Showing posts with label 1 Corinthians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1 Corinthians. Show all posts

Not All Men... But Maybe You

Here is some gentle instruction for our mutual edification, directed at bishops and other men who have the responsibility in their callings to edify, uphold the voices of, and respect women.

When you witness a woman expressing their frustration with how they haven't been or aren't being shown the respect they deserve in their LDS congregations or their homes, you don't have a responsibility to contradict them. Your responsibility is not to defend the Church by saying that "Not all men" engage in bad behavior, or "Not all women" are experiencing that pain.

You have a responsibility to listen.

What do y'all think the value is to a woman who is telling you she is hurting and struggling in hearing that some unknowable number of other women throughout the Church are just fine? How does it help to consider there are women in the Church who are not hurting or struggling? How does reminding her that there are women who are having their needs met help her at all? 

To me, all this has ever done is reinforce that the pain and frustration I'm experiencing shouldn't be happening because men in the Church are obviously capable of doing better. It reinforces to me that my expectations are not unreasonable.

1 Corinthians 12:26 reminds us that we all are a part of the body of Christ. If any one of us is in pain, we are all supposed to suffer with them. It is our duty to care, to alleviate pain, to correct the harm that is being done. Not to minimize it, to say it doesn't matter, or to pretend it's not happening.

I don't care where you are in the Church. Not every woman around you is happy, well-taken care of, listened to, respected, and treated with the dignity she deserves. If you think your leadership is perfect on this front, it's because you aren't being trusted with the way women actually feel.

If you're more worried about The Church and its reputation than you are about acknowledging the real harm that has come to women through their Church membership, you aren't going to be "one of the good ones." 

Know that. Sit with that.

To be "one of the good ones," an ally to women in the Church, that's not something you can claim for yourself. That has to be earned, given to you by the women you have helped. And just because you do that with your female relatives doesn't mean you can use them against every other woman in the Church to minimize their struggles. Treating a handful of women with respect is not currency, so don't try to use it against women who don't know you.

If this behavior has to be explained to you, let's just go ahead and say that it may not be all men, but it's definitely you.

Exploring the New Temple Recommend Interview Questions

Temple recommend interviews are among my least favorite experiences in the Church. I would rather show up early on a Saturday morning and clean toilets than do a temple recommend interview. They make me nervous, I hate the feeling of being judge and scrutinized on elements of my personal life, and I can never wait for them to just be over with. For the overly anxious people who were averse to getting in trouble at school, the experience can feel a lot like getting pulled into the principle's office and interrogated about personal conduct.

I know I'm not alone in that. And there were many ways that these struggles came to the forefront when the new temple recommend questions were released.

When Sustaining Church Leadership is HARD

I recently had a conversation with someone who was having hard time sustaining an individual church leader. It was leaving them in a place where they were unsure of how to proceed, knowing that they have these feelings.

To sustain someone does not mean to agree with or uphold everything a person says or does. It's a commitment to help someone be successful in their service to God and keeping the commandments. Vehemently disagreeing with them when they're out of line is sometimes the only way to actually do that.

If you genuinely believe a church leader can do better in their calling, I don't think that feeling is a problem in and of itself.

If you find yourself genuinely hating that person, wishing harm on them, or no longer believing they've been divinely called, I'd say that's where the line is.

If it were me speaking for myself, I'd probably explain I have no problem with the idea that apostles exist and they're called through the Church by Jesus Christ, since that what the question asks. No where in the question does that mean I have to agree with everything they say and do.  

Even if I found myself in a place where I believe a particular leader is so bad at their calling, much of what they say and do is a reflection of themselves, rather than the office they hold, there's nothing in the temple recommend question that prevents me from holding that view. At that point, sustaining that person can simply mean committing to minimize the harm they might do, while praying for them so they can do better.

If that's the only kind of sustaining someone can provide, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Sometimes, that's all the faith a person has to offer, and no one can ever ask more than that.

Dissent and Disagreement

The questions regarding the teachings, practices, and doctrines of the Church is one that always makes me nervous because I instantly start overthinking it.

Something that has helped me is realizing that this question doesn't ask if I agree with all the leadership the Church has ever had, past or present. 

Rather, it asks if I agree with the Church, and I am the Church. (See 1 Cor. 12) My definition of the Church when answering this question has to include what I think, not just what various individual church leaders think. Which is convenient, because there are plenty of times when church leaders throughout the history of the Church have disagreed and contradicted each other.

If there is room for church leaders to disagree with each other, there certainly has to be room for me when I respectfully disagree with them on various issues.

