WARNING: This post contains a frank discussion of human sexuality. If that makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you skip it.
My relationship to Mormonism is like my marriage.
When I first married my husband, I thought he was one way. Handsome, funny, vibrant, talented, charismatic, intelligent.
And he is all of those things — and much, much more.
But the more I got to know him, the more I became acquainted with his faults. His inflexibility, his quickness to anger, his tendency to withdraw emotionally even when I need him.
It was a terrifying discovery.
Because as a young woman, idealistic and naive, I believed that love makes everything better — and that “better” means smoother, simpler, without stress or strain.
What, then, to do when I discovered that it was harder than I thought it would be? That along with the intimacy and joy, I’d be fighting through pain, frustration, anxiety, even heartache?
If it’s really right, shouldn’t it be easier than this?
Today in Sunday School, we talked about the Pre-Existence and fore-ordination.
At one point, a guy in the class raised his hand and asked, “Okay, so let’s say you’re fore-ordained to do something. But you fall away from the church, stop believing in God, and totally miss your chance to do it. Then you come back 10 years later. What happens to you?”
There were a variety of answers, from “God would find another way to get the job done” to “you miss out on blessings during that time, but you can still come back to full fellowship,” and so on.
I raised my hand and said, “You know, I think the amazing thing about God is that He’s so big and His grace is so wonderful that He uses our good choices to bless us AND our bad choices to bless us, if we let Him.”
A pretty basic comment, I thought — until I got this response: “Well, we have to qualify that by remembering that, in this instance, we’ve set ourselves back 10 years.”
And I’ll be honest, that frustrated me. The teacher is a good friend, one I’ve opened up to about my beliefs, and I know he meant to be helpful and kind with his reply. But if we’d been out of church and in a private setting, I would have responded with this question:
Why do we have to qualify it?
Why is it so terrible to think that God might be able to take something ugly and messy and turn it into something truly wonderful and beautiful — even more wonderful and beautiful than if we’d never fallen?
Why do we have to place limits on God’s grace?
Last night, I participated in an Enrichment Night for another ward in our stake. Apparently someone let it slip that I’ve been known to sing on occasion, so they asked me to perform a song as one of the 10 virgins in a simple musical presentation.
I don’t love Mormon pop music, but the song wasn’t so bad, and of course I’m happy to share my talents when I get the chance.
When I walked in and saw the purpose of the meeting, however, I became somewhat conflicted. The theme was “Walk in the Light.” They had set up 7 tables all decorated around different topics:
Then they handed out a packet with this statement in the introduction:
Sometimes it is difficult and overwhelming to think about all of the things we could be doing like: preparing our food storage, giving service etc. So the Xth Ward Relief Society is hoping to help and support by focusing on our light in one area a month. … The lesson for the first Sunday of each month will focus on one of these areas and an enrichment activity will follow. Setting attainable and realistic goals for each area can help us improve.
Match: Complete 2 goals in each [of the 7] area[s]
Candle: Complete the match plus 2 additional goals in each area
Lamp: Complete the candle plus 2 additional goals in each area
Here’s where I’m conflicted: each of these areas are worthwhile. It’s nice to be spiritually-minded, prepared for emergencies, engaged in loving family activities, physically fit, service-oriented, personally fulfilled, and mentally strong. And it’s nice to have support as you attempt self-improvement.
But I can’t help thinking we’re missing the forest for the trees here. Far more important than any of these attributes is being Christ-centered. And by focusing so much time, effort, and energy on peripheral goals, we are neglecting the core of the matter: a saving relationship with Jesus…and all the fruits that come out of it.
Call me touchy-feely, but it seems to me that the more we focus on the practical to-dos–and less on the core principles of the gospel, which are faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ–the more we we become a religion about DOING SCHTUFF and less a place to worship our God and Savior.
What do you guys think? Am I being over-sensitive here (we all know I have a hang-up about this issue to begin with)? Or is there a solid reason for my conflicted response?
In Mormonism, sometimes it’s hard to tell what people are talking about.
I suppose it’s inevitable.
We’re a young religion. Thus, our vocabulary is young. We’re just two centuries into this–a mere blink of an eye compared to Christianity as a whole, which has had more than two millenia to hone its message. Throw in lay teachers and lay leadership at even the highest levels, and the result is a jumbled, imprecise, sometimes incoherent mess of terms and theology that are heavily influenced by culture and folklore. 
Here are some “Mormonisms” I’ve come across lately that have had me puzzling. So I’m going to try my hand at defining them.
I gave a lesson in Relief Society today on Luke 7:36-51, the story of the sinful woman who anoints Christ and washes His feet in her tears. I titled the lesson “Do You See Her?”
I started out by asking the sisters to imagine a woman whom Christ approves of, a woman who is acceptable to Him. Then I asked them for the characteristics of such a woman, and I listed them on the board. I got answers like:
We turned to the scriptures. I took the story slowly, bit by bit, including the parable of the forgiving creditor, and the culmination when the Savior tells the woman that her faith has saved her.
I asked the sisters: “What do you think it means to have saving faith?”
A recent conversation got me thinking it was time to revisit the question of what makes for charitable and effective inter-religious dialogue–especially the proselytizing variety. I first published this post back in October. Of course, at that time, I only had about 3 readers (and God bless you if you’re still here). 😉 I decided it might be interesting to re-post it again today. Enjoy!
There’s a lot of bitching about God on the Internet.
And I’m kind of tired of it.
So let’s have a genuine “come to Jesus” moment, shall we? And talk about how to be effective and kind as you boldly share your version of Truth with the world around you.
And before you get all up in my grill, let me make a couple things clear from the get-go.
First of all, I don’t think that pointing out what you believe to be error in another person’s perspective is uncharitable, nor is standing up for what you believe, testifying, or seeking to convince others of the truth as you understand it. I don’t even have a problem with sharp rebukes. It is important, however, that it come from a place of genuine love and respect.
It is VERY EASY to fall into a trap of pride and hostility when it comes to discussing matters of religion with others. So I think it’s especially important to double check what’s going on in your heart and mind whenever you engage in this kind of discussion.
Here are my basic “do’s” and don’t’s:”
WARNING: Brief sexual content. Rated PG-13.
I’m extremely disturbed by a thread over at fMh. A single 30-year-old woman named “Am” wrote in, agonizing over the fact that she recently experienced an inadvertent orgasm while exercising. Dear fMh, do I need to see the bishop for this? she asks.
I’m sorry. But what the hell?
First of all, if it were me, I’d be like, “Yessssss! Freebie!” 😉
But beyond my initial tongue-in-cheek reaction, I’ve got to say…my heart broke for her.
The idea that a grown woman should wonder if she has to drag herself to the bishop’s office to confess something so personal (not to mention trivial!) in order to gain a sense of “absolution” is nothing short of tragic. I’m actually sitting here with tears in my eyes because I think it reflects so poorly on our faith community that she feels the need to ask this question at all!
In a later comment, “Am” explains why the question is so important to her: