I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mormons and Caffeine: Do You Dew?

People often find Mormons puzzling for many reasons. One issue that keeps coming up is caffeinated drinks. No one understands why we shun tea and coffee but imbibe caffeine in other forms like Pepsi, Coke and, especially, Mountain Dew.

Apparently, Mountain Dew is big in Utah. From the Salt Lake Tribune, "Any good Mormons drink caffeinated sodas? I 'Dew,' says Dew devotee":
Utah has such a strong Mountain Dew following, he says, that the Beehive State typically is one of three or four stops on the nationwide Dew Tour.
Recently, Jorgensen, a Salt Lake City native and practicing Mormon, was selected to be one of the head “consumer creators” of the Dew's newest flavor, White Out, featured in a couple of national commercials. Look for him at the end of the “Here's to the Loud” commercial.
The commercial is embedded below:



The Church's position comes from modern scripture known as "The Word of Wisdom." Hot drinks are specifically prohibited. Modern Church leaders have defined this as tea and coffee. Caffeine is not mentioned.


Current scientific knowledge causes Mormons to extrapolate that caffeine should be shunned as well. So, although you will find some Mormons indulging, others have strong feelings on the matter. Former Utah Governor Olene S. Walker is reputed to have told comedian Bill Cosby:
Caffeine is fine as long as it’s cold.
This quote can be found in "Dews & don't: Yes, Mormons can drink caffeine" also from The Salt Lake Tribune.

My family is not immune to this controversy. A family member, who shall remain nameless, once exclaimed to another family member, who also shall remain nameless, "You let him put Devil Water in your refrigerator?!"


Devil Water=Mountain Dew


I'll just close by saying this is one controversy I want to stay out of.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Are We Really That Far Apart?

After high school graduation,  I was working in a department store in a somewhat distant city. It necessitated a long bus ride. One afternoon after my shift, I boarded the bus and was greeted by a classmate I hadn't seen for nearly two years. We chatted on the way back home. Two things had changed about her.


1. She was breathtakingly gorgeous. Since high school she had lost any excess weight and she had grown her hair long. Her attire had also grown more feminine. Her beauty was natural and totally without makeup. She now put any of the former beauty queens, and acknowledged high school beauties, to absolute shame. I'm not going to mention her name. My former classmates are free to speculate on her identity.


2. She had joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't know if she had been religious before her conversion to this faith, but I'm certain she wasn't Mormon during high school.


On the trip home we inevitably started discussing religion. She was a biblical scholar. I was impressed.


She seemed intent on proving some things to me. We discussed amicably a couple of points. Shifting to a different subject, she found a passage in the Bible, read it to me, and asked me what it meant. I wasn't immediately able to place the passage in my mind. I said, "Let me read it in context and I'll tell you what I think it means." She handed me the book and I spent a few moments reading the verses before and after the passage. I handed it back to her and told her what I thought it meant.


She looked stunned for a moment and then said, "Yes, that's exactly what it means."


Maybe we are not really so far apart after all.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

". . . after the cattle have waded in it . . ."

“I don’t know much about the gospel other than what I’ve learned from the standard works. When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it . . . I appreciate other people’s interpretation, but when it comes to the gospel we ought to be acquainted with what the Lord says and we ought to read it.” Marion G. Romney, address given at Seminary and Institute of Religion Coordinators’ Convention, 3 Apr. 1973, p. 5.
Many years ago, I decided to start an ambitious scripture study program. I got out all the seminary manuals, institute manuals and scripture commentary items our home library contained. I had them all spread out on my bed and was writing up my plan of attack.


As I surveyed my collection, I suddenly felt overwhelmed.


As I considered my dilemma a bit more, I thought to myself, "I"m not studying the scriptures. I'm studying commentary." I put all the other items away and decided to concentrate on the scriptures alone.


I decided that it was probably okay to supplement my study occasionally with Institute manuals. After all, they were being revamped to make the scriptures the primary study focus anyway.


I've never regretted my decision. Later, I came across the above quote by Marion G. Romney. It has remained a favorite. I comfort myself with the notion that I'm getting water from the source.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Ghetto Cinema for White People"


In prior postings I've covered movies made by Mormons for Mormons and movies made by the Church. I'm not sure what to call the list by Time. The article entitled, "10 Memorable Depictions of Mormons in Pop Culture" contains the most bizarre list I've ever seen. It spans from 1887 to the present day. Some selections, like "Big Love," do not accurately profile Mormons at all but ancient off-shoots. If modern polygamists are off-shoot splinter Mormons then Lutherans are off-shoot splinter Catholics. Time probably cares little about accuracy though.

