Archive for September 2008
Carol has written three complete novels. She has four more in various stages of production. These are not lightweight works that she dashed off in a few hours. The completed books are 90,000 to 110,000 words. She has worked on them almost every day since the beginning of the year. I expect she will finish at least one and maybe two more before the end of the year.
I keep asking her when she is going to publish them. She obviously loves to write. And even though I don’t generally enjoy fiction, I must confess, they are pretty good stories. She worked hard on the story telling and dialog. You can read a sample chapter from her latest book on her blog. She also read about forty romance books this year as part of her writing preparation.
In addition to her writing accomplishments, Carol has lost over one hundred pounds in the past year. Yes, you read that right – over one hundred pounds. She says she has a lot more to go. I am convinced she is going to do it. By this time next year, perhaps sooner, I expect Carol will be less than half the woman she once was. Why doesn’t she write a book about that amazing feat?
The LDS fiction market is hot
When our family owned an LDS bookstore back in late 1970’s, there really wasn’t a market for LDS fiction. Blaine Yorgason had just published Charlie’s Monument, Brent Yorgason was working on Windwalker and Jack Weyland was just beginning to think about publishing Charly. Anita Stansfield was nowhere near publishing her first book and Stephenie Meyer was a child.
Of course, you can’t put the Twilight series in the LDS fiction market just because Stephenie is a member of the church, although some have complained that Mormon beliefs are found in her books. The same could be said for Orson Scott Card. His success in publishing is not a part of the LDS fiction market, even though he has a few series that definitely have Mormon themes.
In our home library, we have books from LDS fiction authors like Chris Heimerdinger, Richard Paul Evans, Gerald Lund, Ron Carter and Anita Stansfield. But that’s about it. I am amazed to see all the LDS fiction when I go into a Deseret Book retail store on our visits to Utah. It sure has blossomed in the last thirty years since we had an LDS bookstore. I wonder why that is so.
Publishers of LDS Fiction
I’ve heard that Covenant Communications is actually the largest publisher of LDS fiction, with over 55% of their current catalog falling into that genre. Their ratio of fiction to non-fiction in their current catalog is 214 to 175 so that percentage holds up. I find it amazing that they now publish more fiction than non-fiction titles. The ratio looks a little smaller over at Cedar Fort.
You can find several lists of LDS fiction publishers online but even the beginning researcher into the market can see that distribution is the real name of the game. I’ll bet you know who owns that part of the business, don’t you? That’s right – Deseret Book. Nobody else even comes close. They bought Bookcraft years ago, then Covenant Communications and Seagull Book.
So let’s face it, if you want to publish and be successful in the LDS fiction market, you’re going to have to deal with Deseret Book, so get used to the idea right up front. Nobody else has the marketing muscle to get your book out there through their stores, their online web presence and their direct mailings. And of course, Deseret Book is owned by the LDS Church.
The inside scoop on LDS writers
One of my favorite group blogs for understanding how LDS fiction writers think is Six LDS Writers and a Frog. The essays are delightful and the quality of the content is exceptional. I would hope so. I mean, these are professional authors. They write about a variety of things but invariably you can learn how much work is involved in creating and promoting their work.
You can learn about writer’s block, editing, title selection, book signings, promotion and even rejection. Yes, published authors get rejected. Sometimes their material is considered to not quite fit the LDS publishing standards. And that is the real focus of my essay today. What if your writing style is more like Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel? Is that too risqué for Mormons?
I think that’s why Carol has not tried to publish her books yet. Her first one would never go over with an LDS publisher because it described some pretty exciting moments of romance. Hey, we Mormons get passionate too you know! Why do you think some LDS families are so large? Each book that Carol has written since then has been toned down until I think her latest is ready.
How to get published
You can read author guidelines at Deseret Book, Covenant and Cedar Fort. Horizon was bought by Cedar Fort awhile back in case you didn’t know. There are a lot of other LDS Publishers out there but these are the largest ones today. Oh, sorry, I didn’t even mention Signature Books but that’s because they don’t publish romance fiction. Did I mention that’s my essay focus today?
Take a look at the submission form at Cedar Fort for a real awaking of what is expected of an author today. They want to know how you can help market your book, details of any previous writing experience and speaking experience, and a description of your ability and willingness to travel to promote your book. Yes, you must do more than write a good book to get published.
For the more technical details of how to prepare a manuscript for consideration, go read the submission guidelines at Covenant Communications. Also check out their author questionnaire to confirm that public speaking is a required part of being an author. Hey, you obviously have something to say if you’re considering publishing a book. You’re expected to sell yourself.
Summary and conclusion
A lot of writers of LDS blogs, who are the primary readers of my essays, are also authors or aspiring authors. I’m convinced that there are many great potential new LDS authors out there. I don’t think we’ve begun to see the explosion in LDS fiction that is about to take place. With the obvious popularity of the still emerging LDS fiction market, we need more good writers.
I also remain convinced that the primary consumers of LDS books and especially LDS fiction are women. You can drop me a comment and tell me I’m wrong but my informal surveys among my own LDS acquaintances bear this out. Deseret Management knows that, which is why they put Sheri Dew in charge of the company. It is mostly Mormon women who buy LDS books.
This essay doesn’t address non-fiction publishing so I’ll try to pick that up in a subsequent post. I suspect the majority of people who read this essay are interested in publishing a fictional work. I hope this is helpful. I’ll add a bunch of links at the bottom where you can get more information on the LDS publishing market including LDS authors, booksellers and associations. Good luck!
01. Deseret Book – the primary channel for LDS book publishing
02. Covenant Communications – owned by DB but run separately
03. Cedar Fort – Large LDS publishing house – includes Horizon
04. Signature Books – Major LDS publisher – no romance fiction
05. Mapletree Publishing – A fairly complete list of LDS publishers
06. LDS Story Makers – A great collection of online LDS authors
07. Six LDS Writers and a Frog – Great insights on LDS writing
08. Authors Incognito – A great resource for aspiring LDS writers
09. A Motley Vision – More than LDS writing, but worth the visit
10. LDS Publisher & LDS Fiction – new but helpful LDS writing blogs
Do you occasionally visit anti-Mormon websites? I do. Every few months I Google Mormon, Mormons, Mormonism, LDS, Latter-day Saints and Latter day saints. Note the slight variations in the search terms. You get different results with each one. I just love the new Google feature which brings up the most popular search terms as you type. That provides valuable information.
I am intensely interested in how the online community finds information on the church and our people. The searches have improved dramatically over the past year since I started blogging. After you Google Mormon, click on Video, News or Blogs to find a world of information that just didn’t exist a few years ago. It’s a miracle. Really, it is. But is it helping or hurting?
For example, in the news today under Mormon we find that the Reverend Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, once again called Mitt Romney a cult member. He must have gotten so much mileage out of that statement the last time he used it when Mitt was running that he decided to try it again. Doesn’t he realize that Mitt Romney is no longer the hot news topic?
Recovery from Mormonism
Today I paid another visit to one of the sites that continues to remain on the front page of any Google search for Mormon or Mormonism – the Recovery from Mormonism forum. In there I discovered that Flat Lander’s disciplinary council has been delayed until after the Nov election. Readers are having a field day with this one. It’s so sad to read some of the comments there.
If you have read any of the stories on the RfM site you may ask why I would go there or spend any amount of time there. Yes, many of the letters and comments are poorly constructed and filled with anger but in just a few minutes you can find common themes. I find it helpful to understand where ex-Mormons are coming from as many of them write comments on my blog.
