Being a Mormon Man

josephPriesthoodNow that women have had a day, its time to explore how patriarchy is not always what its cracked up to be. The responsibility can sometimes put pressures on that exhausts even the strongest individual. All eyes are focused on the carefully choreographed lives set in stone by the time men enter primary.

Yes, there are obstacles that women have to face in the Church as Meg and SilverRain mentioned in the previous post about Mormon women. Finding out how we fit in the Kingdom of God is part of the challenge for every Latter-day Saint. The goal of perfection is hard and confusing for everyone. Mix in the political expectations and its no wonder lives seem to fall apart. The two worlds really can’t co-exist without fissures and hurt feelings. The words of Jesus are still applicable today, no one, “can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24, read the whole chapter). No doubt conservatives are less conflicted than progressives because the former already supports structure and what some negatively define as the status quo. That doesn’t mean shaking things up for them is wrong, because complacency can be spiritually dangerous. On the other hand, its often no use trying to convince the latter that a quiet life is a good one; they are always on the move to somewhere for something no matter if the road leads to destruction.

There is no getting past the idea that the argument of women’s’ role in the Church is political. The unity of Zion transforms into the battle of the sexes. The glass ceiling and not the Kingdom of God a destination. That doesn’t make women’s issues any less real, but the focus put on the subject can harm men. They become the object of scorn, jealousy, and conspiracy. They start walking barefoot on the broken glass rather than boldly doing their Priesthood duty. Should they step up more in helping mothers and children in family life? Yes. Should they be more accommodating and listen to the voice of all women more? Yes, of course. Should they support and encourage women into more spiritual participation and growth? Not doing that is irresponsible. Following the example of Jesus the way he interacts and takes women seriously as part of the fold is a more than commendable, its necessary.

Heaping guilt on top of an already busy life doesn’t foster better leaders. The grass is always greener . . . as the saying goes. Mormon Men’s lives are not a cakewalk full of privileges, even if rewarding. Most active men are honestly trying to be good stewards. They can certainly improve. We all can and must. Continue reading

Doctrines of the Temple

This is a third in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.

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When entering the Temple for the first time or returning, it might help to be aware of some important doctrines for better understanding. There is no “different Gospel” to be found inside that hasn’t been discussed and taught in church on Sunday. Those that say the Temple teaches new doctrine kept “secret” until entering either are ignorant on the topics or more likely exaggerating for the sake of emotional manipulation. Similar to any good literature, the content is deep with allusions, metaphors, and patching together of sometimes desperate truths for greater insight.

Because the format of doctrinal presentation is far more ritualized than typical public church activity, it might at first be hard to recognize the familiar. Even the most knowledgeable Mormon might be a little overwhelmed. Those who haven’t spent much time in personal religious study could likely feel like they are drowning. The reason is the “Plan of Salvation” taught over so many years time gets condensed into a tight presentation. The small drip becomes a flood. Try to drink in too much at one time and the mind and spirit could go into system overload. As was said before, don’t expect to understand the whole or that such will ever fully happen in this life.

Regardless of the difficulties in soaking up all that is offered, there are key doctrines that can help pave the way for inspiration and enlightenment. By no means is the following a comprehensive guide for study. In fact, there really isn’t any way to compile such a list as many things learned in the Temple are personal interpretations; like any Scripture study.

Instead of writing out long commentaries as if an expert in each area, the sections will have quotes from LDS Church leaders and Scripture. There are no better words than from the servants of the Lord. This is a quoted selection of essential readings. It is a starting point for those preparing to attend and more reflection for those having already gone. Continue reading

Discovering the Sacred in the Temple

This is a second in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.

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Years ago I first entered the Temple as an emerging adult about to enter the mission field. Although many memories of that experience are vague, some thoughts and feelings have not been forgotten. No matter how much information I was given, none of it prepared me for the first time. It was strange to see and participate in such a richly symbolic activity. This left me confused once finished. Despite those who express spiritual rejuvenation and enlightenment, some never return.

Lack of preparation is not the only reason for a negative reaction. Many cultures have unique and demanding rituals that bridge the gap between the child and adult world. Such initiations have mostly been wiped out in Western civilization, replaced by childish giving in to base instincts. What used to be signs of adulthood in the modern culture at least thirty years ago is quickly fading. No longer can marriage and entering the workforce be counted on as expectations. Growing up has been replaced by holding on to adolescence and immaturity for long as possible.

