Timeline of Life

It’s been a week of contemplation for me. You see two friends died this week, one young, one older, both from cancer, a thousand miles apart.  It was also the fourth anniversary of the death of a best friend. I have been thinking and pondering my life as I’ve thought about all of their lives.

I had this mental picture of life as a ongoing timeline.  We hop on when we are born, and others join us and leave as relationships wax and wane, and eventually you jump off the timeline when you pass away.   For my younger friend, we spent our time on the line in high school.  None of us know what life will bring or how we leave — of course she didn’t know that cancer would take her, when we were singing in choir and worrying about the problems of youth.  We don’t know that when we join the timeline of life.  That is the greatness of mortality though — we have people, opportunity, good, bad, all of it.  Isn’t life wonderful?

My thoughts also have turned to how I spend my time, and the things I worry about.  I see the madness we’re continually descending into as a society and I am tired of it.  It doesn’t matter what goes on in the news, or who is offended about what.  What matters is that we’re teaching our children the gospel, teaching them to keep the commandments, and preparing them to enter the temple.  Everything else will either work out, or not matter.  The night before I’d spent several hours at a City Council meeting listening to people quibbling over stupid, trivial things.  I didn’t want to be there, but I had to make a statement.  When I was done, I sat down and decided, I was going to remove myself from this local political issue.  I just can’t waste my time on stupid things that have no bearing on eternity.  I want to live my life better, and work on those things that matter most.

“And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:  But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” Acts 5: 38-39.

It was fitting that last night in our family Book of Mormon study we read Alma 32: 21, “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

I asked my kids what do we hope for, what do we have faith in?  My 2 year old just shouted out, “Dee-zus! (Jesus!)”  Yes, we do.  We hope for Jesus and the resurrection he made possible for us, and all of the other promised blessing we have access to as we live the gospel, keep the commandments, and really deeply let our covenants surround us and protect us and remake us into what God wants us to be.

This is what I know, I hope for, and have faith in the resurrection, for my friends, and my self.  The Plan of Salvation is real, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us hope in these things and helps us to make the right changes so that we work out to be with God.

Suzie, do you copy?

Friends don’t lie, except when they do…

The world of Hawkins, Indiana, gained its first overt Mormon character on July 4th. Suzie is perfect and prettier than Phoebe Cates.

Or so reports Dustin.

Is she the classic “Canadian girlfriend,” an imaginary person a bachelor speaks of to friends to fend off pity? Or is the adorably cute Dustin actually in love with a Mormon girl from Utah?

I spent 1984-1985 in Italy as a missionary, so it’s been delightful to see a culture I didn’t participate in through the incredible lens of the Duffer brothers.

Like many others, we binge-watched Season 3 this weekend. We laughed, we cried.

If you don’t yet know whether or not Suzie is real, feel free to find out. If you don’t know what Stranger Things is, you might have the delight of experiencing all this for the first time.

One could dismiss Stranger Things as fiction or “horror” or 1980s kitsch. But I submit it tells a story that resonates with deep truths.

So, Suzie, do you copy?

A Perfect Life

Actual track of a plane flight versus the plan

When we contemplate our lives, we often feel as though we are failing to hold to the plan. We’re early, we’re late, we’re not where we expected to be.

This dissonance between where we think we should be and where we are can cause pain.

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Proposing another way to understand catalysts to faith disaffection: Attachment injury

Jacob Z. Hess

This is the first of a seven-part series, “Recruiting Alma the Younger

There continues to be lots of discussion about disaffiliation and disaffection from faith communities these days – most often, involving a language of unexpected “faith crisis” hitting, which can subsequently trigger what many experience as an inevitable, irrevocable “transition process” away from religious practice.

While the language of “crisis” may be a useful framework at times, it also has its limitations.[1] So, I’d like to propose today another way to make sense of some of the moments that seem often to act as early catalysts to a process of disaffection.   

For the last decade, marriage and family therapists have been learning to better help couples navigate intense moments that can prompt an unraveling of otherwise secure, loving relationships – moments where marital attachment has essentially become “injured.”  Formally, “attachment injury” has been defined by Dr. Sue Johnson and colleagues as occurring “when one partner violates the expectation that the other will offer comfort and caring in times of danger or distress” and is “characterized by an abandonment or by a betrayal of trust during a critical moment of need.”

This “injurious incident” subsequently “defines the relationship as insecure and maintains relationship distress because it is continually used as a standard for the dependability of the offending partner.” Whatever happened in the past thus “becomes a clinically recurring theme and creates an impasse that blocks relationship repair in couples therapy” (italics my own).

While acknowledging some limitations of this other proposed metaphor, I’d like to suggest the concept of “attachment injury” as having some unique applicability and relevance to the variety of incidents that often precipitate what is most often characterized as a “crisis of faith.”  My proposal below applies across faith communities generally, since clearly disaffiliation is a broad phenomenon.  But I take as my primary focus examples from my own faith community: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In particular, I raise this as another way to help make sense of times or specific moments when our understandably high expectations of life in our respective faith communities are not only not met, but in different ways (and for different reasons) painfully disappointed.

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