Zion can mean a lot of things:
Saturday, 30 April 2016
This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan
Zion can mean a lot of things:
- a place in Jerusalem
- a city of God to be built
- the church
- the pure in heart
Zion is referred to in the scriptures and hymns as the ideal of beauty and perfection. It is both a place, an organisation, and an attitude. To me it seems that it's an ideal way of living that will prepare us to live in the presence of Deity in a future existence.
But can my family build Zion in the wilderness of Kuantan?
I believe we can.
As with all worthwhile spiritual endeavours, it is developed slowly, step by step, through consistent little efforts. It starts with the home. We build, establish and beautify our home. We build it by reverencing God; we establish it by avoiding anything that would tarnish it; and we beautify it by learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ and searching out truth.
These things produce a Zion-like place of refuge and state of mind.
While we don't regularly gather with other church members, we gather as a family in our home in the wilderness, and for us, this is our little piece of Zion.
Where is your Zion? How do you create a Zion-like existence? What is your understanding of the concept of Zion?
Friday, 29 April 2016
This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan
The Mormon Church runs two tremendous youth programs for 12-18 year olds, known as Young Mens and Young Womens. I now look back on my time spent in this program with great fondness.
In addition to having classes together at church, we also enjoyed activities on Wednesday nights which were mostly sport-related. On occasion, the young men would join with the young women for activities supervised by youth leaders.
I guess I was fortunate to have a lot of great friends at church and we developed extremely close friendships. We all loved football and spent many happy hours and days doing exactly what we loved. It also kept us in church on a Sunday as we checked the fantasy football scores and tables to see how our teams were doing.
Those in the church youth program became my closest circle of friends, much more exciting, meaningful and deep than my school circle. We would hang out as often as possible, whatever the time, whatever the weather, and my teenage years are filled with hilarious memories of these times and other crazy adventures we embarked on together.
Some experiences include: long summer afternoons at the park playing football and tennis, hitting golf balls on the field, cycling together, walking into town to play pool and buy 50p football socks, hanging around at someone's home (usually the Bayliss'), sleepovers, blowing up aerosol cans, throwing berries at house windows, and the list goes on.
We now have a (slightly) more mature relationship and it was awesome to see my best mates last year on my trip back to England where we reminisced about all of these memories!
Thursday, 28 April 2016
This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan
Ex-Mormons can be generous, kind, loving, family-oriented, opinionated, idiotic, stubborn, vengeful.
Mormons can be generous, kind, loving, family-oriented, opinionated, idiotic, stubborn, vengeful.
Hope that clears it up.
This is a post stemming from my very first posting here on open-minded-mormon titled Building bridges in interesting times. It's worth reading that post as a little background to this one.
Ex-Mormons, if treated in the right way, can open some valid and insightful discussions and questions regarding the church, its history, and policies. And it's not even left to ex-Mormons to do deep digging. Church members, most notably Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement, was excommunicated from the church for preaching her viewpoints which the church perceived to be in opposition to its own stances. Sometimes it takes people like Kate Kelly to cause us to think deeper, to cause changes for the better in the church. Ex-Mormons have quite different perspectives on the church from the typical comfortable member.
While it may be impossible to agree with each other's opinions, we can at least be agreeable in our understanding of and empathy for one another.
Ex-Mormons usually make a firm point of how happy they are after leaving the church, which is probably correct. But it doesn't mean that the happiness I feel in the church is in any way less than theirs.
I don't have to renounce my faith to be happy.
I don't have to leave the church in order to see other perspectives.
I don't have to forfeit my spiritual convictions in order to be open-minded.
I don't have to abandon my beliefs in order to acknowledge and consider mistakes of past or current church leaders.
I don't have to fight against the church collectively just because one person offended me.
From my observation, a lot of ex-Mormons are not necessarily bad people, they have just been perhaps treated harshly or unfairly by certain people in the church; they have been offended by one person's lack of empathy or unkind words or bad example; they have been overburdened with callings and responsibilities; they feel cheated by the church when they learn of proposed mistakes or contradictions in early church leaders or on points of doctrine or practise; they have differing personal opinions to church policy which leaves them marginalized and criticized by the majority.