Is it any wonder those who have never entered the sacred walls of the Temple for the endowment can be stunned? Schools teach science, mathematics, and language arts directly. Peripherally social instructions come from peers of the same general age and maturity. For Mormons, church attendance teaches the basics of Faith and Obedience with only a hint of ritual through baptism and Sacrament. The granting of Priesthood and young women awards have some notion of social graduation. Receiving the endowment is the ultimate religious expression of reaching adulthood and spiritual maturity.

My response to discomfort for the first time could have been to never return. There are those who choose this path. Such is not my nature when confronted by things I don’t understand. The need to know inspired me with the willingness to search, pray, and ponder for meaning. Knowing what I do now, I would like to leave some suggestions how to get more out of Temple attendance. Continue reading

Better Mormon Temple Preparation

Gilbert Arizona LDS Temple

Gilbert Arizona LDS Temple

Every so often the public gets a chance to enter a Mormon Temple to get a peek at what goes on inside. These rare opportunities present themselves before the religious dedication of newly built buildings or on occasion renovations. In some ways these are equal parts public relations and celebrations. Local Arizona news for channel ABC 15 had a report that claims a look inside the pre-dedication constructed Gilbert Arizona Latter-day Saint Temple, although it is more a report about the background and people involved. Non-Mormons are not the only ones that have very little information about what takes place once declared a Holy Sanctuary.

The hesitancy to discuss the specific aspects of activities and rituals keeps the members of the LDS Church who haven’t gone from knowing what to expect. First time attendees often describe their initial experience as shocking or disorienting. This despite the fact that there really isn’t anything untoward that is said or happens. In fact, many who have repeatedly attended say it becomes rather boring. A few claim to have fallen asleep, with some evidence to back that up. The newness of it all strikes almost everyone as disjointed from typical chapel worship. Some don’t recover and never return.

Blame for this is often placed on a lack of preparation. There is some truth to this. Because of the sacred nature of the Temple activities, only vague references can be divulged. There is a certain feeling among Mormons that the whole topic is off limits. Such a position goes too far, considering how much information exists in a study of General Conference talks on the subject of the Temple. How much can those who would be going for the first time be prepared? That is not an easy question to answer. Continue reading

Origin of the Priesthood Ban for Blacks

With the LDS Church releasing commentary on Race and the Priesthood, it has become fashionable to believe someday a full apology will be given that a ban was ever instituted. Most Mormons say we don’t know why or when the ban was first instituted, questioning if it was from God or man. The prophets, the arguments go, were wrong. The problem with these lines of thinking is that the record indicates the why and when does exist, even if existential questions remain.

Since the start of Mormonism, written records have been an important part of the religion. A few revelations, such as D&C 47, instruct individuals to write and collect records as a testimony. Researchers have noted the amount of history and biography available for research. Very few religious organizations have as much of a paper trail to read. Although not everything was written down to substantiate, it doesn’t matter if a person agrees with the attribution of the divine hand of God. There is a lot to sift through and examine for each facet of development.

The Priesthood ban for blacks is not without its own records. Probably the best study of the issue is from Chapter 4 of Neither white nor Black, an article written by Lester E. Bush, Jr. Despite the introduction that claims he refutes the orthodox explanations of the origin of the ban, his findings actually substantiate that a well recognized ban did exist. It it true that some of the more “folk doctrine and history” are seriously questioned. The clear line of authority for its beginnings remain intact, even with some inexplicable twists and turns.

For a complete understanding of where and when the ban developed, it must be acknowledged that it didn’t come from Joseph Smith. That seems to be the major roadblock to accepting it as a genuine authorized policy. Although still having the prejudices of the time, he was progressive in treating blacks as worthy of equal treatment. That isn’t to say he was an abolitionist in the strict sense of the word. For him masters still had claim to slaves even if ideally all men should be free. This was consistent with the New Testament “hands off” approach to the currently reviled institution. In the Church during his life blacks had no Priesthood ban or any restrictions. For those who insist that the ban was wrong and without authority, this would be the end of the argument. Yet, the Church he founded believes in a continual line of prophets and revelation. His words and teachings might be the first and most scrutinized, but not the last. Continue reading