Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brain Drain

Our family has become water babies lately. We've been in the pool for four days straight! We went in on Friday afternoon, not really expecting Maya to join us but hoping she would learn to love the water. Now four days later, she is rarely getting out of the water and jumping in to go grab her toys. She's become a swimming fanatic! Which is great because she burns so much energy that way. Then we meet her friends at the park and then jog home and she's POOPED! Which is great. I've finished Be the Pack Leader and am now listening to Cesar's Way - he exercises his pack for about 5-6 hours a day! Whew! So I've been on Craigslist looking for a treadmill and bike - I don't dare try roller blades! I found a Raleigh Mountain Bike that is reasonably priced and on my way to work. Hopefully I'll be picking it up this week. One person we go to church with bikes 30 miles a day! Whew! I'd love to work up to just 5-10 miles a day. I'm completely bike ignorant so it looks like a great bike. So long as it works I am very happy. :)

With all the exercise Maya has been very trainable as well as very energetic at the same time. I don't know what it is about water but it always brings out this super hyper side of Maya and always did the same for our last dogs - Scout and Conker. What gives?

Maya has been coming along so well lately that I have been able to let her off leash outside of her doggie play groups. Meaning, yesterday when the kids and I walked to the park, I was able to just let her go and when we went for our nightly jog last night I was able to let her go off leash as well. It's awesome.

The kids were eating lunch yesterday with some meat and cheese and after "claiming my space" as pack leader, amazingly she just laid down.

I was so proud of her! Last night, we even were able to let her sleep with her kennel open. Yay! :) She's coming along so nicely.

The Illusion collar/leash came yesterday so I was excited to try that bad boy out. It works so well (although is a bit frustrating to put on - but I'm sure I'll get used to it). We ran across a cat last night and I did some challenge training with her. She sat while I called the cat to me, and petted it. At one point I did have to lay her down, but overall she did very well for her first time.

All this dog training is taking away time and focus from knitting (*cries*) and this whole religion headache. Steve' oldest brother, Rob, always asks, "Why?" And right now I feel like I am doing the same thing.

During worship on Sunday they sang, "Fields of Grace" by Big Daddy Weave. When we first left the LDS church, this song became a quick favorite because the lyrics really connected with what I was feeling and going through.

There's a place where religion finally dies

There's a place where I loose my selfish pride

This two week series is something I'm looking forward to because it really gets into the theology of the Gospel - sin, justification, grace, works. It promises to be very thought provoking. I'm meeting with the missionaries again tomorrow night - so I best be writing up my question list - I'd forgotten a lot of my old questions from before. I sheepishly admit that I am REALLY stuck on this Godhead doctrine. When I spoke to my parents about it my Mamau was like, "I think you tend to get stuck on unimportant things."


I reminded her that Joseph Smith taught that it was the FIRST principal of the Gospel to understand the nature of God. Which is what I'm trying to do. Which then leads to more questions - what is "worship" inside the LDS church? Referring back to the Fall - why is Eve declared to have "transgressed" but her transgression is looked upon favorably? In the Hebrew it appears that a transgression is much worse than a sin (to err, or miss the mark). I am going to tackle some of the Book of Abraham today, more specifically to read about Abraham and God and of course the issues regarding this particular book. I've pulled out some reading from my LDS box and will also be pulling out a Protestant book on theology as well.

I have also decided to ask my Pastor questions as well. He raises good points and issues, but I find myself echoing Steve's brother - why?

I feel like such a pest.

Thankfully, Steve is looking into renting a cabin in August in Cedar City for a long weekend. I cannot wait. My birthday and our anniversary is just around the corner - yeppie! That's it for now. Gotta go tackle the pile of laundry that's been building up.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gas, Maya, and Swimming

I am so excited that it's finally the weekend! :) I worked the last three days at my parents' store (Huey's Mart) and just about every shift has had the local news crews out. I usually work 5:30 am - 2:15 pm and during my shift (the SLOW shift) we have two lines. One line is about two blocks long and the second line, is on average between 20-30 cars deep. The news crews have been running stories and video of our store. So I took some pictures and video of my own. Now, my parents are thinking of kicking up the customer service another notch - and I cannot wait to see how that comes out. Even though our relationship can be up and down - especially when working together - they really are inspiring.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

Today was an awesome day with Maya. When I got off work, we took her to my parents' house to come swimming with us. The last time I brought her swimming, she didn't really get into the pool unless I walked her in on her leash. So we didn't think she would really get in the pool this time. However, I was hoping that with the kids playing in the water, the fun would be contagious and she's jump in. And I was right. Once she realized how much fun the water was, she was in love with it and didn't want to come out. Steve and I could even see her standing at the top of the water slide, considering whether or not to come down. Maybe next time.

We're planning a trip up to Mt. Charleston tomorrow. I'm totally excited. Get some time away from everything and everyone and just spend some family time together tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it because it'll get us away from just being lazy tomorrow and since I'm so obsessed with fitness and activity right now - it's perfect. We're packing up the cooler with some water, lunch, and snacks and making a morning of it. I cannot wait!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Godhead, Polytheism, and the Spirit

My head is so jumbled right now that I'm not sure if I can even write a coherent blog - but seeing as I have to get up very early tomorrow morning (another 4 am rising) then I had better get this all purged so it won't keep me up tonight.

Had another meeting with Elder Nelson and Brother Matthews tonight. The other two meetings, even with the consistent interruptions that one sort of expects from two toddlers, went pretty well. Tonight, everything was just all jumbled and chaos which was quite disheartening for me. Not to mention, very embarrassing. As I've mentioned over the past week or so, we adopted 2 year old (give or take) Maya who being a Lab/Pit Bull mix is VERY energetic. She's very sweet and loving, but full of energy and tonight being that we (the family and I) were gone all day, had a ton of it pent up. The kids, being away from home and me all day, were the same. It does not make a good recipe for time spent in the scriptures or discussion. At one point, the comment was made that the Spirit was being disrupted (paraphrasing from my ever absent memory right now) because of Maya. For me, everything was being disrupted by Maya (and the kids as well). But it was quite the reminder how important reverence and atmosphere are in the LDS church for the Spirit.

When I think of time away with God, images come to my mind - quiet away from others, somewhere private, and somewhere calm. Like my bedroom (sans kids and dog of course) or even my closet which I converted into a prayer room after leaving the LDS church. There are pictures from the Gospel in action, a Bible and notebook to make notes, and there used to be a pillow to relax against (until I took it back to my bed). When I shared this moment with Steve, he casually implied that if I had not been with Latter Day Saints having this conversation, that the Spirit would have been just fine. That it's a preference of Latter Day Saints, and not really a Protestant thing. I thought back to Protestant churches I had visited over the past 18 months (before leaving the LDS church) and the things that I slowly became more "used to" that before, I would have stepped back from. Like "rock music" so to speak in a church meeting. Now I love it and think that it's a beautiful form of expressing praise to an Almighty God - even though I still prefer hymns and quiet worship, I see the beauty and passion in the modern day Evangelical worship setting. Or having church in a bar (which sadly seems to be at an end). I was so thrilled to hear about GP taking ministry into such an unconventional setting - going to those who probably need the Lord the most.

And so, I began thinking about Steve's comment and our calm, assertive young pastor (he's late 30s I believe - so not a "kid" young) - could he have held a discussion of spiritual matters with a 60 lb dog climbing on him and kids either fussing about wanting something or just clamoring for attention? Would the Spirit have been conducive to such an environment? We attended a small group at his home for about 4-6 weeks I believe (maybe longer) and they provided childcare. Kids jumping around upstairs sounding like they were going to bring the roof crashing down. And yet, he remained fully able to direct and lead the conversation. But, how spiritual was it? I honestly couldn't tell you - I was still very much apologetic of the LDS church and still firmly believed in my own (LDS) beliefs. I was "trying" to let go and listen, but I'm a pretty stubborn person. Is God limited by the environment we are in at the time or is He big enough to work past that?

