The Tree of Life, the Great and Spacious Building, and Suicides

I had a follow up thought to Geoff’s post about recent LGBTQ suicides that I thought should have its own post.

Last week in Sunday School, I taught a lesson on Lehi’s dream. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on the symbols of the dream and their meaning for members of the Church. And I believe the dream reveals a fallacy in the argument that the Church’s teachings cause gay suicides.

If we think about Lehi’s dream, there are four groups. One goes straight to the great and spacious building, one looks for the tree but quickly wanders off, one reaches the tree but falls away because of the mocking from those in the building, and one group remains at the tree and continually enjoys the fruit.

What I noticed as I’ve been thinking about this dream is that while a great multitude of those “feeling” their way straight to the building eventually get there, none of those who started on the path towards the tree (or those who get to the tree) but wander off to try to go the building ever actually get there. They are all simply described as wandering off and lost.
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When the Temple Helps: Manaus Temple Caravan

There hasn’t been a post in the When the Temple Helps series in a while, and I felt impressed to share this video when I saw it today. It is a beautiful story about the Saints in Manaus, Brazil, who had to travel over 3,000 miles to go to the Sao Paulo temple. As one who served in a place that is about as far from the temple as possible, I could relate to the faith and perseverance of these saints.

Preserving Institutional Religious Freedom (Part 1)

Recently, the ABA announced that it was reviewing a formal complaint against BYU Law School from the FreeBYU group. The group is highly critical of BYU’s policies regarding LGBTQ individuals, and also BYU’s policy of excluding students who have been excommunicated and stopped participating in the Church.

There are two arguments in particular that I have heard made recently that I wish to respond to and refute.

The first is the notion that it is BYU’s policy that results in religious discrimination because it forbids students from freely exercising their faith. The second is the notion that since accreditation (as well as Federal student aid which I have heard some invoke as well) is not a right, punishing BYU for its policies does not violate religious freedom. Continue reading

Lehi’s Dream and the Parable of the Sower

I love Lehi’s dream. It is one of my favorite portions of scripture, because of how the themes and images in the dream are applicable in so many different circumstances. Lehi interprets the vision in a wholly familial way, while focusing on his own children and their needs. Nephi receives an interpretation of the dream that instead places against the vast backdrop of human history. This is a rich and multifaceted account that deserves serious study.

One of my favorite observations about Lehi’s dream is how well it parallels or syncs up with the Savior’s parable of the sower. Just as there were four types of soil in the parable, there are likewise four groups and they are closely parallel. This is a chart I made for my Sunday School class in order to illustrate the comparison. I’ve seen different pairings between the groups in other sources, but this is the pairing that I believe is best.  (Reversing the thorns and stony places would also make sense but I prefer this arrangement for reasons that I describe below). Continue reading

Two Forms of Revelatory Policy Changes

I am currently in Israel visiting family, and decided this morning to go on a walking tour of Jaffa. On the tour, the tour guide spoke of the events that led Cornelius the centurion to Peter and culminated in the opening of the Gospel to the gentiles.

In light of the debate over whether current policy changes are inspired and truly the will of the Lord, I reflected on this most monumental shift in policy ever occurred in the history of the Church. Before Peter’s vision, only those who were Jewish by descent or laborious conversion could be baptized into the nascent Christian Church. After his vision, the scope and power of the Church of Christ dramatically changed as the message spread to all mankind.

There were two key revelations regarding the Church’s policy towards the gentiles, and I believed that looking at these two different policies helps to reveal how God guides his Church today.

The First revelation came to Peter in the vision regarding eating unclean animals. After this vision, Peter knew God’s will decisively and he knew that the Gospel could go to the gentiles. This was a direct revelation of a very specific nature , and Peter immediately shared this vision with the whole Church so that it would know that the instruction came from God.

But after this vision, there still remained the difficult work of figuring out how to implement the newly revealed policy of preaching to the gentiles. In Act 15, we read about the great counsel where the Apostles and Elders came together under the direction of the First Presidency to consider what limitations should be placed on newly converted Gentiles. Peter and James lead this meeting and seek the guidance of the Lord. And from this meeting comes a divinely inspired policy that “seemed good to the Holy Ghost.” This policy revelation involved no clear “thus saith the Lord” moment. Peter didn’t receive a vision, James didn’t speak in the name of the Lord. Yet, there is no question that Peter and James received binding revelation which was accepted by the whole Church as inspired policy.

These  two models of revelation still exist in the present Church. Sometimes, policy is revealed through a dramatic vision or through “thus saith the lord” revelation. Other times, it is instead revealed through inspired and prayerful contemplation and under the guidance of the First Presidency. Both are inspired and both are revelatory. If we demand the former type and reject anything revealed through the latter model as uninspired, we will be doing a grave disservice and sowing the seeds of doubt and dissension.