Friday, July 31, 2009

He Said: Redeeming Zion

My wife has been enamored of a bunch of minor attempts at living the United Order. She thinks building a house or two makes them righteous. I know of Habitat for Humanity which built thousands of houses more than these groups. I was in a ward where the High Priest group roofed about five houses in a year. There are lots of groups that share their money and possessions but that does not meet the intent the Lord had when he revealed the principle to Joseph Smith.

Even for the limited success there are lots of problems and discontent among individuals in these groups. Unfortunately due to the mishandling of the property of former members that are thrown out of such groups legal contentions have splintered their assets. The Lord told the Saints in revelation that the Lord would not allow the principle to be lived fully until Zion is redeemed. Personally I think the Lord will reveal a way that if a person puts in their assets they can recover them later. That is the flaw in their current attempts.

They say that timing is everything. The law of consecration which is tied up in the United Order has been put on hold until the Saints redeem Zion. Zion is defined by us as Jackson County, Missouri and particularly the Temple Lot that is owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). Unfortunately this group has never had much success and has about six thousand members so they aren't exactly converting thousands. The LDS Church has its eye on acquiring the site and is waiting in the wings for the day when the Lord opens the way for Zion to be redeemed and then the law of consecration will be established by the Savior who will come in the last days.

There have been communal attempts by all the various groups of Saints. In the days of Brigham Young they made attempts at cooperatives and attempted living the United Order but they quickly learned that due to the nature of men and women that such efforts were not usually successful and we are now living the lesser law.

In the case of the United Order there is a tendency on the part of the leaders of any religious group to misuse their power that is where the breakdown occurs. It has come to my attention that even among fundamentalist groups that who holds and retains property is determined by leaders who frankly grab land and property and wives. The problem occurs when a person is tossed out for supposedly not being worthy. I find it fascinating that they are clueless when the federal government comes in and says wait a minute you violated the former person's rights.

If in their capricious opinion a man no longer is worthy they just throw him out of his wife and strip him of his wives and children and residences and give it to themselves or friends. Many times it is due to the greed of such men who are controlling and frankly have lost their priesthood due to unrighteous behavior. Only God knows the heart of men and women and I suspect there are several cases where the seizures are frankly unrighteous. God saved wicked cities and people when there were a few righteous.

The Lord was smart enough to know that most men can not handle communal property rights without treading on the rights of others in a unrighteous manner from time to time. Hence in Section 105 the Lord tells Joseph Smith that Zion will have to wait until the Latter-day Saints redeem Jackson County which will be after the Lord comes in the millennium.

I have not seen any group including the fundamentalists redeem Jackson County yet. They have few compounds that come close but unfortunately they do something stupid that brings the state or federal government down on them. Joseph Smith was smart enough to have the Lord tell him the state of the future. The FLDS seem to build Zion in Texas, Arizona and Utah rather than Missouri. In fact no group including our own has redeemed Zion. Let me reiterate the Law of Consecration won't be realized until Zion is redeemed.

For the last several decades all the groups have been marking time. All the players are poised around the area but none has had success in converting the gentiles. The Community of Christ (RLDS Church) has their site. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) keeps the other groups from getting the temple lot. None of these groups has redeemed Zion in any fashion. The LDS Church has a sizeable group of members and a visitor's center but nothing spectacular has happened in Jackson County. We did pick up the farm next to Adam-ondi-Ahman but alas none of these groups has redeemed Zion. The United Order and the law of consecration as well as Zion are on hold. Only the Lord himself will redeem Zion when he is good and ready which is not now.

Marion G. Romney in April Conference 1966 gave the LDS General Authorities' perspective on how the United Order has been modified today within the Church:

The final words of the Lord in suspending the order were: "And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption." (D&C 105:34.) Further implementation of the order must therefore await the redemption of Zion. Here Zion means Jackson County, Missouri. When Zion is redeemed, as it most certainly shall be, it will be redeemed under a government and by a people strictly observing those "just and holy principles" of the Constitution that accord to men their God-given moral agency, including the right to private property. If, in the meantime, socialism takes over in America, it will have to be displaced, if need be, by the power of God, because the United Order can never function under socialism or "the welfare state," for the good and sufficient reason that the principles upon which socialism and the United Order are conceived and operated are inimical. In the meantime, while we await the redemption of Zion and the earth and the establishment of the United Order, we as bearers of the priesthood should live strictly by the principles of the United Order insofar as they are embodied in present church practices, such as the fast offering, tithing, and the welfare activities. Through these practices we could as individuals, if we were of a mind to do so, implement in our own lives all the basic principles of the United Order.

As you will recall, the principles underlying the United Order are consecration and stewardships and then the contribution of surpluses into the bishop's storehouse. When the law of tithing was instituted four years after the United Order experiment was suspended, the Lord required the people to put "all their surplus property . . . into the hands of the bishop" (D&C 119:1); thereafter they were to "pay one-tenth of all their interest annually. . . ." (D&C 119:4.) This law, still in force, implements to a degree at least the United Order principle of stewardships, for it leaves in the hands of each person the ownership and management of the property from which he produces the needs of himself and family. Furthermore to use again the words of President Clark: ". . . in lieu of residues and surpluses which were accumulated and built up under the United Order, we, today, have our fast offerings, our Welfare donations, and our tithing all of which may be devoted to the care of the poor, as well as for the carrying on of the activities and business of the Church." What prohibits us from giving as much in fast offerings as we would have given in surpluses under the United Order? Nothing but our own limitations.

Furthermore, we had under the United Order a bishop's storehouse in which were collected the materials from which to supply the needs and the wants of the poor. We have a bishop's storehouse under the Welfare Plan, used for the same purpose. . . . "We have now under the Welfare Plan all over the Church, . . . land projects . . . farmed for the benefit of the poor. . . . "Thus . . . in many of its great essentials, we have, [in] the Welfare Plan . . . the broad essentials of the United Order. Furthermore, having in mind the assistance which is being given from time to time . . . to help set people up in business or in farming, we have a plan which is not essentially unlike that which was in the United Order when the poor were given portions from the common fund."

It is thus apparent that when the principles of tithing and the fast are properly observed and the Welfare Plan gets fully developed and wholly into operation, "we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order." (Conference Report, October 1942, pp. 51-58.) The only limitation on you and me is within ourselves. A Prayer: And now in line with these remarks for three things I pray:
  1. That the Lord will somehow quicken our understanding of the differences between socialism and the United Order and give us a vivid awareness of the awful portent of those differences.
  2. That we will develop the understanding, the desire, and the courage born of the Spirit, to eschew socialism and to support and sustain, in the manner revealed and as interpreted by the Lord, those just and holy principles embodied in the Constitution of the United States for the protection of all flesh, in the exercise of their God-given agency.
  3. That through faithful observance of the principles of tithing, the fast, and the welfare program, we will prepare ourselves to redeem Zion and ultimately live the United Order, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Marion Romney was smart enough to realize that you can't strip away the agency of those involved in the practice. It takes a righteous group to live the law of consecration. If you want to live the law of consecration in my opinion you need to work within the organization to convert a group of people who are so righteous they would be able to usher in the second coming.

None of the bozos I read about in any of these splinter groups make me want to run off and join them. They would steal my wife and children take my money and property and discard me like a piece of rubbish. They would cloak their supposed treatment as I am unworthy when it is really just their need for power and covetousness which is a sin. Me I will do all in my power to usher in Christ's second coming and stick with the good ship Zion (LDS). If I am to be tossed out let he who knows our heart and deeds make the determination because there is no man on this earth capable of that or the Lord wouldn't have told Joseph what he did in Section 105 and that included Joseph Smith who was not ready to institute consecration. If Joseph Smith wasn't ready why do a bunch of lesser men think they can do it?

The Lord didn't say to redeem Utah, Arizona, Texas, or any other place than Zion which the Prophet Joseph defined as the New Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri. All these groups better get their butts over to Missouri and start building up Zion. The LDS Church has a better shot than any of these other groups because we are working there to position ourselves when the Savior comes again.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living the United Order Today

Today I'm going to write about what's on my mind--the United Order; and specifically how it is being lived today by a group of people living out on the Utah/Arizona border. I wrote a post giving the background over at Mormon Matters. Here on this blog I'd like to discuss whether or not the Law of Consecration is a viable alternative in today's world.

