The Shelf

448px-PreservedFood1 Friday, 1 July 2000

At dinner today we listened to the radio, and in particular to a story about homosexual marriage.  I have to say, I’m a little confused about what to think.  The LDS church is not in favor of homosexuality, but I feel that that’s only because they [gay people] have extra-marital sex.  But how can it be anything but extra-marital?! Marriage is not allowed in such cases.  Yet I’m fairly sure the church isn’t in favor of gay marriage either.  What a pickle.  Makes me glad I’m straigt!!!! [sic]

I wrote that journal entry when I was sixteen.  I was on vacation with my family and I remember thinking a lot about gay marriage and homosexuality more generally, trying to figure out how the pieces fit together with what I understood of the Gospel.  Reading the entry now, I am struck by several things.  First, I seem hopelessly naive and unclear about the church’s stance in a way I am sure the youth of today could not be.  Having firmly understood that I was not to have sex outside of marriage, I naively assumed that was the main objection that the church had to homosexuality.  Gay marriage would, in that understanding, be the perfect solution.  So why was the church against gay marriage? Or was it? Seemingly I was unsure even of that.

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The spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind

I recently read this article in Wired about eradicating polio.  It says last year there were only 223 cases of polio in the world, which seems pretty close to eradication of the virus.  But it turns out eliminating those last cases is really, really hard.  The reason being that the places where polio is still found are, almost by definition, very hard to reach. They include Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Nigeria.  A worldwide campaign to eradicate polio began in 1988, and its success is measured by the fact that there were 350,000 cases that year.  There is reason to think the campaign will eventually succeed, but it isn’t and won’t be easy.

This made me think of other kinds of problems and human needs.  I think a lesson from the polio eradication effort is that people who greatly need help are often, almost by definition, very hard to reach.  This thought has been with me for a few weeks since I read the Wired article, and it makes my heart very heavy.  Human suffering seems infinite, and efforts to stay it feel puny.  But I’m also thinking of Paul’s words in 2nd Timothy chapter 1: “For God hath not given you a spirit of fear [or of despair]; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”   I also have a little mantra for myself that I repeat when I need hope, which is it’s that I’ll try to 1) do no harm, 2) help who I can help, and 3) create beauty.  A friend just reminded me that we can only help who we can help.  I recognize that this is true.  But I also want to see people who are hard to see and not close my eyes to their problems.  And so I pray to see more so that I can do more.

Can you tell me a story of when you’ve been able to help someone?  Or when someone has helped you?  I need to hear some stories about goodness.

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Talking about our Faith – in the Faith

Aspiring Mormon Women recently published a post about getting to know other women by asking good questions.  The author, Christanne Harrison, encourages women to discuss dreams, interests, and aspirations beyond the usual “church questions”.

This got me thinking.  I wondered: “Are we truly authentic in our discussions with other church members when we talk about our faith, our concerns, our feminism, our ideas about scriptural references, our spiritual experience?” and “Do we ask others to share their authentic feelings, ideas, and experiences with us?”

Even more important:  ”Do we seek to understand another’s spiritual point of view with an open heart?”  and “Do we seek to communicate our feelings in a language that will be understood by others?”

My guess is that we don’t talk about our faith – in the faith – as authentically as we could.  I know I don’t.  And maybe that’s OK.  For example: I am very involved in the Ordain Women movement – and, for me, it’s an integral part of my faith and my worship.  I share my feelings often, but not always.  I don’t hold back because I fear judgement, but I do hold back when I sense it will be upsetting to others.

If you hold back your authentic faith in discussions, why?  What questions could be asked to explore faith more fully?

 

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Ah! Turn Me Not Away

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Stephanie Lauritzen, an OW action participant, being turned away from Priesthood Session. Photo taken by Josh Johnsen.

On Sunday morning I flipped through picture after picture of women being turned away from the doors of our worship places. The Mormon Tabernacle choir sung in the background. Tears streamed down my face; many of those women are my friends. All are my sisters.

Ah! Turn me not away, Receive me tho unworthy. Hear Thou my cry, Behold, Lord, my distress.

I have performed this song countless times but the cry remains with me always. Hear Thou my cry.

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Young Women Lesson: How Can I Develop Christlike Love?

As I was reading through October’s lessons, I was very excited about the focus on Christ and love. The lessons on the Come Follow Me website are very good. In this lesson, I tried to get away from the cerebral aspects of “we need to love everyone” and go into the “how” to love everyone.

Washing of Feet

Lesson Prep/Intro

The week before the lesson, I think it would be good to ask the students to spend time thinking of their favorite story of Jesus. You could ask some of the older girls who studied New Testament last year in seminary to share a story they learned about that was important to them to share with the younger girls, or you could ask everyone to spend some time reading in the Gospels this week in their personal study. Then when you start class, you could ask each to share the story they picked and write it on the board in a list.

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Seeing Through The Veil

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  I Corinthians 13:12

You know how strings of musical instruments that share harmonic likeness, sometimes when struck or plucked, respond to each other with sympathetic vibration? Well, sometimes when I’m sitting in fast and testimony meeting I begin to feel something like that. Only, it’s inside me. Maybe you’ve felt it too. Maybe it’s the spirit whispering, or our own spirit recognizing the truth in someone else’s words. Sometimes it’s not in a church setting when it happens. But whatever it is, or whenever it happens, I’ve learned to pay attention. I try to listen to my heart and to the words being spoken. Most importantly, I seek to understand why I am responding to those particular words or ideas. I allow myself to wonder: Why does this resonate with me? What am I really hearing? Then I wait for answers.

Earlier this month, as the men and women in my ward began bearing their testimonies, I felt that familiar vibration.  My emotions began to soften, and somewhere in my adrenal glands preparation for fight or flight had begun.

As I listened to one of the local full time missionaries share his thoughts about how God looks upon the heart, I noticed my inner truth harp vibrating wildly. I began to see or feel an image of what we typically term the “veil of mortality.” I’ve always imagined the veil as a sort of curtain, behind which the world of spirit and our memories of heaven are concealed.

But on this particular day I saw or felt awareness of another kind of veil. I saw each human being veiled by the effects of the fall, each soul walking the earth, clothed not only in mortal flesh, but also in accoutrements of hardship, disability, and various distortions of truth inherent in earth life. When viewed this way, mortality separates us not only from the presence of God, but the veil also separates us from each other.

For some this veil takes the form of homelessness or addiction. For others it looks like crippling shyness, boisterousness or mental illness. Maybe rigid religiosity or inactivity in the church–or being a person of a different religion, race or sexual orientation is how the veil appears to us. Whatever keeps us (personally or individually) from connecting freely and lovingly with each other may be part of the veil. I have come to believe that heaven is not just a place we “go” when we are done with mortality. It is something we work to create as we live our lives. We are helping God prepare our eternal mansions with our every thought, word and action. Likewise, the veil isn’t just a curtain; it’s also a state of being.

In my understanding of celestial glory, we will return to that place we left by learning to shed our own personal veils; learning to live our truest lives and to love one another the way our Savior loves us. We must do this in order to be comfortable in His presence. We attempt this monumental task in what are perhaps the most challenging circumstances of our eternal existence–in mortality–where each of us is veiled in so many ways. Indeed, we see through a glass darkly.

Burning man 2013.rick egan

Yet, on occasion we are rewarded for our efforts. The scales fall from our eyes, the beam is cast out and whatever normally keeps us separate or at a safe distance from one another seems to disappear. In these rare and wonderful moments the veil is rent and we see each other as God sees us, clothed in light and love. We feel profound humility and respect as we experience communion and reunion with our eternal sisters or brothers; God is in our midst and, for a moment, we are home.

 

Have you shared a moment of loving clarity with a friend or stranger?

Have you had such a homecoming?

.                                                            .                                                      .                                                        Photo by Rick Egan, Burning Man 2013
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