Book Review Series: Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt

Book Review Series: Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt


Planted-smallIn Planted, author Patrick Mason represents what I love most of the LDS faith: a focus on community and Christ with flexible boundaries that stretch to include everyone. His journey through topics many find troublesome will give those in the LDS faith who feel certainty, greater certainty. But, Planted also offers lessons for enhancing the capacity of LDS Church members to hold space for those who doubt.


In the spirit of Eugene England or Chieko Okazaki, Planted teaches empathy and the gift of mourning with those that mourn. It is a must-read for the faithful and doubting alike (with a caveat that it might not be the best fit for those that no longer entertain the possibility that central LDS truth claims have any validity).


Mason argues for an inclusive body of Christ that is stronger and more redemptive through the diversity of faith among the members. He relates examples from his own lived experience as to how he has connected to others through unifying applications of the teachings of Jesus Christ that cherish diversity. Mason also balances his male perspective to some extent with experiences of women. My favorite was the treatment of Mother Teresa and her struggles for connection to God. I was shocked to learn how a woman so fully devoted to the work of God, anguished throughout her life in seeking a spiritual witness that never came.

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December Young Women Lesson: What is Zion?

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation Translation generously provided by Cesar Carreon.


City of Zion Taken Up

For the teacher

(link to lesson outline

The word “Zion” has many meanings in our vernacular.  The original Zion was the city of Enoch, whose citizens were so righteous and pure that they were taken up to God’s bosom without tasting death (translated.) Since then, it is used throughout the scriptures to describe “the pure in heart” or to refer to the Lord’s people. It can mean the state of a person’s heart, and the unity of a community. Early Mormon pioneers used the term “Zion” to refer to the place where they could finally gather together and worship God in peace — eventually Utah. Oddly, there sprung up a retail shop, Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Inc. (ZCMI), a bank – Zions Bank, and a National Park – Zion National Park, all using Zion in the title. (Whether or not they are the pure in heart, I cannot say.) It is also used in the scriptures to refer to Ancient Jerusalem and “New Jerusalem” (in connection with the second coming of Jesus Christ.)

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Teaching No Greater Call: Writing a Spirit-Filled Sermon

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” 

I go to church hungry every week. No, I’m not talking about fasting, but spirit and soul hungry with longing to “feast upon the words of Christ” and desires to be “nourished by the good word of God.”

Some weeks I leave with my cup running over, others drained out lower than when I came. We need powerful, spirit-filled speakers with Christ-centered sermons to feed the souls of everyone in our worship service. Be that person! Accept the invitation to speak and then deliver a message that will invigorate hearts and minds… those who have ears to hear, let them hear!

What’s in a talk?

A message that is Christ-centered, scripturally based, doctrinally sound, with words from modern-day prophets and leaders, and including personal experience and testimony is sure to have something that can appeal to everyone and bring the spirit of God into the hearts of those listening.

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Poetry Sunday: My prayers must meet a brazen Heaven

This poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins beautifully expresses a worry that we all might feel at some point in our lives — that our prayers are ineffective or unable to meet God’s ears, barred by a brazen heaven. In this case brazen = brass, not bold.  The speaker hints at his/her shortcomings: the prayers being inadequate and any attempts to transcend the problem by calling for God’s help will automatically fail because the messages can’t get through to a brass heaven anyway!

Like Enos who “wrestled before God,” the speaker describes prayer as a battle, heaven as brass and him/herself as clay with too much iron to be malleable.  To some, this is uncharted territory. For others, a familiar journey. Let’s be kind to each other, wherever we are.

My Prayers must meet a Brazen Heaven — Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Book Review: First Principles and Ordinances

First Principles

Samuel Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple is not a very big book, but it took me a big time to read, and a bigger time to think about. This is in part, because I could only read in little bursts of time confetti, one page here, three pages there, on walks to the water with my daughter, or at the nearby park. But, there is a another important part: it’s pages contain multitudes. For me, this meant that it benefited from a slow read, and also that every time I turned to its pages, I felt better–not just about Mormonism, which I might have expected, but about marriage, relationships, and community, which I didn’t quite expect.

It helps to know that First Principles and Ordinances is the second book in Neal A. Maxwell Institute’s “Living Faith” series, with Adam Miller’s Letters to a Young Mormon being the first, Steven L. Peck’s Evolving Faith, being the third, and Patrick Q. Mason’s, Plantedbeing the fourth. (If you, like I, noticed that there are as of yet no female authors, take heart, and please consider submitting something. It is a matter the Maxwell Institute is very much aware of, and very much would like to change.)

In this series, each author approaches a matter of faith personally and professionally, meaning that they write both from their life of faith and their life of scholarship, making it a clear and worthwhile attempt at Anselm’s “faith seeking understanding.”

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