Mourning With Those Who Mourn, Not Murmur

murmuring-2Every six months a General Conference comes and goes, and along with it the usual gripes from those who are not satisfied. That isn’t only non-Mormons who don’t believe in Prophets and Apostles, but some members of the Church. They will claim that the right words weren’t said, too much was asked of them, or the leadership just doesn’t understand. Whenever it is pointed out that the Lord is in charge and not them or their desires, they make accusations of heartlessness or lack of caring. Invariably they will insist that doing what they ask is a way to, “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Mosiah 18:9) whether the requests are deserving or not. It becomes a spiritual extortion by pointing fingers at those who don’t agree with their concerns. Too often they confuse the emotional turmoil of mourning with the selfish sin of murmuring.

As was said on another mourning related discussion, “Mourning with those who mourn is an important Gospel principle, but like any Gospel principle, it can be distorted and used to serve incorrect (should I say “problematic” instead?) ends.” The mixing up of mourning for murmuring is more than a social misplacement of scriptural injunctions. In the past the Lord has become displeased enough that he condemned the whole of Israel for what amounts to ungrateful insolence. Continue reading

10 Great Mormon Blogs Not Getting Noticed

When a Latter-day Saint who has a testimony goes on the Internet it is hard to navigate the good, the not as good, the bad, and the plain evil. Another is the abundance of choices for reading. Aggregators, that gather a collection of blogs, are helpful. Yet, they can’t contain all the blogs that exist. Sometimes a few fly under the radar. Even those contained in lists can be overlooked.

Almost all of the following blogs cannot as of this writing be found on any of the big aggregators such as Mormon Archipelago or Nothing Wavering, unless noted. The meaning of “not getting noticed” is the larger Mormon blogosphere seems to not be talking about or commenting on the blogs, although they can have their own following. My listing of them is because of my opinion they have some great content that M* readers would enjoy. All of them are active as of this month, although they could go inactivate at any time. For the moment they seem stable and deserve to have support.

This Week at Church
One of the more unique blogs out there because he chronicles what he learns during worship service. It doesn’t go very deep into gospel topics, but the notes are still of good quality for pondering.

Little LDS Ideas
A very creative blog for helping out Church lessons. The about page states, “My blog is a place where I go to share all of my little ideas. They’re nothing special, but I love sharing them and I hope you enjoy them.”

A Study of the Book of Mormon
This blog has been around since 1999, and yet very few comments. The insights are worthy of giving it a good read. He says, “I bring to my study this time the experience of a father of five children, a degree in film studies, several years of freelance new media work, and the experience of being a faithfully committed marriage partner.”

The Journal of a Black Mormon Girl
Deeply personal, yet a wonderful read for its poignancy and Faith. She says, ” I want the world to know that I am not ashamed of that which guides me to be a better person and that which leads me to Christ.”

LDS Doctrine
The name may not be different from others that can be found online, but it has great discussions. How this one has been missed from others has to be a matter of wanting to be low key.

We Talk of christ, We Rejoice in Christ
Her profile says, “My purpose in writing is that every time you visit my blog you will read something that strengthens your family, builds your faith, and brings you closer to Christ!” It appears to have more than one contributor, but the writing from them is worthwhile.

Women in the Scriptures
Apparently this is a blog for a published author who writes about women found in the Scriptures. She does have a following of her own, but I never heard of her or the blog until recently. Well worth the visit.

Benjamin the Scribe
*listed on Mormon Archipelago.
Learning the gospel doctrine lessons has never been so in-depth and enlightning. A few commentators are familiar to the bloggernacle, but still not high traffic.

Enigmatic Mirror
Not as prolific or noticed as Dan Peterson’s Sic et Non, but William Hamblin is just as much a legend in Mormon apologetics.

GraceforGrace
*listed on Mormon Archipelago.
One of my favorite blogs out there that has few participants. The only one I have ever seen respectful non-Mormons reply and adding to my appreciation of the blog. He has opinions without sounding opinionated, and clearly his faith is strong.

From “Jesus The Christ” and Beyond

2 - Jesus_the_ChristMany years ago before my mission, as a teenager contemplating going, I read “The Missionary Reference Library” collection of books. Although they increased my understanding and spiritual maturity, only one among them had a concrete lasting impact as a text. That would be Jesus the Christ, a magnum opus of James E. Talmage that was published a century ago this year. I latched on to what he was doing along with what he was saying. His work forever changed the way I studied Jesus Christ and his life and teachings.

