Category Archives: Daily Special

In Every Thing Give Thanks

November offers an invitation to mediate on the virtues of gratitude. A first glance, I am thankful for all my blessings: family, friends, good health, Normal-Rockwell-celebrated American freedoms, paid work that I enjoy, relative economic comforts, access to a great public library, and the restored gospel.

If I forget to articulate such gratitude to my Creator, the account of the ten lepers in Luke 17 gives me an additional push.  How often am I inconsiderate, meaning failing to consider?  All too frequently, I am one of the nine who neglected to turn back and say, “thank you” for rich blessings.   Also, King Benjamin’s speech contains a reminder about gratitude.  He tells his subjects that they have a greater debt to acknowledge than thanking him for his regal service: “O how you should thank your heavenly King!” (Mosiah 2:19).

Being grateful does not just benefit our relationships with those who bless our lives. Articulating blessings also counts as an “individual sport,” meaning it can help increase our own happiness.  If we never practice gratitude, we focus only on our challenges.  This cloaks us in a little black rain cloud of pain and misery.   A beloved hymn asks me questions about self-pity before issuing a challenge about gratitude:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

Even though I often forget to show gratitude for my blessings, I have a greater challenge to actually show gratitude for my challenges.

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Let your light so shine or do your alms in secret?

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I’m looking for a vibrant group discussion today. I hope you’ll contribute your thoughts.

Lately I’ve been ruminating on and talking to my friends and family about Elder Bednar’s message to “sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth.” His message is full of excellent guidelines, but putting his words into actions seems to be creating a lot of confusion. I’ve interviewed some very savvy young people to initiate our discussion.

Let’s start with my 22 year old son Ben, a student and Italian 101 teacher at BYU:

“I had to go to a training for my stake’s digital mission today. The idea is to improve the church’s presence on social media in size and quality. Some of it seems pretty cool, like creating blogs, but other actions seems pointless: liking church stuff and trolling for comments that mention missionaries. I’m still kind of at odds with social media. I’m totally fine with other people using it and I’m actually kind of interested in what some people post, but a lot of the time it seems superficial and fake and even damaging. Think about the way it’s changing our definition of social? How is working for “likes” changing the way we express ourselves? I’m still trying to understand how the church is so on board with all this stuff. Being encouraged, at a church meeting, to “live your life openly on social media” (that’s a real quote) just seems kind of funny. Live your life on social media? How about live your life in the real world? I’m still processing it all. Continue reading

November Journal Is Up

Have you clicked over to the Segullah Journal yet? Well, if you’re new here or you’ve missed our finest feature, don’t hesitate to link over. The Segullah Journal is what the blog sprung from and what organized this group into a common goal and project over nine years ago. The regularly published journal, once was in print and only a few times a year, but is now online and updated each month.

The journal is where we publish our writing- revised and rewritten-ready for savored reading. Guest and staff submissions work through editorial teams until to refine well beyond the simpler, faster compositions you see here regularly on the blog.  Really, the works we feature over there- poetry, prose and pictures (pieces from our featured artist) are worth pause to ponder; it’s a pleasure to take in and a pleasure to produce.

Please go check out our latest offerings. Poetry Editor Lara Niedermeyer captures the month in and editorial essay that  introduces this coming season of hope, and this month’s features, “Kel George’s poem ‘Valkyrie’ describes hope as dessert-eating, alto-singing, thing of beauty. Alizabeth Worley shares her own journey to understanding hope in her essay, ‘Step Two is Called Hope’.”

Want to work with us to see your own writing polished into a potential publication? Don’t miss your chance to submit to the 2014 Writing Contest

TRUTH, TRUST AND TRADITION

I was having lunch with my friend, Sue, recently and we got to talking about our relationship with the LDS Church throughout our lives. We’re both Mormons in our 50’s, so our experience is long enough to make some general observations and comparisons. We’re both committed, practicing church members, but our underlying motivations differ. Or maybe they don’t. That’s what I want to talk about with you today.

