Men and Porn

A friend of mine who works in the IT industry told me about this experience he had about a decade ago.

A guy in the cubicle next to his asked him to come over and look at his screen. My friend did and saw that his coworker had a pornographic image on display. He quickly turned away and said something like, “Thanks but no thanks.”

The coworker teased and scolded him a bit about being a prude and said, “C’mon, don’t pretend you don’t like it.”

And this is where the story gets memorable for me. My friend said, “I’m not pretending I don’t like it. I’m sure I would like it. That’s why I have to force myself to avoid it.”

I think that’s a great lesson for all of us.

The Sacrament Prayers As A Heroic Epic

The promissory elements of the sacramental prayers, especially the prayer on the bread, can be seen as an enactment of a typical heroic arc.

I’ll illustrate here with images from that typical hero’s journey, the Star Wars saga. It’s not perfect or in order, and I hope you don’t find this irreverent, as this analogy makes Darth Vader into Jesus (though there really are clearly some aspects of the Savior used in the character of Anakin Skywalker). In these pictures, Luke Skywalker is each of us as we take the sacrament.

The first thing we as individual participants do is to eat “in remembrance of the body of thy Son.”

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“in remembrance of the body of thy Son”

A great hero has fallen, his life given for the good of others, and the young disciple (or in our case, disciples) who must now carry forward the legacy of his work must, first of all, mourn and find strength from the sacrifice of the elder master.

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“they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son”

The fallen master’s legacy is now conferred on the next generation, who “take upon them” (physically, spiritually, or both) some talismanic aspect of the master (be it a lightsaber or a holy name).

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“and always remember him”

Here’s another example of becoming literally more like a great heroic mentor through continual remembrance–Luke’s bionic hand. In our case, eating the sacramental bread itself could fill this role. (The work and clothing of the temple fit here as well.)

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“and keep his commandments which he has given them”

Armed with committed resolve and the basic emblems of the way, the young disciple(s) now must live the way with increasing fullness, through a life of practice, tests and trials, and general faithfulness as they embark on their own version of the master’s journey. This training is ongoing and episodic, like a series of scenes in a movie franchise, or over the course of our daily lives. Either way, growing in strength through regular obedience to the laws of the way is expected.

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“that they may always have his Spirit to be with them”

The reward for demonstrated faithfulness to practicing the way of this order is to have the eternal, spiritual presence of its holy divinities with the young disciple along the path of the dangerous journeys ahead. These spiritual guides offer blessings and gifts that aid the hero on his ever-maturing way (“Use the Force, Luke” or “Choose the right,” perhaps).

This pattern could also be illustrated with scenes featuring Obi Wan more, or figures like Gandalf or Dumbledore. The point here is to invest the great words of our compact little sacrament prayer with the majesty they deserve. It’s a simple routine for us, but one that can and should have profound meaning.

Keeping in mind this pattern of a heroic journey as each of us takes the sacrament each Sunday might help us realize its importance and power. It may only last a few minutes, but this ordinance has the ability to orient and refresh us after a long week of heroic journeying, and prepare us to continue fighting forward.

Sacrament Talk: “Endure Forward Well With Joy”

Some years ago I had a conversation with a good man who was losing his testimony, who wanted clear and close benchmarks in life like in his youth, not a marathon with no end. Life felt like driving through a Midwest state with nothing new in it. Maybe we feel like that, or burnt out, or new and overwhelmed, or young and bored, or just realize there are more blessings out there. A lot of us might be in the same spot, looking for landmarks to encourage us and help us along the way.
This brings to mind any number of scriptural phrases: endure to the end; endure it well; press forward with faith; find joy in the journey, among others. They all basically mean the same thing. Let’s just call today’s talk, “Endure Forward Well With Joy.”
I wanted a list of three items, all based on quotes from general conference, and all focused on the Savior. We all came here today looking to be filled with the Spirit and lifted up spiritually, and I hope that there’s something in here for each of us to benefit from.
Landmark #1: Ordinances
In leadership councils of the church, one way ministering is planned is by asking, “Who needs an ordinance?”, making the answer a goal, and planning how to reach that goal.

