Wednesday, December 24, 2008
So thats reason one I guess...the music...Not the good & new music, no, I'm talking about the annoying versions of the same old tunes I have heard since I was three years old. They were great when I was three, but yeah, 30 years later, please, just someone make it stop.
Next, I hate the expectations of Christmas. I hate that people expect that you just must get all excited about Christmas the day after thanksgiving and that if you don't then you are somehow anti-Jesus and deserve nothing but a huge lump of coal in your stocking. Is it really necessary to entertain the same level of enthusiasim for a holiday that I had when I was five? Why is it not OK to reserve my excitement for a few days before...you know, for the days when all the stress of the holiday (figuring out what to get people, shopping, wrapping) is over with and I can can actually enjoy it (giving, enjoying time with family, time off work, etc).
Which brings me to my next reason...Buying presents. I love getting that perfect present ready and put together for that perfect person and giving it to them in that perfectly magical Christmas moment...Well, as long as I have a really great idea that I am certain that person will like. But honestly, how often does that happen? Maybe one gift out of 10? Maybe one year out of three? So, for the rest of the people that are on your list you are scrambling...thinking of what you could possibly get this person that you really don't know very well or that person who already has everything, or this other person who you know will be getting a stellar gift from someone else and you want yours to be at least comparable to that one. So you end up heading to Wal-Mart at the last moment, rummaging through one picked over isle after another looking for a gift that will probably just be regifted anyway and end up with...*Drumroll please* The All-in-one fruitcake maker!!!! Now really, who wouldn't want that?
So, to all of you little Who's out there...please just head back to the suburbs (and quit taking up all the metered parking downtown! Me and my CNG car are supposed to have free metered parking, not you! Ok, now I'm kidding...well...sort of ;-) and have yourself a merry little Christmas...Just let me enjoy mine on my own terms. Curled up with a blanket, some hot chocolate, a cookie and a book listening to the Christmas bells echoing through the windows from the church on the corner.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Of star-made shadows round
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground
The late year lies down the north,
All is healed, all is health
High summer holds the earth,
Hearts all whole
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wandr’ing far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Well if you are wondering what has happened to me this last month, the above pretty much sums it up. Things are starting to mellow out though and there are even a couple things on the horizon that I am actually looking forward to in the coming months. So don't worry, I will come up with something interesting to write about very soon....well just as soon as I can remember what, exactly, I am interested in...
Monday, November 3, 2008
At any rate, I am glad that the election will (finally) be over tomorrow. Ever since the primaries I have been worried about how the presidential race will turn out. I am thrilled that Obama is ahead in the polls and am hoping beyond hope that the polls are right! He is exactly what this country needs after 8 years of Bush, someone who thinks with his head, reasons out the issues and determines the best solutions without giving into knee jerk reactions. His inexperience does not bother me...some of the best leaders in the business world are not the ones who know everything about the entire business, but rather the ones that know who to ask for help and to turn to for advice, can listen to problems and help coordinate solutions. I think Obama can do this for our country and that he will prove to be a powerful leader.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
2. Leaving your camera at home is not always a bad thing if it gives you an excuse to get that new camera you've been wanting for a long time. Check it out!
3. Georgia is a very romantic looking place. Lots of whitewashed bridges spanning immaculate ponds/lakes in front of large plantation-like houses.
4. Southern food is YUMMY!
5. Lodging in Disney World is way overpriced, but still worth it to be so close to all the resorts.
6. Don't wait to buy that perfect souvenier...Chances are there will be no convenient time to return when you finally decide you really do want it!
7. An extra pair of flip flops in the back pack may just make the difference between
walking the next day and being forced to tool around on a grandma Disney scooter. (Trust me, not cool.)
8. When visiting Disney World, the Deluxe Meal Plan is a MUST! Fine dining every night...Awesome!
9. Waiting in line is not very fun even at the happiest place on earth.
10. I never want to be an astronaut. 'Nuff said.
11. I still think it would be fun to dance/sing/whatever for Disney.
12. Space Mountain is not as cool as it once was, but Pirates of the Caribbean is better than ever!
13. "Off-season" and "Disney World" are oxymoron's. Less crowded is still crazy crowded.
14. The "fast-pass" is a good idea in theory but does not always work out like you hope.
15. Biking on the beach is fun, but a lot more work than it looks!
16. Beach sunsets are spectacular.
17. Jellyfish are scary.
18. Waffle House waffles are A-MAY-ZING!
19. When in high places, it can be nice to have friends in low places.
20. Not being able to access a computer for 8 days is a problem!
21. It's always nice to come home.
Monday, October 6, 2008
If you are like me and have left the LDS church, I think you will enjoy this podcast simply because it's refreshing to hear an active member of the LDS church recognize and validate the concerns of so many post/ex mormons. If you are an active LDS member, then this podcast may give you a better understanding of why so many people leave the church.
I thought that Mr. Dehlin did a pretty good job of covering many of the issues people have with the church but I found myself disagreeing with several of his summary statements at the end.
