Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Climax Of My Calling

Several months ago our ward was split and a new ward was created. I can't say that everything about the change has been great, but I can say unequivocally that the calling I received in the new ward has turned out to be great. Although I must admit that initially it was a complete shock and I had my doubts (and admittedly I still miss some “grown up” thought-provoking conversations) it really has turned into a perfect fit—and not without its perks.

I was called as the ward primary music director. And I must say that I was (and am) impressed with the novelty of the choice made by the new bishopric. Yes, I'm male. In fact, when my wife was sustained as the gospel doctrine teacher and me as the primary music director, some people thought they had mixed up the callings! But it was quite easy to work through my initial doubts after feeling the Spirit confirm this as something I needed to do. Now I couldn't imagine a better calling! It requires a lot of energy, but it’s a complete blast.

Well, the climax of my calling came today when our ward put on the primary program in sacrament meeting. The kids did the best they'd ever done before, and I couldn't have been more pleased. As their director, I was also surprised by how much I felt like I was in "the zone." I appreciate that feeling both from a choir background and an athletic background (I was a first team all-conference offensive tackle back in high school when football was life.)

The theme of the primary program this year was "I Know My Savior Lives", and the program was completely Christ-centered. If anyone not of our faith had been in attendance, there would have been no doubt that we believe in Jesus Christ. Among the main songs we sang today were "I Know That My Savior Loves Me" (a new favorite), "He Sent His Son" (a longtime favorite), "Come Follow Me", "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus" (a favorite ever since my mom--the primary director at the time--taught it to me when I was a kid in primary), and we concluded the meeting with both children and congregation singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives".

Both the spoken parts and the music sung were a phenomenal testament of the faith we as Latter-day Saints have in Jesus Christ. And even better, this testimony was humbly expressed by the most pure in heart—the children. Because it is often too easy for me to sometimes focus on some of the things I don't necessarily care for about church, today was a wonderful reminder of all that is good; the best in Mormonism. Would that more Sundays could be like this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"We are to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement through a spokesman following the delivery of a petition by the Human Rights Campaign:

My name is Michael Otterson. I am here representing the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address the matter of the petition presented today by the Human Rights Campaign.

While we disagree with the Human Rights Campaign on many fundamentals, we also share some common ground. This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.

This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society’s leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment - to love one another.

As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down.

Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.

The Church’s doctrine is based on love. We believe that our purpose in life is to learn, grow and develop, and that God’s unreserved love enables each of us to reach our potential. None of us is limited by our feelings or inclinations. Ultimately, we are free to act for ourselves.

The Church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings. The Church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It’s not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation.

There is no question that this is difficult, but Church leaders and members are available to help lift, support and encourage fellow members who wish to follow Church doctrine. Their struggle is our struggle. Those in the Church who are attracted to someone of the same sex but stay faithful to the Church’s teachings can be happy during this life and perform meaningful service in the Church. They can enjoy full fellowship with other Church members, including attending and serving in temples, and ultimately receive all the blessings afforded to those who live the commandments of God.

Obviously, some will disagree with us. We hope that any disagreement will be based on a full understanding of our position and not on distortion or selective interpretation. The Church will continue to speak out to ensure its position is accurately understood.

God’s universal fatherhood and love charges each of us with an innate and reverent acknowledgement of our shared human dignity. We are to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another.

We hope and firmly believe that within this community, and in others, kindness, persuasion and goodwill can prevail.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's All About The Heart

I've gradually come to believe that God cares a lot less about the tangential things we mortals make such a big deal about and much more only about US--our hearts specifically.

Some take a very legalistic approach to living the gospel. I don't view God as this ultimate Lawgiver ready to take offense anytime we slip up. Rather, I look at God as one who simply wants our hearts--who loves us enough that He sent His Son to FREE us from the requirements of the law, and institute a new deal--a new covenant.

The legalism was only meant as training wheels to bring us to Christ. And then when that happens individually, the law is fulfilled.

"And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled."
--3 Nephi 12:19

Thus, I don't see God as one who takes offense very easily, because he is long-suffering with our endless mistakes. I'm also grateful my wife is long-suffering. She doesn't give up on me or take offense even though I surely give her plenty of opportunities. She still loves me and she's patient with me because she knows where my loyalties are--that I'm FAITHFUL--and my heart is with her and no one else. That's how I believe God is too--it's all about our heart.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Compact Conference Conglomerate of Contemplations

Okay, so forgive me for wanting to go overboard on the alliteration. I just miss Elder Maxwell. :)

It does seem sometimes like certain blog posts just tend to write themselves. But this isn't one of those posts, so read only at your own risk. Just wanting to add to the conversation, here's a very brief conglomeration of thoughts from this past weekends General Conference.

Two highlights:

Jeffrey R. Holland's talk was very touching, and one of my personal favorites. (Ditto that to Elder Juan Uceda's talk.)

Dieter F. Uchtdorf gives suburb talks, both in content and delivery--and to do it in a second language nonetheless! Here's one of my favorites.

Two low-lights:

*The repetition (twice) of the Fourteen Fundamentals talk. I've long had some misgivings about this speech and the way some things are interpreted (both by LDS and non-LDS). I'm not alone, of course, and even the prophet at the time (Spencer W. Kimball) had some misgivings about it--especially how it seemed to promote an almost unthinking "follow the leader" mentality. Despite the controversy it generated when it first appeared, it managed to slip into General Conference, now to be accepted uncritically by the masses since it came from the mouth of two witnesses--surely it's a sign from God! (Excuse the sarcasm.)

Parenthetical insertion: President Kimball’s reaction to Elder Benson’s 1980 BYU talk can be found in “Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball” by Edward L. Kimball (Deseret Book, 2005) pp. 160-161.)

*Boyd K. Packers talk concerned me on several levels. Thus, I also had some misgivings with some of his remarks. [**Relevant update: see "Departing the Text: Changes to Elder Packer’s Conference Talk"]

But all in all, speaking of the conference "collectively and not individually", I can say I was well pleased. Naturally, there was a lot of good stuff mixed throughout--too much to comment on in one short post. But of course one of the best parts about conference for me personally was spending more time together with my wife and kids (a rarity during the weekly block) and watching it comfortably from home.

Signing off with a favorite Brigham Young quote:

"You may know whether you are led right or wrong, as well as you know the way home; for every principle God has revealed carries its own convictions of its truth to the human mind. . . . What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him.

"I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually"

-Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses. 9:150-151

Monday, October 4, 2010

Go Ducks! (aka: "The Quack Attack")

Well, as they say, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. So it's looking like I won't be posting much about my BYU Cougars this year. But I'm excited I still have my Ducks! Up to #3 in both major polls and about as exciting of a football team as you're going to see--seriously.

Here's to hoping for Alabama vs. Oregon in the National Championship game. Go Ducks! (For those that don't know, I'm from Eugene and grew up going to the Duck games in Autzen Stadium--so I bleed both blue (BYU) and green (Oregon.)

"I Love My Ducks (Return of the Quack)":

Oregon vs. Stanford Highlights: