Pentecost and Patterns

LastSupperLargeSunday, May 24 marked fifty days since the Feast of the Passover. The early Christian disciples, gathered together in Jerusalem, experienced an outpouring of the Spirit and attending gifts following prayer and supplication. Joseph adds that Peter officiated in ordinances: “God obtained a house where Peter washed and anointed on the Day of Pentecost.” (WJS, p. 211)

pentecost_whitsunThe Savior had just completed his 40-day ministry and “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father … for John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:4-5)

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4)


joseph_preaching_grove“I preached in the grove on the keys of the kingdom … the keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the elders till the temple is completed. The rich can only get them in the temple-the poor may get them on the mountain top as did Moses … There are signs in heaven, earth, and hell, the elders must know them all to be endowed with power, to finish their work and prevent imposition…No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something, and this can only be in the Holiest of Holies.” (WJS, p. 119-120)

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues …” (Mark 16:17)

Nephi’s description connects the baptism of fire with speaking in a new tongue-the tongue of angels, and shouting “praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 31:13-14; 32:2-3)

lehi-pillar-of-fireLehi’s theophany also included praise: “And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth … And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled …” (1 Nephi 1:14-15)

Praise and singing were witnessed by John as he was shown those who are redeemed of the Lord, standing upon the sea of glass: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” (Rev 15:3)

Alma describes this praise as “singing the song of redeeming love” and experiencing “a mighty change … wrought in their hearts … having been spiritually born of God … having the image of God engraven upon your countenances.” (Alma 5:7-26; Rev 9:4, 13:16, 14:1,9; D&C 133:18)

“That Christ, the Lord Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven …” (Mosiah 5:15).

kirtland-temple-teaching“How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power and the other comforter spoken of, which will be manifest by revelation … the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost … has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham … his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a gentile is to purge out the old blood and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham must … have a new creation by the Holy Ghost …” (WJS, p. 4).

This promised endowment includes spiritual gifts, knowledge, and being baptized with fire. Where are these manifestations in the church today? Remember the early Christian Pentecost and the Kirtland Pentecost included those that held no high church position or calling (In case you’re inclined to argue that it only happens to leaders).

slc-temple-dedication-ticketI attended a temple dedication broadcast last year and felt something amiss in the proceedings. Conspicuously missing was the power of the Spirit. How far have we drifted away from what Joseph first established, opting instead for a diluted and powerless substitute? In contrast, so powerful was the outpouring of the Spirit at the Kirtland Pentecost that many were convinced the Millennium had begun. I suspect that if Joseph lived long enough to dedicate the Nauvoo temple, there would have been similar, if not greater outpourings of the Spirit.


Our meetings are confined by a rigid block schedule that leaves little room for the spontaneity of the Spirit to work upon us, giving us in the hour, in the very moment, what is needed. (D&C 100:5-8; Mark 13:11)

What is edifying and spiritually instructive about a correlation program that ensures that members receive the very same lesson from a manual on the same Sunday everywhere in the world? How much more powerful and edifying would our meetings be if they were directed and guided by the Holy Spirit. (D&C 42:2; 68:3-4)

general-authoritiesWorshipping (idolizing) local leaders and general authorities is an abomination. The Israelites did the same with Moses. This theme is present with us to this day: They were content with a middleman, and declined the blessings God was offering to them. A comment was made in a priesthood meeting recently that helps to illustrate the severity of the situation: He said, “Why do I need to seek the face of God? We have bishops, isn’t that the same thing?” (If it is, then you must be reading from a different set of scriptures). This is essentially the same spiritual malady that the Israelites had: We need not awake and arise because we have a prophet that speaks to God for us. (D&C 84:23-25)

I remember well as a missionary that when we taught investigators about modern day prophets and continuing revelation, we first established how God is unchanging, and therefore, acts according to divine patterns. Can we continue teaching about patterns, gifts, and manifestations that are not reflected in the church today? Do we experience personally or in the church the blessings shown plainly in the scriptures? Has the Ensign replaced your study of the scriptures? Do we see the spirit of prophecy and revelation in the church?