The book was more than a theological treatise, with the inclusion of historical research to help understand time and place. Most of the book uses LDS Scripture and prophetic teachings to help interpret the New Testament record. Along with them is added information about 1st Century history and culture. This helps bring Jesus into context instead of allowing for a completely decontextualized amorphous figure. A few non-Mormon sources were used, including Life and Words of Christ by John Cunningham Geikie, Life of Christ by Frederic Farrar, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim, and William Smith’s A Dictionary of the Bible with other lesser Bible commentaries. Ancient works of Josephus and the Talmud were quoted or consulted in lengthy notes at the end of chapters.

Major problems complicated Talmage’s theological and historical study. Much of the modern sources used were already outdated even during his life time. Currently none of them are consulted outside of religious devotional material. Those that he did use were of a particular viewpoint that didn’t engage in other studies (even ones that wouldn’t be harmful to his own thesis). By the time Jesus The Christ was written, what is known as the first quest for the historical Jesus had already ended as did the “quest” idea. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s that historical studies of Jesus would once again be of academic interest. Still, no other major LDS work on Jesus before or after Talmage followed his example until very recently. Even the multi-volume Bruce R. McConkie tome was a wordy re-hash more than imitation. Continue reading

Trying to Explain the Donald Trump Support

Let me say on the outset that I am a Ted Cruz supporter, and for me Donald Trump is a careful consideration. Another point is that the only time I have ever talked about politics here is for obvious reasons when Romney ran. This break from personal protocal is because many of my fellow bloggers have expressed concerns about Donald Trump on outside venues or some comments. They are flabbergasted why such a man with such an “arrogant demeanor ” and “past RINO” views is liked by so many conservatives. Why is it that no matter what he says, criticism only seems to bolster his popularity for a large part of the Republican electorate. Part of their confusion and fear is because they can’t get past the man and look at the political context.

Some of what he says does have me concerned because he is not very articulate or perfect, but unlike George Bush Jr. he is not boring. For those who are calling Mr. Trump a RINO, they seem to ignore that every single candidate (even Cruz) has been accused of the same. There are degrees for sure, but none are immune from the label. Some like Bush and Kasich are seen as RINOS outright by supporting illegal immigration and common core. Others like Fiorina are seen as too lenient on Islam or supported the bailouts, Huckabee a welfare big government social conservative, Carson for questioning the Second Amendment and advocating some race carding of his own, Rubio for his flip flops especially with illegal immigration, and even Cruz for a vote that he later claimed he was tricked into a yes. Rand Paul doesn’t do so hot either, at times seen as going against his libertarian ideals and endorsing Mitch McConnell. So the voters look at them all and say “he who is without political sin . . . ”

Probably the number one reason Trump is in the lead is because of Jeb Bush. He was supposed to be the anointed one. Frankly, he still could be and that is what frightens so many more than Trump winning the nomination. Bush stands for everything that Trump does not: Career politician, establishment puppet, go-along to get-along weakling, and momentary media darling. Regardless of how much one might believe Trump is just as much a RINO, he is NOT part of the establishment no matter what conspiracy theories exist. Cruz should be the one in his place, but the media and GOP establishment poisoned his well long ago. Yes, even Rand Paul should have been the one in Trump’s place, but he played the game too close to the rules while acting the outsider. Trump became more than an outsider, but an outlaw! He is the middle finger for many who want to tell the GOP and others where to go. Continue reading

When the Temple Helps: Beyond My Ignorant Self

Walking into and participating in the Temple for the first time can be for anyone a disorienting experience. I was no exception, although there have been a few rare individuals who went in with prior understanding. Most of the LDS prophets are not among them. During a 1956 Mesa, Arizona Temple expansion dedicatory address, Pres. David O. Mckay said with candor:

Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the Temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and young women since who had that experience . . . I saw only the mechanics when I first went through the Temple. I did not see the spiritual. I did not see the symbolism of spirituality. Speaking plainly, I saw men, physical state, which offended me . . . We thought we were big enough and with intelligence sufficient to criticize the mechanics of it and we were blind to the symbolism, the message of the spirit. And then that great ordinance, the endowment. The whole thing is simple in the mechanical part of it, but sublime and eternal in its significance.

Those are some powerful words coming from someone who is considered a towering spiritual figure. He obviously got over it and so did I after my first time. It was not without struggle.

Difficulties with Dissonance

First off I had to get over my own expectations of not only what I was used to going to regular Sunday services, but my own self definition. Like many I went to the Temple in preparation for going on a Mission. My parents accompanied me on the trip. Each detail was absorbed and analyzed in the hopes of forming some kind of spiritual impression. The reality was that my intellectual curiosity overshadowed any religious enlightenment. In other words, all I ended up noticing was the mechanics. At the end of the endowment stood me and my parents in strange clothes having no everyday parallel. Thoughts about the accusation of “cult” ran through my confused brain. Even my Baptism for the dead excursions in recent teenage years didn’t compare. The people and place seemed completely out of the ordinary for both my secular and religious life. Continue reading