22 11 / 2013
Just three days before Thanksgiving, most people are busy doing their shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, taking advantage of all of the sales, and finalizing travel plans.
That’s part of the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season, and it doesn’t seem to end until New Year’s.
Most people don’t realize that November 22, 2013 is more than just “The Friday before Thanksgiving.”
November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.
On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was gunned down in his motorcade while his wife, Jackie, sat next to him.
On that day, all of America mourned.
Fifty years later, President Kennedy’s leadership, life, politics, and assassination are still of interest to many politicians, historians, and writers all over the nation, and his words have inspired generations of people.
When people think about President Kennedy, they automatically remember his appeal to the nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Short, but profound.
But I would like to commemorate the speech Mr. Kennedy didn’t get to deliver in Dallas on that fateful day.
Here’s the link to his full speech.
But I would like to share a snippet that spoke to me:
This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason —- or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.
There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.
I am a high school teacher, and this year, I’ve had a difficult time finding the silver lining in the teaching field.
The more I teach, the more the flaws in our American educational system become apparent, and it is incredibly frustrating to constantly hit a brick wall, and not be heard.
It seems that the “lights of learning and reason” are being dimmed. I certainly feel like my light is. I’ve been feeling like a failure as a teacher, and I feel like I’m powerless. It seems as though there are obstacles that I cannot overcome at the moment.
I’ve given serious thought to doing something else. Maybe something outside of the classroom. I’ve even considered just switching careers altogether because I feel like the rose-colored glasses about my career field have come off.
I want so badly to believe that it’s a refiner’s fire, that Heavenly Father is taking me through this for a reason, but…I’ve struggled spiritually, too.
But, through all of my doubts, I am determined to be thankful.
I am thankful for my job because I know that there’s a reason why I’m here.
I am thankful for my Savior because I have had to call on Jesus more than ever.
I am thankful for tender mercies.
I am thankful for my family and friends.
I am thankful for flaws and for imperfections.
I am thankful to know that my Father in Heaven and His Son live.
I am thankful for the great leaders this country has had, past, and present.
I am thankful for the Holy Spirit because he brings me peace.
On this day, November 22, 2013, three days before Thanksgiving, on the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, on the day that his beautiful, confident speech was undelivered, I am just…thankful.
21 11 / 2013
23 10 / 2013
So, in the Bloggernacle, specifically on By Common Consent, there’s a link to this article about former Brigham Young University professor, Professor Lynne Wilder, who just published a new book entitled: Unveiling Grace. From what I’ve heard about it in reviews, it’s been received fairly well, and mainly by audiences who are wary or lack understanding of, the worship practices and doctrine of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I’m all for freedom of religion. I’m not persecuting her for choosing her own path to Heavenly Father and her own way of worshiping. I completely understand and respect that. So, let me just say this to those members out there who are bashing her and sending her hate mail and have bashed her in the past: Y’all need to stop it. How are we supposed to spread the gospel when we have ugliness and hatred in our hearts? How can we possibly say that we love Christ and then hate our neighbor? So, for your own sakes…and souls…stop it.
Is it sad when one of our brothers or sisters decides to leave the Church? Yes, of course it is, but, we should gladly wish them well and still show love and respect. You can’t be commanded by our Savior to show love while harboring hate and contention, which, we’re reminded, is “of the devil.” So, turn yo’ devilish heart back to Jesus! And in case y’all still didn’t know, the whole ”No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24) thing also covers self-righteous indignation, judgment and hypocrisy cloaked in “defending the faith.”
While we’re on still not knowing stuff, I’m going to address the other matter which has caused LDS people to be a little offended and somewhat baffled.
In the article, reporter Heather Clark cited Professor Wilder’s son, Micah’s, conclusion about Mormon doctrine concerning grace: “He announced to his fellow Mormon missionaries that he did not believe that men are saved by the works that Mormons require, and was sent home as “unworthy” to be a missionary. Just days later, Micah began serving a Christian organization in missions instead.”
Later in the article, Professor Wilder went on to say, “Mormons don’t revere the cross. They see it as an instrument of death, not the place where Christ became the savior,” she stated. “[I]f I was caught, I would be called in by my superiors and lose the ecclesiastical clearance I needed to work there.”
