Faith and the Scientific Method

“The only point of the scientific method, is to make sure you are not fooled into thinking that something is true that is not, or thinking that something is not true that is.”
Neil DeGrasse Tyson

So I believe this is true.  Let’s assume that it is and look at several questions begged by this assumption.

  1. Does faith interact with the scientific method?
  2. Should it apply before or after the scientific method is applied.
  3. Should faith even be used in the same sentence as the scientific method?
  4. Can you have faith in something that doesn’t pass scientific scrutiny?
  5. Should faith ONLY be applied to something that CAN’T be evaluated by the scientific method?
  6. Can someone have faith in something while still holding true to the principles of the scientific method?
  7. Can faith and science be successfully discussed together, while still holding true to the principles of each?

Many more questions, but this is a start.

I love you, no matter what.

Man, this pricked my heart tonight. My view of the character of God is constantly further challenged, and I love it.

The title of this guy’s original song is, “Almost Heaven.” He’s wondering if there is room in heaven for someone like him; someone who is gay.

He says, “All of my religion has been stripped down to, ‘I love you, no matter what.’”

I will add that, when Jesus said, “forgive them for they know not what they do,” he is essentially stripping down HIS religion to, “I love you know matter what.”

Perhaps that’s the end result when you dig so deep to find meaning in your life that contradicts the traditional Christian narrative. Maybe the only “real” understanding comes in the 4th watch; at the peak of the storm. Matthew 14:25

Seems like this guy has figured out something about God that seems to elude most of us. Why is that? Is it confirmation bias? Elitism? Cognitive dissonance? Lack of empathy? Lack of life experience? Just a faulty human existence? I don’t know. Kind of just makes you want to shut the scriptures and just live and love.

Listen to his words and then ask God your questions.

My Unconventional Journey: An uncorrelated view of the new LDS policy on baptism. by guest writer Tracy Giles

This seems like a fitting day to repost this blogpost.    It was originally posted on 11/8/2015, just 3 days after the 5th of November LDS church (Mormon) policy change regarding LGBT members of our community.  I remember; We remember; the 5th of November.  We’re 3.5 years past that policy, and it was just reversed today by nearly the same LDS church leadership that instituted it.

You can read about it here.  https://kutv.com/news/local/lds-church-rules-change-reverses-2015-revelation

Was there damage done?  Yes.  Gaslighting?  Yes.  Shunning and judgement?  Yes.  Have people killed themselves because of this policy?  Yes.  Have people been kicked out of the LDS church on grounds of apostasy because of this policy?  Yes.   Can the damage be reversed?  No.  Can the LDS church forge a new path, one that is more loving and more inclusive?  Absolutely.

A good reminder that actions have consequences.  Some intended; maybe most, unintended.  Unintended or not, this doesn’t dissolve us of our responsibility to act out of love.

Perhaps we’ll get an update from Tracy regarding her current thoughts.  But for now, here are some of her 3.5 year old thoughts.

 

My Unconventional Journey: An uncorrelated view of the new LDS policy on baptism.

by guest writer Tracy Giles

I spent half of my childhood in a gay home and found the gospel as a teenager.  My story is very different from many. As a daughter, a mother, a Primary President, and a friend, I would like to tell my story of conversion and how having the gospel as a teenager was an incredible blessing. Included in my story is a different perspective to the new policy that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS church) has issued regarding children from same-sex marriages not being allowed to be baptized.  My heart is very heavy.

I was raised in a Bible loving, Christian home. I remember reading the Bible as a young girl late at night, next to a small night light in my room.  One particular night when I was about 8 years old, I got on my knees and prayed the most earnest prayer.  I asked the Lord sincerely why there were not prophets and apostles leading and guiding people in our time. I prayed for an answer to know why we were left alone in the world with only scripture stories of people from the past to guide us.  If God wanted to speak to His people on the earth today, I believed whole-heartedly he would. That prayer stayed with me for many years.

My mother and father loved my brother and me very much. I know they tried to make their marriage work, but ultimately it ended in divorce and my mom in a same-sex relationship.  It was an earth-shattering experience to go through.  My world didn’t make sense any longer.  I chose to stay with my mom, and my brother moved in with our dad.