I think we can show empathy, defend the faith, and do so with increased kindness so that we can build bridges instead of erect walls.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
We need to get away from the thinking that holding the priesthood is the be-all and end-all of membership in the Mormon church. That somehow it is advantageous now and in the hereafter to be a priesthood holder.
It is not.
While the priesthood is important in administering the ordinances of the gospel, it cannot serve itself. It can only benefit and bless the recipients of the ordinances it authorises. It has no bearing on ability to receive spiritual convictions concerning the doctrine of Christ. Every man, woman or child in the church may receive personal revelation for themselves or their families. Such spiritual messages are not dependent on bearing the priesthood.
As a man, it is a duty that I didn't choose, but one that was willingly thrust upon me. I honour the priesthood I hold as it enables me to serve the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to my family each Sunday in the wilderness of Kuantan. It blesses me and my three girls in equal measure. We are all able to partake of the same emblems and associated covenants because of it.
The priesthood also serves a man and a woman in a temple by pronouncing the exact same covenants and eternal blessings on both of them at the marriage altar, representing the highest gospel ordinance available to Mormons, received equally by both sexes.
The woman is in no way disadvantaged by the use of the priesthood or the blessings it prescribes.
The "Ordain Women" movement could be looked upon as a landmark turning point in gender equality, or an ill-advised and misunderstood concept of church organisation. The day came when black males were informed they too could receive the priesthood. We may live to see the day where females are informed they can receive the priesthood. As with most policy changes in the church, it has to be at the right time and according to shifting circumstances, which we are certainly seeing now with the Ordain Women movement.
However, there is an order to how the church is arranged as it currently stands, and that order is connected to the allocation of priesthood responsibility to the males, and predominantly family responsibility to the females. The church has been taking steps to involve women more in previously all-male general church councils, which is definitely an exploratory step in the direction of ordination for women.
It's hard to imagine what would happen should these gender-defined responsibilities suddenly cease to be segregated by sex. Perhaps the order in the church would turn to chaos. Women would be seeking men's roles and vice versa. Roles which each may not be best-suited to as compared to the opposite gender. For example, a man may receive a calling in primary being alone in a room full of small children. A woman may not enjoy leading a sometimes rowdy bunch of teenage boys, neither might it be appropriate for a man to take charge of a group of adolescent young women. Suddenly, a baptism in the family would turn into an agonising decision as to whether the husband or the wife performs the baptism. Would revelation for the entire church flow as smoothly and reach unanimous decisions if the general leadership was a mixed bag of both women and men?
I asked my wife about these issues to get a female perspective on women and the priesthood. And believe me, I pressed her on it! Among other things, I asked her if she felt marginalised in the church as every major decision is made by men. Was she satisfied with the perceived lack of equality between the genders? I was a little surprised to hear her rebuke me and inform me that she has so many other things going on in her life with family duties that she would have no time or effort left to hold the priesthood, attend meetings, fulfill callings that would then become possible as a priesthood holder. She left me in no uncertain terms that she is perfectly happy with how the church is ordered now, that she feels fine with letting the men get on with the church business. She ended by saying she wouldn't even want to receive the priesthood!
Time will tell what direction the church takes, how it responds to the changing circumstances, and whether by divine decree, women are instated to the priesthood here on earth.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
The vicissitudes of life describes the constant state of change we encounter. Changes in age, health and career happen to all of us. The vicissitudes I will talk of here are church-related.
The Mormon church has changed a lot since its beginnings in 1830. These vicissitudes are worthy of analysis, sincere questioning and an effort to understand.
Some of the vicissitudes of Mormon history include the implementation of polygamy and its later cessation, the priesthood being extended to men of all races and colours, the method of succession to the Presidency, as mentioned in "Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", age for full-time missionaries, and the essays released on the church website, www.lds.org, albeit hidden away, representing the church's publicizing of previously 'dark' information.
|On lds.org, you have to click "Scriptures and Study" ---> "Gospel Topics" ---> "Explore the essays" to locate the newly released essays providing detailed information on issues such as Book of Mormon translation, polygamy and Race & the Priesthood|
While such changes may well have received some sort of divine command, it is apparent that they were not wholly decided upon by revelation. Many of these vicissitudes came as a result of fierce opposition by non-Mormons, fellow members and governments, with revelation merely confirming the need to change according to different circumstances.
