Prayers for Rock

Rock Waterman, the creator and writer of the blog Pure Mormonism, was admitted to the hospital last week after a bout of pneumonia. Rock’s daughter, Amy, posted this on the comments section of his latest post:

“This is Rock’s Daughter. My dad was worried that you guys would think he was being rude because he has not been back here on his blog to read the comments. So he asked me to leave this note.  He is going back into the hospital over pneumonia. It is very serious He was in the hospital last week then he came home and could not sleep so he stayed up all night and wrote this blog but has not improved there seems to be some kind of blockage in his lungs because he is not improving. so they told him to go back to the hospital and will have to monitor him and give him continuous treatments because the mist from his nebulizer machine is not penetrating his bronchial tubes the way it should have helped. It is just not getting through and he can’t hardly breathe at all.

This looks bad. Please pray for my daddy and ask your friends on facebook to pray for him too because he already has bad weak lungs and CPOD but it never got this bad before. I’m looking after my mom here at their apartment so she will be okay but Dad needs your prayers. Thank you It’s bad this time. I never have seen him this sick.  That is all I know for now. Sorry. But please pray hard for my Daddy thank you.”

Yesterday, February 3, 2015, Amy posted an update on the same comments section. She says Rock is home but really struggling and not feeling any better.

“This is Rock’s Daughter. My dad was worried that you guys would think he was being rude because he has not been back here on his blog to read the comments. So he asked me to leave this note.  He is going back into the hospital over pneumonia. It is very serious He was in the hospital last week then he came home and could not sleep so he stayed up all night and wrote this blog but has not improved there seems to be some kind of blockage in his lungs because he is not improving. so they told him to go back to the hospital and will have to monitor him and give him continuous treatments because the mist from his nebulizer machine is not penetrating his bronchial tubes the way it should have helped. It is just not getting through and he can’t hardly breathe at all.

This looks bad. Please pray for my daddy and ask your friends on facebook to pray for him too because he already has bad weak lungs and CPOD but it never got this bad before. I’m looking after my mom here at their apartment so she will be okay but Dad needs your prayers. Thank you It’s bad this time. I never have seen him this sick.  That is all I know for now. Sorry. But please pray hard for my Daddy thank you.”

Rock Waterman can seem like a controversial figure. In June his bishop gave him a warning about a possible disciplinary council right before Kate Kelly and John Dehlin got their letters. That caused people to start calling them the June Three.

So he is seen as a controversial member of the bloggernacle. The thing is, though, he is an important member of the bloggernacle. Rock has a very unique perspective and outlook. Unlike a lot of the so called “unorthodox Mormons”, Rock truly believes Joseph Smith was a prophet and called of God. He believes in the historicity of the Book of Mormon and believes it is central to our faith. He believes in Doctrine and Covenants. He believes in the Restoration. He believes all that. It is because Rock believes all this that he writes. His blog is all about getting to the heart of Mormonism. That is found in the Scriptures and in the teachings of the Prophet Joseph.

You don’t have to agree with Rock on everything to appreciate what he has to say and I’m sure he’d gladly welcome discussion. The comments sections in Pure Mormonism are usually very active and thought provoking whether you agree with the original post or not.

Above all, Rock is a child of our Heavenly Parents, a member of the mystical Body of Christ, and he needs our help. He needs our prayers. Love him, can’t stand him, indifferent to him, pray for him.

A Home Testimony Meeting

Yesterday the city of Chicago saw the fifth largest snow storm in its history. Due to the “Super Bowl Blizzard” my bishop sent out an email saying that if we couldn’t make it to church on Sunday for Fast and Testimony Meeting (he canceled all other meetings), we could meet in each other’s homes or privately. Where priesthood was available, we had his permission to bless the Sacrament.

I stayed home and held my own little sacrament meeting and it was one of the most sacred experiences I have had in a while.

I started off with an opening hymn. Since on of the things I miss about Catholicism are the different songs played at Mass, I went with a favorite processional hymn (Catholic version of the opening hymn, the celebrant literally processes from the back of the church to the altar).

