Monday, April 29, 2013


I came upon a conversation yesterday where some relatives and friends were discussing the mystery of “Why do so many bad things happen to good people?” and “Why is life so full of hardships?” Since this has been a persistent grief and exploration of mine for decades, I made the observation that I thought it was not such a mystery—that hardships are to break us of our attachments to the things of this world. If our unrelenting attachments are to things telestial / terrestrial isn’t that what we will inherita telestial or terrestrial sphere? Provided however, that everything telestial / terrestrial that is of eternal worth will be included in the celestial sphere. It’s just that we can’t become rigidly attached to anything here in this world.

A mother interjected fervently: “Except for our families.” In reflex, I agreed: “Except for our families.” But within minutes, I knew we were both wrong: that we cannot be stubbornly attached to anything here—not property, fame, wealth, ideas, philosophies, pleasures, convictions, expectations, people, etc.—not even beloved family members. I take my justification from Jesus’ words:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (New Testament Matthew 10:37-39)
If our attachment to something in this world (even family) is so great that we will not do or accept God’s will, however wrenching and seemingly unreasonable, then we will lose that thing we are so attached to, plus our life’s potential. Isn’t that the message of Abraham’s story concerning Isaac? But if we are prepared to give up (or accept) whatsoever He wills, then and only then shall we find “our life.”

That is not to say, we should not love and care deeply. To love and care is the second great commandment; but there is a first great commandment1 that takes priority when the two come into seeming conflict.

That’s the sense I make of why we continually encounter painful wedges between our attachments and our faith, hope, and charity. It is not an easy or welcome spiritual reality for most of us trying to navigate in this “rational” world, but as Jesus said:
... Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (New Testament Luke 18:29-30)
And as Isaiah and Paul said:
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. (Old Testament Isaiah 64:4)

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (New Testament 1 Corinthians 2:9)
What are our attachments? How many sharp wedges have we already endured to break us away from the limitations of this world? How many more will be required? How do we know and discern what is God's will for our individual lives?

1. New Testament Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Good Company

Recently I have listened to the interviews of John Dehlin at Mormon Stories.1 There he speaks of the pain that has been his companion for many years—the pain of witnessing a world in pain.

This is what I would say to the John (and Jane) Dehlins of this world. Pain and confusion are déjà vu nigh every prophet of old, plus a thousand, thousand other seekers of truth. Why so much sorrow in this world? Why so much pain in seeking to know God? in trying to reconcile His character, plan, and promises with this mortal life? in trying to endure His ways?

From my observations, it seems we have two extremes in believers: those who are perpetually of “good cheer”; and those who cannot shake the sorrows of a broken world. I have a sister on the perpetual cheer side. I have struggled for decades on the grief side. We each think the other is too extreme, which is undoubtedly true, but I take consolation in the counterweight we are to each other.

Those who manage to do as the Savior directed:
... In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (New Testament John 16:33);
are probably the more healthy and balanced as they grieve the tribulation, yet remain of good cheer—like the people of Mosiah:
“Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice” (Book of Mormon Mosiah 28:18).
But nonetheless, many of us struggle with the discord between a God who self-describes as a Being of lovingkindness and the state of His creation.

