A Simple Message

Joining the LDS church 32 years ago was a big decision, not one that I considered lightly. I knew that if I converted to what many call “Mormonism,” there would be some backlash and downright discomfort on the part of many. And yet, I knew what I knew with my head and felt what I felt with my spirit and heart. How could I deny such a force?

I said yes and have never looked back.

Today in church I pondered for the umpteenth time what it is that’s so off-putting about Mormonism. Is it because it’s strange and peculiar for those in the Bible belt? Are its precepts and guidelines too demanding? Is the way too straight? It could be that many (most?) people don’t believe there can be prophets on the earth today.

Now Moses…that was a man, a prophet with name recognition and credibility, one who saw God face-to-face and who gave us the Ten Commandments. Even people who don’t live by these directives give lip service to their usefulness and credit to the prophet who wrote them on stone.

And of course Moses isn’t the only one. To name a few, there are Joshua, Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist. If I’m mentioning Moses, then I must include his sister Miriam who has long been accepted as a prophetess. And there’s Anna, an elderly New Testament prophetess who instantly recognized the Messiah though he was but a babe.

But what 2015? Doesn’t it make sense that the world is in need of prophets today, ones that understand current issues and challenges? Pornography, drug addiction, gender issues (and transgender ones), mass killings, broken homes, hungry children, homelessness, and a myriad of other contemporary problems plague our society. Couldn’t this ol’ world benefit from the words of a prophet?

I think yes. That’s where Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comes in. His message is simple. Love one another. Follow the example of the Savior.

Here are some of his words I used in a lesson this morning: “Love should be the heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. I would hope that we could strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do now destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”

I’m not trying to stir up contention. I’m a lover, not a fighter. It’s just that as I consider the recent horror that took place in Charleston, I’m reminded that love is the answer to every question. Rich or poor, black or white, American or Haitian, we are all children of the same Creator. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. After telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves, Christ remarks that there is no greater commandment.

President Monson says we cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey, and I concur. I want to be a forgiving, compassionate, turn-the-other-cheek type of gal, and that’s the kind of instruction I pretty much always get at church.

Hospital for Sinners

I’m looking forward to going to church today. Boy, do I need it! Whoever said it was a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints nailed it. I go, not because I’m a Miss Goody Two Shoes, but because I need help remembering and applying all the things I need to do to feel peace…and to live a happy and effective life. There’s often a difference between what He says for us to do and what I actually do, and attending church with like-minded individuals helps me to try a little harder.

He says to love one another. We love those who are most like us, those of a similar social class, religious affiliation, race, and ethnicity. If someone is a Hindu, Jew, or Greek Orthodox, and we are Christians, well, you know what I’m saying. Woe unto those people for being so ill informed and heathen. I seriously do not have a problem with this one, but I have seen it over and over and over again in other Christians. If anyone reading this ever sees me demonstrating (by word or deed) intolerance or prejudice, please call me out on it.

And about that love thing, we often find it easier to love those who love us. If someone ignores us, hurts our feelings, or fails to appreciate us, then that person must have a problem! He or she is therefore unworthy of our love. To take that a step further, some people are so busy loving one another outside of their own homes that they have very little left to offer their own families. I’ve been guilty of this.

He also says to forgive one another. Seventy times seven and all that. But that’s hard to do. In fact, it’s evidently so hard that a member of our bishopric in Camden gave a talk about it last Sunday. Brother Adams reminded us to be humble, meek, and lowly of heart, and among several other scriptures, read Matthew 6: 14-15:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

That’s scary stuff! If we don’t forgive, then neither will He.

And how can anyone who knows anything at all about Christ remember His betrayal in the garden and his words from the cross? “Father forgive them.” If I had been in His position, I definitely would not have been so benevolent. But I’m trying. Just about anyone who knows me has heard me say that the combination of religion and psychology have saved my life (figuratively) many times.