Gather Us In:

It sounds a lot like “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald

Following the opening hymn I said a short opening prayer followed by the communion hymn (again, a Catholic term). This time I went with my favorite communion song as a Catholic, “We are One Body.” The song beautifully describes how through the sacrament we become “One Body” in the Body of Christ.

When the song ended I prayed the Sacrament prayers over bread and water and took the sacrament. Taking the Sacrament was a very personal and sacred experience for me this time. I am not sure why, but I could tell what I was doing was holy and set apart and meant to not only sanctify me but to draw me closer to the Saints and to Jesus Christ who gave His body and blood for my own sake. The Sacrifice at Calvary and the Last Supper became very real in that moment. For that instant, no intellectual explanation of the Sacrament, no words spoken over General Conference (and there were multiple at the Oct 2015 conference about the Sacrament) could make the Eucharist, communion, the Sacrament as real, as meaningful, or as down to Earth as that moment on my knees in my living room.

I played one song after the Sacrament to meditate and pray with.

With every Testimony Meeting, I opened up to the Spirit so that I could bare my testimony. There was no one there to hear it, but I recorded it on my phone so that I can have the audio of it. I am not going to write down everything I said (I am planning a post on what I said shortly), but I mentioned the difference between “to know” and “to believe.” One is not greater than the other, but there are things I know for sure and things that I believe and hope for. Does it make me less of a faithful Latter-day Saint for not knowing some thing? I do not believe so. My beliefs, my hopes, things I am not sure about but still hold out for and believe as true all come from my Heavenly Parents as a gift. I live with my knowledge and with my beliefs (as well as unbelief).

Before closing with a prayer I sang two more songs. The fist is my favorite Latter-day Saint hymn, “O My Father.”

This is the original tune the song was sung to.

After that song I sung my favorite Spanish hymn, “Pescador de Hombres” (translated “Fisher of Men”).

You can listen to Saint Pope John Paul the Great sing the song here (Personally, this is my favorite version of the song). The English version of the song, “Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore”, can be found here.

After this, I gave a short closing prayer and then sang a Closing Hymn.

One final thought, I thought it was interesting that all these hymns I played (with the exception of “O My Father”) were about serving God and each other. The songs were about building up the holy and sacred Body of Christ, the invisible Church, or as I like to call it the True Church.

The Mormon Stained Glass Masquerade

Growing up if you wanted to go to church all you had to do was put on a polo shirt and a pair of nice jeans. In the parish I went to while in high school shorts and a t-shirt were acceptable. Sure, it wasn’t always that way. If you look at pictures from the pre-Vatican II Church, the faithful were always dressed up. Even the priest dressed up nicer back then!

But I’m digressing….

The point I was trying to make was that up until a year ago, I never had to worry about what I’d wear when I go to church. Now, as a Latter-day Saint, I spend the week trying to decide on a tie to wear next Sunday (I’m thinking pink).

There are some benefits to this: I’m finally learning how to tie a tie, I am getting used to having to dress professionally for once I graduate.

But there are some downsides, like if I forget to do laundry and I’m out of clean shirts, I rather not go at all than go dressed in jeans and a nice yet not professional shirt.

Can anyone see the problem with this?

Now is when you say, “But, Andy, you can come in jeans and whatever you like as long as you come!” Can I? Maybe if I come a couple times like that because of oversleeping, but if I show up in a casual button down shirt and jeans every week, there will be problems. Maybe it won’t be confrontational, but there is this understanding in LDS culture that if you’re part of the Church long enough that is how it is done.

“But, Andy, we’re supposed to come in our best possible. After all, if we go dressed up nicely for work or a date night downtown, why dress-down for Jesus?” Look, I get that. I really do. I’m a Catholic (and possibly Eastern Orthodox) at heart so I get it. And gathering together for worship before God in liturgy deserves to go nicely dressed. That’s why I think the garments and clothing for the temple ceremonies are so important. That is our high liturgy. Sacrament meeting doesn’t serve that purpose.

Icon of the pharisee and the tax collector

I have no problem with being well dressed for church, but the problem comes when the culture makes it so that it is semi-required and makes it seem as if you are somehow less faithful or less of a good Mormon if you don’t go dressed up. The Book of Mormon gives a harsh warning about this in 1 Nephi (my reading of the text suggests the great and abominable church is not the Catholic Church, but materialism).