Familial Conduct

The great thing about openly discussing these questions in a family setting is getting to hear the perspectives of our loved ones in how they approach these questions. It can help us to see them in ways we couldn't on our own.

My husband pointed out that there's absolutely no way to say "yes" to the question about having Christ-like conduct in your family relationships if you've ever kicked an LGBTQ+ kid out of your house.

Because, you know, how can you consider yourself worthy to enter the temple when you hate your own kids? I've never thought of it that way and I'm genuinely obsessed with that now. 

He also reminded me tonight of the time Jesus taught how it would be better for those who harm children to have millstones hung around their necks and to be cast into the sea. I never stopped to think before about that applying to LGBTQ+ kids either, and I'm equally obsessed with that too.

The Sealing Power: "On earth as it is in Heaven"

[This is the talk I gave in Church last week. I've been slow in getting it up, but I got the time today to get it done. Enjoy!]

What is the sealing power?
The sealing power is the power given to the prophets of God which allows them to perform miracles on the earth. It was a power extended to the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Elijah sealed the heavens for 3 1/2 years so that it would not rain. In the Book of Mormon, one of the prophets named Nephi also received the sealing power, and in Helaman 10 we can see a clear definition of what the sealing power is:

Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
Helaman 10: 7-10

Nephi was trusted with this power because, as it says in verse 5: “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”

Jesus Christ also possessed this power, and exercised it throughout His ministry. All power in heaven and earth was given to Christ while he was here on earth (Matt 28: 18) He extended that power to his servants beginning with the apostle Peter, saying:

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Matt 16: 18-19

The Prophet Joseph Smith received the keys to use this power from the prophet Elijah in 1836. (See D&C 110) Joseph Smith sealed those keys and powers upon his successors, to our current prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. President Monson is the only person on the earth who possesses the sealing power as given to Elijah and the prophets and apostles of old. While he may delegate those powers to other men throughout the world to make them accessible to us, all those who have received the sealing power can trace their authority back to the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How is the sealing power used today?

The primary purpose of the sealing power in our lives today is to be sealed together for time and all eternity in our families. By entering into one of the many temples throughout the world with our families, we are able to stand before a man with this authority, and he declares that our family will be together forever. God honors this declaration on two conditions—that the sealing was offered by someone who possesses the proper authority, and that we honor the promises which we will make with God at that time. They are no different than the covenant we make at baptism—therefore, if we will continue to obey our baptismal covenants, we will always be worthy to be sealed in the temple.

So, what is an eternal family?

In the strictest sense, an eternal family is a husband and wife who have made covenants in the temple to be together for time and all eternity. The children who are born to them after their sealing are born in the covenant, and will automatically be sealed to them if the children accept the gospel for themselves. Children may also be sealed to their parents and choose to become part of an eternal family after their birth.

The Book of Mormon teaches about eternal families in Moroni 8:

10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.

Being sealed to our families provides us with the blessings we most desire in the Church. Because they are so important, problems and misunderstandings with regards to being sealed can be some of the more painful experiences we have in the Church. I want to address some of these today through questions I know many of us have. I pray that as I address these sensitive subjects that I will be able to provide you with helpful suggestions, peace of mind and heart, needed healing, and a more determined resolution to serve the Lord in his great work of Salvation.

How can the blessings and promises of the sealing power bring me closer to my spouse?

Adam and Eve provide the example which every couple desires to follow.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Genesis 2: 23-24

Christ echoed this same teaching in the New Testament when He taught:

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Matt 19: 4-6

When Christ was teaching this doctrine, he was not referring to marriage. He was referring to something far more permanent. It operates under the assumption that the relationship does not exist until death do you part, but continues after death.

The entire purpose of being sealed is to become united in love and trust with your spouse. It is the opportunity to create an unbreakable bond with someone in a spirit of openness and honesty, sharing yourself with someone you can trust to love and appreciate you for who you are. It is an equal relationship of acceptance and kindness, where any injury felt by one person is felt by the other.

This unity is not necessarily accomplished by becoming the same person. It means to be a complement to each other—to depend on each other, and to be each other’s strength. You may be very different from your spouse, as I have come to recognize that I am a near polar opposite from mine. But in this recognition, I see how very much I need him, and how incomplete my life would be without him. And in many ways, I’m coming to recognize how much he needs me. As it says in 1 Corinthians 11:11:

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

Our minds may be different, but when we agree we are unstoppable. I rely so much on his wisdom and quiet example, and he relies on my affection and determination. For us, being sealed together has provided so much opportunity for growth, and our love for each other is deeper now than it was before we got married. The only hope we have of receiving eternal life is with each other, because together we have so much more to offer the Lord. Being sealed to my husband has put my choices and my future into a very different perspective

What happens if I am not sealed to my family? Will I still be able to be with them after I die?

