Personal Online Journal

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bruce R. McConkie and the 1978 Revelation

Elder McConkie's role in the 1978 revelation

- A year before the revelation was given, he had written a long memo to President Kimball concluding that there was no scriptural reason the policy could not be lifted.

- Before the revelation was received, he spoke up in favor of the change, reiterating that there was no scriptural impediment.

- And he defended that view under searching questions from President Tanner.

- Then after the confirming revelation was received, he wrote one of the three drafts that were later merged into the final announcement.

- He advocated for immediate announcement instead of waiting.

- And when the announcement was presented to the General Authorities he was one of the first to voluntarily stand and declare his support, giving an impassioned extemporaneous discourse on the related scriptures.

From "In Defense of Elder Bruce R. McConkie – A True Apostle of Jesus Christ", J. Max Wilson, Apr 21, 2015.

You do not belong here

Following is the copied the text of "You do not belong here – a high councilor’s talk about inclusion" by Geoff Nelson

On Sunday our high councilor spoke during Sacrament Meeting. It was an excellent talk that I feel should be shared with as many people as possible. Personal information has been removed, but otherwise the talk is here as it was given. Italicized emphases in the text were used in the written talk  from the high councilor.

I’ve been in this ward for a while now, but since this is a ward where many people come and go, I will briefly introduce myself and my family. [Talks about himself]. [Talks about his wife]. You don’t see her here because about 10 years ago she decided to leave the church. She joined the church in college, then after several years decided she no longer believed in it; so I guess you could say she had conversion experiences in both directions. [Talks about his children].

For the first few years we lived in this ward, I got to serve in the young mens presidency. I love that calling, but I’ve since been called to be a stake high councilor. That’s why you’re having to listen to me today. As part of that calling I get to sit in council with the stake presidency. I guess the conventional thing for me to do is to tell you that the stake president loves you. He hasn’t yet said that to me explicitly, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I’ve observed him to be a man of remarkable faith and a very kind heart. I think we’re in good hands.

Every time I give a talk in church I feel obliged to begin with a warning, so here it is. I do not consider myself an expert on spiritual matters. I plan to share ideas that I hope will be helpful and inspiring, but please take them for what they are: the opinions and ideas of a guy who isn’t totally sure he knows what he’s talking about.

On top of that, I’ve chosen to speak today on a tricky topic, and I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to collect and structure my thoughts. So please bear with me, and try to listen with a forgiving attitude.

Many years ago I served a mission. It was a transformative experience for me. I was a proud, thick-headed kid, but through steady work and service I learned some profound lessons about the gospel. Most importantly, as I served people and tried to help them turn toward Christ, I was given glimpses into how much our Heavenly Father loves his children. Detailed memories have begun to fade, but the overall experience and its effects on me are still things that I deeply cherish.

Of course, not all of the experiences I had on my mission were positive ones, and as an entry point to my topic I want to describe a negative experience I had in the missionary training center. We had fairly regular meetings with general authorities of the church, and it was typical in those meetings for a choir to perform a song or two. My boys can tell you that I like to sing, but they can also probably tell you that I’m not especially good at it. Certainly I have no training, nor can I read music. But I decided to join the choir one week with my companion (who actually was a good singer). Early in the first practice, the choir leader said something about how baritones should sing this part, and basses should sing that part. I leaned over to my companion who was seated next to me and said “What should I do? I’m not sure if I’m a baritone or a bass.” At this point a missionary seated in front of me turned around with a scornful look on his face and said “If you don’t know that, then what are you doing here?”

I’m sure you can imagine how I felt. But I’m not telling you the story so you can feel sorry for me and my hurt feelings. And in fairness, the missionary had a point. But I want you to think about the message he was delivering: You do not belong here.

What I want to talk about today are the ways that we, as members of the church, might sometimes send similar messages to each other, albeit in more subtle ways than in my MTC story. I’m afraid much of what I’m going to say might seem like rambling, but let me begin by trying to be clear about what I’m trying to talk about. The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of inclusion: our God aims to save and exalt all of his beloved children. Ironically, the Church of Jesus Christ sometimes feels like one of exclusion: when people aren’t sure if they fully believe or belong, they often feel like they are being pushed out. What I want to talk about are some reasons why people start to feel like they don’t belong, and offer some suggestions for how we can make sure our church is a more welcoming place for such people.

When I talk about “people who wonder whether they belong here,” I’m not referring to some separate group of doubters or sinners. I suspect most, if not all, of us have felt this way before. More to the point, I have felt this way. And I don’t mean “I once felt this way a long time ago, before I became enlightened and gained a perfect unshakeable testimony.” I mean I have felt this way within the past month. So please understand that I am speaking about these issues from a place of empathy. And please allow yourself to hear what I’m saying as a message to you and about you, not just about “other people who don’t yet have a testimony.”

One of the main reasons that people can feel like they don’t belong in the church is that they don’t believe the doctrine as easily as others seem to believe it, or they don’t see the doctrine the way the majority of members seem to see it. One of my favorite social psychology experiments was one conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s, aimed at understanding conformity. Subjects in the experiment were brought into a room with seven other participants. However, the seven other participants were “confederates” – they were in on the experiment. The participants would be shown a card with a line segment on it, and another card with three line segments on it, and each participant was then asked to say which of the three line segments was the same length as the one on the first card. The answer in each case was fairly obvious: it wasn’t hard at all to tell which segment was the same length. The seating was arranged so that the true experimental subject always answered last. In the first round, the seven confederates would each in turn give the correct answer, followed by the subject. Then they’d be shown another set of line segments, and again the seven confederates would each give the correct answer, followed by the subject. But in the third round, all seven confederates would unanimously give the wrong answer: for instance, they’d all say that line segment A was the match when in fact it was obvious that line A was too long. This would put the true experimental subject in a dilemma: should he agree with what seven people in front of him so confidently reported? Or should he answer based on what his own eyes clearly told him? I won’t belabor this by telling you about the results of the experiment – I’m sure you can guess that there was a high rate of conformity. But I want to tell you about my favorite part. When I first read about this study, I saw a picture that was taken during the experiment. In the picture, you can see the eight participants seated around a long table. Seven of them look completely calm, and one of them is leaning forward, squinting and straining at the picture of the line segments, with his mouth open and an utterly perplexed look on his face.

What is my point in describing this to you? Well, at church I have occasionally felt like that 8th guy with the perplexed look on his face. Sometimes it has felt like everyone around me is saying stuff that seems a little crazy, and then reassuring each other about how right they all are. And how do I feel when this happens? Like I don’t belong here. And I suspect that some of you have felt the same way.

Our discussions in church sometimes seem geared toward achieving agreement and consensus. Surely there are some basic principles we all expect to agree on, but we should try not to be uncomfortable when others voice opinions that differ from our own. When Jesus called 12 disciples, I doubt he expected them to be clones of one another. We get glimpses in the New Testament of the disciples’ different personalities: Peter is passionate, Thomas skeptical, James and John were thought to be bold and quick-tempered. I imagine that this group of disciples didn’t always agree with one another, and I like to believe that in some ways Jesus wanted it that way.

As members of the church, we tend to get especially uncomfortable when someone expresses serious doubts about the gospel or the church, or shares opinions that conflict with standard doctrine. This is natural, but unfortunate. Everyone struggles with faith, but it is sad when those who are struggling feel like their voices aren’t welcome, or their opinions a threat. Instead of being treated with patience and empathy, they feel like they are being told “if you don’t believe it, then you don’t belong here” – or, even more insidiously – “if you don’t believe all of it, then you don’t belong here.”

How can we make church a place where everyone feels welcome, including those who are wrestling with doubt? I think a good place to start is with empathy. I once heard an apostle give a talk in general conference, directing the talk explicitly toward those who had doubts about the church. The way I heard the talk, the message could have been summarized as “To those of you who have doubts: What’s your problem? Get over it already.” I’m sure that’s not the message that was intended. But it made me think about how important it is for people, myself included, to feel validated – to be told yes, some things are hard to reconcile, and you are not alone.