Do we know more about and lend more of our time and attention to Facebook and other distractions instead of the Book of Mormon? If so, we have great need to repent and come out from under the condemnation of taking lightly what God is offering to us. (D&C 84:54-58)


June 1831 Conference

kirtland-temple-old-photoA revelation received in January 1831 commanded the elders to gather in Ohio to receive the Lord’s law, and to be endowed with power from on high. (D&C 38:32) Many who were in attendance recorded the events that transpired, including, the heavens being opened and seeing the Father and the Son, the spirit of prophecy and revelation, and the man of sin was revealed, detected, and cast out.

The fact that Satan was present in attempting to thwart the work is interesting to consider. To be endowed with light, one must encounter the opposite to understand the difference between God’s administrations and the devil’s deceitfulness. When Moses received his endowment, he was temporarily left unto himself, and Satan stepped in to tempt him. (Moses 1:9-24)

12 November 1835

“The endowment you are so anxious about you cannot comprehend now, nor could Gabriel explain it to your dark minds, but strive to be prepared in your hearts, and be faithful in all things … be watchful and prayerful, and you shall have a prelude of those joys that God will pour out on that day … you need an endowment brethren in order that you may be prepared and able to overcome all things … the sick will be healed, the lame made to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see through your instrumentality … all who are prepared and sufficiently pure to abide the presence of the Savior will see him in the solemn assembly.” (JSP, Journal, Vol 1, p. 98-99)

27 March 1836 – Dedicatory Prayer

KirtlandTemple2“That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house. And that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost. And that all their salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with holy hands, uplifted to the Most High … That thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and thy name be upon them, and thy glory round about them, and thine angels have charge over them. (See also D&C 84:42)

Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high. Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon the day of Pentecost; let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof. And let thy house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory. Put upon thy servants the testimony of the covenant…” (D&C 109:12, 15, 19, 22, 35-38)

30 March 1836

“While waiting, I made the following remarks: That the time that we were required to tarry in Kirtland to be endued would be fulfilled in a few days … the brethren continued exhorting, prophesying, and speaking in tongues until 5 o’clock in the morning-the Savior made his appearance to some, while angels ministered unto others, and it was a Pentecost and enduement indeed, long to be remembered, for the sound shall go forth from this place into all the world, and the occurrences of this day shall be handed down upon the pages of sacred history to all generations, as the day of Pentecost, so shall this day be numbered and celebrated as a year of Jubilee, and time of rejoicing to the saints of the Most High God.” (JSP, Journal, Vol 1, p. 214-216)

3 April 1836 – Acceptance of the temple

“For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here, and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.” (D&C 110:7)


transfiguration-carl-bloch“Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John who asked him many questions about his sayings, and Jesus leadeth them up unto a high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.” (JST Mark 9:2)

“On the Mount transfigured before Peter, [James], and John, there receiving the fulness of the priesthood, or [last] law of God.” (WJS, p. 246)


“1st Key: Knowledge is the power of salvation.
2nd Key: Make [your] calling and election made sure.
3rd Key: It is one thing to be on the mount and hear the Excellent voice, and another to hear the voice declare … you have a part and lot in the kingdom.

We were eyewitnesses of his Majesty, we have also a more sure word of prophecy…who can explain this? No man, but he that has obtained these things in the same way that Peter did … there are things in the bosom of the Father that have been hid from the foundation of the world that are not known, neither can be except by direct revelation.” (WJS, p. 206)

This direct revelation includes instruction by the Father, who personally teaches the covenant. (D&C 84:47-48)

“He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the Excellent Glory: This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. This voice which came from heaven we heard when we were with him in the holy Mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy … it is one thing to receive knowledge by the voice of God, and another to know that you yourself will be saved, to have a positive promise of your own salvation is making your calling and election sure … the voice of Jesus saying, my Beloved, thou shalt have eternal life … never cease struggling until you get this evidence..” (WJS, p. 208)

Sinning Against the Greater Light

MoroniAndJosephWhen I resigned from the LDS Church, I thought I would continue to support Carol in her desires to sing in the choir. I grew up playing the piano for a few years, performed in a school band and have generally loved music all my life. I married a woman who has a beautiful voice, who loves to sing and understands, as I do, that singing with a choir is a way to worship God.

I am on the ward and stake choir email lists. I received invitations to practice for our upcoming stake conference and for our annual Christmas concert. The ward choir director approached me personally about participating in the choir. There are only three or four tenors who will sing. I suggested he check with the Bishop to make sure it was okay with him. Apparently it was not.

Come Sing Praises Unto the Lord

Having been a counselor in the bishopric over the ward choir in years past, I know how hard it is to get people to sing. Sometimes, we have even issued callings to people to sing in the choir as a way of getting them to come out to practices and perform. I clearly remember asking members to invite their friends who are not LDS to come join us in the choir to bolster that worshipful sound.

I won’t take the time to review the handbook. If someone else wants to look it up and correct me, they are welcome to do so. I’m confident there is nothing in the handbook stating someone who is not a member of the LDS Church can’t sing in the ward or stake choir. In fact, I am fairly certain I remember places in the handbook where inviting non-members to sing is encouraged.

Where Much is Given, Much is Required

Carol and I discussed this. She said she also spoke with the bishop about me singing in the choir. I wasn’t there so I can’t share exactly what was said, nor can Carol remember the exact words. However, the phrase, “sinning against the greater light” (D&C 82:3) was brought up. That took me by surprise and got me pondering and praying about that scripture. So I took it to the Lord.

“For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” I have a few questions for discussion by this group if you are willing engage me in dialog. First: Is it a sin to resign from the LDS Church? If so, why? Do we automatically assume one who resigns from the LDS Church has sinned against the light?

No Claim Until the Work is Completed

Look, I’ve been clear all along. I have not had that personal visit from the Lord. I have not had that physical embrace with the Lord. I have heard His voice and I have been born of the spirit. I can even make an argument for saying I have had my calling and election made sure, but I won’t because the Lord and I are still working that out. Some of you know what I’m referring to here.

I think I understand the bishop’s concern. Because of my blog, my case is well known in my ward and stake. I think it was a shock to many people when I resigned. It would make people uncomfortable to see me singing in the choir. I get that. I agree with the Bishop’s decision. But I don’t agree with the statement, either said or implied that I have sinned against the greater light.

The Holy Ghost Brings Light and Truth

The Bishop doesn’t know how much light I have. I know the scriptures and the LDS Church place the Bishop in a position of being a “Judge in Israel.” I believe the Bishop is entitled to inspiration. I have seen it in action. But my judge is not an LDS Bishop, nor is it an apostle in the LDS Church. My judge is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to him I answer. I seek to please the Lord.

I’ve raised this point before. I prayed deeply about resigning. The Lord and I discussed it often. I studied and prayed about the message delivered by Denver Snuffer for over two years. I knew I wanted to be baptized as a sign to the Lord I accepted His message and His messenger. I knew it would not go over well with my local priesthood leaders. Thus I resigned. That’s old news.

The Holy Ghost Comes to Those Who Obey

AlmaAndAngelThe definition of light in the scriptures is synonymous with intelligence and truth. Light comes to us as we study truth, ponder and pray about it. The glory of God is intelligence or light and truth (D&C 93:36). We know it is impossible to please God without exercising faith. Faith is a principle of action. It is one thing to believe something is true. It is another thing to act upon it. Faith requires action.

As Carol and I discussed it, we agreed just about any bishop in the LDS Church would have done what our good Bishop did. He called me in for counseling. He expressed his loving concern for me. We discussed my spiritual growth and my testimony. My testimony was moving away from accepting the LDS Church as being authorized to administer the ordinances of salvation.

Keys of the Kingdom Were Lost

Joseph was and is a prophet. The Book of Mormon is scripture. It contains the word of God. The LDS Church was at one time “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30) I was willing to sustain President Monson as a prophet, seer and revelator because that’s the title we have given to our leaders. I agree with Denver’s claim that the LDS Church lost something.

The higher priesthood was lost when Joseph was killed. The remaining authority, the keys of the kingdom, was lost when the LDS Church exercised unrighteous dominion in casting off Denver Snuffer for apostasy. He did what the Lord told him to do in publishing PtHG. I have asked the Lord. I have discussed it with Him. He has told me in no uncertain terms Denver was authorized.

Never But One on the Earth at a Time

ProphetJosephSmithStatements like these are annoying to true believing Mormons. I used to be one of them. I think I still am – a Mormon, that is. I claim the right to call myself a Mormon because I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. I am simply not a member of the LDS Church. There is only one man on the earth at a time that can exercise all the keys of the priesthood. (D&C 132:7)

If the Lord told me Denver was authorized to speak in the name of the Lord, that the message he has delivered was authorized of the Lord, that he had the sealing power as well as all the keys of the priesthood that can be bestowed upon man while in the flesh, then where does that leave President Monson? Who do I believe? Do I believe the Lord or do I believe LDS truth claims?

Light Comes In Acting Upon Truth

As always, the bottom line lies in personal revelation. There is only one counter to a claim from someone who says he is authorized to speak on behalf of the Lord and has a message for all. We normally reserve that for a prophet. Therefore, Denver is a prophet. The counter claim, of course, is that Denver is a liar and I have been deceived. This is not new. I’ve been told this many times.

Back to the original point of determining how much light an individual has. In my pondering on the subject, I have decided the more light a person has the more quickly they recognize truth and act upon it. Wealth is not a determining factor of light. Social position does not determine light. Even position in the church does not help us ascertain the amount of light someone has acquired.

Careful and Ponderous and Solemn Thoughts

The only determining factor I have been able to use for my own purposes in deciding who I should listen to and allow to influence me is how deeply they have sought for light and how quick they respond to new light they gain. I am impressed by a man who can not only use the scriptures in preaching the gospel but can use his own personal revelations to confirm them.

“The things of God are of deep import, and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse; he must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart, none but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”

The Lord is the Keeper of the Gate

Joseph taught clearly the need we each have to commune with God directly, to spend our time in careful, ponderous and solemn thought. In other words, if we want to be filled with light, we must search and contemplate the things God has revealed through others, and then verify them for ourselves in our conversations with the Lord. We must then act upon the light we receive.

Each of us can know for ourselves the things of eternity. We do not need to rely upon another man to tell us the way things are in the heavens. While we are yet tender in our knowledge, it is understandable we would lean upon others more experienced and wise in the ways of the Lord. But in the end, it is the Lord we must meet at the gate which is meant to be opened in this life.

Confidence in the Presence of the Lord

TimBaptism2aCroppedI am grateful I can say I have done as the Lord has asked me. I am grateful to feel my confidence waxing stronger in the presence of God. (D&C 121:45) I have felt the power of the Holy Ghost in my life to a greater degree than ever before over the past six weeks since I was baptized. The promises of the Lord are real. The Holy Ghost is real. We can obtain and know the Mind of Christ for ourselves.

Have I sinned against great light? I don’t think so. I simply resigned from the LDS Church. I do not recommend this for everyone who comes to know the message delivered by the Lord through Denver was inspired, revealed and authorized. In my case, it was the right thing to do. I have felt the sustaining hand of the Lord in my decision, in the gift and companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Is resigning from the LDS Church a sin? Is it more important to remain a member of the LDS Church than it is to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost? Can we be confident an invitation to be baptized anew is authorized of the Lord? How confident are you in your relationship with the Lord? Have you heard His voice to you?

The signs of change are all around us now – both within the Church and in the world. No man knows the hour, but we know the Lord sends prophets to warn us. (Amos 3:7) Is it possible the Lord can endorse a man’s decision to leave the LDS Church? I claim He did – for me. On the other hand, he may tell you to stay and work within the Church to help prepare others for the coming of Zion.

Holiness to the Lord

LosAngelesTempleChristmasI love to sing in the choir, especially our stake choir. Our ward choir is pretty good, but it’s small. As with most ward choirs, there are never enough men. With only three tenors and four basses I never quite feel the majesty of a full choir. That’s why I enjoy the Stake choir. There is just something special that happens when you get that many faithful Saints singing to the Lord.

We’ve got maybe fifteen or twenty brethren and twice that many sisters. I’ve got six or seven other tenors with whom I can blend my voice. I sing better when we have that many voices. For those of you who sing in a stake choir, I think you know what I mean. We enjoy our practices but when it comes time to perform, oh the sacred and holy sound that comes out of those choir seats.

This next Stake Conference will be a little sad for us as we say goodbye to our Stake President before he leaves to preside over the Taiwan Taichung mission. I already know it’s going to be an emotional day. As the Stake Financial clerk, I meet with the Stake President every month. I have enjoyed working with him and appreciate his dedication and ability as a church administrator.

Administering and Ministering

I don’t like to focus on the mundane aspects of managing the church. Someone has to do it. I’m grateful to be able to contribute. I’m glad I can take some of the administrative burden from the Stake President. But administering as compared to ministering in the church is simply not one of my favorite things to do. I would much rather sing or teach a class or preach to the congregation.

We don’t use that phrase much in the church anymore. We are not professional preachers. We are all equal in our opportunity to stand before our brothers and sisters to share what we know. It’s nice when someone actually takes the time to prepare and deliver a talk designed to uplift as well as enlighten. I come away from such a meeting much more enthused about life’s challenges.

I believe that the Lord is pleased when we sing or preach in such a way that we bring a sense of holiness into our lives and the lives of those who hear us. It’s that feeling of holiness I’d like to focus on in this little essay. I don’t think we have enough holiness in our lives. I know I don’t. Even with daily prayer and gospel study it’s so easy for the world to take away that holiness.

Service in the Temple

On each temple we read the words, “Holiness to the Lord – The House of the Lord.” I went to the temple last Friday and will go again next Friday. We always have Stake temple night just before our Stake Conferences. Being instructed by a member of the Temple Presidency in our chapel sessions is a highlight of our time there. I feel a little bit more of that holiness that I so desire.

I’ve been going to the temple for all my life. I mean that literally. I was six years old the first time I entered into the Los Angeles temple to be sealed to my family. I enjoyed baptisms in that same temple every six months as a youth. I was endowed there before my mission and married there after my mission. I have been back almost every month for the last thirty-seven years.

There has never been a time I have gone to the temple and not come away feeling a little closer to heaven, a little more connected to the Lord. I look forward to getting older because I know I’m going to be one of those little old men you see in the temple every time you go. There’s just something special about serving in the house of the Lord that can help us to feel more holy.

Commanded to Be Holy

Holiness is a frame of mind as well as a feeling that we cultivate. It’s not a false piety but a genuine feeling of closeness to the Lord in spite of being far away. It is a way of thinking and acting that causes us to remember the Lord many times during the day. It is noticing His hand in our lives, in the daily interactions with others and His help in dealing with troublesome things.

Holiness is sensing the sacred and the divine in nature around us but also in the flow of our lives. Holiness comes when we accept that the Lord is trying to mold us into something that may be different from what we had in mind. We become holy when we accept the Lord’s chastening hand in our lives without becoming bitter or questioning why such trying things happen to us.

It is the desire for holiness that prompts us to overlook faults in others and ourselves. It is that need, that intense passion to be all that the Lord wants us to be that burns holiness into our hearts. “Be thou Holy,” the Lord said. He didn’t say to be holy only when you are in church or only when you read the scriptures or pray. We are commanded to be holy, to do things with holiness.

Worship Brings Holiness

When I cultivate a feeling of holiness, I am able to overcome the world, even if it’s just for a moment. If we let them, the fears that permeate our society will suck out the feeling of peace that we need to be holy. Holiness is next to reverence and a part of worship. It’s a time to reflect, to ponder and to meditate. Surrounding ourselves with light and beauty will engender holiness.

Holiness is something that we give to the Lord. That’s the significance of that phrase, Holiness to the Lord. We ascribe Him to be a Man of Holiness. We can be filled with that holiness when we praise Him, when we worship Him, when we sing unto Him and when we pray unto the father in His name. He hears us. He knows our efforts to please Him and to will return holiness unto us.

That’s the beauty of true worship. When we praise Him or sing unto Him, we become one with Him. We begin to feel about things as He does. He is filled with holiness and peace. Majesty and glory are His because He earned them, but He is willing to share them with us, here and now, in this world, when we reach out to Him in our hearts in the spirit of worship. He makes us holy.

Holiness is a gift from God

If we sing in a choir with the intent to be united and to praise God, we are magnified. I have felt this many times. My soul expands and I begin to feel the expanse of eternity. It seems that God cannot resist touching our hearts and our minds when we worship Him. I have felt the same thing when I teach under the influence of the spirit. That connection with God engenders my holiness.

Holiness is a gift from God, yet it is something that we can claim. Indeed, we have a right to claim it according to our worthiness and our efforts to repent. God loves to bless his children with feelings that help us understand His true nature. Man of Holiness is His name. Think about that. Perhaps there is no better phrase to describe the God whom we worship – a Holy Man.

I also want to be a man of holiness, but so often feel like Nephi, “Oh wretched man that I am. My heart sorroweth because of my flesh. My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about because of the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins. Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”

Become Holy to receive Him

Holiness is a step on the rung of the ladder to come unto Christ and to be received into His presence. He who embodies all that is holy is ever so willing to teach us how to become holy. Jacob exclaimed, “Oh how great is the holiness of our God!” He offers it to us as a tool for us to come back into His presence. He has abundance and enough to spare for all who desire it.

If our eyes become single to His glory then holiness descends upon our spirits. Holiness brings us to a unity of the faith. There are times when singing in the stake choir that the unity of voice is converted to unity of faith. It is a wonderful feeling, this bestowal of holiness through worship. Receiving the spirit of holiness through worship and praise, we can endure His consuming fire.

We must cultivate this sense of holiness and let nothing detract us from achieving it. No devil, no evil being, mortal or not, can dissuade us in our quest if we are committed to obeying this great commandment to become holy. We must become holy so that He can share with us all that He has. We can achieve that state in this life and receive some of those blessings now if we desire.

We can be Holy

To the western man or natural man way of thinking, we want something to “do” to become holy. It has been my experience that I can be doing all that the Lord asks of me and yet still not feel holy. If you are confident you are already doing all that you can to be holy and still don’t feel so, then it’s time to change your thinking. We must literally decide to obey the command to be holy.

Achieving a state of holiness is a gift you accept. We are commanded to receive it, just as we have been commanded to receive the Holy Ghost. Being holy takes faith. It requires that we cast out fear. We are commanded to do so. It also requires us to resist the urge to self-criticize. There is no way to accept this gift of holiness and find fault with ourselves for thinking we are holy.

The best way I have found to sustain this sense of holiness is to focus on the phrase, Holiness to the Lord. As I worship him, I raise myself to a higher plane, a different state of consciousness. I praise Him, ascribe holiness to Him and in turn he beings me into that state of holiness through His grace and mercy. It’s a reciprocal feeling. He loves me and loves to bless me. We are holy.

Getting Past Prejudices with the Musical Rent

The warning signs outside the theater were ominous: “Adult content not suitable for children.”  Looking around as we entered, I had to remember that the college-age students there were not children.  That’s hard to do when you have offspring older than most present, including the actors performing the show.  Carol and I were there by assignment to see the musical “Rent,” the Tony and Pulitzer award winning rock-opera drama about life in New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1980’s.  It takes place in the neighborhood known as Alphabet City, an area primarily inhabited by bohemian young people wanting to break into theater, TV or music.  Sadly, the area also had high levels of illegal drug activity, violent crime and HIV/AIDS.

Undoubtedly the themes of homosexuality, AIDS, drug addiction and homelessness prompted the warnings about the adult content.  The characters include a gay male couple in which both partners have AIDS, an on-again/off-again lesbian couple, and a straight couple in which both partners have AIDS and both have a history of intravenous drug use.  It’s not exactly “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and was written intentionally to shake things up, but also to address the concepts of love, loss and community.  Those are the themes that I would like to address in this essay.  If we can overcome bigotry and be compassionate towards people living with AIDS for a few moments then we can be uplifted by some beautiful elements of Rent.