As we Mormons know, there were several attempts at living the United Order (a vehicle established to manage the law of consecration) in the early days of Utah. Church rhetoric states that the United Order is no longer necessary. Consecration is understood to mean selfless dedication of time and means to help "build Zion" through spreading the gospel by means of missionary work, temple and family-history work. Faithful members are now asked to tithe and give other donations to support those endeavors, as well as to serve in the church's unpaid ministries.

In the conversation over at Mormon Matters, a lot of attention is being paid to whether polygamy is moral or legal. So I don't want to talk about that here. I want to discuss whether it is possible or advisable to live consecration in this day and age. Is it legally feasible? Do you think there would still be so many problems if the group attempting it were not involved in polygamy? Would it be possible to sustain the desire to live communally if the people were not doing it for religious reasons? Why did the LDS church move away from the United Order as a way of living consecration? Is this just too hard for modern capitalists to do?

Do you ever have a longing to live in a United Order, like I do?

(Here's a house that was built in a day, The FLDS community accomplishes this by donating their time and the materials--and working together for the common good.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

She Said: Is it True? Is it Kind? Does it Improve on the Silence?

When Dr. B. told me he was going to write on this topic (being honest) and the perspective he was going to take, I replied that I would take the position that "Some things that are true are not very useful!" This was a bit of a joke at the time, since I'm not the hugest fan of how Boyd K. Packer employed that statement.


Upon reading Dr. B.'s post I am beginning to believe, for the first time, that Elder Packer had a point!

OK, I admit it. I fudge the truth. One, I had to edit out that part in DH's post where he told my ACTUAL weight. That certainly wasn't very useful. And I'm not so sure the part about the wrinkles and bags under my eyes was useful either.

I think that we all want to make ourselves look good. We want to emphasize the parts of ourselves that are virtuous, lovely, and of good report, and we want to make sure that, if we are discussing our foibles, that our friends will understand our motivations and mitigating circumstances that led us there. In terms of a temple recommend, I'm not really sure that it is necessary to discuss and confess every little piece of unworthiness that exists in our soul. We are all unworthy to enter into a perfectly pure place. But the questions are there to establish basic boundaries, and to help us examine ourselves gently. Our leaders don't probe into exactly how we calculate our tithing, or how we define the Word of Wisdom--and I think there is a reason for that. What Dr. B. calls the "macro view" isn't necessary in passing a temple recommend interview. I learned that the Bishop doesn't want to hear that I told my husband I spent $20.00 at WalMart when I actually spent $50.00. This is something I need to deal with on my own, and is between myself, my husband, and the Lord.

The most eloquent (and attributable) quote on this subject is one from the controversial nineteenth-century guru Sai Baba: "Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" This is very similar to the story of Socrates' "Triple Filter."

Can these "truth tests" be applied to a temple recommend interview? How detailed are you when you answer the questions? How necessary is it to admit that you took a pen or some paper clips from work, or that you yelled at your children? How best shall we honor the truth in our lives while "improving on the silence?"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

He Said: A Perspective on Being Honest in Dealing with Your Fellow Man

Several years ago my wife broke down and admitted that in her temple recommend she admitted to her bishop that she wasn't always honest in her dealings with her fellow man since she told small lies to me her husband all the time about different things i.e. reporting lower expenses at Walmart etc. She was looking at the question with a macro view. Most of think of the question in the micro view.

This particular question is hard to actually answer and is mostly answered by persons including me once or twice in my life like "I am trying to do that." In terms of the macro view, I am not a usual person since I tend to be brutally honest and say whatever is on my mind. This may actually border on being non-Christian. It is not an enduring quality that many of my fellow Saints particularly enjoy about me.

My wife constantly says to me something to elicit that I think she is drop-dead gorgeous. I always think of her even today as when she was twenty-three and weighed about 110 pounds. I thinks she was cute as a button. I once told her when we were first married that I would love her even when she was old. Lately as she has approached fifty she has been more insecure and I have to tell her constantly that I love her more than anyone else. For the most part I am telling the truth but every now and then I am forced to not say something about some physical feature like a wrinkle or grey hair or bags under her eyes or age spots. I use silence as a way to not discuss them. I still find her attractive but I don't want to add to her insecurities. When I was young I would say I love you but you could learn to lose those extra few pounds and live with the fight that might ensue.

I have a compulsion to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am not sure that many Mormons including my own children to my spouse to my fellow members want to hear the brutal truth. You smoked some pot so you are not living the word of wisdom and shouldn't go to the temple etc. Some people like to let it all hang out. In PECs which I despised going to I heard every problem of every member for years and years. It just plain depressed me when a well meaning leader discussed their problems with a desire to help them. Sometimes it was way too much information. In my quorums I hear about how we don't measure up by not home teaching, reading scriptures, holding home evening etc. I am tempted to be honest and say how can you, who lie about doing it from time to time, lean on the rest of us?

I am convinced that it is almost impossible if we don't want to traumatize everyone around us to tell the truth and be totally honest. When I was a student at BYU I attended a class by Elmer Knowles about self-disclosure. He said the only difference between a rational and sane person and a irrational and insane person was how and what they disclosed. He said if you want to improve your relationships with others you needed to choose what you self-disclose.

When I am pushed to be honest I will tell the truth. I am not into telling little white lies like my wife and many that I encounter. I think it is more honest to just not say anything when asked and say you refuse to comment. Most of us think of the honesty part as involving money so strictly speaking I would interpret the question as do you steal from others?

I learned a lesson about honesty from Yoshihiko Kikuchi when I left a $.19 ball point pen in his office one day when visiting and he mailed it back. The postage cost more than the pen. I think about how many of us put a pen in our pockets at a store or work and never return it. I think about how many of us blog at work on company time or fudge a little on travel expenses. Or find a package of toilet paper in a shopping cart or find an item on our grocery list the clerk made a mistake in our favor and we don't give them back the money next time we go in. I think about how we round up or down our tithing.

I think we either need to repent or we should realize that the question is asked us to minimize our bad behavior. Many more of us can answer the micro question and be in compliance but even fewer can ask the macro question and be in compliance. I think the number of honest people who can answer 100% are candidates for Enoch's City or could dance on the head of a pin.

Friday, July 24, 2009

He Said: Reverencing Pioneers: I Don't Relate

I am a convert to the church and don't really have any members of my family that walked across the Plains in 1847 nor in fact associated with it until 1974. The fact is my relatives didn't get off the boat until 1914 at Ellis Island and none of them had anything to do with the LDS Church. I am a first generation Mormon. I am a pioneer by this interesting modern desire to want us all to be pioneers. I don't consider myself a pioneer nor do I consider joining the church as a reason to chronicle my life events.

Even living in Utah and hearing people go on about their Pioneer relatives I just see it as an exercise in self-promotion, as though having a righteous relative makes you righteous. I would just grin and bear it and would feed it by feigning interest. It made a small minority of the ward members happy to think they were from righteous stock.

My heritage is really the antithesis of the Mormon experience. I don't even recognize my Italian Catholic upbringing as being a defining thing nor did my ancestors reverence their Mafia relatives as examples of righteous living. They were glad to get away from one another. Reverencing the early Mormon Pioneers is really a foreign concept to me and my family. We didn't even reverence each other. We hardly talk to one another let alone tell our children much about our family. I don't think that we are that out of the ordinary. I would say we were typical lower working class people.

As the church grows millions of us have nothing in common with the Pioneers since in no way are we related to them nor have we been brought up hearing stories about them unless we work in the Primary. With the correlation of the manuals we only hear a few of the selected stories over and over and not in any detail since most of us don't have a lot in common with pioneers only in the fact they were also members once. The only connection is that they came before us and preserved the church. As I go around the world all of the members can tell stories of how the church developed but none the members in other countries know much other than about the former Church Presidents let alone apostles, seventies, or Utah pioneers.

Even as a member all of adult life I still don't relate with the pioneers. I put up with it in Sunday School but I mostly just tune out the one or two lessons when members go on about how they are the descendant of this polygamous person or general authority.

Even as a history major I never could buy in to the stories of the Pioneers and the Utah experience. I thought they were just telling us the stories so a few people could feel good about their forebears and justify why a small group hold the top spots in leadership positions. It helped me to situate myself in the culture.