The most common theme is deception. Many who write there report that they just didn’t know certain things about church history and were shocked when they discovered them. That to me is clear evidence of a need to teach our history better. Our youth and new converts need a friend who can help them deal with the warts that they will discover. We all know that they exist.
Compared to the Recovery from Mormonism site, Post-Mormon is a relatively new site, but is gaining in popularity. With 569 posts, you can also see that Flat Lander is not the “High Priest in good standing” that he claims to be. I’m not saying that participating in Post-Mormon makes you an apostate, but it’s clear that his problems with the church began long before Prop 8.
If you live in the Intermountain West you may have seen their billboards. I noticed some on a recent trip to Utah and looked them up when I got to a computer. The site is professionally done and seems to be well run. I’m sure many of you know a lot more about those who run this site. It is registered to Jeff Ricks out of Logan, Utah. You can read more about him in the Deseret News.
The tenor of letters and comments on Post-Mormon is mostly a step up from what you’ll find on RfM, but not much. There are still many that write for shock value, and seek sympathy for their particular case. Each exit story is unique, but again, all seem to have a common theme of loss. The result is a loss of faith through a perceived deception or some offense, real or imagined.
Labels in general are not good because they are never accurate or precise enough or even fair. However, the term anti-Mormon has been around a long time so I’m going to stick with it. For the most part, I find anti-Mormon sites to be run by Christian ministries, as opposed to former Mormons. This is not always true, but most of them focus on bringing Mormons to Christ.
I like that. We all need to focus more on Christ. I love the comments I receive from those who are working hard to remind me that true religion, at least the Christian religion, is centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I engage in dialog with someone from one of these sites, I am almost always delighted to conclude the dialog with a new-found friend as we talk of Christ.
Two of the most popular online ministries to the Mormons are CARM and MRM. I have written about CARM previously and have enjoyed my dialogs with Matt Paulson, who seems to be the most active in reaching out to people like me. Take a look at the Mormonism Research Ministry, especially this: “Aren’t you just a bunch of biased and hateful bigots who persecute Mormons?“
New Order Mormons
I’ve written about New Order Mormons previously, but wanted to mention them again. One might be tempted to categorize them in with the Ex-Mormons and Post-Mormons, but I keep them separate because they do not advocate leaving the Mormon Church. Their focus is on helping those who no longer believe the doctrine to remain a part of the LDS community.
Another unique thing I like about the NOMs is that they introduced me to an idea that was just totally foreign to my way of thinking growing up in the Mormon Church – that it’s OK to doubt. Now don’t go thinking I’ve lost my testimony because I haven’t. It’s just that I never imagined that you could be a Mormon and not believe the doctrine. They call it being a cultural Mormon.
If you survey your own ward, I am confident that you will find several regular members who are cultural Mormons. They come to church regularly or semi-regularly but just aren’t interested in the doctrine. They come because they were raised in the church or their spouse participates and it contributes to a happier marriage. They probably don’t even know that they are NOMs.
Summary and Conclusion
Some may be offended that I have written about these sites that provide an alternative voice to the official LDS church point of view. It is not my attention to offend. Alternative views are a fact of life, especially in today’s Internet society. Our kids and grand kids know all about these sites and it should not be a shock that they exist. We can’t hide our heads in the sand.
You may feel that this is doing the Church a disservice by bringing light to these sites. I disagree. I have always felt that opposing viewpoints are good and that we can learn from everyone, no matter how much we may feel they are wrong. It has been my experience that those who create and write on these sites really just want to be understood and accepted.
The gospel is being spread through the Internet in a big way these days. Almost everyone turns to the Internet after being first introduced to the church by a friend or by the missionaries. It behooves us to know what they will find and be prepared to answer their questions. Besides, you might learn something that will strengthen your faith in what you will find. I know I have.
Note: Post-Mormon billboard courtesy of Jeff Ricks, but without specific permission
I can’t think of anything that would be worth jeopardizing my standing in the LDS church, which I consider to be the kingdom of God on the earth. I value my membership too much. It means the world to me and provides me with benefits and blessings that I can receive in no other way. I don’t care how much I disagree with someone about some course of action, I would not risk it.
But then, I’m not Andrew Callahan. In case you aren’t aware of Flatlander’s actions, he is the man behind the anti-proposition 8 website, Signing for Something. I know that this is probably a waste of space and that I am just giving undue attention to Andrew, but I want to make a point. Apostasy is just never a good idea, no matter how passionately you feel about your cause.
I suspect it is too late for Andrew to change his course. He has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get excommunicated and he wants his case to draw public attention. Besides having the website created, he has made a couple of YouTube videos that explain his position and leave the church no choice really other than to grant him his desire. Does he realize what he is giving up?
Joining the ranks of the apostates
I know I am opening myself up to rude comments from the ex-Mormons and others who feel that Andrew is courageous for opposing the church on this issue. But I feel the desire to speak out on this as being something that is not worth giving up your membership in the church. Although I can’t verify his claim, like Andrew, I have served in Bishoprics and on a High Council.
If Andrew served for any length of time on the High Council, he would have been a participant in a disciplinary council where a former priesthood holder desired to re-obtain his membership in the church. I wish every member of the church could witness such a proceeding. Then again, I wish that disciplinary councils where church membership is removed never had to be held.
Maybe Andrew never witnessed such an event. If he had, he surely would not be pursuing the course of action that he has been involved in for the past few months. It would help if he could hear the brother who desires to return explain how he was deceived and how miserable he felt for kicking against the pricks, telling of the loss of so many blessings because of stubborn behavior.
Evidence of deception
In Andrew’s letter to a General Authority he stated that, “…in the not too distant future gay marriage will be the law of the land, and that sometime after that, the Church will offer the hand of full fellowship to practicing homosexuals.” I can’t believe that a man who has served in local leadership positions in the church could ever make such a statement about homosexual activity.
I’m sorry Andrew, but you just don’t get it. For someone to be a practicing homosexual means that what they are doing is contrary to the law of chastity. I know this is obvious but to make such a statement as you have is just plain ludicrous. The church will never change the law of chastity. There is no way that a practicing homosexual can be a member in full fellowship.
If you believe that will ever happen then you are very deceived in your thinking. What evidence can you provide that the church has ever indicated that the law of chastity will no longer be a requirement? Wait…are you using the argument that once gay marriage is legal then there is no breaking of the law of chastity involved because they are married? Surely you don’t believe that.
Laws of the land – laws of the Lord
Andrew makes the point that many have brought up in discussing this issue. He states that the church was wrong in denying the priesthood to blacks for so long and defines it as bigotry. He then claims that opposing marriage for homosexuals falls into the same category. I disagree. I still do not yet fully understand why we denied the priesthood to blacks but this issue is different.
The laws of the land have nothing to do with the laws of the Lord. I have written extensively about legislating morality and the importance of government but I can’t believe that the church is ever going to budge in any way toward the direction that Andrew is suggesting. The laws of the Lord do not change based on the way a few judges decide to overrule the voice of the people.
I realize that in the early days of the church there were apostles who gave up their membership because they felt so strongly about not giving up plural marriage. Some have reasoned that this issue is going to be similar to that. They claim that the church is going to come under pressure to change because we teach that homosexual relations are contrary to the law of the Lord.