For me, I lean more towards God being bigger to work past those issues - kids and dogs and all sorts of craziness. However, I certainly believe that special, intimate time with Heavenly Father is achieved when we are able to focus on HIM and not on the crazy surroundings of the moment. I'm not sure how well I would adjust to being "boxed" in so to speak that God speaks only though and in certain moments and environments. I know when I was LDS, I would have baulked at the idea of church being in a bar (Steve did for a LONG time, even after coming to GP), but regardless if I would attend church in a bar (I wouldn't) I most certainly see the need for reaching those in a bar and certainly believe that God is big enough to reach through all that, and touch someone, bringing them to Him.

Outside of these potholes tonight, the conversation was really great. Even if I did loose my train of thought a few times. :( I really cling to the Protestant (and I suppose Catholic) idea of polytheism but find a lot of freedom in what we discussed tonight regarding polytheism and whether or not it was what Jehovah was actually addressing in the Law. The Godhead makes - for me - logical sense. Of course, I wasn't raised believing the Trinity - so I'm sure Trinity believers believe the Trinity makes logical sense. As I've read along some Trinity discussions on Rav, I find myself really torn on this issue. It could be that I simply don't want to make a choice - stand by the experience I had a year ago, that I felt confirmed the Trinity to me or deny it and move right back into the LDS church.

Joseph Smith taught that it is the FIRST principal of the Gospel to know God and His nature. Which would then be - Trinity or Godhead? Part of me totally sweeps this all under the rug and refuses to really think about it. I tell myself that really, it doesn't matter. Because that Gospel, or Good News, isn't about whether or not Jesus was fully God and fully man (Trinity) or if He was the Son of God - a god Himself worthy of worship but not the Father.

And yet, in both the Protestant churches and in the LDS church - knowing God's nature is an essential, a first principal, even of the Gospel. Which makes me really turn my mouth down. :P I wonder if I refuse to move on from this doctrine because I want accept the Godhead so that I can be Mormon again OR if I refuse to move on because I don't want to deny the Trinity because it's something that while I feel is illogical, is something that I still see as possible. Even if I don't really want to acknowledge that.

Is my desire to return to the LDS church, simply over ruling my common sense or logical thinking? On the one hand, there are doctrines that while I believe are logical, go against everything as a conservative Evangelical I would hold as fundamental. They go against my personal daily application - such as offending the Spirit and yet, still are logical.

Tonight we discussed the context of when people are without a Prophet - Biblically speaking, they go straight into apostasy. Again, very logical. Biblical example to back it up and all one really needs to do is look around the Mainstream Christian churches to see utter chaos in it all, not unity or one faith. But a lot of heavy opinions and preferences without any authority.

So, I've promised to buckle down and write up some questions for our next meeting. Hopefully, in a week away from my house and all the possible distractions. I have some reading in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon that I'm going to get to and then we'll sit down with some more questions. I've also been told that if I'd like to no longer work in GP Kidz then I am free to do so. This is a problem for me - I'd love to go ahead and leave and start attending block meetings BUT I made a commitment and part of me feels, if I were to just leave GP Kidz, there'd be nothing holding me back from being a "True Blue Mormon" again (albeit a weird, very doctrinally liberal one). And I am committed to NOT jumping back in there again. I want time to read - the BoM and the Bible cover and to cover and fully understand what I am committing to.

Which leaves me - totally uncommitted to either organization. And sleepy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Loosing Grace

The Prophet Joseph Smith was often asked, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?”

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

("Who is Jesus Christ?"; Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 49)

Last Wednesday night, I asked the missionaries and WP, to share with me what they thought was the most important doctrine/idea/teaching that was essential in the LDS church. A few days later, I went and opened up my March edition of the Ensign. It was still in it's wrapping, not even opened. While reading the article, "Who is Jesus Christ?" I found the above statement by Joseph Smith. And found so much peace in it.

As fed up as I am by the denominations, preferences, and everything else right now - I began to think about how there is a difference between an essential and a preference.

I think back over the last couple of years and have realized two major things:

1. I've never known the lasting amazing peace as a Protestant Christian that I knew as a Mormon. The grace I had in my life, the transformation of who I was and who God was refining me to be - it all was so amazing and awesome. It's a time in my life that I can only describe as filled with peace and grace.

2. The personal relationship I've had with God in the last year has greatly increased. Steve and I describe it like going to Costco on a Saturday vs enjoying the full buffet.

I feel like the more I've been out of the LDS church, the more grace I have lost, the less peace I've had, and the more I know there is something missing.

“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

“That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him” (D&C 76:40–42).

The rest of it - all these denominations and everything else that our SIN puts in the way, are just unimportant. They're man made walls, not God given boundaries.

Christian Humilty

In 2006 I began regularly post on the R&P. At the time, I was aware of anti-Mormon trash, but overall really just didn't care about it. When I began my journey into apologetics, I taped my favorite passage of scripture to my screens and walls around where I used my computers. I wanted to be aware of the impression I gave people as a Christ follower (yes a Mormon) and that I strive always to bring glory to His name, not shame. So when people became really horrible, I would breathe, pray, read my verse, and if needed - walkaway for a bit to meditate on God's great love for me AND that horrible person whoever it was.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I've slowly lost that patience - even though I really want to be patient like that with people, the more I see of people in RELIGION the more disgusted and frustrated I become. I can totally see why there are so many loose canon Christians or people who don't even want to come to church of any kind, out there.

What was entirely unexpected was that a poster named TerroRista and I became fast and close friends. We would talk for hours at times about Jesus, God, the Bible, and daily application. What surprised her was that I genuinely loved my Savior. I learned later that this really surprised a lot of Christians who had generally false ideas about Mormonism and the Mormon people. They realized the Gospel - the good news of a Savior and redemption, was something that I not only understood and but something I had totally engraved into my heart. Something that was just as precious to me, a Mormon, as it was to them, Mainstream Christians.

When I left the LDS church, I was in a whole lot of confusion - why on Earth would God pull me out of the Church I loved so dearly? Why to a church that was so foreign and loud and irreverent in worship and praise and in everything? Why a Trinity believing church? Why Evangelicals of all the groups? Why? Why? Why?

My journey both makes me appreciate what I've learned from personal experience - the kindness and loving nature of Protestant Christians in such an extremly different environment than what I would have found acceptable for me. And shortly before I "came out" so to speak about my desire to rejoin the LDS church, my friend TerroRista came out that she was returning to Catholicism. Which, is another heated apologetic debate - is Catholicism a Christian church and are Catholics Christians? I love Barbie to death, but I'll be the first admit that I'm not comfortable with everything, but for me - unity with her and with a sister in Christ, is more important to ME than being in any way a voice of any kind of dissent to her. I see things that I disagree with as preferences and unimportant in the great scheme of things. Salvation issues have not changed for her, but rich traditions of church fathers have.

What I've loved about her journey (and mine) is that we've both been very humbled. Save for my Sunday night small group, my outlook on Mainstream Christians was just appalling. I just couldn't stomach the doctrine or the sickening pride that it seemed to breed in people. "I'm right, you fail. Have fun in hell."

With her journey into Catholicism and her rejection from close friends because she's now the dark they - the light - cannot mingle with, has really brought her a new level of empathy, compassion, respect, and humility for other faiths. This is something she will readily admit, she always struggled a bit with.

This heavily contrasts with the breeding of Mainstream Christian apologetists. Which in turn breeds so much frustration in me as someone who isn't concerned anymore with Mormon, Christian, Catholic - just someone who loves Christ and wants to follow Him. Someone who wants to cling to Him during a storm, when everything is going wrong and I just need a good cry. Someone who looks to His example of how I should live as His disciple.