I always viewed the stories as a form of instruction and parallel in some way to the Jewish experience of when they were close to God good things happened and when they weren't bad things happened. It was akin to the Jews wandering the the wilderness with all dying off before being allowed in the promised land. The Pioneers died out of hardship. I can't really relate to either group and only in abstract terms understand any similarities to the life we live today.

The only Utah story I could relate to was Orrin Porter Rockwell gunning down the desperadoes on the streets of Salt Lake City. I thought of him as a cold-blooded killer like some of my family members and the westerns I watched as a kid. I had a hard time swallowing the Mountain Meadow Massacre. I felt sorry for Joseph Smith and how he was treated and felt I would have been a better friend than the ones he had in Kirtland and Nauvoo. I know I couldn't have handled Brigham and the life in the Utah territory where men wrestled over polygamous wives and chewed tobacco for teeth problems. I was glad I lived today not then. I did respect Brigham's business acumen but couldn't understand how his kids fought over the estate with the church corporation.

The Pioneer stories were ones that made for revisionist faith-promoting tales where people who would have died meaningless deaths are elevated in to martyrs for the cause who died wending their way to Zion. I don't get goose bumps when I think about the stories of people who did dumb things like walk across the ice and have their toes cut off or were laid in shallow graves and the wolves ate their bodies because they went too late in the year. I see their stories as moral lessons like George Washington cutting down a cherry tree or my father wearing burlap sacks on his feet as shoes during the depression when he went to school in the snow. I wonder every time I heard Pioneer stories why did they go out so late in the year and why would anyone get so choked up about it and try to glamorize something that was well tragic and ill-advised. One consolation was that they didn't eat each other like the Donner party. It served a purpose that thousands of people came to Utah and colonized the west. There were thousands more who came and colonized the West then even us Mormons.

My family conquered the entire world but unfortunately no one glamorizes how they were involved in the conquest of the world. The only story I know is that my family took care of the olive groves for the Mafia. My grandfather was a bag man and collected self-insurance on Saturdays from local businesses.

I don't have any relatives to justify why I am a leader today in the church nor do I ever believe that I will be a leader. My ancestors lived their lives and did nothing extraordinary other than live normal lives. I am not my father nor his father nor his father's father. I am not a gambler, killer, or adulterer. I am not a sinner or a saint. I am just a Joe blow Mormon who joined the church and makes minor contributions. If you want to make me feel good by pretending I am a modern pioneer that is your business but me I don't consider what I did anything but ordinary.

I have to choose to live my life by a certain moral compass. No one that came before really inspires me today. I have always seen history as learning from the lessons or failures of the past. We use pioneer stories as a tool to try to emulate the Saints of the past and get our members to live heroic lives. Unfortunately most of us are just ordinary people. I live in the present not the past. No person is an island but when it comes down to it only living people affect me from general authorities to family. I really can't relate with the Pioneers and see them as being just ordinary people who got in a jam. Once they got to Utah they were no different than any other God-fearing person other than they were members of the Lord's church.

As Latter-day Saints we like to tell stories about why a man or woman rose to be a leader. It is like reading Horatio Alger stories. It is the story of how God had a special mission or they were so righteous or dragged themselves up by their boot straps.

I never met my Grandfather B. I hear all kinds of bad things about him. I am suspect when I hear about past people--people who knew them have filters good and bad. People tend to remember the extremes good or bad. Most of us aren't sinners or saints totally. We are a bunch of people who make decisions based on our experiences some good and some bad. The term pioneer just means one who came before. It renders our lives meaningless when we glamorize and twist events to make them more than they are.

Most of us are just common ordinary people. The majority of Mormons today aren't related to the Pioneers. Our stories are the same oh same oh. We get up, go to work, mow the yard, go to church in a never-ending cycle. Our family ancestors traveled by the same modes of transportation of the Pioneers some died making their way to better opportunities. It is nice they have a monument to them and we can stop off if we want and find out about them.

When my life is over and done with, I doubt people will care one way or the other about my being a modern pioneer. I say if it makes you feel good to think you will be remembered idealistically then fine. The truth is we remember so little about even close relatives like our grandparents as we grow older. The only way we live on is that we had children and they had children. By the time you get to the third generation even those who remember us will know very little about us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

She Said: Should Mormons in the Diaspora Celebrate Pioneer Day?

It has only been in recent years that I have slowly become aware that not every convert to the Church shares my deep identification with the Mormon pioneers. I have loved the epic story of the trek to the Salt Lake Valley. I appreciate its archetypal connotations. My heart thrills with the stories of the pioneer heroes and heroines, and I consider each of their stories part of my legacy as a Mormon, though my LDS heritage begins with myself.

In the last few years there has been some grumbling by members who don't have Mormon pioneers in their genealogy that it annoys them to celebrate the July 24th holiday, a commemoration of the day the first company of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. I think partly to appease these voices, there has been an emphasis on "modern-day pioneers"--those who lead the way for others to follow and who blaze trails in other ways than traditionally recognized. There's a new Primary song, "I Can Be a Modern-Day Pioneer," there are more talks given by General Authorities on the subject, and there are articles such as the latest Mormon Times article "Pioneer Journeys of a Different Era."
There is a sudden dearth of Pioneer Day activities in wards outside of Utah, and in our ward last Sunday the only talk which mentioned pioneers emphasized modern-day contributions rather than those who crossed the plains.

I just want to register a caution to those who wish to move away from the traditional veneration of these honorable forebears. I want to remember their devotion to a faith that meant more to them than life itself. Social scientists often point to the Jewish culture and theorize that the reason it survived through so many years and the scattering of the people to so many different places was the very persecution which caused them to band together in small groups, and their longing remembrance of their homeland.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Psalm 137)

This Psalm is a poignant lyrical device for recalling the story of Israel's exodus from Egypt and its arrival in the promised land. It acts as an earnest reminder both to the exiled Israelites and to later biblical readers of the importance of the promised land for the celebration of the Jewish faith.

Now that we Latter-day Saints experience little real persecution, and the importance of our history and sacred places is beginning to wane, are we in danger of losing some valuable aspect of our culture? Are we losing our Psalms, our legends, our traditional customs and stories?

I'd like to hear what our readers think. Do you feel a connection to the Mormon pioneers? Or do you think the holiday is unnecessary, especially to LDS of other cultures living in many different countries of the world? Should we attempt to graft new converts in to the Utah Mormon pioneer heritage, or should we transfer our loyalties to "modern-day pioneers?"

Monday, July 20, 2009

He Said: Judging Righteous Judgment

As a Latter-day Saint I have seen a dichotomy about this concept of judging one another. I think BiV and her friends have some merit in discussing the term “omniscience mechanism”but I don't think they are totally correct in how operationally judgment works in the Church. We have commandments and standards that tell us that certain sins are an abomination to the Lord. We don't tell gay people they can't be in the church we just say they can't act on those sins. As to a gluttonous person that goes back to the gradations of sin. Our leaders don't consider gluttony on par with sexual transgression. These people talk out of both sides of their mouths. One day BiV tell us there are victimless sin like gluttony then the next day she tell us all sin is of the same value so why should one be treated less than another one.

On the one hand we are told by LDS leaders as every day members not to judge others and to be kinder and gentler in our treatment of others. Jesus told us he who is without sin should not to cast the first stone. Most of the time I don't have a clue if there is a gay person in my ward since it is not something we discuss. It doesn't matter what the sin is we have a series of judgments in this church. God has outlined them throughout the Bible and they have consequences.

On the other hand Joseph Smith in the JST changed the scripture in Matthew 7:2 to read: " Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment." In the church we have bishops and stake presidents who constantly judge certain sins and mete out disciplinary action. We have wives and husbands who enter in to a covenant relationship with us. We have stewardships in which home teachers and visiting teachers are supposed to help us and encourage us to better gospel living.

I don't know but maybe the gluttonous person needs to be chastened also by our leaders if that is a sin that is holding them back from entering the kingdom of God. In operation how is judgment really conducted in the Church and how does it work. I would be more inclined to trim down if I knew I couldn't get a temple recommend. But the reality is that there are many fat leaders who still have the Spirit. It isn't on the temple recommend questions yet.

As a young missionary serving under M. Russell Ballard he taught us that there is a series of judgments or accountability in which our bishops, stake leaders, general authorities and righteous priesthood fathers would give an accountability to the Lord in his making a final judgment. If if Christ is the final judge we are constantly being judged in the church by those with stewardship over us.

Joseph Fielding Smith in The Way to Perfection describes a prophetic accounting or judgment process:

Not many years hence there shall be another gathering of high priests and righteous souls in this same valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. At this gathering Adam, the Ancient of Days, will again be present. At this time the vision which Daniel saw will be enacted. The Ancient of Days will sit. There will stand before him those who have held the keys of all dispensations, who shall render up their stewardships to the first Patriarch of the race, who holds the keys of salvation. This shall be a day of judgment and preparation. Joseph, the Prophet, in speaking of this event, said:

Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days; he means the oldest man, our father Adam, Michael; he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him (Adam) and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.-D. H. C. 3:386-7.

Like Russell Ballard says there is a series of judgments up to the person's final reckoning that includes individual accountability and stewardship accountability by leaders responsible for us. If you can't make judgments than how is this possible and why does it happen?

BiV likes to quote trendy people who have interesting ideas like “omniscience mechanism.” She and her philosophical friends tend to place a framework over LDS doctrine and practice that just doesn't mesh with our operational procedures that make priesthood judgments. She doesn't take in to account that in Mormon doctrine we have developed a system in which righteous judgment is made on the basis of having the Spirit and discernment. It is the very thing that LDS leaders use in declaring a person is not in compliance with the standards of the Gospel or is in compliance with Gospel standards and about worthiness to partake of the sacrament or go to the temple or hold membership in the church.

Finite people make decisions that are bound in heaven throughout Old Testament, New Testament, and Latter-day times. If we were to say no one can make a righteous judgment only God than the practices of our religion would be nullified such as sealing people and worthiness issues. Christ and his leaders determine sin and its progressive discipline. Even Joseph Smith understood this when he set up the organization of the Church with a system of stewardship with accountability. Prophets and church leaders are constantly giving us advice and determining our status or worthiness. To me that is making righteous judgments.

I don't disagree that in the end the individual has to stand before Christ. I just disagree that that is the only judgment taking place on the way to the final reckoning.

Harold B. Lee said:

I sat with a youngster yesterday who is in his early twenties, and he is wondering now, worrying, he is fretting for fear he is not in the niche where he can give the best service. And I said, "Son, all you have to worry about is that you are doing your best in the place where you are today. That is all you have to be concerned about. You are not going to be judged by how you measure to someone else who has achieved a high station in the industrial or financial or religious world. The only measure by which you are going to be measured is, How will you compare with what you had the capacity to do? That is the measure the Lord's going to measure you by, to see whether or not you have done, to the best of your ability, whatever came within your hands this day, and if you can answer the same honestly day by day. And the only day you have to worry about is today. There is nothing you can do about yesterday except repent. That means if you made mistakes yesterday, don't be making them today. Don't worry about tomorrow, because you may have no tomorrows. This is the masterpiece you ought to be thinking about today. And if you can always witness honestly that whatever you did, you did to the best of your ability, and next day try improvement on that, when your life's end comes, of you it can be said in truth, his was a successful life because he lived to the best that was in him. That's all the Lord expects of any one of His children. We are all born with different capacities, some to do one thing, some to do the other, and all He asks is that we do our best; and that's the measure by which we'll be judged when that time comes."
As if to point a finger at control as being a bad thing is to miss the whole point of judgment. God controls who gets in the various degrees of glory. No unclean thing can enter in to the kingdom of God. The standard works are replete with scriptures that talk about what happens and there are numerous scriptures that talk about prophets and holy men judging righteous judgment or giving counsel. There is in the LDS church a series of judgments or accounting by everyone from parents to church leaders to the prophets of dispensations to the final judge Christ.

Recently someone attacked me for being overweight. They were absolutely correct in their assessment that I need to lose some weight. In fact an apostle told me the very same thing that I needed to get control of myself. We all know that the body is a temple of God when you feel sick from diabetes or high blood pressure you can't minister as well as when you are healthy. The apostle told me what he said out of love. Sometimes we make judgments even if they are not fully informed and they help a person to be more in tune with the Spirit or help them to fulfill their mission better here on this earth.

As to the example about an overweight person I will use myself adding I am not gay though. My wife is not very accepting of the fact that I am also overweight and constantly encourages me to eat better and exercise more. If she were to just love me by being less judgemental would I all of a sudden become thin? I don't think so. Loving the person has nothing to do with acceptance of them in a less than perfect state. She knows that I would be more effective in terms of my service in the kingdom if I were thinner. People would not be putting down my posts on non-weight related subjects based on who do I a chubby person think I am to discuss retiring to thy bed early. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

Sometimes we have to have the Spirit and render righteous judgment. Some of us are lazy and we need to be called to repentance. Passive love doesn't always conquer all, there has to be action on the part of the person who is not in compliance. The Lord may in the end declare we didn't measure up and we find themselves on the outside looking in after the final judgment.

Harold B. Lee says it in that we need to be better each day that comes from the previous day so we can perfect ourselves. A little righteous judgment from loved ones and leaders might be the nudge we need in overcoming damning behaviors to overcome our carnal natures.

BiV and her friends are correct in that is that Christ is the final judge and the keeper of the gate. He makes the final decision. Harold B. Lee also said:

The only judge who can render a righteous judgment will be the Infinite Judge who knows all things from before the beginning of man upon the earth, even to the end of man. He will take all things into His view, and the judgment that will be rendered, you may be sure, will be a righteous judgment where mercy tempers justice, and yet justice has its part. If that were not so, it would make mockery of the laws that God prepared for us to obey if we are to inherit His glory
But in our journey as church members a series of judgments are made that influence us on the way to the final judgment. Since even church leaders and prophets can make mistakes we have a final reckoning where everything is revealed and made right. Lets hope that those in positions of responsibility over us render righteous judgments that help us prepare for the final one.

Friday, July 17, 2009

He Said: Victimless Sins

I have heard the term victimless sins used by LDS bloggers this past year as something that is just between the person and God. Victimless sins I have read arguments or comments about include the Word of Wisdom, Sleep Patterns, Pornography, and Masturbation.

In a recent post on Retire to Thy Bed Early BiV and several of her commenters discussed victimless sin. They suggest that counsel given by the Lord in the Book of Commandments or Doctrine and Covenants is merely a guideline without actual implications and if they choose to stay up late at night there aren't any real consequences.

When I worked at BYU I worked for Reed Benson who had a sleeping disorder. He couldn't sleep at night and would get just a few hours of sleep if he was lucky. One day he came in and told me how he fell asleep at the wheel and drove down the hill by the Grant Building. He was lucky he didn't get killed. There are many cases of people who have limited sleep that have slower response times in doing things. My post showed that longevity is affected by those who don't get enough sleep. I admit that sleep is a minor problem but if we are all put on this earth with a mission and we cut that mission short it might have eternal consequences. For example a person is tired and they don't interact with someone that might have been converted to the gospel. If the Lord didn't think there wasn't an affect he wouldn't have given this as a revelation to Joseph Smith.

The concept of victimless sin has been grating at me ever since I wrote a post last year on masturbation. Nick Literski and others criticized me justifying their acceptance of this practice as a victimless sin. I argue that when a person masturbates they visualize some person in their minds many times a real person as the object of their desire. I posted a couple of weeks ago about whether mental adultery is a sin. I thought for sure the proponents of victimless sin would raise up arms but they were pretty tame. BiV didn't even respond saying that no one would refute it.

Today I came across a case study on masturbation and pornography that give us real life consequences of just how such sins are not victimless but can devastate other family members.

One blogger in Addicted to Porn who is very open on her blog tells the sad story of her husband Jack who engaged in such supposedly victimless sins as pornography and masturbation. I don't know if this is a fictious name or not but it is very revealing story of how supposedly victimless actions affect others:

Our sex life continued to struggle, his interest in me was nil, he would literally do anything he could to avoid me. It really hurt. I often thought he was gay but told myself that it’s ok for him to have those tendencies as long as he doesn’t act on them. I really didn’t know what to think. I knew that being around him made me feel dirty, discouraged, and unattractive; it drove me crazy! I knew I never would have thought that marriage to a return missionary priesthood holder would have been so lonely. I loved having my babies and tried very hard to mentally and emotionally block out the mean and negative things that Jack would say and do.

