Archive for April, 2015

On Being a Mormon, in my own words

April 26, 2015

Having established why I am Christian, it is only appropriate to establish why I am mormon, and what that means to me, and what I wished it meant to you.

The unfortunate reality of Christianity is that we are divided. We have arranged ourselves into sects and orders, divided by creeds and oaths. The sad state of Christianity is that rather than focus on our love of God and love of neighbor, we instead seem to focus on what we are or are not. That’s not what Christ taught us, and yet it is where we are at.

The mormons are no different. We have a long way to go towards perfection. We freely admit this! I haven’t met a mormon yet who is willing to stand in front of a group of people and say they are perfect disciples of Christ. I haven’t met a ward or stake or any group of mormons who claim they have successfully lived Christ’s commandments and established Zion in their corner of the woods. I don’t suspect I ever will, at least not until we are purified by Christ at his coming.

Nevertheless, let me draw out what makes a mormon and a non-mormon. While the requirement to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is baptism by one who has authority, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by one who has authority, that is not really what makes us mormon. That is not the secret ingredient, because I know lots of people I consider mormon who are not baptized. I also know lots of people who are baptized but I wouldn’t call mormon.

The secret ingredient, in my mind, is a single willingness to serve God in every way. This requires absolute humility and allegiance not to any leader or council of leaders, but to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is also a sincere and unconditional love for everyone around them. These are, after all, the entirerty of the Law and the Prophets.

A mormon feels their religion. When the prophet speaks, they feel the Holy Ghost carry those words into their hearts. When someone, no matter how old or young, speaks truth, they feel the Holy Ghost carry it with just as much force.

A mormon is hungry for the words of Christ. They read the scriptures daily not because it is a duty, but because they have an insatiable desire to relive those feelings they felt when they last read them. The stories in the Bible and Book of Mormon are not about a far-away people in a far-away land and a far-away time, but about them and their own interactions with Christ.

A mormon is hungry to serve. They feel good when they help others. One of my friends said that he went to his dad’s place for his birthday. His dad tried to have him sit down and enjoy a quiet afternoon, but he felt restless and went to work on his dad’s shrubs and lawn. His dad tried to stop him and said he needed to rest and enjoy his birthday. And he said to his dad, “Don’t you understand yet? I am happiest when I am helping you. There is no greater gift that you can give me than letting me help you and feel the joy of service with you.”

A mormon goes to all their meetings. They should grumble for exactly half of them, but for the rest of them, they come away filled with the Spirit. Our meetings are silly to the world. We open with a prayer, sing a hymn, testify of basic doctrines, and then re-read scriptures and books we’ve already read a thousand times. Then we make some plans about what we will do, and then pray again. Yet they are powerful to us.

A mormon is shy about sharing their religion. That’s because it’s very precious to them, and they hate that feeling that they may destroy their friendships or family relationships when they try to share them. Nevertheless, they do share it, oftentimes in an awkward way.

A mormon spends a lot of time in the temple. We are drawn there by the Spirit. We don’t really understand why we go there or what significance the thing we do there have to God, but we know it’s important because it feels important.

A mormon searches out their ancestors. Why? Because we care about them and we feel a connection to them. It doesn’t matter where they came from or who they were. They cared enough to give birth to our ancestors, and probably did a decent job keeping them fed and clothed. There’s no more sacred title to mormons than mother or father, and we expect those who didn’t live a good life will be given the opportunity to change.

A mormon spends entirely too much time talking to their friends. They are also unusually kind to people who probably don’t deserve it, and oftentimes trust people more than they should. This may just be the psychological phenomena of projection, or it may be their sincere hopes that others see people the way they do.

These are the things that make someone mormon. They are the things I look for in other mormons. When I see them, I smile a lot inside because I know someone else “gets it”.

Everything else is really ancillary. We have lots of doctrines. Well, really, not that many. When we talk about them, we feel good inside. But honestly, we really don’t care if you accept them all or not. I know lots of mormons who don’t accept all our doctrines, and that’s ok. Maybe I don’t understand the doctrines the right way, and maybe they have a better understanding than I do. Or maybe God just hasn’t testified to them of that doctrine yet. Either way, it’s really none of my business.

