Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mormon Misconceptions: "Cry Repentance"

This is another one that applies to more than just Mormons.The scripture talk about Crying repentance, but what does that really mean?

I have always envisioned some guy standing on top of a city wall, yelling down to the people to mend their wicked ways - Certainly, there have been cases where God has very specifically instructed individuals to do just that: Jonah was sent to Nineveh, Samuel the Lamonite was sent to the Nephites... There are many other cases.

But... That kind of crying repentance was always initiated by a very specific, personal directive form God. What about the rest of the time? And how do you reconcile the seeming dichotomy between "Cry repentance" and "Judge not...".

Because after all, while you are lecturing that adulterer regarding his/her final resting place for their most heinous sin, you are equally damning yourself by driving 5 miles over the speed limit, or 'borrowing' a pencil form work, or possibly watching you favorite TV series, or by saying something mean on twitter/facebook/etc...  ("I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.",  "Whosover looketh upon a woman to lust after her...", "Whosoever shall say unto his brother 'Thou fool...'")

"But those aren't as bad..."

Who says? Re-read the previous scriptural quotes. Seems to me God made it clear we're all doomed, but for the Atonement, (Which is infinite, so...).

So, looking to the Savior again as the example, how did he "cry repentance"?

"Come, follow me." He invited people to "Be better",

"Neither do I condemn thee..." He knew their mistakes, he knew they knew. He didn't cluck his tongue, roll his eyes, or whisper to the apostles. He was frank, honest, nonjudgmental, and encouraging.

He invited through example, he was honest, patient and sincere. He spoke softly. He was consistent.

Repentance isn't about confessing how horrible you were to everyone - How you were wrong and they were right. Often I think that is really what repentance criers are seeking - That smug self-satisfaction, that sense of  'justice' the opportunity to say "I told you so" (Hey, even Jonah struggled with that, he Finished up in Nineveh, and went outside to wait and watch the fireworks when God dropped the bomb, which  didn't drop, because the Ninevites did repent.

Repentance is continual improvement. Crying repentance is encouraging those who are struggling to improve.

Moming is hard

My wife is out of town, and I have three of the Kids. This morning, I lost track of time (as did the older two kids), and had to scramble and drive them to school. In the meantime, number three was to be picked up by a carpool. H e was up earlier than the older two and seemed to be on top of things, so I left him with instructions to watch out the window for his ride.

I dropped the older two off at school, after some debate as to where their school actually was, then returned home to find number three sitting on the computer, watching videos, at this point 5 minutes after he was supposed to have been picked up.

I sent him out to the car so I could drive him, just as the carpool showed up, then he tells me that he is going to wear sandals, because he can't find his shoes! "Aaack! I tell you to get ready and watch for your ride, and you are playing on the computer with no idea where your shoes are?!"

An hour later, I get a call at work, form the school, my son wishes to speak to me. 

"Dad? I forgot my homework folder".

Mom-ing is hard!

I am not one to take my wife for granted, I know she works hard and have much to do and keep track of. I also understand that I am disadvantaged in this role, because I don't do it often enough to develop the 'muscle memory'.

In spite of that, I am actually glad I get this opportunity every so often to remind me just how much she does do. That whole "Walk in another's shoes thing" is good for the soul.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mormon Misconceptions

At church today during a discussion on the topic of service in the community it was mentioned that many people who are not LDS but familiar with members of the church are of the opinion that "Mormons are good friends so long as you listen to their missionary lessons."

I have also occasionally heard the complaint that Mormons engaged in "Doublespeak", meaning deliberately ambiguous, or euphemistic (replacing a harsh word with a mild or less embarrassing  word, a non-controversial example would be saying "he passed away", instead of "he died", a less kind example would be "A few brick shy of a full load" instead of "stupid").

While it occurs to me that some of this is due to cultural differences, and many more come from the common difficulty we humans have of accurately expressing our thoughts through word transmission ("Your lips look like rubies", "Who's Ruby? And how is it you are so acquainted with her lips?!").

But there are a few misconceptions about Mormonism that trip people up - both in the church and out of the church.

Yep, you guessed it. I am probably going to ramble about them for a bit.

"In the World, not of the world"/"Love the sinner, hate the sin"

This isn't uniquely a Mormonism - It shows up in all of Christianity, and probably in other religions as well. The application of this is, I believe, a source of much of the ill will I mentioned at the start of this post. I think this is due to those who apply this term misunderstanding its meaning. It is interpreted to be a very pessimistic phrase. In LDS culture, this is perhaps exacerbated by the notion that we are a "Peculiar people". In essence "Just because you are stuck in a pit of losers doesn't mean you have to be a loser".

This misinterpretation of these phrases leads people in the church to believe that they must be better -and better off than everyone else. (That "must" is both "must" - meaning a logical conclusion, and "must" - meaning an expression of necessity, see what I mean about communicating with words? Two entirely different meanings from the same four letters said in exactly the same way!).

But the phrase is not meant to be interpreted with pessimism. It is not meant to be a comparison of "non-members" and "members". Since it is the "Church of Jesus Christ", it is his interpretation of the phrase which we should look to, which he demonstrated through his example. He did not avoid "sinners", he did not withhold blessings form those who were not of "the faith", he did not turn his back on those who didn't hang on his every word. Jesus was sent specifically to the Jews, yet he still healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10),  and a group of (or at least one) Samaritans (Luke 17:11-16). His help was available to any who asked for it.

In fact there were really only two groups which Christ spoke, or behaved unkindly toward. The first were the money-changers in the temple (Mathew 21:12-13), which he chased out with a whip he fashioned from the leather of his sandals. These would have been members of the church who were exploiting the religion for personal gain.

The second group were the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees (Matthew 23) - These three groups represented positions of power in the Jewish world. The Saducees were the Aristrocratic leaders, the Pharisees were Middle-class leaders, and the Scribes were the Lawyers and Judges. (Note that Jewish culture was deeply religious, so all of these religious as well as secular in nature). Pharisees could also be considered somewhat equivalent politically to Liberals -progressive in thought, whereas the Sadducees were the Conservatives - adhering to strict scriptural doctrine.

You will notice the one key commonality among these three groups is power. Political, Financial and Religious influence. They were leaders, celebrities, people whose voice held considerable influence. Christ had a few unkind things to say about these groups, all dealing with their hypocrisy. His beef with them was that they sought for their own self-interest, they used their positions for personal gain, rather than to serve the people. He pronounced doom on them.


Also take note of Matthew 23:3 - He told the multitude, and his disciples to "Observe and do whatsoever they bid", but to "do ye not after their works". He didn't tell the people to ostracize them, to speak ill of them to look down on them. In fact, he told the people to listen to them and follow their words (They were after all teaching the commandments).

So how does this apply to a "good" Christian today? Look for the good in everyone, listen to and take positive benefit from the good things that people say, even if they are otherwise despicable people. Just don't follow their bad example. But while you are gleaning as much good as you can, and avoiding bad examples, remember, you are not called to be judge or jury. In other words, a true Christian is a kind, critical thinker with a general leaning toward optimism.

And for those who are in positions of leadership, consider your behavior carefully. Your role as a leader is to serve. Failure to do so will have dire consequences when you one day stand before your maker.

Remember also, that Christ spent much of his time among sinners, even Dining with them (Matt 9:10). But hie did not engage in sinful behavior

So, being "In but not of the world" means to be actively engaged with the world, to be friends with your neighbors, to help and "Love thy neighbor" (who is anyone, even - those who are a different religion, different race, different gender, different nationality...). It means to be part of the community in which you live. To  be involved in and in service to your neighborhood, City, County, State, Nation... (Which implies you are making an effort to get along with them).  Just remember while you are being with them, working with them, playing with them, etc.. to live to the standards set by Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kaepernick's Gesture: Success or Failure?

Colin has been big news of late. I just saw a few bits declaring him victorious, based on the fact that a handful of others have joined in his pledge protest - raised fists and what-not.

But was his gesture really a Success?

I have to think that, rhetoric aside, what he really, truly wants and is seeking to promote is greater peace, less violence. I believe that he is trying to stick up for the 'little guy; the victim of hate who can't speak for himself.

The National Anthem - I'm not sure he understands what it is. Standing at attention during the National Anthem, like participating in in the Pledge of Allegiance is  about reaffirming our commitment to the ideal - The "Republic for which it stands".  It isn't about what we are, it is about what would can be, should be, hope to be. For those brief moments, we set aside our differences and recommit to the ideals of one united, indivisible nation, committed to the ideals that all men are created equal - not economically equal, not physically, intellectually, or socially equal, but of equal worth in the site of our creator. And as such we are all entitled to life, to basic liberty, and to the right to pursue happiness (note the 'pursue').

Choosing that moment to protest... It sends a mixed message - sort of like beating spectators at a boxing match with a baseball bat in protest of boxing for it's violence. 

At one of those rare moments when we collectively set aside our differences and unite in consideration of possibilities, he chose to revel in the darker realities.

The result of his action as I have seen it has been yet another schism, an increase in the separation of two sides, in increase in counterproductive rhetoric.

So, assuming I am correct in my evaluation of his intent - It is possible he had another motive - perhaps auditioning to become the next hatemonger to join the likes of Jackson and Sharpton - but assuming the best intentions on his part, I am afraid he missed his mark.