If we want to be more empathetic toward people who struggle with faith, or more forgiving of ourselves when our own faith falters, a good place to start is to recognize that the Lord appears to have intended for us to struggle. In church culture we like to use the language of certainty: we are taught to say that we know the church is true, and we like words like “perfect” and “firm” and “unshakeable.” But, in my opinion, an honest assessment of our relationship with God must admit that it involves a great deal of mystery and uncertainty and confusion. We’re told that if we’re unsure, we can just ask Him in prayer to tell us it’s true. But for many of us the answers to such prayers don’t come easily; inspirations, if and when they finally come, may be “dimly perceived” and difficult to interpret. I recently read a commentator who suggested we understand this not as evidence of God’s indifference, but as a way in which God poses the important question: “What will you do now?”

If we start with the premise that God is mysterious and that faith takes time and effort to cultivate, we will likely have more patience with our own doubts and those of others. If someone expresses a skeptical or unorthodox opinion in Sunday School, we won’t shift in our seats and think of how we can say something faith-promoting to offset the deviation. We won’t panic and call a meeting to discuss how to fix the problem, fretting with furrowed brows that “she doesn’t have a testimony, and she’s already 13!!” We’ll simply recognize that even if the person is at a different place than we are, he or she is traveling on the same highly nonlinear path that we are. And if we’re prompted to respond, it will likely be to express empathy: maybe simply saying, “Ah, I know what you mean.”

I also think it’s important that we not assume faith crises are the consequence of sin or neglect. Sometimes when a person’s faith faltered and he or she fell away from the church, I have heard people say “she must not have been reading her scriptures” or “there must have been some sin in his life.” It is likely true that, on average, people who stop coming to church read their scriptures less than people who do come to church. But correlation is not causation. People who diligently study the scriptures can still have crises of faith. But the real danger in these attitudes is not simply that they’re inaccurate; it’s that they’re dismissive and disrespectful to people who are genuinely struggling, with a sincere heart, to find and understand truth. If we convince ourselves that faith crises only happen to people who are doing something wrong, the message we’ll be sending to people with doubts is “if you’re not a believer, I’ll infer you’re a sinner.” This is not likely to make them feel welcome.

You may have noticed an implicit premise in what I’m saying, which is that we should want everyone to feel welcome at church, including those with doubts and concerns about the church. And it’s possible you’re asking yourself, “Well, do we really want them here? We’re here to nurture our faith. Do we really want to increase the number of skeptics in our congregations?” My response to these questions is, first, too many skeptics is not a problem we’re likely to have. For now, at least, we’re too good at driving them away. Second, with the possible exception of people who come to church to willfully antagonize, I think the answer is an emphatic yes: we should want everyone to be here, and we should want everyone to feel welcome here. Did Christ associate only with the faithful? He ministered to believers and unbelievers, to the sinful and to the repentant. You may say “Well – he was the Son of God, so his testimony was too strong to be shaken by anyone’s unbelief.” But I suggest an alternative: he was the Son of God, so his love was too strong to be shaken by anyone’s unbelief.

I’ve talked about how people who have doubts can feel pushed away from participating in the church. Another threat to our sense of belonging is a perception that we’re not as righteous or as spiritual as everyone else. Ours is a church with many programs and prescriptions, many dos and many don’ts. It’s hard to keep up with all the things we’re supposed to be doing, and easy to feel like we’re not measuring up – especially if it seems like everyone else in the ward is doing everything right. When someone in church talks about how sweet it was to sneak in some family history work in between dropping off dinner for a widow and preparing a family home evening lesson, and all we can remember from last week was how many swear words we said under our breath, how do we start to feel? Like we don’t belong.