At the age of 13, we moved to Laguna Beach. My mom owned a coffee shop with her new girlfriend and I started my freshman year of high school.  With my father absent and my mother and her partner spending every waking hour at their cafe, I spent many hours alone. I was alone and in a downward spiral. My family was gone.

This was a very dark time in my life.  I found myself in really troubling situations multiple times.  A girl from school, who was a member of the LDS church, befriended me and on one occasion when we were hanging out at her house, she explained to me that a prophet leads and guides her church. I told her that only God can call prophets and apostles.  She explained that Jesus Christ sat at the head of the church doing just that.  Upon hearing this news, tears swelled in my eyes. I had found it.  I knew I had found what my heart so desperately needed.  The Spirit overcame me and I knew that I needed more.

Naturally, my mom took notice that I was spending time with LDS friends, and wanted to know about their views on homosexuality. I was given the answer that you can be gay in the church, but you just can’t practice it. I spent time pondering this and ultimately decided that as long as I was welcome with open arms and had a place in the church, I could move forward. I felt like this was the path Jesus Christ wanted me to take.  Everyone at church knew me and knew that my mom was in a same-sex relationship. They were accepting of our family life, so I felt like I had found a home.  My complete conversion didn’t happen fast. My home life was still very confusing for many reasons.  However, every time I needed clarity and comfort, I found it in the LDS church. I found it in the scriptures. I found peace through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

My parents were not supportive of the doctrine of the church, so I met with the missionaries at church buildings or in members’ homes.  While my mom didn’t like the church, I was still allowed to go.  We were able to make it work.  It was those fundamental years in high school when things could have gone really bad for me, but didn’t because I had found something that brought me so much joy.  Having the church and knowing I had a place in it changed my life in high school. I still made mistakes, but It was such a good environment for me.

After high school I was on a spiritual high, so I moved to Provo, Utah to experience as much of the church as possible.  I was so saddened by what I found there.  I was never invited to church. Dates ended when guys found out I hadn’t been baptized or that I had a gay mom.  I would hear members of the church idolizing the general authorities (highest church officials). They treated them like celebrities.  They were put up on pedestals and made infallible.  With the exception of a few people, I felt the members to be judgmental, gossipy and competitive.  I was really disturbed by what I found in Utah. I left after 4 months, without any interest in joining the church.  Side Note: Obviously, this does not represent all members in Utah. This was just my own personal experience as someone investigating the church.  There are many wonderful people there.

Forgetting Mormonism, I ended up moving to Los Angeles and started working in the music industry for a famous music producer. Life was back on track, or so I thought. A year or so later, I was at the gym trying to get in a good workout and a girl on the treadmill next to me started up a conversation.  She was a member of the LDS church and discovered I had once lived in Utah but was not LDS.  Though she extended an invitation for me to come to church with her, it was several weeks before I felt a prompting to attend. I couldn’t find the girl’s information, but the name of the ward popped into my mind. Back then we had to use the yellow pages, so I looked it up and off I went. Sitting quietly in the back of the Relief Society meeting, I was asked to introduce myself. I stood up, gave a brief introduction and sat back down.  The girl in front of me turned around, smiled and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” At the age of 20, I was baptized.

My family has some different beliefs than I do, and they truly didn’t want me to get baptized. Differences set aside, they were able to support it, and I’m thankful that the choice was always mine.  I’m thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who saw fit to give me the challenges I‘ve had in life because they’ve only made me stronger. As a teenager, I learned how important it is in life to respect the life choices of other people. Even though my mom and I don’t see eye to eye when it comes to spiritual matters, we can treat each other with fairness and kindness. I didn’t learn that lesson in a Sunday school class, I learned that lesson because I was living it. It was my life.

The church has come out with a new policy that doesn’t allow children of same-sex marriages under the age of 18 to be baptized. This new rule makes it so that even if a child living in a same-sex marriage household receives permission from their parents, they will not be able to receive the ordinances of the church.  The child and family are no longer allowed to exercise their agency in this matter.  Reasoning for this policy has been explained by Elder Christofferson, “We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the church are very different.”

My story in the church began when I was 14 years old; a child.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has built its foundation on the vision of a 14 year old boy who prayed in the woods. He overcame great adversity both in the grove and defending his testimony until the day he died.  Children carry greater strength than most people give them credit for.  The goal of the new policy is to protect them so, “they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.” I don’t know of any teenager in or out of the church that isn’t faced with incredible challenges in these latter days that could injure their development. It’s a dark world right now and children today are faced with hardships that are beyond what other generations ever had to deal with.  Why would a church exclude a group of kids that so desperately need a place of fellowship in these dark times?  If the LDS church is truly God’s kingdom on earth and the only place to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, why would they want to exclude children that so badly need the blessings the church claims only it can offer?  If their parents are ok with it, gay, straight, whatever, with a parent’s consent they should be allowed to be baptized. If the same-sex parents aren’t ok with it, then they don’t have to give consent.  Why the need to take away their agency to decide?

What I find very interesting about Elder Christofferson’s explanation of this policy is that he never quotes the Lord or talks about how this came as revelation. Referenced in his explanation was a sociology professor and a member of the board of directors of Affirmation, but not scripture or the Lord. The philosophies of men were used to justify it to the world. If the Lord is truly at the head of the church, then do we need to rely on the the opinions of experts? Again, if the Lord is at the head of the church and He leads a child to the gospel, He will provide a way for that child and their family through the difficult times.  There may be hard years, but the Lord will provide a way. As Elder Eyring said, “If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.”

Some may say that the children of same-sex couples are more than welcome to still attend church activities and be apart of the LDS community. Isn’t the point of not allowing these children to be baptized to protect them and their family? If they are still welcome to attend church activities won’t that place them in an environment that will provide opportunities to learn things that will confuse them and cause conflict in their homes? The only way to truly protect them then is to have them not come at all.  The church’s new policy labels same-sex marriage partners as apostates and forbids the ordinance of baptism to their children.  What a sad thing that is.

If you have ever read the scriptures, then you must be familiar with the fact that prophets have been known to make mistakes. It’s written throughout history. Joseph Smith made mistakes, he admitted to them.  Old Testament prophets did things that needed to be corrected, which is also true of Book of Mormon prophets. There are examples in the New Testament of Jesus Christ correcting his apostles.  In today’s church, it has become all or nothing.  Either you believe the church is run by Jesus Christ and therefore every single thing that is said by one of our church leaders is of God, or you don’t. If you don’t, you become labeled as someone who doesn’t support your church leaders.  I believe that our church leaders can make mistakes. Big ones. Not giving blacks the priesthood was a huge mistake.  You can still be an active member of the church with an understanding that our church leaders are human beings. They are men. They are not perfect and they will make mistakes. Instead of blindly following them, we should be praying and pondering all things, then letting the Spirit testify to us if it is true. Follow Jesus Christ and let Him lead you.

To all the children who this directly affects, I’m so very sorry.  I’m brokenhearted for you.  I mourn with you and your families. Please know our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would never reject you. They love you and they want you to experience the fullness of His love. I love my mom and all my friends and family who are or were in a same-sex relationship. They are some of the most amazing people I know. They are kind and loving. They are funny and brave.  They are charitable and selfless. They are incredible examples of unconditional love. I have seen them first-hand teach and live some of Christ’s most important lessons.  It’s been an honor to have them in my life.  You also can have both in your life: the gospel and the people you love who are gay. This journey you are on may seem hard at times, but Heavenly Father will never leave your side.

God the Father; CEO of Heaven and Earth

heaven and earth

Several months ago on a Friday, I prepared to board an early morning flight in San Jose heading home from a work trip. As luck would have it, I received notification for a free upgrade to first class. These occur on occasion, but not too frequently. I would imagine that first class is usually sold out or people with higher airline status than I receive an upgrade, but when it’s not, I get bumped up.

As I settled into my seat, I was greeted with a complimentary pre-flight water, as the rest of the plane is boarded. After all passengers boarded, some guy named, Brad, who had been chatting with the flight attendants, started shaking hands beginning with the first class passengers.  His greeting was warm, and was occasionally accompanied with a pleasant handshake and a “Thanks for flying with us today.” .  This continued past first class and into coach as Brad made his way to his seat.   Clearly, Brad was an Alaska Airlines employee, but low enough on the totem pole to warrant a coach class seat.  As he sat down, I realized that he ended up very close to where my seat used to be. Curiosity took over as I attempted to Google “Brad Alaska Airlines.”  My search produced a Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, with a nice picture of the Brad that boarded our flight. For a minute, I concluded that CEO Brad may have given up his first class seat in order to upgrade one of his customers. My opinion of Brad was quite high as I realized this possibility.  After speaking with a flight attendant, it turns out this wasn’t the case though, and Brad had always been assigned his coach class seat.  My opinion of CEO Brad was even higher now.

alaska airlines - water

A few things I learned from Brad:

  1. If anyone had a rightful claim to a first class seat, it was Brad. Not only did he not go for an upgrade, but he didn’t purchase a first class seat to begin with.
  2. Brad didn’t approach us with fancy titles or assumed authority. It wasn’t, “Hi, I’m CEO Mr. Brad Tilden, or the Honorable Mr. Tilden, or our Beloved Brad.  It was just Brad.
  3. He was genuinely kind and appreciative. I get that his job is to be that way to his staff and customers, but I felt Brad was genuine in his kindness. Fake or pompous CEO Brad would have shown through, I suspect.  With great power comes great responsibility.  I like the idea of humble leaders that serve.

I think our society might have a skewed view of effective leadership, which is quite evident in today’s world. Do people really want a leader lording over them, making rules and decisions for them, claiming titles and accolades and superior knowledge, sitting in the chief seats looking down upon their people for adoration?  I would suspect that deep down, people don’t want that. They want to be guided perhaps, or pointed in the right direction, but ultimately be left alone, and more importantly be allowed to make decisions for themselves.  It’s unfortunate maybe that people have become too reliant upon leadership.  I think this is one of the ways cults are formed.

God is probably the perfect leader, or one that we should look to for a more perfect study of leadership. I don’t believe that God is an interventionist.  I would describe God more as a suggestionist. It seems as though he generally lets us do our own thing. We learn from the garden of Eden story that agency was ultimately preserved.   He doesn’t sit around forcing us to do things that please him. I think he’s there as a guide, but ultimately allows us to make our own decisions and respects those decisions we make.  Agency seems to always be preserved, which makes God a good leader.  I suspect he’s less like CEO Mr. Brad Tilden, President of Alaska Airlines, and more like regular Brad than we think he is. From the scriptural and other accounts we have of God appearing to people, God forgives when he shows up. The accounts show that the people cower or are ashamed, so God forgives them. He tries to make you comfortable in his presence so you can have a conversation without focusing on the massive divide between God(s) and humans.  It seems difficult to have an authentic relationship with someone who is unapproachable or critical or who we think is constantly looking down at us for our shortcomings.  Even the angels have taken a page out of his playbook.  “Fear not,” is a common first utterance we read in the scripture available to us.

Side bar, but not so far off the topic.  Maybe it is the topic.  This guy’s idea of God floors me.  What’s up my dude?!?  I love it!

I’ve taken some liberties here, but nothing outside of my belief system.  The point is that God is trying to be like normal God and we approach him like CEO God, originator of death and destruction and famine and hardship.  We look at him as sitting in first class God with his headphones on, not acknowledging all the people walking back to coach class, with limited elbow and leg room and no complimentary pre-flight water bottle. We don’t expect God to go around shaking hands with the people, saying, “Hi, I’m God. It’s really nice to know you,” on his way back to his seat among the people. We set him up as unknowable and unapproachable. “He’s God of both heaven and earth.  Why would he bother with me?”

Lest I be accused of blasphemy by some who believe I should get back in the box of a correlated belief system, I do believe that God has earned all the name titles and accolades and is indeed the God of both heaven and earth, but I don’t think he wants that to stop us from being able to carry on a conversation with him while seated together in coach class. Sure, if anyone deserves the first class seat, it’s God, but God also descended to be with the people. He gives us life and is in us, which is to say He is right there beside us sharing a flight to wherever we want to go, and he’s giving us the armrest too. He will allow us to throw on our headphones and ignore him during the flight, but if we decide to take them off, I think he’s right there ready to have a conversation.

I’m not to the point where I fully understand “how” God communicates with me so it’s a little misleading to claim I’m having conversations with him.  However, his words are becoming more clear to me and I do hear him speak, and suggest, and persuade when I decide to stop talking and start listening.  The purpose of this post, I guess, is to put forth my idea of what I believe a significant part of God’s character is.  And without understanding God’s character, how can you have faith?

The Search for Truth Amid lies

Sitting here on a Friday night, and I realized that the kids (ages 2-12) have yet again chosen “The Truman Show” for their movie night.  This makes at least 3 times in the last 6 weeks or so.  A bit of a surprising request for a movie with such a theme.  It’s mature, but it’s an absolutely essential theme for them to learn.

There is a point near the end when his boat pierces the edge of the movie studio wall.  Though he was chasing his suspicions throughout the movie, this is the point where he realizes there have been massive lies framing his existence and his belief system.

The entire movie represents a search for truth amid lies.  A false world was fabricated to keep the truth from Truman.  This is not unlike what we experience in our world.  Everything seems to be trying to keep us from Truth.  It’s an ongoing fight to distinguish the truth from a world full of lies.

The storm at the end of the movie represents just how tumultuous it was to come to that point, where nothing is real and everything has to be questioned.  Very quickly, he went from surprise, to realization, to anger, to sadness and despair.  Truman is devastated, and this is the most poignant part of the movie.  But, there is a beautiful dialogue as he walks along the edge of his fake world and climbs the stairs to an exit door.  You can listen to that dialogue in the above clip.

The realization that something you once believed to be true is devastating.  But the joy from discovering truth or discovering that truth can be discovered is truly liberating.

 

Polygamy: Who Lied?

“I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives.”

—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411 , 26 May 1844 )

joseph smith - first photograph

173 years ago today, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered in captivity.  It doesn’t really feel like something that should be celebrated, but it’s quite curious the amount of discussion regarding  Joseph’s alleged polygamy that I’ve seen on facebook over the last few days.  Normally, one wouldn’t associate his murder with the practice of polygamy, but there were enough accusations going on at the time regarding a behavior that Joseph adamantly denied, it’s not easily dismissed. For those that don’t have roots tied to the LDS church, polygamy probably doesn’t mean much, but for those of us that belong a church founded by Joseph Smith, and succeeded by Brigham Young, polygamy is a big part of our history.

There is so much that I have NOT read about polygamy as practiced by the LDS church into the 1900s, so my thoughts and conclusions are somewhat fluid.  I will say though, given the implications of the practice and the history put forth, I’m not all that comfortable with the available conclusions to be drawn.

Possibility #1:  Joseph Smith practiced polygamy (as we currently understand the definition of the word).

If this is the case, as the LDS church has claimed, then Joseph spent his entire life lying about being engaged in the practice.  If you weren’t aware, Joseph denied ever taking more than 1 wife, and reiterated this claim all the way up to a month before he was murdered.  If he practiced it, then he lied on many occasions about not practicing it.  Lying for the Lord?  Is that a thing?  If he did take more than 1 wife, we get to grapple with the idea that he had dozens of wives, one as young as 14 years old, and taking others men’s wives as his own (a practice called polyandry).

“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.

—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411, May 26, 1844 ) Spoken just 1 month before he was killed

Possibility #2:  Joseph didn’t practice polygamy.  His claims to having only 1 wife, Emma, throughout his life would be true, and others that followed after his death were not honest in their accounts.  If he didn’t practice it, then many lied, including those closest to him.  If he didn’t practice it, documents, journals, and spoken accounts were edited and doctored after Joseph died (yes there is evidence of this).

In either of these 2 possibilities, someone or multiple someones lied.  This cannot be denied.  And, at least one of these persons was a past president of the LDS church.