The law of chastity is eternal
There are some who have struggled with the idea of plural marriage and the law of chastity being compatible. The Lord explained it clearly in section 132, specifically in verse 61. I know some do not accept it, but I have no problem with the idea of plural marriage being a holy and pure institution when it is authorized and commanded of God. But this essay is not about that subject.
My point is that the law of chastity is eternal. It will not change. It cannot change and the Lord cannot change it or he would cease to be God. The church will never change the law of chastity. This law states that sexual relations are only authorized between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully married. Civil marriage recognizing same-sex partners is not the same.
So just to state the obvious, those participating in same-sex marriage cannot be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Obeying the law of chastity is a requirement for membership in this church. Same-sex marriage does not qualify as marriage in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, he specifically commands that homosexual relations are a sin and an abomination.
Fighting against the Lord
Those who are opposed to gay marriage are called bigots, intolerant and many worse things. You can call us all kinds of names but in effect, you are fighting against the Lord and His ways. Marriage is between a man and a woman in the eyes of God and cannot be defined in any other way. It never has been and it never will be. Any other arrangement is simply not a marriage.
This essay addresses those who are in support of Andrew’s activities in opposing the position of the church in support of proposition 8. You may argue that this is a political issue and that the church has no right to be involved in politics, but I am going to turn the tables and use one of your favorite phrases. This is a moral issue and you know deep down in your heart that it is.
If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are in favor of gay marriage then you are opposed to the work of the Lord. You are fighting against the Lord and his plan for the happiness of his children. The purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is to produce children and to provide them with a stable and secure environment in this world.
Summary and conclusion
This is a volatile issue. Emotions run high when people write about this subject. You may feel that I am totally wrong in the things I have written and I expect many of you will tell me so. It happens every time I write about it. I appreciate those who write with intelligent arguments and points of view. It is unfortunate that essays on this subject bring out the emotionally immature.
You are welcome to comment and disagree. I respect your opinion. I trust you will expect mine and refrain from personal attacks. I think what I have stated is in line with the teachings of the LDS Church. In particular, I doubt that I have gone out on a limb by stating that those who are part of a same-sex marriage can never be members of this church, unless they fully repent.
So is it worth it to be excommunicated over the issue? I guess if you place no value on your membership than you may think so. If you do not believe in the divinity of this church or in the inspiration of the leaders then you will probably have no problem. But if you have any thought that just maybe there might be some truth in this church, then please, please be very careful.
Unless you are in a leadership position, have recently moved into a ward or are about to move out of a ward, the odds of you speaking in Sacrament meeting in any given year are fairly slim. The exception of course, is if you reside in a small ward or branch where there are less than forty active adults to choose from. That’s how many a typical ward will go though in a given year.
Think about it. There are fifty two Sundays in a year. Two Sundays each month are used up with Fast Sunday and High Council speakers. That leaves twenty eight available Sundays. Five Sundays each year are used up with General, Stake and Ward conferences. One Sunday is the Primary program. That leaves twenty two Sundays where you are a possible target.
If you are in a typical ward, there are two youth speakers and two adult Sacrament speakers on those Sundays where the Bishopric chooses from the ward members. The themes on many of the Sundays through the year are predictable – New Year’s (goals), Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Pioneer Day, Thanksgiving and of course, Christmas.
Choosing a theme
Almost always, you will be given a theme by the member of the Bishopric whose month it is to conduct. Typically, the themes are very basic, such as faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, tithing, the Sabbath day, Joseph Smith, the apostasy, the restoration, the plan of salvation, revelation, prophets, priesthood, Book of Mormon, and the list goes on.
On a rare occasion the Bishopric member will feel inspired to give you a very specific theme such as, “How paying tithing helps us prepare for the temple,” or “How we can know the Book of Mormon is true through study and prayer.” If you’ve been a member of the church a long time, you’ve heard all these talks and given many of them yourself over the years.
An even rarer occurrence is to have the Bishop ask you to speak without assigning a theme. He may feel inspired to have you be the one to approach the Lord and decide what he would have the members of the ward hear that Sunday. This would be extremely rare. Even High Council speakers are assigned their speaking subjects by the Stake President or senior High Councilor.
How to prepare
My first piece of advice in preparing to speak is to thank the Lord in prayer for the opportunity to learn something new and to improve your talents through the speaking experience. Accept the assignment graciously, being sure to ask specifically how many minutes you are expected to speak and confirming the assigned topic. A typical sacrament talk is twelve to fifteen minutes.
The next suggestion I offer is to envision yourself standing and speaking at the podium. This is the key to success. Ask the Lord in prayer to help you see the event in your mind’s eye. See the reaction of the members of the congregation in advance as you are speaking. Imagine some of them nodding their head in agreement as you mention something that they have experienced.
Decide if you are going to use notes on cards or notes on paper. Some talented people use no notes. I am not one of those special people. I need something to get me started on each point I want to make – a quote, a poem, a story or a scripture. I usually put that on the top of each page and then a few supporting quotes or ideas down below it. My main points are one per page.
The prepared talk
I know people who can stand at a moment’s notice and give a fifteen minute talk without notes and without preparation. Sometimes their words are uplifting and edifying but sometimes they are simply rambling and general talking. This is not what we should do when we are assigned to speak in Sacrament meeting. I think the Lord expects us to prepare and to speak confidently.
There is nothing wrong with preparing your talk word for word if that is what you feel you need to give you the confidence to deliver it. However, you do yourself and the congregation a real disservice if you just read the talk word for word. Unless your delivery talent is exceptional and you make a living as a news announcer, please do not read your talk. We can do better than that.
I know, the General Authorities read their talks in General Conference. In fact, their talks must be submitted weeks in advance so that the translators can practice and be prepared to interpret them at the time of delivery. This also helps in the timing for publication. It really is a miracle that we receive the Conference talks so quickly. They usually arrive in less than six weeks.
There is no way a member of the church today can say that they cannot find enough material to fill twelve to fifteen minutes of time. There is so much available on the church web site that the real problem is in sifting through it all and in finding just the right content. I will usually review what I have on hand in my own files and personal library before turning to the church web site.
I then divide my talk up into main points. Because I am an old man with poor eyesight, I use an 18-point type so I can see it easily without effort. I know from experience that it takes me about two minutes to go through a page of 18-point type. So I only have to prepare six to eight pages. Your introduction and your conclusion take one page, leaving you only four to six to complete.
Again, I recommend you do not read your talk, but if you feel you must, try to just read the first paragraph on the top of each page. With practice you can read and look at the congregation at the same time. I know that sounds impossible, but trust me, it can be done. That’s why I use the 18-point type. By the time you finish the first paragraph you can explain it in your own words.
What not to do
Please never start your talk by saying that you don’t enjoy public speaking. Just launch right into it either with the quote, story, scripture or other material that you have selected to introduce the theme. Put yourself in the congregation and think about it. That shouldn’t be hard. You have heard enough talks over the years to know that apologizing is simply not a good way to start.
You can start by naming your theme or you can let the story, quote or scripture introduce it for you. There’s nothing that a congregation likes more than a confident delivery. That comes from knowing that you are prepared. The Lord has said that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” It can be very disconcerting to stand in front of your ward members to speak, but should not be.
The secret is to remember that you are speaking to people who almost all believe as you do and are there because they love the Lord and want to be edified and uplifted. I know that’s why I go to church. So put your fears behind you through preparation and prayer. If you are terrified, tell that to the Lord, not to the congregation. The Lord who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Summary and conclusion
There are numerous books and articles available to members of the church with advice on how to give a talk when assigned. In my opinion, they could all be summarized with this one piece of advice – let the Lord guide you in your preparations. This is the Lord’s church and I know that he is willing to help you provide the living waters that the members of your ward want and need.
