Friday, March 30, 2012

City Creek Center


I didn't want to write about this as I like to focus on other things but..... its so blaring in downtown SLC as I drive to work every day I thought it just may be worth some thought.  Others have written about this more than I will.  I share some of the same thoughts.  

Every day I drive past Citi Creek billboards.  I'm not a big fan of shopping malls.  I like having clothes however I would likely not think to purchase them without repeated suggesting from friends or family saying that it's time to buy new clothes.   But that's a side note.  The point is, downtown SLC has advertisements for this new mall that cover the entire side of buildings.  Like those big posters did when the 2002 Olympics came to SLC.  But this time it's shopping mall adds.  And as a side note some of the models have a twilight vampire look to them.  Again reasons why....never mind.


I understand the buying and selling of goods.  Business is part of our world. However it does cause a strange twinge when a church is the one building a ridiculously expensive very high end shopping mall.  And the adds feature models wearing clothes that are inconsistent with that churche's teachings on modesty and clothing appropriate for what one needs to wear in order to have a temple recommend.  The adds also feature models holding a glass of champagne.  Again, I expect this from LA, but not from a church project when that church's teachings are contrary to what the adds portray.  


I realize the church is not selling the clothing, and may not have much to do with what clothing and beverages are sold there.  However that is why churches typically don't own shopping malls.  I expect a church to build temples, churches, schools, etc... Or various other humanitarian projects.  But a high end shopping mall wasn't what I would have expected.  And yes I think downtown should look nice and be a beautiful place.  But the goal must go way beyond making downtown look nice, because that wouldn't cost nearly as much.  

It was reported on KSL, the Church's owned media outlet,  that the entire downtown project including the City Creek Center will ultimately cost upwards of 5 billion dollars. The shopping mall called City Creek Center was just a portion of the cost (reported at costing 1.5 billion)  http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=19428181&title=a-look-inside-as-city-creek-centers-completion-nears&s_cid=featured-1

As a comparison, The Church's Provident Living website has listed the combined total about of money given for the past 25 years (1985–2010) to Humanitarian aid, food, clothing, medical supplies,etc..  This is the amount given to the poor and needy in over 178 countries.  http://www.providentliving.org/pdf/2010_WELFactSheet_English.pdf
  • Humanitarian assistance rendered  $1.3 billion
  • Countries and territories served 178
  • Food 63,377 tons
  • Medical supplies 14,345 tons
  • Clothing 93,196 tons
  • Hygiene, newborn, and school kits 11.1 million

 So in the past 25 years the church has given 1.3 billion to humanitarian assistance.  In just 24-36 months a shopping mall has gotten 1.5 billion.  When I read scriptures that accuse latter day people of loving their sanctuaries, and fine clothing more than the poor and the needy, I'm compelled to stop and consider the message of scripture as they relate to our current society.  (Mormon 8:37).   When Elder Erying gives a talk and says how members in Africa often have only one meal a day, I have to ask what justification is being used to fund a mall while others go hungry?

I try to take the scriptures seriously, but don't want to use them to judge others.  I think that misses the point.  Sometimes I think we tend to be culturally at ease, and that scriptures seems to suggest another reality.  I wouldn't even mention all this if I didn't care.  I care what the Church does because I'm in this for the long haul.  And people matter.  They matter more than things.   I see the homeless people gathered and or living just a few blocks from the mall.  Is this mall serving those in need? Or further amplifying the disparity between the rich and the poor?  In one place a man asks for food, a few blocks away one can buy a Rolex watch for up to a million dollars.  Something about all this strikes me as worth noticing (D&C 70:14).  If the scripture quoted above is referring to some other group of people, than we have nothing to worry about, and, as a people we have nothing to repent of.  But if the scripture is talking about us, than I think we should pay very close attention. 

Anyway here is a bit from the LDS Church News identifying interesting church involvement in this project:

"The First Presidency participated in Thursday's ceremonial ribbon cutting at City Creek Center, signaling the long-awaited opening of Salt Lake City's newest mall."

"President Eyring spoke on behalf of the Church at Thursday's ceremony, saying City Creek is now open to invite the world to come to downtown Salt Lake City — headquarters of the Church."

"Earlier, Bishop H. David Burton added that it's vital to create an atmosphere in Salt Lake City that people like and remember. "Because Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, it's important that it is 'dressed appropriately.'" http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/62153/First-Presidency-attends-City-Creek-opening.html


A mall dedication serving alcohol and where you can now go to buy obscenely expensive Tiffanie's jewelry just didn't strike me as a place to find the First Presidency.  But what do I know.  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.  

This is all just my view.  The point is, at the end of the day, we each get to decide whom and what we love, and what we are willing to see in the Gospel as it relates to our lives.  I believe the scriptures say it best  "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve".   (Alma 30:8, Joshua 24:15)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SR-71 pilot story



This is a funny story from an SR-71 pilot.  Worth a quick read.


There were a lot of things we couldn't do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however.

Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn't match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury. Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.  We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed. Center replied: "November Charlie 175, I'm showing you at ninety knots on the ground."

Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the "HoustonCenterVoice." I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country's space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the HoustonCenterControllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that... and that they basically did. And it didn't matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking.

Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne.  Better to die than sound bad on the radios.  Just moments after the Cessna's inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. "Ah, Twin Beach: I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed."

Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.  Then out of the blue, a Navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. "Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check."

Before Center could reply, I'm thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it -- ol' Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He's the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet.  And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: "Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground."

And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done -- in mere seconds we'll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now.  I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn. Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet.

Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion,Walter spoke: "Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?"There was no hesitation, and the reply came as if was an everyday request: "Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground."

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: "Ah, Center, much thanks. We're showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money."

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the HoustonCentervoice, when L.A. came back with,"Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one."

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day's work.
We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Worship with Dance

One form of worship that took place anciently and in scriptures which we don't see hardly any of nowadays is worship involving dance.  I'm not usually one to think about dance, however the idea in context of worship and ceremonies has something interesting about it that caught my attention the past few days.

Doctrine and Covenants 136:28If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

And this from the bible dictionary: "Dancing. A natural sign of rejoicing, and as such frequently formed part of religious ceremonies (Ex. 15:20; 32:19; Judg. 11:34; 2 Sam. 6:14–16; 1 Chr. 15:29). The dancing was often accompanied by a song with chorus, and instrumental music (Ps. 68:25; 149:3; 150:4)."

Dance frequently formed part of religious ceremonies?  Can you imagine?  With regard to song, I've seen plenty of singing in modern day worship, however what I haven't seen nearly as much of is singing that is praising God.  It's different than just following notes in a hymn book which we as LDS do freequently.  But when song is actual "worship" that speaks of something higher.  I wish it happened more.  

But back to dance. At one point in our own church's history dance was part of worship. Had Joseph Smith not been martyred, some believe that in time he may have revealed yet more of the Endowment, including inspired music, singing, and dancing as part of the prayer circle.  Can you imagine that?  Such elements appear anciently among God's people and it's not difficult to see how it would be included as part of the restoration of all things.  Many acts of worship and praise are said to mirror heaven.  So a ceremony can reveal a lot about heaven.      

One interesting comment from Brigham Young is worth mentioning.  Brigham encouraged appropriate dancing in the Nauvoo Temple following ordinance work; a form of joyous praise to God.  According to Heber C. Kimball, “Pres. Young called the attention of the whole company, and gave them a message . . . that this temple (Nauvoo) was a holy place, and that when we danced we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. . . . He strongly impressed upon the mind of those present the impropriety of mingling again with the wicked after having come in here, and taken upon them the covenants” (Heber C. Kimball Journal, cited in Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1836—1849)

Hugh Nibley adds, “The great celebrations of Israel as ordered by Moses always required rejoicing and dancing to the sound of the timbrel, the sackbut, and the drum. I have seen such happy ring dances of Jewish elders performed near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem while members of our Latter-day Saint tour group expressed lively disapproval of such undignified goings-on." (Hugh Nibley, Promised Lands, in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, FARMS-Deseret Book) My father-in-law recently traveled to Jerusalem and reported something very similar in Jerusalem.  A Jewish dance performed near the Wailing Wall.  He is a very fun and laid back person and wanted to join in, as I recall I think he did for a second.  I like that attitude. 

