Paradigms

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Reorienting Our Perception of Home Teaching

I think we’ve all been there. You may have a good home/visiting teacher now, but I think we’ve all had no-shows and probably for most of our experience in the Church. Conversely, many of us have probably had experience being a no-show ourselves; maybe we’ve always pretty much failed at it. But what if changing things could be a simple as adjusting our perspective on home and visiting teaching? I’d like to share what’s been working for me and how I got there.

“We haven’t had home teachers for the last two years.”

“I’ve never had home teachers in this ward.”

“We had some good home teachers one time back when I was a teenager.”

Sound familiar? Our faces sour when we speak of home teaching in private company. It feels justifiable to throw our hands up and think that the church would be better off in dismantling the whole system altogether. I think this is completely wrong and I’ll explain why.Read Full Post

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What if everything became sacred?

After returning from my full-time missionary service, I started work with my father building decks down on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

I remember standing there one morning and thinking about how life was now entering a new phase and I wondered how I would adapt to it. I pondered for a moment how I could enjoy a spiritual flow throughout the day like I did living a missionary lifestyle but while doing this crude work with wood, nails, and sawdust.

I thought of Jesus who was a carpenter’s son just like I am. I thought about how he probably helped his father much like I did, and I marveled at how silent the scriptures were concerning these years. Couldn’t we have seen an example of how to live a normal life but after a manner of holiness?

I wondered if there was a reason why that was missing from the narrative of scripture. I wondered if maybe we were meant to fill in those gaps with the diversity of our own lives and experiences.

Then, I had a ridiculous idea.Read Full Post

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Lessons Learned From (Almost) Five Years on a Plant-based Diet

Back in 2011, I wrote a post about the Word of Wisdom. I had some things that were bothering me personally and decided to face them head on. I did a lot of study and research combined with soul-searching and prayer and out of all that came some powerful insights that propelled me down an unexpected, and to be honest, undesired path.

I’ve written a little about that back-story recently but now I’d like to share some things I have learned since then. While you may not agree with some of the conclusions I have come to, I think there are still some principles that are universal in nature.

First I’d like to emphasize the importance of not becoming a judgmental fascist because of your particular views. Next, are some other interesting and unexpected ideas that unfolded to me over time. Finally, I’d like to share some pictures of some of the tasty meals I prepare, because if there is anything I love as much as symbolism, it’s cooking!

Don’t be a Nazi

The revelation we know as D&C 89 was, “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint,” so I’ve never felt that it was right to shame, scold, force, command or constrain my interpretations in any way upon those who apply the principle of D&C 89 differently than I do. I believe that doing so violates the spirit in which the revelation was given.

I’m all too aware (and maybe you are too) of those that are passionateRead Full Post

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Taking Life

I wrote most of this back in 2014 but haven’t published it until now. In fact there was a lot more history before and after this but I feel like this one experience was a big turning point for me. Few people know about this experience, and even fewer know the details which I’m going to attempt to convey. This event happened about 15 years ago while I was a full-time missionary.

After I share this story, I want to wrap up by exploring what doctrine, principles, and applications relate to this subject.

Winter of 2000

My companion and I were trying to reach out to a less active young man on a small Idaho farm. We got on the conversation of animals and he mentioned that they would be cooking some goat soon for Christmas dinner. My companion, who was Fijian, mentioned that he was an expert at killing pigs and could kill the goat in seconds. The young man and I were impressed with the claim and decided to put my companion to the test.

The day came and we met out at the farm, I was anxious to witness this spectacle of my companion slaying a goat with the skill and finesse that he claimed. I came from Texas where hunting is a big deal and I wanted to see how they did things island-style. We walked out to the goat pen and a large goat was selected. I volunteered to take the rope and lasso the goat, and nailed him perfectly right around the horns. My companion had a habit of calling me “Texas Ranger” and my apparent skill with the lasso caused him to excitedly exclaim, “You ARE the Texas Ranger!”

We pulled the goat out of the pen as it struggled against us. I yanked him around like the dumb animal he was while his fellow-goats cowered away.

We pulled the goat down to the ground and my companion straddled it while I held its head to the ground. A medium-sized knife was handed to my companion. I watched as he took a deep breath, while aiming the instrument and Read Full Post

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Faithful Co-existence With Gamaliel’s Counsel

We live in a world with billions of people and each one of us has ideas on how things should be. Whether it is how governments should operate to where the family should eat for dinner, we all have different ideas. When it comes to religion, things can get very contentious even to the point of violence.