Thirty years of speaking in the church as a regular member, missionary, bishopric member and high councilor has helped me grow tremendously. Besides teaching a Sunday school class, there is nothing I enjoy more than speaking in church. I know, that may seem very strange to some. The reason I enjoy it so much is because the Lord edifies me as I prepare and when I speak.
In other words, this is just one more piece of evidence to me that this is the true church of Jesus Christ. Ministers and teachers in other churches can be inspired but there is just nothing like speaking or teaching under the influence of the Holy Ghost which the Lord promises to all those who join his church, and receive that gift by the laying on of hands by his authorized servants.
The Lord promises gifts of the spirit to members of his church. These gifts are given for the edifying and uplifting of those who are in need of strengthening and comforting. All members of the Lord’s church are entitled to either the receipt of these gifts or to be blessed by these gifts as they are exercised by others. I hope and pray that what I am about to share will be accompanied by an outpouring of his spirit as we consider the purposes of revelation. You may recognize these teachings from Elder Dallin H. Oaks.
Revelation is communication from God to man. It can occur in many different ways. Some prophets, like Moses and Joseph Smith have talked to God face to face. Some persons have had personal communication with angels. Other revelations have come through the dreams of sleep, as with Lehi, or in waking visions of the mind. The vision of the redemption of the dead given to Joseph F. Smith in 1918 is one example of a waking vision. It usually comes after much pondering and prayer and is meant to instruct.
In their more familiar form, revelation and inspiration come by means of words or thoughts communicated to the mind. This can come as enlightenment, feelings about proposed courses of action or even by inspiring performances. I believe that most members of the church have received revelation in one form or another. It is our grand privilege to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives. Remember, when we were confirmed members of this church we were commanded to receive the Holy Ghost.
1. To testify
There are times when I have sat in General Conference or in a devotional assembly at BYU or in some other setting where I knew that I was receiving revelation. The spirit of the Lord was testifying to me that the words that I was hearing were true and important to my happiness and salvation. The purpose of this revelation was to strengthen my testimony or to prepare me for some future trial or other requirement where I needed to know for certain the truths that I had heard, felt and had been taught.
I have also experienced revelation flowing through me as I have testified to others of the truthfulness of the doctrine I was teaching. This occurred to me before my mission, while on my mission and many times since then. It is in bearing testimony that the spirit has a chance to confirm our words to others. To me, this is one of the most powerful confirmations that this is the Church of Jesus Christ and that He is vitally concerned with what is taught in His Church. He sends his confirming spirit as promised when we teach truth.
In fact, it is when I have taught and testified of the truth that my own testimony has been strengthened the most. It is an act of faith to teach what others have said is the truth. Believing, we teach it ourselves and are blessed with a confirming witness that it is true. Boyd K. Packer said a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it. That’s why honest missionary work is so sanctifying to those who participate with real intent. Revelation is received and both the bearer and the hearer are edified and rejoice together.
The world in general, and non-believing apostates in particular, do not understand a testimony. To them it is illogical nonsense.
2. To prophesy
My patriarchal blessing promises me the gifts of prophecy and revelation. I have often wondered about these gifts, how I could seek and obtain them and how I could use them to bless others. The testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy. We can all have this spirit and use it to bless ourselves and those over whom we have stewardship. Each of us can receive prophetic revelation illuminating future events of our lives and giving us direction.
For example, on the day that I proposed to my wife, I saw in my mind’s eye a vision of us living together in happiness for many years to come. I sensed and felt what we would be like together when we were older and how we would be happy together. Some twenty-six years later, that day has come. Carol and I are living after the manner of happiness in a way that I foresaw and could have prophesied if it had been appropriate, on that day so long ago.
One of the purposes of prophecy is to speak the words of the Lord pertaining to the salvation of his children. When we teach each other the doctrines of the kingdom we are exercising the gift of prophecy. When we teach under the influence of the spirit what others need to hear to help them return to live again with Heavenly Father, we are speaking under the spirit of prophecy and revelation. I suppose that I am exercising that gift right now as I share this.
Revelation is a sacred subject and is not something that is easily explained to those who have not experienced it. Prophecy is not well understood in the church, but is a real gift that enriches our lives as we seek it and exercise it on behalf of those we love.
3. To comfort
I would hope that the most common kind of revelation enjoyed by members of the true church of Jesus Christ is to receive and to feel the revelation that we call the Comforter. Perhaps it is rarer than I think, for if we all experienced it on a regular basis, our actions would be much more in conformity with the desires of the Lord. The comforter usually accompanies the performing of ordinances or the singing of hymns or the consoling of our spirits at times of grief such as the loss of a loved one. Revelation can be comforting.
Joseph Smith received a comforting revelation while in Liberty Jail. After many months in deplorable conditions, he cried out in agony and loneliness, pleading with the Lord to remember the persecuted saints. The comforting answer came, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (D&C 121:7-8)
Each of us knows other examples of revelations of comfort. Some have been comforted by visions of departed loved ones or by feeling their presence. A revelation of comfort can also come with a blessing of the priesthood, either from the words spoken or from the feeling communicated in connection with the blessing. Perhaps the greatest of these blessings of comfort can be the assurance received that our sins have been forgiven. This assurance can come as we complete all the steps of repentance and we seek it diligently.
I have felt this comforting assurance on many occasions. I know that the Lord wants to comfort us as we pass through this life.
4. To uplift
At some time in our lives each of us needs to be lifted up from a depression, from a sense of foreboding or inadequacy, or just from a plateau of spiritual mediocrity. I have experienced this feeling of uplift each and every Sunday as I listen closely to the speakers in Sacrament. I also obtain this feeling of uplift when I read the scriptures, especially as I read them out loud either with my wife or alone. We need this uplift of the spirit to empower us to resist evil and to desire to seek after and obtain good things in our lives.
I have found that wholesome music, clean entertainment, beautiful art and literature are ways to uplift my spirit. I enjoy the gifts and accomplishments of others as they seek to share their talents in a way that uplifts and invites reverence and worship of God. It is so easy to get bogged down by the cares of this world. We spend so much time either in work or school that it can become drudgery if we do not have the vision of what we are trying to accomplish. The spirit of uplift from the Lord helps us to recapture that vision.
This uplifting spirit can give us perspective. On a long hike we may experience switchbacks on the trail that seem monotonous. We will also probably encounter places in the trail that appear to be taking us downward or in the opposite direction that we want to go. With this uplifting spirit we can see that the trail leads constantly upward and towards our Heavenly Father. He sees our progress from a distance and calls out to us with words of encouragement and direction. We need this spirit of uplift to see his purposes.
I know that our Heavenly Father is willing to give us this sense of purpose and vision that comes from an uplifting spirit of revelation.
5. To inform
We can receive revelation from God that consists of inspiration. In fact, this is probably the area that most of us have experience in the area of revelation. This may consist of guidance in the choice of words to use on a particular occasion, such as priesthood blessings, and especially in patriarchal blessings. The spirit of revelation may also guide us in words to choose for a sermon or the best way to teach a lesson in a classroom setting. When we are on the Lord’s errand, he promises that he will give us words to speak as needed.