A missionary companion of mine once told me that when he gave priesthood blessings, the words came to him in inspiration so clearly it was like reading the words off a scroll. To help me understand what he meant, he said it was like the scrolling of the prologue in the Star Wars movies. I could have reacted to this by thinking “how blessed I am to have a companion who is so attuned to the Spirit!” But mostly I just thought “Wow, I’ve never experienced anything even close to that. I guess I’m really lousy at this spirituality thing.” In other words: maybe this isn’t where I belong. I mention this to set up a simple suggestion: when we describe our spiritual experiences, we should be modest and honest about the nature of those experiences. We may be tempted to exaggerate them, thinking that embellishment will amplify the faith-promoting effect; but in fact this can have exactly the opposite effect. It can make people doubt the validity and worth of their own less dramatic spiritual experiences. Relatedly: if we “know with every fiber of our being” that something is true, I suppose we should go ahead and say it. But if not, we should never pretend. As Sister Wixom said in her talk during the most recent general conference, the ward should not be a place to “put on a perfect face.” If we present our true, honest selves, then those around us will feel comfortable being their true, honest selves. And it’s the true honest selves that the Lord loves, no matter what stage of spiritual progression we are at.

I believe that Jesus Christ lives and that he loves us. I believe that he loves us in spite of, and perhaps even because of, our faults and foibles. I believe he understands our struggles with faith, and expects each of us to travel a different road to redemption. My prayer is that we’ll treat each other with love, patience, and perspective as we travel our respective roads.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

What does it take to be a man?

"To Be A Man"

What does it take to be a man?
What does it take to see
It's all heart and soul
A gentle hand?
So easy to want and so hard to give
How can you be a man
'Till you see beyond the life you live?
Oh, what does it take to be a man?

We can be blind, but a man tries to see
It takes tenderness
For a man to be what he can be
And what does it mean
If you're weak or strong?
A gentle feelin'
can make it right or make it wrong
What does it take to be a man?

The will to give and not receive
The strength to say what you believe
The heart to feel what others feel inside
To see what they can see

A man is somethin' that's real
It's not what you are
It's what you can feel
It can't be too late
To look through the hate and see
I know that's what a man can be

(To Be A Man, Boston, From the Album Third Stage, October 20, 1986)

Monday, April 20, 2015

God in America

I loved the series PBS produced called "God in America". It outlines how religious life has developed over our 400 year history. It is still available to stream online. You should try it out.

My Evolving Understanding of Homosexuality

In 2008 I was asked to contribute to the passage of Prop 102 in AZ. I wrote then about how I could persuade someone without a reference to religious belief why they should vote in favor of it.

I had an acquaintance at work that is gay. We had extended chat sessions where I had to defend my views on marriage. I came to see the issue from a gay man's point of view. It affected me greatly.

At the time, I thought being gay was a choice. Probably the primary thing that turned this for me was a lecture by Emeritus professor William Bradshaw who visited Brigham Young University on Sept. 23, 2010 and delivered a lecture entitled "The Case For A Biological Origin of Homosexuality".

I was confused. All my life I had been told that gay was a choice. This lecture opened the possibility that it was not.

In December 2012 the church launched the website
"Where the Church stands: The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."

I have come to the same conclusion. I am not sure what causes homosexuality generally. From what I have heard it is not a choice.

I do believe strongly in traditional marriage. In the summer of 2014 I had heard of many of these secular arguments for traditional marriage. I think this site makes a good case the case for it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cheap Grace vs. Costly Grace