I am SICK of people. I am SICK of apologetists and their semantics. "I told you what the Bible said, deal with it." Apologists aren't telling people what the Bible says, it's telling people what THEY think the Bible says. The Bible didn't stand up, grab some Starbucks and start chatting with them. I am SICK of churches, I am SICK of the pride that Christianity seems to breed in people. I am just SICK SICK SICK with it all. If I could up and move to the woods and live there and just worship God without any church affiliation, I think I'd be completely fulfilled.

The utter lack of humility in Christianity is driving me insane. Christ was a humble servant who taught by example, who washed the feet of His disciples while they bickered - yet MCs always seem to be bickering about SOMETHING. They can never seem to just agree to disagree.

On the one hand I totally desire to be in fellowship with others who love their Savior and at the same time, I cannot get far enough away. On a recent blog, TerroRista posted some pics of how Catholic leaders and followers look more humble than Protestant ones. I have to say, that for me - the following image is the most humble MODERN day visual of humility and service.

Hopefully this is enough ranting for now. :)

Wrap Up

This is a very accurate visual of how I feel. Exhausted. This post is a very general wrap up of the past week.

1. Maya is a fantastic dog - but man she has boundless energy and is exhausting.

2. Cesar Millan makes everything look so easy. Wish I was that athletic.

3. I'm becoming overall addicted to walking, jogging, and running. It hurts but it's a good hurt. I'm still sleepy when I get up at 4:30 am to do it, but that's okay - it gets my day off right and I can spend time with the Lord during these runs.

4. As I become more addicted to running and jogging - I am becoming more curious and eager to try something else very physical that I can do with Maya. She's shown shyness and perhaps even fear of the water when we took her swimming, but she's an excellent swimmer. I'm hoping to get her in the pool more often to overcome her fear so that we can swim laps together soon. I want to try roller blading and biking now. The heat of course, is overall discouraging. Perhaps in the fall or winter.

5. Stetching and yoga CAN make a difference. :)

6. The missionaries dropped off a DVD for me to watch - it's a special wittness one of Jesus I believe (or perhaps the Restoration). I'm pretty excited to watch it.

7. I finished Alias season five a couple of nights ago, I am beyond depressed about this. Bonus features? Anything? How will I ever live?

8. A poster on Rav mentioned that she doesn't have TV - I imagine a lot of freedom in not owning a TV even with DVR.

9. I have had some pretty amazing personal revelations (not claiming God given) this past week on my history as a Mormon. For example, during my ex-Mormon transition I realized that I was always annoyed with the MC (Mainstream Christian) Jesus. After a lot of discussion and thought, I realize that my personal feelings or experiences with Mainstream Christians individually were bleeding over into the theology. The Jesus of the MCs no longer represented an atoning sacrifice, but rather a rude, hurtful, aggressive Bible thumping street preacher. I failed, at the time, to see how wrong this generalization was because I was too emotionally involved at the time.

10. During a run this week, I had a quite discomforting time while meditating on the LDS church. I hope that it's a fleshly thing and not a spiritual thing.

11. Who knew there were right and wrong socks to wear while running?! Thank you to Brother Matthews for giving the much needed information.

12. Over on Ravelry, actually have a Mormonism 101 thread that I've been enjoying being a part of. It really makes me stop and wonder though, of those who are critical of the LDS church and if they are able to turn their critical microscope over onto their own beliefs with the same intensity and scrutiny that they apply to the LDS church. When LDS posters do this in say apologetics, then suddenly LDS are attacking the Bible, Christianity, etc. It strikes me as both disturbing and humorous how uncomfortable people get when one applies that same line of thinking to MCs, history, etc. While I'm not saying that I disbelieve the Trinity or the Godhead (but rather prefer to sit on a neutral fence right now and investigate this more fully), the Trinity certainly has enough (and always really has) holes in it for me to lean away from it.

13. Essential beliefs - are these more assumptions of the Bible or actual Biblical teachings? If they are Biblically sound - that there ARE essential beliefs, then what essentials are there that are spelled out in the Bible?

14. I find myself distancing from Protestantism and drawing closer again to Mormonism. Of course, most of this is out of comfort, but also with the disillusionment I feel within Mainstream Christianity. There is an overall pride to be found in quite a few circles - pride in being RIGHT. In having THE Truth, the ONLY Truth, etc etc. And it's not something I found myself really appreciating. I'm not saying this is a GP thing but rather just observing and seeing in various Christians of various backgrounds, etc. A lot of the people at GP are the kindest, more humble Christians. Alongside with my small group family (not a GP small group), these people have totally turned my viewpoint around on what a Christian within the Protestant umbrella can actually look like - Christ.

15. My friend Barbie, has been going through what a lot of LDS converts go through - rejection. From her former Protestant friends who cannot support her while she is in the "darkness" for example. People who wouldn't even go to her wedding or reception because it was in celebration of her Catholic wedding. She's currently reading the book, "Why would anyone want to be a Mormon?" which she is totally loving (no worries folks, the day she's LDS - huh I guess that would be the end of time as we know it ;) ). I love having these discussions with her, because I feel like she finally has a connection with me and understanding now, of some things I experienced as a Mormon. Rejection from people based solely on the fact that I was LDS. What Barbie and I are both finding peace in is the humility and desire to serve others that is found when we take out the rejection and the pride and seek to REALLY love others as Jesus did.

16. Worked today at the store. Craziness craziness. People are selfish. They are rude. They are inconsiderate. Today one woman refused to move her car from a pump because she didn't like how one man waited in line. Are you SERIOUS? We had to call a towing company and she cussed me out. We - employees - know for a FACT that there are customers out there with guns. And yet, people STILL have road rage out in a parking lot. I mean c'mon people - if you go to the cheapest gas station in the entire valley by almost .20/gallon, then expect a wait. Come early so you don't run late to an appointment or something, bring your knitting or a good book or a crossword puzzle. Bring a snack to munch on while you wait, but for goodness sakes, just have patience. Laying on your horns, screaming at people, and so on is not productive.

17. If you can count your money, you can tell me how much you have. Don't throw it down on the counter, "Whatever this is on the pump behind number three."

18. Please answer yes or no questions - we don't ask because we're stupid, we ask because we know that it's required information for YOUR safety on our part. "Are you at the pump?" Because if you're not, you're gas WILL be stolen.

19. The pumps are clearly labeled (except the first one) with numbers not once but twice that are as big as your head - please read them. It's really not that hard.

20. No you cannot pay on the pump when you are five cars behind. If you're not at the pump, you cannot put money on it.

21. Exhaustion is not the end of being tired.

22. At the end of the day - there is religion which is really no one's fault except their own, and relationship. Relationship is not defined in the building we attend or the clothes we were or even the specifics of theology that we claim, but our hearts for God. I think religion holds us down and keeps us from really having the ability to really love people because we have this invisible electric fence so to speak. But relationship moves us to be Jesus in our daily lives - to serve in the Church and in our communities, to pray sincerely, to repent and forgive, and to remember the atonement. THAT's what I am seeking and I am confident that my Heavenly Father will answer.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Dog Whisperer & Jesus

Steve and I have loved the Dog Whisperer. I am currently listening to Cesar Millan's book, "Be the Pack Leader" during my daily walks/runs with Maya. During the intro, we see Cesar with his pack (approx 30-40 dogs when he wrote, Be the Pack Leader). What impresses me so much, is this huge pack is never in front of him. There's a scene where they are all jogging through the ocean and yet, again there is not a single dog in front of him, but rather either at his side or behind him. Wow! And you know these dogs would certainly be faster than him, yet they acknowledge who their "pack leader" is.

As I've watched his shows and listened to his book, I continue hearing the word, "energy". To be calm and assertive because our dogs can pick up on that energy. It's the one thing you can't fake it till you make it with dogs. You're either calm/assertive or you're not.

This brings me back to Heavenly Father and thinking back on The Purpose Driven Life. Where, basically the author Rick Warren basically gives us the same message, we can't fake it till we make it with God. We either are giving up control to Him or we're not. Last night's episode included a puppy dalmatian rescued by a group of 40 plus firemen. This 3 month old puppy had taken control of the firehouse because they lacked Cesar's three step methods to fulfillment.

  • Exercise
  • Discipline
  • Affection

I began thinking about how this applies to life - like child rearing or our own personal goals. And of course, our spiritual lives.

  • Exercise - Immersing ourselves in the scriptures, praying, fasting. Cesar teaches that after a dog has had exercise, she'll be more open to being dominated or accepting a pack leader. She's more open to discipline and correction.
  • Discipline - Living the Christian life. Overcoming the flesh - bring the flesh into submission of the spirit. By studying the scriptures, Heavenly Father can give us correction about the life we are living and our need for grace.
  • Affection - Feeling the Spirit's prescence, Heavenly Father's love for us.

When we have these three elements, we develop a testimony of Heavenly Father, of the atonement, etc etc. And from this testimony, we are able to weather the storms in life. As Christians we know that we walk in a "pack" with Jesus. He walks in front because He is the leader and we are content to follow Him. Who knew one could learn so many life lessons from dogs and their packs? More to come when I have more time. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

THE Truth

I mentioned to Brother Matthews and Elder Nelson last night, that I don't mean to pick on Protestants by comparing LDS beliefs to Protestant ones, but that's what I've been immersed in for the last year - Protestant theology, not Catholic theology or Anglican theology etc etc.

In the last few years online in apologetics, one phrase I always saw daily on forums or in blogs was Protestants discussing "THE Truth". That the Bible contains "THE Truth", that the Trinity is THE Truth, that Jesus is THE way, etc etc etc. And I'm not disagreeing with any of that. I think these bold statements that religious groups make really helps set them apart from everyone else in the crowd. Jesus boldly claimed to not only be "a" way to God, but the only way to the Father. So, I am certainly not against using bold statements. The LDS church makes the bold claim that all priesthood authority was taken from the Earth when a global apostacy occurred - that's pretty bold as well.

However, Brother Matthews said something Monday night (which I've been meaning to blog about - but having a new dog is like having a new baby!) that really struck me. I like it a lot - will probably be adding it to my Ravelry quotes.Paraphrasing here, "We are looking for the Truth. Not someone else's opinion on the Truth, or someone else's commentary, but just the Truth."

As a Bible believing Jesus freak Protestant, my initial response was, "Well, aren't we all?"

However, if you take this and chew on it - are we accepting THE truth or someone's opinion or commentary on THE truth? A good friend of mine recently left the Protestant movement after 11 years and is now a Catholic. In one of our conversations, she was shared a conversation between herself and a Protestant friend. She was stating that the when Jesus says, "I am the bread" that He is saying that He is the bread. Her protestant friend disagreed saying it was figurative not literal, so she asked, "Okay, but why? Why does it have to be figurative why can't it be literal?" She further explained that when she researched this verse, all she came back to were commentaries (opinions) that all said the same thing, "Jesus was being figurative. He isn't really the bread." But why? What support do they have?So when looking for the Truth with a capital "T", how do we find it?

If Joseph Smith really was a Prophet, he certainly gave us a more modern day example of how to go about finding it - we seek earnestly after God and ask Him. I've always thought the story of the First Vision, however marvelous, was quite a leap of faith on Joseph's part.

But today, to pray about "which church should I join?" is quite normal.I can recall when we first left the LDS church, as confused as I was at the time as to why God would lead us out of the LDS church, I felt so certain that God had assigned us to this church. And no one thought that we were weird for being lead or guided to a certain church "home".

So, why does it seem to bristle and rub those critical of the LDS church the wrong way that Joseph went and asked the Lord the same question? He was looking for the Truth, not someone else's opinion of the Truth. As individuals, seeking after God's will in our lives - what are we to do? We can most certainly pray and study and then listen. I have really enjoyed Manna church's series last August on when God is speaking to you. I believe I can safely say, that even if I were LDS right now or then, this series would still greatly impact my life.

Right now - as I seek to understand where exactly God wants me and where exactly I should be vs where I want to be (LDS) I continue to ask myself - what is THE Truth and how do I know 100% for sure that I've found it?

In Joshua 9 when the Hivites came in disguise and said they were a far away country wanting to make a treaty we read in v 14, "The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD". I think this story reminds us - to always check back with the Lord. Commentaries are nice - especially in those pesky Isaiah or Jacob I believe, but in the end, it is up to us to inquire of the Lord whether or not they are accurate or authoritative commentaries or just the understanding of men. Even under the proper authority of a spiritual leader - like a Bishop, Pastor, or Prophet, we should always go back to the Lord. Acquire our own testimony, our own confirmation of what they teach as true.

Something Pastor Hudson says that I always have loved is (paraphrasing), "God is an infinite God and we are finite creatures." Isaiah says the same thing in 55:9

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I certainly believe there are some things I'll just not know and accept that but firmly believe that God is a personal, knowable God. In my search for the Truth and not an opinion or part of the Truth, I know it is important to return to the scriptures and to my Heavenly Father.Recently, my Pastor told me that he feels that I've never really even left the LDS church - and in a lot of ways, that is absolutely true. It's my "heart beat", it's my spiritual home, it's where I feel most comfortable. I cannot deny the amazing spiritual experiences I've had in my Bishop's council earlier on, or the absolute overwhelming Holy Spirit in the temple when I took out my living endowments. Yet, I do not want to return to the church because I am comfortable there (as much as I hate writing that) or because I generally overall accept some theology or doctrine.

Generally, I believe the doctrine within the LDS church is possible and even logical. Why wouldn't God have a Prophet on this Earth today? Why can't families be together forever? Overall (speaking in very general terms) the LDS eternity view and the Protestant ones are not that far removed.I'm still struggling a little with the idea of the Godhead - which again, i believe is a more overall logical viewpoint of the nature of God, Jesus, and the Spirit vs the very romantic idea of the Trinity. I've been told that only one can be right - traditional Christianity or the LDS church, and I totally agree. Both can certainly contain some truth, but which one contains THE truth?

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Pamela Steaks and Hostessing...

We have such amazing friends. Our bestie friends, Norman and Pamela invited us over for an amazing night (totally puts to shame anything I can hope to do until the kids are either older or at grandma's for the night...) It so relaxing! Pamela is the most amazing hostess - I was totally blown away at how she pampered Steve and me and Norman. Her house is always looking nice and has this relaxing mood going on anyways, but she kicked it up a notch with some yummy but simple snacks, some soothing music, and the most second most amazing steak I have ever had. Second only to our last night on our honeymoon where we ate at this amazing restaurant. At this point, I don't even know how good the steak was, but rather the moments.

Look at this beautiful setup she created for us. She served us our drinks and kept everything coming. And she had the most brillant idea with some home-made toast. Wow! We are a total bread family so I was eating it up. What a cook. By time we left, I really had to fight to stay awake - I was so relaxed and ready for bed.

So, I'm trying my hand at this recipe. We're having the missionaries over tonight and possibly the Bishop, and I always fret when I have people over about what to cook. Especially servants of churches - because I'm sure they are always getting all kinds of food. And I want to be a great hostess but realize totally that I'm just not there. Anyways, I'll be cooking Pamela's steaks tonight - adding a salad, some steamed veggies, and chocolate dipped strawberries. We'll see how it goes over.

