Monday, March 30, 2009

LDS bishop tackles truth, Evangelical Christianity

I've been wanting to spotlight this post at Adventures in Mormonism: "LDS bishop tackles truth, Evangelical Christianity". It's a spoof which nicely points out the irony in a recent news article entitled Pastor Tackles Truth, New Age Spirituality, Mormonism.

After reading the actual article I find myself vacillating between what I would say and how I would respond to this particular pastor.

There are some natural disagreements, and I'm fine with disagreeing. For example, Pastor Phillips says that "Historic Christianity ... believe[s] that we have only one source for ultimate eternal truth and that is the holy Bible."

I admit that as much as I love the Bible, it's not my ultimate eternal source of truth. For me, the ultimate eternal source of truth rests with God himself.

On other points, Pastor Phillips is either completely ignorant of LDS Christianity or he is purposefully spreading untruths when he says that Mormonism denies the deity of Christ and "completely negates the biblical view of salvation through Christ alone". Nothing could be further from the truth. Obviously he has not done his homework. Or perhaps he does not care to truly understand.

Look, it's fine to disagree, but let's at least disagree about the right stuff! Unfortunately he gets it wrong. And that's unfortunate for himself, for the ordinary lay person in his pews, anyone reading the article, and lastly for Latter-day Saints who are blatantly being misrepresented.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thy Mercy

Music has been on my mind since my last post on the Tabernacle Choir and also since I sang in Church last Sunday. Despite some great EFY music, Latter-day Saints aren't really known for their contemporary Christian music. I'm not a fan of "Christian music" when I get the sense that it's more about the performance rather than Christ. Having said that, I'd like to spotlight one of my favorite contemporary "Christian" songs--Thy Mercy--by a group called Caedmon's Call. The lyrics are from an old hymn, and remind me of Alma 34: 15-18; 38. Alone they are great, but set to this music they fill my soul with praise:

Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue.
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affection and bound my soul fast.

Without Thy sweet mercy, I could not live here.
Sin would reduce me to utter despair,
But through Thy free goodness, my spirit's revived
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart.
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground
And weep for the praise of the mercy I've found.

(Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...)

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own
In the covenant love of Thy crucified Son.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.

Alma 34: 15-18; 38

15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;

18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.

38 ...humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Props to The Tabernacle Choir and New Associate Director Ryan Murphy

I'm such a huge fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I also deeply admire their director, Mack Wilberg. There's no doubt he was the right man to fill the big shoes Craig Jessop left when he resigned and moved on to become the head of the choral department at Utah State University (which was apparently his dream). Mack Wilberg has a huge reputation internationally for his contribution to choral music. I felt lucky that I got to sing under his direction in the BYU Men's Chorus for a year--his last year at BYU before moving on to the Tabernacle Choir. He's not only a brilliant arranger and conductor, but he is a first-rate gentleman.

Today he finally got some permanent help. Ryan Murphy was announced as Associate Music Director, filling the spot vacated when Mack Wilberg moved up to be head Music Director for the choir. Ryan was the young and very talented pianist who accompanied the BYU choirs under Wilberg's direction while I was at BYU, so he's definitely not a stranger to Dr. Wilberg. I think it's very exciting news. He's a young talent with energy and enthusiasm to add to the Choir.

He said: “It is a dream come true to work with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and to be associated with the caliber of musicians here serving the Church. It will be an honor to assist Dr. Mack Wilberg, and I look forward to working with him to touch the hearts of a wide variety of people, cultures, ages and beliefs.”

Congratulations to Ryan and to everybody involved in the choir. We wish you the best. Keep up the fantastic work!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Blogging Experience

My original blog mission statement (admittedly not that original) was informally stated in these few words:

"Nothing spectacular--just random thoughts which tend to revolve mostly around my Mormon faith, family, and politics, along with links to other blogs or articles that I've enjoyed or found worthwhile."