The fact that the Mormon church is a changing church may demonstrate two opposing sides of a pendulum - to some it shows deceit, bending to the will of the world and its increasing worldliness, and a string of losses to outside influences suggesting a church that is not being led by God, but by imperfect men - on the other side, and to the more rational thinkers, we may note the church's adaptability to changing times and different circumstances, awareness of outside concerns, and willingness to change for the better.
To be honest, an organisation like the 15 million-strong Mormon church would find it nigh impossible to remain stagnant in policy and organisation from the 19th through 21st centuries. Any company would crash if it didn't change and adapt.
As an example, my English company has already adjusted policy a few times in just four years, in response to suit our clients' needs and adapt to our growing size. Without such changes, it would be easy to rapidly become irrelevant and inconvenient.
The Mormon church runs on principles of continuing revelation and inspiration making it reasonable and frankly necessary for changes in policy or stances to occur. Obviously, 19th century stances on race, slavery and equality are entirely different from those of the 21st century, for example.
These church-related vicissitudes often facilitate the increase of light and knowledge on certain issues and provide great learning opportunities.
Sometimes, the changes might be that specific issues are spoken of with more frequency, for example the recent increase in discussions on homosexuality and gay marriage and the church's definition of marriage. The church has a tricky balancing act as it can only change on policy within the parameters of God's standards of living which it declares. For example, the church can acknowledge that people have homosexual tendencies, but it cannot allow such people to be married in its churches or temples as the doctrine of the organisation states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Such couples may freely find an organisation with standards that allow such marriages.
Living in the wilderness, we are away from the hubbub that sensitive topics which have become embraced by the world, generate. Granted, social media brings some of that commotion to us, but it's certainly nice to be away from the crowds of church members where I can formulate more easily my own thoughts and opinions on these important vicissitudes without them being concentrated by popular Mormon cliche.
Monday, 25 April 2016
Am I underperforming spiritually?
This is a question which regularly crops up in my mind and one I asked myself after listening to some Christian friends in the back of my car discuss their study of the Old Testament. They talked about 1Kings and I probably couldn't have joined the conversation right there.
Am I underperforming spiritually?
It's a question you may have asked yourself before.
Sometimes when we hear others speak of the scriptures with an obvious certain level of knowledge, we begin to question ourselves.
Am I underperforming spiritually?
We often tie this question and the accompanying feelings to comparisons with others. But is the acquiring of spiritual knowledge really a competition between people? Do we compete with others to see who has the highest level of scripture mastery?
The answer should always be 'No.' Simply because we cannot force spiritual things the same way we can force children to memorise academic information. Regurgitating scriptures is one thing, but real spiritual wisdom comes from application of spiritual principles outlined therein. It also comes from careful slow study, meaningful lengthy consideration, and diligent speedy recording of thoughts, feelings and impressions garnered from a study of the Word.
There are people of faith everywhere who are at different levels of spiritual knowledge. We are all progressing at our own pace. Our common Father in heaven has no regard for how intelligent I am compared to you. We were never placed here to learn of God as some sort of contest to prove ourselves against others.
What matters is that we are proving ourselves to God. What matters is that we are a little better today than we were yesterday. What matters is that today we bite our tongue and hold our peace when yesterday we emitted a vocal act of impatience. What matters is that we are humble enough to listen and learn from the Spirit when it acts upon us through our study, prayer, pondering or listening to others.
Our relationship with God is intensely personal. Nobody else's spirituality, knowledge or intelligence, however great and mighty, can actually save us. We are all working for our own salvation. Only our very own prayer, study, meditation, faith, knowledge and works can ultimately prepare us for spiritual safety here and in the life to come.
So, am I underperforming spiritually?
When we view this question as a personal, relationship-with-God goal, and not a competitive fear, we will be able to set aside inadequate worries, learn freely at our own pace, and make plans for healthy self-improvement.
Saturday, 23 April 2016
In many a discussion with non-member friends, we have come to a crossroads over "testimony" and Mormons' oft-repeated declaration of "I know" when sharing about spiritual feelings. How can one bear testimony of Joseph Smith and his role as an authorised prophet when we haven't even physically seen him, nor possess any sort of personal physical evidence that such a person actually existed? How can we say "I know God lives" when it's near enough physically impossible to see God? And they are fair points which I took on board and pondered. I came to wonder what exactly is my testimony.
A testimony is described using words such as 'witness', 'evidence' and 'proof', which physically speaking makes our familiar declarations of God, Jesus and Joseph Smith somewhat inaccurate.
What I think we really mean by sharing our testimony is 1. making a statement of what we believe to be true, and 2. declaring what we know to be true after obtaining such information by personal spiritual means, for example through the gift of the Holy Ghost or by the spirit of Christ, and not necessarily by physical means.
And we are all able to receive that type of conviction according to our desires.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained it succinctly:
"When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of the different kinds of knowledge they have acquired by different methods." (General Conference, April 2008)
As Mormons, we term this set of beliefs as "testimony" - I prefer to label it as "spiritual convictions."
In the Book of Mormon, a man named Alma used a tree as an analogy in testing the word of God to gain spiritual convictions. At one point he said:
"And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand."
In bearing testimony, or sharing spiritual convictions, of the truths of the restoration, it's not that we saw Joseph Smith receive the visitation of God and Christ, not that we saw the golden plates upon which lay the ancient writings that he translated with a seer stone, nor that we saw the angel Moroni visit Joseph Smith on numerous occasions, delivering and later collecting those plates, but that through studying and considering these things in the scriptures and accounts provided, we have noticed the change for better in ourselves. We have become a better person and developed Christlike attributes. We know for certain that the word has swelled our souls.
Therefore, a Mormon testimony, as it is called, becomes more of a witness of ourselves - of the positive change which has taken place in ourselves because of the words of God. It's like saying,
"Look what the restoration has done for me. Look what the doctrine delivered from Christ to Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith to me has done for me. It has made me better, enlightened my mind, expanded my thoughts and increased my spiritual convictions. Therefore 'I know' that the Book of Mormon, the source of this increased spirituality, is true and that Joseph Smith served as a prophet of God."
We bear testimony or share spiritual convictions of the truth of the restoration and the divinity and works of Jesus, and we do so because of the visible, tangible impact they have had on us.
Friday, 22 April 2016
The ultimate aim is not for us to be dependent on an organisation but to be able to be self-sufficient beings. The Mormon church tries to strike a balance between being merciful to those who stand in need of mercy (see the Christlike stance on refugees), and helping all become self-reliant (note the extra-curricular self-reliance classes held by church members around the world).
I am a stubborn supporter of self-reliance and demand it of everyone, but when urged by my better half, show mercy to those in need. After all, I was in need of monetary help before, and had a good friend who willingly obliged.
My pride was dented in having to ask for money, even though my friend understood our immediate need and had earlier said he was ready to help when needed.
|Raymond, front centre, helped me out financially when I stood in need|
We duly paid him back in installments and determined to never have to borrow of others again. It was a horrible feeling to ask for help. I felt that I couldn't provide for myself or my family. I felt very small. It was a very humbling experience.
We gained great motivation to work harder and save more. To consciously save money and build our savings. To be a little more frugal in our spending. To be in a position to not have to rely on anyone else for our welfare.
And I can tell you, that is an awesome feeling!
Living in the wilderness of Kunatan, we don't have an immediate branch leadership that we can turn to when in need. We belong to the KL branch which is 3-4 hours away and we know just a handful of people there. So we understand that we are isolated from the church and this spurs us on to never need to rely on the church - for money, or for spiritual light.
We have to be responsible for our spiritual welfare too. That probably comes at a greater degree of difficulty than earning money. With no lessons to prepare for Sunday School, no fellowship with other members, no mid-week activities, living as a Mormon in the wilderness can be incredibly tough spiritually. It is unimaginably easy to 'forget' to pray and for scripture study to become obsolete.
On the flip side, guided by the Spirit we have become our own teachers, escaped all the horrible cliches associated with groups of Mormons stuck in repetitive circles, and learned to rely more strongly on God's grace for our spiritual nourishment.
