If I Should be the First to Leave

I have never been much for poetry, but somewhere in the past couple of months the desire to try my hand at it hit me. So here is a bit of doggerel for the weekend.

If I should be the first to leave
Think of me oft but do not grieve
Too much

Instead recall the joyous days
When we would watch the birthing rays
Of morn

Or walking on the moonlit shore
Believe that time exists no more
For us

And now, when with trembling breath
You pause in sorrow at my death
Be still

This death is but life’s accident
And eternal it was never meant
To be

Yes, I have gone but not too far
And I have left the door ajar
For you

And look toward that wondrous time
When angels on their wings sublime

To take you in their loving arms
And bear you free of earthly harms
To me

Who is God?

With this post I’m returning to a theme I started nearly a year ago, which is, can the Bible’s account of the creation of the earth be reconciled with modern physics. Through a series of posts I’ve postulated that as humans we have one of three choices: It’s all an accident, the result of immensely large numbers and the laws of probability; there is a higher intellect directing things but that higher intellect might be a pimply seventh grader doing a science project and we’re living in Farmville; or there is a God, a Supreme Being who created the universe and the earth. For me, I choose to believe the latter option. But face it, science can’t prove or disprove any of the three so in the end it still comes down to a matter of faith.

Having staked out my territory I now want to discuss who is God? I’ll confine my comments to notions common to Christianity.  I do this not as one trained in divinity any more than I claim training in physics.

First I want to address a belief that sets Mormonism apart from most other Christian religions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings. Most Christian religions, especially those most concerned with being known as “Christians” find such doctrine to be heresy. An example is the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Their mission is to examine many movements and organizations, such as abortion, atheism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam and others and compare them to standards set out in the Bible to determine whether any of these can legitimately claim to be Christian. One of the main differences that CARM finds between Christianity and Mormonism is this belief of three separate beings. CARM (and many Christian religions) cite several passages from the New Testament which they asset prove that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are different manifestations of the same God. An example is Ephesians 4:4-7, which says “. . . One God and father of all.”

What this and other similar scriptures overlook is the words of Jesus himself. The first words we have record of that were spoken by Jesus are “wist [know] ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” in Luke 2:49. In the Garden of Gethsemane, while performing the Atonement, Jesus pleaded with God, asking “if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” Luke 22:42. On the cross Jesus pronounced the work finished, saying “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;” Luke 23:46. After His resurrection he appeared to Mary but forbade her to touch Him, saying “I am not yet ascended to my Father . . . I ascend to my Father and to your Father and to my God and your God.” John 20:17.  Additionally when Jesus was baptized Mark reports that as He came up out of the water “the Spirit [Holy Ghost] like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven saying Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11.

These are strange verses if Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost are one and the same. About whom was Jesus speaking when He said He must be about His father’s business? To whom was He speaking in the garden and on the cross? To whom did He have to ascend when He spoke with Mary? And if Jesus is God, who was speaking from heaven when Jesus came up out of the water?

Although this doesn’t definitively answer the question, Who is God, it does show that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are not separate manifestations of the same being.

Ordain Women Part III

This topic has just about been beaten to death but I have one more thing to add. I recently came across a great blog post by Katie Liff entitled “To My Brothers and Sisters in the Ordain Women Movement.” Katie (if I may be so personal — we haven’t been formally introduced) makes note of a comment made by one of the Ordain Women members: “We don’t want to just nurture.”

Well, let me flaunt the high-profile, important jobs that we priesthood holders perform. For most of the past 35 years, since 1979, I have been called to the Young Men’s organization. From 2000-2013 I served continuously in the YM, holding such lofty positions as Scoutmaster (by the way, BSA doesn’t allow female Scoutmasters, though they do allow co-ed Venture leaders in co-ed Venture crews); Venture adviser; Varsity coach; etc. What did I do? I taught them to cook, to wash their hands before eating, to set up tents so when it rained it didn’t swamp them. I took them on camping trips and outings, resolved disputes, counseled boys who weren’t sure where they were going in life, helped them back on track, prayed for those who wavered and fell away, attended mission farewells and homecomings and tried, with varying success, to make them into men who would be worthy priesthood holders, good husbands and fathers and contributing members of society. In my dictionary, that qualifies as “nurturing.”

I can count on one hand the number of times I “used” my priesthood in the sense Ordain Women wants. Twice I gave blessings to young men who requested them. The rest of the time I was not “using” the priesthood as these women visualize it. The rest of the time I was doing exactly what these dissatisfied nurturers don’t want to do anymore.

Since 2013 I have been in the High Priest group leadership in our ward. I visit other High Priests and single, elderly sisters in the ward. I help them when I can, I listen to their concerns, I pray for them, I put their names on the lists at the temple. Occasionally I take a meal that my wife has prepared to someone’s home. It is true I have given more blessings in the past year than I have in the previous 13 but only because the group that I am nurturing is older. That still sounds pretty much like nurturing to me.

I have never been in a bishopric, stake presidency, mission president or other high-profile position. Whenever it’s time for a new bishopric to be called in our ward I take an extended vacation. I’ve thought about leaving a beer can or two on my front lawn during these times (just kidding about that part). I do not aspire to any such position and I daresay very few bishops, stake presidents or other high-profile officials ever did either.

Service in the church is mostly nurturing. That’s the whole point of mortality. We’re all here to help each other gain exaltation. If that isn’t nurturing I don’t know what is.

Ordain Women, Part II

Conference weekend ended with the Ordain Women not being admitted to the Priesthood Session just like they weren’t back in October. At that session Dallin H. Oaks addressed the issue of women holding the priesthood in no uncertain terms. It is not God’s plan, he said. He repeated that while certain administrative tasks, such as when temples are built and where, what the Church does with it’s property and how it is run day-to-day has been delegated, certain matters, such as who may hold the priesthood, remain the sole province of Jesus Christ because this is his church.

Now the Ordain Women’s movement has an answer and the answer is “No.” They now face a choice. They can accept the answer as an answer to their prayers, although not one that they wanted, and move one to fulfill their unique responsibilities. That would be the preferable path. The other choice is to take their rebuff and Elder Oaks’ talk as further evidence that “men just don’t get it” and further marginalization of women. As I said in my last post, if you accept that this is the Lord’s church and that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are His apostles, then you take that latter position in open defiance to the God you profess to love and follow.

Ordain Women?

LDS (“Mormon”) General Conference is this weekend. A group of women who tried to gain admission to the Priesthood Session held on Saturday night at the October, 2013, General Conference are planning to try again. These women, members of a group called Ordain Women are asking The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) to change its stance on allowing women to hold the priesthood.

The LDS Church is a lay church. Except at the very top levels no one receives any pay for his or her work on behalf of the Church. All males are eligible to hold the priesthood at age 12. Depending on the office held, this allows the priesthood holder to baptize and confirm new members, bless babies, give priesthood blessings and preside in various offices.

Ordain Women believes that the male-only policy marginalizes women and excludes them from the full blessings of membership in the church. Their website has several profiles of members who profess to love the church but feel women are second-class members because they lack the priesthood. In reading these profiles one gets the sense that these people (some are men) are earnest in their belief. However in reading some of the reasoning behind their position, one also gets the sense that in one way or another they have lost sight of what the church is about.

One woman uses the examples of Peter being told in a dream that he can kill and eat animals that hitherto had been forbidden under the Mosaic law; Samuel answering the Lord’s call in the Old Testament and even Joseph Smith in having the audacity to begin a new religion. Each of these, this woman argues, went against the well-established norm but resulted in sea changes.

What these examples overlook is that in none of the cases did the person involved actively seek what was given. Peter did not ask the Lord if it was now permissible to eat previously forbidden meat. Samuel did not ask the Lord to be called. Joseph Smith did not go to the sacred grove asking for permission to start a new church. All of them were attempting to act within the status quo. Another example is Nephi when he killed Laban. Nephi did not go to the Lord with the idea of justifying murder; in fact, when he first was told to slay Laban he was repulsed.

The other thing that this approach overlooks is the nature of the church. To be a member requires a belief that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. If you can’t believe that then the whole church falls apart. If God and Jesus Christ didn’t appear to Joseph Smith then the whole thing is a sham, one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on humanity. But if they did appear then you have to believe that Jesus Christ leads the church. There is no way to claim you are a faithful member and simultaneously deny that Jesus Christ, not Thomas Monson, leads this church. And if you do believe Jesus Christ is at the head, then by protesting the priesthood policy you are claiming to know better than the Lord what’s best for His church.

I have no problem with people wanting change. My point is that bringing publicity to the issue to force change isn’t appropriate in this situation. The church is not a democracy. Public opinion won’t change policy the way the Civil Rights or Gay Rights movements have changed policy in the United States. So the only justification for publicly demonstrating like Ordain Women plans to do is to justify their own egos or bring shame on the church.  If they want true change, they need to pray and fast in secret and their Father in Heaven will reward them openly. If they ask openly for these things “that they may be seen of men [and women],” they have their reward. Matt.6:5.

Looking at the profiles of the people, most are far too young to know of, let alone remember, Sonia Johnson. She, too, began as a faithful member.