Archive for December 2008
What is it like to be a gay Mormon struggling with same-sex attraction? I don’t know but there are several websites where you can learn more if you are interested. I would like to highlight two of them in this essay. My objective in reviewing these websites is to determine which promotes faithfulness and obedience to the Lord’s commandments.
Evergreen International is a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior. They claim right on their front page that, “If you want to diminish your same-gender attractions and avoid homosexual behavior, there is a way out.” I find that encouraging.
Affirmation, on the other hand, states that they “reject the tyranny that would have us believe that who we are—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—is evil. We view our sexual and gender orientation as a blessing, not a curse.” Affirmation endorses the embracing of homosexual identity and encourages expression of homosexual behavior.
Remain a member of the LDS Church
Both of these organizations “seek to meet the needs of persons experiencing frustration or alienation from family, friends, and the Church because of their feelings” of same sex attraction. But, as Affirmation states, “Many of us are no longer members of the LDS Church [although] we celebrate being part of the great Mormon tradition.” Hmm….
If I were gay and wanted to remain an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think I would be more inclined to learn more about what Evergreen had to say on the subject. This is especially true as you read on their site that, “We sustain the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception.”
Contrast that with the numerous resources on the Affirmation site providing detailed instructions and encouragement to withdraw your membership from the LDS church. In addition, Affirmation has many pages dedicated to attacking Evergreen as being false, misleading and dangerous. I wonder why they need to attack Evergreen and the church.
Born that way – or not
In the past year or so since I started writing about this subject I have received quite an education from many helpful people directing me to other resources besides Evergreen and Affirmation. For more on those resources, see my previous essay on the subject of “Homosexuality – sin or biological fact?” It quotes extensively from Daniel K. Judd.
One of the pivotal arguments in the discussion of same sex attraction has to do with the idea of being born as a homosexual or not. I appreciate the comments from readers on my essay, “Born that way – not a choice,” in which I decided that both camps are right. Some are born with a predisposition to homosexuality but they still have power over it.
And that is the big difference between the two websites that are the subject of this essay. Evergreen maintains that although one may have feelings of same-sex attraction, they are not what identify the individual. Affirmation, on the other hand, is clear that feelings of gender orientation are what make the person, so it is wrong to suppress them.
Leading the reader unto Christ
The position of the LDS Church is clear and always has been – homosexual behavior or gay sex is a sin. One cannot practice the homosexual lifestyle by engaging in gay sex and still be a member of the Mormon Church. On the other hand, one can profess to be gay, or have same-sex attraction, and still be an active, faithful member of the church.
I find it telling that General Authorities have spoken at many recent Evergreen conferences. As I read the material on their website, I find that it can apply to almost anyone who is struggling with an addiction or any powerful pull of the flesh. The articles and reading material are uplifting and encouraging and lead unto Christ.
On the other hand, I searched the Affirmation site in vain for articles or essays that were uplifting or faith promoting. There were plenty of stories of tragedy and desperation. I was saddened to read them. I kept looking for answers or solutions but all I found were enticements to give in and embrace who you are even if it means leaving the church.
Same sex attraction can be mastered
When Evergreen held their first annual conference in May of 1990, they boldly spoke out against the idea that one had to embrace the gay identity and lifestyle because they experienced same-sex attraction. On the contrary, they emphasized personal choice and responsibility, teaching that homosexual tendencies could be mastered and overcome.
This enraged the local gay groups then and it continues to be a major point of opposition on the Affirmation site today. You can read more than a dozen essays on their site that warn you away from the terrible harm that can come from listening to or believing the teachings of Evergreen. In direct opposition, they state that SSA cannot be mastered.
I guess if I were gay and wanted to choose which organization I wished to counsel me I would have to think deeply about what I believed about personal growth and success. If I felt that the way to happiness is to go with what comes natural, then I’d embrace what Affirmation says. If I felt that I’m here to rise above the flesh, I’d go with Evergreen.
Summary and conclusion
It was not my intention when I began this essay to endorse Evergreen and oppose what I found on the Affirmation site, but I have concluded that I am more of an Evergreen kind of guy. I believe that a man can and should rise above the flesh. I believe that is one of the main purposes of this life – to be tested and proven that we are more than our flesh.
The way of life that Evergreen advocates is not easy, but then, neither is the gospel of Jesus Christ unless you follow His admonition to cast your burden upon the Lord. I have weaknesses of the flesh that I sometimes feel powerless to control. My own will power has never been enough. I need my Savior to rise above and be a better man.
Therefore I endorse what I found on the Evergreen site to be helpful and of great worth. The materials there encourage me to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I need and appreciate that. I invite the people of Affirmation to point out articles on their site that lead me to Christ and I will be happy to append this essay with those links.
Update: If you read nothing else on the Evergreen site, read the overview from the 2008 conference held in September. The chairman’s message includes a current issues section that is especially interesting in refuting rumors and untruths found on the internet today.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” Paul informs us in Romans 3:23. To commit sin is to willfully disobey God’s commandments or to fail to act righteously despite a knowledge of the truth. Many in the world do not believe in sin or in repentance from sin. In fact, some do not even believe in God.
The central theme of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is our Savior and Redeemer and that through His atonement, we can obtain forgiveness of our sins. These phrases don’t mean much to those who don’t believe in God or Christ, but they fill with hope those who understand and accept that there is sin in this world.
A Savior is one who delivers from a predicament or an unavoidable trap. Paul also taught us in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin are death.” Sometimes those who are young reject the idea of spiritual death because physical death seems so far away. With maturity, they are more inclined to believe and to want to learn.