Today, I am in mega cleaning mode. I tend to compare myself to people when I shouldn't - but I really want to try to step up my hostess skills tonight. Even though Steve said, "Amanda, as long as it's not obviously messy or something, they're all men - they won't notice." :( But I will. So I'm cleaning up today and trying to find some quiet music to put on as well. Plus, I have my two pre-k munchkins to take care of and our new addittion Maya. Quite the handful. ;)

I recall listening to someone on the Food Network (and my MIL) talk about food preparation. So I've gone ahead and seasoned my steaks and am letting them sit in the fridge (covered of course). I've chopped all my herbs and mushrooms needed for this and grated all the cheese. All I think I need to do now is actually cook the stuff and of course, finish cleaning.

So, any readers out there - especially those with small children. How do you do it? How do you hostess when you have two little ones? And how do you do it, without being so completely frustrated by the end?

P.S. - Because I am a dork, I've posted pics from my preparation today. Enjoy!

See the foil on the bottom? That's the top of my covered steaks. :) Don't these strawberries look yummy? It is taking SO much willpower not to dig in. :P

That's all my chopped up stuff and my chocolate dipped strawberries on their pretty plate. :)

I am just obsessed with these strawberries....

On Fire

Cesar Millan says there are three essentials for dogs:

  • Exercise

  • Discipline

  • Praise, Love, Affection, etc

I'm sure he uses different words than I am right now. :) So, with Maya we have been trying to do these things. Ironically, Steve who really wants to step up as Alpha male in our family, is being dominated by Maya. I think it's rather funny actually. And she's (so far) leaning towards me. However, I think this greatly has do with, I am very physical with her.

Over the last three weeks or so, without even knowing it, I've become much more physical and active. So, I've been taking Maya for walks. Remembering the when a dog isn't challenged physically or at the very least exercised properly they can become trouble (as our toy dogs did), I've gone from walking to speed walking and by 5-10 minutes into our walks, jogging. I've gotta say - that hurts. Everything in my body burns, my lungs, my legs, and my arms (from controlling Maya during the walks). I come home and I'm so sweaty and yucky. But I feel great. I feel ready to start my day, and the time I have to both spend with Maya and God has been really relaxing for me. I love it, even if right now I cannot walk properly because I'm so sore.

Overall, I'm loving taking her on her walks but am becoming aware for the need of daily yoga now to calm and stretch those tense and sore muscles. And water. And common sense on my part. When I got home from work yesterday, I took her for a jog at 3 pm! Three pm is the HOTTEST time of the day here in Vegas. How stupid was I?

I feel more tone after these couple of weeks of walking, swimming, and now jogging. Although my appetites has greatly increased and so my knitting is also increasing to fight off the urge to eat more or snack more. Is this normal? Maybe Mr. Wayne will leave me a comment. :) Okay, off to get ready for church. Enough sitting.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Our New Addition!

A short break from my recent heavy blogs. Steve and I are avid dog lovers - we dog sit for free for anyone with a good dog because we've missed having our own dogs for so long. After almost four years dogless, we adopted a new addition into our family at the local no-kill rescue shelter. Our Maya, was actually rescued from the shelter in Henderson. Our beautiful girl is just amazing! What a pleasure she is. She is a Labrador Retriever Bully mix (Bully refers to the breed of Pit Bulls). This is totally ironic since for as long as I remember, I have been VERY against ever owning any dog with any bully mix what-so-ever. Yet, here she is. Our newest family member. We fell so hard in love with her. She is simply amazing. :)

I'm going to post some pictures of her - I've had a really hard time getting any decent pics of her since she is in explore mode right now, so check back later for more pictures. When we got her home today, one of the first things we did is give her a bath. I am so appreciative for the no-kill shelter here, but my heart broke today as I lathered and rinsed well over a dozen times. There was so much hair everywhere (because the staff probably didn't have any time to regularly groom her with all their residents there). Although, when we went to Pet Smart today, she picked out her own toy - a duck and she totally loves it. Enjoy the not so great pics of our beautiful girl Maya! :)

She's exploring the kids' playroom. Warning Maya - it's pretty messy right now. ;)

Look at her nice clean coat! Isn't she so shiny and beautiful. :) She's checking out Anya's kitchen - she's wondering, "Will that little girl cook me steaks here?"

Checking out the kids' toys some more. Trying to think of which one to attempt to steal.

Look at how beautiful she is. Even if she does want to play video games. ;)

I had to hold her collar to get a picture of her face.

Pondering the Temple

I really wanted to take a systematic approach to LDS doctrines - going through the Book of Mormon (woot woot working through 1 Nephi for like the zillioneth time), going through the Articles of Faith, sitting down with the missionaries and getting a more even balanced approached to LDS teachings - especially those I might just sincerely misunderstand. I've been planning on packing myself up and go doing some studying on the temple grounds and of course some praying. I'm back on track for my daily Bible reading - let me say, I am SO thankful to be through the book of Joshua and Judges. Whoa! What challenging books! Josab, "Let's get up and go," to his unconscious gang raped concubine. :P On a random side note - I was pretty surprised to hear the word, "Lehi" in the book of Judges (where Samson was taken to be delivered to the Philistines).

Anyways, today I began thinking about the temple - an ultimate goal for all LDS. I loved the temple - even after leaving was very close mouthed about the ceremonies within because of the covenants I made. I began thinking of the temple recommend interview, about the ceremonies inside, and of course the Holy Garment of the Priesthood. Would the temple be something I could support? Would it be something that I didn't feel clashed with the Bible?
First, the temple recommend interview questions:

1. Do you believe in God, the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost; and do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?

2. Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
3. Do you sustain the other General Authorities and the local authorities of the Church?

4. Do you live the law of chastity?
5. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
6. Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?

7. Do you earnestly strive to do your duty in the Church; to attend your sacrament, priesthood, and other meetings; and to obey the rules, laws, and commandments of the gospel?

8. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?

9. Are you a full-tithe payer?

10. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?

11. Have you ever been divorced or are you now separated from your spouse under order of a civil court? If yes, (a) - Are you current in your support payments and other financial obligations for family members, as specified by court order or in other written, binding commitments? (b) Were there any circumstances of transgression in connection with your divorce or separation that have not been previously resolved with your bishop?

12. If you have received your temple endowment -- (a) Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple? (b) Do you wear the authorized garments both day and night?

13. Has there been any sin or misdeed in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but has not?

14. Do you consider yourself worthy in every way to enter the temple and participate in temple ordinances?

Answers to possibly challenging questions:

1. Hmmm - for sure something I would have trouble with. I certainly believe in the three members of the Trinity/Godhead. But a firm testimony of the Restored Gospel? Not right now. I certainly believe it's totally possible (even likely) that there was a global apostacy - which means, that there was a loss of authority on the Earth to act in God's binding name, not that Christians were not actually present on the Earth. I do certainly believe it is possible that Joseph Smith was a prophet - he is no better or worse than any of the other men in the Bible, from Jonah, Solomn, David, even Abraham. So while I believe the Restoration is POSSIBLE, I certainly do not associate myself as a believer of it.

2 & 3. I think if I come to the conclusion that the LDS church is authoritative that this would certainly follow. Currently, right now - that's not my personal stance. Although, I do believe that God WOULD have an authority on the Earth since He is always the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. ;)

7. I think this one freaks a lot of "grace alone" adherents out. Personally, while I don't believe I can "earn" my salvation, I do believe what the Bible says, "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling". I've always favored legalism - so this would be quite the challenge for me. To do things, to be obediant because I desire to be sanctified by God, because I love God, and because I am thankful for His forgiveness and not because I believe I am earning favor.
Philip 2:12
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13. I wonder what the policy is on apostates... I guess I should add that to my list of questions for the missionaries.

14. I have ALWAYS struggled with this question. Since the temple is in many ways, is a holy and sacred place - where God "can show up" so to speak, then this is a question I always want to say, "no". Of course I'm not worthy to enter. What is considered worthy? Obeying a few basic laws of the Gospel?

