Monday, November 09, 2015

Rambling Reaction (but not a heat-of-the-moment reaction ... more of a mule-this-over-for-a-bit reaction)

If you've been anywhere around social media during this last weekend, you've heard about the policy changes made by my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

I just need to get a brain dump made ... because I have thoughts. And I deserve a place to write them down.

Before I really start, I want to make it clear that I have friends with many, diverse opinions and lifestyles. And I know that it's my Christian duty to love everyone, regardless of age/sex/orientation/lifestyle/race/religion/whatever. In fact, I consider it an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to have these people in my life (even when I don't always understand their choices). Because, heaven knows, I'm not at all perfect myself. (Seriously, if you think that I am ... well, you're very sweet. And deluded. But I appreciate it. Please be aware that I am SO. VERY. NOT. perfect. I'm a total screw-up. But I'm working at it. Even if I leave myself LOTS of room for improvement.)

Point #1 - God loves ALL His children.
And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. (1 nephi 11:17) -- See also this pamphlet - God Loveth His Children
He loves us perfectly, eternally, never removing any of His love from us. Jesus loves us. Again, perfectly. He was willing to give His life for us, to suffer more than any mortal being could possibly bear ... because He LOVES us.
Because He loves YOU and ME, He'd have been willing to atone for just a single one of us.
And, through His Atonement, He KNOWS EXACTLY how we feel, how we suffer ... There is nothing we go through that He cannot understand from OUR viewpoint. (And, since, unlike us, He does have a perfect knowledge of things, He understands us better than we understand ourselves.)

I KNOW that God loves ALL His children. ALL of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE.
When we make bad decisions, when we sin, He STILL loves us with a perfect love.
He is steadfast. He does not change.
We are the ones who, through our actions, either remove ourselves from Him or approach Him.

Still, there is NOTHING that we can ever do that would cause Him not to love us. Nothing.
His love is constant and unwavering. Because He is unchangeable. He is eternal.

Point #2 - We are not our temptations. Being tempted is not the same as sinning.
Think about it ... if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only perfect being to live on this earth ... if HE was tempted, why shouldn't we -- imperfect as we are -- suffer temptations as well?

Just because someone is tempted or has a proclivity towards a certain behavior that is not in keeping with the gospel, that doesn't mean that s/he is, inherently, a bad person.
If that were true, I'd be completely irredeemable (If I were my main sins, I'd be a gluttonous, slothful, vain, proud lazeabout. These attributes are things I need to work [VERY HARD] to overcome. I'm a work in progress. ... And, for the record, those are NOT my only sins. I've got quite the laundry list to choose from. That's why we have repentance. That's why we have the gospel ...).

We all have moral agency. We have the freedom to choose for ourselves -- to ACT, rather than be acted upon. When we are faced with temptations, we will always have a choice. And, our loving Heavenly Father will always provide a safe way for us to withstand it. If we choose to look for and follow it.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
And, knowing that we are not perfect, He provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to come to earth -- to teach us, to atone for us, to die for us -- so that we are able to overcome physical death (through the resurrection) and spiritual death (our separation from God's presence -- through repentance).
Jesus was willing. He chose to come to earth and to atone for us, as a sinless sacrifice, and to die for us.

As it says in one of our hymns (#193 - I Stand All Amazed),
"I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine, that He would extend His great love unto such as I, sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify. Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!"

Truly, it is beyond description ... He loves us so very, very much. And, whenever I think of this ... I don't have the words to state how awed, how grateful I am ... because it is not possible to comprehend that amount of love and compassion.

And Jesus Christ was willing to suffer for ALL our sins. Because He loves us. Because He wants us to ALL be able to return to His/our Father's presence. Because He considers US worthy of such pain, suffering, and sacrifice. EACH OF US. INDIVIDUAL. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

Point #3 - God loves us. He wants us to be able to return to His presence. So, not only did He send His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to atone and die for us; He also sends us, from the beginning of time, prophets to help guide us. Our prophets give revelation to the whole Church and the whole world.

"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." - Amos 3:7
Because God loves us, we have prophets and other leaders to help guide us, to teach us what we need to know, so we can progress and grow and develop those attributes and character that will help us to become more like our Heavenly Parents.

