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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Seeking Revelation

In mindfulness/contemplative practice, we sometimes talk about the Buddhist concept of “emptying,” and while this is not an exact representation of that concept, I think it is a variation that can benefit Latter-Day Saints.

When I am really, really serious about seeking personal revelation, these are the kinds of things I pray:

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Does Revelation Need To Be Original?

Some of the most vexing questions for students of scripture have to do with 1) the nature of relationships between texts, and 2) the relationships between texts and the environment and worldview of the people who produce them.  As an example of the first problem, it is common for Latter-Day Saints to approach the Book of Mormon text with the assumption that the word translation connotes an exact rendering of a set of words and phrases in one language into a corresponding set of words and phrases in another language.  Operating with that assumption, we might be dismayed to see commonalities between the King James biblical language and passages in the Book of Mormon, or confused by Royal Skousen’s characterization of the Book of Mormon text as a “creative and cultural translation of the Nephite record.”  Skousen’s characterization finds support in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8, where the Lord specifies that the translation of the Book of Mormon required one to “study it out in your mind,” an imprecise process in which the mental building blocks of the translator (including cultural forms of expression) would be formed into an approximation of the intentions of the original authors.

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Marvin J Ashton and Spencer W. Kimball

In the 1985 Priesthood Session of General Conference, Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a talk called “Spencer W. Kimball: A True Disciple of Christ.”

We Latter-Day Saints are often criticized for hero worship; we revere leaders of the past and we even sing hymns and primary songs about prophets in the present.  In recent years, we have rightfully engaged in introspection regarding these tendencies and their unhealthy extremes.  As more mature historiography has brought to light a litany of personal failings and shortcomings among church leaders and other prophetic figures of the past, many have found the gap between their previous cherished perceptions and their new uncomfortable awareness to be an insurmountable challenge to faith.

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