The household of faith
Those who are born and raised in a home of faith, where the good news of the gospel is believed and taught, have so much the advantage over those who have neither heard of Christ nor understood the role of repentance in their lives. I had that advantage and will be forever grateful to a mother who taught me to believe.
However, being taught the gospel as a youth places an added responsibility on us. That burden is that we have at least an intellectual understanding of the principles of the gospel. Whether we believe them or not is a different story. It is difficult to pass faith from one generation to the next. The secret is example and pure love.
And yet, children have their agency and can choose to believe or not believe. If the acceptance of the world around them is stronger than the acceptance of their own family, it makes it difficult to choose to believe. Peer influence in a young person’s life can be so much more powerful than the teachings of a loving parent.
Born in the covenant
Life sometimes has a way of leading a rebellious youth to the realization that the path of faith is real, even if it is difficult and not the way of the world. It can be a harsh awakening for a child born in the covenant to understand that they can never be the same as the world around them. Their promises and expectations are great.
Because they have been born in the covenant, their parents have a special claim on them, no matter what their level of belief or obedience. That phrase has a unique meaning in our church and carries with it an understanding of promises, made both by God and by the parents. The children born to such a marriage inherit promises.
Sometimes children born in the covenant reject the faith of their parents and decide to live after the manner of the world – in a state of unbelief. True faith, as found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, is a powerful thing but is foreign to those who do not believe. Faith is different from belief. You can’t have faith without belief.
Invited to believe and be faithful
There comes a time in every person’s life when they must choose to believe or to not believe in God and His ways. I can say that because we are clearly taught that such a choice is the primary purpose of this life. That choice is presented over and over again until it is clearly established that such faith will be accepted or rejected.
In fact, the role of the Holy Ghost in this life is to entice us throughout our journey to a path of faithfulness. The parents of the rebellious teenager or young adult who has been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, can constantly ask the Lord to help the child recognize the enticing of the spirit in their lives. That is part of the promise.
I am convinced that as long as the parents pray for that child and ask the Lord to soften the child’s heart towards the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the Lord is bound to honor that request because of the promises inherent in being born in the covenant. He will send the Spirit to prick the heart of that child at the request of the parents.
The Savior will receive and forgive
I have seen numerous examples of rebellious children returning to the faith of their parents many times over the years. Sometimes it is dramatic and shocking to see the difference in the child as the light of the gospel begins to shine in their face. They go on missions, marry in the temple and begin to raise their own families.
But it does not always work like that. Sometimes too much time has passed. A mission is out of the question. That’s OK. They can serve later in life. Many do. Sometimes a marriage in the temple is not forthcoming because of an unbelieving spouse or divorce has already visited the young family, leaving a single parent.
But in spite of poor choices early in life, the Lord is eager to forgive and to bless. He holds out his arms to the wayward child, just as the parents have done for so many years. But the Savior offers something that the parents can never provide – healing and peace. He also offers hope of deliverance from the despair of sin.
Summary and conclusion
We all need our Savior. None of us can save ourselves from the effects of our sins. We cannot wash ourselves free of the contamination of wickedness. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do that for us. He offers that gift freely, to young and old, parents and children. He offers to redeem us from death and hell and an endless torment.
Members of the LDS faith have an additional understanding of what it means to be saved from death, hell and endless torment. We have additional scripture, as found in the Book of Mormon that teaches us plainly of the significance of redemption. We find great hope in what we learn there about our Savior and His love for us.
Our hope is in Jesus Christ. We proclaim Him to the world to be our Savior and Redeemer and the Son of God. We know Him. We love Him. We worship Him. We preach of Christ and teach our children to believe in Him. I will be forever grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who reveals His Son to those who obey Him.
Image: The Prodigal Son, Artist: Clark Kelley Price
As we go through life, we embrace high ideals as standards that we value. I am confident that most of us do not perfectly live up to those high value standards. That can cause difficulty in our lives and can be a major form of stress. How do we deal with the discrepancy of a life lived at a level below what we would like it to be?
More aptly asked, how do we live up to those high value standards that we have accepted as being desirable and believe to be achievable? Is it even possible? The Savior taught, “Be ye therefore perfect.” Modern prophets have defined specific standards of behavior that help us reach for that perfection in our day and age.
For example, the Mormon Church has one of the highest standards of sexual purity both before and after marriage, than any other organization of which I know. The standard is total abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage. Failure to adhere to these standards is a cause for disciplinary action in our church.
Mortality means being less than perfect
Instead of focusing on the formal disciplinary aspect of failing to live up to the standards of sexual purity, I’d like to address the spiritual aspect of what it does to our souls when we find ourselves weak in this area. In particular, I would like to discuss what happens to our feelings of self-worth when we yield to temptation.
Obviously I cannot address this perfectly and include a woman’s point of view because I am a man, so I’ll stick with what I know. I especially want to deal with the idea of being virtuous in our thoughts in order to be worthy of the Lord’s approbation in connection with our efforts to exercise the priesthood as found in section 121.
I am an experienced sinner. I also like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable about repentance. Like just about every other human being, I awoke one day as a teenager to discover that I had entered puberty. No surprise there, but what was very surprising to me was the discovery of the power of hormones in my life.
Virtue and purity bring personal power
Although I don’t recall my parents discussing the idea of virtue with me when I was young, I do recall many lessons in Sunday school, Seminary and especially Aaronic priesthood classes that made it clear what the Lord’s standards are. I can say that I clearly understood that virtue and priesthood power go hand in hand.