Also notice that I don’t count mormons by their obedience to one commandment or another. People sometimes get confused because we spend a lot of time talking about all the commandments we know God expects us to keep. And then they know that we can’t keep all of them, and wonder why we even try. It’s complicated, but our obedience to commandments should be driven purely out of our love for God and fellow man. When we mess up, we repent and try again. But we don’t, or rather, we shouldn’t, expect our obedience to any commandment to punch a golden ticket to heaven. After all, there will be a lot of people who have kept a lot of commandments but have forgotten the two most important ones: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Really, if you’re not keeping those two, no amount of piety will save you.

Now that I’ve said my piece, it’s important I tell you who I consider as non-mormon. As I’ve grown older and more experienced in matters of the spirit, I have come to understand that there really aren’t any non-mormons. We each have some of mormon-ness in us. It’s a futile exercise to try and predict which ones of us are wheat and which are tares anyway. I’m much happier thinking that maybe we’re all tares together. Or maybe we’re all wheat, and there are no tares, but we all have to experience what being a tare feels like. I don’t like thinking that any one of us will choose to refuse the wonderful gifts that God has prepared for us. I don’t think God sent us here to fail. He wants us to succeed. He is on our side, and since he is all-powerful, that means something big.

See, we intend to baptize the whole earth. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did or didn’t do, we will not rest until the entire world has all the saving gospel ordinances that all of us have received. We will not be happy until we can all stand before God and say, “We are all accounted for, every one of us. All of us are baptized, all of us are ready to enter into celestial glory with Christ.” That’s my sincere prayer.

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On Being a Christian in My Own Words

April 24, 2015

This has weighed heavily on me for a long time. I think it’s time I actually wrote something.

I am a Christian. You deserve to know what that means to me. If you listen to what others tell you about Christians, and ignore what I have to say about what I believe for myself, then you are going to be misinformed.

The first truth I acknowledge as a Christian is that there is a God in heaven. He is the personification of perfection in every imaginable form. He is good. He is just. He is kind. He is wise. He personifies the strongest human emotion, love, and loves each of us with a love so deep we cannot begin to understand it. My God is not vengeful or rude. He is the ultimate scientist, the ultimate judge, the ultimate parent, the lover of us all. He spends all his time and effort trying to bring us back to him, and yet respects our right to choose in even the smallest matters of consequence.

The second truth I acknowledge is that we are not God. We are all far, far away from the perfection we wish we could be. This is manifested in a number of ways. First is sin, our disobedience to what we know to be right. Next is transgression, our incapability to find a way forward without breaking one moral law or another despite our good intentions. Next is imperfection, our weakness and limited capacity. We all wish we had infinite intelligence, infinite strength, but we don’t. All of these imperfections are summed up in the word “mortal” or rather, “beings that will die.” That is our defining trait: We are not perfect, and never can be, in any way.

Physics teaches us that we will all die. No matter what we do, all our efforts will come to naught. The entire universe is on a road to the heat death that will consume all. At best, we are a spark, but even then, we are a dim one. Sure, we compare ourselves to each other, and decide that so-and-so is better than such-and-such, but in the grand, universal perspective of things, that doesn’t matter. We are a tiny speck in a huge universe that doesn’t care about us. We are just in a transition from what the universe is to what it will eventually be — nothing.

This inescapable truth is what gives rise to nihilism. Yes, I am a nihilist, inasmuch as I believe that as mortals, we can do nothing. Our best efforts are laughable and incompetent.

The third truth I acknowledge is that God sent his Son to redeem us. He has overcome logic and reason and science and he stands above it all. He extends a hand to us, asking us to embrace him and rise above our mortal limitations. We will die, but he promises resurrection. We will sin, but he promises forgiveness. We will falter but he promises success.

This is, in short, the three great truths. God is great. We are not. But God provided us a way to overcome ourselves.