Though I haven’t read all the accounts and evidence, I’m inclined to think that something entirely different was going on. I don’t think he was collecting wives.  I don’t believe he was marrying girls and other men’s wives.  I think there was something bigger and more fantastic going on.  Something we don’t really address or even understand.  This certainly flies in the face of the traditional narrative put forth since Joseph’s death, and I readily acknowledge the difficulty of not only trying to prove this, but also really even adopting this as a legitimate view.  But, there’s something in me though, that isn’t ready to convict the man as a liar and a creep.   The history is just too suspect.

edit:  I’m posting a link to a paper I think  is one of the better documents I’ve read that questions the traditional narrative in favor of Joseph only being married to Emma.  Not a smoking gun, but compelling nonetheless.  I did not write it.

Joseph Smith’s Monogamy

 

A Covenant to Know the Lord

Jeremiah 31

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The Parable of the Wall with a Gate

The Parable of the Wall with a Gate


There was a boy who was young and was beginning to mature into a young man.  He lived in a home on a large, expansive piece of land.  This land was beautiful, with trees, hills, and running water, with a large area to plant and grow food.  There was also a tall and thick wall that surrounded the land.  Having lived on this land his entire life, there was no reason to believe anything existed on the other side of the wall, and thus he was content with his surroundings.

As the young man continued to mature, he started exploring the land and understanding its capabilities.  He discovered new ways to grow food, and developed novel ways of gathering water and supplies.  It pleased the young man that his mind was expanding, and he was coming to understand the land in different ways.
One day, as he was surveying the land, he noticed a precious gem sitting on top of the grass.  He had never seen something so beautiful before.  It was the most precious stone he had ever seen, for up to that point, he had only discovered rocks.  The young man wondered why he hadn’t seen the gem before, even though he had traveled this path many times.  He picked up the gem, carried it back to his home, and spent the next several weeks observing his new gem and marveling at its capabilities.  There were many uses for this gem and he quickly realized that if he had more of these gems, they would enhance his understanding of the land more than he had ever realized.

As he set off in search of more gems, he found them everywhere, all similar in size and in color and in brightness.  There were some that were sitting on top of the land and others he had to dig up out of the ground.  The more gems he found, the more his understanding of the land grew and the more determined he was to locate all of the gems in the land.

Several years passed, and the fully matured man had searched every area in the land in search of gems.  He climbed in the trees, dug up the soil, and panned the water, and after many decades of searching, he determined that he had located every gem that existed in his world.  He was pleased with his accomplishments and labors.  Tired and worn from his efforts of laboring in the land, he decided to rest for a time.  The gems were found and their capabilities understood, and he felt his work was complete.  Now he would rest and enjoy the land and the results of his labors.

After 7 years of resting, the man was taking a casual stroll in the hills when he encountered an older man.  The older man identified himself as a teacher and a wanderer and said,

“Friend, I see that you have made good progress with your land and in the use of your gems.  I wonder if you have found and used gems from outside of the walls of your land?”

The man responded to the teacher saying, “I am not aware of a world outside of these walls.  They are tall and thick, but I have not attempted to pass to the other side, for I was content with my world.”

The teacher then grabbed a satchel and pulled out a few gems to show.  The man marveled at the different sizes, colors and varying degrees of brightness that he saw.  They were all different than his gems.  The teacher taught him briefly about these gems and the man’s mind was immediately filled with how these gems could be used to expand his labors of the land.

The teacher explained, “There are infinite possibilities of gems, each serving a purpose in their size, color and brightness.  But, you must venture outside of these walls to find them.  You are welcome to stay in your land within these walls and live out the rest of your days.  Indeed you have done a good work with your gems and your land.  You have yet to master your type of gem, but you have done well. If you desire, there is a great deal to learn about your gems inside your land, and you have not yet begun to learn of the gems outside of your land.  It is and always has been your choice, though.”

The teacher bid him farewell and left through a large gate in the wall that the man had not known existed before.

Exhausted from the encounter with the teacher and his expanded understanding, the man returned to his home to rest.  He spent the next several weeks pondering his life, his land, and his gems.  He marveled at his wall that now had an open gate.   The man was at a crossroads.  Indeed, the wall with no gate had provided a comfort over the years, and it provided an area within to labor.  The possibility of further discovering and laboring and learning was exciting, but it would require venturing into a land he was not familiar with.  However, the man had a desire to continue laboring.  He was reminded of his discovery of the first gem on his land and the learning that it provided.  The man was also reminded of the learning from the teacher about the possibility of new land in which to labor with new gems and new understanding.