These are some of the things that have, at times, given comfort:
▪ the Savior being described as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:” (Old Testament Isaiah 53:3);
▪ the poignant verse, “Jesus wept.” (New Testament John 11:35); and though he undoubtedly laughed and smiled at times, the descriptions of Him seem to confine themselves to the sorrow side;
▪ the honesty of Biblical Job2 in crying out his despair and confusions; and then, of God’s preference2 for Job’s integrity over that of God’s own defenders, Job’s friends;
▪ the lamentations of Old Testament Jeremiah, e.g., “OH that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Old Testament Jeremiah 9:1);
▪ the cries of Ezra who, like Jeremiah, sorely lamented before God about the fate of the mass of humanity; and God’s reply: “For you come far short of being able to love my creation more than I love it.”3
▪ that God and the Heavens should weep for suffering mankind (Pearl of Great Price Moses 7:28, 31, 37, 40);
▪ that Enoch had bitterness of soul and wept, and wept, and wept, and wept (Pearl of Great Price Moses 7:41, 44, 49, 58);
▪ the description of the only designated survivors from a sword of justice as: “the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Old Testament Ezekiel 9:4);
▪ the lamentations of Nephi, Jacob, Limhi, Alma, etc.: “... why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?” (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 4:26); “... I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be”(Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 32:7); “... wherefore, we did mourn out our days” (Book of Mormon Jacob 7:26); “... great are the reasons which we have to mourn;” (Book of Mormon Mosiah 7:24); Alma’s prayer (Alma 31:26-35);
▪ the baptismal covenant that we are “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Book of Mormon Mosiah 18:9);
▪ the beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (New Testament Matthew 5:4);
▪ the words of Joseph Smith expressing his “painful anxiety” about the world and Zion: “I am led to exclaim, "O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night"; and “... if the fountain of our tears be not dried up, we will still weep for Zion. This from your brother who trembles for Zion, and for the wrath of heaven, which awaits her if she repents not.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 13, 19; see also Doctrine & Covenants 21:8.)
▪ the forewarning: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. ... And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (New Testament John 16:20, 22); “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you [and almost every mortal soul], as though some strange thing happened unto you” (New Testament 1 Peter 4:12);
▪ the scripture that I turn to perhaps more than any other: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Old Testament Isaiah 55:8-9).
And though many of us yet lack the balance of Jesus’ admonition, yet I take consolation that we are not alone in struggling to comprehend the contraries of life and a loving God; and that sorrow and grief are acceptable before God as we mourn with those that mourn, and strive to trust in a Being greater than ourselves.
THE Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Old Testament Isaiah 61:1-3)
2. . See also: “Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor? ... My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep” (Old Testament Job 30:25, 31).
3. (The Fourth Book of Ezra, The Old Testament Pseudephigrapha: Vol. 1, Apocalyptic Literatures & Testaments, ed. by James H. Charlesworth, pp. 543-544, bold emphasis mine)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tones & Pitches

You are a parent:
▪ your child is snuggled in your arms while you are reading The Velveteen Rabbit.
▪ your child is standing beside a precious heirloom that lies in pieces at her feet—an heirloom you had lectured her, more than once, about not touching.
▪ your child has just spontaneously shared his only cupcake with a friend.
▪ your child is still lingering before a TV cartoon after three supper calls while the rest of the family waits at the table for grace.
▪ your child has just witnessed the death of a beloved pet.
▪ your child is innocently venturing into a swift-moving stream.
▪ your child is lying in a hospital bed awaiting another painful surgery.
Does the tone of your voice vary?

Does the tone of God’s voice vary?

Often we hear about the vengeful tone of the Old Testament God. Can we discover the reason in the text? What about the opposite tone? Have we ever looked for it?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Once Upon a String (A Parable of Things Déjà Vu)

Once upon a time, there was a man with strings—or rather string ends that would erupt, here and there, from his hands, face, throat, lips, and tongue, like skin tags—short tapering ends that were plainly visible, except the man didn’t seem aware of the string ends. He was a VIP, so no one mentioned them to him either. Those who wanted to were intimidated by those who wouldn’t because the man was an extra-special VIP. But one day, a simpleton pulled on one of the string ends and the VIP completely unraveled.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Man vs. God

The discussions concerning Church history and Joseph Smith seem to have heated up in recent years with the ease of publishing and sharing of opinions. Clearly, for many seekers, God has not made faith easy to maintain. Some can’t even get to faith, because God Himself has become such an obstacle. And from a strictly human, rational, moral, and legal POV, one can hardly fault them. Many times, God manifests as an incomprehensible stumbling block.

On a diet of milk (or skimmed milk1), God seems easy enough to accept, but when one attempts to eat meat in His house, one is almost guaranteed to experience bouts of choking because, at some point, He quits mincing it for us. Just ask Adam & Eve, Noah & Naamah, Abraham & Sarah, Moses, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nephi, Peter, Joseph & Emma Smith, and tens-of-thousands of others.

He has forewarned us about the meat in His house.
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (New Testament 1 Corinthians 3:2)

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (New Testament Hebrews 5:12-14)

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Old Testament Isaiah 28:9-10)

For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish. (Doctrine and Covenants Section 19:22)
Many of us study the history of God’s dealings with mankind, and know of His dealings with us and our loved ones, and when we get to the meat of life, we, like Job, often cry out:
... I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction; For it increaseth. ... (Old Testament Job 10:15-16)
God’s meat (will) is full of contradictions and contraries despite what we would prefer (and often preach). Consider:
▪ the command for Abraham to perform human sacrifice;
▪ the unmerited sufferings of “perfect” Job;
▪ the command for Isaiah2 to go naked and barefoot like a slave;
▪ the command for Hosea to marry an infamous  “wife of whoredoms”;
▪ the counsel of an old prophet3 to a young prophet to disobey personal revelation (and the fatal consequences, I Kings 13, JST);
▪ the command for Nephi to kill Laban;
▪ Peter’s denying the Christ (as a command???4);
the command for Joseph Smith to practice polygamy; (???)
▪ the horrible suffering and death of hundreds of prophets, saints, sages, and defenders of truth as they sealed their testimonies with their blood.
What do these few examples say about our belief in: “Thou shalt not kill”; justice and lovingkindness; the dignity of prophets; following the prophet; “Thou shalt not bear false witness”; “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; God protects and blesses His faithful; and so on?