I think it is wonderful that the Young Women’s organization in the church has added virtue to the list of Young Women values. I don’t know how it got left out of the original list when it was formulated. It was probably just an oversight. If there is anything that is needed in our youth today, it is an understanding of virtue.
So I can say that before I entered puberty and began to experience the powerful pull of raging hormones for myself that I understood clearly, at least intellectually, that I needed to control myself, to resist certain behavior and to focus on creating virtue in my life. That was a relatively easy thing until my body started to change.
Dealing with temptation
One day in school I was surprised to discover that when one of my friends brought pictures out of his wallet that he had cut from a men’s magazine, I found myself interested in seeing them. Whenever this had happened before I had always turned away in disgust. It surprised me when that disgust turned to very strong curiosity.
Now girls probably won’t understand this, or maybe they do better than I realize, but men are visually stimulated and aroused. It’s just the way we are made. So I found myself viewing these pictures along with the rest of my friends, yet all the while knowing that what I was doing was wrong and that I should turn away.
Over the years, I have come to realize that it is a rare man who is not interested in viewing the naked female form, or that can turn away when presented with such a sight. It takes discipline to resist what is only natural to the natural man (Mosiah 3:19). I knew that it was wrong but I couldn’t tell you exactly why at the time.
The effect of sin on our soul
No amount of lecture from a parent or teacher can prepare you for the feelings of guilt that are experienced the first time you do something that you believed you would never do. Perhaps I am just overly sensitive to guilt, but I experienced it big time that day. I felt miserable. I felt terrible. I could barely function in school.
And yet, what bothered me most was the fact that the images I had viewed kept coming back into my mind at the most inappropriate times, like when I was talking to a girl, or the next day in Seminary class while trying to study the scriptures. This was a new phenomenon, one that I was not familiar with, and it bothered me.
I also noticed that I was strangely argumentative and ornery with my family, and especially with my mother, as if I had a chip on my shoulder. Mother and dad looked at each other knowingly, but I didn’t get it. I did not understand why I was so miserable and did not connect it with viewing pornography the previous day.
Learning about repentance
Of course, I also had an intellectual understanding of the principle of repentance. I knew that when one sinned, one could repent, or turn away from that behavior, and the Lord would take away the feelings of guilt associated with that sin. Although I had sinned before, I had never felt the need to repent up to this time in my life.
Perhaps it was the nature of the sin. We are taught in the church that sexual sin is one of the most serious, although it takes personal experience to really understand why. What I intellectually understood about sin now became a reality as I felt the guilt, shame, embarrassment and sorrow over having put those images in my mind.
Everyone has different levels of tolerance for sin before they notice how it affects them. I have come to discover that my tolerance is very low. I wanted the pain of that sin gone from my life. I was especially contrite and humble as I partook of the sacrament the next Sunday. I swore in my mind that I would never do that again.
Summary and conclusion
And you know what? I felt an immediate relief after partaking of the Sacrament. I felt happy, light and relatively care-free again, at least as care-free as a young man just entering puberty can feel. I had a long ways to go before I learned to master myself, and in fact, I still deal with the pull of the flesh every day as we all do.
The response of many in the world to what I have described here will be to shake their heads in amazement. The viewing of porn is not looked upon as a problem and especially not as a sin. They do not value the standard of sexual purity and it does not mean to them what it means to us: virtue is the source of personal power.
The world does not have the high standards that we do. We have taken upon us ideals that are difficult to achieve, and in some cases almost impossible. It is the Lord that has set these standards and it is the Lord that makes it possible for us to repent each time we fail to live up to them. Forgiveness truly is a miracle.
Related content: Healing from pornography addiction
Patriarchal blessings are wonderful things. They are especially wondrous when received at a young age. The promises in them almost seem magical because the idea of righteous living as a cause and effect of fulfillment of those promises is usually not understood at a young age. There is nothing magical about the blessings, just as magic is not really a part of our faith, or is it?
Magic is something that Walt Disney brought to my world when I was a young lad. I grew up in Southern California in the 1960’s when Disneyland was new and exciting and full of promise. We watched it grow over the years and visited the park almost as often as we visited the beach. Those were the days of the E ticket ride, when the Matterhorn bobsleds were the hottest thing.
The magic for me was found in the Carousel of Progress and the beautiful city of the future depicted in the scale model under glass. It was only there from 1967 to 1973 – the years in which I moved from childhood to the responsibilities of youth. It was in the Carousel of Progress that I caught the excitement of technology and the role that it would play in my life.
A promise of what could be
Every time we visited Disneyland and the Carousel of Progress during those years, I couldn’t wait to go upstairs after the show to see Progress City one more time. I don’t know why I found it so fascinating. It seemed to evoke in me something that was akin to revelation. I could just see myself growing up in a world of technology and taking advantage of it to bless others.
The world is so full of promise to a ten year old child, especially one that was born in a day that computers were just beginning to come about. I have been blessed all my life to work in the world of technology and have watched it do so much to bring about that vision of what I saw and felt when I stood in fascination viewing Progress City. How exciting and how marvelous!
When I received my Patriarchal Blessing at age fifteen, that feeling returned. I felt once again that I was looking upon a whole new world about to be created – only this one was spiritual. It was a world of service in the Kingdom of God, of being a missionary, of marrying in the temple and in participating in the priesthood councils of the church. What an awesome feeling it was!
Warnings in the blessing
I treasure my patriarchal blessing. Since we grew up in the same stake, my wife and I both received our blessings from the same patriarch. I recognize similar phrases in our blessings, but of course they are completely different. My sister and I received our blessings on the same day and again, while they are similar, there are major differences between the promises therein.