At this point, I begin reflecting on the temple - it's purpose for example. It's not just a place to meet with God (which again can be anywhere) but also a place where holy and sacred ordinances are performed by those with the "proper authority". The dead are baptized (1 Cor 15:12-15), people make covenants with God. With proper authority - just like with Joshua, Moses, Abraham, etc. All these people INITIATED covenants with God. For example, Joshua initiated a covenant with Israel that she would not serve any other gods except their Lord and God (Elohim). Couples are sealed together for time and eternity (Matt 16:19, Matt 18:18) and of course there is the Celestial Room. It's where Spencer W. Kimball wrote "The Miracle of Forgiveness", where Lorenzo Snow received his confirmation of the eternal progression doctrine that Joseph Smith, Jr introduced in the King Follett Sermon.

One of (but not the most) powerfully intimate moments I've ever experienced with God was in the Endowment Ceremony. A ceremony I've learned, a few LDS tend to nap through (usually men :P ) but was very powerful for me. I don't know why, but at the end I felt so overwhelmed by God's Spirit that I was crying as I waited to be called. The temple was always a place of peace for me, I have no huge issues with the questions in the recommend interview, but what about garments? And silly Protestant protests that they are ungodly and masonic?

I've thought about this as well. I recall from LDS apologetics that the cross wasn't always a Christian symbol. In fact, it was used (and still is) by Neo-Pagans for example. It is also easily argued that the cross was a symbol of cruel death. So the question becomes, what power is really in a symbol? Is it tainted by a use of it, or does the "power" come from the person using it? When a Christian wears a cross, are they thinking Neo-Pagan or are they thinking of their Savior? Using this same logic, technically, when LDS are wearing the Holy Garment of the Priesthood, are they thinking, "masons" or are they thinking of temple covenants that they made, their Heavenly Father, and holding tight to the Iron Rod? It would of course be the latter. They're not thinking of masons or trying to get ahead in the mason ladder - they're (hopefully since ANYTHING in ANY religion can be legalistic) thinking of the temple, of God, and of Jesus.

So I have no problems with garments either. They are a daily, physical reminder for me of my faith just as a cross is. And I personally wouldn't have a problem wearing my cross and the HGoP together. :)

When pondering the temple - I do have to say I am not looking forward to wearing garment modest clothes in the summer here. That always was my greatest challenge. I'm feel hot and uncomfortable sometimes in the middle of winter (I swear I'm in eternal menopause) so wearing garments and modest clothes is not something I'm looking forward to. Although, that of course would be a long ways off since I'd be starting from scratch, at the bottom again. ;) Whew! Dodging that bullet for a little longer. 120 degrees sucks in a tank top and modest shorts... :P

I've also been thinking about the ceremonies themselves - which involve a few possibly challenging things. Accepting the authority of the LDS church to act, speak, and seal in God's name. The doctrines of pre-existence - of course I don't seem any Biblical clashing with this doctrine and really have no problem with it. The idea, practice, or doctrine (not sure what it would be) that we can make covenants with God today, which again, I see nowhere in the Bible that says we can't, so no issue there. Overall, thinking the ceremonies from the ground up, as that is how the temple is organized. I see no issues theologically with the temple.

I do want to take a moment to add. That in the last two weeks, as I've allowed myself to really think about possibly returning to the LDS church and then blogging openly about my thoughts on the matter, I find myself so much at ease and excited and happy. I sort of wish I could just go straight back - but don't want to be impulsive or a flake. I am also really grateful for this journey - there are so many things I've been really learning - not just reading or hearing in a sermon, and totally appreciating from Grace Point. I'm learning that no amount of head knowledge will make me obediant or mature. I'm learning that God isn't confined to the box so many of us put Him in. I'm learning that there are Protestant churches out there that know how to serve just to serve, and not with a track, agenda, or Bible in their other hand. And I'm learning a true appreciation for the passionate love people have for Jesus. I'm thankful for all these things but most of all I am learning that I am a Mormon through and through. I don't know how I would describe myself to others who don't read my blogs - Christian, Mormon, both? But I'm okay with that. I don't need other people to define me and really, even I don't need to define me. I just need to know how God sees me and live day by day in that blessing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Original Sin vs Consequences of the Fall

While rambling on with my friend Barbie today - we stumbled onto the Protestant doctrine of Original Sin vs the Consequences of the Fall (the LDS and Catholic stance on the two). Don't ask me to repeat the Catholic stance as I understood what she was saying, but really don't believe I could do it justice. Suffice it to say - it was a very interesting conversation. We discussed a few things - purgatory, the Spirit World, rewards of heaven, etc.

It made me really think of "far fetched" LDS doctrines and how similar they really are to Protestant doctrines. For example, the issue of Original Sin and the Fall are constantly on my mind. I have two children - so on one hand when they are fussying, biting, scratching, screaming, tantrum throwing little monsters lying about who kicked who and who did what, I totally am inclined to believe they are sinners just like me. Except, when I step back and think about it more logically - I really don't agree with the Protestant stance on Original Sin (or at least how I understand it).

From the amazing Wikipedia:

Western Christian tradition regards original sin as the general condition of sinfulness (lack of holiness) into which human beings are born, distinct from any actual sins that a person may or may not commit later. Different views exist as to whether a person bears real guilt or personal responsibility only for actual sins that they personally commit, while being tempted by original sin, or whether they bear actual guilt for the sins of ancestors.

Eastern Christian tradition too identifies original sin as physical and spiritual death, the spiritual death being the loss of "the grace of God, which quickened (the soul) with the higher and spiritual life"[3] Others see original sin also as the cause of actual sins: "a bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:17, NIV), although, in this view, original and actual sin may be difficult to distinguish.[4]

Now perhaps I am getting into semantics or just being my usual, annoying and painfully specific self - but for something that really is essential in Christianity (why on Earth would one accept a Savior if they didn't believe in a Fall, Original Sin, or that they are a sinner in the first place?) one would think this doctrine would be nailed out. Here's my take on this (which is of course, the LDS one too).

There was a Fall - was it God's plan for us? I'm more inclined to say yes - absolutely it was. (*Insert gasp here*). If there's anything I've taken from my time at Grace Point it's this - God is sovereign. Sure we have free will, but ultimately - God is God and we are not. God is sovereign (which does not make me a Calvinist :P ). Therefore, for me, it's not like God was chilling out in heaven, sipping a Virgin Daqueri with a pink little umbrella when suddenly Adam and Eve ate the fruit and He was shocked. Oh so shocked. "Well, what the hey do I do now? Shoot, they messed everything up..." Of course, perhaps the omniscent viewing time outside of time, just might be another assumption of the Bible. Grrr - now I've gotta keep a better list of all the assumptions I've heard the Bible makes - just alone about God's nature it's adding up. Warning - don't read that blog, it'll be horribly long. :)

However, I do believe God knew (whether I believe this from assumptions I've just accepted or scriptural backing is currently irrelevant - but something I'll look further into) that the Fall was going to occur. Hence, why else create Jesus? (C'mon folks - at some point God the Father HAD to create Jesus - however you want to explain it, believe, etc etc, using a bit of common sense - the Father seems to have created or became the Son.) I believe God already had a "plan" ready - ie Jesus and that He knew what was going to occur. As such, I am not sure where I stand on the whole, "sin" vs "transgression" issue (something for sure to ask the missionaries on Monday night) but I do certainly believe, from a certain point of view - the Fall was God's plan.

As such, it then leads me to the consequences of the Fall. Which brings us back, through all my ramblings, to original sin vs the consequences of the Fall. Original sin - a sin we are held accountable for that we did not personally commit. However, my take is this - Adam and Eve fell. They introduced sin into the world and therefor, their children and future generations until the end of time. However, I don't believe that people are held accountable for Adam's transgressions (which brings us to AoF #2 when I still haven't fully addressed AoF #1). But rather - completly and totally their own sins. I do believe, that because of the Fall, that mankind WILL eventually sin and that sin is their default nature, however I don't believe that they are born as sinners like I am a sinner today. When my children entered the world - they entered clean, pure, and blameless as they had not personally committed any sins at this time. However, as they grew - they did committ sins. "Paul, did you kick Mommy's seat?"