At times, the meat of contrarieties5 becomes too dissonant, agonizing, overwhelming, nonsensical, shocking, irreconcilable, and on and on. For many of us, the point comes where belief runs up against information, documentation, allegation, assumption, disappointment, etc., etc., and we cry: “I know too much (to remain faithful).”

BUT WHAT IF, in the end, the final, simple question is: “Did you know enough? (—to judge Me or My thoughts and ways?")?

We already have the short answer:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Old Testament Isaiah 55:8-9)
which is perhaps the one scripture that should be written on the forehead of every seeking soul. Or perhaps:
... he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: (Old Testament Isaiah 11:3)
If we demand a rational, reasonable, logical, common sense God, then we won’t get the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of Moses, Joshua, Hosea, Gideon, Joseph Smith, or of any of the old prophets. We seem, in this latter day, to want a telestial/terrestrial God who conforms and confines Himself to the enlightenment paradigm.

But no! we have been told time and again:

He is beyond us:
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. (New Testament Romans 11:33-36)
He has a purpose:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Pearl of Great Price Moses 1:39)
He is going to try us:
... that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. (Old Testament Exodus 16:4)

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Pearl of Great Price Abraham 3:25; bold emphasis added.)

But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, ... (Old Testament Jeremiah 11:20)

My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom. (Doctrine and Covenants Section 136:31; bold emphasis added.)
And HOW is He going to test/prove/try us? by NOT offending our sense of logic and reason? by always confirming our faith-based, telestial/terrestrial biases? by offering up physical evidence? by preventing contradictory, confusing evidence? by making it easy to believe?

So if God commands Abraham or Nephi or Joseph Smith (or others) do we ever know enough to cry foul? And if the civil authorities do, then is it not up to God to provide a way for their escape, or not, as He sees fit?

Each of their acts offends our sense of what is rational, logical, reasonable, legal, moral, etc. And worse yet, how are we supposed to reconcile any of this with civil law and order? How, if confronted with civil or criminal law, could any of these have justified themselves? The contraries cannot be anything but agonizing and incomprehensible.

God’s will is often like a harpoon to the heart (or the imaginations of the heart, or mind, as the case may be). Again, just ask Abraham.

And maybe, in this twenty-first century, our harpoon to the heart is to let God be transrational6; to let Joseph Smith be His prophet of the Restoration (or as I first mistyped it, Testoration) even when he fails our “enlightenment,” evidentiary tests. What better way to push us toward “the evidence of things not seen”7 than to hopelessly confound the “evidence of things seen.”

In light of Abraham 3:15, the question we will surely face regarding Joseph Smith will be: Despite all you knew or thought you knew, did you ever know enough to judge him righteously?


The following links are expansions of several of my thoughts expressed above:
1. Skimmed milk:
2. Isaiah/Hosea:
3. Old Prophet: ; Ask yourself: How correlation-rational is this story?
4. Peter:
5. Contradictions:
6. Transrational:
7. Faith: Hebrews 11:1

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ties that Bind?

(Recent questions from troubling observations.)
That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world; (Doctrine and Covenants Section 78:14, bold emphasis added)
How independent are we IF:

1. we bow to Scouting rules, regulations, and policies in order to run youth programs where “inspired” callings must be vetted through secular law enforcement?

2. we team up with retail partners like Taubman Centers, Inc. as in the City Creek Center? How do we reconcile that high-end “profit” center, its ads/billboards, etc., with Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Gospels, the Book of Mormon, etc.?

3. we team up with media affiliates to fill our air time (as in KSL-TV)?1

4. we own and/or invest in businesses and properties principally for their money-making potential?

5. we hire lobbyists to pursue advantages, favors, and prestige?

Why did God tell us to stand “independent” “notwithstanding tribulation”? Where have we seen before (deja vu?) the tragedies of church “dependence” and intermingling? What is the history of state churches? What was the condition in Christ’s day?

Do we really think we are immune from the contagion of latter-day entanglements?