One of his main summarizing points was that LDS people struggling with their faith can still find a way to be Mormon on their own terms by not worrying about the stuff they disagree with or find offensive. However, this goes against some of the rather recent teachings of the LDS church. In the April 2003 Priesthood session, Gordon B. Hinkley said "Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing."
Mr. Dehlin counters by saying to forget about "true" and replace it with "good". He says that if the LDS church brings you joy then to not worry about all the discrepancies and just enjoy being part of the good. Unfortunately he does not address the possibility that the church does not always bring happiness and joy to everyone. It is hard for me to see the church's stance on Women's roles as good, or their racist history concerning blacks in the priesthood as good or even their current standing on Proposition 8 in California and their soliciting of funds to support this political issue as good. Certainly there are many parts of the LDS faith that are, indeed, very good, but for me they do not outweigh the many problems of the LDS Church that make it not only untrue, but also, not so good.
He also mentions that no church or organization is perfect and that if we based every relationship or affiliation on its "perfectness" that we wouldn't be part of anything. This wouldn't be so hard for me to accept if the LDS church did not claim to be "the true Church, the only true Church".
Further the LDS people are promised that "The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray" and that the prophets words should be considered scripture. A church that makes these kinds of promises and claims makes it difficult to accept the many flaws and problems with prophets like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith and the current stances of the LDS church and presidency.
Anyway, for all you Mormon's and ex/post mormons out there, I hope you will find this podcast at the very least interesting and hopefully useful. Dehlin's main points of loving those that have left the church and understanding and accepting their new beliefs promotes a Christ-like love that is sometimes hard to find for many post Mormons in their LDS communities.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Well, actually, I think I need to use the term "debate" rather loosely in this context. Honestly, I cannot imagine how Palin can successfully debate Biden when she has a hard time even putting together a coherent thought on the subject of the bailout...or was it healthcare? or was it job creation? or tax relief? or trade? Really, what in the hell was she talking about?
I absolutely love the idea of finally having a woman in the White House, but Sarah Palin is an embarrassment to all of those women that have forged the path ahead of her thus allowing her such an honor. Palin perpetuates the horrible stereotypes of women that the feminist movement has fought since the 1960's to overcome. In the few interviews she has had with the press she comes off as an attractive unthinking, unknowing, and wholly uninformed woman.
I can't help but wonder how a woman who cannot answer the simplest of questions, a question that any person I know could answer without even thinking, could possibly come to have power over our lives and the direction of nation?
If Ms. Palin cannot even articulate what she reads (presuming she does, in fact, at least occasionally read) how can she effectively serve the country as vice-president?
By McCain choosing her as his VP pick is he telling us that it does not matter how smart a woman is or what or how she thinks as long as the woman looks good by his side? We do not need a woman like this in the White House. She will do more harm than good for the independent thinking women of this nation.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
"My spirit is willing to do what is right; and my flesh, I hope, is strong enough to accomplish the will of Heaven, when once that will is distinctly known to me. At any rate, it shall be strong enough to search-inquire-to grope an outlet from this clowd of doubt, and find the open day of certainty." - Jane Eyre
So I just finished reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte for the second time. I love this book and enjoyed it nearly as much the second time through as I did the first. The above quote comes near the end of the book and was one of my favorites. It comes at a point in the story when John has told Jane that she needs to marry him and become a missionary at his side in order to do the will of God. Jane has a great desire to do the "right" thing in the sight of God but she is forced to question if what he is asking is the right path for her. Throughout the book, I was drawn to Jane's determination to find her own path, the right path for her a she searched out that "open day of certainty".
While I've been reading the book I've also been falling in love with the Jane Eyre soundtrack. I know it has not been a favorite of many but it has been fun to read the book and listen to the soundtrack at the same time. I have loved how so many of lyrics for the musical were pulled directly from the book. It also seems that so much of the music perfectly captures the feeling and emotion that passes between Jane and Rochester throughout the book; beautiful, soaring and haunting melodies.
By the end of the story, Jane has found her calling and purpose in life. She closes her story by saying
"I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest ... To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company... we are perfectly suited in character - perfect concord is the result."Perhaps this is why the story of Jane Eyre, first published in 1847, resonates so well with those of us who read it today. After countless trials and errors along the way, Jane ultimately searches out and discovers what is most important in her life, to love and to be loved.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
If I'm spending thousands of dollars on that "magical" vacation of a lifetime, then don't I deserve a pleasant booking experience? Oh sure, at first the website gives you that same magic filled feeling you had as a young child the first time you stood in front of Cinderella's Castle (which is conveniently helped by the fact that the castle is the first thing you see on the web page). The colors are bright and vibrant and the page slowly scrolls through all those magical moments you are sure to experience once you have booked your trip. And, if all this weren't enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, Mickey is there too to welcome you to this "happy" place.