The core of it all is the principle of grace. Christ offers us salvation, without money or price. We literally have nothing we can pay him for what he already did for us. All we can do is accept his gift, which he eagerly hopes we will. How can we accept that gift? First, we must place all our faith and hope in Christ. There is nothing in mankind or ourselves worth leaning on. We can only lean on God. Second, we must repent, or rather, turn back to face God. When we find ourselves out of sync, we align ourselves with him again. He has already said he doesn’t care whether we falter (we always will), he simply wants us to strive to be like him.

This is the powerful center of true Christian worship. This is the power that allows us to have a mighty change of heart. When we embrace the truth that man is nothing yet God loves us anyway, we feel sincere love for God who loved us first. When we begin to see the people around us, mortal and flawed, yet loved by God, then we begin to love them too, even though they are mortal and flawed. Only when we are motivated out of pure, godly love can we hope to begin to keep the commandments, summarized by Christ himself as “Love God” and “Love others as yourself”.

To my brothers and sisters who already believe in Christ and are already trying to be like him (and failing miserably, as we all do), I embrace you, no matter what faith you come from. I believe Christ sees all his believers as belonging to his church. I believe he wants us all to work together and share what we believe with each other, and embrace greater and greater truth and light as he reveals it to us. You are my friend, as I hope I am yours. I will support you as you try to do what you believe is right.

To my brothers and sisters who do not yet believe in Christ, I promise that Christ still loves you with a love you cannot comprehend. He is holding out his hand to you, offering you the most magnificent gift there ever was to offer. I cannot make you accept that gift, and my pathetic words are not enough to convince anyone on their own. But perhaps you will feel the Spirit prick your heart and plant a desire to obtain these things for yourself. I promise that they are available. When the time is right, you will understand what I mean. Until then. patience.

Christ does not change the fact that there are laws, irrevocably decreed, that govern every aspect of the universe. We can never, ever say that breaking those laws will bring us happiness. We can say, however, that there is only hope in Christ. Hope that Christ can erase the consequences of our foolishness, hope that Christ can give us strength to live the way we know we should, hope that Christ can show us the universe as it really is.

I wish only the best for all mankind and even people who hate me and are actively trying to hurt me. I pray that Christ can give me a more perfect understanding, forgive me for all my faults, and cure me of my wicked heart, and the same for those around me. This is a prayer that I offer to God in the name of Christ. May it be so is my desire.

You’re just a checkbox to the WA Democratic Party

April 24, 2015

Somehow I’ve ended up on the mailing list for the WA state democratic party. I don’t mind being one of the first to hear their latest talking points.

Recently, they sent an email where they solicited my feedback on what matters most to me. “OK,” I thought, “Maybe I can tell them what I think.” When I clicked on the link, I saw a list of checkboxes next to words like “Education” and “LGBT Issues”. There was no text form to fill in what I thought in my own words.

Isn’t that fitting? The Democratic Party has long claimed to be the part of the people, but in reality, you’re just a number to them. They’ll say whatever it takes to get you to fill in the right box come election day. But beyond that, you don’t matter.

It’s like the democrats running around claiming that “every black life matters” while ignoring the true slaughter of millions of the unborn who happen to be black, or the black-on-black crime that they completely fail to take seriously. If they cared about every black life, they would start by working to end abortion in this country and then to end street crime. But they don’t. They only care as much as it takes to get their vote each year, and since blacks overwhelmingly vote democrat each election, that means they don’t care much at all.

I can’t say much in defense of the republican party. Can you point to one thing they’ve tried to do in the past 10 years to help anyone but their own re-election campaigns? I can’t. Sure, there are a few who stand up and speak out, and occasionally they almost accomplish something, but that’s about it.

If you expect anyone in government cares about you, or that the ones that do have any power to do anything to help you, you are deceiving yourself. Government is force. It is violent and bloody oppression. Government should be kept on a short leash, a chain leash, with a choke chain that the people can yank whenever it gets out of line. The constitution used to give us that power, but now it doesn’t mean much and so we are left to be pawns in their game.