In her book (and this is based on what I’ve read, I haven’t had the occasion to read her book yet), Professor Wilder presents a rather curious version of pivotal points of Mormon beliefs.
Granted, her experience may be significant because of the concentration of members in Utah and it’s our headquarters, so to speak, but I do feel like Professor Wilder’s assessment of LDS beliefs and doctrine are a misrepresentation and seem to me more like perhaps much of her understanding of the doctrine was shaped by the culture of “Living in Utah” or being “A Mormon from Utah.”
So, in case y’all still didn’t know…
1. Latter-Day Saints are Christians: We absolutely, 100% believe that Jesus Christ is our eternal, loving Savior, and that his grace, through the Atonement, washes us clean from our sins. I am a Christian because I’m a follower of Christ. He is my Savior and my best friend. He makes me better, and I strive to live his teachings everyday. We are Christians. We follow Christ’s teachings. We testify and preach of Christ. We serve and spread his gospel so that others can taste the sweet peace that it brings. Jesus healed me. His gospel healed me. I was going through some stuff, and when I joined the Church, and accepted his gospel, and began to understand that Jesus is my Savior, I found peace and happiness and joy that I’ve never felt before. It was awesome. The Book of Mormon truly testifies of the Savior. I love my Savior so much. It is such a beautiful comfort knowing that in the midst of my storm, all I have to do is call on Jesus. It’s powerful, it’s real…it’s Christianity.
2. Latter-Day Saints do not believe that men are saved by works: We do believe that we must also do our parts, not because we feel the need to earn our grace, but because we are following the Savior’s righteous example of preaching the gospel through works as well as through words. During his mortal ministry, Jesus didn’t just sit back and say “Okay, peeps, I came to earth…I think we’re good here. I’m just gonna rest my noodle ‘til it’s time for me to go to the cross.” No, he worked. He ministered, he healed, he cast our demons, he fed the poor and hungry, he preached and lived the message Heavenly Father sent him to earth to give us, his children. He was to us a righteous example of faith and grace in action.
In summary, Latter-Day Saints believe that we will be judged of our works at the judgment bar by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ because the scriptures say, “Faith without works is dead,” and we are commanded to follow Christ, love and serve others, and live a life that yields sweet fruit that’s pleasing before the Lord so that when we meet him he will usher us in and say “Well done, my good, and faithful servant.”
LDS promote missionary work and service to others, as well as doing ordinances for our kindred dead in temples so that we can live by the Savior’s example. Our works aren’t to make us “good” on an individual level, but to help be a showing of the love of Christ. It takes more than words sometimes to express the good, awesome news of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. We live that. This is not a contest or a showcase of how “good” or “righteous” we are when we serve. If that were the case, then Jesus would be like FACEPALM: FAIL! To do it for our own glory instead of for the Savior’s glory is to lose our very souls.
Our grace, our freedom from sin, was freely given to us by Jesus Christ when he atoned for us on the cross. There aren’t enough “good works” we can do to absolve ourselves from our filthy, sinful, flesh. Jesus Christ is our mediator and advocate to the Father.
3. Latter-Day Saints revere and worship Jesus Christ who atoned for our sins on the cross: Professor Wilder is correct in that you will not find the cross in any of our buildings and she’s correct that you will not find many Latter-Day Saints wearing crosses. This is not because we don’t see or recognize that the cross is ”…the place where Christ became the savior…” We fully recognize and testify that Jesus Christ became our Savior when he suffered both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. We fully recognize that Jesus’ Atonement made and makes him our eternal Savior. We worship and revere Jesus as our Savior because of that selfless, powerful act on the cross. We do not revere the cross because during ancient times, crucifixion was a common and most humiliating method of public execution. It is a symbol of death, yes. Of many deaths, most notably and significantly, Christ’s death. It is an object. Christ’s actions on the cross is what we revere, not the object itself. In the context that Professor Wilder describes, she makes it seem as though we just discard it altogether, and this is not the case. We focus on his role as the Son of God, our Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, and atoner for our sins. We focus on the resurrection and eternal body he gained after the crucifixion. Revering the cross is shortsighted because the cross, as an object, did not make Jesus our Savior. His atonement on the cross made and makes him our Savior. So, she is correct: the cross is not our main object or symbol of worship. The action on the cross is what we revere most. Yes, the cross is pivotal and made sacred because of the act, but our revelry and worship is given to our Savior.
4. Latter-Day Saints believe in the Bible: “[‘]I read my Bible, sometimes hours a day, and truly felt I was being washed,” Wilder explained. “In its pages, I met a Jesus who was able to save me from my life of working to be ‘good.’” Professor Wilder discusses her conclusion that Latter-Day Saints believe that the Bible is corrupted and implies in this quote that the Bible isn’t frequently read and used, and that it’s overshadowed by the Book of Mormon. This is not true of Latter-Day Saints. We believe and uphold the Bible as God’s true, eternal word, insofar as it is translated correctly. This is not a rejection of the Bible. Not. At. All. This simply means that we have chosen the King James Version and use this, along with the Joseph Smith Translation to help us better understand and expound on the scriptures, just as Joseph and Emma Smith were called upon by the Lord to do. This is not a rejection. We love the Bible, and it complements The Book of Mormon. Together, they both testify of the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Together, they testify of the constant grace and mercy they’ve shown us through millennia. Together, along with the other scriptures in our cannon, they help us to further understand Heavenly Father’s plan. By faith, we receive the words in the scriptures and revelation by the Holy Ghost. Latter-Day Saints read and study from The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. All are the word of God, and all are sacred to us.
5. Church history is as beautiful as it is sometimes ugly: “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question…” (New York Times) Deiter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency acknowledged in this past 183rd General Conference of the Church. He went on to say, “First, doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs.” Does the Church have a rocky history? Absolutely. What Church or religion doesn’t? Yes, we’ve made some mistakes, but that’s why our Church is led by revelation, so that Heavenly Father can answer our questions and lead is in the right direction as his children. Uchtdorf also said that we should love those while in their doubts and always leave a place for them in the Church. I agree with him when he said we should respect those who earnestly search for truth. Our Church history strengthens my faith and helps me to seek Heavenly Father for answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. He has given me so much clarity and strengthened my faith tremendously.
I assure you, this is not written in a spirit of accusation, nor is it a condemnation of Professor Wilder, or her experience. In the spirit of education, I just wanted to take the time to clarify, as a member of the Church, the misrepresentations that I feel she is spreading with her book. I’m not saying that she wasn’t taught these things, and I am in no way diminishing her experience in the LDS faith. Experience is what makes this mortal life interesting, after all.
I just feel that as an educator myself (high school English teacher, note the paragraphs and citations), that it is our job to present both sides of the coin and be seekers and promotors of truth. It is our duty, I dare say calling, to expound, and to clarify even if our experience with that particular topic is a negative one. I value Professor Wilder’s experience, as I value the experience of others who leave or join the Church. We all have a story to tell, but, that experience shouldn’t be a paint brush. Her experience shouldn’t be the end all of our faith. Her experience and her conclusions are not representative of our faith and doctrine, so far as I’ve been taught, and testified to by the Spirit.
I’m glad that Professor Wilder and her family found what they were looking for in another Church, I’m just sorry that she’s misrepresenting many pivotal aspects of our faith, and I’m also sorry that she faced such cruel criticism from friends and family over her decision. I believe that her narrative and testimony are genuine, and I can almost feel the hurt she must have experienced during that time. I do not believe that her intentions are malicious…perhaps to sensationalize, maybe, but I don’t think she’s made it her life’s mission to discredit or bash the Church. She was honest, it seemed, in her pursuit of truth. I get the sense that her journey was and still is a deeply personal one.
I’ve never been to Utah, so her experience with the LDS faith might have been shaped by other factors that I don’t know of at this time because I have not had the occasion to read her book. However, I do believe that she opens herself up for debate over her conclusions about our doctrine that are misrepresentations or misinterpretations. I’m sure that she’s prepared, as she’s a professor. I completely understand how important preparedness is in academia.
I hope that Professor Wilder and her family are happy, and I hope that they continue to be seekers of truth.
To conclude, in case y’all still didn’t know, I believe in my heart that this gospel, as I’ve been taught and testified to by the Spirit, is true. I believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I believe that God is my loving, merciful Father in heaven and that he’s aware of me and that I can know him and the Savior personally.
I leave this with you all in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
19 10 / 2013
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08 10 / 2013
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10 8 / 2013