When we choose to be obedient, to make those sacrifices in our lives so that we can become more like our Heavenly Father, full of love, light, and knowledge, ... well, it's rather obvious that we draw closer to Him. And, by following the commandments that He gives us, through his prophets (both ancient [Moses, Abraham, Jesus, etc] AND modern [Joseph Smith, Jr., continuing through our living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson ... and whoever follows him], we are blessed.

Obedience is founded upon faith. And we are not to follow our leaders blindly ... we, in fact, are COMMANDED (though these same leaders) to seek for personal confirmation, from the Holy Spirit, through personal prayer and scripture study.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9)
I know that when I follow the counsel of our prophet and the apostles, I am blessed. I KNOW this, because I've seen it happen over and over again in my life. I also see that when I make choices contrary to the commandments, I lose the presence of the Holy Spirit and his constant guidance.
Life is (overall) easier when I choose to follow the revelations given to us from God through his prophets.

So you'll understand my sadness over the reactions to the changes in Church policy ... and, truly, they aren't really changes ... CLARIFICATIONS is a better word for this.

The more that I think on this, the more that it is confirmed to me that this clarification of Church policy is for the GOOD of these sweet souls. It is to protect the family, ALL FAMILIES, from contention.

This will help children, especially young children, not to have to deal with very adult/advanced issues of reconciling the fact that their parents are living a life that is contrary to the gospel and eternal progression. (Bear with me on that. I'll explain. Pinkie-swears!) It will allow these children every blessing they have been promised ... it's just delayed.

And, yes, it's quite sad that these sweet souls will have to wait. However, it's just a small matter of time. And they WILL be able to receive those blessings.
And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. 
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (Doctrine and Covenants 78:18-19)
The Lord is aware of you. The Lord is aware of them. He will hold nothing back from them.
Rather like it's said in The Princess Bride, this policy cannot (indeed, does not) stop these individuals from receiving their promised blessings, it just postpones the delivery for a while.

We will face opposition in this life. Satan is striving to make it hard to tell what is good from what is not. And, I think in this case, he's working overtime.

So, back to the point that I promised to elucidate on ... The plan of salvation, or the plan of happiness. It has both names for a very good reason. Because if we follow the plan, we achieve both those results.


from http://courtneyaitken.blogspot.com/2013/01/plan-of-salvation-bookmarks.html

 Here's the plan of salvation, made simple (if you want to read more about it, follow the link in the caption. Courtney Aitken also has a backside for the bookmark FILLED with scriptural references.
You could also ask me. Or another LDS friend that you have. Or the missionaries. Or go to LDS.org and read about it there ... there's lots of options.

