Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Little Introspect

Today we had the pleasure to have an after church lunch with some fellow Grace Point attendees. It was a real pleasure and really taught me some new insights. First, the couple is from the South and the lunch was in traditional Souther spread supper style (what a tongue twister!). Complete with a long wooden table and kids playing in the background I felt like I was back home in Tennessee. It was so awesome, I felt oddly homesick which is a rare feeling for me since I've been in Vegas now ten years. Whoa - time sure does fly. They also made me appreciate real fellowshipping. Steve and I used to have another family or couple over - goal was once a month, actual reality was once every couple of months, throughout our time in various wards. We always loved it and after being treated so wonderfully, we're determined to bring back this sort of tradition and begin fellowshipping with someone perhaps we don't know yet. :)

My blogs seem to have reached people I never would have guessed to know I blog.

I can actually relax when I'm in a home that is one hundred percent (or as close to 100% as one can possibly get) child friendly. I didn't feel the need to shadow my kids at all while fellowshipping with this amazing family - which was so nice since I was loving talking with everyone around.

Did you know you can make an amazing Lava Cake with a Pampered Chef rice steamer in the microwave in NINE MINUTES?!?!?! It's true!! I watched it myself and then tasted the results. I must find one now.

Ty recommended an amazing book that is something so up my ally. I'm awaiting an email back from him with the title - but it's basically an in depth book about Christian theology, the objections and the apologetic response. I'm still reading Derek Prince's Spirit Filled Believers Handbook (really I'm not a slow reader - I just have reading ADD and NO time anymore) but I'm drooling over the very idea of this book. I cannot wait to read it. In my tic-tac-toe mind, I thought of Lee Strobel's books, "The Case For..." (insert the particular book title). Currently I have a great interest in his book, "The Case for the Real Jesus" - gee I wonder why. ;) Between my past religious history, my love for Bart Ehrman, and The Da Vinci Code (yes I was one of those Mormons who believe Jesus was married and had three wives - possibly and most likely but not sure, with children - BEFORE the movie or the book BTW).

We had a couple of political talks - Steve and I just watched Michael Moore's newest documentary, "Sicko" and loved it as usual. We love his work - of course we are far left liberals although some political aspects are beginning to change as we let go of our flesh and give more to God. A little disturbing but awesome to notice as well. Because while we would think it would bother us - it oddly doesn't as much as we thought it would. We do worry though, about becoming cold, insensitive Christians who never take into account the feelings of unbelievers (like for say some the people in one of these five videos - I forget which one, but very interesting watch). I shudder at the thought.

Of course, we talked about Steve and my past. Steve shared his military life growing up a bit, that he is a scientist for a local project, and that he is a converted atheist. At one point, Ty asked us, "So you went from Mormon to uh, Protestant?" I think he was trying to be polite and not imply we weren't Christians before. He inquired what the term would be from a Latter Day Saint, and we informed him we were "fallen apostates into Christendom".

As our conversation unrolled into Mormonism, I began to realize again that what most people seem to know is the PR image of the LDS church and not much about the doctrines or practices. For example, we spent a good amount of time talking about the community within the church which is such a blessing and comfort - something I really miss. And we talked a lot about the structure of the church rather than on doctrines. Which was different and brought back a flood of great memories. It was ironic that as I've been reading this past month's Ensign (which in and of itself is a blog) that I just read about the conference talk about the structure and community of the LDS church. It really is amazing and the way the members within come together is nothing short of faithful Christian service.

However, at one point, they inquired about how we began to move out of the LDS church. Steve started sharing how we were reading the Bible and it greatly assisted us in coming to the Truth - however this wasn't the only factor. Yet, when this comment was made, there was laughing from around the table. I'm not saying this is wrong - it is somewhat comic that the Bible was very instrumental in God's Will for us, yet at the same time, it says a lot about the image that is in the minds of people when they think of Mormons. This isn't the first time I've received a reaction in this manner - so I want to take a moment to blog about it. The LDS church teaches from the Bible for two years in a four year rotation during their second block meeting (Sunday School - particularly the Gospel Doctrine's class). One year is spent in the New Testament and one year on the Old Testament. Also, the Bible is used in talks, in Gospel Principals class, in Relief Society (and I assume Priesthood sessions), Nursery - it's used within all areas of the LDS church. Now, in culture - say in visits from Visiting Teachers or Home Teachers, it does seem that the other three standard works are stressed - particularly the Book of Mormon, however to be clear - the LDS church does teach from the Bible on a regular basis in comparison with the other standard works.

Now, also as a Latter Day Saint - I enjoyed greatly reading my Bible. I had been reading my Bible for quite some time before I took notice to God's calling and prompting in my life (recall that I made a "confession" to Steve that I didn't believe in the Book of Mormon and felt God calling me elsewhere to which he surprised me by sharing that he had felt the same but didn't know how to tell me). Also, with sites like FAIR or Jeff Lindsey - I was already aware of particular verses that could possibly shake my faith and already knew the apologetic reasoning for it. If by chance, I didn't know the response, I had a long list of resources to find commentary to help me navigate possibly "dangerous" waters for me as a Latter Day Saint. And if there was still any shaky ground - I could always rely on the basic, simple teaching of the LDS church, "that plain and precious truths were lost from the Bible" - which I felt was echoed in section E of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The only "red flag" I had in regards to the Bible and the LDS church before I left was the fact that scripture studies in a group (in the fashion of a small group as an Enrichment Activity) was expressly forbidden by my Bishop and Relief Society president. (See below - names have been protected.)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: RS President
Date: Oct 23, 2006 10:47 AM
Subject: Re: Groups?
To: JD
Jane Doe,

Bishop has said ABSOLUTELY NOT for any groups that are studying the scriptures or anything like that! He said that that is what institute is for, and that he doesn't want any groups forming and then going into their own deep studying of doctrine, and ending up apostasizing from the church. It has also come down from the Stake. So, any groups of that nature are out.
We can, however, start groups for walking, book clubs, dessert nights, quilting, scrapbooking etc etc. Those are ok, but not anything to do with the scripture aspect. If you want, you can have those sisters who are interested in those groups call me if they have any questions. Or, just let them know what the Bishop thinks!!!

