Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Deprived Discussions, (and spiritual chairs)

(If this post starts out boring fear not, there is a good laugh at the end.)

One of my favorite mission experiences were the times a companion and I used to sit and discuss the Gospel.  Elder Rona wasn't actually my companion, but he was in my district and we ended up doing companion switches pretty frequently because of how much we both enjoyed discussing the Gospel and scriptures.  I miss that experience.  I miss the attitude and environment which allowed for those discussions.  I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I do now since such a thing has been almost completely absent from my religious life ever since.

There's a trend I've noticed in the Mormon culture that is almost anti discussion.  The only consistent discussion I've been able to have about any gospel topic for a few years now has been with the 12 year old's in Sunday School.  And you can imagine how infrequent that is when they have their smart phones to look at during class.  Yet even then they are fun to talk to and will discuss a topic fairly openly.  No one claims to know it all, no one quotes an authority with a "trump" card ending the discussion.  None of them become dogmatic.  It's makes for an enjoyable time.  They think, and ponder a minute and seem to inherently "know" when the discussion has arrived at the truth.  They don't mind allowing different views or opinions in the process.  I like hearing and considering what they have to say.

Their minds are unhindered by academic credentials and other idols.  I walked into the adult Sunday School class the other week after being with the youth and I thought I had entered a different church.  Whether family, friends, ward members, home teachers the overwhelming trend in my experience has been fewer and fewer discussions about scripture and Gospel topics.  Whatever leftover remnants of a discussion that can be found are more about conference talks, one liners, or how much we like the current leaders/speakers.  The attitude seems to be that by asking questions, thinking more about it, or discussing a topic you must not understand it, you clearly must have missed so and so's conference talk, and therefore need to be educated.  I hope that attitude is confined to my small circle of the world, because it's sad.  Some go so far as to say the thinking has already been done.

I'm grateful for the blog world for introducing me to folks and websites who enjoy discussing such topics.  Ya there's some weird stuff out there, and the discussions are a lot of times in small time delayed fragments with someone named anonymous.  But there are some sincere folks who want to discuss the truths of the Gospel.      

Oddly one other category besides the youth that seems welcome to discussion are my acquaintances who no longer consider themselves members.  I don't always agree with their conclusions but it's interesting none the less that they are by and large far more open to discussion.

I miss those days as a missionary.  There was no teacher other than the scriptures and the Spirit which attended our discussions.  I only have similar things on rare occasion now.  The Spirit of discussion can create lasting friendships.      

In other news, there's someone in Utah selling a chair from the celestial room of a temple for $250.  Check out the hook at the beginning of the description.   "Why yes, as a matter of fact I would like to make my home more spiritual for 1 easy payment of $250."   I guess you CAN buy that kind of thing for money.    

If only they seller could acquire a picture of a renowned Church leader in the chair. They may have been able to get full retail price.

Friday, May 16, 2014

To the extent it's true

I had this thought come to me today:  To the extent the LDS Church teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ I think we should accept and follow such instruction.  But only to that extent.

Some believe we should follow it regardless.  Even if what is taught is false.  It has been taught in general conference that you will be vindicated for following a leader even if what they said was incorrect.  I don't agree with that personally, but it's been taught, more than once on a large scale.

The Church has been, and can be condemned, as it has been very bluntly in scripture.  But the Gospel cannot be under condemnation.  So it makes sense to me the two should never be held as synonymous.  They are not the same thing no matter how badly some people want them to be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's not personal, it's just business

Whether or not you like The Simpsons, sometimes they hit the nail on the head.  For many families growing up this show was not one all parents wanted their kids watching.  For whatever reason, I still enjoy the show.  This is a classic series of scenes, full of rich truth.  Give it a good minute into it and and you'll see what I mean.  Prior to this Homer and Bart built a rocket which strayed off course then hit and destroyed their local church.  The next few minutes after that is priceless.

Mr Burns:  "I've got the answer, just let me run this Church like a business".

Friday, May 9, 2014

Black Robes of a False Priesthood

This is just too good not to post. Watch the vid, it's only 46 seconds.

"Black robes of a false priesthood." He quotes himself as having said those words during a prayer of all things many years earlier. The audience found the phrase funny. The fact that he spoke those words originally during a prayer suggests he was not trying to be funny. He was being truthful and sober.

Then he goes on to say "we don't question things at the BYU".  I've attended BYU, and his words are just as timely now as they were then. People as a whole there tend to not question things. Especially when a leader speaks them. It's part of the false priesthood.

The talk is entitled "Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift". I may be wrong, but I believe it ranks among the most under-appreciated talks in the history of the Church.  No one dares to make afraid like he does.