As soon as you start to actually use the website tho, all of the illusion of magic and happiness begins to fade. If you make one tiny little mistake on a form an error is returned and ALL of your info is wiped out. Yup, you get to start over... start typing (again) but proceed with caution. Don't accidentally hit the "Enter" button before you are through or who knows where you will end up. But rest assured it will mean you will be starting over from the beginning and retyping everything again. Hopefully you are not in a hurry since all this typing and retyping is going to take some time, not to mention that even a successful form submission (if you somehow manage, by some miracle, to not unintentionally piss off the magical website fairies in the process) is painfully slow.
If you manage to actually complete the process and book your vacation on the Disney website then you are a true winner! (Akin to making it through a whole day at one of their theme parks without getting that signature red cherry snow cone stain down the front of your very white shirt). I am happy to report, that after a few tries, I WON! Our Disney vacation is now booked. Hooray!
And lucky for me, I got to have that fabulous Disney website experience again today as I shopped for a Disney honeymoon registry gift for a wedding shower of one of my friends. After retyping everything 2-3 times I was finally successful, only to find out that the "card" I was supposed to be able to print out with my personal greeting, was somehow missing MY PERSONAL GREETING!! So I ended up with "Congratulations!" + BIG BLANK SPACE + Mickey and his magic Cinderella castle at the bottom. Terrific. It should be noted that at this point any and all warm fuzzy feelings had now, somehow, magically disappeared.
Hopefully, by the time we (and my friend) actually go on our dream vacation, the magic Disney fairies will show mercy on us and make sure that all our dreams really do come true. After all, after going through all the hassle of booking the trip, don't we deserve at least that?
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Women’s Roles – This has always been a sticking point for me. From the time I first entered the Young Women’s program I was annoyed with the things we did for activities and were told were important. We spent many activity days making cookies or doing crafts or some other kind of homemaking activity. I was never really interested in those things. I wanted to be doing the things the boys were doing in Scouts. Things like hiking, camping, sleeping in snow caves, etc. It seemed that the Scouts got to attend several camp outs a year and the young women were limited to one camping trip that usually involved irritating activities like decorating your tent or your camp t-shirt. The reasoning given for the Scouts seemingly endless activities was that they were not really affiliated with the church and were a separate entity that the church simply endorsed. However, callings were (and continue to be) given by the LDS Bishops to leadership positions within the church as well as fund raisers sponsored by the church etc.
So that’s where I came from. As I grew up I found myself disagreeing more and more with the LDS church’s stance on women’s roles. I put myself through college, got a degree in Computer Science, started a career and excelled in the business world. I got married and continued to work. Neither one of us were ready for children and so we have put that off as well. I do not work because we need the money and can not figure out another way to get by. I work because I enjoy it, because I feel I have something special I can give to the world and because I need to feel a certain amount of independence. My feelings on what a women could (and possibly should) be constantly conflicted with what I was learning every week at Church. I did not agree with statements like the following from the “Proclamation to the World”.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.I felt (and still do) that it is the Mother and Father's combined responsibility to care for the family and to provide for the household. Each couple should be left to determine the best way to divide those responsibilities between each other. Members of the church may counter that current prophets have encouraged just this, however, lessons are still being taught in church every week as doctrine, such as the following from Spencer W. Kimball as taught in the current manual for the Marriage and Family Relations Course.
Some of them are quite willing to help earn that lavish living by continuing employment after marriage. They consequently leave the home, where their duty lies, to pursue professional or business pursuits, thus establishing an economy that becomes stabilized so that it becomes very difficult to yield toward the normal family life. Through both spouses’ working, competition rather than cooperation enters the family. Two weary workers return home with taut nerves, individual pride, increased independence, and then misunderstandings arise. Little frictions pyramid into monumental ones.I was absolutely blown away by this. So now, not only was I not to work when we had children, I shouldn’t work after marriage either? I just could not agree that a woman's duty lies in the home. Further, if the argument is made that this is not the the official position of the church, then WHY is it still included in the current lesson materials?!
Also, as I consider the possibility of one day raising children, I have to ask myself if I want my girls to be taught the same things I had learned as a young woman regarding women's roles. The answer is a very simple, "No".
Stance on Homosexuality - I do not believe that marriage can or should only be between one man and one woman. I believe that everyone should have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as I do as a heterosexual. I am constantly frustrated by the church saying on one hand that they do not get involved in politics only to contradict themselves by encouraging members to vote for or against certain laws that will limit the basic rights of the homosexual community. If I am following Jesus’s example to “Love one another” than how could I possibly say that a homosexual person should not find love and happiness in their own lives in whatever way they can? Their choices do not hurt me, or my family or the LDS church. About a year ago we had dinner with a couple in our neighborhood and the topic of discussion turned to this. They asked how I could reconcile my membership in the church with my beliefs on marriage and homosexuality. The only answer I could give them is that I could not.
The Temple - Okay, I have to be careful on this one, I really don’t want to offend any faithful Mormons out there by addressing this topic, but since it is one of the reasons I left the church, I feel I must address it. For me, the Temple experience felt like signing my life away before I was allowed to read the fine print. No one will really tell you what ordinances you will be making in the Temple before you go, and it is considered wrong to attempt to research it outside of official church sources. A few minutes into the ceremony they ask if anyone would like to leave to raise your hand and they will escort you out. However, at this point you still have no idea what you are getting yourself into so how can you possibly know to raise your hand?
