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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Review: The Book of Mormon as History

This is a guest post from Pat Chiu, a life-long Mormon and mother of ten children. Pat has spent several decades engaging the “controversies” regarding Mormonism from an intellectually rigorous and faithful manner. She has post-graduate training in anthropology and is a member of the board of Utah Valley Artist Guild. Her hobbies include carpentry and writing.

Book of Mormon as History coverBrant A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History, published by Greg Kofford Books on 6 August 2015.

Gardner writes, ‘Of the myriad possible ways to read the Book of Mormon I choose to read and tell it both in history and as history.’ He finds this enhances its value as a sacred work of scripture.

Dr. Gardner provides copious endnotes and an inclusive bibliography providing information both from his critics and those who have helped him reach his conclusions.

Along with scholars and general authorities such as Neal A. Maxwell, Gardner feels that naïve enthusiasts who espouse and promulgate various theories about its origin and settings (my words), including spurious parallels, have done more damage to accepting the authenticity of The Book of Mormon than have sceptical scholars such as Michael Coe.

Among the factors Gardner examines are climate, geography, linguistics, ancient myths and geophysics including volcanic eruptions, all of which contribute to Gardner’s finding that the Book of Mormon is a historical work. He incorporated much that is available in his six volume work Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon. In The Book of Mormon as History, Dr. Gardner adds additional material and ‘compacts the history so that a reader can get a feel for the real setting behind the Book of Mormon in a chronological framework.’ Continue reading

Mormon gnostics: a must-read talk from the FAIRMormon Conference

I wanted to bring to your attention a very important talk on “Mormon gnostics” at the FAIR conference last week. The talk was given by Cassandra Hedelius, one of those young, smart FAIRMormon volunteers who are helping the organization grow.

We should address the term “gnostic.” Hedelius is using this term the following way:

Mormon Gnostics emphasize personal spiritual effort and de-emphasize the role of the church in spiritual progression. This can lead them to conclude that they have learned a new scriptural interpretation, contrary to what church leaders have taught, or that they have discerned that church leaders and members have strayed, and God has called new leaders or revealed a new means of spiritual progress without prophets. Gnostics try to get at a supposed hidden, deeper truth that most members don’t find due to supposed faithlessness or lack of passion for spiritual things. Gnostics seek for what the scriptures “really” mean, or what prophets are “really” saying, or for teachings that were known a long time ago but aren’t part of modern mainstream belief, perhaps because they were unofficial and hence abandoned, or prophets revealed better understanding.

In real life, a Mormon gnostic might be that guy in High Priests or Elders Quorum who loves to quote some apostle from 1850 revealing some deep secret that is not emphasized today. Or it might be somebody like Denver Snuffer, a dangerous apostate who is leading people away from the Church. The former is relatively harmless; the latter is very harmful.

If you have been around the Mormon blog world long enough, you may have seen liberal Mormons claim that if you are “too conservative” you will end up parroting Denver Snuffer. The claim is of course ridiculous because a conservative Mormon is, by definition, somebody who follows the prophets, i.e., the current prophets speaking at general conference every six months.

However, the Mormons liberals may have a point that *some* Church critics start out from the perspective of trying to be “more Catholic than the Pope” or, in our case, “more Mormon than the prophet.” And this is a tendency that can take you down the wrong path.

Hedelius points out that a Mormon gnostic might start out innocently enough trying to study new things that support the Church. She notices the following pattern:

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Tired of the Age of Reason

Historians define the years when the Western World started to take seriously critical observations the Enlightenment or Age of Reason. From this time came advances in science and more democratic political systems, such as the United State of America. Despite those positives, it also brought the social upheaval of the French and Industrial Revolutions. The mixed impact continues up to present times including the exaggerated idea that only what can be observed by the senses can be true. For a society that elevates reason above the emotions of belief, it doesn’t take much to get an irrational reaction. Push back against the “received wisdom” and see the sparks fly. If there is any proposals that cannot be duplicated or more likely attested to by special authorities, those who believe are considered imbeciles or even mental cases. No one is more derided than a person of religious faith, although certain groups are hated more than others.

Having to accept the new orthodoxy of science and what is defended as facts can becoming suffocating. There needs to be a healthy amount of critical thinking, but the modern version has transformed into hubris and rigidity. Curiosity is now skepticism and neutral observation turned into arrogant triumphalism over supposed ignorance and superstition. Now that the iconoclastic promises of the Enlightenment have more or less been delivered, all that remains is an intellectual uniformity.

Modern thought is an insufferable bore. Skeptics cannot see beyond their own noses, always coming up with unimaginative explanations for things they don’t understand. If rational reason doesn’t work to their advantage then ad hominem “crazy” or “delusional”is used as a mock those who don’t give in to persuasion. Atheists are the quickest to use these tactics by calling any religious person a mental case. Despite popular opinion, religious people in the West are currently much more open minded than others. They have to be in order to survive. Continue reading

William Chamberlin’s Personalism Theory

Kofford Books has “Discourses on Mormon Theology” on Kindle, and so am beginning to read its papers.  So far, it is an excellent book on the philosophy, history and theology of Mormonism.

I wanted to share my thoughts on one article by James McLachlan, professor of philosophy and religion at Western Carolina University.

. I was very impressed with McLachlan’s article on LDS scholar William Chamberlin’s Personalism Theory (I’ll give some details below)  I’ve emailed McLachlan and a few other LDS philosophers, and we’ve talked a little about it. According to McLachlan, The concept of Personalism is getting a lot of renewed interest right now by those in the philosophy field outside LDS church.

Basically, it says that reality and truth exist for two reasons: God sees us and we see Him. It comes down to there is only one truth: Relationship/Family. The highest existence occurs only when God and man come together in a perfect bond of love, a Godhead, a family. God is greater when man embraces God, and man is greater when God embraces man.
It fits very well in LDS theology on the eternal family, on the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, John 17), and gives us our highest reason to follow Christ.  We do not obey commandments because we fear God’s wrath. We follow Him because we want to morally become One with Him in all things.  In this, we keep our individuality, but also become freely united with God.  Christ becomes the model for us to follow into this relationship.
It balances free will and agency of both man and God. If God forced us to follow Him, it would be a Master/Slave relationship. If we were to seek to become gods of our own accord, we would be involved in Satan and Cain’s insurrection.Neither form works to establish truth or reality, as both require force on the other.  Instead, God invites us to join Him in the highest relationship, and we choose for ourselves how deeply we will join into that relationship (Telestial, Terrestrial, Celestial).  Existence, truth and reality occur to the level of relationship we enter into. Though not stated in the article, this possibly suggests that sons of Perdition would then be in a non-existent state, refusing to enter into any relationship with God.
This concept of relationship also requires individuals to choose to freely enter into a loving relationship with those around her.  Each individual keeps her individuality, but freely surrenders the battle for individuality for the cause of the family and relationship.  McLachlan gives the example of Christ in Gethsemane, who asked for the cup to be removed from him, but “not my will, but thine, be done”.  This suggests that liberal and conservative Mormons can live together in Zion, if they freely choose to overlook the differences and focus on the common ties.  In doing so, they find a higher and greater existence together, while still retaining their own identities.  Perhaps it will be this understanding of doctrine that will lead Mormons into the true form of Zion and eternal bonds.
McLachlan gives a very detailed and excellent examination of the concept of Personalism, its history, and its relevance. The concept really opens up a new venue of study for me in regards to understanding Mormonism and our relationship to God and with one another.  It will have me looking for more papers on the concept.