We Need To De-Stigmatize Repentance

Scenario: you know you need to see your bishop and confess a problem because the loss of the Spirit is making you miserable, but you can’t, because you know that if you do, you’ll have to stop taking the sacrament, and people will see that, and you’ll be embarrassed.

And what if you’re called on to pray in a class, but you may not be able to–the shame!

And of course people will wonder what awful dirty evil thing you did. They’ll talk about it. They’ll treat you differently. Worse.

In short, your life could be ruined.

What a heartbreaking tragedy that anybody may ever feel this way. But those fears are justified–they didn’t just grow out of nothing in the minds of a paranoid few.

Too many times, we Latter-day Saints do in fact treat people badly because they have clearly Broken A Rule.

And that makes people less likely to go down the path to self improvement. Nobody wants to be a social pariah, or be judged, or looked down on at all.

The biggest tragedy here is that this behavior of ours towards those who are repenting should be the exact opposite of this.

A wise bishop once told a priesthood meeting that if anyone felt hesitant to come to him because of a major sin they’d committed because they worried he might lose respect for them, to not worry–he would have more respect for them because of their courage in confessing and starting up the path to forgiveness.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Four Best Places For Your Charitable Giving

We all have things we care about.  We all know of needs we want to help fill.  Likely, we all get frustrated because we just don’t have the resources to do all we want to do.

May I suggest that, if you’re reading this, you would care about the following things, and if more people would focus their charitable donations on these, a great difference for the better could be made.

I’ll propose what I find to be the needs that are the most worthy in the realms of politics, religion & literacy, and living well.

 

In politics, we live in an era where perhaps the greatest political need has arisen from the emergence of a new Puritan class of righteous elites, who set our cultural guidelines and persecute those who dare dissent.  This is a time of stifling conformity, paired with punishment for any who refuse to worship at the right altar.

Free speech is dying.

You might suggest that the physical threat of terrorism, or the more domestic threat of unsustainable debt, for example, are more dangerous than the almost existential desire for free speech.

You would be wrong.  While other issues have massive consequences which can be seen easily, the cowing of individuals portends even more damage in the long run.

Continue reading

The Relationship Between Discipleship and Love

I’m not a people person by nature.  I can enjoy company, but I don’t often seek it out.  Usually, I try to avoid it, though I’ve been working on this.

Yesterday I re-read something that had jumped out at me when I read it earlier this year.  Actually, I’d read this many times before, but it was upon this reading that something new struck me.  Such is the experience of those who study the Book of Mormon.

I’d often wondered how to increase my capacity for charity–the inherent desire to know people, to love them, to want to help them.  I’ve prayed for growth in this capacity, but I still have a long way to go.

But then I read these verses:

Continue reading

If the Mormons Accepted Gay Marriage, How Would the World React?

Imagine that the Mormon church announces tomorrow that they’ve received a revelation from God telling them to accept gay marriage.

(Please note that I am absolutely NOT “agitating” for something like this.  This is merely a thought exercise to make a point.)

In a perfect world, mainstream society would react like this: “They’ve worked so hard for so long to make sure we all know that they love us and want to be friendly with us, we can’t deny that only fidelity to their beliefs was what led them to the policies they had.  Their efforts at explaining those beliefs kindly and reaching out to everyone in welcoming were nothing short of amazing.”

Of course, the more realistic reaction would be: “Well, it’s about time those morons decided to stop being so mean and hateful.”

Continue reading

Freedom Vs. Charity

Our political impulses might be boiled down to these two competing priorities: freedom vs. charity.  Our devotion to freedom is to guarantee the unimpeded right to pursue our own lives as we see fit.  Our dedication to charity is to foster the well-being of our communities as much as possible.

The problem is that to absolutely favor freedom is to leave those in need of charity out in the cold, but to exclusively prefer charity is to infringe on the autonomy of others’ freedom.

However, consider this:

When freedom is the priority, private charity can and will still thrive.

When charity is the priority, private freedom always gets circumscribed.

Discuss.

 

 

Teaching Men To Fish

A little conversation with my fellow conservatives, here.  Readers on the political left are welcome to eavesdrop, but this idea is for those of us who like to talk more about limited government and personal responsibility.

When we say these things, we also really like to quote the saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  This is wise, and useful.  But only if we actually go out and teach men to fish.

Yes, I know, conservatives actually give more to charity than liberals do–maybe our friends on the left think that their social safety nets are effective and sufficient–but is this really enough for us?

If we believe that the best charity isn’t in the form of monetary handouts, but people in the trenches doing one-on-one training with those whose skills aren’t as secure as ours, doesn’t that obligate us to actually give time to our communities doing just that?  Not just a little time, either, but enough to make a real difference?

I’m not saying that we don’t do that at all now, but I am suggesting that maybe we should do more.  Imagine a concerted, volunteer, conservative community mentoring effort for the needy that was so effective, the most liberal observers would have to admit, “Wow, those Tea Party types are really on to something here–they surely do care about their communities, and they’re clearly doing good to a degree that our generations of public programs simply aren’t.”  I don’t care about “converting” those on the left, but wouldn’t it be nice to silence the media’s snide stereotyping of us as heartless misers, as well as reducing the social ills that plague our communities?  I’m sure we all care about at least one of those goals.

So what say you?  Who’s up for actually teaching men how to fish?

 

Spoiled Brats

Who’s a spoiled brat?  You are.

So am I.  Everybody is. 

Consider how infinitely blessed our lives are.  Even in the midst of recession, illness, heartache, and all the other “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” at any given time, we still enjoy more blessings than we could possibly count.

Fairly few major advances were made anywhere worldwide for hundreds and even thousands of years, compared to the those made during the lifetimes of many still living.  Any of us, right now, could go to the nearest grocery store and find a wider variety of fresher food, for a relatively lower cost, than would have been available anywhere in the world a mere century ago.  Widely available electricity, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, and refrigeration alone make the last few generations especially blessed, compared to all the rest of history.

We take for granted a standard of living superior to that of royalty throughout most of world history.  We’re constantly surrounded by such a bounty of wonders that, for anyone reading this, our everyday lives would have seemed miraculous to our grandparents when they were our age, and impossible to their grandparents at any age.  Throw in our vastly advanced achievements in transportation and communications, and we actually live lives richer than those of the gods of ancient mythologies. 

Heady stuff.

But does this make us spoiled?  Absolutely.  Continue reading

God’s Unrequited, Unconditional Love

Imagine that someone you love very dearly has rejected you. You were close once, and you’ve spent untold time and energy serving them, but now they’ve turned away from you and everything you stand for.

For many, this scenario is all too realistic. But now imagine that millions, even billions, of your loved ones have done this.

Welcome to God’s world.

I think of this a lot.

I think of this when I feel hurt by someone I care about. Knowing that my Father in Heaven has been through this, but literally a billion times more, puts my own pain in perspective and makes me respect and reverence God all the more for the noble way He still loves us.

I think of this when I’m critical of others. It’s so easy to justify thinking less of people, and holding back on anything I might do for them, emotionally or physically. But when Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” he made a powerful point about the nature of God’s love.

Nobody else would have as much good reason to cut off those who’ve rejected their love, because nobody else has been so fully rejected by so many, or had so much love turned away.

But God doesn’t do that. He still pours out as many blessings as possible on all of us, constantly striving to help us have as much joy as we can, even if we deny its source or even actively fight against Him.

Continue reading

The Law of Consecration, As Contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants

During a recent session in the temple, I was hit with particular force that we are to study the law of consecration not in general, not in a vacuum, but specifically as it is taught in the Doctrine and Covenants.  Besides the factual and motivational information I’ve found in this brief project so far, I’ve been impressed that this aspect of the gospel agrees so well with our growing emphasis on charity and service, as per President Monson (best exemplified in adding “care for the poor and needy” to the mission of the Church). 

So I’ve been trying to read up on this basic celestial law, from sources that focus on its development in the D&C.  First, not surprisingly, I looked it up in the index to the scriptures.  This list includes all those in the Topical Guide, plus several others:

See also Common; Devote; Equal; Inheritance; Order; Poor; Property; Substance; United Order; Zion

D&C 42: 30-39 (D&C 51: 2-19; D&C 58: 35-37) principles of consecration explained.

D&C 42: 30, 39 consecrate of thy properties for support of the poor.

D&C 42: 32 consecrated properties not to be taken from church.

D&C 49: 20 one man should not possess above another.

D&C 51: 3 every man equal according to his family.

D&C 51: 5 transgressor not to have claim upon portion consecrated to bishop.

D&C 58: 36 (D&C 85: 3) a law for inheritance in Zion.

D&C 78: 5 order established that saints may be equal in bonds of heavenly and earthly things.

D&C 83: 6 storehouse kept by consecrations.

D&C 105: 5 Zion can only be built up by principles of celestial law.

D&C 105: 29 lands to be purchased according to laws of consecration.

D&C 105: 34 let commandments concerning Zion’s law be executed and fulfilled.

D&C 124: 21 bishop to receive consecrations of the Lord’s house.

The next source I thought of was the CES manual for the D&C.  It has an essay in the appendix which is entirely devoted to teaching the law of consecration.  This may have been the best single source for what I was studying.  One of the many useful things in this section of the text was this series of self-analysis questions:

1. Are you contributing to or detracting from a spirit of unity in your home? in your ward or branch? in the Church as a whole?

2. Is your life in harmony with the Spirit of the Holy Ghost so that you will contribute to a unity of thought and action in the kingdom?

3. Do you truly have an attitude of consecration? Is your primary concern in life to consecrate everything you have or with which you will be blessed to the building up of Zion and the Church on the earth?

4. Do you have enough confidence in your commitment to truly say, “I am willing to sacrifice anything and everything for God”?

The third of the official sources I used for this study was BYU’s Scripture Citation Index, where I looked up the references given in the index, to see how they had been used in general conferences.  Continue reading

The Problem With Sin

Besides the fact that it’s a rebellion against the will of God and contrary to covenants that disciples of Christ have made, the problem with sin is that it promotes selfishness.  In the way that it focuses our attention on our own desires and on gratifying them, magnifying their importance in our lives beyond a proper proportion, sin drives us to become that much more narcissistic.  Sin is self-involvement personified.  Sin and humility cannot coexist, nor can sin and charity. 

This is especially bad because we have all been called to develop precisely those virtues–humility and charity.  A large part of our existence is to be spent in serving others.  We can’t do that if we’re spending time on things that bring us temporary, physical satisfaction, instead of making sacrifices for the good of others.  We can’t think about filling our own increasing appetites at the same time that we’re thinking about the needs of widows and orphans. 

Which is another problem with sin: it’s a waste of time and a waste of energy.  Oh, yeah, and we can’t forget that God said not to do it–that’s still the big one.  So by my count, the score stands at: Righteousness 5, Sin 0.

What’s Missing In Our Charity

I’m in a position of leadership in a classroom and in a church.  In both of those areas, I get to know people pretty well, and I see how they interact as peers.  And I’ve been surprised to see the same basic human drama in each.  Whether it’s school or church, everybody is trying to find a little slice of joy while struggling with their trials in life, and keeping up a brave front for public show.  Truly, the same human drama exists in every community.

Those efforts at a brave front may have more to do with not wanting to derail the smooth machinery of the community’s activities by drawing undue attention than it does with embarrassment or pride, but it is sadly counterproductive in at least one way: our stoic repression of the heartaches we’re dealing with puts up a wall and stagnates our connection to others.  I’ve seen too much hurt and misunderstanding caused by it.

People try to go about their daily lives, doing their jobs and doing things with their friends, often very unaware of just what these friends are suffering through.  The hidden stress that we all keep inside often keeps us too focused on ourselves, unable to reach out to others, and constricted in our ability to express real charity. 

Not that I’m suggesting that we all have more weepy pity parties.  One Breakfast Club was enough, thank you. 

What we seem to need even more of between the people in our schools, our churches, and indeed in every community–our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods–is empathy.  Continue reading

Now That’s Charity

Elder Holland’s recent Conference talk about the intense depth of suffering experienced by the Savior for the Atonement–and the Church’s incredibly successful YouTube clip from it–have got me thinking about how this episode also teaches us perhaps history’s greatest lesson about charity. 

Sometimes I’m tempted to pull my head back into my shell and call it quits as far as the world is concerned.  I think we all feel that way sometimes.  Work is stressful–or lost, finances are tight, illness is soaking up strength, family problems are heartbreaking, addictions are threatening, or a combination of these or any of a thousand other adversities conspire to drag us down.  Often we may feel that the best option to preserve what little sanity we have left is to circle the wagons and just worry about yourself, and let the rest of the world go its way. 

When this temptation surfaces, it’s good to remember how the Savior conducted himself in the midst of the Atonement.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus Christ felt infinitely for “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and…the pains and sicknesses of his people…their infirmities…[and] the sins of his people” (Alma 7:11-13)–truly, every negative experience every mortal has been, will be, or even could be called to pass through–a sacrifice so profound that the “suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18), He did not pull his head into his shell, or circle the wagons, or give Himself up to worry or self pity, letting the rest of the world fend for itself. 

First, he Continue reading

An Example Of Genuinely Bad Behavior Towards Gay People

The burgeoning physical culture war over gay marriage (as evinced by a rowdy protest that almost looked like a riot at the LDS church’s Los Angeles temple and an older Christian woman being savagely harrassed in Palm Springs) is sobering and scary.

I’ve already explained my defense of barring “gay marriage” at length elsewhere on this blog, but today I have a more sympathetic thought about this culture war in mind.

The 2005 crossword puzzle documentary Wordplay is one of my favorite movies.  As it celebrates the English language and the joy of being well educated in it, I’ve shown it several times to various high school classes and even in English 101.  It enjoys the mark of a successful lesson: intelligent, serious students always love it, and truculent, lazy people tend to hate it. 

One of the great puzzle solvers featured in the film is a man named Trip Payne.  In one scene, Trip refers to his boyfriend as “dear,” then gives him a quick peck, the kind of chaste little kiss that any of us would feel comfortable giving to our mother.  Invariably, any time I ever show this award-winning documentary about real-world linguistics to students, this scene elicits groans, laughs, and even crude comments.

Nobody would ever think of treating a racial minority this way.  I honestly believe that racism is dead in our society.  Sure, pockets of ignorance might still pulsate here and there, but then there are still some people out there who think the world is flat and that Star Trek V was a good movie.  People might criticize or be leery of social mores that seem to condone, or even encourage, what the mainstream would view as anti-social criminal behavior, but that’s a far cry from assuming inherent inferiority, and you just don’t see public belittling of any racial minority just for being a racial minority.  The very thought is unspeakable. 

And yet, regardless of our views about law, religion, or family, almost every segment of our society is comfortable openly mocking gay people.  Continue reading