My first experience in the Temple was only a couple weeks before my pending Temple marriage. The invitations were sent and this was one of the last steps I needed to take before the big day. I was nervous about it and didn’t really feel ready, but I had to go in order to be married in the Temple and I HAD to be married in the Temple. That is just how it is done. When I came home after that experience I just cried. I was so frustrated. I hated wearing the garments and I felt completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. I didn’t feel any of the feelings I was supposed to feel, like peace or happiness or anything. I just felt bleh. Needless to say, I can count on my hands how many times I went back. Now that I have been out of the church for a while and have had time to research the Temple ceremony, I have found other problems with it which I will not go into. If you would like to know more, simply google "LDS Temple Ceremony" to research some of the issues on your own.
No Conviction of Joseph Smith - I never had a strong testimony of Joseph Smith or felt convinced that he had really seen what he claimed or that he had really translated the Book of Mormon. I did try and gain my own testimony of this. I had learned my entire life that if I just kept doing all the "right things" and believing and praying that I would eventually gain that testimony that everyone else seemed to have. In temple interviews I would say, "yes I believe that" because I did believe it. But I never felt I had that strong feeling about Joseph Smith that I have heard so many others express in their testimonies, but I wanted it to be true and I really tried to believe that it was. I never felt I could say "I Know" this is true about anything in the LDS church. However, when I left the church I told those closest to me that it really didn’t matter to me if Joseph Smith did those things or not, because I felt that the LDS church of today was not true. At the very least, not true for me.
Open Discussion Not Tolerated - This drives me CRAZY! Issues would come up that I wanted to talk to my friends or family about and everyone would treat me as if I was evil for wanting to know or questioning a certain position of the church. A church that claims it is the only true church should be able to stand up to the most careful scrutiny. But as soon as you ask questions or disagree with something stated as truth by the :LDS Prophets, you are labeled “evil”. A fine example of this comes from a Mormon Times article I recently read.
Evil speaking of the Lord's anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true.The Only True Church – I have never been able to reconcile that the LDS church believes it is the only true church on this Earth. It always made more sense to me that there are multiple ways to God and that everyone needs to find their own way to be spiritually connected, whether that be through Jesus, Allah, Buddha or ??? I was always frustrated by the focus of “Every Member a Missionary” when I felt that if my neighbor was not Mormon and was happy, then who was I to interfere? If they were happy with their current path, why should I try and convert them to Mormonism?
Book of Abraham - Several parts of the original Book of Abraham have been found and translated by present day Egyptologists. Their translation does not match Joseph Smith’s. Being a scientifically minded person, this is a problem for me. If he didn’t correctly translate the Book of Abraham then how can I believe he actually translated the Book of Mormon? For more information on this, Wikipedia provides a decent look at both sides of this issue (or just google, "Book of Abraham" for other sources).
African Americans and the Priesthood - This never made sense to me. Why would African Americans not be able to have the priesthood in the church and then in 1978, God suddenly changes his mind about the matter and decides it is OK after all? Especially for something that very obviously should have been OK throughout the church's history, a church that preaches "love thy neighbor" and encourages its members to follow Christ's example. It always seemed to me that the church's stance prior to 1978 was just simply racist motivated by the fears and prejudices of the times. I could not reconcile that it had anything to do with God or revelation. The United States had changed and the LDS church had to change too or risk losing its members and the respect of the community. However, the prophets and apostles continue to stick by the "revelation" story when they really should just come out and apologize for making the same mistakes so many others made at the same time. Mistakes made by men, not by God.
Honest With Myself - When it came right down to it, I had to be honest with myself. There was just too much of the LDS doctrine, history and scripture that I did not agree with. I could no longer align myself with this organization and feel good about it. I had to leave in order to maintain my personal integrity.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Tonight, I attended rehearsal feeling a bit weighed down in thought and spirit. However, as we sang this song, I suddenly had an understanding of what it was I was singing about and deeply related to the message therein. I didn't have any real knowledge of what the translation was (I actually had to ask a neighbor to confirm my feelings) but I felt the meaning so keenly just through the music and the feelings it stirred inside of me.
Below is the French text of the song followed by the English translation. I am always amazed at the ability music has to teach and help us to understand even if we cannot possibly understand the exact meaning. Through this beautiful piece of music, my soul was comforted and some peace restored on this otherwise stormy evening. Thank you, Gabriel Faure.
Verbe,égal au Très-Haut, notre unique espèrance,
Jour éternel de la terre et des cieux;
De la paisible nuit nous rompons le silence,
Divin Sauveur, jette sur nous les yeux!
Répands sur nous le feu de ta grâce puissante,
Que tout l’enfer fuie au son de ta voix;
Dissipe le sommeil d’une âme languissante,
Qui la conduit à l’oubli de tes lois!
