Their Iniquities shall be Spoken upon the Housetops: Ashley Madison and Living True to the Gospel

This week the news was filled with accounts of the hack of Ashley Madison, a website helping married individuals cheat on their spouses. It was disclosed that several prominent individuals had accounts on the site. Most notably, Josh Duggar, a staunch religious conservative who has garnered attention for his strong positions on moral issues, admitted that he had an affair on his wife using the site. Sam Rader, a vblogger who became a viral sensation for surprising his wife with a positive pregnancy test and who is known for daily devotional videos, also admitted to having a paid account (but said that he did not have an affair from it).

It’s been disappointing although not at all unexpected to see friends of mine on Facebook reacting to the news. Continue reading

Maturing Love and Discipleship

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people who joined the church right around the time that I did, or shortly afterwards leave the church. Some are people that I taught as a missionary, while others are friends that helped and encouraged me along the way. Some have been prominent in the Mormon blogging community, while others have likely never even seen a Mormon blog. Some have left over controversial topics such as female ordination or gay marriage, while others have taken offense or drifted away for a wide variety of reasons—and really each  person who leaves has a deeply personal reason for doing so.

I’ve reflected a lot lately on the question of why I am still here, while so many friends I know have left.  One of my friends posted a video of a break up song on her blog post announcing her decision to leave the Church, and that got me thinking about the relationship between romance and love, and the decision to join and remain active in the Church.

When people first fall in love, it is filled with frenetic  and passionate romance. It is hard to sleep because you are so excited about your relationship. You can hardly think about anything else. You frustrate your friends, because all you want to do is talk about your beloved. This is a period where you believe that your love can do nothing wrong, and you tend to only see the best things about him or her. It is an exciting time where you see the world through rose tinted glasses.

But anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that these feelings cannot last forever. Eventually, all relationships hit roadblocks. You might learn some facts that make you question the person you thought you loved.  You might feel betrayed or hurt. More frequently,  I think that people just allow those feelings they once had to become routine. Our relationships begin to lose energy and excitement and enter into a rut. We begin going through the motions. We begin to think that we are not appreciated, wanted or needed.

Of course, we can and must continue to have romantic and passionate experiences. You must keep your passion alive. But the kind of head over heels love cannot last. I don’t think our mortal bodies and minds can remain at the same level of raw emotional intensity forever.  If we continue to expect it, we will become discouraged or even despondent without it.

Instead, our love and our relationship must evolve. We must develop a mature devotion to one another. We must learn to see and accept flaws and imperfections. More importantly, we must learn that our relationship is not about us, and that a relationship is more about serving than being served. We must put aside the desire to be constantly happy, entertained, or amused. Put aside childish things and learn to love with a mature love. The scriptural term that I think best defines this love is charity.

So many relationship flounder and eventually die out because individuals fail to make this vital transition from romance to mature love. And I think so many testimonies tend to flounder and die for precisely the same reason.
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A Modern Day Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

It isn’t often, when we get to see one of the savior’s parable’s directly at work in our modern society. Often, concepts like wheat and tares, or vineyards are abstract and removed from our day to day concerns. This week, however, the Savior’s parable of the workers in the vineyard which Elder Holland so expertly discussed not too long ago in General Conference replayed itself for all too see.

Dan Price, a CEO of a Seattle Credit Card Processing Company in Seattle decided that he would pay all of his workers a minimum salary of $70,000 a year after realizing that many of his younger employees were struggling to pay student loans and other obligations. He did this mostly by cutting out his large bonus.

The New York Times this weekend ran a follow up article and looked at some of the results. The whole article is worth reading in full, but one detail stood out to me in particular. At least two of Price’s most talented workers quit, because they were upset that workers less skilled than they received such a high salary. This came even though they had received a wage increase, although not as sharp an increase as the lower salaried employees. The article is filled with quotes from these higher paid employees belittling the skills of their less experienced former colleagues.

When I saw this article, I thought of the Savior’s parable. As with the parable, the master has decided to pay the workers less skilled or less experienced workers a greater amount than they “deserve.” He has decided to be generous and kind. And those who worked “harder” felt entitled to a greater salary and angrily quit. (unlike the workers in the parable, they did earn more than the other workers just not as much as they felt they were entitled to receive). The words of the parable are deeply applicable:

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

I am sure that others will look at this story as a way to score political points,  but for me reading this story underscored the spiritual truth of what the savior taught more than two thousand years ago. Indeed, it is interesting to see that human nature has not at all changed from the time of the savior. The natural man is still prideful and self-seeking. The natural man still seeks his own. The natural man would rather lose a good and well paying job, then see someone else benefit”undeservedly.”

It is very difficult—exceedingly hard in fact—to put off the natural man and to be humble enough to glory in the triumphs and successes of others. It is exceedingly difficult to cease from boasting, bragging or self serving behavior.  With all of these tendencies, is it any wonder why the early saints struggled to live the law of consecration? Yet, we are all called to prepare ourselves for the day when we must fully live this higher law.

This instance for me further underscored how difficult and fraught the preparation can be.

These now workers failed to learn Elder Holland’s profound and yet simple lesson: “So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.” How can we avoid following their example?


President Boyd K. Packer Passes Away at 90

The Church announced today that President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles passed away peacefully in his home.

I will sorely miss President Packer’s bold witness of Jesus Christ, and of the divinely inspired nature of the family.

I have heard it said, that we should especially pay attention to the prophetic witness of Apostles and Prophets at three points in their ministry. 1) At the start of their ministry. 2) When something is repeatedly frequently throughout their ministry. 3) At the end of their ministry. Thus, it is fitting that in his final general conference talk, President Packer hearkened back to what has been a repeated theme of his ministry. Indeed, President Packer has at least four times over the pulpit used these exact same or substantially similar words. I believe that these words will stand as a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to serving Christ, his church, and the divine institution of the family:

“Over the years I have frequently taught an important principle: the end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity.”

I will also always remember President Packer’s profound testimony of the savior which he bore frequently, but perhaps never with greater power than this past conference.

I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity.

I am so grateful for the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the power of procreation, for the power of redemption, for the Atonement—the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily, to pursue that path that you have chosen in life.

I bear witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Atonement is not a general thing that is for the whole Church. The Atonement is individual, and if you have something that is bothering you—sometimes so long ago you can hardly remember it—put the Atonement to work. It will clean it up, and you, as does He, will remember your sins no more. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Standard of Truth Still Stands Strong

I haven’t written much on the topic of gay marriage in recent months because I felt that pretty much everything on the legal merits had been said ad nauseum. I also had little pretension or doubt as to what the outcome of the Supreme Court case would be, though I was eager to see what rationale the Court would use as it created a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

This morning, knowing that the decision was pending, I spent time in the temple praying for peace and clarity regarding the opinion. As I did so, I again received a reassurance that I have received frequently over the past several months. Ultimately, while there are reasons to despair over the changes that have swept the nation, we should be filled with hope because the Lord is in charge.

While many are celebrating today, I know that many others are afraid of the impact this decision will have on the Church and the cause of religious freedom.  And many are wondering how to respond as our views increasingly become a minority position. While these thoughts are purely my own, I hope that some of what I express in this post will provide comfort and consolation for those who are anxious as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have frequently warned that when the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage (which it did today), it will be this generation’s Roe v. Wade and lead to a never ending cultural war on the topic. I sincerely hope not. Though I have frequently and strongly spoken up against the legalization of same-sex marriage, I hope that the fighting will recede and that those who see the urgent need to defend the family from decay and destruction will be able to move on to fighting for other pro-family measures.
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