Tag Archives: mormon beliefs

How To Be a Latter-Day Saint

There seems to be some uncharacteristic upheaval in the church lately, similar perhaps to some of those periods of strife in the Nephite church. It makes me wonder, as I and many others feel batted about by conflicts between conscience and conformity, compassion and consensus, what we’ll be facing in the near future as a body of saints. There seems to be a sharpening divide between “liberal” and “conservative” members, and for moderates like me, that can be highly disconcerting. The danger, of course, is in taking a stand on either “side” and declaring it the “righteous” side. Anyone can find scriptural or modern prophetic quotes to bolster their position. Even prophets say weird things sometimes, sometimes even “in the name of the Lord”. Years later, we read it, and say “Huh?”  Or if it’s helpful to our cause, “See?”

I have no ken for politics, I do not keep up on the bloggernacle or read the Ensign, and I’m not currently involved in church councils. All I’ve got is my own gut, my own spiritual practices, a few close friends, and church hallway gossip. And I’m worried. I’m alarmed at the number of strong saints leaving the church, many of them close friends and family. These are people with deep convictions and real relationships with God. I honor and trust their spiritual acumen, so when they jump ship — or more alarmingly, are pushed overboard — I get upset.

Based on my own deep convictions and powerful personal revelation, I’ve decided to stay in the church. (Read about that here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/stay-in-the-church/) But that makes me all the more anxious to help make the church I love the Zion it is meant to be. I know I am not alone in this divine desire. But the critical questions seem to be: how can I be a true saint in this era of divisiveness and rubbed-raw feelings? How can I be obedient to the counsel of church leaders when it conflicts with my conscience? Whom do I believe? What does an “approved by the Lord” Latter-Day Saint look like?

I actually enjoy engaging these necessary questions daily. For example, does God care if you (as a female) wear pants to the temple? No. It’s even in the temple rules. But have you? Would you? Would you be self-conscious? Would you judge another sister you saw arriving in pants? How about jeans? How about dirty, torn jeans?

Does God care if you think differently about a gospel topic than your Sunday School teacher? Or does He just care that you think? Do you speak up in charitable disagreement? Should you? Should you not?

My friend, Jan, rides a motorcycle. She’s also my Stake President’s wife. When a General Authority stayed at their house during an ecclesiastical visit, she felt obliged to ask him if that was OK. Not the motorcycle. The motorcycle + female + church position. Should she feel obliged to ask?

I am hopeful that this current fiery trial in the church will burn away the pettiness, the unchristian judging, the over-reliance on tradition and human authority that so pervades our church culture, at least in the First World. I’m hoping those recent lessons on Unity will help. I love the “I Am a Mormon” campaign, because it highlights for members and nonmembers alike the fact that there is no one right way to be a Latter-Day Saint. The one right way is YOUR right way. Now I know some commenter will say, “There’s only one right way” and if we’re talking about the Savior, yes indeed. But no matter what color your hair or your skin, no matter your sex or sexual preference, no matter if you’re single or unsingle, fat or thin, wealthy or poor, or anywhere in between — this is a church for all God’s children. Of course, He (and She) gave commandments to obey, leaders to guide, and fellow saints to support. All for our sake. My rallying cry is to fix our eyes on the Savior, listen like crazy for the sound of His voice, and love one another. That’s all.

Stay in the Church

Twenty years ago, in an effort to evade an impending nervous breakdown, I left my four children in the care of their dad, and went to Florida for a month to simply be still and know God. It was perhaps the bravest and best thing I’ve ever done.

I referred to it here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/solitude/#more-18197 in a blogpost I wrote last year. But I didn’t (yet) tell you what God said to me that month. Continue reading Stay in the Church

Avoiding Deception

I have long been concerned with avoiding deception. I am a Mormon convert because I am a seeker of Truth. I am not interested in dogma or the masks of God, except as they are useful to leading me deeper into eternal truth. I need to experience God, to know Them, not just learn about Them as conceptualized by any earthly organization. Don’t misunderstand: I am a faithful believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I believe the Church is the authorized vehicle to establish Zion on the earth. But, of course, the church is not the gospel. Continue reading Avoiding Deception

World Death Rate Holds Steady at 100 %

That title is a headline from The Onion and it succinctly calls attention to the elephant in every room: we are all going to die. It’s not a topic we discuss much, but maybe we should, since it’s the one unifying experience of all humanity — indeed, of all life.