This leads me to the video below (and the title of this post). Do we put on our own stained glass masquerade?

Every Sunday we come in our Sunday best and well groomed (well, that part may not apply to me), we try to put up this appearance as if we’re good perfect Mormons. But inside, we know we aren’t perfect. We fail. We have our struggles. But in our classes, in our sacrament meetings, do we reveal that side of us or do we put up a front? Can we, individually, one by one, start removing our own masks as a way to tell others, it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to not be perfect, it’s OK to just try?

How often do we realize that when we pass each other the sacrament in our pews that we are assisting our neighbor, our family member (isn’t that what a ward is?), be healed and work towards our goal of communion (personally, I prefer the Latin, communio) with the One who gave us life? When we pass the sacrament to each other (one of my favorite things about Mormonism), what we are really saying is, “Let me help you, let me walk with you on this journey.”

So in our classes, in our ward families, let’s remember that we are there to strengthen and walk with one another as we make our way to building Zion. It’s only by being our authentic selves and accepting others in our family that we can become that body of Christ we see in the Book of Mormon and Acts. It is only when we put aside our stained glass masquerade that we can be the body Christ wants needs us to be.

What I Learned from Fiona Givens’s AMA

Fiona with her husband, Terryl Givens (Left), and historian Richard L. Bushman (Right)

For the uninitiated, Reddit’s AMA is when a person, usually someone well known or someone very accomplished, starts a post on Reddit where anyone can ask that person anything and they will respond.

For the uninitiated, Fiona Givens is the co-author of The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (along with her husband, Terryl). She and Terryl have written another book, The Crucible of Doubt, which has just been released by Deseret Book and is sitting in my checkout cart on Deseret Book’s website (Amazon is sold out!). She has probably the most beautiful way of looking at issues of faith and Mormonism. Her style and approach to Mormonism constantly inspires me and wants me to seek out more. Honestly, I’ve yet to find anyone who approaches Mormonism like her and her husband. It also helps that she has the most wonderful British accent I have ever heard.

So, after keeping updated on her AMA on the r/latterdaysaints subreddit, I thought I would share a little of what I learned from one of Modern Mormonism’s greatest spiritual minds.

Love Doesn’t Make One Finite

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So, let’s start with my own question (yep, I’m apg92). Mormonism, unlike orthodox Christianity, believes in a very physical God, a God of “body, passion, and parts.” Not only that, as we read in Moses 7 and in The God Who Weeps, we have a God who weeps for His children when they fall. The God of Mormonism is a God of emotion. The problem is, if we can make God weep, can’t we control Him and hold him “hostage”? So I asked her, doesn’t this “limit God and make Him less powerful or supreme? Doesn’t he become a finite being and why should we as Latter-day Saints worship a finite being?”

She gave, what I consider, one of the best responses to this. “Love does not make one finite.” God weeps for His children because He loves them, because He cares. If He is finite because He weeps for us, then He is finite because of love. She is right, love does not make one finite. Instead, it lifts one up. Through His love, both He and the human family are lifted up. If we are exalted, it will only be because of His love.

Reason for Our Hope

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Fiona with her husband and co-author, Terryl Givens

This question, or at least part of the wording, made me think. The questioner mentioned Fiona as an “unorthodox Mormon”. That’s news to me. It could be that I am new and all, but I have learned so much from Fiona and Terryl. They have actually helped me embrace the “weirdness” and uniqueness of Mormonism. But the questioner is right. Fiona and Terryl aren’t your typical “orthodox Mormons” (a term I don’t thin should exist, but that’s for another day). Yes, they believe, but the way they articulate Mormonism isn’t the way the Sunday School manuals explain it. So I guess it applies.

Given that, how does she view missionary work? Well, she says her mission creed goes right along with Peter who said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man/woman that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” If you have ever listened to Fiona, you’ll realize that she loves Christ and recognizes that the Church is a way to get closer to Him. So for her, that reason is Christ and she finds Him in the Church. I think that is something we need to realize, the purpose of missionary work isn’t to bring people to the Church, but to bring them to Christ.