Sue has been a church member all of her life, raised in the truths and traditions of the gospel. She admits that her church activity is largely based on habit, and even supposes that had she not been born into a Mormon family, she likely would not have embraced the gospel. I have many close friends, and even family members, who echo her sentiments. For them, the church is a wonderful framework for a life of ritual devotion, service to others, rich community, and protection from some of the world’s pernicious traps. I can’t find a thing wrong with this approach. But nor can I understand it.

No, I take that back. Although I am a convert to the LDS Church, I come from a long line of devoted Christians. My great-grandfather, a Methodist minister, christened me as a baby. Two of my cousins are in the clergy. I grew up attending church every Sunday, so I have strong religious habits and traditions myself. But being a Mormon is different from my family traditions. It requires a stronger commitment to religious practice. My participation in the LDS Church is entirely intentional, the result of my spirit’s instinctive search for truth. For me, and for most other converts (like Sue’s husband) church activity is far less habit and much more choice. We tend to be a little intense about our approach to gospel living because we are largely driven not by tradition, but by our visceral need to know the truth.

Truth be told, I am not actually sure that this distinction (convert or lifer) has anything to do with the differences I note in people’s religious motivations. Maybe it is simply a difference in order, or timing. Converts come to the Church because they are seeking truth, and lifelong members seek truth at some point because they are members of the Church.

So maybe the difference isn’t in how people come to be members of the  Church. Maybe some people are innately truth-seekers, due to their premortal history or their basic spiritual makeup. But not all faithful saints, whether convert or lifelong member, are interested in truth. Some of us are keenly interested in correct doctrine, in understanding how things really are — or should be — and that is a continual, driving pursuit. Others simply can’t drum up concern about such things. I know and love many faithful saints who show up, do their duty, serve the best they can, and couldn’t care less whether women are supposed to be ordained to the priesthood, or if we can progress to higher heavenly kingdoms after mortality. But some of us care deeply about finding answers to such questions.

I know it’s not as simple a dichotomy as “truth-seekers” and “trusting followers”.  All true saints care about both truth and trust. It makes me think of this favorite bit of scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 46:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every one is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

 12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

 13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

 14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

My observation is that those with the gift of knowing Jesus Christ tend to be the questioners, the ones endowed with a burning need to know divine truth. And those with the gift of believing seem to have an enviable, gentle kind of faith, a willing trust in the faithful traditions they’ve been taught. Sometimes people think that believing is not as cool a gift as knowing, but that’s not so. Both are spiritual gifts and I choose to believe that God gives us the gifts that will best bless us and consequently, those we love and serve.

I notice, too, that truth-seekers tend to be future-oriented, always looking ahead to the “improved” version of life, the expansion of knowledge. They seem to need experiential evidence of truth, but when they get it, they cannot be shaken from their knowledge of what is true. Trusters tend to look back to the past with a faith-of-our-fathers sort of approach, looking for models to emulate. They seem to be able to rely on other people’s experience as a basis for belief.

What do you think about truth, trust and tradition?. Do you have the gift of knowing or believing? Are you a convert, a lifelong member or a non-church-member? A truth-seeker or a traditionalist? And if, as I presume, you acknowledge a mix of all of these in yourself, how do you balance truth-seeking, trust and tradition? What motivates you to spiritual activity?

Margaret Atwood and the Spirit’s Voice

Margaret Atwood

Of all the books I read for my book group last year, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin was my definite favorite. I’m ashamed to say I have not sampled more of her works (The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, Oryx and Crake, etc.), but I love her style and look forward to discovering more of it in the future.

Today is her birthday, and in honor of this event, I’d like to recognize one of her poems. But first, a little context . . . I’ve been thinking about how the Spirit whispers to me—what language it uses. One woman in my Relief Society commented on Sunday how learning to speak the Spirit’s language is just as difficult as becoming fluent in a second language. I would argue that it is even more complicated, since the Spirit’s language varies with each individual. Fast-forward to later that day when I was feeling deficient and overwhelmed: my prayers were rote. I didn’t study my scriptures enough. I felt like a shadow of a Saint in Zion.

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