Pride & Prejudice, formerly titled Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-day Comedy, is probably one of the more well-known efforts. I've embedded the trailer above if you are unfamiliar with the movie. Time notes that it is available on Amazon but not Netflix. I found it on Netflix though, so much for Time accuracy. Time notes:
They earn more at the box office than most American independent features but are rarely reviewed by secular critics;
It goes on to describe this type of Mormon fare as "ghetto cinema for white people." Maybe the name will catch on. One can only guess.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Issue That Never Goes Away: Women in the Church

Sometimes I point out to people that if women were really devalued in the Church then one of the most outraged should be me. With a Ph.D. in management, albeit public management, shouldn't I be a prime candidate for leadership?


So, how come I'm not miffed?


Well, it's complicated. Isn't it always? This issue is once again in the news. Michael Otterson addresses it in The Washington PostJana Reiss has to air her views and, of course, The Salt Lake Tribune must enter the fray.


Question: Why doesn't anyone express any outrage as to why men aren't allowed to do specific jobs completely reserved for women in the Church? Answer: Because the men are assumed to do jobs that are superior to that reserved for women. In my opinion, THAT view is what is really sexist.


In fact, God is sexist. He must be. Why else would He only make women capable of bearing children instead of both men and women?


Look at it another way. Heavenly Father reserves different roles for men and women. Our current, secular society, values the men's roles higher than the women's roles. However, that does NOT mean Heavenly Father values them differently.


In fact, the roles are (drum roll) "separate but equal." Oh great, that argument is just going to build me legions of fans. . . 


If Mormons truly value all callings as equal, and simply as opportunities to serve, why do we even have this discussion? Answer: Because even Mormons don't really believe that a nursery leader's status is on par with a that of a stake president. We are captives of our secular society values that tarnish our religious beliefs.


Maybe it is the way in which it is phrased, "Would you prefer to be a co-creator with Heavenly Father in bringing new life into this world? Or, would you like to be an administrator?" If it is phrased like that, I'll take co-creator any day.


Let's start calling our Church leaders "bureaucrats" instead of "leaders" or "managers." That makes it sound much less desirable.


I'm a 7th generation Utah Mormon, born, raised and educated. If the system is so repressive, how did the system create me? I exist. Something has to explain me.


In fact, the core belief in Mormondom is that our ultimate goal is the highest echelon of the Celestial Kingdom. Interestingly enough, men cannot make it there without women and women cannot make it there without men, as equal partners.


That's right, I can make it there without being a Bishop, Branch President, Stake President, Seventy, Apostle or even President of the Church! In fact, I am not kept from anything necessary for my eventual advancement even if I NEVER hold any supposed position of responsibility in this life.


Is that supposed to comfort me? I guess it will have to, me and other women.  I think I'll just sit in my cushy, comfortable seat in the Relief Society Room and reflect on it. That is the special room, exclusively for women in meetinghouses, that is always more comfortable and elaborate than the fold-up chairs men place in a corner where they have to meet.


What was that about equality again?


I think the kicker is that the men's responsibilities, like Bishop and Stake President, have personal glory involved. Okay, so I'm denied personal glory. Wait a minute, isn't that what Satan was after in the premortal life?


Okay, if I had the vaunted corner office in Mormondom, would I start acting brain damaged? Modern science suggests I would. In Mormondom we call it "unrighteous dominion" though.


A sister in one of our church congregations complained to my husband that her husband, not a member yet, told her he thought Mormon women should be docile and pointed to what he thought were examples of docility in our Mormon congregation. My husband's rejoinder: "He can't say that about MY wife."


My husband actually likes having a smart, capable woman as a spouse. What's wrong with him? Nothing, in my opinion. The second time around, General Authorities also seem to prefer smart, capable women too.


I'll close for now. There are simply too many tangents and too little time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"that you may chase darkness from among you . . ."

John Blake in "My Faith: A reluctant churchgoer 'gets the Holy Ghost'"for CNN recounts his experience with religion, as a child and then as an adult.
Sunday worship at a black Baptist church wasn’t just long. It was scary. Elderly women who “got the Holy Ghost” during worship would thrash so violently in the pews that their wigs flew off. People shouted, wept and fainted.
This Sunday service started off no differently. But as the frenzy of the worship intensified, an invisible switch seemed to click on. A wave of heat rippled through the congregation as people beside me threw up their arms and shouted.
The scene Blake describes is not unusual, or unique, to this church or this time period. Similar experiences occurred in early L.D.S. (Mormon) congregations. This was a spiritual phenomena, our early Church leaders did not know how to interpret, or deal with. After divine inquiry, a revelation was received that is now D&C 50. From Church history:
The Lord began by acknowledging that there were many “false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world” ( D&C 50:2–3 ) and that Satan was seeking to deceive the people that he might overthrow them. Therefore the Lord gave the brethren a key by which they could detect and deal with evil spirits:
“Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.
“And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit; and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God” ( D&C 50:31–32 ).
It is disconcerting to think that spirits are either from God or the devil and we must determine the source. However, we have guidance, especially from D&C 50. In verse 23 it tells us:
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
A contrasting example can be found in Joseph Smith's First Vision where he was visited by God The Father and His Son Jesus Christ.


Blake later experienced a different spiritual phenomena, much more characteristic of a spiritual phenomena from God, that he also describes in his article:

One night after he had decided never to go back to church he had an unusual experience:
I bolted awake, tears streaming down my face. I was on my back, right arm over my closed eyes, but I squinted anyway because I felt as if I were looking directly into the sun.
I felt a presence within that light. I was crying because I had never felt so exposed. This light seemed to bore through me, revealing my most sordid deeds, my inadequacies and my fears. I felt like an insect.
Despite that feeling of shame, I felt something even more powerful: love. It seemed as though this presence, something as immense as the universe, was telling me that I was accepted.
What do you do with such an experience? Was it a dream, a breakdown, youthful foolishness? I don’t know. But that moment changed me. I couldn’t quit. I had encountered something else besides my aunt that wouldn’t abandon me.
For Mormons, a story such as this is better left to oneself or shared with a handful of trusted family or friends. Why? Because things such as this are sacred experiences of personal truth.


Blake took a big risk in sharing such a precious and personal story with a broad audience. It invites contempt, criticism and derision. He's getting all of this in the comments' section.


I can only applaud Blake for his honesty, his candor and his confidence. Ultimately, I hope he finds the deeper meaning he seeks.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We Will Take "Creed"

David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, writes in "Creed or Chaos" about moral absolutism, a subject I addressed a short while ago. The incentive for his subject comes from seeing the Broadway play, The Book of Mormon


He addresses Mormons specifically in this statement and illustrates how effective our Word of Wisdom can ultimately be. This is something most Mormons couldn't normally articulate this well.
Rigorous codes of conduct allow people to build their character. Changes in behavior change the mind, so small acts of ritual reinforce networks in the brain. A Mormon denying herself coffee may seem like a silly thing, but regular acts of discipline can lay the foundation for extraordinary acts of self-control when it counts the most.
He punctuates this with what he personally observed in a visit:
I was once in an AIDS-ravaged village in southern Africa. The vague humanism of the outside do-gooders didn’t do much to get people to alter their risky behavior. The blunt theological talk of the church ladies — right and wrong, salvation and damnation — seemed to have a better effect. 
I doubt David Brooks knows much about Mormons or our beliefs. If most of his information has come from this play, then I'm certain he has a distorted understanding of us. Nevertheless, I do think his ideas in this column back up our fundamental belief structure of moral absolutism.



He notes:
The only problem with “The Book of Mormon” (you realize when thinking about it later) is that its theme is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False.
He continues:
The religions that thrive have exactly what “The Book of Mormon” ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.
 Absolute truth. Thank you David.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Illegal Immigrants: What Happens When the Church Deals With Individuals?

I'm getting a little tired of this issue. It seems that most commentary I read now simply further confuses the issue rather than clarifying it. My prior posts were well-researched and heartfelt.

Past Postings on Immigration Issues:

The crucial legal issues are not well-understood by most people or most commentators. I consider them the following:

1. The Constitution gives immigration jurisdiction to the federal government not the states.
2. The Church should not, and cannot, be an enforcement arm for immigration laws.
3. The Church should not be held "legally liable" for enforcing immigration laws.

Okay, so how do local Church leaders deal with illegal immigrants? I'll tell you what I know, which isn't much.

In one of my single adult congregations there was a former student who had initially entered legally on a student visa from Japan, but had since become an illegal immigrant. My roommate, a student here legally, told me he was illegal. I asked her if our local Church leader knew he was illegal. She said, "Yes."

Had the INS come to my door and asked me if I knew where he was I would have told them where he lived. Apparently, INS had approached others in the area asking for information about him. What did local Church leaders do? I have no idea. I even contemplated turning him in myself but had no idea how to do it at the time.