The Meat of the Gospel

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This is one of my favorite questions. We always hear the phrase “Milk before meat” but sometimes it feels like we never get to the meat. So, what does Fiona think the meat of the Gospel is? That is, “What parts really feed your soul and leave you desiring to be more?”

She gives a really short answer: “Those things we articulated in The God who Weeps.

Before you think you have to go out and buy the book to find out what she considers the meat of the Gospel, here are her five points as articulated in the book:

  1. God is a personal entity, having a heart that beats in sympathy with human hearts, feeling our joy and sorrowing over our pain.
  2. Men and women existed as spiritual beings in the presence of God before progressing to this mortal life.
  3. Adam and Eve were noble progenitors of the human family, and their fall made possible human life in this realm. Men and women are born pure and innocent, with no taint of original sin. (We find plenty on our own).
  4. God has the desire and the power to save, through his son Jesus Christ, the entire human family in a kingdom of heaven, and except for the most perversely unwilling, that will be our destiny.
  5. Heaven will principally consist in the eternal duration of those relationships that matter most to us now: spouses, children, and friends.

On Certainty and Hero Worship

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So this poster posed a great question: “What are the things you find in contemporary church culture and practice that make it hardest for people to stay in the church, apart from historical issues?”

Her response? “How do I count the ways?” Though she only addresses two, which I think are great.

The first is that there has been a “rhetoric of certainty that has come to dominate testimony meetings”. She has mentioned in earlier interviews of friends who have stood up in testimony meeting and said, “I don’t know.” She says that the scriptures state “to some it is given to know and to some it is given to believe as gifts of equal value.” Even more beautifully, she has said on previous occasions, “the only thing I am certain about is Christ.”

Her second point that she would like to do away with is hero worship. This goes with her first point and points I have already discussed. The center of the Church, and of our lives, is Christ. He should be our focal point. Therefore, our eyes and attention should be on Him and not spent giving too much praise to men. She mentioned the story of Gideon. God made sure that Gideon’s army was outnumbered so that when Gideon won the battle, the glory would be given to God, not Gideon. However, that’s not how human nature works. When Gideon’s small army defeated their enemies, the people began to praise Gideon. It’s natural to do that, though we would do well to remember the One behind the scenes.

No One (Institution) is Perfect

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One of my favorite questions, and one I was anxiously waiting a reply for when I first read it, “Is there any evidence that could come to light about LDS history or actions of the LDS Church or its leadership that would ever make you decide to leave it?”

While some may think she evaded the question, I think she did a spot on job. She mentioned how much she admires Winston Churchill and all the good he did, however, he wasn’t perfect. He authorized the firebombing of Dresdon, he wasn’t easy to get along with. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good leader. “Every person, nation, church is mired in the clay of this earth,” she said.

And probably the best line from this entire AMA, Fiona said, “My testimony is of Christ. My allegiance is to Him. He has cautioned me not to rely on the arm of flesh, so I do not.”

Honorable Mention: The fruit of the gospel of Christ is good. It’s fighting through the brambles to get to it that is the problem:)

For more of the wonderful Fiona Givens, may I recommend a Mormon Stories podcast interview she did with her husband Terryl. Part One is her life story and Part Two is a discussion on The God Who Weeps. Mormon Stories: Fiona and Terryl Givens and “The God Who Weeps”

For the complete AMA, I am Fiona Givens AMA

 

 

how our modesty rhetoric distracts from modesty

Originally posted on Young Mormon Feminists:

It’s gotten to the point where all I have to do is read the word modesty and I cringe, and that disappoints me.

Modesty, at its core, is a beautiful virtue and something that, as Jesus Christ exemplified, I would love to be better at. The problem is that whenever I hear it in an LDS context it seems to be about policing the length of a woman’s skirt, and modesty is so much more than that. I hate doing this because it makes me feel like I’m writing a sacrament talk, but the Webster’s Dictionary defines modesty as freedom from conceit or vanity. When I am able to push aside all my preconceptions about modesty I see it as it is: a synonym to humility and moderation. Those who are modest are not boastful, arrogant, or flashy…which is actually kind of the opposite of how I see modesty being…

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