Someone isn’t taking the sacrament; do you judge or support?

I was recently listening to a A Thoughtful Faith podcast episode with Nathaniel Givens. Toward the end, Nathaniel discusses how the sacrament within the LDS church is an open experience, as we share it with one another. He explicitly mentions at one point that he was not encouraging others to watch for others not taking of the sacrament.

That idea of watching for others not taking the sacrament got me thinking.

It’s probably something each of us has seen: someone not taking the sacrament. Perhaps, even, we have been one of those who hadn’t taken it.

When we do notice someone not partaking of the sacrament, even if unintended, what is our first impulse? Do we start wondering to ourselves about what sin it might be that this brother or sister committed? Do we find ourselves judging them?

I wonder if, maybe, we should be mindful to taking another approach. One alternative, if we happen to notice someone not taking the sacrament, is to remind ourselves that perhaps this brother or sister is struggling with something. We should remind ourselves that they’re trying. We should ask ourselves what we can do to offer a hand of support without prying. We should take note of the covenant we’re making at that exact moment to take upon ourselves Jesus’s name and find a way to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

Remember, the energy we devote to judging others is energy taken away from being more like Christ.

Is the Book of Mormon really the keystone of Mormonism?

At the start of the year, one of our Gospel Doctrine lessons touched on the Book of Mormon introduction. Of course, significant discussion revolved around the following quote from the introduction:

Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Specifically, we discussed the idea of what a keystone is. If you haven’t seen a keystone before, here’s what one looks like (it’s at the centre of the arch):

door-1128254_1920

The usual discourse involves something like removing the keystone will make the entire arch fall. But that’s not quite accurate. After all, if you remove any stone, the arch will likely fall.

What the keystone actually does is turn the arch into a load-bearing structure. Because the keystone and each voussoir (the stones of the arch) are all wedge shaped, they each transfer the thrust of the stone above it until the thrust finally transfers to the vertical supports.

When Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon is the keystone of Mormonism, he wasn’t suggesting that the church would fall apart without it; he was suggesting that the Book of Mormon allows all the components of Mormonism to work together to support and sustain the religion.

Gender neutral bathrooms: a legal requirement, or will your church be exempt?

This is a guest post written by Holly Whitman and is American-centric. Holly is a freelance writer and journalist, originally from the UK but now based in Washington DC. You can find her on Twitter at @hollykwhitman and more of her writing on her blog, Only Slightly BiasedTo submit a guest post, email ourthoughts@gmail.com.

For the longest time, the most pressing issue about public restrooms was the mere fact that there often weren’t enough of them. This is especially true at concert and stadium venues, where the lines can stretch several hundred feet. Now, with the emergence of people identifying as transgender, the issue of restroom accommodation is taking on a whole new spin.

Will it become a legal requirement for a public building to require a men’s bathroom, a women’s bathroom and a non-gender-specific bathroom? And what about churches? Will they be required to expand their restroom facilities even if there is little chance of transgender members becoming a part of their community? Could this all be a case of political correctness run amuck? Clearly, there are a lot of factors to sort through when it comes to the bathroom question. Continue reading Gender neutral bathrooms: a legal requirement, or will your church be exempt?

Joseph Smith and the democratization of religious worship

In our elders quorum class today, we were discussing chapter 5 in the Howard W. Hunter Manual: Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration.

Typically, this topic tends to amount to running through a list of Joseph Smith’s accomplishments and how great of a prophet he was. (That’s how it went down in the Relief Society class today.) When I was preparing my lesson, I knew I wanted to approach it in a unique way because I knew it would garner better discussion, which ultimately results in better introspection.

When I came across this quote, I had a good idea how I wanted to approach the lesson:

When Joseph announced that he had seen a vision and had seen the Father and the Son, the query came to the minds and lips of the neighbors, the ministers, and the townspeople: “Is not this the farmer’s son?”

The following quote just a few paragraphs later closed the deal for me:

within God’s hands and under the direction of the Savior of the world, weak and simple things should come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones.

As a communist, I was intrigued by the idea that Joseph Smith—despite his flaws and regardless of how authentic he was in his actions—was a revolutionary in his day. That was something I hadn’t consider in much depth before.

