Monday, July 19, 2010

All things point to Christ

I finally sat down recently and spent the ten minutes needed (yes, I'm rolling eyes at myself that it took me so long) to download schtuff onto the little 30-dollar MP3 player that I bought for myself on clearance during the holidays. Consequently, in the last week, I have listened to all four general sessions of General Conference as well as the General Young Women Meeting. Priesthood session is on my list to complete in the next day or so.


It's been wonderful to listen to all the sessions again in succession. I love seeing what themes weave throughout the talks. I love how Elder Christofferson explained how the Lord works through such patterns to help us know what He wants us to hear.

There are no assigned subjects, no collaboration of themes. The Lord’s way, of course, is always the best way. He takes the individual prayerful efforts of each speaker and orchestrates a spiritual symphony full of revelation and power. Repeated themes, principle building upon principle, prophetic warnings, uplifting promises—the divine harmony is a miracle! I testify that in this conference we have heard and felt the mind and will of the Lord.
Speaking of Elder Christofferson's talk -- it prompted the Family Home Evening lesson tonight. The plan was to talk with my children about how all the commandments, both the big and small things, can help point us to Christ. The scriptural text that was the focus was from 2 Nephi 25:
24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we akeep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.
25 For, for this end was the alaw given; wherefore the law hath become bdead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
26 And we atalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we bprophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our cchildren may know to what source they may look for a dremission of their sins. 
I wanted to give them some background on what Nephi was talking about, so we talked about the law of Moses. And the discussion just sort of took on a life of its own. I was able to share with them how the Jews who understood the plain and precious things (things not found clearly in the Bible) about the law of Moses knew that all the 613 commandments and the rituals they practiced (such as animal sacrifice) were there to point their souls to Christ. We talked about how their tabernacle parallels our modern-day temples in important ways -- ways that in both eras were/are designed to point our souls to Christ.

Likewise, the commandments and rituals we have in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are there to help us "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."

The Spirit was strong as we discussed this very important truth. All things we do in the Church, if we let them, can help point our souls to Christ.

This is a truth that even a child can understand, and it thrilled me to see and feel my children understanding tonight. How I love the gospel and how I love talking about it with my children!

I am grateful for Elder Christofferson's reminder to remember and talk about Christ more. He is the center of all we do, and should be the center of our teaching and living and listening and worshiping and studying of scriptures and words of the prophets. I am recommitting to talk more of Him at home and here and elsewhere.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

IMNSHO, why we should let polygamy go

(If you read that title just right, it has a little poetic lilt to it. Clever, huh?)


In this month's July Ensign, a talk by Elder Ballard has been reprinted. In the article, we read his counsel about not being defensive while sharing the gospel. One of the things he touches on is the issue of polygamy -- a topic that gets a lot of people riled up (and makes some want to be defensive). ;)

Our Church members have often allowed others to set the conversational agenda. An example is plural marriage. This ended in the Church as an official practice in 1890. It’s now 2010. Why are we still talking about it? It was a practice. It ended. We moved on. If people ask you about polygamy, just acknowledge that it was once a practice but not now and that people shouldn’t confuse any polygamists with our church. In ordinary conversations, don’t waste time trying to justify the practice of polygamy during Old Testament times or speculating as to why it was practiced for a time in the 19th century.

I'm seeing people get riled up about this comment by Elder Ballard, too.

I've been involved in discussions about the Church on and off for 15 years. Polygamy is an inevitable topic in many circles, such as those passionate about feminism. But discussions always include an inordinate amount of focus on frustrated (sometimes desperate) speculation and personal opinion -- much of which is, imo, potentially very problematic.

In my view, if people try to speculate or explain or justify or apologize for polygamy, there is a huge risk of creating folklore -- false foundations and perspectives on which people could wrongly build their understanding -- which can later bring disappointed and disillusionment when such faulty explanations are shown to be misguided. I really haven't seen anyone who is upset about polygamy be able to come up with something to explain it -- or explain it away -- in a satisfactory manner. I infer from Elder Ballard's counsel that explanations in support of it are also often insufficient or at least unnecessary. 

Do I understand wondering about the topic of plural marriage? Sure. I don't think there are many who don't at some level. But to me this counsel from Elder Ballard is very wise. We can show others that there is so much more to Mormonism than polygamy.

Part of why I appreciate his counsel is because there are so many opinions about topics like this. Again, discussions about it usually lead to little or no resolution but a lot of speculation.

In short, we can spend precious time and energy "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). And we can lead ourselves and others away from the beautiful core doctrines of the Church.

Most importantly to me is this: A testimony of the gospel can and should be independent of opinions or unauthorized speculation about the practice of polygamy. We don't even have to like it and definitely don't have to understand it all to fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not talking about being a blind sheep here, I'm talking about digging roots of faith that run deep because they are focused on the truths that bear the most fruit: the Savior, the Atonement, God's character and the plan of salvation, principles and ordinances of the gospel that bind us to God. Wringing hands over the whys and wheretofores of polygamy does not, in my experience and observation, yield the spiritual fruit that the pure and simple (and at the same time very deep) doctrines do. (Some may suggest that is because because polygamy was wrong, but I submit that it could be because the focus on it is.)

All of this reminds me of Sister Beck's recent counsel (and other leaders' counsel as well) about avoiding distractions. Distractions can come in the form of activities and how we spend our time, but also in the form of ideas and where we let our mind and heart focus. Elder Ballard has reminded us to focus on the core of the gospel. There is power in truth. Speculation is not truth, and at some point is just a waste of energy at best and a potential source of false doctrine and even deception.

And now...remember, remember that it is upon the arock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your bfoundation;  ... Hel. 5:12