I’m reminded of David A. Bednar’s statement that we choose to be offended. It’s a personal choice. As a person who loves cognitive psychology, I can see the truth in that. For my own mental and emotional health, I choose to turn the other cheek, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and not to take things personally. Not doing so is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Crazy, huh? And yet, I’ve been there, done that. It’s no fun.

I’m wondering how many stories there are in the scriptures about love and forgiveness. Christ and his mistreatment and suffering top the list. Then there are the prodigal son, Joseph and his brothers, and Jacob and Esau. And yet, sometimes we look right over these and other stories and think they are for OTHER PEOPLE. As most intro psychology students can tell you, we just don’t see ourselves the way we really are. It’s a protective mechanism.

No rat poison for this gal. I refuse to be offended and plan to look for the good in everyone I meet–and to try to love them in the best way I can. That doesn’t mean taking them in to raise. It means “in the best way I can.”

 

 

Sam’s Line


“I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” That’s a line from one of my favorite movies, and I’m using it to follow through with a WordPress writing prompt: Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!

Yesterday my daughter Carrie shared a blog on Facebook about pit bulls and how they are often unfairly maligned. In this post, a 4-year-old child had been attacked by a pit bull and will be permanently disfigured because of the assault. I couldn’t bear to look at the picture of him. Too heartbreaking. Animal lovers are raising money for the dog’s defense (I guess he has a lawyer) while meanwhile this child, Kevin, has to breathe and eat through a tube.

Don’t even bother telling me that the child’s mother should have been watching him more carefully or that pit bulls are normally adorable. I’m close-minded on this one and would say without hesitation, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” In Moonrise Kingdom, that’s what Sam says to Suzy after she tells him that sometimes she wishes she had been an orphan.

Sam and Suzy are running away together, and at some point they even manage to get married before her parents, Social Services, the town police force (Bruce Willis), and the Boy Scout leaders find them. Sam’s parents are deceased, and he had been living in a foster home and knew firsthand how difficult being an orphan could be.

I love the quote because it applies to so many circumstances in life. Below are several examples of things I hear and read on a frequent basis:

Mormons aren’t Christians. “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Homosexuals are going to hell. “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re….” As an aside, I just have to share something I realized yesterday. Jesus said this about homosexuality: NOTHING. Interesting, huh?

Southerners are illiterate bumpkins. “I love you, but you don’t know….”

God loves the believers (American Christians) more than he does the Hindus, Jews, or Muslims. “I love you, but….”

Mormonism is a cult. “I love you.”

Here’s what Mormons believe. Whether black, white, red, yellow, polka dotted, rich, poor, Buddhist, dull, clever, beach bum, Bedouin, gay, strong, or weak, we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father who loves us all.

And about those pit bulls, they’re dangerous.

So if you and I are having a conversation, and I’m smiling sweetly at something you’re saying but am not speaking, it’s because I’m thinking, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Sisterly Thoughts

Sometimes people look at me a little curiously when they discover that I’m LDS. And no, it’s not my imagination. I’m a pretty intuitive person and can pick up vibes, both positive and negative. That’s a topic for another day, however. This evening I just want to share a little something about one of the major reasons that I love this church so much.

Are you ready? It’s my sisters. Truly, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or who I’m with, when I see a “sister,” I feel an immediate connection. I know that she knows and believes the same things that I do and that we speak the same language. I don’t have the time to go on and on about this today so I’m going to mention only one person, Lisa C, and her influence on my life. I chose the above picture becaue she’s artistic and likes to ride horses.

I don’t want to embarrass her, but she needs to know that these three incidents made a deep impression on me, on my soul.

When my grandson Seth was born last July, I had the privilege of being there when he made his entrance into the world. In fact, the doctor and I were the first ones to see him. Right away, I could see that he wasn’t the rosy color that I thought he would be. He didn’t seem to be moving very much either and appeared to be kind of flaccid.