I think the most important distinction between them is the counsel and admonition to fulfill my role as a priesthood bearer in the church. My blessing contained several warnings, almost dire in nature, that I needed to be very careful about the consequences of sin and that the adversary desired to thwart me in fulfilling my mission in life. I was warned that the devil is very real.
I have pondered the warnings in my blessing many, many times over the years. I have especially been impressed by the statement that I will live in the day of the restoration of all things, both the good and the evil. That phrase has sunk deep into my heart as I have witnessed so many terrible things that evil men have done and are doing in our day. Opposition to the Lord’s work is real.
Gifts of the spirit
When I was younger I used to marvel at the promised gifts of the spirit contained within my blessing. I remember fasting the day I went to see the Patriarch because the Bishop said it would help the Patriarch to be inspired as he pronounced the blessing upon me. I was impressed at the time and I have been impressed every time I have read the blessing that he was indeed inspired.
I know that promises in Patriarchal blessings are conditional, but I am sometimes amazed as I have witnessed the fulfillment of those promises as I serve in the Kingdom of God. Gifts that I thought were reserved only for those who served in the highest councils of the church have been manifest in my life through what I considered simple priesthood service – magnifying a calling.
The most dramatic fulfillment of the promises of my patriarchal blessing has been when I have fulfilled assignments to speak or teach in the church. There is no doubt that this is the work of the Lord when he inspires me with ideas to share and sometimes words and phrases that come to my mind as I speak or write. I know my own abilities and I know when God enhances them.
Faith is not magic
I started this essay with an introduction of magic for a good reason. I believe in magic. No, I’m not referring to the kind of hocus-pocus magic that is sleight of hand or smoke and mirrors. And I certainly don’t believe that there are those who really can cause things to happen by magic. That just doesn’t cut it for me. God uses natural means to bring about his purposes on earth.
I believe in the kind of magic that Walt Disney created. He was passionate about building an environment where good things could happen. Whatever you think of the corporate environment that is Disneyland and Disneyworld today, I maintain that the original dream of Walt Disney lives on when little children open their eyes in amazement at what can be found in his creations.
I believe that Walt Disney was inspired and that the passion for his dreams was God given. I have wondered if Walt had been a Mormon what his patriarchal blessing would have included. Perhaps in addition to his gifts being mentioned, there would have been warnings to exercise faith in his life’s mission and to not be dissuaded by men who could not see what he had in mind.
For private interpretation only
I feel the same way about my patriarchal blessing. It contains promises of gifts and a life’s work that I have only glimpsed in rare moments when the Lord grants me just enough of that vision to inspire me and to move me on in the right direction. Patriarchal blessings are sacred and private and should not be publicly discussed or compared, probably because it detracts from our faith.
When I was younger, I took my Patriarchal blessing back to the Patriarch with a desire to have him explain it to me. He was gracious and kind and took a long moment to read through it again before handing it back to me and saying, “I see nothing missing and nothing that needs to be explained.” With that he offered me a piece of fruit and escorted me to the door of his home.
I left frustrated but have since come to appreciate the wisdom of this patriarch’s response to my request for greater understanding. I got the same response when I asked my college advisor at Rick’s College for help in understanding my blessing. He looked at it as a favor to me but was clear that if I wanted to understand anything more I would need to get it from the Lord in prayer.
Summary and conclusion
I am certain there are times when each of us feels a desire to receive some personal guidance and direction in our lives that is not being met by advice or counsel from friends, parents or leaders. That guidance can come from our patriarchal blessing. Coupled with righteous living, scripture study, fasting and prayer, the Lord can and will reveal our life’s work to us if we ask faithfully.
And that’s the real key to understanding our blessings. The promises contained therein should be motivating and invite us to exercise faith to realize their fulfillment. I have seen it happen again and again as a natural result of accepting priesthood assignments and magnifying callings. The Lord sent each of us here with special gifts that can help build His kingdom when He needs us to.
Faith is not magic and promises in patriarchal blessings are not guaranteed. They will not come to pass just as natural consequence of living. We must seek their fulfillment and do all within our power to qualify for the gifts and blessings promised. A trust in the Lord’s timetable for us is especially needed as we grow older and wonder if certain promises will ever be fulfilled.
The outrage of the gay community over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration illustrates that this issue of same-sex marriage is not going away. Apparently the radical gays hate conservative Christians like Rick Warren almost as much as they hate the Mormons who helped pass Proposition 8 in California last month.
The advocates of the GLBT lifestyle are becoming more vocal and the media has embraced their cause wholeheartedly. Their demands for full acceptance in our society grow more strident each day. Traditional Christian values of morality and marriage have become the current battleground in the fight between good and evil.
Many of those pushing the gay agenda have said that all they have to do is wait until those of my generation die out. They have made it clear in their online communications that they hate us because we are the only ones who stand in the way of letting them reach their goal. They want their sin declared acceptable.
Using the web to communicate
I find it very interesting that the gay community, which, according to the Family Research Institute is less than three percent of the population, is so angry with the Mormons, another group of individuals who are also less than three percent of the population of the U.S. Who will exert the greater influence in this ongoing battle?
It doesn’t take much digging to find those who support and encourage the efforts of the gays to achieve full recognition and acceptance. One of the most visible is Pam’s house blend. On there, you can find the writings of Chino Blanco, a former Mormon who has done an amazing job of documenting the recent Prop 8 battle.
I confess that I learned more about what was going on in the trenches of the campaign by reading Chino’s regular postings than I did from the official Prop 8 sources. It may not be a fair comparison, but I’ve got to give the man credit. He’s a diligent researcher and I wonder how he finds the time to write all that he does.
The Digital Network Army
But I’ll bet you don’t know much about those quietly working to sway public opinion in opposition to people like Chino Blanco. We are the Digital Network Army, a group of bloggers and others who actively write and comment in various online forums where we hope to clearly communicate our views to the public.
We met online last night at Rad Dad’s blog. I was amazed at the number of bloggers who showed up to say hello and discuss some of the difficulties of our online efforts to provide a clear voice in support of traditional marriage and family. We are also united in that most of us are recipients of comments from Chino Blanco.
Not all members of the DNA are Mormons. That’s a great thing. We are so pleased to work together with those who believe as we do that the traditional family is in need of our united efforts to uphold. This is an especially difficult task here in California where all three branches of the government are against us.
The word of living prophets
One of the arguments used by those who are in favor of homosexuality and gay marriage is that the Bible forbids a lot of things that we do not follow today. The great advantage that we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the word of modern prophets and apostles in addition to the Bible.
When the First Presidency sent the letter to all the bishops to be read in California congregations on June 29th, they did not have to explain why joining the campaign to pass proposition 8 was important and necessary. We have been taught clearly over the years that marriage was ordained of God to be between man and woman.
We have also been clearly taught that same-sex attraction is a temptation while homosexual behavior is a sin. That’s why one can be gay and be an active and faithful member of the LDS Church. For example, read the blog of Samantha, who blogs about her same sex attraction or that of Clint Martin, a gay Mormon blogger.
Making a choice
Just like in the world you will find all kinds of attitudes towards gay people, you will find the same thing in the church. There are those who are intolerant and bigoted in the extreme. Yes, bigot is the right word. Then there are those who know that some struggle with this attraction and are compassionate towards them.
Finally, there are those who are either gay themselves or who have gay family members. For them, this issue has become explosive in the past six months. They have been forced to decide on which side they are on – that of the world or that of the church. What used to be gray has become black and white. That can be hard.
Because of the church’s stand on the issue, some have chosen to leave the church. We are saddened that they do not feel accepted and loved here, but we honor their choice. Seeing the attacks by the more radical elements of the gay community, some of us had become more determined to stand up for traditional marriage.
Meet the DNA
Although I already have a number of them on my blog roll, I have tried to compile a more complete list of all those who participated in our meeting last night. Many of them asked to have their blogs highlighted and added to lists of other members. I have included links to many of the DNA member blogs at the end of this essay.
However, I just have to mention a couple that have done an outstanding job and should be visited by all. First is the Kingfisher column. Even with less than a month of activity, the blog has become the definitive source for information about the defense of traditional marriage and family. I thoroughly recommend it.
Another very active DNA blog is the Beetle Blogger. I’ve written about her before. There are less than three months of archives, yet there is a world of helpful information there to educate those who are serious about this issue. Like me, she has received some serious opposition in the comments from avowed enemies.
Summary and conclusion
I know from experience that there is no way that I can write about this topic without offending someone. It has happened on every previous essay on the subject. In some cases, the dialog was helpful in bringing me to a better understanding of things. In other cases, the comments were meant to hurt.
The title of this piece is meant to refer to the radical element of the gay movement. They are not going to go away because they are fighting for something that they want – full recognition and acceptance of a lifestyle that we believe God has repeatedly condemned and forbidden. In like manner, we of the DNA are not going away.
While I hope that the ongoing dialog on this subject both on this blog and on the blogs of other members of the DNA will be civil, I do not hesitate to affirm that we will continue to proclaim the words of modern prophets in this matter. We will not and we cannot change. A living God has confirmed this to leaders of His church.
A limited selection of the DNA bloggers:
01. Kingfisher column
02. Beetle Blogger
03. Latter-day Commentary
04. Rad Dad
05. Pomegranate Apple
06. Akina’s for Prop 8
07. California Crusader
08. Pearl Diver
09. Secular Heretic
10. Article VI blog
11. Journalista Chronicle
12. Preserving Marriage
13. A Guy for Marriage
14. Make My Vote Count
15. Stand for Marriage
16. Keyser Causes
17. Busy With Conviction
18. Thinking the Wright Way
19. Wendy’s weblog
21. Left Coast Conservative
22. Joy’s blog
23. Good Sense Politics
24. Dead Seriously
I have been a lifelong student of human motivation, particularly self-motivation. No, I’m not an expert and what motivates me may not motivate you. A long time ago I discovered something that drives me to action more than anything else. It is found in the scripture quoted in the title of this essay as written in Proverbs 29:18.
When I catch the vision of the way something can be that I want, I find myself willing to give untold hours to moving that vision from a dream to a reality in life. Conversely, if I have not seen myself doing something in my mind’s eye, I find my motivation lacking to do all the work that is required to accomplish a worthy goal.
This is particularly true when someone else has a vision but is ineffective in getting me to see it for myself. For example, you can tell me all day long about the great benefits of eating right and exercising regularly, but unless I see myself benefiting from good eating and exercise habits, I will always find other ways to use my time.
What’s in it for me?
As much as I hate to admit it, in some ways, my personal motivation is selfish. Oh, I have altruistic tendencies and a strong sense of duty that serves me well, but what really gets me excited to be involved in something worthwhile is when I can see how it benefits me, my family, my friends and others with whom I associate.
And I mean that literally – to see. I have discovered that I am a both a visual and a tactile learner. Auditory learning is tertiary to me and is most effective when I hear someone describing something that I can then see myself doing or enjoying. If you can show me how I can accomplish something, you’ve got my attention.