O Christ soit favorable à ce peuple fidèle
Pour te bénir maintenant rassemblé.
Reçois les chants qu’il offre à ta gloire immortelle,
Et de tes dons qu’il retourne comblé!
Word, equal to the Almighty, our only hope,
Eternal light of the earth and the Heavens;
We break the peaceful night’s silence,
Divine Saviour, cast your eyes upon us!
Spread the fire of your mighty grace upon us
May the entire hell flee at the sound of your voice;
Disperse from any slothful soul the drowsiness
Inducing it to forget your laws!
Oh Christ, look with favour upon this faithful people
Which has now gathered to bless you.
Receive its singing, offered to your immortal glory,
And may it leave with the gifts you have bestowed upon it!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Another highlight of the week was the speech Bill Clinton gave last night. My favorite line was " People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."
However, even though I am a huge Obama fan (can you tell?) I have committed to myself to also listen to McCain's speech next week. It may be painful but I think its important to listen to both sides. I'm afraid my review of that speech may not be so glowing, but we shall see, maybe he will surprise me.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
You may have guessed that I am speaking from experience on this one. I was afraid I had lost my card and early this week my fears were confirmed. $150 in charges appeared on my credit card but that was only a small fraction of the damage that had been done. Whoever decided to go on a shopping spree with my credit card managed to rake up over $850 in charges in just three days! So now after several phone calls with my credit union, a couple to the local police department, dealing with a rather unhappy husband, a personal visit to the credit union and many, many signatures later, I am nearly done cleaning up the mess. And although everyone has been very helpful and assured me that we will not be responsible for the fraudulent charges, it's still a little scary to think someone went around posing as me for three days...forging my signature and pretty much wrecking havoc on my finances. Officer Friendly gave the impression they would actually try to track down the thieves but I know my little financial problem is probably not the highest priority on their "bad guys to track down" list. Oh well, I can still dream there might be a little justice in the end, right?
Friday, August 15, 2008
I remember the first time I heard someone politically engage the issue of gay marriage from the pulpit in church. It caught my attention and woke me up because it wasn’t the typical grace vs. works, or love thy neighbor kind of rhetoric that I was used to napping through. I won’t name names (because I couldn’t if I wanted to), but he was sort of a high-up bigwig, a 70 if you know what I mean. The short-of-the-long was that he asked us to go home and write our senators and state representatives to support the Federal Marriage Amendment of 2006, which in a sweeping motion would forever etch the status of marriage in the law books as a [sacred] union between one man and one woman. He read an official letter that a lot of you probably heard as well, but this gentleman went off the cuff with a slippery-slope argument about how we don’t want America to become like Canada, where school children are required to learn about gay couples in Kindergarten using scandalous books such as One Dad Two Dads, Brown Dad Blue Dads (which is listed on Amazon, used, with a going price of $253.94 as a result of the ordeal in Canada surrounding it). He really stirred the congregation up; there was trouble in River City on that day. I could almost hear the mantra of “trouble… trouble… trouble…” as the postlude was played and the folks shuffled out the chapel doors.
I remember our apartment managers posted the address of our Senators on the cork-board by the elevator in our building as a friendly reminder for all of us to do our homework and put our letters in the mail. They really drew a line in the sand, one which I was compelled to cross and stand on the unpopular side. Honestly, I felt pretty bothered by the whole thing, partially because I had a lot of friends, family and coworkers who are… well… gay! I did write my senator (if only for my sake, because I’m sure it fell on deaf ears) and I argued that ratifying a lock-out amendment on marriage wouldn’t make gay people or gay couples disappear. You can’t wear blinders, stick your fingers in your ears and go “La la la!” forever to ignore them or pretend that they don’t exist- or worse- that they shouldn’t exist. I argued on empirical grounds that most of them are functional, contributing, and respectable members of society, and that I believe they are entitled to some or all of the civil benefits, protection and recognition that other marriages and families enjoy.
There are aspects of a civil partnership that don’t necessarily have anything to do with God, religion, right or wrong, or sex, but have everything to do with relationship and commitment as it is legally recognized by the government. Consider this: the Oregon Family Fairness Act accords civil partnerships the same status as marriage concerning their ability to file jointly on insurance forms, their hospital visitation rights, and their rights concerning a deceased partner, among other things. If two consenting adults have a serious close relationship of any sort, and wish to share their entire lives, I see granting them a legal status to honor that relationship as a pragmatic courtesy. One may argue that they merely attain a second-class status in a civil partnership, which is exactly why California decided to go all the way with gay marriage, but my point is that it is at least a progressive improvement from the past. It is like going from slavery to segregation in the eyes of some, not an ideal state, but a step up from the status quo nonetheless.