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

"Pride prefers cheap repentance, paid for with shallow sorrow" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Repentance", Oct 1991)
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing…. 
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins…. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God. 
Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin…. 
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. 
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. 
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. 
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 
On two separate occasions Peter received the call, “Follow me.” It was the first and last word Jesus spoke to his disciple (Mark 1.17; John 21.22). A whole life lies between these two calls. The first occasion was by the lake of Gennesareth, when Peter left his nets and his craft and followed Jesus at his word. The second occasion is when the Risen Lord finds him back again at his old trade. Once again it is by the lake of Gennesareth, and once again the call is: “Follow me.” Between the two calls lay a whole life of discipleship in the following of Christ. Half-way between them comes Peter’s confession, when he acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God…. 
This grace was certainly not self-bestowed. It was the grace of Christ himself, now prevailing upon the disciple to leave all and follow him, now working in him that confession which to the world must sound like the ultimate blasphemy, now inviting Peter to the supreme fellowship of martyrdom for the Lord he had denied, and thereby forgiving him all his sins. In the life of Peter grace and discipleship are inseparable. He had received the grace which costs, ("The Cost of Discipleship",  Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  pg. 45-49).

More quotes on cheap grace.

The Safety of the Train

We are more safe when we stay on the vehicle the Lord has revealed to us to bring us heaven on earth and us to heaven. 
Many of us take the blessings of the gospel for granted. It is as if we are passengers on the train of the Church, which has been moving forward gradually and methodically. Sometimes we have looked out the window and thought, “That looks kind of fun out there. This train is so restrictive.” So we have jumped off and gone and played in the woods for a while. Sooner or later we find it isn’t as much fun as Lucifer makes it appear or we get critically injured, so we work our way back to the tracks and see the train ahead. With a determined sprint we catch up to it, breathlessly wipe the perspiration from our forehead, and thank the Lord for repentance. 
While on the train we can see the world and some of our own members outside laughing and having a great time. They taunt us and coax us to get off. Some throw logs and rocks on the tracks to try and derail it. Other members run alongside the tracks, and while they may never go play in the woods, they just can’t seem to get on the train. Others try to run ahead and too often take the wrong turn. 
I would propose that the luxury of getting on and off the train as we please is fading. The speed of the train is increasing. The woods are getting much too dangerous, and the fog and darkness are moving in. 
Although our detractors might as well “stretch forth [their] puny arm[s] to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream” (D&C 121:33) as try to derail this train, they are occasionally successful in coaxing individuals off. With all the prophecies we have seen fulfilled, what great event are we awaiting prior to saying, “Count me in”? What more do we need to see or experience before we get on the train and stay on it until we reach our destination? It is time for a spiritual revival. It is time to dig down deep within ourselves and rekindle our own light. ("Spiritual Revival", Glenn L. Pace, Oct 1992)

The Parable of the Piano Practice

Following is the Parable of the Piano Practice as told by Brad Wilcox. I like it better than the Parable of the Bicycle in Believing Christ. Both have served to instruct me on the true roles of faith, works and grace in my personal salvation.

This is three parts of the talk put together so as to keep the parable concise. I recommend the whole talk in context. ("His Grace is Sufficient", BYU Devotional, Jul 12, 2011, Brad Wilcox, Ensign Sep 2013Youtube  )

(starting at 7:25)

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Transform Us

Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice. 
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane. 
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us. 
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original). 
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.
(ends 10:32) ... (starting 16:19)
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists. 

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Help Us

“But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven? 
Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.
(ends 19:10) ... (starting 22:31)
  When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).
(ends 22:31)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Next to the standard works...

This is a reference to some great LDS resources.
Next to the standard works five of the greatest documents in our literature are—
1. The “Wentworth Letter.” (SeeHistory of the Church, 4:535–41.) Written by the Prophet Joseph Smith, it contains an account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, of the organization of the Church in this dispensation, and of the persecutions suffered by the early Latter-day Saints. The thirteen Articles of Faith are part of this letter.
2. Lectures on Faith. These lectures were prepared by and under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith and were taught by him and by others in the School of the Prophets. The Prophet said they embraced “the important doctrine[s] of salvation” (Preface to D&C, 1835 ed.; reprint, Independence, Mo.: Herald House, 1971).
3. The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve. (See James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75], 5:26–34; see also 5:23–25.) This exposition sets forth the status and relationship of the Father and the Son, shows those ways in which Christ is the Father, and through its various recitations lays to rest the false and heretical view that Adam is our Father and our God.
4. The “King Follett Sermon” and the “Sermon in the Grove.” (SeeHistory of the Church, 6:302–17; 6:473–79.) These two sermons, one in thought and content, set forth the doctrine of the plurality of Gods and of becoming joint heirs with Christ. They show that man may become as his Maker and reign in celestial exaltation forever.
5. “The Origin of Man,” by the First Presidency of the Church. (See Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:200–206; see also 4:199.) This inspired writing sets forth the official position of the Church on the origin of man and therefore impinges on the evolutionary fantasies of biologists and their fellow travelers. As might be expected, it arouses great animosity among intellectuals whose testimonies are more ethereal than real."
(Bruce R. McConkie, "The Bible - A Sealed Book," )