Ten years after we were married, I was pregnant with my fifth baby (finally a boy), Half-way thru the term of that pregnancy for whatever reason, (a conference talk, I guess) he decided to tell me that he was addicted to pornography and that he was on his way that night to repent. I went thru stages of disbelief to horror to depression. I wasn’t even sure what pornography was. I associated it with pedophiles, rapists and perverts. I was very shocked and scared. I went to therapists, we went to therapists, he went to therapists, and all left me more shocked and more discouraged.

One of the hardest things to accept was the habit of masturbation that came with the addiction. “Addiction” I could not understand at all why anyone would call pornography and masturbation “Addiction”! If it was an “addiction”, would he never stop? If he could never stop… how would I stay married? How could he have repentance? I had so many mixed up feelings and emotions. I hated him. He stole ten years of my life, he threw away my righteous desires, he took the love and cherish that I could have had, and wanted with all of my heart, and tricked me. What kind of sick person could hide something so awful, for so long from his wife! When I would cry myself to sleep with loneliness and despair, he never once tried to calm me with the true reasons he didn’t want me? Why did he want so badly for me to hate myself in every way? He let me lose my self esteem, he let me feel dirty, he let me be angry and lonely, he let me hate myself for wanting to be with him.

I still wonder what porn star he was making love to in his mind when I conceived our children. For the last ten years I’d given birth to four of his daughters! During that time I stayed in the house as much as possible; I didn’t want to go anywhere. I loved being home with my babies, I loved holding and playing with them, I loved watching them play with each other and with their friends. I loved planning things for them. When the kids were sick or they would not go to bed, I had a hard time; Otherwise, I loved and cherished every minute with each one of them. I felt so blessed to have them.

When Jack was in town, he was a great dad. I seemed to let that trump all the other negative behaviors he had. Jack was out of town all the time! When he was gearing up to leave, and when he would return, we would always fight! I felt so guilty because I was convinced it was me being controlling. I wanted his help when he was home, but I hated it when he would undo and/or redo everything when he got back. Not once did he hint that the fighting before he left and after his return had to do with the sick double life he had when he was gone.

Church was the worst! That was his Turf. He was the honorable priesthood authority in our home. He was a return missionary! He prayed long prayers every night. He diligently served in his callings. He took the kids to church and I stayed home. I was insecure about what other women thought of me. I was not active enough growing up to always follow their LDS lingo, and I was certainly not pretty enough or worthy enough to be in their circle. For ten years he knew my struggles and my insecurities and never once gave a hint of his own short comings, sins or dirty little secrets. It was very hard to accept that I had married a person who could keep up such a lie.

I wondered what kind of sick thoughts he had. What did he think of our daughters? What did he think when he saw other peoples daughters in porn? If he didn’t respect women, how could he even have a testimony? Or did he? What kind of stupid girl was I, that I did not see this coming? I remembered JG saying “he could not imagine only seeing one naked woman for the rest of his life” I knew my husband felt the same way.

He punished me for not smelling good, not looking good, not taking enough time with the kids, not praying enough, not driving well enough, not making dinner good enough, not wearing the right socks, using the right knife, anything he could think of he would make it a point to make a personal attack on me, I believed that I wasn’t good enough. All that time, he was holding me to a ridiculous standard. He wanted me to be a fantasy! No matter how I tried, he would never be satisfied or pleased because what he wanted was porn. He married me, not because he loved me, but because he thought that being married would cure him. Just as I thought being married to a priesthood holder would make me happy, we both lost.

You can read the rest of her post and see how she lost her self-esteem and how a supposed victimless sin destroyed her trust in her husband.

There are other victimless sins such as the phenomenon of chatting with other men for women or women with men which can sometimes go from supposedly harmless gospel discussions to flirtatious online affairs to possible mental adultery. David Bednar decried this tendency in a recent CES fireside Things As They Really Are. The really is a promise that temple goers make about who are feelings should be toward. Once a person engages in such practices it is hard for them to stop.

Victimless sins are like a pebble thrown in a pond that ripple in ways that a sinner has no idea will affect others. Many times the victimless sinner blames an unintended victim such as a spouse of why they practice a supposed victimless sin in the first place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

He Said: When Gospel Conversations are a Waste of Time

Having grown up a Roman Catholic I haven't always been as open about listening to other religions as BiV. In fact I told the LDS missionaries to get lost on at least two occasions in my life. Both times I was miffed because they were obnoxious and inconsiderate of my opinions and a drain on my time. I talked with them when I had an interest after reading the Book of Mormon and solicited the missionary discussions all seven in one day because I didn't want to be pressured to join if I didn't want to. Theologically to me the argument wasn't openness but authority. I felt that the Catholic Church at one time held the keys but there was a falling away and the LDS Church and Joseph Smith were a restoration of the same primitive Church.

Even though I served a mission I had the same expectation while a missionary that I was seeking the honest in heart that would let me in only if they wanted and held a similar viewpoint. I never got too upset or depressed when people slammed the door in my face. I was on a mission to find those already prepared and fortunately I never baptized people that had to be persuaded from already established other religion. The thirty-eight people who joined the church just plain didn't believe in the existing religion they had once belonged to and where seeking the truth. I learned early as a missionary that "a man convinced against his own will remains of the same opinion still."

On my mission I saw the competition for finding new people was usually Jehovah's Witnesses. It was unfortunate for us because they sweep in a neighborhood. A group of ten or twenty of them go out together and knock the same houses. People were not inclined to even talk to us if they had been recently swept. I encountered them about a dozen times in my life and on my mission I once went to a couple of discussions with an elder in their church. He was trying to convert my companion and me rather than the other way around. I was very turned off by the depressing belief that our spirits are held in the collective mind of God and that our bodies rot in the ground unless we are one of the 144,000 then our spirits live on. I also considered it the height of arrogance that a non-Jehovah witness could not pray with them. I have caused Jehovah Witness women teachers to get up and leave when I start praying since only they believe they can pray to God in a gathering. Over the years my wife has let them in the door or accepted their literature whenever they come by. She even attended their once a year sacrament meeting. Of course she couldn't take of the sacrament since only one of the 144,000 can. On a couple of occasions I have driven them mad when I insist that I know that I am one of the 144,000 because I have had a couple of experiences where I have walked and talked with Jesus. In fact I would take the sacrament if I attended because I definitely feel I am one of the high priests that is mentioned in the Bible. I read a pamphlet on my mission by Mark E. Petersen that talked about some of these doctrines that he said are mistaken beliefs and I still remember that he said that they were sincere people, sincerely wrong.

I don't agree that we should listen to just anyone who comes along. On the few occasions when I listened to other religious groups it was some pretty whacked out stuff. Once I listened to a New Age guy read to me from the Book of Urantia. It was some heady stuff even Joseph Smith seemed tame compared to its premises which mingled Christian doctrine in. In fact they would accept Joseph Smith as a prophet. I also encountered many Bahai's who thought Joseph Smith and Muhammed great teachers as was Jesus Christ.

My concern isn't just the time you spend listening but when you aid someone that feels you are an unbeliever. When I was going to school at BYU I lived on the west side of Provo. One day I came home from school and my wife had invited six fundamentalist missionaries all who were between sixteen and eighteen to have dinner. When it became about nine o'clock and they hadn't left I started to get concerned. She never asked me if they could sleep there. Finally I was able to get her alone and she said they were going without purse and script and she told them they could stay with us a day or two. It miffed me because not only did I have to listen to them attack my religion I was aiding and abetting those who would destroy other members faith. I didn't feel good that they were using my apartment as a base for their efforts. When I engaged them in a conversation they weren't especially interested in honest discussion and conceded that neither of us was going to feel any different. The funny thing was that a year later one of them supposedly converted to Mormonism and was a student at BYU. Now that I know they infiltrate the church I wonder if this girl was pretending to convert so she could go to the temple eventually.