Personally, sexual orientation has always been a non-issue for me, at least since I have actually talked with friends who are gay about how they feel about it and observed their relationships. I’m ok, and they’re ok. Their liberty and future is at stake in this matter, not mine. As long as the State where I reside is willing to recognize my marriage as legitimate, I don’t really have a problem with same gender marriage. I don’t want my marriage to be gay, so I support “the family” in that aspect, and I’m 99.9% positive that issue is settled since I feel that way and I made that choice to begin with, but I wouldn’t infringe my personal choice or preference on anyone else who isn't infringing on another's liberty. I can’t vouch for the future or sanctity of the nuclear family (which is relatively new), but I hope that people will continue to form familial bonds and children will be reared with loving care however we choose to form our family groups. I have faith that heterosexuals would continue to marry, thrive, and- god willing- coexist in a future world where same-sex couples are free to do the same. We should all hope so, because it is the only hope for those who would seek to quash the prospective rights and liberties of the gay community. Turnabout is fair play; if the majority were to vote my rights out of circulation, I could only pray that their vote would be overturned on constitutional grounds by conscientious judges committed to upholding liberty by not discriminating by gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other currently protected status.
Friday, August 8, 2008
It did make me think about one thing, though. It was eye opening to read about how many people in history have claimed to have seen or talked with God and how they all claim He told them to do something or be something different from all the others. Growing up in the LDS church, I kind of thought, well Joseph Smith's vision and revelations must be true because I couldn't believe that such a fantastic story could be made up. However, in Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer shows just how many people in history have claimed similar occurrances and to be seers/revelators/prophets of some kind. They cannot all be correct because they have claimed/preached vastly different things. Why would they all be wrong but Joseph Smith is right? It just doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps all these people truely believed that they had seen a vision and/or talked with God but how can you possibly sort out if any of them really did?
Monday, August 4, 2008
From what I could gather from the songs, ceremonies, etc. it seems that this church really is all about peace, love and understanding. You can believe in nothing or in everything. Everyone is welcome and loved and it seems the church really just provides a gathering place for like minded individuals. A place where everyone is accepted. It was nice. I think this church may be about as close as I am ready to get to religion right now. They had a "Religous Transition" group that sounded interesting and meets after the services on Sunday. I may check that out on another day.
From what I could gather, the church service is a little different in the summer months since the pastor takes a sabbatical of sorts during this time. Instead of a message by the pastor the church invites guest speakers to come in and give the sermons/message.
Sunday, the guest speaker was Takashi Hiraoka who had been a mayor of Hiroshima, Japan after the United States dropped the nuclear bomb on the city on August 6th, 1995. On that day everything within a 4-5 mile radius was quite literally disintegrated. The article from the link says that "official Japanese figures at the time put the death toll at 118,661 civilians. But later estimates suggest the final toll was about 140,000, of Hiroshima's 350,000 population, including military personnel and those who died later from radiation."
Here is a small section from the Mayor's message:
A reflection on world peace poses the following question: Is world security derived from nuclear weapons or from the abolition of nuclear weapons? Many world leaders hold that the existence of nuclear weapons deters their use and therefore justifies the possession of such weapons. This nuclear deterrence policy, however, fuels nuclear proliferation and, I believe, makes the world less secure. The elimination of nuclear weapons is the only measure that will absolutely prevent their use.Following the presentation we were able to look at many posters that gave more information and showed pictures of the total devastation of the city after the bomb was dropped. As I contemplated the horror that these people experienced on that dark day in history I couldn't help but get teary eyed. Hopefully the remembering will help us to make sure this never happens again. Mr. Hiraoka encouraged us and all nations to put humanity above money, politics and personal gain as we strive for a more peaceful, more loving and more understanding world.
Note: If you would like to participate in a commemoration of this event, a formal program followed by a candlelight vigil will be held at the Salt Lake City library in the Main Auditorium on Wednesday, August 6th, from 7:30 - 9:00 pm.
Friday, August 1, 2008
The book sat for day or so on my kitchen counter, while I considered what I could possibly write to him. I thought that something to the effect of "Always follow your heart. Love, Me" might be appropriate...but I wasn't sure what kind of reception that would get. Anyway, as I thought about what I might say, I flipped through the book which had already been filled out by those in my family. The interesting thing to me was that nearly all the adults said "I know this church is true" or "I know you are joining the true church". All this "knowing" left me wondering how everyone around me could "know" one thing and I could feel something exactly opposite.
The LDS church teaches that there is one true church and that everyone should be a member. You are supposed to get this knowledge through the Holy Ghost which is usually a feeling or "burning in the bosom" as it is often referred to. Apparently everyone in my entire family has had this experience. However, I have never had any kinds of strong feelings in regards to the truthfulness of the LDS church specifically. When I "dug right down to the bottom of my soul" (sorry, musical theater lyrics, I can't help it!) I found the exact opposite. My soul, my spirit and all the feelings that go along with that, told me that the church is not the place for me. And if it isn't right for me, how can it be the one true church for everyone?
It's a tricky thing to sort out...especially when your family firmly believes the LDS curch is the one and only "true church" on the earth today. By them saying saying "I know the church is true" they are also saying that they know I am wrong for choosing to not be a part of it.