On some sacred occasions, information has been given by face to face conversations with heavenly personages, as in visions related in ancient and modern scriptures. In other circumstances, needed information is communicated by the quiet whisperings of the spirit. When acting in the capacity of a leadership calling, a church leader prays to know whom the Lord would have called to fill a position, and the spirit whispers a name. I have witnessed this revelation on numerous occasions in Bishopric and other priesthood meetings.
The Holy Ghost acts in his office as teacher and revelator as he communicates information from the Lord to man in guiding his church. However, such revelation is not limited to the business of the kingdom or only to priesthood leaders. The Lord can and does reveal information directly to his saints as needed to direct their paths through the journey of life. He can literally give words that will help in performing our duties in church, in school and work.
I have experienced this firsthand as a High Councilor when given assignments to speak on certain topics. I have also felt the hand of the Lord in giving me ideas and words to use in business proposals.
6. To restrain
Elder Oaks teaches that the revelation to restrain is one of the most common forms of revelation. It often comes by surprise, when we have not asked for revelation or guidance on a particular subject. But if we are keeping the commandments of God and living in tune with His Spirit, a restraining force will steer us away from things we should not do. Unfortunately, for many in this world who do not recognize this gift for what it is, it is easily quenched.
Restraint is not popular with the world and is not looked upon as something desirable. This spirit of restraint can warn of us danger and can save us from embarrassment or disappointment. Restraint teaches us exactly how we can better keep our covenants in such a way that we can always feel worthy to call upon the Lord when we are in need of blessings. When we accept the restraints of the Lord, we can have confidence that he will hear and answer our prayers.
In the church we call these restraints standards. In society we call them rules. In government we call them laws. Those who accept the spirit of restraint in their lives will find that their lives are more orderly, more disciplined and more open to enjoyment. They will have a sense of peace that can come in no other way. The spirit of restraint can be recognized by the feeling that something is not appropriate for us or a thought that we had better not do that.
We do not always know why we should heed the spirit of restraint but we can be sure that it comes from a loving Heavenly Father. He would not ask us to avoid certain kinds of behaviors if they were not for our good, our safety, our protection and happiness.
7. To confirm
The Lord explained the confirming type of revelation when Oliver Cowdery failed in his efforts to translate the Book of Mormon: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I shall cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. (D&C 9:7-8)
Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stressed our responsibility to do all that we can before we seek a revelation: “We’re expected to use the gifts and talents and abilities, the sense and judgment and agency with which we are endowed…We’re expected to do everything in our power that we can, and then to seek an answer from the Lord, a confirming seal that we’ve reached the right conclusion.” He then shared a very personal example:
When he set out to choose a companion for eternity, he did not go to the Lord and ask whom he ought to marry. “I went out and found the girl I wanted,” he said. “She suited me;…it just seemed…as though it ought to be…[Then] all I did was pray to the Lord and ask for some guidance and direction in connection with the decision that I’d reached.” I experienced a similar confirming revelation when I asked the Lord about marrying my sweetheart.
The Lord has promised through his servants that we can make every decision in our lives correctly by following this method. Of course some decisions are trivial and do not require this formula. I know that this works from many years of personal experience.
8. To impel
The eighth purpose or type of revelation consists of those instances when the Spirit impels a person to action. This is not a case where a person proposes to take a particular action and the Spirit either restrains or confirms. This is a case where revelation comes when it is not being sought and impels some action not proposed. This type of revelation is obviously less common than other types, but its rarity makes it all the more significant. Elder Oaks has provided us a wonderful example of this kind of revelation:
“As a young girl, my grandmother, Chasty Olsen Harris, had a similar experience. She was tending some children who were playing in a dry riverbed near their home in Castle Dale, Utah. Suddenly she heard a voice that called her by name and directed her to get the children out of the riverbed and up on the bank. It was a clear day, and there was no sign of rain. She saw no reason to heed the voice and continued to play.
“The voice spoke to her again, urgently. This time she heeded the warning. Quickly gathering the children, she made a run for the bank. Just as they reached it, an enormous wall of water, originating with a cloudburst in the mountains many miles away, swept down the canyon and roared across where the children had played. Except for this impelling revelation, she and the children would have been lost.”
The prophet Joseph Smith taught that we may on occasion feel pure intelligence flowing into us. It may give us sudden strokes of ideas, sometimes with great feelings. Acting upon those ideas can bring about great blessings in our lives and in the lives of others.
Summary and conclusion
Elder Oaks taught us of eight purposes of revelation which I have reviewed. Each of these refers to revelations that are received. What about when you don’t receive revelation?
We do not always receive inspiration or revelation when we request it. Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things. It must be so. Our life’s purpose to obtain experience and to develop faith would be frustrated if our Heavenly Father directed us in every act, even in every important act. We must make decisions and experience the consequences in order to develop self-reliance and faith.
Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answer to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It means only that we have prayed about a decision that, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. Perhaps we have asked for guidance in choosing between alternatives that are equally acceptable or equally unacceptable. Similarly, the Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelation on matters that are trivial.
If a matter appears of little or no consequence, we should proceed on the basis of our own judgment. If the choice is important for reasons unknown to us, the Lord will intervene and give us guidance. Where we are living in tune with the Spirit in seeking its guidance, we can be sure that we will receive guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare.
1. Revelation by Dallin H. Oaks, BYU devotional 29 Sep 1981
2. Eight Ways God Can Speak to You, New Era, Sep 2004, p4
Larry Barkdull is working on a book about wayward children. It will be published by Covenant Communications next year. On his blog he has posted a number of stories shared by other parents about their wayward children. Based on the participation in the comments, I think his book is going to do well, especially among mothers, the primary Deseret Book customer.
In the comments following one of Larry’s recent essays published in Meridian Magazine, I was pleased to read some advice from a parent who has gone through some serious difficulties with their rebellious child. In their case, the child had become involved in drugs. After making many excellent points that pull no punches, the parent shares something you don’t read very often:
Demons of the drug culture
“If you see significant changes in countenance, language, etc., bad friends, rotten music and evil posters on the walls, after your kid starts using [drugs], ponder and pray about the possibility of demonic possession. Yes, it still happens, just like it did in the Savior’s time, but now we call its manifestations some kind of psychosis and try to treat it with drugs and therapy.
“Sometimes you just need to use priesthood authority to cast them out. I got rid of 19 evil spirits in my kid. He and we saw a difference in him afterward. Sometimes you have to do it over and over again. It seems that getting high can remove the normal protections we enjoy and open a door wide for evil spirits.” Only a parent who has seen this firsthand can really understand.
Not in my child!
When first presented with the idea that a family member had come under the influence of an evil spirit, like most of the world today, I dismissed the idea as being something from a time that was much less enlightened. Surely there was a much more reasonable explanation that could clarify the irrational, angry, disrespectful and downright mean behavior. It was just hormones, right?
I have written a series of essays on this whole concept of what I prefer to call spirit attachments. Through much study and prayer I have concluded that this parent knows of what he speaks. I too am familiar with the process of casting out evil spirits. I also know that sometimes, they must be commanded to leave again and again. They keep coming back looking for their old home.
A wise family counselor
For some reason, we were led to a special family counselor early in the process of dealing with a wayward child. He was recommended to us by our bishop. While his technique was unusual, his ability to get to the root of the problem was amazing. The results were equally astonishing. I have never heard of a family counselor who said he wouldn’t need to see you more than twice.