My amateur impressions were correct, and right away the doctor signaled for the neonatal specialists to come in. If I recall correctly, three nurses came in and began working on the little fellow. What did I do? I stood looking at him, trying hard not to cry. My beautiful daughter kept asking, “What’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Is he breathing, Mama?”

“He’s fine,” I said. “Just fine.”

I began talking to him as gently and soothingly as possible. Although I can’t remember the exact words, I probably said some things like, “Hey, Sweet Boy. Do you hear me talking to you? This is Grandmama. How do you like being in this big old world so far? Huh? Come on now. Open your eyes so I can see them.”

I pretty much repeated the same ramblings over and over as the nurse competently cleared his lungs and throat. And then a miracle occurred. Seth opened his eyes and looked right into mine. Yes, I know babies don’t have 20/20 vision for several months and that he didn’t know me from the television hanging on the wall, but still….He looked at me for several seconds as I continued speaking in low, calming tones.

Months later, I told Lisa C about his birth and remarked that I liked thinking that I was the first person he saw when he opened his eyes and that he sensed my love for him. Without blinking an eye and with complete sincerity, she said, “You communicated spirit to spirit.” And you know what? We did. We absolutely did.

Here’s the second incident. One day in Relief Society, the women’s organization in our church, Lisa told a story about her daughter going to school. I can’t remember all the details, but it was probably one of the first days that her child went to middle school. Like every pre-teen in  America, her daughter was a wee bit nervous about the situation.

There are a number of ways that a parent can handle a child’s apprehension about new things, but here’s what Lisa C did. She reminded her daughter that she was the daughter of a Heavenly Father who loved her very much and that she was a princess, the daughter of a king. That might sound corny to people who aren’t LDS, but I love that way of thinking. Lisa, her daughter, my daughters, and you and I are also of divine origin.

Okay, here’s the last scenario. Months ago, one of Lisa C’s young sons (I think he was 11 at the time) was speaking in Sacrament meeting, and he said how grateful he was for his mom. Here’s a paraphrase: “Moms are the ones who keep everything together. If it weren’t for them, we’d probably all be floating out in space somewhere.” He said this with the cutest smile ever, and I thought, “Wow, what a tribute!” If a child can stand in front of a congregation and say something like that, then the mother is doing something right!

There are probably some errors in the above paragraphs because I’m in a hurry to get to the grocery store (story of a woman’s life), but I wanted to share these thoughts about one of my sisters. Anyone with an open heart and mind can understand a little bit more clearly about why I love the LDS faith so much. It’s because of Lisa C and women all over the world who are just like her, women who speak my language.

She’s Not Fanatical

One of my writing friends and I had a great conversation yesterday, and among our many topics, children and parents and families came up. What’s the best way to raise chidren? Is divorce something that the parties involved ever completely recover from? We didn’t resolve all of the issues under discussion, but we did pretty much nail this one: The most important factor in raising responsible, mentally healthy children is L-O-V-E. Naturally, we talked about our own darling offspring, but we also talked about our own parents.

Today I’m missing my parents and yet feeling their influence at the same time. If that doesn’t make sense, read on, and maybe it will. This morning I’ve been thinking of a conversation that took place about 25 years ago between my father and another man:

“Is she the sister that’s a Mormon?” he asked my father.

Glancing in my direction (I hope with a smile), he replied, “Yep. That’s her.”

They were silent for a few moments and then my father added, “But she’s not fanatical about it.” Bless his heart!

That man knew his children well, and he respected all of our ideas and opinions although they were often different from his. Knowing that the four of us were endowed with different temperaments and tendencies, he and my mother allowed us to develop without too much interference. That’s not to say that we didn’t get a nudge or push in the right direction sometimes, but I don’t recall any of us ever being told that our ideas were stupid, off-the-mark, ill-formed, silly, or strange.

Back to the Mormon thing, sometimes I really really really miss my father because he was so non-judgmental. If I’d wanted to become a Buddhist or Hindu, he might have raised an eyebrow, but then again, he knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t do that. He knew that even though I loved to learn and explore and investigate, I’d probably never stray from the doctrines of Christianity.

And he was right. I’m a Christian, a follower of Christ, and I’m a Mormon. Why am I telling you this, especially since just about everyone who reads my blog already knows it? I’m telling you this because I’m beginning to feel like the “Mormon thing” might be making some of my friends uncomfortable around me lately, especially since Romney is likely to be the Republican nominee for President.

There’s no need to feel weird about me, Folks. As my open-minded father said, I’m not fanatical. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the teachings of the LDS religion, especially since they’re pretty much the same ones that my parents taught me, things like being kind, honest, and hardworking. At the same time, I’m not so zealous that I’m going to get all preachy and start pontificating on the perils of not seeing things my way.

All of the Mormons that I know adhere to 13 Articles of Faith, the 11th one being, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

So friends, there’s no need to feel uncomfortable about talking about Romney or Joseph Smith or polygamy around me. I’m at peace with the choices I’ve made in the religion department. Just don’t ask me to go out drinking with you or blow smoke in my face.

Insight from Dr. Peck

One of the many things I admire about t he writings of Dr. Scott Peck is that they make me think. His words make me look at things in a way I’d never considered before. While I could go in any number of directions with this, I’m zeroing in on some insight he had when in conversation with a Christian couple.

In town for a speaking engagement, Dr. Peck was staying in the home of this couple, and upon his arrival, the two of them began giving him the low-down on many of their friends and acquaintances who would be in his audience. I guess their feeling was that if he knew a little something about these people, Dr. Peck would know how to best address them.

As the conversation progressed, however, he began to feel uncomfortable with all of the information he was being inundated with. He was told about who was had been having an affair with whom, who was divorced, and other such juicy tidbits.

“Wait a minute,” Dr. Peck thought. “Aren’t these people supposed to be Christians?”

He became upset, irked, irritated, and finally angry. One of the basic commandments is “Thou shalt not steal,” and yet these two people were breaking that very basic commandment. No, they weren’t stealing money or merchandise, but rather the reputation and good name of their “friends.”

How can someone who calls himself a Christian do this? How can a genuine follower of Christ not know that rumor mongering, gossiping (even if it’s true), and backbiting are unacceptable and inappropriate? Aren’t they just as guilty as someone who’s committing adultery or taking the Lord’s name in vain?

Speaking of the latter, Dr. Peck discerned that the couple was doing that too. When you say, “I’m a Christian,” and then behave and speak in uncharitable ways, then you’re taking His name in vain. Like Dr. Peck, I can easily see that the commandment means a lot more than avoiding vulgarisms and profanity.

Memories of Scott Peck’s insight surfaced last night as I recalled a conversation with my former mother-in-law. She told me about a couple who had been Mormons but were now members of another Christian religion. Apparently the duo was on a talk show laughing and talking about the Mormons and how misguided they are. They even went so far as to ridicule sacred temple ordinances and symbolism.

Huh? I don’t know who these people are, and I don’t know their motives. I do know, however, that they’re about as far away as people can get from being Christians. Have they asked WWJD? Are they trying to promote a book? Get on a lecture circuit? Garner publicity? Destroy the reputation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Or maybe they just wanted a day in the sun, a brief the moment of being in the spotlight.

Whatever their agenda, nothing they or any other mortal can do will stop the growth of the LDS church. Ultimately, the only people they’re really hurting are themselves and their reputations as Christians and trustworthy individuals. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

I’m wondering what their current congregation is feeling about now. I’m betting that they’re feeling a bit anxious wondering if they are going to be the next target.

Melissa’s Question

A week or so ago Melissa packed up her stuff to leave the adjunct faculty office where we’d been working and then asked, “So Jayne, I’ve been wondering. How do you feel about all these things people are saying about your religion?”

I must have looked at her with a quizzical look because then she said, “You know what I’m talking about: the Broadway play, Romney running for president, and that television show about the Mormons with all those wives. Seems like every time you turn around, someone is saying something negative about the Mormons.”