We see things in an entirely new light, looking at gospel topics from different perspectives, living the gospel with more pronunciation and decision, according to our circumstances. Such spiritual self-reliance we could not have developed as personally in more tight proximity to the church.
I finish with this scripture, which has been applicable to us:
Thursday, 21 April 2016
Our circumstances and experience contribute to determining to what extent we can relate to something. And how we relate to something goes a long way to deciding if it is applicable to us.
In the Book of Mormon record, Laman and Lemuel couldn't relate to their father Lehi's dreams, visions and actions because they didn't have any experience in spiritual things. Unfortunately, this resulted in 1,000 years of family conflicts.
On the flip side, not being able to relate to something, doesn't always deem it unapplicable. Not one of us can relate to the atonement of Christ. We can learn about it, try to understand it, we can feel its effects in our lives, but we cannot directly relate to it as none of us have had to go through anything remotely similar to it. Yet its application in our lives is all-consuming.
While we know our circumstances should not alter our levels of faith, and most certainly do not lower the necessity of God's commands, living as a Mormon in the wilderness does bring up some things that we just can't relate to.
In recent General Conference talks, I have listened to our leaders talk of certain things that don't apply to us. Now, I am not speaking of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the doctrine as presented in the Mormon church. I can always relate to the truth that has set me free and enlightened my mind. I refer to general statements, made-up words, and small components of principles.
1. Elder Quentin Cook stated in the October 2015 General Conference that "Christianity is under attack," which when compared to my experience in my quiet wilderness town of Kuantan, simply doesn't ring true.
I can't relate to that statement. I haven't personally experienced any hostilities regarding my faith. It is my lungs, not my faith which is under attack from a guy who smokes in a restaurant. I do not feel that my faith is under attack by the increasing number of bars selling alcohol. I do not feel that my faith is under attack when people decide to practise homosexuality more openly than before. No-one is removing my freedom to choose my responses.
Although I can't relate to this particular statement and it therefore doesn't apply to me, our circumstances don't alter our support of our elected leaders or our allegiance to the will of God. Perhaps to a majority in America, Christianity may seem to be under attack. Just not to us.
2. Secondly, the infamous profiteering of the fabricated word 'ponderize' by Devin Durrant in October 2015. This is something that I could not, would not and do not relate to. It's somewhat surprising how this talk gained authorisation. (His son was concurrently running a website selling 'ponderize' merchandise. Ooops)
His attempt to make profits out of a General Conference talk was appalling.
I don't 'ponderize' the scriptures. No, Nephi was not a 'ponderizer.' And no, I don't try to make money out of spiritual preaching. I cannot relate to this person's words.
3. Thirdly, Elder Christoffersen gave a great talk in October 2015 where he balanced family and church. Very insightful. He remarked near the end, "Repentance is individual, but fellowship on that sometimes painful path is in the church."
This was a quote that both resonated with me and at the same time appeared very alien to me. Repentance is individual - yes. We have to do it ourselves, no-one else can repent for us. Repentance is probably the most self-reliant aspect of the gospel. The latter part of the quote is generally true, but for us in Kuantan, does not apply. We have no fellowship with other church members in a typical branch/ward community. The path of repentance and re-establishing a strong personal connection with Deity for us is a personal and lonesome struggle. A struggle, though, that has been a huge blessing in my life. Without living here in Kuantan, separate from the church, I would not have learned so effectively concerning the establishment of a personal relationship with Deity. It has been thrust upon us that we are doing this without the 'fellowship of the saints' and that we are of a stronger personal and family faith because of that.
I understand what all three gentlemen were trying to say. I also understand that they were speaking to a general audience of ward and branch church goers. Living in the wilderness is different in the fact that not everything our general leaders say, directly relates to us. This has increased my reliance on divine confirmation as to what snippets of proposed truth we should seriously consider. For example, church leaders have asked us to help refugees whenever possible. There are no refugees in Kuantan! So instead we continue to help others including ourselves whenever we can.
Not everything relates or applies to us, which is okay, but our peculiar circumstances don't change our devotion to God and the gospel covenants we have made with Him.