Monday, April 06, 2015

We cannot earn our way into Heaven

"We cannot earn our way into Heaven"

"Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience. It is purchased by the blood of the Son of God."

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23
However, I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase, "after all we can do". We must understand that after does not equal because. We are not saved because of all that we can do.

Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we have expended every effort before he will intervene in our lives with his saving grace? 
(General Conference Apr 2015, Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

I like President Uchtdorf’s comments on grace in combination with Elder Wilford Anderson’s comments about hearing the music versus merely learning the dance steps. The two talks together nicely articulate why those of us who have felt the spirit (and continue to feel the spirit) do obey and rejoice in obeying. It is not because we feel we can purchase salvation by our works, but because the spirit moves us to obey because we trust God and love Him. (Comment at, Meg Stout, Apr 6, 2015)
FB thread discussing what our church has done to give a correct understanding of grace and works.

This fits perfectly with the parable of the piano practice as told by Brad Wilcox.

You Two Aren't All That Different

A great lesson from General Conference this weekend.
Some years ago, a wonderful young man named Curtis was called to serve a mission. He was the kind of missionary every mission president prays for. He was focused and worked hard. At one point, he was assigned a missionary companion who was immature, socially awkward and not particularly enthusiastic about getting the work done.  
One day, while riding their bicycles, Curtis looked back and saw that his companion had inexplicably gotten off his bike and was walking. Silently, Curtis expressed his frustration to God; what a chore it was to be saddled with a companion he had to drag around in order to accomplish anything. Moments later, Curtis had a profound impression, as if God were saying to him, "You know Curtis compared to me, the two of you aren't all that different." 
Curtis learned that he needed to be patient with an imperfect companion, who nonetheless was trying in his own way. ("Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying", Dale G. Renlund, Apr 2015)

Jesus was in the Ashes

The talk from Sister Wixom, Sunday morning is powerful. We ought to follow the example of the lady in the story. Question everything. Search, seek. I would hope that we all might have the support she had. Understanding. Non judgment. Support. Willing to accept whatever offering she was willing to give.

Her testimony was burned down. In the ashes Jesus was left. He is at the center of my testimony. The lady built her testimony on him. Primary songs do have such simple and powerful ideas. I love them and cherish them. She then built upon that with searching the new testament. She was then drawn to the Book of Mormon. There is no more powerful testimony of Jesus in the Book of Mormon.

The testimony of the lady grew bit by bit. She focused on what she knew. I imagine she plowed deep the soil of her soul. She prepared her own heart so that the seeds of the word of God would have room to root deeply in her soil. She nurtured and tended and watched carefully for signs that the seeds growing were good. She experienced the fruit after persistent and tender care.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Changed for Good

Last night we had a our first annual Copper Canyon ward talent show.

Beth and Kristine sang this song.

It reminds me of this scripture from our church history. Joseph Smith was instructing a school of the prophets.
 132 And when any shall come in after him, let the teacher arise, and, with uplifted hands to heaven, yea, even directly, salute his brother or brethren with these words: 
 133 Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen. (D&C 88:132-133
That we all may remain willing to accept the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and be changed for good.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Into the Woods

It has been over 4 years since my conversations with Randy.