This blog isn’t the place to present the very remarkable diagnostic technique that this counselor employed. I have covered that in great detail in another essay elsewhere if you are interested. I simply would like to point out that the idea of spirit attachments or demonic possession is a very real phenomenon associated with the drug culture. I agree with this parent. I too have seen it.
Power to deal with opposition
I think one of the main points Larry will probably make in his book is that the process of dealing with a wayward child is really a sanctifying journey for the parent. I can’t tell you how many hours we have invested in fasting and prayer, multiple temple visits, and continual searching in the scriptures for answers. We were driven to our knees in extremity on so many occasions.
But because the Lord knows how to succor us, he provided a unique way for us to deal with this problem that just would not go away. For over ten years we struggled with the sorrow, heartache and disappointment that accompany a rebellious spirit in the home. How often I would have cast out the vessel that it possessed, but was stayed by a loving and tender-hearted companion.
The Lord knows what we need
Parents of rebellious and wayward children know how difficult it can be to keep the spirit of the Lord in the home. Perhaps the most difficult place to keep that spirit is within your own heart. Certain kinds of music and certain kinds of behavior just seem to cause the spirit to leave. The Lord has said that control or compulsion will not work to win the hearts of children to Christ.
Long-suffering, persuasion and unfeigned love are the only acceptable ways to reach the strong-willed child in a way that respects their agency. But it can sure be frustrating when the only discernible result is to be taken advantage of again and again. A loving Heavenly Father lead me to the process I needed to learn to control myself through so many years of this struggle.
Forgiveness is the answer
When the door slams again on the way out as the child goes on their way to another rendezvous with drugs, the temptation is to pack up the clothes and throw them out in the street. The worst part for me was knowing that the money to purchase the drugs was deceptively obtained from my pocket. How does Heavenly Father stay his hand when we knowingly try to deceive Him?
I know if sounds simple, but the key to dealing with a rebellious and wayward child who takes advantage of loving and long-suffering parents is, simply put, forgiveness. In my experience, there has been nothing so powerful that has helped me through this long journey. Disrespect to a man is like non-reciprocal love to a woman. The rebellious child knows very little of either.
The first stage of the journey
I would not ever want to go through this journey again. After much effort and encouragement, our son has recently moved out and is on his own. He holds a job and pays his own way. Yes, he returns often for financial help, food and other sundry items. He is discovering that all the things he used that he never thought about, no longer miraculously appear when needed.
Now is the time we have prayed for and done everything in our power to bring about in the manner the Lord intended. What would have happened to this child if I had kicked him out the first time he stole my money and bought drugs? Now, he has a chance. He is now in a position that the Lord can reach him in ways that we never could – through natural consequences of life.
Peace in spite of pain
We are at peace. We have done all we could to help this child enter the world as a responsible and productive member of society. The naturally rebellious child has a self-destructive streak that can end a life early without special attention from the Lord. These kind of children are late bloomers. They just don’t get it until much later in life. Or at least that is my current theory.
I am just grateful that the drugs and the associated demons did not claim the life of this young rebellious child while he was in our home. The relationship is relatively good. He is welcome back anytime. I attribute that fully to his mother who suffered so much and gave of herself in ways that I would never have imagined possible were it not for the assistance of a merciful God.
Summary and conclusion
Don’t try to tell the parent of a child who uses drugs that there is no such thing today as being possessed by an evil spirit. Enlightenment to this parent came specifically because of prayer, study, fasting and revelation from a loving Heavenly Father who knew what was needed to deal with the terrible reality that most of the world denies, ridicules or tries to explain away.
When I was set apart to the High Council when this all started, I was promised that my son would someday come to accept the ways of the Lord and remember all the things he had been taught when he was young. I hold the Lord to that promise but know that the fulfillment of that promised blessing is dependent upon the faithfulness of this parent to what I know to be true.
We went walking the precincts again today in support of proposition 8. The turnout was pretty good. We probably had two or three times the number of people show up today as we did two weeks ago. As can be expected on a Saturday morning in Camarillo, nobody was home in about half the houses we visited. They were probably out at a soccer game with their family.
Of those we spoke with, about half had not heard of the proposition and did not seem to mind learning a little about it. That’s all we’re trying to do at this point – inform voters about the proposed state constitutional amendment. The other half who had heard about it were in favor and said they would probably vote yes or were “open” and had not yet decided.
I personally did not encounter anyone on the streets that I visited who was opposed to the amendment. Again, I think that’s a reflection of the demographics of this sleepy little town, a bedroom community with a lot of small high tech businesses. The mixture of registered voters was equally Republican and Democrat with a few “other” in the mix.
Poll numbers don’t seem right
I noted that the most recent poll numbers from the Public Policy Institute of California don’t reflect my experience in walking the precincts. They cite only 40% as being in favor of the amendment and 52% opposed. Although the Public Policy Institute is located in San Francisco, they claim that the survey was conducted statewide, by telephone, between August 12th and 19th.
The wording of the proposed amendment was recently changed by the State Attorney General to read that a yes vote means that you are eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry. I don’t see it that way. When we walk the precincts we present the yes vote as being in favor of restoring the traditional definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
In 2000, 61% of the people in California voted that marriage is defined as only between a man and a woman. The ruling was overturned earlier this year by four judges. To me, the right of same sex couples to marry was not granted by the people of the state, but by four judges. So if the amendment is defeated this time, we will then know the will of the majority of the people.
Only Mormons walking the precincts
I keep reading that others in the coalition are supposed to be joining us as we go walking door to door but from what I have seen, it is only the Mormons who are actively participating in this part of the campaign. I guess that’s because we have a lot of experience in going door to door. But the turnout today included a lot of couples and individuals who had never been missionaries.
When I returned home from the morning’s activities my son was visiting and saw the materials I had been handing out. He said, “So you’ve been out trying to take away the rights of the gays?” Trying to set the record straight I said, “No, just trying to let the people know about the issue so they can vote on it. We want to restore the legal definition of marriage in California.”
He didn’t buy it. He said, “Why do you Mormons hate the gays?” I restrained my desire to defend what we are doing and let it slide while the conversation went to other subjects. As he was leaving I asked, “Do people think that Mormons hate gays?” He replied, “You guys have a big problem in this area and have had for a long time.” That gave me something to think about.
Perception is reality
Now our son knows that his parents don’t hate gays. Carol and I have both worked with people who identify themselves as homosexual. We don’t shun them. We don’t avoid them. And we are grateful that he is accepting of gay people as well. His point was that the LDS church in general has a problem in being perceived as less than accepting of gays and their lifestyle.
He is right. This is a problem. It is especially a problem with young people his age. From what I can tell, the majority of people in our society under thirty are not opposed to the gay lifestyle or same-sex marriage. As I thought about my experience in walking the precincts today, I realized that most everyone I spoke with was older than thirty and most were in support of proposition 8.
So the fact that it is mainly members of the LDS Church that are out knocking on doors telling our neighbors to vote yes on proposition 8 could be perceived in the way he described. It is not true, or at least I have never seen it in my own experience in the church. I have read accounts of LDS parents rejecting their children who are gay but I hope those are few and far between.
Do Mormons hate gays?
At President Hinckley’s funeral the Westboro Baptist church came and picketed with signs that read, “Mormons love gays,” and worse. If you know anything about the people of the Westboro Baptist church of Kansas you know they feel that everybody in America loves gays. They are especially active in claiming that dead American soldiers in Iraq are a result of this love.