I unlike my wife don't see what they do as harmless. One time I was assigned to be a home teacher to an infiltrated fundamentalist who was attending medical school in Missouri. She had moved in to our ward and she and her children were attending church like members in full fellowship. On my first visit as I was walking downstairs to give them a home teaching lesson in their family room I looked up at the wall and saw a photograph with an older man surrounded by about four or five women and a couple dozen children. Without missing a beat I said is that your husband and his wives and children. She said how did you know? I said the spirit just revealed it to me. Needless to say when I reported it to the bishop things were slightly different. I did met the husband who told me his convoluted story with which I was totally unimpressed. I felt sorry for the women he caused to lose their membership in the true church, the loss of his first marriage and wife, and it confirmed my attitude that we should be selective in what we listen to. It gave me a sick feeling in my gut to see how devious Satan really can be. The only value I see in listening to everyone is that if you have the Holy Spirit you will be able to cut through the crap.

Today I believe as I am getting older and have less time on this earth that we should have partially open minds and be discerning or selective in what messages we listen to. Even when I go to a job-related conference I get up and walk out if a lecture is boring or not of great value and I go to a different one. I don't have time to hear everything. I figure it is like when I first heard about Mormonism if the Lord wants me to hear it I will eventually hear it. If something resonates with me I listen if not I do other things.

Take the Poll: Gospel Discussions with Those of Other Faiths

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

She Said: Letting Missionaries in the Door

Latter-day Saints have a strong missionary tradition that commenced from the very first days of the Church. We are known in many countries for our proselyting missionaries. For a long time I only knew of one other denomination that sent proselyting missionaries around, and that was the Jehovah's Witnesses. But in the past few years my door has been knocked upon by various Christian missionaries. When we lived in Vernal, there was even an evangelical group who went around specifically to convert Mormons away from their beliefs.

I have always enjoyed my discussions with these proselyting missionaries. Once I met with a set of Jehovah's Witnesses for several weeks. Through studying with them, I gained a greater understanding of the use of the Tetragrammaton in the Old Testament. I was privileged to be invited to their worship service, and I observed with interest their unique procedures in partaking of the Sacrament. Christian missionaries have provided wonderful examples for me in charity and being personally involved in projects to benefit the underprivileged. And Fundamentalist missionaries, while rare today, helped me appreciate our unique restoration heritage when they stayed with us for a few days in the early 1980's.

Since our Church consists of so many converts, myself and Dr. B. among them, it is obvious that if these members hadn't been willing to entertain the missionaries--to let them in the door and listen to them, they would never had had the opportunity to hear the restored gospel and join the Church. But now that they are baptized members, should they shut their doors to missionaries of other faiths?

I am of the opinion that one should always hold an open mind when it comes to matters of religion. If we honestly seek the truth, we must be open to any conclusion. Our scriptures urge us to look for truth and knowledge wherever it may be found. I think that this includes in discussion with and examination of other faith traditions. People are generally afraid of uncertainty. They hesitate to challenge their secure world view, a view which is supported by the other members of their religion. But speaking with others with different paradigms and challenging our own assumptions is important. Religion is a search for truth, not a search for security, pleasure, friendship or approval.

That is why, when members of other religions knock on my door, I invite them in.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

She Said: Victimless Sin #1

Hmm, Dr. B's last post sure sounded like a reprimand to me, did it sound like that to you?

He's right -- I do burn the candle at both ends. I used to be a "morning person," retiring at about 10pm and getting up around 6am. It all changed by the time my eighth child had arrived. I found myself so thrilled when they were all in bed that I finally had time to myself to read, do a project, or just have some free time alone, that I took to staying up quite late at night. This habit has continued over the years. I now go to sleep about 12 or 1:00 at night and wake up just before 7. During the school year I have to get up just before 6. This gives me 6 or 7 hours of sleep, which I think is rather reasonable. A few times a month I find myself involved in something to the point that I stay up until 2 or 3.

Every once in a while I will make an effort to get more sleep. But it's not that important to me. What about you? Do you think going to sleep and waking up early is an important commandment, or is it just a suggestion that might be helpful? I think if my body didn't need to sleep, I never would. Since I honor my mother and father and obey the Word of Wisdom, I am already assured of a long and healthy life. I enjoy my hours alone in the darkness, reading or thinking, perusing the blogs, writing poetry. I wouldn't trade them for a few paltry more years in my extreme old age.

BiV's Homage to the Dark Hours

My muses prowl in the dark hours--
They do not waylay the weary,
But bestow their boon on the bright-eyed
And not the bleary.

Those owl-like souls who await them
In a state of solemn wonder
And are wakeful still in the wee hours,
Receive the plunder.

My muses pass by the slumb'rous,
They delay their dance to the dark hours,
And the only souls who perceive them
Rest not 'neath bowers.

I have pined alone in the dark hours,
I have begged without compunction.
I have sought the nine nymphic tokens,
Invoked their unction.

As I write these words after midnight,
I can feel their furtive fingers
Touch my mind and spirit gently--
The night oil lingers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

He Said: Retire to Thy Bed Early

In Section 88:124 the Lord instructs:
Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
As long as I have been a Latter-day Saint I have considered this to be wise counsel. After only a year I went on a mission where we were expected to arise by 6 am and go to bed by 10 pm. Today it is 6:30am for missionaries and 10:30pm. For most of my life I have gone to bed at the latest around midnight but usually before 11pm.

Wikipedia gives a good overview on the amount of sleep we all need:

The National Sleep Foundation in the United States maintains that seven to nine hours of sleep for adult humans is optimal and that sufficient sleep benefits alertness, memory, problem solving, and overall health, as well as reducing the risk of accidents. A widely publicized 2003 study performed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrated that cognitive performance declines with six or fewer hours of sleep. A University of California, San Diego, psychiatry study of more than one million adults found that people who live the longest self-report sleeping for six to seven hours each night. Another study of sleep duration and mortality risk in women showed similar results. Other studies show that "sleeping more than 7 to 8 hours per day has been consistently associated with increased mortality," though this study suggests the cause is probably other factors such as depression and socioeconomic status, which would correlate statistically. It has been suggested that the correlation between lower sleep hours and reduced morbidity only occurs with those who wake after less sleep naturally, rather than those who use an alarm.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and University College London have found that lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but that too much sleep can also double the risk of death. Professor Francesco Cappuccio said, "Short sleep has been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes, sometimes leading to mortality; but in contrast to the short sleep-mortality association, it appears that no potential mechanisms by which long sleep could be associated with increased mortality have yet been investigated. Some candidate causes for this include depression, low socioeconomic status, and cancer-related fatigue. …In terms of prevention, our findings indicate that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health, and a sustained reduction may predispose to ill health."

It is fascinating that Wikipedia agrees with both parts of the revelation that we shouldn't sleep longer than is needful nor that we should not get enough sleep which is usually considered seven to eight hours for an adult, nine to ten hours for those 5-18.

Outside of the missionary culture I discovered during my seven years at BYU that most members didn't really put a great deal of stock in adhering to this principle of going to bed early and sleeping that much. The majority of roommates and friends burned the midnight oil. They were just warming up by about 10 pm. Most of them were lucky they got about five or six hours sleep every night. I knew many that slept right through 8am classes and even more that worked as student janitors at 4am who either stayed up all night or missed shifts.

The reality is that many Latter-day Saints go on less than eight hours of sleep since we are such busy people. I don't know too many people that go to bed at nine oclock at night. It can be argued that at the time of Joseph Smith they didn't have electric lights nor did people work at different times of the day and night. My father who worked the night shift had to sleep during the day. He never really got his sleep clock in tune with the amount of time he needed to sleep. As he got older he said he slept less because he knew his time was limited.

I know that is a struggle for many Latter-day Saints to get up early in the morning. I remember as a student at BYU that Hugh Nibley told me "I am a late person. I go to bed late at night and get up late in the morning. I don't operate well early in the morning." My own wife seems to go to bed between 1-3am despite getting up around 6:30am every day. She usually cries when I wake her up and says she is tired. I think lack of sleep contributes to her crankiness.

I had a roommate when I first went to BYU who went on about two or three hours of sleep. He was always dragging his behind. After two or three weeks he would crash and sleep an entire day on Saturdays in to Sunday.

Even David O. McKay admits in his book Man May Know for Himself he had difficulty as a teenager with the principle:
I am reminded of the passage from the Doctrine and Covenants, "Retire to thy bed early . . . arise early." Sometimes as boys Thomas E. and I did not retire early. The next morning father would stand at the door upstairs and say, "Come boys, it's time to get up," and we would turn over, hoping for a few more winks; but he would stand there, and say, "Come boys, those who dance must pay the fiddler." Oh, those happy days of youth!

Joseph B. Wirthlin in his book Finding Peace in Our Lives tells us why he considers getting up early of value:
Heed the advice found in the Doctrine and Covenants: "Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124.) The early hours of the morning give us a freshness and a time when we are unencumbered with the cares of the world. It can be a quiet time, a time to become organized and "prepare every needful thing." (D&C 88:119.)
Russell M. Nelson also agreed in Conference October 1986 that morning is a good time to put our lives in order:
To those who feel defeated and downtrodden, look to the early hours of the day for your rescue. The Lord tells us, “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124). The dawning of a brighter day heralds a time of forgiveness. Shadows of yesterday’s grief melt in the rays of early morn’s opportunity.

I guess early morning is a good time for repentance because wives, children and siblings are still cutting a few z's. You can pour out your soul without worrying anyone hears you if you feel like praying quietly out loud. I come up with my best posts right when I wake up around 5 or 6am.

Neal A. Maxwell in his book Notwithstanding My Weaknesses suggests we should get up early so we don't make mistakes due to weariness:
President Spencer W. Kimball has had those telling moments when he has felt as if he simply could not meet certain challenges. Yet he did and he does. Given our weaknesses, however, paced progress is essential, much as God used six measured and orderly creative periods (followed by respite) in preparing man and this earth. There is a difference, therefore, between being steadily and effectively or "anxiously " engaged, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, being frantically engaged one moment and being passive and detached the next. Lest we wrongly assume that traveling on the straight and narrow path requires hectic pace, let us remember that the Lord does not want us to weary by the way and for very good reasons. Thoughtless haste and spurts of service are not what is desired, for such naivete is like the businessman who confuses volume with profit. The Lord has clearly indicated His concern for us if we are weary; He has even given us counsel on sleep to avoid that weariness and in order to be vigorous: "cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124)

Heber J. Grant mentioning the death of Anthony W. Ivins in Conference October 1934 said he would have lived longer had he gone to bed earlier:
One of the greatest, most devoted and splendid members of the General Authorities of the Church has been taken from us at the ripe age of eighty-two. From his childhood until his death he has been a very studious man, gathering information on many subjects, and he was successful in all the walks of life in which he engaged. He was successful in more things than any other man I ever knew, and all his life fulfilled the requirements made in the D&C, Section 88, verses 124, 125, 126:

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated;

And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bonds of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace;

Pray always, that ye may not faint until I come; behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself.

Each and every requirement therein made Brother Ivins fulfilled, except the one "retire to thy bed early." I believe that he would have lived longer had he fulfilled that requirement, but he generally studied until midnight.

I guess he would have lived to 90 had he heeded the advice of the Lord. I am sure most of us would like to last until 82 even. If you really aren't too concerned about how long you live and want to cut off a few years of life then you should continue a reduced sleep cycle.

Friday, July 10, 2009

She Said: In a Good Mormon Marriage, Who Holds the Trump Card?

These days, I don't know of anyone who DOESN'T believe that husbands and wives should be equal partners in a marriage. Optimally, a married couple should work together to solve problems. But we all know that sometimes an impasse will be reached. A consensus cannot be attained, and a decision must be made. What does a good Mormon couple do in such a situation?

We often hear that patriarchy is a good system because of just such occurrences. If there is one clear leader, the argument goes, then the course to follow will be decided in advance, and it will cause less contention in the long run. In homes where one partner holds the priesthood, it seems obvious that the priesthood holder will make all final decisions when a tie-breaker is needed. In an address titled "Marriage and the Patriarchal Order," Elder Dean L. Larson expresses his opinion that male priesthood holders should be sensitive to their wives' feelings and desires when making decisions, and that compulsion should not prevail. However,
"In the Lord’s system of government, every organizational unit must have a presiding officer. He has decreed that in the family organization the father assumes this role. He bears the priesthood ordination. He is accountable before the Lord for this leadership...A wide range of individual responsibilities must be carried by the leaders and by good counselors in every successful organization, including the family organization. These responsibilities should be agreed upon and then honored as a sacred trust. The particulars may vary in each marriage unit by agreement of the husband and wife, but the ultimate responsibility for leadership cannot be successfully delegated."

The majority of Elder Larson's talk illustrates the problem I have with this principle. Over and over he speaks of unity in the making of decisions. He talks about how unanimity is important in the councils of the Church. He even expresses the idea that different areas of responsibility for family life may be divided among the spouses if agreed upon in advance. But in the end, the "trump card" is left with the husband.
"If, ultimately, a husband must propose a course of action in the absence of complete agreement, he must sense the great responsibility in taking this role and should do so with great care. It should never be done precipitously, whimsically, or egotistically, but always thoughtfully and with the welfare of those involved uppermost in mind. The powers of inspiration can more easily and readily be brought to bear in this way. When a decision is reached in any matter, the two marriage partners must be as one in pursuing the objective, whatever it may be. A wise couple will learn to sustain and support each other in their proper roles in leadership and partnership. There will never be lobbying with family or friends for support against a decision made in the proper way. To do so would be to invite contention and competition which will surely be destructive to the happiness and harmony of the marriage."

The wife is expected to submit to the husband's priesthood leadership in these cases. In my opinion, a woman can never feel like an equal partner in a marriage which is contracted under these terms. In the better marriages, she may feel that her opinion is valued, that her husband respects her judgment and so forth, but underlying all of the best efforts for unity is the crocodile of priesthood that lies beneath murky waters, ready to raise his fearful head if there comes a day that two human beings cannot see eye to eye.

Our Church leaders strive incessantly to allege that our LDS marriages are equal as well as patriarchal. This is simply not true when one partner is given a trump card. No matter how sensitively, how lovingly, how meekly he makes the decision, it is his to make, and the woman's to submit.

He Said: In a Good Mormon Marriage, Who Holds the Trump Card?

I read with great interest BiV's post on who holds the trump card. In a world where relationships really are patriarchal I would see better her position and respond that men actually have a decision-making power and are ultimately responsible in the Mormon system of accountability. However in the United States and Canada most Mormon males would tell you that their wives have for the most part usurped that power. No man with any sense would think that he is in charge of the family. The reality is that the wife is usually in charge and calls on us for decisions when children don't comply.

The business about women are more spiritual than men is because it is the woman who usually presses the spiritual things like lets pray or hold family home evening or go to the temple. Recently my daughter was able to get in to all three BYUs. I have a preference for BYU in Provo having gone there for seven years. I worked at BYU-Hawaii for two years and had a daughter attend BYU-Idaho. I tried to get my wife and daughter to see the logic of my daughter going to BYU. In the end my wife convinced my daughter it was better for her to go to a school I considered inferior at BYU-Hawaii to BYU at Provo. I admit her rationale of being smaller might mean better attention but knowing the arrogance of professors at both places up close and personal I feel it is the luck of the draw.

I can't think of single incidence where I said something and my wife or children did what I suggested. As a result I don't see what has her knicker's in a bunch other than the fact that the leaders suggest the man make the final decision.

In my opinion it is because if the wife is so prone to being in charge than it might equalize it if she were to consider the opinion of her husband from time to time. This is a cultural specific thing in the U.S. and Canada and matriarchal places like the Phillipines. My argument wouldn't probably hold up in truly partriarchal cultures in the world like the Middle East or Europe but for this culture I believe the disparity is on the other side unless a woman truly is a wallflower. Having seven daughters I haven't seen one yet including in my twelve years of living in Utah. I find this outrage over a fundamentalist doctrine hard to fanthom.

It would actually be refreshing in terms of intimacy if more mainstream Mormons women actually thought we trumped them since many of the men I talk to are just trying to keep their wives happy. I learned in Family Relationship classes at the Y that women control the intimacy. It might balance things out if men actually had a say in other areas.