"No Mommy, Anya did it." Uh-huh sure. She's all the way across the car, but she did it.

Certainly he knows what he is doing wrong. But in the LDS church, until he reaches an age of accountability where he can not only understand what he is doing is wrong but also a sin and sins are an offense to God, then his sins rest on my shoulders as his parent. I return to Jesus' words:

Matt 18:3
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matt 19:14
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

My son, four years old and fully capable of driving me out of my mind with his horrible behavior - while still a sinner, cannot even acknowledge that he is a sinner much less in need of a Savior. And isn't that the essential for salvation?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Getting it out my brain....

When I sit down to write a blog - 99% of the time, I've already written the blog out in my mind. So I grow through spurts - blogging like crazy then droughts. And once I've got a blog written in my head, I've gotta get it out of there, otherwise it's almost impossible to focus on other things. Since today is my first day at home in weeks, I've got a ton to do. Laundry, deep cleaning, creating some teaching moments with the kids, and more. So I cannot really have this blog bouncing around my head, time to get it out. :)

I've had a few comments in real life on online asking me, why would I return to the LDS church when I don't believe in it. Since I do tend to have the bad habit of not always being clear, I'll take some time to clarify a few things.

First, I'm at a point in my walk and in my life, when I can reflect on doctrines of the LDS church and generally agree with most of them. Even some of the deeper doctrines. Regardless of what mainstream Christians opposed to the LDS church might say, I really don't see them (LDS doctrines) any more or less far fetched or hard to believe than a zombie God who has the power to save people from and even in their sins. I mean absolutely no disrespect by this statement, but if we think about zombies, that's technically what Jesus is. The walking dead. Of course, as a Christian, I believe He's alive - risen from the dead. But to others, we (Christians) are merely following a holy and divine zombie.

For example, after my own study of the Bible, I don't see any reason to not believe in eternal families. I also believe that there is authority - real, important, God given authority. Something, generally I don't see Protestants having - or even really claiming to have. Is there "one true church"? Right now, I dunno. I know that there is a body. But what is the body? Another assumption comment is that the body is the body of believers. But when I've looked at scriptures for this - all I see is people reading "between the lines". Assuming what the Bible must surely be "assuming". Is the body really comprised of all who call on God's name or is it those who are under His authority and the authority of His servants - perhaps a church? If so, that really only leaves two options - the LDS church and the Catholic church. I lean towards the LDS church - out of preference of course. ;)

Is tradition really important? If so, how important? Should it be equal to the Bible? A long time ago, I wrote a short (whoa - short?!) blog about Truth. Where does it come from? Who gives it? Where can we find it? In the children's ministry I volunteer in right now, they refer to the Bible as the "Book of Truth", which I'm not arguing. Certainly, it is a revelation of God. However, is it the ONLY revelation of God? Is God silent in this time?

Many LDS assume (gotta love assumptions) that Protestants believe that God is silent right now, that they (Protestants) don't believe in modern day revelation. Which is quite untrue. We (still a Protestant right now) absolutely believe that God speaks - in modern day revelation, just not in the same way LDS do. What I find very interesting about Protestants is that even though there is no Biblical backing for a closed canon, they assume that the canon is closed. However, we (Protestants) believe that God speaks to us all the time. Through books, songs, people, sermons, the Bible, and many many other avenues. There are whole sermons dedicated to knowing if God is speaking to you (a favorite of mine was in August 2007 from Manna Church). LDS believe similarly - that God speaks to us through various ways, but that He does ultimately still speak to us and answer prayers. Both groups believe that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit speaking God's will into our lives and that it is then up to us to act on it. The biggest difference I see is the canon - closed or open? I see no Biblical evidence for a closed cannon, and if God is still speaking, then why wouldn't modern day leaders' writings, sermons, teachings, etc be just as important? If God is still alive and kicking, then why ignore what He has revealed to others? If the canon is closed and we are to cling to sola scripture, then why did the Bible instruct us to test all things? Do we, people and finite beings, simply assume that this JUST means daily living and not possible pearls of great price from modern day holy men and women? From modern day prophets and apostles? When Ephesians 4:11-15 talks about the Fivefold Ministry which will be in effect until we are all like Christ (anyone thinking that has already occurred?), then where are the apostles, where are the prophets? Where is the authority to act, lead, teach, and speak in God's name?

While Protestants may believe that God still personally speaks into our lives, even to leaders in churches to give them visions, heart beats, and lessons/sermons/teachings - do we simply believe that that is where God ends? Why? What Biblical support do we have?

Is the Bible the only authority? The only book of truth? Why do Protestants treat it as such? Is science not also a revelation of God? Returning to authority, holy men and women, leaders, and such - do they not also have truth that has been revealed to them by God? Why do we cling to sola scripture when the Bible itself doesn't even support such a narrow minded view? Is this yet another "assumption" that we as Protestants believe the Bible assumes?

Why wouldn't Joseph Smith be a Prophet? I've heard people say, "I'll go with the one who rose from the dead. Joseph Smith is still dead." Well, so is Adam, Noah, Moses, King David, Solomon, Joshua, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, John (unless you're LDS of course), Paul, Peter, Steven, Nicodemus, and Job - all still dead. So um, do we now discount what their stories because they are still dead? Has anyone, LDS or not, ever made the claim that Joseph Smith was the Messiah, the Redeemer of men, the forgiver of sins? Or, are these assumptions that many people outside the LDS church have made because of LDS greatly respect, praise, and even revere Joseph Smith and his sacrifice to bring forth what they believe to be God's work. And why couldn't it be? Have any of you really read the Book of Mormon? I have and I can tell you there are only TWO areas that could be out of unity with the Bible - Moroni chapter 8:

Moro 8:5-6
5 For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.
6 And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle.

Really, the Bible never makes a case one way or the other that children must be baptized or not. In fact, if one were to stick to sola scripture a better case is actually made to support Moroni's writings here - that Jesus Himself stated we must come to the kingdom of God as little children. Which implies to me at least, that Jesus sees little children as spotless and un-needing of a baptism. But of course, this is debatable and certainly something I'll look more into.

And the ever infamous line from 2 Nephi, "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.". However, if we review the context of this, is it really that far removed from James' own writings?

2 Ne 10:23-25
23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves--to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
25 Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.

2 Ne 25:22-26
22 Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.
25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

Within the actual teachings of the LDS church, and not the assumptions that some (even practicing LDS themselves) make - how different is this from James? I have so many questions like this bouncing around my head - best not to blog them all at once. It'd be the blog that never ends... :)

The overall reason for this particular post is this - I'm not returning to a church whose doctrine I cannot even partially support. During my most intense time on Ravelry, I've found myself screaming at the computer, "If you claim to believe something BELIEVE it!" So if you claim to be a Catholic - BELIEVE what the Pope teaches, if you claim to be a Buddhist - then BELIEVE what the Dali' Lama writes about sexual intercourse, so on and so forth. Now, as someone who cannot 100% support all the major and even essential doctrines of the LDS church wanting to return to my ward family, I find myself fighting on the inside. How can I return when I cannot BELIEVE what is taught whole heartedly? Is what I do believe or accept at the very least as possible enough to support my desire to return?