What it does is make us more aware of the specifics that do and don't relate to us living in the wilderness.
Wednesday, 20 April 2016
|The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
Together with the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles represents the upper echelons of Mormon church leadership.
The method of succession to President has changed over time since Joseph Smith was sustained as the first Church President in 1830. Following his death in 1844, the church endured a period of 3 years without a called and set apart President as the leadership sought for answers as to the best route of succession. With enhanced methods along the way, the church is now settled on a sensible succession plan wherein the longest-serving member of the Quorum of the Twelve possesses the right of advancement to the Presidency.
|Thomas S. Monson is currently serving as the 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
What may be less black and white is how a person is chosen to be installed as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That's because it is not measurable like years of service. Mormons like to say that such people are chosen by God, even if it is not exactly clear how that happens.
To be clear, I fully believe that new apostles are considered carefully and prayerfully by the upper church leaders. Current apostles submit several names as personal suggestions to the President who assesses, considers, prays and ultimately makes his own decisions on suitable candidates for Apostleship.
Precisely how he arrives at specific names, I'm not entirely sure, though I trust that it is done by feelings, thoughts and ideas gained through asking Deity and receiving such responses in a spiritual manner.
At a recent General Conference in October 2015, three spaces in the Apostleship were filled due to the passing of three senior apostles. This was seen as an opportunity for the church to demonstrate that it could be diverse in its general leadership choices.
Perhaps there would be a black apostle.
Maybe an Asian apostle.
Possibly a Latin American called to the Quorum of the Twelve.
As it turned out, and to my initial disappointment, three white men from Utah were called to fill the vacancies. A sigh was let out.
It wasn't until the press conference where Ronald Rasband, Gary Stevenson and Dale Renlund were introduced to the public, that I suddenly felt that they were the right people for the job. And it's not like they've been locked up in Utah their whole lives - they have travelled the world and met with people of all cultures and nationalities. In this respect, they have great diversity.
|L-R:- Ronald Rasband, Gary Stevenson and Dale Renlund were called to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the October 2015 General Conference|
The church could easily have chosen a black man, an Asian with a difficult English accent and a European fighting homosexual urges to fill the three spots and show that colour, geography and sexuality were of no limitation to the Lord. The fact that it wasn't like that, really highlighted to me that our leaders had not just followed the whims of the world, but had in all reality, with great precision and pleading, called upon those who had the necessary life experience, spiritual maturity and church service in their arsenals.
If God is mindful enough of those details, He is mindful too of me in the wilderness. We live in Asia, an area of the world where Gary Stevenson has previously lived and served for a number of years, so we can make a connection there.
A call to the apostleship is time-consuming and spiritually challenging. I would certainly never wish it upon myself. I can only admire their efforts and willingness to serve, and pray for their success.
Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Have you ever read the Pearl of Great Price and felt totally inspired afterwards? I experienced such feelings as I made my way through this translation of the writings of Abraham and Moses, in particular Abraham chapter 3.
This chapter is a great lesson on astronomy provided by the Master Astronomer Himself, to the Prophet Abraham.
Here I learned of the great governing star in the heavens, named Kolob, because it is the closest to God's residence. It is set to govern all other planets like and including our very own planet Earth. Each planet and star has its own times of reckonings and revolutions, Kolob taking 1,000 earth years to rotate on its axis. Hence comes the saying in Mormonism that one day is a thousand years to God.
The Lord then teaches Abraham that where two things exist and one is greater than the other, there shall be something above them even greater. At this point I was beginning to sense the never-ending nature of God's creations.
Abraham was taught and tutored by the greatest of all scientists, astronomers, physicists - the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth and all things. In today's world, there are many noble scientists and astronomers who are beginning to see further and further into space, exploring galaxies that were never even known to have existed a few decades ago.
Yet the human eye and telescope has limited powers. We can only see so far. Yet Abraham, according to the record, was shown all things by the Lord, even until Kolob. The works of God's hands were multiplying before his eyes that he could not see the end thereof.
This is true power, infinitely stronger than that which any human can muster. The light which fills the immensity of space, which penetrates all things from the bosom of God, is what true power is all about. It is the power of righteousness and glory, intelligence and immortality.