According to Nibley and others researchers, ancient prayer circles were described as a dance.  “The ancient sacred dance, whether known as the circle-dance, the ring-dance, or the prayer circle, is well attested in the early Christian sources. It is found not only in the New Testament, but the Old, and in other cultures, such as ancient Egypt. Dancing had its origin in the temple, and the circle-dance is a simulation of the dance of the angels in heaven, more specifically the orders of the angels which guard the heavenly spheres, as they move in their concentric circles, wheels within wheels. (Frederick M. Huchel, The Cosmic Ring Dance of the Angels, Frithurex Atheneum Press)

Dance as a form of worship is totally absent now days.  It's too bad.  From the current perspective of the church it's almost difficult to imagine what it would even be like or look like. It would probably strike us as too irreverent.  The closest we have is young single adult dances which promote socializing for the youth but have no intention of anything worship related.  Many youth will question any benefits of such social scenes :)

The scriptures speak of a different kind of dance.  

Alma 36:22 gives a glimpse of what we may mirror on earth with our ceremonies and worship. According to Alma and Lehi there is song and praising while surrounding God's throne.  So there is music there.  And music leads to dancing.   I would guess our ward choirs (and of course Mormon tab choir) are attempts to imitate or replicate some form of the worship that takes place around God's throne.  God does in fact try to reveal things to us through our ordinances and ceremonies.  It wasn't just "someones" random idea to have a choir at church.  It imitates the place we are all from.

I wonder if we have become almost too rigid to really entertain some of these ideas about worship.  It seems now we have taken on the view that such acts would be too undignified or sacrilegious. Our definition of reverent may not allow for what the Lord has in store.  We should maybe not be so religiously rigid.  

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Circles



    Sometimes I think we miss some of the powerful symbols in our everyday life.  Or just don't notice them.  The circle has been a symbol of perfection or heavenly things for who knows how many hundreds/thousands of years.  You draw it with a compass which uses a center point.  I've noticed some additional types of circles that for some reason I have totally missed or neglected to connect to the Gospel and my life.  I thought I'd write them down.  

    First is an image of Polaris that I found very fascinating.  These photos use time lapse photography usually over an extended time period to show a center point in the night sky.  It creates circles within circles around the north star that has guided many a traveler over centuries. 




    Other types of religious/spiritual circles are seen in Native American traditions and rituals.  The dance circle, often around fire or another object that is part of a ceremony or ritual.  

    Prayer circles is another example of a circle.  The concept has been around for ages.  Sometimes I think in the church we forget that things that are part of our ceremonies have not only been around for a long time, but other culture's have surprisingly similar customs that suggest a common truth or origin.  In 3rd Nephi is when Christ leads a prayer (3 Nephi 19).  He stands "in the midst" or as the center point, and the people "were given what they should say".   Clearly Joseph Smith did not make this stuff up.  Sometimes it's hidden but who can doubt that a form of prayer circle was happening near the temple at bountiful when Christ came to the Nephites.   

    Another circle is during a Priesthood blessing, or setting apart.  Those participating in a baby blessing for example stand in a circle around the baby.  The baby at that moment is the center point and intended recipient for a blessing.  It mirrors something, some forgotten truth from before we came to earth that we all seem vaguely familiar with.   

    This idea of a circle seems embedded in our psyche.  And I find it very interesting. The circle inside of a square is a common symbol in sacred architecture.  The square often represents the earth (the four corners associated with the four corners of the earth) The circle often representing heaven or perfection.  Thus combining the two symbols would indicate the meeting place of heaven and earth.  The symbols can mean a whole mass of other things as well.  But it dawned in me that if you looked from above down upon a priesthood blessing for example, you'd see the earth, and then a circle. The symbols match.

    The temple is supposed to be the place where heaven meets earth.  Interesting symbols.  Some of which we participate in or see in church may often not catch our attention however we may be missing what we are really doing from a heavenly perspective. 