Since then, I have had many long discussions with my dear friend Sam Meacham​. He went from being Mormon, to agnostic to atheist. I could tell he was doing it because he was following his conscience. What he thought was right and good and true.

I came to understand that faith can be complex. My faith started simply. I then grew and left childish things. I discarded some beliefs that I had taken for face value just because someone older and seemingly wiser knew them.

What is objectively true is very important. More important is what we believe to be true because, at critical times, it influences us more than the objective truth. How can we be sure that what we believe to be true is the objective truth? I am convinced that none of us have ever matched up completely. The earth used to be objectively flat. Comets used to be portends of destruction. We all see through dark, dark glasses. Trying to perceive what is real. I trust that someday we will see brightly.

I believe that the darkness we find ourselves in this life is by design. That we are supposed to try and figure out what is true and good and right. And then do our best to live by it. We are to dare greatly. To step out of the cocoons we grew up in. Out into the world into the woods. I trust that we will continue to have many adventures here. I look forward to them.

No One is Alone

Whether it be political, religious or family differences, we need to grow empathy for each other. We can retain our convictions our dearly held beliefs and still be kind to each other. I know that I have benefited from allowing myself to walk a while in another's shoes. Seeking first to understand them before I try to be understood.

I love the song "No One is Alone" from Into the Woods. To me, is says that we need to figure out what our side is. Instead of trying to see who's right and who is wrong, we need to have compassion. Recognize that our point of view may not be the only one with something valuable to give.

We need to figure out how to act like sisters and brothers with each other.

Someone is on your side
Jack, LRRH:
OUR side
Baker, Cinderella:
Our side--
Someone else is not
While we're seeing our side
Jack, LRRH:
Our side..
Baker, Cinderella:
Our side--
Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.
Hard to see the light now.
Just don't let it go
Things will come out right now.
We can make it so.
Someone is on your side
No one is alone.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Come, Flounder With Us

Since then my experience as a church member, or as a father and a husband, has been much the same. Never an unmixed success. Never a performance that I could feel I hadn’t unnecessarily tainted with sins of commission and omission. I am a shabby Mormon. These failures are better than successes elsewhere. I have found more joy making a hash of things in the gospel path than would be possible on any other path pursued however flawlessly. I mean that. 
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
C.S. Lewis, in Screwtape, showed us that the fear of death was harder to endure than death.
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for.” 
One of the themes of this blog is that failure is always an option. I would almost say that it is the only option. Come, flounder with us. ("Being a Mormon is Hard", Junior Ganymede, Nov, 4, 2013 )
My experience is the same as Junior Ganymede. I don't think highly of my experience on my mission. I attribute nearly all of my success since to my wonderful wife who has inspired, and and times, prodded me in the way I knew was healthiest for me to go.

The last paragraph above contains a point that should not be missed. I think this life is designed for us to fail. I think that is the primary test for each of us. In the infinite variety of strengths and weaknesses were are all gifted with, the greatest is the opportunity to act in relation to our failure.

Will we, like my deepest tendency is, attempt to hide until we have fully overcome our most shameful attributes? Or instead, will we forge ahead and decide that we cannot be what we want to be, what the Lord has said we can be, without his hand.

Like Peter faltered so do we all. It is only through the hand of the Lord and the loving word of chastisement that we both receive his grace and recognize our failings and can therefore begin our work to overcome them, hand in hand with the Lord.

We must be willing to dare greatly and be the (wo)man in the arena. Not waiting until we are bullet-proof. Letting others see us, and hopefully join with us in a heavenly quest of evolving, growing, becoming like God.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

When Knowledge Conquered Fear

The story of Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton and how scientific knowledge becomes the master over fear. Comets went from omens of destruction in every known culture to objects of wonder.

"When Knowledge Conquered Fear" Episode 3, 23 Mar. 2014, imdb

Power of Covenants

What is the power of covenants?

It is that we have made a promise to God.
- We cannot lie to God
- We know that God is perfectly merciful
- We know that God is perfectly just

What covenant is the most powerful? Is it the sacrament?