The only other case I knew of occurred much later in about 2002. There was a family of illegals attending our congregation. I asked the local Church leader if he knew they were illegal. He indicated that he did and it was obvious he was troubled by it. He also indicated that Church leaders were working with them. What ultimately happened? Church leaders helped this family return to Mexico, financially and logistically.

I know of no other illegal immigrants in any of my congregations in Utah or any other state I have lived in, and I'm old . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

But Should We?

Since this is my blog, I moderate comments and determine whether I allow them to be published or not. Truthfully, I allow nearly everything. The only comments I've disallowed are ones which tend to be inflammatory and consist mostly of personal, emotionally based, attacks. If there is enough substance to react to, I'll react to the comments on the basis of merit and ignore the personal attacks.


There were a couple of strong reactions to the following posts:
Sgt. Calvin Gibbs: How Mormon Is He?
Response to "Thoughtful Christian" Concerning Sgt. Calvin Gibbs 10/05/10



A few took issue with my examining how "Mormon" someone was, in this case, Calvin Gibbs. This initially puzzled me because these examinations are rather commonplace in Mormondom.


We often examine how Mormon someone is by looking at indicators. This is very similar to how you might evaluate whether someone is a good student in school. You might look at attendance, enthusiasm, participation, grades, etc.


Mormons tend to look at whether someone is actively attending, holds callings (volunteer church positions), temple-worthy, etc.


Although I didn't feel I could allow these comments to be published on this blog the question of whether we Mormons should be evaluating fellow Mormons in this manner is certainly worth examining.


This examination has to be done by our lay church leaders for a number of good reasons. Lay church leaders hold positions only temporarily. We all tend to cycle in and out of these positions. I'm thinking this is where the tendency to examine fellow Mormons comes from.


I'd have to say though, that this tendency probably isn't healthy for Mormons. Reactions from those outside the Church suggests it can be deeply offensive.


Perhaps it is time to rethink this practice . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You're Right, It Doesn't Look Medieval

Occasionally, I've been able to show people what one of our meetinghouses looks like. Usually, when I ask them what they think, they say, "It looks . . . modern."


I don't know if that is bad or good. I suspect they are saying it doesn't look like a typical church which usually means it does not look medieval.


You won't find leaders, or choirs, in any type of robes either. Attire is modern. Leaders wear suits and ties and look like businessmen.


We don't have a lot of religious relics or symbols around either. Decoration is usually just framed paintings or prints. There will be bulletin boards with announcements, flyers and other information, though.


Access, "What You Will Find When You Step Inside a Mormon Chapel," to find an explanatory narrative.
A common misperception among those not of the Mormon faith is that only Latter-day Saints can enter their chapels. This is most likely based on a misunderstanding about temples and chapels. While temples, of which there are 151 (including existing ones and those announced or under construction) worldwide, are open only to members of the Church who are fully engaged in their faith, anyone can enter a Mormon chapel to visit or worship with their Latter-day Saint neighbors. There are over 17,000 chapels throughout the world.
If you want more, then take a virtual tour of a typical meethinghouse. Feel free to visit any meetinghouse. For locations and times enter information on L.D.S. Maps and it will direct you to one close to you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Church is NOT a Cult

Definitions for "cult" vary all over the map. The most standardized definition, if there is one, is the following taken from Dictionary.com:
a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, orextremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
By this definition, the only thing that would make the Church a cult would be "unorthodox" by the world's standards. "False" is a relative term and entirely open to interpretation. Mormons live in conventional society and not outside of it. We don't have a particular charismatic leader either although President Monson is our prophet.


Dr. James T. Richardson is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies and Director, Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He specializes in religion, especially new ones.  He recently wrote, "My Take: Rethinking the word 'cult'" for CNN. Below are some highlights.
The term cult became a social weapon against unpopular religious groups, new or old.
So it’s clear that the application of the term cult has become a battleground, and that those opposing the spread of new religious movements have won the war over how to designate them.
But more and more courts have recognized that members of so-called cults have the same rights as other believers. I hope ordinary people are coming around to that point of view, too – and that they begin to rethink the term “cult.”
Clearly the term, "cult" has been used as a social weapon against Mormons. I suggest people take Dr. Richardson's advice and rethink the term's use. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

More Than 10 Percent


Series on Tithing
Tithing is 10 Percent of "Income" Cash or Otherwise
Tithe the Firstlings Not The Leftovers
"Money and Bank Accounts Are Not His Richest Blessings"
The Richest Blessings
More Than 10 Percent



In my lead posting to this series on tithing, I quoted from a recent survey amongst evangelical leaders that says:
. . . according to the February Evangelical Leaders Survey, most evangelical leaders do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe. The survey showed that 58 percent do not believe the Bible requires a tithe, while 42 percent do.
I would be doing our Evangelical friends a disservice if I didn't cover more of what was said in reaction to this survey. Mormons can certainly learn from them:
Alan Robinson of the Brethren in Christ Church said, “. . .  it is my view that Christian generosity will, at a minimum, reflect the Old Testament requirements of the law and should, in fact, greatly exceed it.”

David Neff, Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today, added, “Anything less [than 10 percent] seems like an ungenerous response to God.”

Although most leaders do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe, the overwhelming majority, 95 percent, indicated that they give at least 10 percent.

Jerry Dykstra of the Christian Reformed Church in North America who believes tithing is required and indicated that he tithes said, “If folks actually tithed, churches would not know what to do with the money.”
From "Evangelical leaders differ on tithing from church members" from The Denver Post:
. . . Brady Boyd, senior pastor at Colorado Springs- based New Life Church.
Jesus didn't command us to tithe, Boyd said, but neither did he countermand it. In fact, he said, Jesus told people to go way beyond tithing.
"Jesus taught a lot about money — more than he taught on prayer," Boyd said.
And Jesus certainly didn't tell people to hang on to their wealth.
"Here's what I teach at New Life: Live below your means, and lead a generous life," Boyd said. "It's a great joy to give."
From "Most Evangelical Leaders Say Tithe Not Required By Bible" in The Christian Post:
Dr. Kurt Fredrickson, director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., said the language he is increasingly hearing among pastors is whole life stewardship.
"It is about how do we give our whole selves to God, which includes money of course, but also our time and gifts," said Frederickson, who was a pastor for 24 years. "I like David Neff's comment ... there is certainly the sense that the way we spend our money says an awful lot about who we are as a person."
The Fuller professor pointed to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, who gave away more of his income as he earned more and kept his living standard the same. He ended up giving away about 90 percent of his money and living on 10 percent.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Richest Blessings



Series on Tithing
Tithing is 10 Percent of "Income" Cash or Otherwise
Tithe the Firstlings Not The Leftovers
"Money and Bank Accounts Are Not His Richest Blessings"
The Richest Blessings
More Than 10 Percent



In his recent General Conference address, "The Lord’s Richest Blessings" by Elder Carl B. Pratt addresses tithing by telling a story of his grandparents. He draws the following implications:
I have come to understand that the Lord’s richest blessings are spiritual, and they often have to do with family, friends, and the gospel. He often seems to give the blessing of a special sensitivity to the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, especially in marriage and family matters like raising children. Such spiritual sensitivity can help us enjoy the blessings of harmony and peace in the home. President James E. Faust suggested that the payment of tithing is “an excellent insurance against divorce” (“Enriching Your Marriage,” Liahona, Apr. 2007, 5; Ensign, Apr. 2007, 7).
The payment of tithing helps us develop a submissive and humble heart and a grateful heart that tends to “confess … his hand in all things” (D&C 59:21). Tithe-paying fosters in us a generous and forgiving heart and a charitable heart full of the pure love of Christ. We become eager to serve and bless others with an obedient heart, submissive to the Lord’s will. Regular tithe payers find their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ strengthened, and they develop a firm, abiding testimony of His gospel and of His Church. None of these blessings are monetary or material in any way, but surely they are the Lord’s richest blessings.
This is an impressive list:
Spiritual Sensitivity
Submissiveness
Humble Heart
Gratitude
Generosity
Forgiveness
Charity
Eagerness to Serve
Obedient
Faithfulness
Strong Testimony

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Money and Bank Accounts Are Not His Richest Blessings"

Series on Tithing
Tithing is 10 Percent of "Income" Cash or Otherwise
Tithe the Firstlings Not The Leftovers
"Money and Bank Accounts Are Not His Richest Blessings"
The Richest Blessings
More Than 10 Percent


In his recent General Conference address, "The Lord’s Richest Blessings" by Elder Carl B. Pratt addresses tithing by telling a story of his grandparents. He draws the following implications:
There is a possibility of misinterpretation in this story from my grandparents. We might conclude that since we pay tithing with money, the Lord will always bless us with money. I tended to think that way as a child. I have since learned it doesn’t necessarily work that way. The Lord promises blessings to those who pay their tithing. He promises to “open … the windows of heaven, and pour … out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). I testify that He fulfills His promises, and if we faithfully pay our tithing, we will not lack for the necessities of life, but He does not promise wealth. Money and bank accounts are not His richest blessings. He blesses us with wisdom to manage our limited material resources, wisdom that enables us to live better with 90 percent of our income than with 100 percent. Thus, faithful tithe payers understand provident living and tend to be more self-reliant.
There seems to be an unwritten belief in Mormondom that those whom God loves he gives money to. If this is true then obviously some very unworthy people are being "blessed."