The choice was an easy one to make.  The discovery of the gems and the laboring in the land was what filled the man with purpose, and so he determined to continue.  The now older and wiser man made a choice to leave through the new gate, and a new world without walls appeared to him, within which he chose to labor the rest of his days.

“I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”

This blogpost was originally written and posted on my former blog on 7/9/2015, but it feels relevant again, so I’m reposting it here.  There seems to be a renewed discussion about ignoring the least of our community, as if this is a new development brought on by a new president.  Well, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but we have been ignoring the least of our communities for much longer than our collective outrage suggests.  If we are truly committed, as a people and as a community, to relieving the suffering of some among us, perhaps we start with food, water, and shelter.

Originally written and posted on 7/9/2015

I was in Seattle on a business trip this week and decided to wander around the downtown area to look for a place to eat dinner.  I stumbled upon Westlake park and got sidetracked when I saw some people playing ping pong on some outdoor tables next to a Foosball table and several tables of active chess matches.  Normally, one would pass right through, but something caught my eye at one particular ping pong table.

There was an intense ping pong game going on between this little boy and a homeless man.  I sat and watched them for 30 minutes and then got roped into my own game of ping pong by some tourists from Indonesia.  The 60+ year old lady schooled me.  I have a feeling she may have been a professional at one point in her life.

I left 3 hours later humbled, grateful, and full, though I had not eaten anything.

As it turns out, the City of Seattle has dropped in ping pong tables throughout the city to try and clean up their parks and rid them of the “creepy people” (their words, not mine).  It appears from the photo above that they succeeded in giving people something to do during the day, homeless or not.  Did it not occur to them that a homeless guy would enjoy a game of ping pong just as much as the next guy?

What is it about homeless people in a park that deems it unclean or unfit for the “regular” folk.  Why are we so intent on limiting any contact or exposure we might have with these people?  I wonder what the reaction would be if a homeless guy decided to park himself on a sidewalk in my neighborhood?  How long before the police were called and asked to move him to another part of town or to another town altogether?  We like to think of ourselves as lovely people when we give a buck or two to the guy standing at the end of the off ramp to a freeway.  “Hey, I’m doing my part to end homelessness in my community!”

Perhaps you’ve seen these around your town.

Armrests?  Nope.  They are there to prevent people from sleeping on the bench.

 “Not welcome.”

Our disdain for the least among us is not subtle at all.  Perhaps change will occur when we realize that homelessness isn’t a disease we can catch, but actual human beings that need a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs and a way to succeed as members of a community.

Maybe they just want someone to play ping pong with.

The little boy in the picture above taught me a lesson this week.  It’s the same lesson that Jesus teaches.

When the Son of man comes again, this time in all His glory, there will be a judgment.  It’s not a judgment on how Republican or Democrat we are, or how we reacted or stood up for or against a particular social issue.  We are not going to be asked for our financial statements to determine how successful we have been, or how many things we have acquired.  It couldn’t be laid out any more clearly than in Matthew 25.

31 ¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

 

Guiding Principles

Since relocating our family to a small town in northern Idaho, Tracy and I have often pondered why people are so friendly. I was recently convinced it’s because they spend the entirety of their winters digging each other out when their cars get stuck in the snow.   Sacrifice changes people.

snow-car

Life seems complicated sometimes, but I think a simple way to approach life is to be able to look back and not have a slew of victims in my wake; people I have wronged, people I have failed to care for; people I have judged, people who I have ignored. To leave this life without any accusers would be a great way to go out. This is the primary message we have recorded from Jesus to us. The Ten Commandments, focusing primarily on not creating victims, are fairly limited in scope. Jesus clarified when he summarized everything into the two great commandments; just love God and love your neighbors. It was important to be a good person before Jesus was born and showed us how. He was opposed by those that just couldn’t understand why he acted and spoke contrary to their traditions. The organized religion at the time, with a line of authority reckoning back to Moses, charged him with blasphemy for following the two great commandments.

The charges and condemnations levied against us latter-day gentiles, as prophesied in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Nephi 28 and Mormon 8), can be traced back to our behavior that creates victims in some way.