  • Before we were born, we all existed as spirit children of our Heavenly Parents.
    Heavenly Father presented a beautiful plan to us -- one that would allow us to learn, grow, become more like Him, and return to His presence.
    To do this, we would be born in mortal bodies, on earth. We would have the opportunity to learn the commandments, prove ourselves by making good (or poor) choices, and make covenants with Him. 
  • We would have need of a savior, knowing that we would make mistakes and sin.
    Jesus and Lucifer both offered to be that savior.
    Lucifer promised to return EVERY soul to Heavenly Father (which would require negating agency), if he received all the glory.
    Jesus offered to go, allowing us to have our own agency to choose for ourselves, and the glory would go to Heavenly Father (which is fair, since it was His plan, in the first place).
  • Some spirits followed Lucifer and they were cast out -- Lucifer became Satan. Those other souls that followed him were not able to come to earth and get bodies. This is why they are damned -- they made it impossible for themselves to progress (just like a dam stops the flow of water in a river. At least, for the most part. But you get where I'm going with that analogy, right?)
  • Jesus created this world for us. It is a beautiful place.
  • Adam and Eve came here and were placed in the Garden of Eden. They, as we, were made to forget our pre-mortal existence. If we all remembered everything that we knew then, this life wouldn't be a true testing opportunity (and, as it is, what with the scriptures and prophetic counsel and personal revelation, it's quite an open-book test). They were tempted and chose to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. This allowed them to become mortal, which enabled them to fulfill the first commandment of "multiply and replenish the earth."
    Also, just for what it's worth, we honor Eve as being very brave and selfless in this decision. Yes, it was a transgression ... but it was for a noble purpose. And Adam, as our first prophet, is quite worthy of admiration, too.
  • Because of this, "The Fall," as we call it, where Adam and Eve were removed from God's presence (by having to leave the Garden of Eden), which is a spiritual death AND being made mortal (so they would die), we all had need of a savior. (Which we discussed a bit earlier).
  • From the beginning of time, we have been blessed with prophets to help guide us. The Lord gives revelations to the prophets that apply to the whole world and the whole church. He loves us and wants to give us every opportunity to return to Him.
  • Jesus came, in the meridian of time, to live here on earth, teach, serve, atone and die for us. Because of His sacrifices for us, we are able to repent (thus overcoming that spiritual death) and be resurrected (overcoming physical death).
  • After we die, we will go to the spirit world, since our bodies and spirits will be separated (that's what death is). Those who did not have the opportunity to make covenants (baptism, receiving one's endowment, eternal marriage, etc), will have the opportunity to receive them through vicarious work done on earth (These covenants require a body to do them, you see. That's why our church is gung-ho about temple work, since the temple is the only place we can perform this service for those who've passed on). We all will be able to learn more and make some (slower) progress here in the spirit world.
  • We will be resurrected. Our bodies will be immortal bodies, made perfect. (That isn't to say that we'll all be supermodels or bodybuilders ... but we'll have bodies that work perfectly, for sure.)
  • After the resurrection, there will be a final judgement. We'll be judged for our choices (Now, if we've repented, God won't remember those sins. Neither will we). If we're worthy, we will be comfortable and confident in His presence. He will be able to welcome us into His presence.
    If we aren't worthy of his presences, we will go to a lesser kingdom. The Telestial Kingdom is the lowest. It's, pretty much, what we're dealing with here. The Holy Ghost can be here to teach and instruct.
    The Terrestrial Kingdom is better. You have to live a higher law than what's required for the Telestial Kingdom. Jesus will come to minister.
    If you want to receive all the blessings promised, then work to be Celestial Kingdom material. We will be in God's presence. We will be able to be with our eternal families. We will have the ability to progress and reach our overall goal of becoming like our Heavenly Parents.
    To qualify for the Celestial Kingdom, we need a few things:
  1. Faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior
  2. Repentance (We show remorse, make restitution, and work to change our character to overcome these sins that are keeping us from our eternal goals)
  3. Baptism by immersion by the proper authority
  4. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (to, if we are worthy, be our constant companion as a comforter and guide) 
  5. Enduring to the end by following the commandments and keeping the covenants that we make with our Heavenly Father
Yes, it is a trifle difficult to explain it all in one nutshell ... but, of everything in this world, it's the one constant that makes sense (at least to me. Per the 11th Article of Faith, you're free to believe and worship as you see fit. You have the moral agency to do so. We respect that).

But, okay, so we're working to be like Heavenly Father -- He is perfect, has an immortal body, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Pretty awesome goal, right?

Another blessing that we can receive in this journey to become more like him is to have family bonds that are not ended with our deaths (e.g., "til death do you part.").
Through the power of the Melchizedek priesthood, we are able to be sealed to our families with an eternal bond. A husband and wife can be sealed together. Their children can be sealed to them. (If a husband and wife are sealed before their children are born, those children are born in the covenant, already sealed to their parents).
If we keep those covenants that we've made in the temple, we can be together forever as families.

That's the big reason for the Church's support of moral issues, like marriage between one man and one woman.
It's not because we don't love these other people. We do. We're commanded to. And, if we're being Christlike (like we SHOULD be), we WANT to love them ... and to make sure that they know that they're loved, valued, and cherished by our Heavenly parents.

Sadly, we don't know WHY same-sex attraction is given as a trial for some people.
I do know, though, that they are strong, worthy individuals who are capable of withstanding this temptation ... as we are all capable of withstanding being tempted ... through the power of Jesus Christ.
And if they, like we all do sometimes, fold? They are able to repent. Just like the rest of us.
If they choose to enter into a same-sex marriage, that is their choice. However, that marriage cannot be sealed through the Holy Spirit of Promise. It will end with their death ... and I find it terribly sad that they'd put so much time, effort, emotion, and energy into something that cannot be eternal.