Then again, perhaps it is just some peoples' way of justifying their materialism.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tithe the Firstlings Not The Leftovers

Series on Tithing
Tithing is 10 Percent of "Income" Cash or Otherwise
Tithe the Firstlings Not The Leftovers
"Money and Bank Accounts Are Not His Richest Blessings"
The Richest Blessings
More Than 10 Percent


In his recent General Conference address, "The Lord’s Richest Blessings" by Elder Carl B. Pratt addresses tithing by telling a story of his grandparents. He draws the following implications:
The next thing I notice about that story is that my grandparents paid tithing regardless of the poor condition of their family finances. They knew the Lord’s commandment; they likened the scriptures unto themselves (see 1 Nephi 19:23–24) and obeyed the law. This is what the Lord expects of all His people. He expects us to pay tithing not from our abundance nor from the “leftovers” of the family budget but, as He commanded anciently, from the “firstlings” of our income, be it scarce or abounding. The Lord has commanded, “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first … fruits” (Exodus 22:29). It has been my personal experience that the surest way to pay tithing faithfully is to pay it as soon as I receive any income. In fact, I’ve found it to be the only way.
Giving God the leftovers rather than the firstlings leaves open all sorts of rationalization such as is evident from the report on the evangelical study:
One respondent who does not tithe said that he gives more or less depending on the needs and his situation. . . 
“. . . Personally I believe that the New Testament teaches ‘proportionate giving’ that may be more or less than 10 percent depending on income. In my home we’ve always given more than 10 percent,” Anderson said. “Increasingly churches offer financial courses and teach on stewardship. My hope is that in coming years, we will see more generous, proportionate, cheerful and sacrificial giving among American evangelicals.”
Let's make sure we pay God first. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tithing is 10 Percent of "Income" Cash or Otherwise


Series on Tithing
Tithing is 10 Percent of "Income" Cash or Otherwise
Tithe the Firstlings Not The Leftovers
"Money and Bank Accounts Are Not His Richest Blessings"
The Richest Blessings
More Than 10 Percent


In his recent General Conference address, "The Lord’s Richest Blessings" by Elder Carl B. Pratt addresses tithing by telling a story of his grandparents. He draws the following implications:
First, you will notice that the payment of tithing in this case was not related to the amount of cash income. . . they had lived well from their animals and their productive fruit and vegetable garden. They obviously felt indebted to the Lord for their blessings.
That is a reminder of the implication in the Lord’s words when He asks: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.” The people ask, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” And the Lord thunders back, “In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). Yes, brothers and sisters, . . . we are all indebted to the Lord. Let us not be accused of robbing God. Let us be honest and pay our debts to the Lord. All He asks is 10 percent. Integrity in paying our debts to the Lord will help us be honest with our fellowmen.

Our L.D.S. beliefs are clear. Tithing is 10 percent of our income. Quotes from leaders constantly underscores this. We differ from the Christian world in that our teachings are clear, consistent and our leaders are in harmony.

A recent survey amongst evangelical leaders indicates that:
. . . according to the February Evangelical Leaders Survey, most evangelical leaders do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe. The survey showed that 58 percent do not believe the Bible requires a tithe, while 42 percent do.
Let's take a good hard look at our own personal lives and make certain we are not robbing God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Dirty, Rotten *@:#$%^?<,&*"!

Continuing with Elder D. Todd Christofferson in his address, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten":

Even when we encounter mean-spirited criticism from persons who have little regard or love for us, it can be helpful to exercise enough meekness to weigh it and sift out anything that might benefit us.
I've certainly had my share of mean-spirited criticism over the years and probably delivered my fair share of it as well.


People in our culture seem a little too afraid of hurting someone's feelings as opposed to assisting them with constructive criticism. I can remember some Church youth leaders of mine who got mad at me and said some things but later apologized.


I forgave them their anger. However, I remember what they said. I remember some of this correction. Years later, I am grateful for the feedback and wish they'd given me more feedback in my formative years.


I've found that even reactions of strangers to be useful feedback gauges. We should always consider criticism, regardless of the source.


I've rejected some criticism over the years. I think some criticism I've received from an unnamed person who accused me of being selfish wasn't credible. My actions had simply prevented this person from seeking his/her own selfish ends. However, my carefully evaluating the criticism was beneficial, even if I ultimately rejected it.