Growing up in the LDS church, once I was old enough to understand what it meant to bear my testimony in church, I pretty much stopped doing it. Once I realized that I couldn't say "I know this church is true" and be honest about it, there was no point. Sometimes I would get up the courage to simply say, "I believe it is true", because for most of my life, I did believe it. I believed it was true and that someday, if I just kept doing everything right, I would gain that knowledge that everyone else seemed to already have. For years, I never allowed the thought to cross my mind that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't true. Or even that it wasn't true for me. When things didn't make sense I put them on that back shelf of my mind with the firm belief that some day I would understand them. Eventually that shelf became crowded and the other shelf, the "I know" shelf, stood barren and empty. The square teachings of the LDS church just never could fit into the rounded view I have of the world and of what is good and right. So, at this point I had to ask myself, "Do I keep pretending to be part of something when so much of what I am learning at church seems wrong to me, or, do I leave the LDS church and experience life on my own terms?"
Obviously, you know what my final choice was. I don't know what is true. I'm not sure anyone can really know what is true when it comes to spiritual things. All we can do in life is follow our own hearts/spirits/souls and, using those feelings as a guide, choose the path that feels right and good to us. If it's true that God gave me my life, my mind and my soul, then how could he possibly fault me for using those gifts to seek what is right for me?
So, today, I am standing to say that I don't know. I don't know and that is okay. But I will use what God has given me to try and make the world a better place and to live the best life I can while still being true to myself. I will continue to seek truth everywhere and to love everyone in the best way I know how. Hopefully, by doing this, I can still be a positive example to my cute 8 year old nephew (and all my nieces and nephews) as he grows up and continues to make his own choices.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Fast forward to today. The story of the attack on the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church has been in the news all weekend. My friends and acquaintances have been saddened by the intolerance shown by this brutal attack. Discussions on websites I visit opened into further discussion of what Unitarian Universalist's believe. I was surprised to find that my views on religion are very closely aligned with Universalism's views. So, I quickly googled for the nearest church and found a congregation that I think I will try out on Sunday. I don't necessarily think I need to go to church every week to be spiritual, but I think it would be nice to be around people once a week where I would kind of "fit in" belief-wise. As it is now, I feel like the black sheep of the neighborhood, cruising past the church and all the LDS members in my tank top and shorts to go shopping on Sunday.
Here are some of the basic tenants of the church. Cool stuff.
You are good. From our Unitarian ancestors we have inherited a belief that healthy minds, hearts, reason, and intuition can be trusted. We encourage people to think and come to their own conclusions about religion, science, politics, and all areas of life. There are no experts that know what you should believe. You are the expert of your own heart and our job is to encourage you to keep learning, growing, and searching for what you can believe.
You are loved. From our Universalist ancestors we have learned that there is a Love that will not let us go. Some of us call this God, others bring names from diverse traditions, and still others are content to leave this mystery unnamed. However we encounter it, we aspire to live in ways that help grow compassion, equity, and justice in our own lives and the communities around us. We welcome all people of goodwill because we deeply believe that every person is valuable and worthy of love.
You can make a difference. For centuries, Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists have acted on their beliefs. We know that people are powerful and that we can change the world, even if it’s just a little at a time. We also celebrate that we do not have to do it alone! We support and help each other as we learn to “walk our talk” and let our values show in the way we live our lives. Unitarian Universalism is a faith we live, not just something we believe.
You are not alone. There are many people in this world looking to deepen their experience of life and live in spiritually healthy ways. We seek to support and encourage one another as we explore our own faith journeys. There is no reason to "go it alone" in life and, in fact, many reasons to gather companions around to share both the joys and the sorrows that life brings.
So Sunday, I will try something new. I will let you know how it goes!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
In all seriousness though, this is one of the things that as I was growing up was always taboo. Before I was born, my Mom had a scary experience involving my oldest brother and Sunday swimming. As I understand it, they were boating on a Sunday and my brother wanted to try water skiing (or something to that effect). My Mom had a bad feeling about it (call it mother's intuition, the Spirit or whichever label you would like) but finally relented and let him do it anyway. Something bad happened and my brother nearly drowned, saved only by my Mom's watchful eye. My Mom felt that her feeling that day was a testament to the fact that we, as a family, should not swim on Sundays. She would always tell us "The Devil's in the water on Sundays" and I never questioned it. Being prone to worry as a kid, I accepted this statement as absolute truth and was always afraid that if I even stepped foot into a swimming pool on Sunday, the Devil would certainly drag me under and it would be all over for me. If we ever did end up in the water on Sunday, I can assure you that her words were never far from my mind and I was always extra cautious. Looking at the situation now, I'm sure the entire experience with my brother could have just as easily occurred on a Tuesday or a Friday or any other day. I do not question the validity of my Mom's experience. I hear of mothers having this same kind of intuition regarding their children's safety all the time, both LDS and otherwise. But at this point in my life, I am forced to question her conclusion.
As a member of the LDS church there were so many things I did out of fear of what would happen if I didn't. I went to church, paid my tithing, attended the temple, wore the temple garment (even though I never felt comfortable in them and always felt unattractive wearing them) and didn't swim (or do much of anything else) on Sundays.