Sometimes, our own choices affect more people than just ourselves.
Sometimes, due to our choices, other people will suffer.
This is yet another reason for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Through the Atonement, ALL wrongs will be made right. All sins will be forgiven. All hurts -- physical, spiritual, and emotional -- will be healed.
Oh, it is wonderful to me.

Will Heavenly Father hold back any blessing from them, if they actively seek those blessings?
No.
Because He LOVES us all.

And, knowing that Heavenly Father loves us, would he send us leaders who would lead the Church to withhold blessings and opportunities due to hate or bigotry?
NO.
So I KNOW that there are reasons of love behind this.
Because I KNOW that our prophet and apostles and all our other leaders are working to emulate Christ and His love for all God's children.

Just like how, because I love my children, I'm not going to condone them doing things that will hurt them.
I gave my kids the example of, "What if we bought a motorcycle? Are you allowed to ride it by yourself?"
"No."
"What if you did ride it by yourself? What would happen?"
"We'd get in trouble."
"Would it make sense for us to get rid of the motorcycle ... especially while you weren't allowed to ride it by yourself?"
"Yes."
"Would that be because we're being mean?"
"Well ... no, not really."
"Then why would we take it away?"
"So that we couldn't get in trouble."
"Exactly."

Just like how, when an individual is excommunicated from the Church, it's NOT because the leaders are wanting to be mean ... it's to allow the person to either continue the problematic choices without being under greater condemnation from the Lord for breaking (and continuing to break) covenants -OR- to allow the person to repent while protecting himself/herself from bigger punishments.

Does that sound like it's something done out of hate? Or a plan from a loving Heavenly Father through loving leaders?

To me, it's definitely the second. Because, even when a person is excommunicated or disfellowshipped, we have every hope and desire for them to return. We love and watch and wait. If they CHOOSE to repent and return, we rejoice. If they don't, we just love them while maintaining our standards and not condoning their actions.
Because we are all worthy of love.

Because Heavenly Father loves us all.

And because I KNOW that He loves us, I know that He would never do something just for the sole reason of hurting people. He will ask hard things of us, just like our earthly parents ask us to do things we'd rather not do (take out the trash/clean our rooms/etc) -- like we ask our kids to do ... because we know that it's (1) important for them to learn and/or (2) it's to help them develop into something better than they were.

I also know that, if ever it should occur that a prophet were to cause God's church to be led astray, He would TAKE THAT PROPHET OUT. And, there's the fact that this matter was discussed and agreed upon unanimously among 15 apostles and prophets. Do you know HOW HARD it is for even similar-minded people to agree completely? ...

Yes, my heart hurts for those who find this news hard to bear. I wish I had a way to make it so that they automatically felt loved and supported enough to wade through any doubts.

Still, regardless of this sorrow, I will not support those who try to tell me that this is an evil move, that our leaders are uninspired ... because everything points to the contrary.

The Family Proclamation was delivered just over 20 year ago. It is Church doctrine. It has not and will not change.

That doesn't mean that we are not under commandment to love everyone. Because we ARE.
But, if we choose to be politically-correct to the point where we eschew the teachings of God, given through His servants, we are putting ourselves (and those we influence) in danger.

So, TL;DR:
  • The commandment to love everyone still stands. 
  • We don't have to agree on everyone's actions. 
  • I choose to support President Thomas S. Monson, our prophet, and the other God-appointed leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as I have raised my arm to show my support. It makes me most sad when I hear/read others maligning our leaders for not bowing down to the demands of the world/being politically correct ... as if they really had a choice to do otherwise.
  • I do not understand all things. But I will keep my covenants, because they are precious to me.
    I have too much to lose, otherwise. I treasure the fact that my family can be together forever.
  • I wish that I could ensure that all God's children, my spirit brothers and sisters, received those blessings that come from making and keeping covenants with the Lord. Because they bring more than happiness -- they bring JOY. In this life and in the life to come. 
  • And I want the best for you all. Because I do love you.
  • If you desire those blessings, they CAN be yours, too. They may be delayed, but never denied. And you will be blessed for your patience. Because our Heavenly Father loves you.
    And it WILL be worth every struggle. 


If you have questions or if I need to better explain things in the rambling, oh-so-very-long post, please let me know.

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