  • Robbing the poor and our contempt for the poor, needy, sick, and afflicted (2 Nephi 28:13; Mormon 8:37)
  • Ignoring the hungry (Mormon 8:39)
  • Preaching false doctrines (2 Nephi 28:9, 12, and 15)
  • Persecuting the meek and the poor in heart (2 Nephi 28:13)
  • Committing whoredoms (2 Nephi 28:14-15; Mormon 8:31)
  • Murders (Mormon 8:31)
  • Lying and deceiving (Mormon 8:31)
  • Our many abominations.*  (2 Nephi 28:14, 17; Mormon 8:31, 40)

Each of these charges has a victim involved.  Each charge only occurs by the action or inaction of another (in the case of ignoring the hungry, inaction is still an action against that person).  You cannot lie or steal or murder or hate without creating a victim.  Makes you wonder about applying the word “sin” to behaviors that do no harm. If a person is alone in the forest and profanes and no one is around to be hear it, is it wrong?

What are those principles that each of us follow, which shape our behavior in a given situation?  Do we self-preserve?  Are we focused on asserting dominance?  Are we easy-going?  Do we want to appear intelligent or funny?  Are we interested in seeing the world be met with justice or with mercy?  Do we want to serve and love and sacrifice?  I’m not quite sure how to identify your guiding principles.  Perhaps look at what your default reaction is when presented with choices; which reaction comes up most often.  It may take some self-reflection, some honesty, and some time.  I think self-awareness is a valuable thing to work towards.

Here’s an example.  If I’m hungry and I have a sandwich, but someone approaches me who is also hungry and asks for a some money for food, how should I approach that situation?  It’s not a trick question, but sometimes we treat it like one.   I promise you that 2 different people can approach this scenario from antithetical points of view, and both will consider themselves righteous while condemning the other. One will call the other selfish and the other will accuse of contributing to a potential drug or alcohol habit.  What is the right answer to this situation?  Is there a right answer?  There is if we are to believe the words of Jesus as contained in the scriptures.

Matthew 5:42 KJV

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

While boarding a plane from Anchorage  this morning, I witnessed 2 things that prompted this writing.

First, I sat down in my aisle seat and a couple minutes later a young man/woman couple approached and indicated they would occupy the middle and window seat next to me. Initially, the woman offered the window seat and told her partner that he would have more arm room. He was tall, fit, and had broad shoulders. He said he would be fine  and told her to take the window seat. She asked again and he insisted again, so for the 3+ hour flight, he chose to sit next to me (not a small dude) and studied up for a firefighter exam, while she slept seemingly comfortably, resting against the inside of the plane. I spent the flight leaning a little extra into the aisle to reward this guy for his selflessness.

Now on to a contrasting example. A woman and her son were seated across the aisle from me. Her approximately 8 year old son had the window seat and she sat in the middle.  When the flight was nearly filled, a flight attendant  approached the mother and asked if she would be willing to move 15 rows up further in the plane and occupy a different set of window and middle seats.  The flight attendant was looking to relocate a couple with a baby in a car seat and I guess this aisle seat was the only aisle seat open on the plane. The woman claimed that her son had a friend with a family sitting in the window seat in the row behind them and she didn’t want to separate the friends.  During the entire flight, the friends spent their time playing games in their individual iPads and, to my observation, did not interact once, except for the few minutes at the end while we were deplaning.  In one of these scenarios, love and selflessness were shown; in the other, a victim was potentially created. Sacrifice is at the very heart of love.

elephant-umbrella

Occasionally I succeed and occasionally I fail.  I have enough victims lying in my wake that I ought not be concerned about the behavior of others, but I do have a stake in the society I was thrust into and regularly partake of.  Can you imagine a place where no one accuses and everyone forgives?  Where love and selflessness are the guiding principles upon which all behavior is based?  Where sacrifice is the default?  Where forgiveness rules the land?  Where NO ONE passes a car stuck in snow on the side of the road regardless of what item in our schedule we could use to justify not slowing down?  That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

*Think we know what the word “abominations” means?  We should take a closer look, because I don’t think it means what we think it does.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their abominations.  We should be sure we understand why that happened.