Nature gives us a unique perspective that can help us discern what is truth and what is not. I am grateful that these 4 Justices had the integrity to stand up for truth and rule of law. They were able to set aside their personal opinions for the sake of the bigger picture – truth and democracy.  I loved reading the whole ruling. I couldn’t put it down. It was a crash course in understanding the true nature of democracy.