I am on a plane somewhere above Nebraska, flying across the country to see my mom. She has dementia. She is dying. We say that of someone we expect to pass soon, but in reality, it’s true for each of us; we are all dying and the fact is we don’t know how or when death will find us. I’m sitting next to a psychotherapist from Washington D.C. whose wife died of cancer this year. Death is hard on the living. Which is perhaps why we try so hard to avoid thinking about it.

I’m not afraid of death. But it’s easy for me to say that, because at the moment, I’m healthy and “too young to die.” If the plane’s engines suddenly stopped roaring and we plunged to the plains below, I’m fairly certain I’d feel afraid. Like most of you, I’m not afraid to BE dead — but I’m not too thrilled at the idea of dying painfully. Like you, I hope to go to sleep one night when I’m really old and feeling complete and simply not wake up, passing gently in the night.

I have a firm belief in an afterlife, confirmed by sacred experience. In fact, I look forward to that life after; I am spending my mortality preparing for it. Perhaps it’s just the transitions that make us nervous. Birthing is beautiful, but difficult and often dangerous, not just for the mother but for the child as well. We don’t generally think of dying as beautiful — at least not in our Western culture — but I suspect we’re missing something important by not recognizing the holiness of the transition from this life to the next. It’s easier to see as we sit by the bedside of a dying loved one who is ready to go, easier than dealing with the shock of the sudden or violent death of someone we love. It brings up the unanswerable question: would you rather know you’re dying, so you have time to say goodbye and get ready, or would you rather go instantly, to minimize the pain?

I have little experience with death first-hand. Much of my ruminations on the subject are theoretical. I am aware of the risk I’m taking to talk about it here, when so many of you have buried parents or children, siblings or friends. Please forgive any boorishness. But Death is on my heart lately because I am not prepared for my mom to die. Are we ever? As I was praying for her yesterday, I could not bring myself to ask God to heal her of her latest physical infirmities. She’s been in the hospital and the rehab unit for almost four weeks now, and Memory Care for months before. She can’t walk. She’s not eating. She’s just aware enough to realize that her life is no life. I wonder if she is trying to die, perhaps unconsciously, but intentionally.  And what right do I have to insist she stay, just because I don’t want her to die?

The paradox of our modern world is that we can keep people “alive” indefinitely, but what does that say about our relationship with Death? We spend far more money on end-of-life care than on any other medical need. And for what? When does our regard for Life and our collective fear of Death become untenable?

My mother-in-law died well. She had colon cancer, which she knew would kill her without treatment. She went to a couple of chemotherapy sessions, then said, “No more. I choose to let this cancer take me.” And eight months later, it did. I asked her once, “Are you afraid?” She replied emphatically, “No!” And I could tell she was telling the truth. Toward the end, we could see a new clarity and light in her eyes, as if the veil was already lifted and she could clearly see the glorious path ahead. But that’s all conjecture. I only know that she died in peace, even joy, her life complete. She embraced the transition fearlessly, with faith and a humble eagerness. We mourned her passing, of course. We still miss her, years later. But her example of dying well will remain in my heart forever.

Believing Mormons have a clear, joyous narrative about Life and Death, which makes our funerals not-so-somber and our conversations about Death almost flippant. Some think we are unfeeling because our grief does not generally manifest in extreme ways. But the peace that accompanies our understanding of Death as simply one more transition in our eternal lives is real and soul-sustaining. Our grief is certainly just as real. But we hear enough and have enough inter-world experiences with our dead to make it all somehow bearable, even beautiful.

I have much to learn. Much to yet experience. Our stories of Death are important, the difficult as well as the divine. We will all die, after all, but it’s hard to talk about because we know so little of what’s beyond. I believe those who live well tend to die well, so maybe that’s all we can do. Maybe there’s no difference, really. All we can do, perhaps, is  help each other live well and when the time comes, die well.

How would you describe your relationship to Death? What are your fears, your hopes, your experiences?

SURPRISE: “Lo, I am with you always”

This year I am focused on living in the Spirit. My aim is to pay close and constant attention to the spiritual signals I receive and to “obey flawlessly” — a phrase I adopted from John Pontius. I am well aware that I am full of flaw-full obedience every day, but my commitment is to obey the Spirit of the Lord as precisely as I can determine His will and direction. I have joined a few “spirit sisters” in this quest, and our communal experience has been enlightening, and in a fundamental way, quite surprising.  Continue reading SURPRISE: “Lo, I am with you always”