I’ll admit I was a little put-off when I read some of the articles and reviews of the play in advance of witnessing the production.  I wanted to know more about the story before I saw it.  I like to think I’m not homophobic but from what I had read in some reviews, the lifestyle went beyond mere portrayal; it was celebrated, endorsed and flaunted in your face.  I didn’t want to see that.  I’m old-fashioned in that I believe that some things should be left private, and sexual activity is one of them.  However, the production that we saw must have been a tamed-down version because there was only occasional gay kissing and touching, nothing too disturbing.  I was more bothered by the decibels of the musicians, which sometimes drowned out the singers.

Outstanding Music

The songs in Rent are the first of the beautiful and uplifting elements that I noticed.  The entire play is a musical.  It seemed like there were very few lines spoken that were not actually sung.  Even the hilarious little phone messages peppered throughout the play were delightfully sung to us, adding much entertainment to the dramatic production.  Who hasn’t heard “Seasons of Love,” especially since it has been playing in some TV commercial lately?  Although not particularly uplifting to me, La Vie Boheme was immensely entertaining.  Other enjoyable songs included Your Eyes, Goodbye Love, Light My Candle, Tango Maureen, Out Tonight, One Song Glory, I Should Tell You, Take Me Or Leave Me, No Day But Today, and Living in America.

I can’t think of one thing with more universal appeal than the idea of love.  Who doesn’t want to be loved?  I have met people who have said no when I asked them if they wanted to be happy in life but I have never met someone who said no when asked if they wanted to be loved or at least accepted for who they are.  Of the three major themes I saw in the play, the idea of being loved came across the strongest.  Although they had a lot of emotional handicaps and baggage, these were people dealing with building relationships.  I can’t identify with being a drag queen but when Angel was dying, I found myself shedding a tear for Collins’ loss.

Living with Loss

These people lived with loss every day.  That’s why one of the recurring songs was entitled, “No Day but Today.”  How they dealt with that loss teaches a lot about the idea of community.  They came together in their grief.  They comforted one another.  They took care of one another the best they could.  Mimi was not judged for her drug addiction but was encouraged to live without it and find something better to take its place.  Since so many of their friends were dying, they adopted the motto to live for the day and to reach for their dreams one day at a time.  How hard it must be to make plans for the future when you are living with a disease like AIDS.

It was love and loss that built their community.  They only had each other.  Rejected by so many outside their world, they had to give each other strength, and they did.  Although the ending was a little hokey with Angel becoming the angel who told Mimi to go back when she was dying, the love that developed between Roger and Mimi was delightful to witness.  How can you not love a happy, feel-good ending where the main characters find happiness in each other?   Except there’s one big problem – they still have AIDS and will die someday.  But then, so will we all.  See, it really does have universal appeal.  The play mirrors life that someday will end.

After seeing the play, Carol read the script and I read dozens of reviews.  I was fascinated by the dichotomy of opinions expressed.  It seems that most reviewers either loved it or hated it.  One said she had never walked out of a play before in her life but walked out on Rent.  She must have had a family member in our audience because a couple in front of us walked out at the first encounter of affection expressed between Angel and Collins.  Were they homophobic?  In all probability, yes they were.  I mean, the music was loud and the show could be confusing if you weren’t paying close attention, but it was obvious that they didn’t like what they were seeing.

Reviews from Viewers

Here’s a quote from one of those reader reviews I found in the NY Times about the time the show was closing after a twelve-year run:  “If you want homosexuality and drug addiction rubbed in your face, then this is the play for you. I basically hated it, if you haven’t figured that out yet.”  In contrast, “Rent is a fabulous roller-coaster ride of emotion. The characters are extremely real, and so are the troubles they face. The songs are beautiful and the energy and electricity of it is so wonderful that you are a complete moron if you don’t like it. The only reason anyone wouldn’t like this show is if they are homophobic, intolerant, and weak.”

But my favorite had to be, “So let’s see… a group of drug addicted promiscuous squatters are the heroes and the one person who breaks from the group and becomes successful and buys the building (which they live in illegally) is the bad-guy because he wants rent… hhhmmmm… and let’s see, we have loud screeching that we’re supposed to call singing but it’s “cool dude” ’cause the lead is just so hot looking and has the teeny bopper girls squealing in delight.  This is a show for the MTV-Put-Upon Generation… pure junk.”  Opinions of performances are one thing but this reviewer was obviously passing judgment and commenting on the lifestyle choices.