So, let's follow Elder Christofferson's advice to meekly weight it and sift it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Please Correct Me If I'm Wrong . . .


Continuing with Elder D. Todd Christofferson in his address, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten."
Correction can come through others, especially those who are God-inspired to promote our happiness. Apostles, prophets, patriarchs, bishops, and others have been put into the Church today, just as anciently, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
Correction, hopefully gentle, can come from one’s spouse. . . 
Parents can and must correct, even chasten, if their children are not to be cast adrift at the mercy of a merciless adversary and his supporters. . . 

Reading scripture and guidance of Church leaders can alert us to defects in our lives that must be corrected. Obviously, if you ignore scripture and Church guidance you can avoid a lot of chastening. Reading and studying signals our willingness to accept chastening. Certainly it is a signal that we want, and can accept, correction.

Parents, spouse, siblings and other relatives often love us enough to tell us what is wrong with us. Often, these are the very people we tend to ignore. Elder Christofferson suggests this is not good.
Remember that if we resist correction, others may discontinue offering it altogether, despite their love for us. . .
When I was a single, professional woman, one of my Home Teachers was a graduate student and a good friend. I witnessed him disciplining his toddler in Sunday School one day. He quickly took her outside. I reflected on what I had witnessed. I bounced my ideas off of a friend with numerous children and child-rearing experience. She agreed with me. I later told this Home Teacher, in a private moment, that I thought he had been a little too harsh with his little girl. I told him, "I didn't think she was bad enough to take outside" because the behavior she exhibited was normal and expected for one her age. This communication obviously startled him.

He confessed that he didn't want anyone thinking he was unwilling to appropriately discipline his child and didn't want other people disturbed by her behavior. I said, "Still, I don't think she was behaving badly enough to be taken outside." He obviously listened. He lightened up a bit and our friendship remained intact. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

If You Love Me, Correct Me!

Continuing with Elder D. Todd Christofferson in his address, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten:"  
I would like to speak of one particular attitude and practice we need to adopt if we are to meet our Heavenly Father’s high expectations. It is this: willingly to accept and even seek correction . . . Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct.
Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path.
Divine chastening can feel like persecution from Satan. However, we don't need to know the source of our trials in order to endure them well. (See D&C 121:8)


We do need to sort out whether we are following the path Heavenly Father would like us to follow and make course corrections if necessary.


Regardless of the source, the same remedies apply.
If we repeatedly fail to act on the chastening of a loving God, then He too will desist. He has said, “My Spirit will not always strive with man” (Ether 2:15).
If we do not feel chastened then something is wrong. We may not be listening to the chastening. We might be so far off of the path that God has ceased to strive with us. We might be experiencing a temporary lull in the storm of chastening. We may need to ask Heavenly Father for chastening we currently need. There are many possibilities


I don't think we can assume that we no longer need to repent. As long as we are on this earth that need will continue.


Also, we can always work on our ability to accept and seek correction. More on that soon . . .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

God as Butler and/or Therapist

I've held off commenting about any specifics from the April 2011 General Conference. I wanted to wait for the text versions to be available so that I could quote from them.


The talks from the Sunday Afternoon Session reinforced so much of what I have come to believe and many things I've already posted on this blog.


For example, many of the points I made in, "Burger King Religion: Have it Any Way You Want It!" was stated by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in his address, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten."
Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler “who meets their needs when summoned” or a therapist whose role is to help people “feel good about themselves.” It is a religious outlook that “makes no pretense at changing lives.” “By contrast,” as one author declares, “the God portrayed in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures asks, not just for commitment, but for our very lives. The God of the Bible traffics in life and death, not niceness, and calls for sacrificial love, not benign whatever-ism.”
Heavenly Father does demand things of us. In Matthew 5: 48 it says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." 


Heavenly Father requires great things of us all. 


How can anyone in Christendom argue otherwise?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Christlike Attributes: What are they and do I have 'em?

Preach My Gospel is largely intended to be a missionary manual for full-time missionaries. Obviously it has other uses. I've found it to be marvelous in guiding my own personal scripture study. It is not the sort of book you just read. It is a work book that you need to work your way through. It is available in hard-copy from the Church's Online Store, PDFsectional PDF and MP3.


We are told:
In addition to being the standard guide for mission presidents, full-time missionaries, and ward missionaries, Preach My Gospel can also help local leaders and members study and teach key doctrines, prepare youth to share the gospel, and become better missionaries themselves.
I'm just finishing up Chapter 7 on Christlike Attributes. Page 126 is an Attribute Activity where all the attributes are listed and you can check off your own progress. It cautions, "Spiritual growth is a gradual process, and no one is perfect, so you should expect to rate yourself better on some items than on others."


