Church History and the Present

I’ve had several periods of deep gospel questioning in my life, and one period a few years ago, of crisis-level questioning. But years before that, in college, I first got some exposure to more complicated church history. I took a class on the Doctrine and Covenants that showed me that early members and leaders of the church had 19th century worldviews, and that was something I had not ever considered up to that point. I also learned that church leaders were not always right, which was another thing that had not really disturbed me until that point. I was happy in the church, but I also had a constant nagging feeling of being unsettled.

After graduating, I spent a summer in Southern California where I grew up. In my younger years there in California, I hiked Mount Whitney, which is the highest mountain in the lower 48 U.S. states. I had always wanted to revisit that place, and in my summer after college, I had a short window of time to try. I contacted the ranger station and asked if they had any available permits, and they did. So I got some backpacking gear and drove up to the trailhead to begin hiking the 11 miles to the summit.

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Is Politics Your New Religion?

Is our enthusiasm for politics stronger than our conversion to Christ? In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have members throughout the world living and thriving under many forms of government, and participating in political parties that promote capitalist, socialist, communist, libertarian, and other political ideologies. In the United States, we are largely politically polarized and church members lean conservative. Outside the U.S., church members have very different political commitments that do not map neatly onto U.S. categories.

The list of considerations below is designed to help us assess if our political views are answering yearnings in our souls that should instead be answered by love of God and our neighbor.

  • When we ponder the question of how God’s purposes are to be achieved among humanity, our thoughts turn to political figures and parties.
  • We prefer political commentary to the current voices of God’s ordained servants.
  • We see people’s political views as the most important aspect of their identity.

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You can have exactly what you want, forever.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.

C.S. Lewis, the Great Divorce

The purpose of God’s plan of salvation is to show us — and God — what we really desire, so that God can give that to us. The caveat is that if we want any kind of life that is not God’s life, we will not feel comfortable in the presence of God, in the society that God inhabits.

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Faith Crisis and Choices

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the source of this wonderful quote:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Borrowing her line of reasoning, I firmly believe it is also true that beautiful faith does not “just happen.” There are decisions that people make. There are responses that are chosen. Some time ago, I was thinking through hundreds of conversations I’ve had among people who have either lost or regained their faith in the face of challenges. I tried to write out the choices I have observed, and here is what I came up with.

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Follow The Prophets

Following the Prophets means embracing their current teachings, especially the united voice of the Q15:

President Dallin H. Oaks

October 2019 General Conference

As to all of these, the wise cautions of Elders D. Todd Christofferson and Neil L. Andersen in earlier general conference messages are important to remember. Elder Christofferson taught: “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”
In the following conference, Elder Andersen taught this principle: “The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.” The family proclamation, signed by all 15 prophets, seers, and revelators, is a wonderful illustration of that principle.

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Thomas Keating, C. S. Lewis, Russell M. Nelson on Christian Healing

This post is not about the practice of healing people from illness; it’s about the personal healing experienced in Christian life. In Isaiah’s theophany in chapter 6, the Lord makes an extraordinary statement that has puzzled scholars and scripturists for ages:

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Isaiah 6:9-10, KJV

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President Russell M. Nelson and Identity

Do you see a common theme in the ministry of President Nelson?

January 2017:

Commence tonight to consecrate a portion of your time each week to studying everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the Old Testament, for He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Study His laws as recorded in the New Testament, for He is its Christ. Study His doctrine as recorded in the Book of Mormon, for there is no book of scripture in which His mission and His ministry are more clearly revealed. And study His words as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, for He continues to teach His people in this dispensation.

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