RS President

However after my own investigating and a talk with my Bishop - I accepted this as reasonable and totally fine (in part, I still don't see anything wrong with this - but mostly I do).

So with all these resources on hand - if something confused or bothered me, I had plenty of places to go to understand what the LDS church taught that these meant and totally accepted it. LDS read their Bibles all the time - one of the Elders who came to visit with Steve and I with the Bishop was into apologetics and a passionate student of the NT - even studying in Israel for a time - and read his Bible regularly as well. It's not uncommon for Latter Day Saints to read the Bible and have no doctrine issues or questions. Especially if they've been indoctrinated for some time.

But as we explained this - I began to wonder what type of picture of the LDS church do I paint? I like to think I am accurate in my descriptions in doctrine, theology, culture, practice, and so forth. But if someone who had possibly been reading my blogs thought that by simply reading the Bible I would leave the LDS church - even the temple - what sort of image am I really giving? Or is it simple misunderstanding? Am I doing more harm than any good?

If anyone inquires about LDS doctrine - "milk" or "meat" - I'll gladly share it with them, but what sort of impression am I leaving with them? I'm going to ponder on this because while I want to educate anyone interested in Mormonism (to either stay out of it - not to say there are not LOTS of temporal benefits within LDS membership - or to help bring others to the real living Christ - the only eternal benefit worth ever having) but I never want to paint an inaccurate portrait of the LDS people.

Also - I'm not sure to be "proud" of myself or possibly concerned. Tonight, while explaining the different levels of the LDS church (five levels of "heaven" - glory, structure, and so forth) - we explained what the temple was. Now while I've been more lax in what I share about the temple - I've never revealed that which I "covenanted" to keep "sacred". There's a website ex-Mormons and Mormons alike are always sent to - where it informs LDS and others, that this principal is simply unbiblical. Then goes on to either link to or itself reveal all that LDS consider sacred. With sites like CARM, Rick Ross, even Concerned Christians - they simply unveil everything LDS consider sacred. To me, it's distasteful, horrible, unChristian behavior. It's ugly and it's a great example of why someone would want to choose to be an atheist. Much like this video I recently stumbled upon. I almost threw up in my mouth at the vulgar display of unChristlike attitude. However, on the other hand - I can understand why some groups feel they should reveal these practices - in the Old Testament we see God having no respect for false gods, their temples, and their altars. His Kings utterly destroy the priests of idol worship and the altars, high places, and temples (if any). Not to mention how "similar" critics claim the temple rituals are to Mason rituals - which many Christians consider to be demonic. However, having been through the temple - I can ground much of it from the Bible - which made it even harder to abandon when I left the LDS church. However, I've never studied in any depth whatsoever Masonry - so I have no clue if what apologetic writers claim is true. For any interested for an LDS apologetic view, a recent release called, "Mormons and Masons" is available at Desert Bookstores (a former personal favorite).

Anyways, back on track - someone asked us today to tell them about the temple. For a moment, I actually considered telling them, but just couldn't. I didn't feel it was right - or respectful. I explained that I had made a covenant to not reveal the things of the temple and while I didn't believe them to be of God anymore (only a recent transition I've made but still struggling with) I just couldn't in good conscience share it with them. They asked a second time, and I surprisingly remained strong. Even Steve did. I wonder if this is good or regression?

All in all - the Sunday was amazing. It made me really evaluate myself and my dealings and speakings of Mormonism. Lately, I've been reading about the tongue - especially from James 1:26:

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."

For sure something to remember.

Great food, great introspect for thought, and got to fellowship with amazing people and hopefully cultivate a friendship with them. Awesome people, dynamite kids - daredevil like our Paul!

Now, who can we invite for an after church Sunday and hopefully bless and serve? Volunteers? :)


The Bass Player's Wife said...

A friend of ours posted that last video to his Facebook profile just last week. Jon and I just shook our heads, but opted against saying anything to our friend- mostly because "if you can't say anything nice..."

Maggie said...

I do agree! Which video was it? I put quite a few links in the blog. :P

Here's a question though - who is the judge of "nice"? I know as a LDS - while I might have considered one statement ignorance, another LDS might consider it "not nice". And to what point do we stay quiet in order to be nice when eternity is at stake?

Just to be clear - I don't think we should ever sacrifice respect and kindness when sharing the gospel - but I guess we have to know what God's view is on these lines and where they are.

The Bass Player's Wife said...

It was that last one, where the Christian claims to "own" the Mormon missionaries.

Jon and I were disappointed that our friend though it was such a great video, but the family relationship is worth more to us than chastising Marc. The fact of the matter is that Jon and I have learned so much more about witnessing to Mormons than we ever could have imagined when we lived back East. Our friend who posted about the video just doesn't have any experience with Mormon culture (even less than my very limited experience), so he thinks it is about the Bible bash instead of building a relationships.

I have always found it interesting that Christ's harshest words were reserved for the religious people. When dealing with, for lack or a better word, the "clueless," he was much more kind. I think any time we witness to nonbelievers, that is key. It is cliched, but there is truth in the saying that "people don't care what you know until they know that you care."
Ok. Enough hijacking from me.

Maggie said...

Ah I'm in LoVe with your post! So well put! :) My last comments were more for my own thinking aloud than in reply to what you stated.