If you have found your place within a religious tradition that claims to have been influenced or even initiated by deity you probably feel that you are in the right on many things. Where we have a reality that involves many people and groups claiming to be God’s people and doing his work, we also see the need for at least tolerating each other’s presence as a start.

Once we’ve done that, how do we then move forward? How do we interact with people who contend with us, or those that were once united with us and then depart? What about those that are among us thatRead Full Post

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The Parable of the Crack

crack

© Sark & Associates, Inc 2015

There was once a craftsman who built a fine house.

As the years went by it served him well until one day he noticed a crack along the ceiling. He was disappointed to see this flaw in his otherwise exemplary work and quickly fetched his ladder and some spackle and went to work sealing the crack. A few days later, he noticed that the crack had reappeared. In frustration heRead Full Post

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More Meaningful, Less Mechanical Prayer

OneClimbs commenter and general all-around good guy Richard Nobbe left a comment on one of my recent posts and I thought he had a host of excellent questions.

I was intrigued with the challenge of providing some of my own thoughts and takes on the aforementioned questions. So let’s begin by takingRead Full Post

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Surviving the Void

It’s happened to me several times, in fact, the first 17 years of my life were lived without any real sense of the presence of God; at least that was my perception at the time.

Time went on, and God did manifest himself to me many times and in many ways. Some of these experiences were subtle and sublime, while others sound like something you’d read about in the scriptures. But then something unexpected happens…

void

Life was at times like a sailboat on a vast ocean, the wind filled my sails and pushed me forward with purpose and vision. Then, for no apparent reason, the wind ceases and there is a perfect calm. Often it isn’t this sudden, the winds fade slowly, almost imperceptibly, until the profound stillness dominates the scene.

I’ve noticed that God appears to leave me alone at certain points in my life. Alone to the degree that there seems to be nothing I can do to bridge the gap and I find myself in a void. Prayers feel unheard and questions begin to enter the mind. What happened, where did he go? Did I offend him in some way, is there something I’m doing wrong? I tend to look inward during these times and take an inventory of my life.

While such a practice can be healthy, it can also turn to doubt, fear, confusion, disaffection, anger, and apostasy. I think that it is common for many to reach this state of windless waters and abandon ship thinking all is lost.

Like I said, I didn’t always know there was a God, but I do now. Yet I’ve felt a little hurt at times where I’ve been in these situations where I’ve felt like I needed answers and the heavens were quiet. I know that the heavens must hear me, but I don’t know why there is no perceptible reply.

The Why

What I’ve wanted to know is “why,” why this abandonment? I’ve been in this most recent void for a while now, surviving on rations of remembrance and continuing my pursuit of faith through exploration and just living life.

It is through that continued exploration that I think I found my answer. A thought hit me while ponderingRead Full Post

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True Security

“So many people I hear say: “Oh, if I just make it to heaven I’ll be secure,” and I always ask them, “Where was the devil when he fell?” It’s not heaven that will make you secure, my friend, it’s being in Christ that makes you secure.”

– Paul Washer, A Sermon That Has Angered Many, YouTube

I was listening to a few Paul Washer sermons at work today and I really liked this quote. I think it can be all too easy to assume that a change in outer surroundings will fix our problems. I’ve heard a few quotes along these lines before but this one is quite dramatic.

Heaven, Zion, the Temple, Church, your home, they are all just places and perhaps they are not all that different. It is really the ones that reside in a space that determine its sacredness.

Pastor Washer talks about being in Christ that makes you secure. I might approach it from a slightly different angle and with a bit more explanation, but overall he’s spot on. He makes his point succinctly which gives you some room to ponder – something I need to work on.

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The Path to God is Strewn With Shattered Paradigms

Orlando-Ferguson-flat-earth-map

Every single one of us, right at this minute, believes things that are wrong. There is an idea that you cherish, some way of seeing the world that seems so clear to you, but it is wrong, or at best, incomplete.

We all build paradigms in order to function in life and make decisions, it is a necessity. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions and/or ideas that form a model for viewing what you perceive as reality. When someone attacks your paradigm it is as if they are attacking reality itself! Let’s say that in your paradigm there is a God, perhaps because you know there is or perhaps because you really, really believe there is. If someone seeks to remove that cherished piece of your paradigm with a convincing argument, it can cause the whole structure to shake or collapse like a Jenga tower.