When we are sealed, we receive a promise to come forth in the first resurrection. In D&C 132: 19, we can read this promise. It’s a very long verse, so I will only read a section of it:

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection…

We will all live again after we die because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because He was resurrected, we all shall be resurrected. We will become immortal, never to die again. This will happen regardless of who we are or what we do—it is a free gift to help us overcome death.

However, this does not mean that we will continue together with our families—this blessing is only given to those who decide to be sealed, and who enter the Celestial Kingdom together. When we are sealed, we are promised that we will come forth as a family in the 1st resurrection—but it depends on each family member keeping their part of the promise. We all will be judged, and the fact that we are sealed will not override the decision of our judgment. If we do not keep our promises to the Lord, we have broken our agreement with Him and He is no longer bound to keep up His end of the agreement. (D&C 82:10) We have no guarantee that we will live with Him again, but fortunately He is the only one who will decide our fate. But that is why He makes His expectations exceedingly clear throughout the scriptures, including in John 14: 21:

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

If someone does not want to live in God’s presence according to His laws and commandments, He will not force anyone to do so. In order to achieve an eternal family, all family members must decide together that this is what they want. Alma taught this to his son Corianton when he said:

Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
Alma 42: 27

No one will ever be prevented from coming to God who wants to be in His presence. But the condition will always be that we keep His commandments. (D&C 76: 50-53) If we want no one to be left behind, we have to decide that individually for ourselves, and together as a family. When each family member feels responsible for their part of an eternal family, this is when a family can truly progress together.

What if my family members have chosen not to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and are not sealed to me?

With time and patience, every good person who deserves to live in the presence of God will make it back to His presence. I believe this because I have seen it powerfully enough in my own family.

I was promised that my father would accept the gospel if I would pray for Him and forgive Him for all that has happened between us. This was the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do. My father and I have been estranged for nearly 10 years, and we did not reconcile before his death in 2009. I still struggle to be at peace with him—but that is because of my own weakness. He has since accepted the gospel, has become a priesthood holder, and I trust that he praises God every day for giving Him a second chance. If my father can be baptized, anybody can. If my father has a hope to be sealed to his family, to become a member of an eternal family, every person on this earth can receive that blessing. My father’s life is a testimony that everyone can be saved by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

My mother is not interested in the Church, and at times I wonder if she will ever accept the gospel. But then I remember that she has an entire wonderful family on the other side of the veil waiting for her.

There is a promise in Malachi that reads:

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Malachi 4: 5-6

Joseph Smith expounded on this promise in D&C 128: 18 when he said of our ancestors:

For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.

My mother is the perfect example of someone who cannot be saved without her family. She loves her family more than anything in this world—it’s the closest thing she has to understand what believing in God is really like. She would change her entire life to be with her family forever. And they love her dearly. They reach out to her continually. The times she is most receptive to the gospel are when we are discussing her family history. She loves to talk about it, and to be touched by the lives of her ancestors. She craves that association. When my mother truly understands the doctrine of eternal families, she will be baptized. Because I know her, I can also say with confidence that she will probably refuse to be baptized for any other reason.

In the meantime, I need to continue providing the ordinances of the temple to her family members—linking them to her so that she might receive this blessing. So much depends on us doing our genealogy and family history work. And I know that if the veil could be parted for just a moment, for us to see our kindred dead who have passed on, we would see them all around us—helping their descendants who need to receive the gospel. I love my ancestors, and I know that because of the ordinances of the temple, we will be an eternal family someday.

If there is still a lot of work to do in your family, don’t lose hope. Keep trying. Good things will happen if you are patient and persistent.

What if my family members are sealed to me, but they choose to leave the Church and choose not to live according to the Lord’s standards anymore? Will they still be sealed to me forever?

There is a temptation to think sometimes that as soon as someone decides to leave the Church, or break a commandment—that’s it for them. Especially if they went through the temple—they are punished even more severely for falling short of the glory of God. They don’t qualify for any more help, they get no more blessings, and God is so offended with them that He literally turns His back on them. The justification that comes along with this belief is that we don’t need to do anything to help them because they made their choice. If they want to come back, they’ll come back—and they are only worth our time if they decide to stay.

But the scriptures are full of examples of God doing the exact opposite. God understands that when we push Him away is when we need Him the most. We may wonder if He has forgotten us, or our family members who have strayed, but He NEVER stops trying to save His children. He would never give up on His children because they are precious to Him!