Now, for some, that may be easy: we might need to go to the temple for the first time, men might need a priesthood ordination, we might even just need to start by being baptized. These are natural and obvious landmarks in our lives, and as we set our sights on them and reach them, we’ll find that life is fuller and sweeter, because we will always know that we’ve been doing the best things with our time.
In the April 2015 General Conference, David A. Bednar taught:

Ordinances and covenants are the building blocks we use to construct our lives upon the foundation of Christ and His Atonement. We are connected securely to and with the Savior as we worthily receive ordinances and enter into covenants, faithfully remember and honor those sacred commitments, and do our best to live in accordance with the obligations we have accepted. And that bond is the source of spiritual strength and stability in all of the seasons of our lives.

We can be blessed to hush our fears as we firmly establish our desires and deeds upon the sure foundation of the Savior through our ordinances and covenants.

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Discipleship Worksheet for Ch. 1 of Howard W. Hunter Manual

08861_eng_CoverI had the chance to teach from this lesson at church today. It’s really an excellent chapter of the new book–I highly recommend it to anybody. I made the chart attached below to prepare for teaching it, and for personal use.

In case anyone else might benefit from it, the discipleship worksheet is here: Teachings of Presidents of the Church ch1.

 

Escape to the Mountain: Genesis 19 as a Timely Reminder for Latter-day Saints

Genesis 19 is one of the most sordid, controversial chapters of the Bible. As such, it’s not often seen as a fount of wisdom.

Yet, a perfectly timely spiritual message is in this narrative.

Before “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire,” an angel warned Lot to take his family and “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17)

Was Lot’s response to act like Peter and Andrew, who, upon being called to the ministry, “straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:20)? Or like Alma, who was abused and rejected as a minister in one city, but after leaving was instructed by an angel to go back and persist, so “he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:18)?

No. Lot’s immediate instinct wasn’t obedience, but quibbling and negotiation: “And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord…. I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (19:21-22).

Not only did he decline to follow the angel’s clear counsel, he proposed following his own inclinations: “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” (19:20)

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Text of Simplicity Talk by Elder Lynn G. Robbins, from Area Broadcast

I received a reply from Elder Robbins through his secretary, with the text of his talk and permission to share it. It’s in the link below.

This is one of my favorite messages I’ve ever heard at church, and I hope it spreads far and wide. Even more so, I hope we try to live it.

Simplicity Final

A Spiritual Metaphor

Each of us is a complicated congregation.

Paul used this fact in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, where he used various body parts to represent different gifts and callings, showing that just as a body needs all its parts to cooperate in order to work best, so does the church need a variety of gifts and offices to best perform its duties.

It occurred to me recently that we could apply that metaphor to an issue in the church today:

Each of our individual “congregations” is led by a presidency: our spirit is called to preside over the rest of us, perhaps with the mind as first counselor and the heart as second counselor.

The rest of the things that constitute ourselves–the “members,” as Paul put it–have their various functions, but all work best in an established order, cooperating harmoniously and ever submitting to the leadership of the presidency.

Whenever a member decides to disregard the order–indulging in its own desires and placing its own wisdom above that of the presidency–the entire congregation suffers.  Whatever member that is–the stomach, the eyes, the genitals, the ego, etc.–risks apostasy.

In any congregation–the global church, a stake, a ward, or our own individual selves–the best way to live is to follow the order established by God.  That means training ourselves to live under the mentoring of our leaders.

Favorite Quotes from John Taylor

“I have no ideas only as God gives them to me; neither should you. Some people are very persistent in having their own way and carrying out their own peculiar theories. I have no thoughts of that kind, but I have a desire, when anything comes along, to learn the will of God, and then to do it.”

The Life and Ministry of John Taylor

The only question with us is whether we will cooperate with God, or whether we will individually work out our own salvation or not; whether we will individually fulfil the various responsibilities that devolve upon us or not; whether we will attend to the ordinances that God has introduced or not; for ourselves to begin with, for our families, for the living and for the dead. Whether we will cooperate in building temples and administering in them; whether we will unite with the Almighty, under the direction of his holy priesthood, in bringing to pass things that have been spoken of by the holy prophets since the world was; whether we will contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints. These things rest with us to a certain extent. …

Chapter 1: The Origin and Destiny of Mankind

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Favorite Quotes from Brigham Young

Finished the second volume in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series: Brigham Young.

Here are my favorite quotes from volume 1: Joseph Smith.

These are the passages I marked from Brigham Young:

“Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods (DBY, 3).

Chapter 2: The Gospel Defined

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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:

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Our Journey Back Home

I’ve been wanting to write a Pilgrim’s Progress-style allegory for young children.  Here it is.  Happy Easter, everybody.

*****

 

Once upon a time there was a wonderful king.  He had very many children and they all lived in a beautiful castle high on a mountain.

One day the king told his children that he was sending them on an important journey.  They had to go on a long walk through the whole world.  The king said that they had to do this in order to grow up.

“Will it be hard?” the princes and princesses asked.

“Yes,” said the king.  “But it will also be an exciting adventure.  And it will help you become ready to be kings and queens yourselves someday.”

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Notes on President Monson’s Teachings, April 2014 General Conference

My notes on president Monson’s addresses at the April General Conference, 2014.  Obviously subjective, and subject to ongoing revision and improvement, but this helps me to pragmatically know how to “follow the prophet.”

 

IMPERATIVES

Priesthood Session: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage

  1. “…put ourselves in places and participate in activities where our thoughts are influenced for good and where the Spirit of the Lord will be comfortable.”
  2. (Quoting) “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!”
  3. “…do… the right thing even though we may be afraid, defend… our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintain… those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status.”
  4. (Quoting) “Just be the same person you are in the dark that you are in the light.”

Sunday Morning: “Love—the Essence of the Gospel

  1. “…love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”
  2. “…love God, the Father of us all.”
  3. “…keep this truth [We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters] in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”
  4. “…recognize someone’s need and then…respond.”
  5. (Quoting Pres. Kimball) “…remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve.”
  6. “…we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”
  7. “…strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”

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Favorite Quotes from Joseph Smith

I recently finished reading the book, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.  These are the passages I marked:

 

“[The latter-day scriptures are published] so that the honest in heart may be cheered and comforted and go on their way rejoicing, as their souls become exposed and their understanding enlightened by a knowledge of God’s work through the fathers in former days, as well as what He is about to do in latter days to fulfill the words of the fathers.”

Chapter 4: The Book of Mormon: Keystone of Our Religion

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When Jesus Needed To Be Alone

Below are all ten times the Bible says that Jesus went alone into wilderness areas, like deserts and mountains, to commune with God.  Even when the text says He took disciples with Him, there’s an implication that He often went alone.

I’ve arranged them in chronological order, and included three brief references at the end from the Book of Mormon:

 

Matt. 4:1-2, JST
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Mark 1:35
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Luke 6:12
And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

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Serve From Gratitude

Near the end of a truly rousing, inspirational sermon, the Biblical prophet Samuel tells his congregation:

Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  1 Samuel 12:24

This has now become one of my favorite scriptures.  Why?  because it explicitly links our faithful obedience to God and our work in His service, to gratitude for all of the infinite blessings that have first been poured out on us.

I actually think that the “thankfulness-leads-to-devotion” relationship is pretty rarely articulated in the scriptures.  The next best one that I can think of comes from the New Testament:

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

It’s good to be reminded of this.  God has shown us great love, and always will.  Obedient discipleship is the least we can do in return; indeed, is precisely the one thing that He does ask of us:

And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13