    According to Hugh Nibley's research (Hugh Nibley, The Early Christian Prayer Circle, Mormonism and Early Christianity, FARMS) as well as many others, anciently in Egypt and in Native American cultures a circle dance or prayer circle of sorts was thought to open a portal to the heavens when performed at the proper place and time.  According to one researcher: “The purpose of the circle dance was a ‘stirring below’ to invoke a ‘stirring above’. . . the objective . . . was to open up a conduit, not only through space, but also through time, and take the participants from the veil of the Temple, up through the heavens, and back to the First Day of Creation . . . to the celestial throne of God.” (See Frederick M. Huchel, The Cosmic Ring Dance of the Angels, Frithurex Atheneum Press) We seen in 3rd Nephi (as mentioned above) when Christ came, such an act or ceremony did in fact open a portal to heaven as angles and fire were witnessed.

    Other scriptures refer to the setting of God's throne as a sacred circle where God is surrounded by numberless concourses of angles in the attitude of singing and praising God (Alma 36:22)
    This could very well include dancing around the throne of God.  Singing and dancing in a circular fashion was often part of worshiping.  More on this next post. 

    Other circles are the earth's orbit around the sun.  And the circle of the zodiac in the sky around the sun.  All revolving around a center point all pointing us to God. We humans often represent time by a circular clock.  Who would have thought the most basic of shapes had so much information embedded in it. 

    In the SLC temple as you go through the ceremony and from room to room you face different directions in each.  From start to finish the movement is in a circle, and upwards.  Almost like spiral. 

    This image is from a replica put on public display at Temple Square as shown in the Deseret news.

    The circle is the geometric equivalent to the number 1.   (See Beginners guide to constructing the Universe by Michael S Schneider for all sorts of fascinating things about all the numbers and shapes)

    I don't have to look further than my front yard to see that God has made this earth full of very very interesting clues.

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    3 types of garments in the scriptures

    There are three main types of garments mentioned in scripture:

    1. Those garments made of animal skins (Alma 49:6) (Genesis 3:21)
    Often in reference to telestial, or this world.  Adam and eve were first given coats of skin, then clothed with additional types of garments as referenced below.   

    2. Those garments made of plant material (linen), used for temple clothing ( Ex. 35:19,)(39:1 (1–2)) (Matthew 22:11).  Often in reference to terrestrial.

    3. Garments of light, potentially utilized in heavenly settings (celestial) or by heavenly beings (JST, Luke 24:2) (Matthew 22:11) (Matthew 9:21) (Psalms 104:2)
    .
    According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “The words ‘to endow’ (from the Greek enduein), as used in the New Testament, means to dress, clothe, put on garments” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 2, p. 454).

    Celestial beings may be ‘endowed’ with light and glory, as a garment.

    When Christ teaches about "clothing the naked" (Matthew 25:38, Jacob 2:19).  All of the above may in fact apply.  Christ's teachings have many layers.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Forever Sentimentality


    Sometimes I wonder why people are inspired or comforted by the Church's teachings that "families can be together forever" when so many of those same people have multiple people in their own families they can't stand.  The song is so often sung about that idea but in reality may can hardly spend any earthly length of time with these people.  Let alone eternity.  Not that we have to all be best, and closest friends all the time...... but the sentimental belief of being together forever, combined with the sometimes total abhorrence at the thought of practical application of the belief is well... curious.      

    Don't get me wrong, it's pretty clear that much of life's learning experiences and chances for growth, forgiveness, and Gospel learning happens in the family unit.  The up's and downs and battles can and do give way to growth or learning and potentially a healthy family relationship.  However it doesn't always head that direction.  I've noticed this quite a bit as I've overheard some conversations at work the past while.  It all got me thinking.  Why be so assured and comforted by something or some sentimental belief, when in reality you would be miserable if the belief were made reality?

    I think the Gospel is the best, and our only hope.  It can help things heal, and restore a brighter perspective.   As I research the families together forever teaching I find that there was a very interesting change made to how we view it.  It was not always like we teach it now, which is that we get sealed in a chain link fashion according to biology or genetics as far back as records permit.  Often without any knowledge of where it began.  It used to be that people were sealed to dispensation heads, like to Joseph Smith (The Words of Joseph Smith at page 297).  See image and description by Orson Hyde here, for how the family structure was taught to be organized.