How can humans undermine the power of God? We hear of the popular lament that God was not around to save a loved one from dying. If He was so powerful he would show Himself unto us.
Yet when I reflected on the writings of Abraham, I had no doubt that somewhere out there, uncountable light years away in the immensity of space, our grand Father is sitting upon his throne, watching over us, seeing all things past, present and future as if they are continually present before Him, showing forth His power day and night through the sun, the moon and the stars. They are signs of His light and power, that He is there, and that He cares deeply about our progress back to Him.
I found myself staring out of the window into the blue skies shortly after finishing this chapter with a silent offering of gratitude for this great knowledge that I had gained. I felt very close to God at this moment than I had for a long time.
Just me and God.
My mind in that moment of quiet sacred struggle and earnest willing contemplation was urging itself to believe. I allowed it.
Soon after, I read the words of the Mormon hymn, If You Could Hie to Kolob which gave me yet deeper insights and left strong impressions upon my mind. I began to see the eternal picture and the grand scheme of things.
One of the mysteries of godliness had been unfolded to my mind.
What is your idea of eternity? How do you recognise the power of God in your life? Do you allow yourself to believe in the things of God?
Monday, 18 April 2016
Why did I choose to name my blog 'Open-minded Mormon?'
There is a perception that Mormons are stuck in their own bubble, blindly follow church orders, and are ignorant of all else. And there are those who fit that description.
However, I don't like generalising things and I don't like being generalised.
In addition to submitting to the requirements of belonging to this organisation, I have a brain and a conscience and can think things through for myself.
Open-minded Mormon represents my personal thoughts about church doctrine, policy and stances. It's a place for me to state gospel teachings and/or history and share my own perspectives on it.
I think it's an unfortunate perception people have of Mormons that we are a people who don't entertain anything outside of Mormonism as valid (the Mormon doctrine of exact obedience is often mistakenly taken as a war cry in rejection of all else). That we accept the church's stance on issues without thinking for ourselves. Or that we never feel any sense of disagreement with leaders on certain issues.
For a religion that accepts wild and wonderful events as part of its established history as well as previous periods of polygamy and racism (which are thankfully over), we should be amongst the most open-minded people in the world.
As I've matured, I have determined that there is a far greater value and a much richer experience in opening my mind outside the circle of Mormonism, getting away from Mormon cliches, and reaching a point where pure faith once was -
me and God.
And that is not something that should seem alien to us. We are repeatedly urged not to trust in the arm of flesh (ie. church leaders or others great or small) but to personally consider and pray about things in order to receive a spiritual confirmation of the truth and of the way in which we should lead our personal and family lives.
As a result, I spend more time thinking. Wondering. Contemplating. I carefully question things I had automatically accepted before. I take responsibility for my own spiritual development.
It is just me and God.
I love being in that place where it's just me and God. Where there is no distraction of other people. Where there is no doctrine but what thoughts and impressions occupy the human mind when contemplating Space, Divinity, Eternity, and God.
Just me and God.
That's where deeper perspectives are formed. It has happened for me in prayer. When staring out the window into the skies. When sitting in a quiet part of the house getting lost in silent thoughts. In scribbling down ideas that seem to be whispered into my conscious mind.
Me and God.
Saturday, 16 April 2016
No problem believing in Jesus and His power.
I have no problem believing in Jesus. All Christians readily believe that Jesus died and that by some unknown and quite remarkable, even astonishing power, he brought himself back to life from the dead. That is freely accepted without any doubt as an integral part of the atonement.
With that in mind, Christians readily accept that Jesus is thus now alive.
In the same record accepted as fact that Jesus, by some magnificent power was restored to life, we also read this resurrected Lord re-visited the earth and showed himself to various people.
If these sensational events are widely and wholly accepted within Christendom, then how can we possibly attempt to limit Jesus and his marvellous power in these days?
We believe from the Holy Bible that he overcame death, lives now, and has the ability to appear on earth as an immortal being.
There is a resistance within Christianity, ironically against what we all believe about the Biblical Jesus - that he overcame death, lives today, and has the ability to appear on earth as an immortal being. Some believe all these things about Jesus yet dismiss them when they occur again.
I have no problem believing that Jesus appeared on the earth in 1820 to Joseph Smith as a living immortal being. I believe it because it is entirely consistent with the Biblical record of the abilities of Jesus the Christ and is within the realm of his possibilities.
We know he has this power and we as Christians await with certainty for his arrival on the earth at a future time in an event we term the 'Second Coming.'
I wonder if the doubters of Jesus' power manifested in 1820 likewise doubt his most astonishing display of power - his resurrection - as recorded in the Holy Bible around AD34? For me, it is no problem. With an open mind, many simple yet compelling mysteries can be opened to our view.
No problem believing in Jesus and His power.
Friday, 15 April 2016
The word 'Mormon' is inextricably linked with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It always has been and always will be.
Of course, the beginnings of Mormonism and why it is referred to as such, are rooted in the appearance of the Book of Mormon, touted by Joseph Smith as an additional book of scripture. He found the record buried in the ground and translated it first using instruments provided with the record, and second with a gemstone he previously discovered in a mine.
|Joseph Smith's seer stone which he found in a mine and later used in the translation process of the Book of Mormon|
|An artist's depiction of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon record by using a seer stone in a hat which revealed characters followed by their translation in English|
It's an incredible set of circumstances and claims, which incidentally, I have spent 14 years seriously studying and believe to be entirely factual.
But you can imagine the wild excitement at the time the Book of Mormon seemed to pop out of nowhere. People believing in the Book quickly began to be called 'Mormons' in a derogatory fashion. So for those on the outside, we became known as Mormons and the Mormon Church and our theology became known as Mormonism.
In more recent times, the church appears to have taken on the stance, "if you can't beat them, join them," and now embraces to an extent the name 'Mormon' when describing the church and its members. It now also helps in quickly identifying who we are, which is more difficult when using the real name, 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'
Regardless of the process by which the Book of Mormon was translated, and how valid or scandalous one may view it, the proof is in the pudding, so to say.
Now, I have traipsed through the quagmire of etymology surrounding the word 'Mormon' including the oft-quoted, perhaps satirical and metaphorical explanation given by Joseph Smith/W.W.Phelps that "Mormon means more good." Mr. Smith was probably trying to portray to his detractors that if the Bible means good, then the Book of Mormon means more good, referring to the more correct translation of the latter.
Mormons who believe that the word literally translates to 'more good' are almost conclusively in error. To break up Mormon as mor- (from English 'more') and -mon (from Egyptian 'good') is impossible as the Nephite people in the Book of Mormon never knew English as the language didn't even exist then. So there is no way that mor- could be derived from the English 'more.' Gordon B. Hinckley, 14th President of the church, commented that Mormon means more good is simply a nice motto for church members to use as they wish.
Studies of Egyptian, Hebrew and Arabic have drawn some possibilities of the root MRM or MRMN as translating to 'good,' 'beautiful,' or 'everlasting love' (Though do take into account that the Prophet-Historian Mormon did compile the Book of Mormon record in Reformed Egyptian).
Which leaves us stuck with an etymological puzzle of Mormon.
Mormon, one of the last of the Nephite people in the record, was named after his father Mormon, who in turn most likely got his name from the land of Mormon, which signifies the first usage of the word, around 146BC.
In Mosiah 18 we read of this land called Mormon. It was a well-loved place, a place of trees and fountains, obviously very scenic. It was also a place where gospel covenants were administered and received, where spiritual convictions were realised, and where the beginnings of a church of Christ were formed.
The word Mormon is repeated almost a dozen times in Mosiah 18 and six times in verse 30 alone.
Malaysia is my Mormon.
My missionary service was filled with administering and receiving gospel covenants on a regular basis in Malaysia. I lived the gospel with great devotion in Malaysia. Malaysia was a place where I received intense spiritual convictions. I also helped to lay the foundations for a branch of the church to later spring up in Sitiawan, Malaysia.
Malaysia is my Mormon.
|Here I am (centre) preparing to administer the gospel covenant of baptism to a consenting candidate, accompanied by other missionaries in Ipoh, Malaysia, 2004|
Where is your 'Mormon'? Why is it special to you?