Going swimming today was proof once again that the consequences I feared by not doing those things were and are completely unfounded. By swimming today I was able to get exercise and feel better about myself. By not paying my tithing I have been able to support other causes that I truly feel passionate about and be happy that I can make a difference in someone else's life. By taking off the temple garment I am able to feel attractive and sexy again and actually be comfortable in the summer! By taking back my Sundays I have been able to read more, write more and get a few more things done so that I can be more relaxed going into the week.
As each fear slowly disappears, I find myself enjoying life more as I do the things that are important to me. I am continually surprised, though, at how often one of these kinds of thoughts will come to mind. The, "If I do this, then what bad thing will happen to me?" thought. I suppose it will take awhile to deprogram 30 years of LDS upbringing. In the meantime, I am enjoying the process of discovering who I really am and what I truly value.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
“Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted ‘seers’ in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.” (JS—H 1:34–35.)Then a few paragraphs later he relates the following account:
“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)By putting this paragraph after the previous one, it makes it sound that the Urim and Thummin stones are the same ones that he put into the hat.
But I have found the following from an 1885 interview, where Zenas H. Gurley, then the editor of the RLDS Saints’ Herald, asked Whitmer if Joseph had used his "Peep stone" to do the translation in which his response was:
"... he used a stone called a "Seers stone," the "Interpreters" having been taken away from him because of transgression. The "Interpreters" were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms [manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a "Seers stone" which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English."Here Whitmer rather clearly states that the Urim and Thummin stones and the seer stones were really seperate stones used at different times. (ie. the Urim and Thummin stones for the 116 lost pages and the seer stones for the rest of the translation)
In searching LDS.org I was unable to find any distinction between the seer stones that Joseph had since he was a young teenager (used for treasure hunting) and the Urim and Thummin he claimed to have been given with the Book of Mormon.
I'm curious if there are any other places where it is documented that the Urim and Thummin (as they were called later) were taken away from Joseph after he lost the 116 pages and if the LDS church believes/knows/teaches this. I have read that Joseph himself claimed that the Urim and Thummin stones were taken away but other than Whitmer's interview I have not been able to find the supporting documentation I've been looking for.
If the church does profess that the Urim and Thummin was taken away and the seer stones were used for the rest of the translation, they have rather carefully hidden that fact in the scriptures, talks, etc. so that they all sound like the same thing. They use the terms interchangeably to, perhaps, purposely mislead the members into believing a more sanitized/sanctioned version of the translation process.
UPDATE 07/17/2008: Bruce R. McConkie presented the following information on pg 818 of "Mormon Doctrine". It doesn't address the issue of whether or not the Urim and Thummim were taken after the 116 pages but it does confirm the existence of both the Urim and Thummim and Joseph Smith's separate seer stone.
Joseph Smith received the same Urim and Thummim had by the Brother of Jared for it was the one expressly provided for the translation of the Jaredite and Nephite records. (D. & C. 10:1; 17:1; Ether 3:22-28.) It was separate and distinct from the one had by Abraham and the one had by the priests in Israel. The Prophet also had a seer stone which was separate and distinct from the Urim and Thummim, and which (speaking loosely) has been called by some a Urim and Thummim. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 222-226.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith, with reference to the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim, has written: "We have been taught since the days of the Prophet that the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel. We have no record of the Prophet having the Urim and Thummim after the organization of the Church. Statements of translations by the Urim and Thummim after that date are evidently errors. The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is now in the possession of the Church." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 225.)
This outpouring of information in the media came just as I was finishing up the book "Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Wall. The book tells of Elissa's harrowing experiences in the FLDS church and her forced marriage to her adult husband at the young age of 14. She had been raised to believe that her eternal salvation was dependent on getting married. She was expected to obey the prophet and marry the man that was chosen for her even though she had deep concerns regarding her pending marriage. Warren Jeffs (who spoke for his father, the prophet, at the time) told her that her marriage was a "revelation from God" and that by rejecting it, she was disobeying the prophet and God. Even her own Mother told her "This must be the will of God and the prophet." and to "just be strong. The Lord knows what he's doing".
I couldn't help but connect her story with another story * I have read about recently. Helen Mar Kimball was married to Joseph Smith in 1843 when she also, was only 14 years old. She wrote that her father
"asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph...[and] left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours...I was sceptical-one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions."
The next morning Joseph visited the Kimball home. "[He explained] the principle of Celestial marrage...After which he said to me, ‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred. This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward."
After the marriage she wrote that "like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.”
Similar to Elissa, Helen was told that the marriage would ensure her salvation and exhaltation in the next life even though she felt too young and unsure whether it was the right thing for her to do. She looked to the one person that was closest to her, her father, and trusting his judgement, married Joseph.
These stories seem so similiar to me that I can't help but wonder if the Mormon church of the 1840's was really so different from the FLDS church today? Perhaps there is more in common between the two than either church would like to admit?
*To see Helen's complete story, click here.