    Brigham Young as well as many others were sealed to Joseph.  Not because Joseph was the biological father, but because he was the "father" of a dispensation.  Joseph, Adam, Abraham, Enoch, Lehi etc.. these "fathers"  would be main branches shown in the image above, and others sealed to them forming other or sub branches.  This view would make those who qualify into a completely different post mortal "family structure" than how we currently view things.  Receiving the Gospel, and personal righteousness would seal you to that kind of a family structure.  Genealogical lines, based on biological relationships or adoption, certainly have an important place, but were not taught as the basis for the family structure of heaven.

    Being sealed to a dispensation head ensured that you were connected to the living vine.  Whereas the current chain link view may seal biological lines together as far back as records permit, but a broken link here or there (or a unconnected beginning link) would void the whole rest of the chain.  Everyone would then need to be regrafted into the True vine to have life or be part of a living branch.  As I understand it, that is why the original teaching had people being sealed to dispensation heads instead of just ancestors who's connection (or lack of) to heaven was either uncertain, or unknown.

    The practice changed
    when Wilford Woodruff discontinued the prior, and replaced it with what we have today.  This is a fascinating change with some interesting implications.

    It puzzles me when someone carries the belief and sentimentality about the sealing ordinance and the idea that families can be together forever; and yet even being together on holidays is unpleasant for them.  It may be denied, defended, hidden,...etc.  but by the time the holidays are over it's usually at least a little evident.

    The family is said to be one of the best places to learn charity and forgiveness.  I've heard that many times but, I see why.  It is a unique atmosphere where weaknesses and wounds go way way back.  But the potential blessings go far forward too.  Family is of God.  I love my family.

    Deep down, I think we love our families.  It just sometimes gets messy over the years, because life is tough on all of us.  So I have hope for the family, but I wonder if in the end our idea of the family will undergo some alterations.  If Joseph and Orson are correct, it will look like the above diagram, rather than our family tree pictures in the living room.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    A true Hymn



    I love this hymn, much of it due to it's simplicity.  It's one of the great ones. The lyrics were true in the past, are true now, and will be true in the future.

    1. Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
    Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers.
    Be thou humble in thy pleading, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee,
    Shall bless thee with a sweet and calm assurance that he cares.

    2. Be thou humble in thy calling, and the Lord thy God shall teach thee
    To serve his children gladly with a pure and gentle love.
    Be thou humble in thy longing, and the Lord thy God shall take thee,
    Shall take thee home at last to ever dwell with him above.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Color



     I really like the idea of color for some reason.  Green has always been my favorite.  Lately I've felt drawn to study physics.  In physics light is broken down into various wavelength intensities, each possessing a different vibration or frequency which is translated by our eye and brain into color.  Each color has meaning and significance.  Physical, emotional, and spiritual.  

    I sometimes hear the phrase "the color's seemed brighter" or "the color's seemed dim".  Usually the first is said by someone who is in love, and the second is someone feeling the loss of love, or a deep disappointment.  The phrase also gets used occasionally for someone who has had arrived at a new view of life or new experience heightening the senses.  But most commonly colors appearing brighter has to do with love.  All of us can probably recall a time when color's did seem brighter. 

    We know that without light, there is no color.  The light from our sun is what gives light to the earth and creates color.  Also the light from God is what gives light to our beings. God is light.  God is also Love.  So when we are "in love" it just may be that we are experiencing a glimpse of the divine light/love and that is why color's appear brighter.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    LDS UnBeliefs - a Doctrinal Reference



    I was at Costco today buyin some strawberries.  As I walked past the different isles of items it was almost as if I was abruptly stopped in order to notice a few things.     

    First though, the post title says "unbelief(s)".  So as to be on the same page I think that word includes the lack of belief in some truth, as well as an incorrect or misunderstood truth.  Or even a well intended notion that just isn't true.  It's all "unbelief".  When the book of Mormon talks about peoples "unbelief" the people referred to are always always religious.   The Lord put his own church under condemnation for "unbelief" (D&C 84:55).  So unbelief is not just agnosticism.  Anyway, on with my visit to Costco.   