Here's a good link to the talk as he delivered it. Link. The BYU version above misses some good ad lib. One example of a funny yet missing portion is what Hugh says after paraphrasing Brigham Young: "To quote one of the greatest of leaders, the founder of this institution, 'There is too much of a sameness in this community. . . . I am not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint and do not believe in the doctrine . . . away with stereotyped 'Mormons!'" He then added: "Goodbye all!" As the audience cracked up, he told them "That was just added--that wasn't in the speech. No extra charge!" This particular departure takes place at the 12:49 mark of the audio file available on BYU's website. All versions of the speech continue in agreement with his next line: "True leaders are inspiring because they are inspired, caught up in a higher purpose, devoid of personal ambition, idealistic, and incorruptible."

This is the powerful concluding paragraph:

"In a forgotten time, before the Spirit was exchanged for the office and inspired leadership for ambitious management, these robes were designed to represent withdrawal from the things of this world—as the temple robes still do. That we may become more fully aware of the real significance of both is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

He speaks truth to power, like a prophet should. The Church™ has done well to retain speeches like this.  Who talks like him now days?  By comparison we are sissies who don't dare to say anything shocking that might upset anyone.  Anyway, among the things Nibley taught that didn't seem to get through to very many here is one great example:

It is quite inconceivable that the gospel should ever be under condemnation, though the Church has been from time to time. They are not the same thing. The one is a teaching; the other, an organization to foster that teaching. Is the organization free to adjust and control the doctrine? Can it decide on the basis of public relations what would be most appropriate for what audience and for what occasion? What to emphasize and what to play down? Does any organization through its officers have that discretion? ("Mediocre Meditations on the Media", Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints)

"As for the rest we do not question things at the BYU".  What a quote.  After Hugh says this we hear the audience laugh at the subconscious recognition of the truth.  Nibley taught more from the scriptures during a commencement speech than most General Authorities now days do during General Conference talks.

This is a good closing quote by Hugh B Brown:

"I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent - if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it." (Hugh B. Brown, counselor in First Presidency, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958.)

Is it possible false priesthoods are abounding, meanwhile we are busy repeating empty, vain and misleading teachings?  At times it seems that some of the leaders that teach we have agency don't appear to want us to actually use our own moral judgement. There seems to be a culture and attitude present that we should only use that moral judgement within the bounds they set, by following them.

Some hold fast to that.  I personally find it does not sit right with me.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Youth

I teach the Youth Sunday School class in my ward.   We have a gospel question jar that sits on the table every week.  Anytime anyone feels like it they can get up and get the jar and fill out one of the question slips of paper inside.  Then then fold it and put it back in the jar.  Then the following week, or at some later week we do question time where we randomly pull questions out and talk about them. It's really fun and the kids seem to enjoy it.  No one knows who submitted which questions so they can remain anonymous if they want.

There's always a few frequent flier questions that make their way into the jar when I do this with the youth.  Someone inevitably asks about the dinosaurs.  And someone will usually ask why Church is boring and why they have to attend.  Both questions I love and enjoy answering.  Always leads to an interesting discussion.  

Today however there was an especially fun question.  This was the question exactly as written:    

Jesus was a Jew, so why in the paintings in our church Jesus is a white man with a long bear, hair?  But he lived when the Romans ruled those countries (that Jesus lived in) and the Romans made it a rule that people would have to have short hair to separate them from the goths that were attacking them.  Also the Jews in that region would have been dark hair and dark skin.  So is our painting of Jesus wrong?  Is there even a correct painting of him? 

How can you not love the youth?  How is it adults become so closed minded, so stuck in rigid religious traditions and so often trend towards disinterest in further light and knowledge?  The youth actually think.  They ask questions they want to know the answers to.  I have a hard time attending the adult Sunday school class because of the predominant attitude and beliefs. Questions are shot down, or dismissed, or given a mindless empty cliche answer, or some will argue.  The youth's minds are much much better for learning the gospel than the typical adults. I think the adult mind is for the most part unhelpful for learning and experiencing the Gospel.  Doesn't have to be this way of course.  Christ did say to all of us to become as a little child.    

The youth Sunday school hour is a whole different story than the adults.  For the past 10 years my only calling has been Elder's Quorum instructor.  Regardless of moving wards, I get the same calling.  I can hardly describe the difference between teaching elder's quorum and teaching the youth.  The level of inspiration present in the class among both teachers and class members is so drastically different that I had to write this post today.  It's night and day.  The Spirit still attends the youth groups.     

I think it's due to the inherent humility and openness of a young mind.