The Family – The Fourth Pillar of Eternity

During Conference there were a lot of talks about marriage and family. While the talks briefly mentioned current events such as same-sex marriage, they mostly focused on something somewhat different. Elders Christofferson and Perry in particular had very similarly titled talks which focused on the doctrine or the why of family (“Why marriage, why family” and “Why Marriage and Family Matters” respectfully). President Packer likewise talked about “The Plan of Happiness” and in doing so focused heavily on the doctrine of the family.

Twenty years ago, the Family a Proclamation the World declared powerfully to the world our unique theology and doctrine of family. In the interceding years, that vision has only become more and more essential. Yet, we often focus on the details of the proclamation such as teachings about the roles of men and women and lose sight of what this inspired doctrine taught about the nature of significance of the Family in God’s plan.

What I believe we are witnessing today is a great clarification and sharpening of the doctrine of the family brought about by current events and the global effort to redefine marriage. These challenges have led our leaders to ponder and reflect on the true meaning of the family. These challenges have deeply enriched our understanding of the gospel as a familial matter. Much more so than twenty years ago, our leaders today teach not merely what families should be like, but why this is so essential.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie famously taught of the three pillars of eternity as being the creation, the fall, and the atonement. Today, instead of three pillars Elder Christofferson put forward four things essential for realizing God’s plan of happiness. The first three were the same as Elder McConkie’s pillars—creation, fall, and redemption, but the fourth of these pillars is the Family “the setting for physical birth and subsequent spiritual rebirth in God’s kingdom.” Elder Christofferson explained that this is essential, because in marriage we are able to create “in partnership with God, the physical bodies that are key to the test of mortality and essential to eternal glory with Him.” It is in marriage that we become co-creators with God and therefore enter the path towards exaltation.

President Packer also discussed this theme in his remarks. He emphasized that “The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness.” It is through this power, that “we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fullness of joy, even Godhood.” Being able to responsibly use our power of procreation responsible is the great test of mortality.
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Commandments not a few, and revelations in their time

One doubt that I frequently encounter among those who have lost faith that this Church is being led by Christ through continuing revelation Is that we have not received a canonized revelation in several decades and that the Prophets after Joseph Smith have on the whole received very few revelations. I came across a very interesting quote in a talk given by Bruce R. McConkie to the Sperry Symposium which sheds some light on why this is so. The quote is lengthy, but I am going to quote it in full and then I will address some of the insights it provides. Continue reading

The Point of Sharing the Gospel

I was really disappointed by a recent article on Mormon Mentality entitled “The Missionary Work I Didn’t Do.” The author details speaking to a neighbor who expressly told her that she was dissatisfied with her Church. Because she feels that the Church is sexist, she concluded that it would have nothing to offer her neighbor and failed to invite the missionaries or pass along a Book of Mormon.

The think this, unfortunately, completely misses the point of missionary work. We do not simply offer a social club, moving services, or opportunities for fellowship. There are lots of great places one can go to get all of those things. Instead, we offer individuals something that they can get nowhere else. We offer ordinances necessary for salvation and exaltation performed with proper priesthood authority. There is no greater blessing that we can offer our friends and neighbors.

As Elder Oaks explained: Continue reading

Lord is it I? Faith and the Dark Night of the Soul

As have many other LDS Bloggers, this week I have been reflecting on the pending disciplinary proceedings for John Dehlin. However, as it happens I also visited South Florida this week where I grew up and spent most of my childhood. As such, I have also been reflecting on the nature of faith and testimony and my own faith journey.

As I reflected on my long windy path, through belief and disbelief, theism and atheism, and my eventual embrace of the Restored Gospel, I came to better appreciate that faith is never a static thing, we are always constantly either strengthening or weakening our faith. Moreover, unexpected experiences can deeply shake our faith or shatter it. We are never as secure or as sure in our faith as we think.

The events of the last supper most recently discussed by President Uchtdorf at conference powerfully illustrate this point. When the Savior told the disciples that one of them would betray him, they all turned inward and asked “Lord is it I?” Implicit in this question is the fact that it very possibly could have been any of them, or any one of us. We may as Peter declare boldly that we will never forsake the savior or the faith we hold dear, but as with Peter we may find ourselves in the very situation that causes us to waver however briefly.

When I was in high school, I was very secure in my faith in God. Although in that period I began seriously investigating both Christianity and Judaism, my faith in a personal and loving deity was very strong. I wrote an essay for my English class about a personal spiritual experience which I declared made it so that I could not doubt the existence of God. I was convinced that my testimony of God was secure beyond any doubts.
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In Defense of Harry Reid – Or Why I am Not a Democrat

This week, Republicans took back the Senate as well as several state houses and across the country. This victory has variously been described as a wave or a flood. I gratefully celebrated on Tuesday night as the election results came in. Yet, that celebratory spirit turned a bit sour as I read the now infamous post, Good riddance to Harry Reid, the Mormon Senate leader, by member and current Bishop Mark Paredes. I don’t know brother Paredes personally, bu I have greatly enjoyed some of the other posts that he has written on other topics and appreciate the vital role he is playing in reaching out to the Jewish community. Nevertheless, I think Paredes’s post is needlessly divisive and ultimately misguided. While many have already written on this topics, in light of the national attention given to this post, I feel that I should also share a couple of thoughts on the subject.

First of all, I would urge everyone to read Elder Oaks’s masterful talk from this most recent conference entitled Loving Others and Living with Differences. Elder Oaks specifically talked about rancorous discourse in politics. Continue reading