    Near the entrance there was this big display of artwork depicting Christ.  My wife and I both almost had to stop, we noticed how American these images looked.  Clean shaven, in fact so clean it appeared the skin on the subjects face never produced hair.  If you didn't know better you'd think you were looking at a well respected model from any number of entertainment industry materials.  Change the outfit and you could almost have an GQ model.  I think different artists will depict different things, and I don't mean to criticize an authors or artists act of worship.  Not at all.  When I see images of Jesus for sale at the store, it does give me pause.  But I do understand this is how some people make a living.  

    The more LDS artwork I pay attention to, I do see a trend.  It' seems Jesus is becoming Americanized in a way.  The problem is when we change Jesus to fit our ideal or presumption.  Dare I saw we are vulnerable to creating an idol? Or a false image?  And then paying money for them?  Not all of these images of Christ resemble each other, but there are similarities.  Various artists have given their view, or version but if you line up the images you will have to admit that they are not all the same person.  But perhaps there is still value, and these images can stir something within us.  (I believe that is their intent).  I did notice today that eye color changes, hair color changes, facial features are vastly different.

    The new Testament shows many examples of religious folks, who do not recognize Christ.  For them, he looked wrong, came from the wrong place, wrong social standing, and wrong leadership position.  He didn't fit the preconceived expectation.  I think this applies just as much now as it did then.  We have our expectations of what things "should" look and feel like.  And sometimes artists images can spark something within us, but other times may actually do something quite different.   Hence the importance of us to all come to know God for ourselves.  And not rely on other's depictions, art, and testimony, but instead have our own Spirit authored testimony.

    As I past that display, next was the book section.  There was a nice shiny book for 40$ titled "LDS Beliefs, A Doctrinal Reference".  Being LDS and knowing the value of doctrine I picked up the book to have a look.  There were some parts that were a good reference for basic doctrine.  I also found parts that were very concerning. 

    First thing I came to was the the "S" section, and the entry was "Scriptures".  It included a verse from D&C which only quoted half the verse, and thus changed the meaning.  A bracket [........] had been added by the author in place of scriptural text which was intended to clarify meaning, but which in reality changed the meaning of the scripture.  The bracket took what applied to an Elder, and instead made the scripture apply exclusively to the President or Leaders of the Church.  This wasn't what the scripture said.  80% or 90% truth is no good if the rest is misleading.  Worse still if we intentionally edit scriptures and give them incorrect meaning.  The scripture was plain and simple, but it was altered.  I thought it odd that in this books section about scriptures, the scripture the author used was misquoted, and altered.

    The book's introduction I thought would provide a good basis for understanding the book.  So I next went there.  In the intro the authors quote the LDS newsroom article titled "Approaching Mormon Doctrine":

    "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church."

    Despite the stated unstable and hit and miss nature of Church leader's comments, they build on that foundation anyway.  "And so we look to those upon whom the keys of the kingdom have been conferred to establish doctrine, interpret doctrine, clarify doctrine, and explicate doctrine.  In this volume we have not sought to be novel or creative in our presentation but rather to defer to the Lords anointed, saying "none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written"

    The last part of that quote is D&C 52:9.  It's used somewhat out of context and only includes half of the verse.  They left out perhaps the most important part of that verse which includes a member of the Godhead and mention of the prayer of faith.  Neither of which were mentioned at all anywhere in the introduction describing the tools used in production of the book.  So it's oddly fitting they didn't quote it, because....well, they didnt claim they even sought the Spirit's guidance. Instead they defer to leaders, and referred to "reliance on a safety net", which includes: "the words of modern apostles and prophets", "The 4 standard works", "Church handbook of instruction", and "official meetings and manuals"  All of which can interestingly be misinterpreted without the Spirit as your guide.  Even Satan quoted scripture to Christ (Matthew 4).   So while not every statement made by a church leader constitutes doctrine, they still build on that foundation anyway.

    So back to that Church newsroom statement.  How am I to decide when a leader speaks and it's considered a revelation, or doctrine and how am I to decide when they are speaking as any other man? And thus how can i evaluate the book that builds on the already unstable foundation? This one concept could alter a large portion of this doctrinal book because they chose to rely on a safety net of modern leaders words as a major foundation.  They quote the Church who says that not everything spoken by Church's leaders is doctrine.  The Church made the distinction, yet neither the church nor the book's authors inform the listener about differentiating.