This convenient little list can serve as a reminder and a goal chart for improving. Access it and see if you don't agree with me. If you ever wonder to yourself "What Would Jesus Do?" this list can help answer that query.


If you aren't aware of Preach My Gospel, access the resources below to find out more about it.

May 2005: The Power of Preach My Gospel by Elder Richard G. Scott
October 2007: Preach My Gospel—the Unifying Tool between Members and Missionaries by Erich W. Kopischke

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ethnic Groups in Mormondom? Where?

In visiting my husband's home town, he showed me where the various ethnic neighborhoods were when he was growing up. He pointed out where the various ethnic groups traditionally resided and so forth. Many remain. I was fascinated but puzzled. There aren't really any ethnic neighborhoods or groups in Utah. I was never aware of anyone's ethnic identification or even my own. We were all Mormons or Non-Mormons.

An article entitled, "How the Swiss founded a Mormon town" appears in swissinfo.ch. Obviously, there should be identifiable ethnic groups in Utah. Santa Clara, Utah has a distinct Swiss heritage as this article makes clear. The end of the article suggests this heritage has been largely lost.
Some have made the trip back to Switzerland to visit their forefathers’ villages, see how their names were struck from local church registers and to make surprising connections about how Swiss ways still infuse their lives so many years later.
“Their lifestyle, habits and ways had been carried here,” Graf said. “Growing up we used to always eat little dumplings on holidays. It wasn’t until I went to Switzerland that I realised ‘little dumplings’ are called spƤtzli and you can eat it anytime you want.”
In my family, we are recent English immigrants on my father's side. On my mother's side the Swedish immigrants are even more recent. In fact, my maternal grandfather was BORN in Sweden. But, there is absolutely nothing of this Swedish heritage left in my family. We are fully Americanized and Mormonized, if that is a word. It probably isn't.


If heritage had been retained by Mormon westerners perhaps European hostilities would have been too. Maybe the melting pot of Utah burned away old hostilities and rivalries. I hope so.


Traditions and cultural practices are only worth retaining if they are inherently good. I suspect this isn't a popular idea but it is one I've made before.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"HUGS Not THUGS"

General Conference always has its share of protesters outside the gates of Temple Square and this year was no exception. In fact, there is usually someone protesting the Mormons no matter what time of year it is.

This story is different. It is a Christian Church exemplifying Christian behavior to counter the unchristian behavior that usually predominates. I think they are refreshing. From "Christians Counter Hate, Offer Love to Mormons" from The Christian Post.
Countering the protesters this year, however, was another group of Christians who offered "free hugs" and some "Jesus style" love for the Mormons.
"Jesus didn’t scream and hold signs at the Samaritan well," said Charles Hill, pastor of One Community Church in South Jordan, Utah, in a statement. "We are called to love each other."
Kudos to pastor Charles Hill:
He brought out his church to the conference on Saturday, the opening day of the two-day event, to give out some love. "HUGS not THUGS" was their marching orders. They handed out free hugs to those who needed "a boost after walking past our brothers and sisters in Jesus who just gave them an ear full. We will give them an arm full."
You can read more about the Church and Charles Hill on this web site.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sister Missionaries Robbed . . . Of A Cigarette Case? I Don't Think So

Saturday night, two sister missionaries in Augusta, Georgia were robbed at gunpoint. I read a variety of news articles about this incident and all covered basically the same facts, except one. The Augusta Chronicle is reporting that the sisters' were robbed of a "cigarette case."

Augusta Chronicle: Missionaries robbed at gunpoint


The other news articles list only the items you would expect missionaries to be carrying like the Bible, Book of Mormon, cell phones, etc.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mormon missionaries robbed at gunpoint in Georgia
Fox 13: 2 Mormon missionaries robbed at gunpoint in Georgia
WRDW-TV Augusta: Mormon missionaries robbed at gunpoint in Augusta
ABC4: Mormon sister missionaries robbed at gunpoint
KSL: LDS missionaries robbed in Georgia

L.D.S. (Mormon) beliefs and practice prohibit the use of tobacco and have since the 1830's. This is scripture and can be found in The Doctrine and Covenants, chapter 89, verse 8:
And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
The health law that the tobacco prohibition falls under is called, "The Word of Wisdom" and includes other restrictions and dietary suggestions.

I suspect a careless, or calculating, reporter is responsible for the inclusion of "cigarette case" in the list of items the sister missionaries were robbed of.