Sometimes we give up one flawed perception for another flawed perception, or we can enhance a true perception with one that is more comprehensive. When it comes to knowing God and his mysteries, it helps to understand that you will probably have to give up a lot of false notions and assumptions. We like to think that because we are Latter-day Saints and belong to “the true Church” and have “the restored gospel” that our paradigms are correct, true, complete, and superior.

I’m going to suggest that anyone who thinks that had better Read Full Post

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Motherhood: Paradoxes, Wisdom and Love

The following was a talk I gave in my sacrament meeting for Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015.

Heavenly-Mother-and-The-Tree-of-Life-Mark-Jarman

Today I want to address motherhood as it relates to paradoxes, mother Eve in the garden, scriptural themes that are given the female gender, and how motherhood encompasses far more than just the bearing of children.

Paradoxes

When two things collide and don’t seem to fit together, we say it is a contradiction. A paradox is something true that only appears to be a contradiction because we do not yet see the whole picture.

We experience paradoxes all the time, some in the form of people, life events, or nature, and there are plenty in scripture, church history, doctrine, and policy.

I believe that we should not fear paradoxes; they are a necessary part of our mortal experience. Encountering them and wrestling with them reveals a lot about how we think, what we desire, and what we are willing to do when our vision of the truth becomes clearer. It is our willingness to dive in between the two extremes of the paradox that the truth is found.

The first paradox appeared in a place calledRead Full Post

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Approaching Truth, Keeping an Open Mind

I have found this to be a very peaceful way to truth. Contention often arises when prideful individuals play intellectual ‘king of the hill’ and declare things about God, heaven and earth that they may only believe and not really know. A particular verse from the Qur’an reads:

“Satan…always commands you…to say things about God that you do not really know.” 2:169

Joseph Smith echoed something similar when he said:

“Men of the present time testify of heaven and hell, and have never seen either;” – Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 160

Is bearing testimony of something that you don’t know is true good or is it bearing a false witness? Even if well-intentioned, does bearing false witness tend to bring the Spirit or does it invite contention? To what degree does bearing a ‘wishful witness’ contribute to the endurance of problematic paradigms?

“I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nephi 11:17)

In this verse, Nephi is experiencing a vision and is being asked questions by an angel. One of the questions is, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” to which Nephi answered with the one thing that he does know while acknowledging what he didn’t know. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know,” but I don’t think it is ok to pretend that you know things that you don’t; isn’t that called lying?

Like Nephi, we can be comfortable with the knowledge we have while acknowledging thatRead Full Post

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Korihor, Elsa, Cain, and Karl

What if we modernized Korihor’s philosophies and compared them to the kinds of things we hear people saying today?

For morning study a couple days ago, I started off reading about the sons of Mosiah but then felt like reading about Korihor. As I read, I had my trusty 1828 Dictionary app out to further analyze the words Joseph Smith used to translate Korihor’s ideas. Then, I looked in a modern dictionary to discern how his theories might be composed by someone presenting the same arguments today.

This exercise revealed a very familiar-sounding rhetoric. I also began to think about song lyrics from the movie Frozen (because I have 3 daughters) that reminded me of some words Cain spoke, and then all of it together reminded me of something Karl Marx wrote; all from pondering Korihor’s doctrines.

As for my modernized version of Korihor’s ideas, I claim ownership of my interpretations and any errors that I might have made. This is merely a personal exercise, so feel free to go back to the original text in Alma 30 and try this out yourself.

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Freedom of the Mind

“One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking. More thinking is required, and we call upon you students to exercise your God-given right to think through every proposition that is submitted to you and to be unafraid to express your opinions, with proper respect for those to whom you talk and proper acknowledgment of your own shortcomings.

We live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve this freedom in the Church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it, for when it is suppressed, we might lose the liberties vouchsafed in the Constitution of the United States.

Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In this age of speed, there seems to be little time for meditation.

Dissatisfaction with what is around us is not a bad thing if it prompts us to seek betterment, but the best sort of dissatisfaction in the long run is self-dissatisfaction, which leads us to improve ourselves. Maturity implies the ability to walk alone and not be ashamed within ourselves of the things we do and say.”

– Hugh B. Brown (First Counselor to Church President David O. McKay), An Eternal Quest – Freedom of the Mind, May 13, 1969

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Terryl Givens – An Approach to Thoughtful, Honest and Faithful Mormonism

I transcribed the following from the third part of an interview with Terryl Givens on the Mormon Stories podcast. I can’t remember how I came across this interview, but I remember seeing Terryl Givens’ name which immediately drew my interest. I’m a big fan of Terryl and his wife Fiona, they are delightful people.

Based on my own research, I am inclined to agree with Terryl’s perspective on many (but not all) things. Here are a few highlights concerning Joseph Smith and the restoration that I find extremely insightful and consistent with my own beliefs.Read Full Post

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Joseph Smith on Truth

© Kim Marshall

© Kim Marshall

Receiving truth
“One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 199)

The best way to obtain truth and wisdom
“The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.” (History of the Church, 4:425)

Gather all the good and true principles
“We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316)

We have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth without limitation
“Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft… Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Mar. 22, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, published in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, pp. 53–54; spelling and grammar modernized.)

Ready to believe all true principles that exist
“I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints … are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.” (History of the Church, 5:215; from “History of the Church” (manuscript), book D-1, p. 1433, Church Archives.)

Limitations on knowledge
“I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes [limits], and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’ [Job 38:11]; which I cannot subscribe to.” (History of the Church, 6:57; punctuation modernized; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Oct. 15, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards.)

Pure intelligence
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; [that is,] those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (B.H. Roberts, History of the Church 3:381)

Alway acknowledge virtuous qualities
“When we see virtuous qualities in men, we should always acknowledge them, let their understanding be what it may in relation to creeds and doctrine; for all men are, or ought to be free. … This doctrine I do most heartily subscribe to and practice” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 345–46).

Revealed in the abstract
“All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all.” (Joseph Fielding Smith (editor), Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 355)

The oldest book
“I thank God that I have got this old book [the Bible]; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have got the oldest book in the world; but I have got the oldest book in my heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have all the four Testaments.” (Alma P. Burton, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 343-344)

Condeming each other
“The [Muslim] condemns the heathen, the Jew,and the Christian, and the whole world of mankind that reject his Koran, as infidels, and consigns the whole of them to perdition. The Jew believes that the whole world that rejects his faith and are not circumcised, are Gentile dogs, and will be damned. The heathen is equally as tenacious about his principles, and the Christian consigns all to perdition who cannot bow to his creed, and submit to his ipse dixit. But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes “His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Times and Seasons, 15 April 1842, 758)

Related: Brigham Young on Truth

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Lies and Testimony

Every fast and testimony meeting I can’t help but ponder what people mean by what they say. I suppose that only the person themselves really understands what they are trying to do by going up to the stand and speaking. One person might be speaking of real experiences and using better words to express themselves, while another person might be trying to express real yearning and feelings but using the wrong words.

It’s easy to judge the latter person and dismiss their attempts to express themselves. While one could easily point out the errors in their expressions, even to the point of calling them lies, maybe the judgers should take a deep breath and relax a little. I don’t think those people are necessarily lying or deceiving, let’s take a look at what a lie is:Read Full Post

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Room For Doubt Respects Agency

I recently started the Book of Mormon over again in audio form while I’m at work. Chapter 6 of 1 Nephi caught my attention and led to some significant thoughts about agency.

And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.

For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.

Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men. (1 Nephi 6:3-6)

The limited resources Nephi had forced him to focus on what was most important. He desired to record “the things of God” over things that were pleasing unto the world; think about that. What types of things wouldRead Full Post

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“All that he seeth fit that they should have”

After crying out “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!” Alma 29:1

The well-intentioned Alma the younger wanted a sorrow-free world and thinksRead Full Post

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The Shelf vs. The Garden

shelf-vs-garden

There is a phrase I hear repeated every now and then among members of the church. Typically when there is an issue they come across that challenges their faith, they are able to either reconcile that issue one way or another or remain undecided.

Without the necessary information to arrive at a satisfactory understanding, the person says that, for now, they will put the issue “on the shelf”.

“The shelf” is the proverbial repository for issues that you no longer want to deal with at the moment for whatever reason. You don’t have the time, resources, information or desire to pursue an answer to the question so you “shelf” it.

Here’s why I really dislike this metaphor.

When you put things on shelves all they do is

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