Splendid Words from Faust

I loved President Faust’s message this month. Read it here. It made me think of my mother, who is legally married, but has been separated from her husband (my father) for years. I know she has felt very alone at times in the church – feeling like nobody cared or even noticed she was there. How much it would have meant to her if someone had been willing to reach out to her. Even before she was separated, I know she felt left out of ward activities. I remember her not wanting to attend the Ward Christmas Party one year because she said it would make her feel lonely.

It’s not that anyone specifically excludes singles (or anyone else). We’re just negligent in doing what the Savior would have done. I wish I was more willing to reach out to others. I ALWAYS see people sitting alone at church, and I usually think that I should invite them to sit next to me. But I never do. If someone in the Dinkytown Ward feels left out – that is MY fault… OUR fault.

My Favorite Part of the LDS Church

My relationship with the LDS church has not always been a loving one. It’s more of a love/hate relationship for various reasons. I often dwell more on my perceived shortcomings of the church rather than the positive assets of the church – a reflection of my own shortcomings. There is much I dislike about the LDS church. I often criticize church culture, disagree with doctrines, dislike church policies, and question church leadership, but I have only love and respect for the rank-and-file church members I interact with weekly. By and large, mormons are some of the most thoughtful, caring, respectful, honest, peaceful, and loving people I’ve ever met.

I have found so many positive role models and close friends (and a future wife) within the walls of LDS chapels. The church’s track record for producing splendid humans is phenomenal. The church’s ability to instill so many positive character traits in its members is my favorite aspect of the church.

What’s YOUR favorite part?

Line Upon Line

Ben posted a link to the following Ensign Article in the comments of a previous post, and I enjoyed it enough to dedicate an entire post to it. Here’s the link. It’s an Ensign Article from 1979 by James B. Allen (should I know who that is?) that discusses many doctrinal and policy changes within the LDS church since it’s creation in 1830.

Several things caught me off guard. First, some of the content itself was new to me. I had no idea multiple baptisms was ever a part of the church’s history. In the modern church, we would probably make fun of a church that performed multiple baptisms. I was surprised that Allen passed it off as a mere policy change, because it seems like there are some pretty serious doctrinal implications of performing multiple baptisms.

Second, it is nice to see a leader of the LDS church speaking openly about sensitive topics from the church’s history. Now-a-days, it seems like the church’s PR strategy is to not discuss such issues.

Third, it is interesting that this was distributed in the Ensign. Today’s Ensign seems to not discuss the difficult topics….But I suppose the whole point of his talk is that in his mind, these AREN’T difficult topics. They’re simple and easy to understand if placed in the right context. And I LOVE the idea that the church is constantly changing and morphing into something new, and that new policies are sure to come in the future.

In fact, I’m very grateful that the church has changed through the years. I don’t want anything to do with polygamy. I don’t want to serve a 4-year mission. I don’t want to live the law of consecration. And I don’t want to believe a lot of things taught by early prophets.

So some questions: Could something like this be published today? It seems completely out of character with the usual Ensign articles, but who knows? I have heard through the grapevine that the church has a pretty intense article about the Mountain Meadows Massacre coming up in the Ensign pretty soon (or maybe it’s already out). What’s the next policy to change? I don’t see the church creating any new policies that would move the church further from mainstream christianity. In fact, I would predict that any policies or revelations to come will only move the church to be more in harmony with mainstream christianity. Anyone got any policy changes you’d like to see? I’ve got a petty one: the church needs to stop prohibiting beards. Honestly, what’s the big deal? Bishops should be allowed to have beards. I’ve got a wish list with a few, more intense items as well, but I’ll keep them to myself for now.

Marriage Prep Class: Week 1

I’m in a marriage prep sunday school class at church to prepare for my upcoming marriage in January. I suppose I’m a little skeptical of the course, and I’m anticipating that a lot of things will rub me the wrong way. I know that if I approach the course with this attitude, of course I will find fault, so I’m trying to remain positive about it. And overall, the lesson the first week was uplifting and made a lot of sense to me. But the last 3 minutes of class we rushed through 6 points of “Becoming One Through a Temple Marriage.” It was given on a small, yellow, bookmark-looking piece of paper, with no source cited. It really did not sit well with me. Here are the six points:

1. Civil marriage is a contract between a man and a woman. Temple marriage is a covenant which includes God.
2. Civil marriage can be looked upon as “what am I going to get out of this.” Temple marriage is “how can we give and grow together.”
3. Civil marriage is often a 50/50 relationship. In a temple marriage each person should give 100%.
4. There is greater security in a temple marriage as it is less likely individuals will walk away when times are tough.
5. In a temple marriage, your attitude, focus, and foundation is on the spiritual and eternal, rather than the temporal here and now.
6. Temple marriage covenants can be continually remembered and renewed by doing temple sealings.

First, let’s start with the positive. Point #5 is something I can really wrap my head around. I agree completely that choosing a sacred venue for a wedding ceremony will allow the couple to psychologically and spiritually base their marriage on a spiritual foundation. This is the most prominent reason Melanie and I have chosen to be married in the temple.

Now for some negative reactions. Point #2 just seems silly. To characterize those who choose to have a civil ceremony as selfish and only looking out for themselves is untrue. In addition, for some members of the LDS faith, the motivation for a temple wedding IS because they believe they will receive something additional that they wouldn’t receive in a civil ceremony.

Point #3 seems misguided. My friend Paul had some good insights into this one. He really liked the advice that each partner should not bring only 50% to the marriage, but 100%. It’s a lovely thought. But I don’t see the connection to temple or civil marriages here. I don’t understand what about a temple guarantees (or encourages) partners to view their contribution as 100% rather than 50% that a civil marriage would not also provide (beyond the benefits Point #5 illustrates).

Point #4 is not only increasingly not supported by statistics, but it also illustrates what could be seen as a weakness of LDS culture when discussing temple marriage. I hope it is true that individuals who have a temple marriage are less likely to walk away from a marriage than those with a civil marriage. But to say that there is a greater sense of security in a temple marriage might lead some newlyweds to assume that a temple marriage requires “less work” to be successful because both partners are more committed to each other.

Pirating Sacrament Meeting

Tomorrow morning in church I’m going to give a talk in sacrament meeting. I’m a little apprehensive about the topic I’ve chosen. I was asked to talk for 10 minutes on the topic of gratitude and was directed to use a specific scripture from the Book of Mormon as the basis for my sermon. I have prepared a topic nearly unrelated to gratitude, and I worry I’ve got up to 20 minutes of material to share. I’m ultimately very proud of the talk I’ve prepared and believe it is a very important topic. The only problem is that it’s not necessarily doctrinally sound, and not necessarily a topic appropriate for a Sacrament Meeting. Basically, I’m pirating Sacrament Meeting, and using it as an opportunity to discuss an issue that I don’t think we talk enough about. But I don’t quote any scriptures. I borrow from a fictional piece printed in a New Era from 1998, and use about one Sentence from Elder Hales. The rest of the 20 minutes is speculation and my own opinion.

Of course, I’m not sure that Sacrament Meeting is the most appropriate venue for opinion, especially opinion about difficult topics, but neither is Sunday School or EQ/RS! On one hand, I’m hesitant to impose my personal opinions on other church members during Sacrament Meeting, but on the other hand, the basic takeaway message of my talk will be that our meetings should become a more appropriate forum in which members can freely express opinions without fear of judgement from other members. So it’s an interesting situation. I’ll probably post the entire lengthy text of my talk tomorrow.