The bulk of our conversation on the topic revolved around 2 ideas found in another quote in that chapter:

the claim that God had spoken, that Christ’s Church was again organized and its doctrines reaffirmed by divine revelation, was the most outstanding declaration made to the world since the days of the Savior himself when he walked the paths of Judea and the hills of Galilee.

There were 2 main ideas that Joseph Smith’s First Vision changed: God was a nebulous, formless entity distant from us and revelation had been closed off with the death of the 12 apostles. These principles solidified the position of religious leaders of the day to be the gatekeepers of biblical interpretation and gospel explication.

The First Vision shows us that God looks like us: he’s a glorified, perfect human who is intimately familiar with the mortal experience, which makes him highly approachable, the opposite of how he was treated by Christian sects of the time.

In addition, the First Vision showed us that God can speak to us. We don’t need religious leaders to counsel us on our individual beliefs and aspirations; we can skip the intermediaries and petition God directly.

This revolutionized religious worship. It empowered the people with autonomy over their own religious beliefs. In fact, this idea is encapsulated in one our Articles of Faith:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

This leaves me with one question, however: if God could use Joseph Smith as a weak and simple thing to come forth and break down the control the religious establishment had over the people, how might we, too, be weak and simple things and what mighty and strong things might God have us break down?

Following the prophet is easy when all you need to do is agree

A sacrament speaker brought up the November policy change today.

That marks yet another consecutive week of someone mentioning the policy change at least once during sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and elders quorum class.

I’ve beaten to death my feelings on the wordings and implications of the policy change, but as I was stewing on pondering the words of the speaker, a thought came to me that I hadn’t considered before, particularly connected with something the following speaker mentioned.

Why are Mormons so quick to stand firm behind the prophet when what he says requires no sacrifice?

In this case, I am definitely in the minority in my ward and stake regarding my feelings regarding this policy change. Most ward and stake members I know (and for that matter, Mormons I know outside of my stake) support the brethren on this change.

But it’s easy to support it. You don’t have to invest anything into supporting them. In fact, all you need to do is agree with them.

Let’s contrast this with home teaching.

Our high council speaker today reported that home teaching in our stake sits at 27%. That means that 3 out of every 4 families in our stake don’t receive visits from their home teachers. While anecdotal, friends of mine have shared similar statistics where they live.

So, back to my question: why are Mormons so quick to stand firm behind the prophet when what he says requires no sacrifice but so slow when what he says requires sacrifice?

Conversely, why am I labelled an apostate or a heretic when I disagree with the brethren on a policy (like the recent decision to prohibit children of gay parents from being baptized) but follow their counsel in other ways (like home teaching every month)?

Why are others not labelled apostate or heretics when they agree with the brethren on a policy (like the recent decision to prohibit children of gay parents from being baptized) but don’t follow their counsel in other ways (like home teaching every month)?

To be abundantly clear, I’m not judging those who don’t visit their home teaching families. I’m simply using that as an example. And it’s certainly not the only example we could use.

Finally, you know what the irony is in all this? Thomas S. Monson sat on the committee that established the current home teaching programme.

Mourning with those who mourn is not a baptismal covenant

Yesterday, I attended the baptism of a friend.

During the talk on baptism, the speaker quoted Mosiah 18:9

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

She used it to indicate that one of the things we covenant to do when we are baptized is to mourn and comfort those who need it. Except, we don’t actually make that covenant at baptism.

Consider the next verse:

Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Notice the difference in wording?

In verse 10, we see the actual covenant: serve the Lord and keep his commandment. In verse 9 (and verse 8 for that matter), what read is what led the people to the waters of Mormon.

What the speaker taught is—at least in my experience—a common teaching. I have seen and heard many people teach that comforting others is something we covenant to do, but the text doesn’t support that teaching.

That being said, I’m not advocating that we have an excuse to ignore people who have burdens, mourn, and need comfort. If I’m reading the text right, it seems that these desires sound like prerequisites for baptism. And that is not something commonly taught in the church.

 

 

Why are there no safe spaces to question our faith?

I’ve had two faith crises.

One thing that having two faith crises has done for me is allowing me to compare them. In most ways, they were different. Different triggers, different durations, different reactions, and different emotions.

One specific way the two faith crises differed was the level of openness I took with each. Continue reading Why are there no safe spaces to question our faith?