Ah yes, I knew exactly what Melissa was talking about. It’s just that I’m kind of, sort of used to it. Melissa is an educated, open minded person who believes, as I do, that people should be allowed to worship who, when, where and how they feel like it. Neither of us would deliberately attack or make disparaging remarks about other people’s religions, and we don’t understand all the Mormon bashing. Hmmm. Let me correct that. We refer to ourselves as LDS (Latter-day Saints) and not Mormons, mainly because we don’t worship Mormon. Gee whiz. No.

I can’t remember what I told Melissa, but I’m telling you that yes and no, it bothers me and it doesn’t bother me. No one likes to hear her religion, children, fashion, decorating style, etc. criticized, but at the same time it doesn’t make me angry. It makes me sad.

If you criticize one of my children or grandchildren, I’ll probably think you have a few loose screws or that you really know him or her. Then again, I might get really angry. It depends on who says it, what’s said, my mood, and so forth. If you criticize my decorating style and remark that it’s a bit eclectic, I’ll bid you adieu with a gentle reminder that “to each, her own.” If you criticize my religion,  I won’t get angry. Promise.

I’ll feel sad. Then I’ll wonder how anyone could doubt the truthfulness of a church known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. I might add that in line with what our name implies as Christians, we do our dead level best to love and serve others, even when they vilify us unmercifully. I must also add that we, as followers of Christ, never berate or belittle other religions Indeed, the 11th Article of Faith states that “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

About the sad feeling, I might also be puzzled at why you (in a general sense) feel the need to be critical and I can only conclude that you haven’t checked us out for yourself. That said, why not do it at Mormon.org? We have no secrets. We welcome you to follow the Savior’s admonition to “Come unto me.” We don’t care how much money you have or haven’t, the color of your skin, your past, or your occupation. We believe that we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Creator.

 Let’s talk about the three things Melissa mentioned:

The Broadway play entitled The Book of Mormon. Naïve me, I downloaded the music from iTunes only to discover that that it wasn’t something I wanted to listen to, much less see (the musical). I was psyched up to listen to it on one of my daily walk/jogs, and then I heard the F word. And then I heard it again. Then I heard even worse language. Why do intelligent, educated, gifted people have to resort to such vulgar vocabulary? Surely, there are some slang, cool, or hip words or expressions they can employ to get audiences and praise.

I ended up deleting all but one of the songs. I kept “Hello” because I think it’s probably like many missionary experiences. I don’t even want the selections on my iPhone whether I’m listening to them or not. As someone said, if you want to be entertained for an evening, see the play. If you want to feel peace and joy for a lifetime, read the book.

By the way, I think the play has a happy ending in that some of the people of Africa are converted and later become missionaries themselves. Some of my friends say, “Well, no wonder your church is growing so much. Look at all the missionaries.” I can only ask, “Doesn’t your church have missionaries too?” Sure,there are differences. Our missionaries don’t receive a salary, and they only serve a limited amount of time, depending on their age and gender.

Some people look at television shows about people who purport to be LDS, and yet they practice polygamy. The LDS church has not practiced polygamy since the late 1800’s when it was forbidden by the law of the land. “That’s disgusting!” people say. If you’re one of those people, how do you reconcile your feelings when looking at the lives of Jacob, David, or Solomon? Don’t even bother telling me that things were different back in the day. Please.

About Romney, whether he’ll be our next president is hard to tell. I’m no prognosticator. All I know is that whoever is elected to that high office will be there because that’s who God wants to be there at that time. I picked up that way of thinking from Billy Graham who’s been puzzled and almost heartsick at the election of some leaders.

I could go on and on and on and on but I won’t. I’ll end by inviting you to check us out at www.mormon.org if you want the whole story. You’ll find tons of information as well as profiles of members from all over the world. Mine is there, right along with those of folks from Canada, Africa, and France.