“When asked what President Hinckley had done that enabled homosexuals, one woman said it was because the leader of the LDS Church preached that God loves all his children, including the gay ones. That’s it? God loves all his children, and that makes us a gay church? She emphatically nodded an increasingly smaller head.” That quote is from Robert Kirby, beloved LDS humorist.
Here’s what President Hinckley said: “Our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. It is expected that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct.”
God-given rules of conduct
And there is the point of my essay today. We do not hate gays. I affirm what President Hinckley taught. We love them as sons and daughters of God. It is the part about rules of conduct that many young people seem to miss. It has been my experience that most young people don’t like rules of conduct. It just seems to go against their basic principles to have such rules.
I’m not sure why some do not believe that God has a right to set the rules for our conduct in this life. Perhaps it’s because they do not believe in God, or at least say that they don’t. Rules of conduct are important to me. I have written previously that I believe in government and that we can and should legislate morality. Of course, whose idea of morality do we legislate?
To me, that’s the real problem that we face in our society today. In our conversation today my son pointed out that there were so many other things to spend our energy on besides this gay marriage thing. I disagree. I think this is one of the most important issues facing our state, our nation and our world today. Following God-given rules of conduct will bring great blessings.
Summary and conclusion
No, Mormons do not hate gays. You may argue otherwise and many of you have as I have written about this subject in the past. I expect I will hear from you again with contrary points of view. You may be right. Some Mormons probably do hate gays. That’s unfortunate. I’m a Mormon and I don’t hate gays, or at least I don’t think I do. I try not to hate anybody.
Hate is not becoming of a Christian. Hate does not come from God. It comes from the devil. We have been accused of acting for the devil because we are involved in advocating proposition 8. I do not feel that way. I am following the counsel of a prophet to give this proposition my best effort. My time and my money are precious to me but I give them to follow a prophet.
I believe I will be blessed for following a prophet. I don’t always know how. Was it difficult for me to go walking in my neighborhood today talking to people about proposition 8? Yes, it was. Will I be blessed for my efforts? Yes, I know I will be. Please don’t accuse Mormons of hating gays. That’s not true. We focus on teaching doctrine and behavior that will bring happiness to all people.
From the September 2008 First Presidency message, we read what President Eyring has to say about unity: “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 Nephi 11:29). This Spirit never generates the feelings of distinction between people which lead to strife.”
I was deeply impressed when I first read that last sentence. I was also struck by the contrast in definitions of the word distinction. I usually view distinction in a positive manner, as in one who receives honors for outstanding work done in an academic or professional environment. In this case, it appears that distinction is an undesirable thing in that it causes inequality and contention.
But wait! Could it be that it is not distinction itself which is the bad thing, but some undesirable feelings that can be associated with the word? Yes, I believe that is what is meant in this case. In other words, distinction can be both good and bad, depending upon the feelings it produces. I would like to point out some ways in which we are a distinct people, hopefully all for the good.
We are a peculiar people
The Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people. The Lord said so himself. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” Of course one could argue that this declaration from the Old Testament was referring to the house of Israel and I won’t disagree.
In First Peter 2:9 we read, “But 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 marvelous light.” Peculiar here means chosen of the Lord. So obviously the Lord uses distinction when referring to those who he has called to follow Him and minister to others.
And yet, we read in Acts 10:34-35 that the Lord is no respecter of persons. “…in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” So from this I surmise that we can all be chosen. Anyone can be a part of the peculiar Kingdom of God. It seems that it is a mutual choice. He calls us and we choose him. That’s what makes the distinction here.
We are not a weird people
So what happens when we are called out of the world and choose to follow the Lord? The distinction between us and the rest of the world becomes obvious and clear, or at least it should be if we are trying to follow the Savior as we should. And therein lies the problem. We become a peculiar and distinctive people. Yes, we are called strange, weird, unusual and different.
President Hinckley made an effort in his media interviews and conference addresses to point out that we are not a weird people. His 1995 interview with Mike Wallace was a culmination of a life-long effort for him to change the way the world views us. I very much appreciate what President Hinckley has done. I do not feel weird or different in a bad way because I am LDS.
And yet, I do feel peculiar. Why? Although they used to be the norm, my views on morality, marriage and family are becoming more and more distinctive from the rest of the world. In particular, my advocacy for defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman has come under fire from those who claim that such views are bigoted, hateful and divisive.
Distinctive views on marriage
So what do I do with this statement from President Eyring that teaches the importance of harmony by avoiding contention and strife caused by feelings of distinction? I feel strongly about this issue and feel the need to stand up and make my views known. I am not alone. Most, although not all LDS churchgoers feel as I do about marriage even if they do not speak out.
The proposed amendment to the constitution of the state of California, where I was born and have lived all my life, will, in the view of those opposed to it, deny them their civil rights. My distinctive views have become a cause for strife. As I write about this issue in an effort to persuade others to understand my point of view, contention becomes a part of the dialog.
So again, how do I reconcile what is happening as I write about the definition of marriage and what President Eyring has said, that the spirit of the Lord never generates feelings of distinction between people which leads to strife? Is it my distinctive stance on marriage that is the cause of the strife? Those opposed would have me abandon my position as being wrong and intolerant.
We should seek distinction
I believe that we should seek distinction or honor from the Lord. By that I mean that we should strive to live our lives in accordance with the will of the Lord and thus receive his approbation. Does the Lord bless and favor those who seek to obey his commandments? Of course he does. But he is no respecter of persons, meaning that anyone can seek and obtain those same blessings.
Although we do not strive for appointment or advancement in the Lord’s church, we do seek to excel in doing our duty in helping to accomplish the Lord’s purposes here on the earth. I feel that it is an admirable character trait to be zealous in advocating and promoting something that the Lord has made clear through his prophets is both important and deserving of our best efforts.
As we seek to do the will of the Lord, and in particular to follow the counsel of the prophet in this issue of defending marriage, we are obviously drawing a distinction between us and those who do not believe as we do. There are many besides the LDS people who feel just as strongly about this issue, but it seems that it is the Mormons who are taking it to the door of the people.
Distinction without contention
We are not out to contend with others about this issue. We simply want to know if they are aware and how they would vote if the election were held today. Later in the campaign we will probably go door to door again in an effort to persuade. And finally, we will most likely be asked to visit our neighbors once again in the final days before the election to get out the vote.
Will some be angered by our efforts? Of course they will. Will some want to argue with us and tell us that we are wrong and should not be doing this? It has already happened all across the state. We do not contend in that we do not argue in a manner that causes feelings of distinction. By that I mean we focus on the importance of the definition of marriage and not civil rights.
We are not out to take away the civil rights of anyone. If you have studied the issue you know that same-sex domestic partners in California are guaranteed by law all the same rights as a married couple (Family Code 297.5). Yes, we are making a distinction that marriage is only between a man and a woman and are making an effort to get that added to the state constitution.
Summary and conclusion
You may be tired of reading about this issue by now. I am fairly certain that we will be reading a lot more about it in the weeks to come. I only write about it because when I began this blog, I felt a desire to comment on issues that are signs of the times and a part of the Latter-day events. Yes, the definition of marriage as a social event is one of the signs of the times of the last days.
I have concluded that there is no conflict between what President Eyring is trying to teach us about unity and harmony in his First Presidency message. I agree that we should avoid feelings of distinction from economic or educational accomplishments, class envy, pride or superiority that would stand in the way of unity and harmony, especially among members of the church.
