Poverty and Optimism

In this month?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Ensign, Elder Aleksandr N. Manzhos, an Area Authority Seventy, wrote of a young mother in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. She had very low factory wages that were paid to her infrequently, and she lived in the factory?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s dormitory. It was very difficult to provide for herself and for her one-year-old child.

Not long after her baptism, she was preparing food for herself and her child when a young woman who lived in the same building said: ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI know things are difficult for you. Like me, you are a single mother, earning low wages, with no place of your own to live. There is little hope of a good future for yourself and your child. Like me, you have a gray, dull life. Like me, you fear for your child and the uncertainty of tomorrow. But why are you always smiling and your eyes always shining? Why does joy light up your face??¢‚Ǩ¬ù

The questions made this sister stop and think about the changes that had occurred since her baptism. As she gained faith in Jesus Christ, the fear that had corroded her life had disappeared. The path back to the Father that opened before her had permitted her to have hope, which had led her to baptism and developed within her a certainty of a tranquil and happy future for her small family. By receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, she had received a firm testimony. The false values of the world gradually gave way to the higher values of the gospel, and these higher values became a firm foundation for both thought and deed. She realized that it was precisely these changes that had given her a new outlook on the world. Long-awaited joy and peace had come into her life.

Reading this cause me to reflect on my own life and the hardships I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve faced. It also raises the question: if converts in poverty-stricken and economically fallen areas are able to gain so much faith and optimism despite their hard times, why can those of us already in the faith in relatively richer areas not have the same optimism when we are stricken with poverty? Why does unemployment or serious illness get us down so easily?

Men at Work

My children and I made some Almond Crisp cookies last night. They were actually quite tasty. What little of them that were left today I brought to work to give to my co-workers. The interesting this is that when I offered them, each asked me, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìDid you make this or did your wife?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. If my wife was in my place, it is highly likely she would not have been asked the same question.

Have we become so wrapped up in having stay-at-home mums that we think fathers are incapable of doing homey things like making cookies? Do we still, in 2004, have this Molly Mormon ideal where the wife/mother?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùas part of her routine?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùregularly bakes cookies for the sole purpose of treating the guys at work?

Miracles of Convenience

In the general session of stake conference today, a member of the stake presidency made mention of the loss of their two boys last June. They went mountain climbing in Russia, and were never heard from again. One of the things he said was that he was thankful for all the prayers and fasting members of the stake did on behalf of their sons.

This caused me to think about something. Despite the prayers and fasting, their sons never returned home and were presumed dead. Contrastingly, two years ago, all the members in Lethbridge and the surrounding communities prayed and fasted that we would receive the necessary moisture to help local farmers. Lo, and behold, the moisture came and reservoirs were filled to the highest level they had seen in years.

Here we have on instance where praying and fasting brought about a miracle and another where praying and fasting did not. Critics of organised religion would suggest that it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s only coincidence. If things go the way we want, it is an answer to prayer; if they don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t, it is God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s will. They think such an assumption is preposterous.

It doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t take much to see why they would think that either. There must be something more. How can we convince the naysayer that it is not coincidence? How do we convince them that we don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t just choose our miracles when they are convenient? How do we convince them that it really is God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s will?

Eternal Families

Over at By Common Consent, a discussion is ensuing regarding the eternal family. I’ve always had a bit o’ difficulty with the use of the phrase “families can be forever”. Let me explain.

I am sealed to my parents. As such, I am supposed to be able to live with them in the Celestial Kingdom. I am sealed to my wife. As such, I am supposed to be able to live with her in the Celestial Kingdom. I am sealed to my children. As such, I am supposed to be able to live with them in the Celestial Kingdom. The same will happen with grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc, as well as grandparents, great-parents etc (so long as they accept the work that has been done for them).

The premise then is that we will all live together in one place. When you take into consideration how everyone is related potentially to each other and can trace lineages back to Adam, everyone will be living together as one big forever family.

Now consider the thought that we apparently will be gods and goddesses over our own worlds. If each couple is reigning over their own world, how can all of the couple be living together as one big eternal family?

Sometimes, I wonder if the sealing is more than simply linking parents to children. Sometimes, I wonder if it is more a way to seal our exaltation.

My Discussion With a Missionary Who Has Too Much Free Time

I help administer a website called Answerbag. The premise of the site is that individuals may submit questions on any topic and other individuals may respond with answers. In addition, individuals may rate the answers. In time, others may be able to determine based on the ratings how reliable an answer is. It is the ever-cheap-LDS answer to Google Answers.

The Mormon section is one of the high traffic areas. It is also one of the most energetic and explosive areas. This is partly due to the over-representation of born-again Christians and LDS teenage boys. One of the things the born-agains and the teenage boys do not like is having their answers rated with anything other than 100%. Their response to anything other than 100% ratings, of course, is to go and rate poorly otherwise useful and informative answers given by others.

I am a prolific poster there with my number of answers rapidly approaching 400 and the number of ratings over 500. Naturally, I have received more than one ?¢‚Ǩ?ìnegative?¢‚Ǩ¬ù rating and it does not affect me as much as it does some of the aforementioned parties. The times it affects me the most is when I am blatantly correct in my answer and someone insists I am not. Nevertheless, at over 500 ratings, the occasional negative one does not seem to affect my overall rating percentage, so it is no sweat off my nose.

At the risk of sounding as if I am rambling, I will get to my point. Earlier this week, one individual decided to take great offence to one of the ratings I gave to his less than eloquent response. Not only did he expectedly rate me poorly, he decided to write me an email. He informed me he was a missionary.

The first email seemed innocent enough but contained the declaration that I was prideful. It also revealed to me that he was intent on ridding the world of half-truths about the Church, and he inquired what my purpose on the site was. I politely replied to inform him that I was not prideful, that he will not be effective at ridding the world of half-truths by using the internet as his medium and that my purpose at Answerbag was to answer questions, and as an administrator, review submissions. I also suggested that refraining from childishly belittling other churches would go further to keeping the Church?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s image clean.

The second email from this missionary suggested that I had received my administrative responsibilities because of a bribe; that he was now a mission president; that being an Alpha Male now replaced my pride; that I was dishonest; and that I did not give out enough referrals to the full-time missionaries. My response was an attempt to assure him that I was neither dishonest nor an Alpha Male and that I, in fact, had a gospel discussion with my chiropractor the night before. I also pointed out that based on his grammar, it was doubtful that he was a mission president.

The third email established that his purpose in writing me was to ?¢‚Ǩ?ìpump me up?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. He said I did not have any ?¢‚Ǩ?ìballs?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and that my emails to him were taking up ?¢‚Ǩ?ìvaluable bashing time?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. He also revealed that I was the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìbiggest wuss?¢‚Ǩ¬ù he had ever seen, preachy (imagine that, a missionary calling me preachy) and ignorant (ironically, I believe he was not using it in the true sense of the word, referring to me as unlearned). Naturally, I responded to him that I need no pumping up. I told him the he was under no obligation to read my responses in the conversation that he initiated; if he felt it was a waste of his time, it was because he was not using his time wisely. I also informed him that I was neither preachy, ignorant nor a wuss. Oh and I told him that I was not taking sides in the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìwar?¢‚Ǩ¬ù of his, and that I was doubtful that the Lord was either.

The final email in this fiasco stated that I was now perfect?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùmind you it was said sarcastically?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùfunny, still the biggest wuss, scared, nerdy, hiding, hypocritical, cowardly, fence sitting and boring. He qualified the scared declaration with the apparent fact that the Spirit revealed this to him. He finished off the email by saying he was the son of Hugh Nibley. I assured him that none of the qualities he suggested I had were one I actually did. I also pointed out that fact that Hugh Nibley is 94-years-old; however, I also pointed out that since he was a mission president, it would make sense that his father would be 94-years-old.

I love it when people decide they want to start a inflammatory discussion with me. It is always so easy to point out the holes in their logic and the fallacies in their discussion. Unfortunately, intelligent people never initiate these dialogues. I wonder why that is.

Racist Scriptures?

In Gospel Doctrine yesterday, we studied Enos, Jarom, Omni and Words of Mormon. Something Amaleki said caught my attention.

And at the time that Mosiah discovered [the Mulekites], they had become exceedingly numerous…and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them. But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory…And it came to pass that the people of Zarahemla, and of Mosiah, did unite together; and Mosiah was appointed to be their king. (Omni 1:17-19)

Granted, this all took place centuries ago under a completely different context. Nevertheless, it sure sounds a lot like colonialism measures of the 17th-19th centuries. There seem to be parallels, for example, between the English stomping out the language of the Irish, bringing Christianity to the godless aboriginal peoples of the Americas and having a single king over them all.

Is the Book of Mormon encouraging colonialism?

Salvation Through Baptism

In Priesthood Preview last night, one of the speakers posed this question to the attendees: is baptism required for salvation? Staying true to popular LDS beliefs, the response was that baptism is required for salvation.

This is where some Christians disagree with us. They claim that baptism is not required for salvation. Since I have a reputation of bucking LDS tradition in favour of doctrine, I must say that I agree with these other Christians.

You see, the whole problem stems from a misunderstanding?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùboth of the other Christians and the LDS ones?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùon what the word ?¢‚Ǩ?ìsalvation?¢‚Ǩ¬ù means. To a Christian it is being saved from our sins and living with God again; to a member of the Church, it is being saved from our sins and living with God again.

Then where is the difference? The Church teaches that heaven is composed of different degrees of glory with God living in the highest degree. Other Christians teach that heaven is singular, with no divisions, and God lives in this all-encompassing place.

In actuality, what members of the Church are referring to in this instance is exaltation, or ?¢‚Ǩ?ìindividual salvation?¢‚Ǩ¬ù, as many leaders have taught. For example,

?¢‚Ǩ?ìThe?¢‚Ǩ¬¶effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins. As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements ?¢‚ǨÀúobedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (James E. Talmadge, The Articles of Faith, 87).

“Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 670).

Baptism, of course, is required for this salvation. On the other hand, everyone receives salvation?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùor general salvation?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùwith no regard to his or her obedience or commitment to Jesus.

?¢‚Ǩ?ìThe first effect is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (James E. Talmadge, The Articles of Faith, 87).

?¢‚Ǩ?ìUnconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected. In this sense salvation is synonymous with immortality?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 669-671).

?¢‚Ǩ?ìThere will be a General Salvation for all in the sense in which that term is generally used, but salvation, meaning resurrection, is not exaltation” (Stephen L. Richards, Contributions of Joseph Smith, 5).

?¢‚Ǩ?ìGeneral salvation comes regardless of obedience to gospel principles or laws and results solely in resurrection from the dead?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (Theodore M. Burton, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSalvation and Exaltation,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Ensign, July 1972, 78).

Baptism is not required for this salvation. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s misunderstanding of our own doctrines that cause not only Christians to attack our beliefs, but us to try to defend our supposed doctrines, while we in effect exasperate the situation (i.e. Faith v. Works debate).