Monday, July 6, 2009

She Said: Mormon Date Night

I'm not so sure this is counsel we hear from GAs or over the pulpit at General Conference (I'll let Dr. B. search around for it), but I know that local leaders often counsel married couples that they should set aside time once a week for a "Date Night." I think this is actually some of the best advice I've heard for strengthening a marriage. When Dr. B. and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple back in 1983 our sealer, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi, advised us to go out often together, even if it was only to McDonald's. I think this was standard advice that he gave to many couples. It is often difficult once two people are married to spend quality time together. Unless there is a time set apart in the week, it usually just doesn't happen. Work schedules, children, TV, or even a good book can get in the way of conversation between couples, and over the years the lack of communication makes a difference.

I remember at a stake conference when all of our children were quite young, the SP told the parents in the stake that they should establish a bedtime for their children. At the time, we were into attachment parenting, and that combined with nursing on demand which meant that bedtimes were haphazard around our place. In fact, we ususally let the children spend the night wherever they happened to fall asleep (most often, our bed). I resisted the Stake President's advice at first, but after we discussed it we decided to try it for a while. I did notice that when we had bedtimes in our home, DH and I spent more time conversing together in the evenings.

I would have to say that in my opinion, Mormon Date Night is more effective than almost anything else for keeping marriages strong and families together. A "date" doesn't have to be expensive, or even take you out of the home. The best dates are those that get you talking and enjoying each other's company. Here are some of my favorite "dates" that we've done as a couple:

  • Road trips (sometimes these have been road trips to the temple, when we've lived a distance from the temple. I don't think going to the temple is always the best date night, but it can be great when you combine it with dinner before or after, a road trip, or even a weekend getaway.)

  • Canoeing/Tubing (I love water sports. I'd like to do more of this--kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, etc.)

  • Just going to the beach and walking along the shore (trite, I know! but for a reason, people!)

  • Studying Isaiah together

  • Going to the museum (I love art museums, and I'm still hoping to get to Italy to see the art there.)

  • Attending concerts (most of the ones we've done lately have been our kids' band concerts, but those are fun, too.)

These are dates I don't particularly care for:

  • Going to a movie

  • Going out to eat (exception: upscale dinner theater. Don't know if we've ever done that together, though.)

  • Going to a church fireside or high priests' activity

What are your favorites, readers? Has Mormon Date Night helped your marriage?

He Said: Mormon Date Night

I have tried date night on a few occasions in my married life but not consistently. Part of my problem has been I am constantly broke and I am lazy. My wife likes to do different things like go for a walk or paddle a canoe. Neither activities that I am interested in. My idea of a good time is going out to eat or watching a movie. Neither activity which engages in much conversation.

Historically my wife tasked me to try to track down the concept of "date night." I can't seem to track the concept of an LDS date night prior to the 1980s in Church Publications for general members but I believe it was probably a practice since the 1940s or 1950s for church leaders. Among General Authorities I believe it existed before the 1980s because in “Elder Bruce R. McConkie: ‘Preacher of Righteousness’,” Ensign, Jun 1985, 15 it says that the McConkie's had been doing it for years:

Mark remembers that Thursday nights were reserved as his parents’ date night. “Their courtship continued until today.” They enjoyed shows, went out for ice cream or popcorn, or just went for walks. They once went through a bird-watching phase together, and later enjoyed collecting and polishing rocks, making beautiful jewelry for friends. They studied the scriptures together, and she listened as he prepared his manuscripts and sermons.
It became a wide-spread term in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Elder Dean L. Larsen used the idea of a Friday date night during a husbands’ and wives’ fireside broadcast from Temple Square 29 January 1984 in which said:
A wise bishop told me recently that every Friday night is date night for him and his wife. The older children in the family know that they have a babysitting assignment every Friday evening. It is a tradition that they enjoy with their parents.
The earliest time I saw it used in the Church News was on 22 August 1987 in response to a Mormon Forum when people were asked to respond to how to be a more effective father, husband. Leo Weider of Provo, Utah responded:

On our date night, every Friday, I normally ask my sweetheart, "How I can serve you and the children better? How can I be a better person, husband and father?" Then I listen without a defensive rebuff. I may think I'm doing great but it's how I am perceived by my family and others that is important. I don't like to hear that I am lacking, but if I don't find out I will never know how to change. When I ask my children these questions, I often get startling answers. What they think, not what I perceive, is most important.
In the 1990s it was reported on a few times in the Church News. In How to be a Hard Worker While Finding the Time to Rest Body and Mind on 30 July 1994 we read:

Reserve at least one day or night per week for activities. We have a date night, which is most often Saturday. We ride our motorcycles, see historic sites, visit friends, do family history research, etc....

Because my husband is a busy bishop and provider, we have found that having family home evening is a way for our family to slow down, especially after Sunday meetings and schedules. On Monday nights, as a family, we make sure that we plan a fun activity either outside the home, which gets us away from our normal stress level, or we just stay home. We have a simple gospel lesson with singing of Primary songs. We laugh together, which always seems to rejuvenate all of us.

There is always a date night once a week for my husband and me. There are times we sit around the piano and sing, which releases a lot of tension, or we listen to music, whether it be the Tabernacle Choir or soothing classical music. Music has been one of the biggest influences of my life and my family's life. By it has come a lot of stress, as I am a music teacher and my husband sings. But also, by it has come much peace, as we always seem to turn to it when we need tensions released and our spirits calmed.-Anne Woolley, Kenosha, Wis.

On 3 Feb. 1996 in How to remain in love with your spouse despite the ongoing rigors of life

Have a weekly date night. This does not necessarily have to be a spend-a-lot-of-money night. In our case, we make time for each other, even if that only means that we go for a walk together and have ice cream. Do it with the idea that it's your time together, not time to discuss kids, bills, household things. The idea is to spend time together and to stay acquainted with each other.

Most of the LDS marriage counseling books suggested it as a practice now for general members. Brent Barlow in What Wives Expect of Husbands (1982) wrote:

While some husbands spend adequate time with their wives, many do not. One wife wrote, 'I would like him to sense my moods and respond with some time especially for me when I am tired, frustrated, or burdened. I would like this time without him complaining and without having to ask for it."

Another young woman said, "In the future, I would appreciate more planning for time together. Specifically, setting aside time for just us. Time to share experiences, develop interests we can share, become better acquainted, and just be good friends."

An older woman wished her husband would just "offer to go out in the evening for a walk or bike ride."

Wives do expect an occasional night out with their husbands. One happy wife said, "I enjoy going on little trips with him or just a date to dinner or a show. But it doesn't have to cost anything to make me happy. All he has to do is let me know he's glad I'm there." And another satisfied housewife simply wrote, "We have a regular date night. He tries very hard to follow the advice of our church leaders, who say we should go out alone as husband and wife."

Some wives don't want to go out on the spur of the moment. One wife admonished husbands, "Plan ahead for dates. Spur of the moment planning is difficult, and by planning you can get more in. Or, it can just make you happier in looking forward to the time together."

Tamra A. Fackrell in the Sane Mother's Guide to Raising Small Children agrees with Biv:

My husband and I often have a weekly date. Many couples complain that getting a babysitter is too expensive, but time alone with each other is important. I live for it. I love the romance, and I love my husband. Every marriage needs an element of fun, and a babysitter is much cheaper than marriage counseling. Don't just keep your marriage alive; instead, make it thrive!

I have found some creative solutions about babysitting. For example, you might go out two nights a month and stay in two nights a month. On your nights in, put the kids to bed promptly and establish the rules of date night: No interruptions! Then you can watch a movie in a homemade tent, go on a scavenger hunt, eat a crazy theme dinner, or watch the sunset from your balcony. As I write this, my husband and I are on a date of sorts. He bought burritos for our dinner, and he is playing computer games while I am writing. As I finish a section, he reads it and offers suggestions. Not exactly pure romance, but he shows his love by his support. You can also trade babysitting with a friend. And if you are lucky enough to have Grandma or an aunt who loves to babysit and lives nearby, you have even more options! A weekly date keeps marriages thriving.
I remember before I had kids my wife came and got me and took me on a romantic canoe trip with Dick and Julia Lowe on Utah Lake. Even though I can't swim I braved it. I can't seem to get a real consensus on the Friday night bit but I have heard that over the years.

I am not sure you need to institutionalize the practice but I am sure that in the busy world we live in that couples don't seem to spend enough quality time together. Formalizing it can make it harder to be spontaneous but on the other hand a half a loaf is better than none. Even if you only go out on occasion it is better than not going out at all.