We can be distinctive as a people by seeking to adhere to the standards the Lord has set for us. One of those standards is in the definition of marriage. The Lord established and defined for us what marriage is when he brought Adam and Eve together. Therefore, let no man divide asunder or change this definition. Marriage is sacred because it has been defined by the Lord for us.
Dad suffered a stroke today. He is 86 years old. Mother died a few years back but Dad is not alone. My brother moved in with him last year and was there to call the paramedics and get him to the hospital. From what we can tell, the stroke is not that bad but will require some therapy to regain the use of his right side. Luckily his speech and reasoning were not affected.
I have been meaning to write about my dad for a long time. I wrote about my mother in a previous essay and alluded to my dad when I wrote about my own marriage. Dad deserves a tribute and I promised him I would write when I visited him a couple of weeks ago. Time has a way of getting in the way of good intentions but I am more motivated with dad’s stroke today.
I hope you will forgive this personal indulgence but this is after all my blog, and although I write in a manner that I hope will be applicable to a wide audience, I also write to leave something for my own posterity. Will blogs on Blogger be semi-permanent for many years to come? I hope so. Will the world change to the point that someday our electronic archive is severed? I hope not.
A child of the great depression
My dad was born in 1922 in Cordell Oklahoma, about eighty miles west of Oklahoma City. That means he grew up and spent his childhood on the farm during the great depression. There were ten children in Dad’s family and he was fourth oldest. There are only four still alive as I write this. Dad is one of the last of the generation that fought in World War II along with his brothers.
Being part of a family of poor farmers, dad picked cotton from the time he was six years old. All the children in those days worked on the farm from the time they were little. It was a necessity. Even though he had to work to help the family earn a living he also went to school in town and stuck with it through high school and on to business school. But then World War II came along.
There’s just something about the generation that grew up during the depression and the war that made them especially hard workers who are frugal with their money. Dad was no exception. He worked hard all his life, at least six and many times seven days a week. He was a meat cutter by trade, having learned it on the farm and in the Navy. But he always ended up managing others.
Service in the military
Pearl Harbor was in December of 1941. Dad joined the Navy the next year when he was twenty years old. There was a need for dad’s skills so he didn’t even go to basic training. He was sent to the Naval Air Station in Norman Oklahoma where he met my mother, who was 15 at the time. She was doing the patriotic thing by working on the air base which was very close to her home.
Dad served in Southern California in various Naval Air stations, where he fell in love with the beautiful weather here in Ventura County where I now live. He was stationed at Port Hueneme, which is right down the road from me. In early 1945, as a Petty Officer First Class, he and a thousand other sailors shipped out for Okinawa, although they didn’t know that at the time.
At the age of 23, dad was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer, one of the youngest in the Navy at the time. He was placed in charge of setting up and running the galley operations for the entire island of Okinawa after it was secured. In October of 1945, Dad suffered a war injury when typhoon “Louise” caused a 500 gallon water tank to fall on him, crushing his right leg.
A man of responsibility
Personnel casualties were 36 killed, 47 missing, and 100 seriously injured, dad being one of them. Almost all the food, medical supplies and other stores were destroyed, over 80% of all housing and buildings knocked down, and all the military installations on the island were temporarily out of action. Over 60 planes were damaged as well, though most were repairable.
If the war had not ended on 2 September, this damage would likely have seriously impacted the planned invasion of Japan. After helping to repair all the food distribution facilities, Dad was sent to Manila and Japan to set up the galley operations there. He stayed until May of 1946 when he was sent home. He immediately went to Norman Oklahoma to convince mother to marry him.
When he called and said, “This is Jim,” she said, “Jim who?” She had been dating someone else named Jim that she didn’t particularly care for. Dad started courting her then. He says he thinks she was attracted by the white Navy Chief’s uniform. Mother asked Dad, “When are we going to get married?” and Dad said, “Whenever you want to.” Dad was 24 and mother was just 18.
The move to California
They married on 10 August 1946 in Texarkana Arkansas on the way to Dad’s next duty station in Texas. He was soon discharged and began a career as a meat cutter for many Safeway Stores throughout Oklahoma, where five of my brothers and sisters were born. Invariably, Dad would be promoted to manage his department. All the while, dad was active in the Naval Reserves.
In 1955, my Uncle Jessie called dad and told him he could buy a new house in California for $10,000. He was making $25 or $35 a week in Oklahoma and could make $75 a week in California with union wages. He came and interviewed and got the job on a handshake. With that they packed up and moved to California where my sister and I soon joined the family.
Dad stayed active in the Naval Reserve over the years and was able to retire with a full pension and benefits after forty years of service. He would take his two weeks of vacation every year to go on naval cruises, always in charge of the galley, or serve on various naval bases. Sometimes he would serve in San Francisco, other times in San Diego and once as far away as Louisiana.
Joining the LDS Church
In the fall of 1961, my mother was introduced to the LDS Church while teaching public school in the Glendora California School District. You can read more of her conversion story in the essay of her life that I wrote previously. They were taught the lessons and committed to baptism the first week of January 1962. Dad had to make a couple of major changes at this time in his life.
Dad usually worked seven days a week. He also smoked cigars and had done so since he had joined the Navy twenty years previously. He gave that up overnight and made every effort to now work only six days a week so he could attend church with his family. He didn’t always make it but was always supportive of mother in her efforts to live the gospel in our home.
We were all sealed as a family in the Los Angeles temple in 1963. Although I was only six years old, I remember somebody who was not a member of our family joining us around the altar to be a proxy for my brother who had died shortly after childbirth. I have been to the temple perhaps thousands of times since then, but still have a vivid recollection of this sacred and special event.
A loving and kind father
I don’t think I remember dad ever raising his voice in anger at us children. He was kind and patient and loved each of us. He was a happy man and worked hard all the while I was growing up. He enjoyed time with his family when we went on vacations together or to the park or the beach. He was satisfied with life and accomplished something great in providing for his family.
Dad wasn’t a leader in spiritual things in that he didn’t study the gospel or teach it to his family. It was mother who would lead out in prayer and scripture study, or at least that’s the way I have remembered it. Dad provided stability and security for our family and although I know I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I realize it now. That stability was a real strength to me growing up.
His daughters adore him. I honor and respect him. My dad is a great man in my estimation. He did what the Lord sent him here to do and fulfilled his purpose in life in just being a great dad. He adored my mother and treated her like a queen. I know she loved him as she told me so many times. He didn’t mind sacrifice and was always giving of himself to bless and benefit others.
Summary and conclusion
Dad was not one to say much. He was quiet but loved to read. He also loved to serve others. He was happiest when he was cooking a dinner for hundreds or even thousands, as he often did throughout his life. He was the friendliest meat cutter in town and loved to serve his customers, who he knew by name. He was a fair boss and always earned the respect of his employees.
While not overly spiritual, he is spiritually sensitive. With mother, he performed thousands of proxy ordinances in the temples over the years. That constant exposure to the heavenly element made him sensitive to impressions from the spirit world. He has shared with me several sacred accounts of spiritual visits that he has received over the years. And dad always told the truth.
I love my dad. I hope he can stay in mortality as long as he feels the Lord needs him to be here. But I know he misses my mother. He has related that she has visited him several times. There is just something sacred about the bond of a man and woman sealed to each other in the temple who love and served one another all their lives. Dad, I salute you as a great man, patriot and father.
Update: Dad passed away on 18 February 2009 just a month before his 87th birthday.