Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Living away from the church community

After a recent visit from President Boyd and his family, who joined us for our simple church service, I have been reflecting on both the difficulties and blessings of living away from the church fellowship.

Pres. Boyd and his family of 7 left KL around 6am while we were still asleep. They drove the 3-4 hours to Kuantan with children ranging from 3-16 years old. They even found our house without having to call for directions! They brought food and together with our chicken curry, we had quite a feast after our meeting. Their son made the most delightful pumpkin pie I have ever tasted! We really need to get together again sometime soon!

But they also brought fellowship and the opportunity to be in the company of people who possess the same beliefs and standards as us. After living for months on end away from communion with church friends, times like this are priceless to us. 

Thanks to the good and thoughtful people including the Boyds who have visited us over the years, we have renewed motivation to continue in the faith and to hold Sunday meetings for just the four of us in our family which are normally so difficult and challenging to do.

Have a look at this recent video diary where I addressed these thoughts:

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Overcoming the World - (Part 3)

A couple of months ago, I felt quite isolated from the gospel of Jesus Christ through my own neglect of studying it. I recorded a video message in this blog post, detailing how I felt swamped down by the world.

Around a month later, I followed up with another video message where I spoke of my efforts to start anew and gain more balance in my life by including more heavily, spiritual things.

Today, seemingly out of nowhere, I had the desire to listen to some General Conference talks using my earphones while vacuuming the house. Sounds a bit weird, right? Well, it does to me. I have never done that before!

For Mormons, General Conference represents the mind of the Lord as revealed through the medium of the Spirit via apostles and other general authorities of the church. It is an event everyone is eager to be a part of.

And I have spent years and years listening to talks given in such meetings, all of them very good and uplifting, but none seeming to be personal to me, as we are told can happen in some instances.

After all, I am just an average Mormon.

I have no spectacular problems in the church or in my life.

I have no pressing and immediate concerns, no desperation to find an answer to something that is bothering the hell out of me.

And then while I was vacuuming the house, I listened to Elder Neil L. Andersen talk about "Overcoming the World." Considering my little journey of the last two months in trying to balance the things of the world with more spiritual things, this arrived in my ears and heart as a personal message to me. He may as well have began, "Dear Mr. Horne..." I forgot that he was speaking to an entire hall full of people, that it had been broadcast around the world on the internet to church meetinghouses everywhere.

For the 15 minutes I vacuumed and listened, Elder Andersen was talking to me. Finally, a speech that meant something to me, that called out to my struggle, that echoed my circumstance. And right on time!

This speech has become a little treasure to me, an added help in my continuing journey of striving to get a better balance into my life, in straining to want to hunger and thirst after the teachings of the Saviour Jesus Christ, of making that a more prominent part of my life again.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Starting Anew

This post is a response to a post last month titled Swamped down by the world where I revealed my struggles with getting away from worldly things as it interfered with my spirituality.

Below is my video message addressing those issues and how I have tried to overcome them for the last month:

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Swamped down by the world; lifted by the word

I have had a lot of worldly things on my mind for a long time. While it can be exciting, important and oftentimes necessary, being too absorbed in these things has rather swamped me down a little. I have had a recent desire for a return to balance and a larger space for spirituality.

The bulk of this post is contained in this video I prepared where I talk candidly about this topic. Have a look and see if there is anything you can relate to:

I'll be posting a follow-up post soon to let you know how my dip in the word of God went.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

What is opinion but influenced thought?

In a recent facebook exchange of verbal jousting, opinions were shared without concentration about spiritual matters. These opinions were about as opposite as black and white. At the end of the day, we may agree to disagree, knowing that each of us are different characters with varying modes of thought and capacity for understanding.

Opinion can be a beautiful thing, but at the same time, highly dangerous.

I feel we sometimes get a little too deeply entrenched in the easy way out of saying: "well, that's just my opinion," or "we all have different opinions and they are all equally important." These little phrases sound pleasant and friendly, but what are they really saying?

They are saying that we can come to different conclusions based on the exact same body of evidence. 

In a sporting example, I'm a die-hard fan of Roger Federer. His statistics and body of work compared to other players leave me with no doubt that he is the greatest player of all time. Novak Djokovic supporters will ardently disagree with me, however, based on the exact same statistics.

It is a similar situation with the Mormon church. Faithful Mormons testify that the church is true while others, referring to the same facts and history, proclaim it a fraud.

What is opinion but influenced thought?

Does opinion matter? Is it even relevant? What is opinion but influenced thought?

While thinking deeply about these things, in the bathroom, as I often do, I began the usual method of talking to myself in my head. I find that the greatest discussions, the most analytical thoughts I have ever had have occurred in the chambers of my own mind. 

And so I began thinking. What is opinion but influenced thought?

But what do I really think about God? About life? About the prospect of eternity? 

I soon realised that all of my thoughts on these topics were highly, no, completely influenced by religion. Everything I think about these things come from what I have learned from religion.

What if I could make religion disappear? What if I could put it to one side and see what I thought, independent of all other influencing factors. If I could just float in empty thoughts in a kind of meditative state where there was nothing but me. 

What would I believe? What would I think?

It is a potentially powerful, empowering, or yet destructive scenario to imagine. It deals with who we are. Where did we come from? What is the origin of the human soul?

It revolves around the idea of an absolute truth. One source of truth that is consistent through all space and time. Whether it is the natural order of the universe, an unimaginable intelligence, or a god-like figure of supreme knowledge, we are continually looking upwards for something. We are truth-seekers. Telling the truth is prized higher than gold. Some of us seek to hide and obscure truth; some seek to uncover and expose truth. We all have different opinions on what the truth entails.