Looking back now, I'm surprised to see that I've stayed pretty true to my original purpose--except for the politics part. I've had a more enduring education by sticking to "faith" (yes, I know, still a very broad category). It's an interesting exercise to step back and contemplate what I've learned as a direct result of "the blogging experience". Here's a short list of just the first five that came to mind:

1. A year ago I would have stared at you blankly if you had mentioned "creatio ex nihilo". I get it now, and it's a huge "game changer" in interfaith religious understanding.

2. A year ago, when someone accused my "Mormon Jesus" of being a "CREATED BEING", I had not the slightest idea of what the heck he meant by that. I understand him now.

3. I grasp the "Are Mormons Christian"/"Is Mormonism Christian?" debate much more fully than I did even a year ago.

4. Interesting paradox that ironically has nothing to do with politics: I've become more liberal; I've become more conservative. (Or maybe just more moderate?)

5. I've gained an appreciation for the huge spectrum of individuals and interpretation/beliefs that fall under the large tent called "Mormonism". It's definitely bigger than I had ever imagined.

Of course the list can go on and on. I'm curious what others would say. What have you gained as a result of "the blogging experience"?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Teaching About The Mormons (or "How many wives do you have?")

Teaching U.S. History in Texas at this time of year means we're cruising through "Manifest Destiny" and the Westward Expansion of the United States. "Mormons" obviously fit within this broad context of our American story, so "we" learn about "them", while I happen to be "one" (along with only one other student I teach).

It's the one time of the school year that I am strangely self-conscious and comfortable at the same time. It's been a fascinating self-reflective experience; simultaneously full of educational opportunity, but also of personal incongruity.

Things have changed a lot since then.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Some Words About the Temple For Non-Temple Goers

While away on vacation I missed all the hoopla about Big Love and the controversy over the temple ceremony scenes. Waiting for me in my Google Reader was a fantastic post by Julie Smith at Times and Seasons. I continue to be completely impressed by her. Here's the link to the post, which I recommend to all:

So you saw Big Love, then Googled to find out more about this Mormon temple weirdness, and ended up here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

O How Lovely Was The Spring Break

After finishing a major paper one week and taking a major exam the next week, I was thrilled to have a spring break/vacation last week. The break from grad school also coincided with a week long spring break from my day job teaching school. Not one day was wasted on this trip with my wonderful (and very fun family) across parts of the South we'd never seen before.

Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwest Florida with its amazingly beautiful beaches, with white, fluffy sand and clear turquoise-blue water; very pleasant swimming, sand castle building, and perfect weather. I couldn't have asked for more. Except maybe a Caribbean cruise :) Lot's of fun, in chronological order:

Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

View of Downtown Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River from the top of the State Capitol building:

Across the street from Tiger stadium, visiting the live tiger mascot:

A brief temple "drive-by":

New Orleans, Louisiana (Thanks Priceline for the great deal on the 4-star Marriott right on the edge of the French Quarter complete with a great view of the crescent city and the Mississippi river from our 39th floor hotel room):

Best girls ever:

Beignets from "Cafe Du Monde":

Jackson Square (with the St. Louis Cathedral in the background):

Bourbon Street in the French Quarter:

Effects of Hurricane Katrina:

"Musicians Village" being rebuilt (on stilts four feet above the Katrina water line):

Battle site for the War of 1812 Battle of New Orleans American victory, led by Andrew Jackson:

Pensacola, Florida beach (if this was not paradise, it was very, very close):

Camping in Northwest, Florida:

Seaside, Florida (the site of a mater-planned "New Urbanism" type community I've studied about in my graduate work and also where the Truman show was filmed):

"Lovely" seems to sum it up just right.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Quentin L. Cook is a Sooners Fan

Speaking today in a stake conference broadcast to 74 stakes in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, Elder Quentin Cook called the University of Oklahoma football team "one of my favorites." No word yet on if the Saints up in Austin continued to participate in the broadcast, but I'm confident most Longhorn fans recovered soon enough to enjoy President Dieter F. Uchdorf's concluding talk.