Many times, the help He extends to those who have wandered comes exactly because they ARE sealed to Him and to their families. He has every right to decide to uphold His end of the agreement, even when they have not. I saw Him do this often as a missionary. He wants you all to know that He is still doing this today—here, now—for every family in this ward.

Once when the Lord’s people were so full of iniquity that God could have cast them off forever, He still chose to be patient:

Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off.
1 Nephi 20: 9

It is not up to us to decide who God should try to save, and who has wandered too far for too long. There is NO SUCH THING as too far, or for too long. God doesn’t believe in it, and neither should we. He loves all of His children, and if we could fathom that love enough, we would not be sitting here—content, and sometimes even bored. We would be on our feet, saving souls. And if we are the soul who needs saving, we will be wise and ask for help.

I promise you that if you will approach Our Father in Heaven in prayer, and ask Him what your family needs most in order to become an eternal family, He will answer your prayers. He will instruct you through the Spirit what changes you most need to make to come closer to that goal. If you implement that instruction, I cannot tell you what will happen. But our God is a God of miracles, and I know that at the very least, it will be exactly what you needed all along.

I know that this Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ here on the earth. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet; that he was endowed from on high with the sealing power. I know President Monson holds that sealing power today. If we will make the necessary sacrifices, we all can be sealed to our families forever. I leave my witness with you that Jesus is the Christ. Every good thing that comes into our lives is a blessing from His Atonement.

May we love Him more fervently and with more devotion is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


As I prepare to be sealed in the temple at the end of this month, I have given reflection to the topic of covenants--and discovered many things I do not know, and more still that I do not fully understand.

Two questions have been mine, which I have pondered in my heart, which I offer to you now.

The first question was to ask Why does God use covenants to grant us eternal life?

Mortality is a stewardship in which we are entrusted with many things which are not our own. A body, a family, all of these earthly possessions, even our very lives—these things do not belong to us. They have been entrusted to us by a living God, through an agreement which we made with him before we came to this life. It is an agreement we accepted here on earth with baptism, and it is the reason we have everything we treasure right now. They are gifts from God because He promised to care for us, and to provide us with an inheritance if we are faithful. If we honor our God and keep His commandments, if we are just and honorable stewards over those things which do not yet belong to us, all of these things we treasure will become ours.

In Luke 16, Jesus teaches:

10 “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust in much.
12 “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”

If we want to inherit eternal life, we must be faithful and build His kingdom with all we have been given in our mortal life. In all that we are, in all that we do, and in all we possess—we must build the kingdom of God. That is the promise we have made in all of our covenants. By doing so, we create the inheritance we shall receive. We shall have an eternal family because we have made an eternal family. We shall have the celestial kingdom because we built our own corner of the celestial kingdom.

 If we have built a lesser kingdom through our words and deeds, that is the gift we shall receive. I believe the phrase my mother would use here—one that expresses my point perfectly—is “You made your bed, and now you lie in it.”

My second question was one of comprehension. Oftentimes in recent conferences and talks in every imaginable setting, I have heard the phrase “Cleave to your covenants,” with the promise that they will provide protection from the temptations offered in this world. And I realized that I didn’t know what it means to cleave to my covenants. They aren’t physical, I can’t touch them, I can’t hold them—so how would I cleave to them?

To cleave to our covenants has two parts. First, it means to maintain our part of the agreement by keeping the commandments of God. It means to live up to who we are and what we've promised, no matter what the cost. Jesus taught:

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
John 14: 23 (to Judas Isacariot)

I have found that every time I have disobeyed a commandment of God, it was because I simply didn’t love Him enough to do as He said. It was because I had forgotten the worth of His atoning blood in my life, and I had lost sight of His power to rescue me from anything and everything. There is no peace to be found in this world, or in our hearts, until we make peace with Christ. That’s why He always invites us:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Revelation 3: 20

To cleave to our covenants is no different than to cleave to our Savior. There is no difference between them.

The second part of cleaving to our covenants is to trust God to keep His end of the agreement. We must believe in our hearts that God is our Father and that He loves us. We must have faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and have faith that He wants to forgive our sins and save us. We must trust in the future they have prepared for us, no matter what form that future may take. “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)

 Isaiah and Paul both testified:

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
1 Corinthians 2: 9

When I was in Brazil, there was a phrase I saw everywhere. It was painted on buildings, printed on store receipts, tagged on the backs of street signs, and was written in many of their hearts. The phrase was “Deus é Fiel.” God is faithful.

We have more reason than anyone else in the world to believe that God is faithful because we are members of His restored Church. We have made covenants with him through His restored priesthood authority. When we cleave to our covenants and keep God’s commandments, having faith in Christ, we can be assured that the future is as bright as our faith.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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