The Composer

Part of the impact of the show is the death of the composer and writer, Jonathan Larson, who died of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by Marfan syndrome, on the night before the play opened off Broadway.  In spite of his death, the show went on.  Glowing reviews began to appear. The six-week run sold out immediately.  In the months to come, Rent moved to Broadway, won four Tony awards, including the prize for best musical, and Jonathan Larson won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, posthumously.  The show went on to become one of the longest running productions on Broadway and is now enjoying a second life in local theater.

Social Impact

Rent has had and is still having a social impact.  While the play is now a little dated with the use of pay phones, answering machines and clunky old cell phones the size of a brick, it is still attracting younger crowds wherever it plays.  Of course, that was probably inevitable in our case, given that our venue was a local community college.  Wherever it opens, it is reviewed by the local theater critics.  The comments posted on those online reviews demonstrate that some of the same prejudices and bigotry are still alive and well in America today.  Rent is a wonderful example of American creativity that reaches to the very heart of our lives through love and loss.  I hope our community has changed and become more tolerant in the years since it first opened.

I haven’t included a lot of quotes from the musical, because frankly, they aren’t very deep.  For example, here’s one from the song, Light my Candle: “I didn’t recognize you without the handcuffs.”  And from Angel, the transvestite, “I’m more of a man than you’ll ever be and more of a woman than you’ll ever get.”  From the song Will I, about dying from AIDS: “Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?”  I suppose my favorite has to be “There will always be women in rubber flirting with me…”  That last quote is from Maureen, one of the two lesbians.  Some of the stuff is really quite funny, if you can just get past the idea that these are people looking for love in unorthodox relationships.

Unorthodox Relationships

And that is the point of the play and the impact it has had on America.  How do we view the lives of those who are not in orthodox relationships?  Do we view them as sinners, in need of repentance and salvation, who will suffer in hell because of their poor lifestyle choices?  I am confident that there are millions of people who will voice that very opinion without hesitation.  Or do we love and accept them, making an effort to help them find happiness and success in life?  That is one of the toughest choices in life, especially for those who have family members living in a lifestyle that is contrary to the moral principles that they value.  Rent helps us see past the pain and sorrow of rejection and loss of those who live with AIDS and still manage to have hope.

It’s that final scene of hope that I find most uplifting and inspiring about the play.  They found hope because they loved and supported each other through their loss and sorrow.  I think Jonathan Larson would be pleased to think that his play has helped us to become more loving and supportive of each other, especially those who deal with AIDS on a daily basis.  And in the end, the millions he earned posthumously from the play helps others pursue their writing careers.

Note: Carol saw the play with me and shared an excellent review on her blog.

Susan Boyle – Internet singing sensation

While watching the Mormon Messages Easter video of Elder Holland rise on the charts over the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice another rising star – Susan Boyle. If you haven’t watched her video yet then you haven’t been paying attention. In less than five days, adding up all the versions out there, it has achieved over 16 million views. That’s got to be some sort of a record.

Update: According to Viral Video Chart, it has now exceeded 91 million views and will shortly surpass 100 million, approaching the record of the most watched video on the Interwebs.

And no wonder! I confess that I have watched her stunning performance at least a dozen times and am floored every time I do. Susan is from a small town in Scotland and has never been married. In fact, she’s never been kissed. She lives in the same home in which she grew up with eight brothers and sisters. Her father passed away ten years ago and her mother in 2007.

Her choice of song is one of my favorites, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. My favorite performance before this last weekend was from the 10th anniversary concert. That’s one of my favorite DVDs. The song fits Susan because of the message. She has a wonderful attitude in spite of the life she has been given. She developed her talent singing in church. You go, Susan!

For more information:

1. San Francisco Chronicle
2. One of many fansites
3. Times UK OnLine
4. CBS News Interview
5. AP story on Yahoo News
6. Why Susan inspires us