And of course, the second most popular question - if I believe that God called me OUT of the LDS church, then how can I validate being willfully disobedient to God's call now a year later just to indulge my flesh? I never received any confirmation that my move OUT of the LDS church was permanent, for all I know I needed that time away from the Church to refresh myself and learn something outside my own "box". Who knows, perhaps my actions to remove me name from the rolls of the Church were rash and more fleshly than wanting to return. Am I out of God's will? Am I being disobedient? Is God continuing to call me to Grace Point or as we hear so many times in the Protestant movement, is this season of my life at an end? Was Grace Point a season, a place to grow, to learn, and to meet some pretty amazing people? I own that I am moving back to the LDS church (again for all those behind in 2009 not this year) because I want to, because I prefer being Mormon than I do being Protestant. However, to me - at this point in my life, Protestant, Mormon, Catholic - do not all each love Christ as their Savior? Do they not all acknowledge that they are in need of a Redeemer? Do they not all acknowledge that they are sinners? Are the "essentials" that we build up and exclude others to, are they really essential or are they more assumptions that we assume God cares about, has spoken to?

Last I checked, Romans 10:9 pretty much states the essentials of being a Christ follower:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Can I return to the LDS church supporting a Trinity view vs a Godhead view? Can I return if I do not accept the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ - even if I accept it as possible? Just the other day, while sitting through a movie at the Spring's Preserve I noticed that horses were here in Vegas during the Ice Age. Many critics point to the fact that the BoM mentions horses, it's inaccurate and therefor cannot be from God. Yet, early horses were running around Vegas for awhile, whose to say they didn't run around other places too? On the other end, many of these same Conservative Protestants who follow this line of thought, also reject Evolution - yet the science is pretty sound to support Evolution (no the devil did NOT put circles in tree trunks to through us off - one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard in my life).

The point is - inerrancy is not the same as perfection. Yet so many assume that it is. The Bible isn't perfect - it's been tainted by men, but God is sovereign and has protected the message - He loves us, He hasn't left us alone, and He has provided a way back into intimate fellowship with Him - Jesus. If there was a need for a Reformation in the first place, we can see that God's people went astray. A global apostacy of God's people and their doctrines isn't a far fetched idea. Especially in light of the age old debates between Catholics and Protestants.

Could I believe in LDS doctrines again? I never rejected all of them - many of them are "Biblically sound" - supportable from the Bible. Even right down to a Pre-Existance. I'll close my rambling blog with a copy-cat move. I found this blog entitled, "What I believe, don't believe, and am unsure of". I'm going to copy the blogger's excellent points that I feel resonate with me (only I'll put them in my own categories).

What I Believe:

  1. The Trinity
  2. Authority is necessary to perform ordinances like baptism.
  3. The priesthood is not necessary to heal the sick. The most important thing is faith.
  4. The Bible is not perfect but is the inspired writings of prophets and disciples of Christ.
  5. The Mormon Church is not perfect and in some areas has been and may continue to be mislead by the prejudices of its leaders, but on the whole continues to move in a positive direction.
  6. The Holy Ghost can lead us to truth through prayer and study.
  7. The Christ of the New Testament is my Savior from sin and death.
  8. The Word of Wisdom is good advice but drinking beer, coffee or smoking is a personal choice and God isn’t really that preoccupied with it, if done in moderation.
  9. Abortion, if not murder, is close to it but is justified in very rare circumstances after careful thought and prayer.
  10. The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants (Mormon scriptures) contain many inspired words that can help people better themselves.
  11. The LDS Church is lead by men that sincerely seek guidance from God.
  12. LDS members should be knowledgeable and truthful about all parts of church history.
  13. God used evolution to create us.
  14. A prophet can have major character flaws.

What I Don't Believe:

  1. Native Americans are Lamanites.
  2. The LDS priesthood ban was instituted by God.
  3. Blacks were ever or are inferior or more unworthy than other LDS members.
  4. Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
  5. Drinking Coke is a sin.
  6. Tattoos and two sets of earrings (for guys or girls) will keep you out of heaven.
  7. Polygamy is required to enter the Celestial kingdom (a.k.a. Heaven).
  8. Christ’s atonement isn’t enough for some sins.
  9. The earth is 5,000 years old.
  10. The Holy Spirit can only be felt in Mormon meetings and other Christian denominations can’t have the Spirit of God present.
  11. That Mormons have any more access to the Holy Spirit than other Christians.

What I am Unsure of or Believe is Possible:

  1. The Book of Mormon is an actual historical account of Native Americans. (unsure)
  2. The Pearl of Great Price contains the actual writings of Moses and Abraham. (unsure)
  3. The manner in which Joseph and subsequent leaders practiced polygamy was appropriate. (totally unsure)
  4. The current account of the first vision is accurate. (very unsure)
  5. LDS prophets have actual face to face communication with Christ. (totally reject - not even OT prophets had regular face to face time with God.)
  6. Joseph Smith literally translated the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price. (very very unsure.)
  7. The Bible is perfect and should be read literally. (Borderline reject.)
  8. That Joseph Smith was even a prophet. If OT prophets and NT disciples had some pretty big character flaws, what really do we have to base that Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet?

Enough rambling for now - back to work!

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Bible Assumes

"The Bible assumes.."

This is a phrase I've heard a few times this past year. And I really love it. I was thinking about this phrase a couple of days ago, and my random mind began wondering, "Wait a minute, how do we know what the Bible is assuming and what people are assuming?" Assumptions are just that - assumptions.

At Onelook.com it says:

take to be the case or to be true; accept without verification or proof

I'm not saying that as a Christian I don't take the Bible to be verified or proof enough for me, but rather with comments like, "The Bible assumes..." - how do we know that it's the Bible assuming and not us as people?

In my journey through LDS doctrines - a few major things hit right into this. How do we know the Bible assumes that God is an eternal, uncreated being? I'm not making a case that is anything else, but rather - when Gen. 1.1 says, "IN the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" - how do we know what "beginning" this refers to? Does this refer to the beginning of our galaxy? To the beginning or our world? To the beginning of the universe? My concordance says:

re'shiyth {ray-sheeth'}
Hebrew: noun feminine
Possible Definitions:
1) first, beginning, best, chief
1a) beginning
1b) first
1c) chief
1d) choice part
re'shiyth {ray-sheeth'}

In context, it would appear that the beginning is referring to this world - Earth.

Gen 1:2

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

So when Mainstream Christians say that the Bible assumes that God is an eternal, uncreated being - does the Bible really assume this or are they the ones assuming this?

Rev 21:6
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

arche {ar-khay'}
Greek: noun feminine
Possible Definitions:
1) beginning, origin
2) the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader
3) that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause
4) the extremity of a thing, of the corners of a sail
5) the first place, principality, rule, magistracy
arche {ar-khay'}
Greek: noun feminine
from 756;
Translated as:
beginning (40 times)
principality (8 times)
corner (2 times)
first (2 times)
misc. (6 times)
Total: 58 times
Strong's Number 746
TDNT - 1:478,81
Show verses containing this translated root
(arche {ar-khay'} Greek: noun feminine)

Again, does this mean first and last in our world (Earth), galaxy, universe? First and last of what exactly? Specifically? Do we merely assume the things we do about God? I'm not saying that I believe that God is created or not eternal, but rather I am simply taking a step back and asking myself some more specific questions. When we delve into the 13 Articles of Faith, the first being God:

WE believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Which then brings into question - what does Eternal mean in LDS teachings? Does it mean without beginning and end? Without end? Without beginning? When we say that God is Eternal, specifically WHAT does this mean and WHY do we believe this? What specific Biblical verses are we taking this from OR are we, human beings, finite creatures in the shadow of God who is not finite, making assumptions? Are we putting God into a tidy box when in reality, He doesn't belong there to begin with?

Finally, bringing this all back to the cross - the great Rescue and Atonement of Jesus, how important is this? Eternal, not eternal, created, not created? Relevant to salvation - how is this belief essential and WHY is it essential?

In light of this - I want to go through the Bible, Mainstream Christian, and LDS teachings and find out - what is taught that the Bible assumes, why, and what does the Bible really say or not say? At what point, on doctrine, tradition, and practical living, are making the assumptions and giving credit to the Bible?