Sunday, August 23, 2015

Voting According to Conscience

This weekend I had the marvelous opportunity to visit the Gila Valley for one of my best friends' reception. I also visited the Gila Valley Temple for a session. 

Tears came to my eyes as I soaked in the celestial room. It seems like forever since I've been here in the Gila Valley. It is here that I gained my strongest testimony of the temple. 

After making mistakes that distanced myself from the Spirit, I made a goal of attending the temple every week for a year. That was in January of 2014. I have stuck to my goal ever since then.  When I go over a week without attending the temple (which is rare) I can clearly feel the darkness of the adversary seeping into  my soul.  I then compensate by going multiple times the next week (hopefully that still counts!). By renewing my covenants (including my obedience to the Law of Chastity) each week in sacrament meeting and at the temple, my Savior has enabled me with the strength to not "be tempted above that [I am] able; but [has] with the temptation also [made] a way to escape, that [I am] able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

This week has been very difficult for me as the Supreme Court has declared the Constitutionality of same-sex marriage, overriding the voice of the American people in most states. 

My Facebook feed is exploding in rainbows with the hashtag "lovewins." Not all of these posts are positive. I've seen some memes of "Mormon Hate Loses, Love Wins," as well as others involving snarky remarks to those who don't support same-sex relationships. 

Naturally, there are many posts decrying homosexuality. One of my friends had the status of "I'm deleting any of my friends that are supporting the queers. Because if you really are my friends you wouldn't be posting that crap anyway." 

These conflicting views tear my heart apart, because I know that the Gospel of Christ is true and that it is the only path to true happiness.  I also know that same-sex attraction is real (obviously) and that most if not all who experience it have not chosen such feelings. Romantic relationships with the opposite gender/sex don't come easily or naturally for many gay people, but they still need human connection. 

Today Elder D.Todd Christofferson announced that members who support same-sex marriage will not be in danger of losing their membership of temple recommends. 

With announcements like these, it amazes me that people still see us Mormons as brainwashed zombies. Even though the Church is clearly opposed to any lifestyle discordant with the Gospel of Christ, we are given explicit permission to vote according to our own conscience without fear of Church disciplinary action. 

However, some of L. Tom Perry's last words to the Church included the following:

“We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established. We also want our voice to be heard in sustaining the joy and fulfillment that traditional families bring. We must continue to project that voice throughout the world in declaring why marriage and family are so important, why marriage and family really do matter, and why they always will.”

I love that L. Tom Perry admonishes us to tell people why family is so important. I know that we must stand with Christ regardless of societal trends and modernly accepted lifestyles. Though it might not be popular, I know that the only path of peace and happiness is the one that leads to Christ. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Seer Stone

This week has been rippled by sadness as some of my friends have announced their departure from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One of the reasons cited was the unveiling of the seer stone, a tool supposedly used by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to translate (Click here for the official Church announcement).

Superficially, the idea of a man using a stone to translate sounds peculiar.  Why wouldn't God just tell Joseph Smith what to write?  Why would he have to rely on a rock to bring to pass the great and marvelous purposes of the Supreme Creator?

The transparency of the Church's revealing of the seer stone has unsettled the testimonies of some of my friends and I imagine many others.  However, any Jew and Christian should be able to process and believe this with peace and acceptance.  Why?

Let's simplify the concepts.  God sets apart an inanimate object and asks His servant(s), the prophet(s), to use said object to work a miracle.

Of the multiple instances throughout the scriptures in which such a situation occurred, the prime example that comes to my mind is Moses.

Moses was called to be a prophet for a people who once hated and feared him.  In his encounter with the burning bush, Moses wrestled with the Lord, saying "Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto they servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue" (Exodus 4:10).  As evidence of this as well as a tool, the great Jehovah blessed Moses' staff and sent him into the heart of Egypt to liberate the captive children of Israel.

Through his witness, Aaron, Moses taught of the divine love of God for His chosen people.  The Egyptians scoffed and scorned the brothers.  To prove the reality of his heavenly appointed mission, the staff was transformed into a snake.  Yet the magicians of the pharaoh's court were able to mimic the miracle.  In their attempt to discredit and undermine the brothers' testimony, their snakes were consumed by the serpent of the Lord (Exodus 7:12).

This rod soon thereafter turned the Nile River to blood, decimating the fish population and contaminating water sources throughout Egypt.  It summoned frogs and lice, which the sorcerers and wise men attempted to debunk through their own imitations.  In desperation, they pleaded with the pharaoh to acknowledge that "this is the finger of God," (Exodus 8:19).

But the pharaoh would not listen.

Then the flies came.  The cattle were smitten with plague.  Due to one of the punishments of God (boils) "the magicians [literally] could stand before Moses" (Exodus 9:11).

Thunder, hail, and fire rained down from heaven.  The crops were choked by pestilence.  Locusts of the east wind swarmed and darkness blanketed the earth as the enemies of God and those who opposed Moses ate whatever food scraps remained.

Every now and again, pharaoh would recant and acknowledge that Moses represented divinity and would beg Moses to entreat his God to take away the fruit of His fury.  However, treachery and deceit would immediately return as the pharaoh would betray the children of Israel again and again.

Ultimately, Jehovah instituted the Passover.  Through a ordinance which may baffle modern observers, the children of Israel sacrificed their best lambs and witnessed their faith by marking their doorposts with the animal's blood.

After losing their eldest sons, the Egyptians allowed the followers of God to depart.  Yet just when the children of Israel thought they were safe, the hosts of the Egyptian armies converged upon them in a numerous swarm of chariots.

With nowhere to turn, the Israelites were backed against their wall of faith, the Red Sea.  In the potentially most widely-known miracle performed by an Old Testament prophet, Moses used the staff to part the huge expanse of water, delivering God's people and obliterating their enemies.

Back to oversimplification.  God gave Moses a stick that defeated the greatest empire of the age.

An inanimate object was used by a prophet of God to bring to pass His great and eternal purposes.

So if you are a Christian or a Jew, you believe in the Old Testament, and therefore that God can use small and simple things to confound Satan and those who uphold his work.  By that same token, it would not be impossible for a raccoon to have scurried up to Joseph and squeaked the transcript into his ear (can you imagine? "I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents" ...but I digress); God has already proven that He can open the mouths of animals in Numbers 22:28.

In reality, those who try to discredit the prophet Joseph Smith because he used a stone to translate the Book of Mormon are not simply trying to destroy faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They are trying to harden hearts against Jehovah.

This anti-Christ propaganda will continue until the last days, when men's hearts will fail them.

However, as Elder Uchtdorf has admonished us, we must doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith.  As we are asked to trust in things we don't fully understand or that may go against our better judgement (from the staff of Moses to the stone of Joseph, from the sacrifice of favorite lambs during the Passover to the sacrifice of homosexual relationships), we will be delivered from the chains and afflictions of this world.

I have to believe that if to "whom much is given much is required," then to whom much is required much will be given.  God will test our faith by choosing imperfect, mortal men and other instruments to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men.

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Not that I'm any authority on the subject, but I have to speak my mind on the Caitlyn Jenner matter. I see so many posts either decrying him as a hero or heralding him as one. Do I see him/her as a hero? No. Not really. I have deep beliefs that God gave us our bodies and that gender is an eternal identity. HOWEVER, I think that some good can come from Jenner's transition. Because Jenner is a public figure, the world has now been exposed to the reality of gender dysphoria. I personally have NO idea how that feels, but I can only imagine how painful and agonizingly confusing that path must be.  According to various studies, transgendered Americans have a suicide attempt rate of 41%.  A statistic like this needs to influence our reaction to Jenner and other individuals who open up about their battle with gender dysphoria. 

I don’t know if it’s helpful or Christlike to encourage transitioning (whether social or surgical) by calling transgender individuals by new names and pronouns which they wish to adopt.  I really don’t know.  However, I do know that sexual realignment surgery does not solve the issue.  At least, that’s my deduction from studies indicating a 51% suicide attempt rate among transsexuals. 

Ultimately, the only thing that can enable anyone to conquer any trial is the atonement of Christ.  As for this politicized issue, I simply hope that people learn empathy for Jenner's struggle and others who battle gender dysphoria rather than being tactless in their disagreements. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


The Mesa temple has the prettiest flowers, like the zennia I shot here.  Zinnias always remind me of my grampa, who was an avid gardener. He was the most Christlike man I have ever known. He used to give me packets of zinnia seeds because I liked them so much (mine never grew, unfortunately).

His house is right down the street from the temple, so I've always associated this sacred place with that sacred man. I love and miss him dearly, but I honestly feel that he is a guardian angel over me. I know that there is life after death, and by living the Gospel of Christ I will see my beloved grandfather again.