The problem, I have come to consider, is when we forcefully wage our opinion as the ultimate truth, unwilling to examine an alternative trail of thought. I have unfortunately been guilty of this at times and I am straining with great effort to open up my own horizons to new perspectives. 

I am trying to figure out what I actually believe independent of all other influences, including the religious influence that has so strongly permeated my life.

It seems to be the quest of a lifetime.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Why I'm proud of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and President Donald Trump

It has been a fascinating and turbulent American election season featuring two candidates with larger-than-desired low approval ratings but with huge support from their own followers. 

Donald Trump's win was unexpected and played down by the mainstream media despite its historic proportions. Fault-finding of the businessman has been incessant but he has turned the tables on his critics in every instance. His past has been dug up, false allegations have been spread like wildfire, and he has issued an apology for previous conduct while calling out and exposing the corruption which has cankered American government for years.

And now the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (MOTAB) has agreed to perform at President Trump's inauguration at the swearing-in ceremony.

A lot of Mormons have expressed outrage, disappointment, shock, concern and disapproval of both the MOTAB and the Church itself. Facebook posts have been littered with comments with both positive slants and negative rants.

My message to my fellow-LDS is this: Get over yourselves! 

This is what I posted on the LDS Living facebook post concerning the MOTAB's agreement to perform at the inauguration:

The MOTAB have performed at several past presidential inaugurals and are continuing this trend. As a Church, we support and respect the high position of authority of the President of the United States of America. We sustain and pray for our world leaders, instead of voice disregard for the person occupying the role. (Imagine if a church member we weren't too keen on received abuse and disdain simply because they held a certain responsibility/calling in the church!)

Another reason I support the MOTAB is because they are FANTASTIC! Their music and vocals are second to none and they always invite strong spiritual and positive feelings, good vibes that I hope will unite America behind its democratically-elected leader. I hope that the MOTAB brings a lasting element of peace to the inauguration which can reflect Mr. Trump's position of having constructive and healing dialogue with leaders of the world instead of stubborn standoffs as politicians of the past have done.

What many people look over is the fact that Donald Trump is a good man who prefers staying in with his family and who is a generous giver of charity and jobs. A lot of people base their judgements of Mr. Trump solely on the last 18 months since he announced his intention to run for President. The truth is, that time frame produces extremely poor and clouded views of who exactly he is. Do a bit of reasearch. Learn about him. See the good in him. He is going to be an excellent President.

We all say and do things behind closed doors and out in the open, that we regret and are not proud of. God, in His infinite mercy and love, grants us endless second chances.

It's time President Trump was extended the same prayers, support and hope. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

"What, if anything, could the Mormon Church do right now to make it more favourable in your sight, or in the sight of others who view it unfavourably?" - A Survey

*The 'Mormon Church', 'the church' and 'organisation' are used in this article in reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With a lot of issues that have sprung up in recent times regarding the Church's policy or stance on topics such as the church essays, seer stones, sexual orientation, females and the priesthood etc. I have compiled a set of responses to the question outlined in the title of this post.

The question was open to interpretation regarding whether one thinks the church has a necessary obligation to make certain changes to accommodate others, whether it would even be possible for the church to do just that, or whether it is people who need to change and align themselves with the church. As such, the question was answered in a number of different ways.

We cannot simply ignore the way this organisation has made people linked to it, feel. It is my urge that we have to seek for every opportunity to build bridges between active, less-active and ex-members. That the qualities of compassion, empathy and love manifested by Jesus Christ be the standard on both sides.

Building bridges may include listening to others instead of responding with a retort, demonstrating sincere empathy. Showing the Saviour's love for each and every soul may take precedence over attempting to prove that you are right in a doctrinal/historical/policy back and forth.

And now to the survey itself.

I do not personally agree with every comment made in this report. The comments of other individuals do not necessarily reflect my position on issues. However, I feel it absolutely necessary to publish everyone's comments exactly as they were given, with zero alterations. The comments contained herein were given from real people whom I contacted privately and separately through facebook messenger.

This survey is neither an attempt to slander the church or renounce my faith in it, nor an effort to narcissistically extol myself or the church. I am merely genuinely interested and intrigued by the people who have contributed their opinions, their method of thinking, and their vivid ideas and feelings.

The following messages contain candid and honest opinions both in favour of, and in opposition to the church. Please decide for yourself whether you wish to proceed in reading this survey after this point.


(This question was originally worded as "What, if anything, could the Mormon church do right now to appease you and make it more favourable in your sight?")

I will kick things off with Greg Rattey, who I became acquainted with in a conversation on facebook:

I met Henry Lions in the same facebook thread, and these are his comments:

Next up are some comments from a Graham:

Jolyon Folkett shared his views as such:

Gareth Horne offered up his response to the question as follows:

Sarah Fuller indulged me with her comments:

Hilary Presbury shared her comments here:

These are Eric Spaans' comments:

Next are Mitch Hilburn's comments:

Joanna Horne shared her thoughts about this question:

Finally, we turn to the remarks of Nephi Hatcher:

While the entries here in this survey are raw and candid, I have found that we don't have to share the same opinions in order to be agreeable. We don't have to agree on common beliefs to be respectful. And we don't have to see eye-to-eye regarding our concept of truth in order to attempt an empathetic response. It is these such traits or qualities - agreeable, respectful, empathetic - which provide a foundation to build bridges. Their exact opposites create chasms.

We cannot attempt to demonstrate these attributes without first listening to and understanding the different viewpoints and feelings of both members and ex-members. Whichever side we are on, we have all been affected by the church in one way or another.

Of course, I always welcome sincere comments but I really hope that such comments don't isolate individuals who contributed, castigate them, ridicule their opinions, or cast them in a negative light. We are all humans and we all have strong feelings. Let us treat each other with kindness as we all try to be civil and respect each other's right to worship how we may and our right to an opinion and a voice.