I’ve also discovered over the years, and as much as I may deny it, I enjoy both the satisfaction and the recognition that comes when I complete a difficult task, or when I perform to the best of my ability. I don’t think I am alone in this desire. Where we differ is in what we do to obtain that recognition and yes, admiration.
Role models are important
Think about it. Who are your heroes in life? And why are they examples to you? What have they done that deserves your admiration and respect? Usually it is because they have accomplished something difficult that you would like to do. They have demonstrated that it can be done and that it is worth paying the price.
Fortune and fame are two powerful motivating factors that many in our world will do anything, literally anything, to achieve. I don’t mean to disparage anyone, but Madonna and Britney Spears are two examples that come to mind as someone who has gone overboard in the climb to the top. Much has been sacrificed to get there.
On the other hand, for me personally, I have found great role models in the men who lead this church – the apostles and prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course they are not perfect, but they do all within their power to lead others unto Christ. And from what I’ve seen, their wives are special too.
Sharing the vision
One of the reasons why I find it so enjoyable to follow the Brethren who lead this church is because most of them are so good at sharing their vision of the work in which they are engaged. I need that. While I enjoy the instruction I receive in General Conference, I am most spiritually fed when my vision has been enlarged.
Let me see if I can explain better what I mean by sharing the vision. When I was a young man preparing for my mission, I had the luxury of spending every day for the six months immediately prior to leaving, in daily gospel study, from morning until evening. I did not work. I simply read and studied the gospel and learned.
I felt like I was in paradise. I enjoyed a special sense of motivation at this time of my life because the Lord had given me a vision of what kind of a missionary I could be if I really understood the doctrines of the kingdom and knew for myself that they were important and true. I wanted to know how others explained them.
Understanding the doctrine
I read everything I could get my hands on that helped me to see how the gospel could most effectively be taught. I voraciously studied commentaries of others who I considered to be masters in the field of Mormon doctrine. As you can imagine, Bruce R. McConkie was one whose works I devoured incessantly.
My personal religious library had been recently augmented by a large collection of doctrinal and church history books received as a gift from my mother right after she closed her LDS bookstore. I studied all day, worked with the missionaries and then went to Institute classes and Know your Religion lectures with my family.
I caught a love of learning from my mother, but I did not obtain the vision of why it was important to obtain all the knowledge I could until the Lord showed it to me in answer to prayer. It is a sacred experience, but one I have related in a previous essay. With that vision, I understood why I needed to study and know the doctrine.
The vision motivates
Once the Lord showed me what I could accomplish with a deep understanding of the doctrines of the church, I had the drive and ambition to devote all my time to achieving that vision. The kind of vision I’m talking about is not something that can be given by another man, no matter how good he is at describing things.
That vision was intense and it was prophetic. It remains with me to this day, even though it has been thirty-two years since it transpired. It has not yet been fulfilled, nor will it be for many years to come. It is personal and sacred but it has done more for me than anything else to get me to continue my daily study of the gospel.
Because the Lord showed me things in vision when I was so young, I have always felt a desire to do all within my power to accomplish that vision. Perhaps it will not be in this life. Perhaps what I saw is intended to be fulfilled in the life to come. It does not matter. Because of that vision, I am motivated to study and to learn.
Summary and conclusion
I am fascinated by men and women with vision and who know how to share it. I am especially enthralled when listening to someone describe their vision in such a manner that allows me to see it for myself. Once I have that vision in my mind’s eye, I am a changed man, because I want to do all within my power to achieve it.
In my opinion, the visions of the Lord are the most motivating influence in the world. Men will give their lives, and many have, to building up the Kingdom of God upon the earth because they have the vision of what the Lord’s work really is. It is especially powerful when the Lord shows men their place in the kingdom.
I have seen that vision. I know what the Lord wants me to accomplish with my life. I feel extremely blessed to have received this powerful vision when I was so young. It has blessed me all my life and kept me motivated to do things that are hard to do. Someday, I know that vision will be fulfilled just as I have seen it.
Several years ago, my family and I faced a Christmas season accompanied with an ongoing period of unemployment. Through no fault of my own, I had been laid off six months earlier from a high-paying job that ended as a normal course of business. The manufacturing computing project I had been hired to support had been completed and my services were no longer needed.
I had been laid off before in my career and figured this job search would last about the same amount of time – three months. As a computing professional, I keep my resume up to date and am very familiar with the agencies that help people in my profession. I began right away to work the system and was having some success but no job offers. Then November arrived.
“Check back with us after the holidays,” is a common response about this time of year. Even advertised jobs seem to be put on hold until January or February. I can’t imagine what it must be like today when so many are being laid off due to the state of the economy. I hope people aren’t hearing, “Check back with us after the recession is over.” That would be most disheartening.
The daily job search
So six months later, I was still in my job search. Every day I would get up, study the scriptures, pray and ask Heavenly Father for help in knowing where to search to find employment so I could provide for my family. At first, I was not concerned. After all, I had a nice severance package and Carol was still working. But now things had slowed down and I was beginning to worry.
I had made it a habit to fast and attend the temple once a week as part of my efforts to be in tune with the inspiration that I was praying for in my job search. Just before I had been laid off, I had been released from the Bishopric and set apart as the High Priest group leader in the ward. The Stake President had promised in the blessing that I would be able to provide for my family.
Coincidentally, the last time I had been laid off was when I was first called into a Bishopric. Is there something about becoming unemployed that makes a man humble and ready to take on new priesthood responsibilities? I later served on the High Council and was assigned to be the coordinator to work with the Church Employment Services in our area of Southern California.
Professional Placement Program
I planned my weekly trip to the temple to coincide with the regular meeting of the Professional Placement Program at the Welfare Employment Resource Center for my area. This program is designed for people like me who usually have extended job searches because of the level we are at in our careers. In other words, it takes time to find a job that pays as much as we are used to.
I will be forever grateful to Rich Vunder, who ran the Sylmar center back when I was conducting my job search. He has since moved back to Utah and works in the Ogden center but at the time, he led our weekly meetings and provided both instruction and encouragement in our efforts. It was a real help to discuss the job search and network with professional individuals like myself.
One of the best things that Rich did for us, and something that I think helped me the most, was to video record mock interviews which he would conduct and then play back for group critique. A good resume can get you interviews but unless you can convince the prospective employer in the interview that you are the right person for the job, then you are just wasting each other’s time.
Christmas without a job
I specifically credit this interviewing practice with getting me the job that finally came my way. One of the first people I contacted after I was laid off was the head of an agency that had helped me in my previous job search. He asked for an updated resume and said he would keep me in mind. I didn’t hear from him for the next six months and had been working with other agencies.
Christmas was upon us and looking very bleak. We did not anticipate even getting a tree or buying presents for each other. Our bishop was very discreet in keeping tabs on my progress and our financial situation. One night, a knock came at the door. When we responded, there was nobody there, but there was a basket with several hundred dollars worth of gift certificates.
We knew it was someone from the ward and expressed thanks on behalf of our family in fast and testimony meeting the following month. I did not yet have good news to report but we felt loved and supported by our ward family. Truly, we are blessed when we magnify our callings. I know we were discussed in the welfare committee and am grateful to somebody for their generosity.
The interview opportunity
My severance pay had long since run out. The Lord had blessed Carol with additional sales so she earned extra commissions that helped us, but still, we were hurting financially. I confess that against our better judgment, we were using credit cards for basic living expenses. We did not get food from the Bishop’s storehouse because Carol was working, but that might have been helpful.
One day in early February I received a call from the president of the agency that I had contacted when I had been first laid off. He said he had the perfect opportunity for me and wanted to know if I was still looking for employment. He did not know that we were down to our last few dollars in the bank and were seriously talking about moving out to go live with family to save money.
The resume was forwarded, the phone interview was conducted and then came the request for the onsite interview. The prospective employer wanted to meet on a Sunday to avoid suspicion with the existing IT Manager who was about to lose his job. Ordinarily to me that would be breaking the Sabbath, but I felt very strongly impressed that this was an answer to prayer and fasting.
The interview and job offer
We attended our morning meetings and then I left immediately from church for the interview at the airport, about an hour’s drive. I got there early, drove around a bit and then arrived just a few minutes before the appointed time. I felt an unusual sense of calmness and peace as I met with the Operations Manager and the Chief Financial Officer who both supervised the IT Manager.
Now here’s where the miracle takes place that provided for me a sure knowledge that the Lord hears and answers our prayers. While I was interviewing with my two prospective supervisors, I became aware that they were asking the exact same questions that Rich Vunder had asked me in the mock interviews a few months earlier. I knew just what to say in response to each question.
I could sense that the interview was going well. In fact, it was going so well that I knew I would get an offer. As my friend had said, the job was perfect for me and was an exact match for my experience and qualifications. They asked if I could come back the next day and have the final interview with the CEO. I did and the job was offered the same day – on Carol’s birthday!
Summary and conclusion
You may say that this was all a coincidence or just the natural result of my preparations and hard work in being diligent in my job search. I feel otherwise. What prompted the search agency to call me just at the time when we were about to give up hope of being able to stay in this area? He had met the CEO of my company at a soccer game the previous week and got to talking.
When the CEO learned that my friend ran a search agency, he asked if he knew of anyone who could run his IT department – someone with multi-location network experience. My friend Chris later said he felt inspired to think of me and say, “Yes, I have just the right person for you – let me see if he is available.” He and I had not talked in six months. That was no coincidence.
God knows what we need. He is aware of what will work in our lives when we aren’t even aware of it ourselves. I received three offers the same day I got the offer from my present employer. I knew which one the Lord wanted me to have and have been blessed because of it. To me, it was a miracle that I had been so well prepared for the job. But God knew all along.
One of the most oft-repeated admonitions by the Lord in scripture is to read the scriptures. It is also something that we hear often from the pulpits at the Conference Center and our local ward. In meeting with any Bishop, if you ask for advice on how to feel more spiritual, closer to the Lord, stronger in the gospel and happier, what do you think he is going to counsel you to do?
And yet, how much of our time each day is spent in reading scriptures and studying the gospel? Actually, I’d like to separate those into different activities. A verse by verse, chapter by chapter reading of the scriptures is one type of activity that can bring great blessings. You can feel very satisfied at having completed a task and a sense of accomplishment as you finish each chapter.
On the other hand, gospel study is more thematic and in my opinion, closer to what the Savior asks us to do when he invites us to search the scriptures. For many members of the church the only gospel study they get is obtained in Sunday school class or Priesthood and Relief Society meetings. Far too few of us have a regular gospel study program to understand doctrine better.
Educating the Saints
Members of the LDS church are at all kinds of different levels in their response to the Savior’s admonition to study His word. I know adult members of the church who have been members all their lives who have never read the Book of Mormon. Seriously. They come to church faithfully each week and enjoy listening to the discussions in class, but rarely add any insights themselves.
Then there are members in our midst who know the scriptures backward and forward and bless us as they teach our Sunday classes, and in our seminaries and institutes. Over the years, I have served with some priesthood leaders who are scriptorians, and with some who know the gospel, but are always saying, “I know it says somewhere…” Which do you think were more effective?
If we have been even partly conscientious in our efforts to follow the prophets over the years, we should be able to say that we have read the Book of Mormon a least a few dozen times by the time we reach middle-age. If we follow along with the reading schedule in our Gospel Doctrine class we will have also read the other Standard works seven to ten times by the prime of life.
Why we study the gospel
The objective of gospel study is to feed our souls. President Hinckley called it nourishing by the good word of God. I have felt this nourishment through classroom instruction and in my regular personal gospel study. It is a real thing and something that our spirits crave. Gospel study brings deep and powerful contentment when coupled with a close relationship with God through prayer.
Some people absorb this spiritual nourishment better in the classroom where they can discuss what they are learning with others. They may find it difficult to really get anything out of the scriptures without someone to guide them. I enjoy both classroom instruction from inspired teachers and the deep feelings that come in pondering from personal gospel study activities.
I have found that my personal gospel study has evolved over the years. When I was a missionary I focused almost exclusively on the basic doctrines I was teaching in the standard discussions. I added a lot of church history and a whole lot of the more uncommon theological doctrines to my personal study when I returned from my mission. Lately, I have studied controversial topics just so I could understand what the controversy was about and so I could discuss them intelligently.
Controversy does not satisfy
I have noticed over the past few years, as I have studied and written about the more speculative and controversial topics that the spiritual nourishment has not been the same as that which I get from the basic doctrines of the restoration. While it may be more intellectually stimulating and emotionally exciting, it does not feed my soul with the comfort of the basics of the gospel.
I’ve pondered about why that is and have come to the conclusion that, while I may have reached some unique understandings of the speculative doctrines, I have had a difficult time sharing that research with others in a manner that they feel comfortable. They have not had the advantage of digging into the same sources so they can’t share in my enthusiasm for what I have discovered.
So while I plan to continue my efforts to understand some of the theology that is not commonly taught or discussed in our Sunday classes, I do not feel that it does much good to help nourish my soul because I can’t share it. On the other hand, when I teach or speak about the comforting doctrines of salvation from the pulpit, I am greatly nourished and edified with my fellow saints.
Nourishing others in church
Elder Packer counseled us to teach the doctrines of salvation in simplicity. He said there is great power and safety in this approach. He challenged us to become proficient and expert in our ability to present the basic doctrines in such a way that our listeners understand the truths being taught and that they are also fed by the spirit of the Lord, which is beyond our natural ability.
I recognize that this can be difficult for some to accept, because they are looking for intellectual stimulation when they come to church. That is a problem. If you have been a member of the church for more than a few years, chances are that you have heard all the basic Sacrament topics and the Sunday school subjects more than a few times. We’re just not teaching any new stuff.
When Elder Holland visited our stake many years ago, he taught us about the importance of being edified. When we teach, we are not just imparting information, we are also charged with the task of being a conduit for the spirit to work through us in feeding the souls of others. To be edified is to be both instructed and uplifted. The Lord was serious when he said, “Feed my sheep.”
Summary and conclusion
The Lord asks us to study the gospel and be very familiar with the scriptures because he wants us to both be nourished and to be able to nourish others. I suspect that there are too many of us who have not yet understood the idea of nourishing. Sharing knowledge, facts, history, and scriptures without helping others find the hand of the Lord in that information is not helpful to our souls.
We are so much more than minds that need more information. We live in a world of information overload and yet there are so many among us who are starving for the things of the spirit. We are not asked to stand in front of a class or at the pulpit to demonstrate how well we can rehearse the basic tenets of our doctrine. We are charged to nourish and to feed the soul – not the mind.
That’s a real talent. No, it’s a gift – a gift of the spirit that needs to be requested of the Lord in prayer. As we study the gospel, especially the basics of the restored gospel, we should ask the Lord for help in understanding how we can effectively teach what we are studying. We need to teach in such a way that the Lord can work though us to answer the prayers of those we teach.
I don’t know this blogger and I normally don’t do this, but one of the joys of blogging is reading what others have felt important to share. I feel particularly impressed with this essay shared by Memoirs of a Married Mormon Man and felt it deserved additional readership. He writes that it will be his only blog post this month but it is worth it. Here is the heart of the essay:
A Missionary in Germany
“I recognized a smartly dressed elderly gentleman as he strode toward us. He looked as if he had somewhere to be. Someplace important. As he stopped in front of us, a wide smile on his face, he said hello to me. I smiled back, astonished at the happy coincidence, and introduced my companion to him as my father.
“He then turned to my father, and in fluent, though accented English, greeted him with, ‘I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that your son stopped me on the street one day. Before we met, I had lost God. Because he talked to me, I have found God again. Thank you for sending him here. Thank you.’
“My father was speechless. I felt like I was in a dream. This man was obviously ecstatic to see us. At that moment, I don’t know who was happier: me, my father, or this newly converted gentleman. But I have a suspicion that our happiness pales in comparison to the joy the Savior must have felt knowing that a few more of his children had found their way to Him.”
LDS Bloggers have stories to tell
That’s why I love LDS blogging. You can find jewels like this all over the place with just a little patience and digging. By the way, I found MMM through a comment he left of one of the blogs I regularly read: Rough Stone Rolling. I wish there was some place where we could nominate great stories to the LDS bloggers hall of fame. Anybody? Now go read the rest of the story.