Burning Bosom

Theology, History, Culture, Politics & Life from a LDS (Mormon) Perspective

Archive for February, 2008

In Relief Society, “No means No!”

Posted by Kerry on February 29, 2008

Like many other Burning Bosom Bloggers, my wife and I have both recently served in ward leadership positions. It was Elder’s Quorum Prez (EQP) for me and RS Prez (RSP) for my wife (still serving). I have to admit that we have both been absolutely flabbergasted, completely bewildered, and utterly SHOCKED at the behavior of some of our fellow active members of the church, regarding the acceptance of service from others.

It seems that when a person is first called to a ward leadership position, said person tries to fulfill every single service request at whatever cost, believing that “magnifying your calling” requires that. One common example would be spending an exorbitant (i.e a dozen hours) amount of time helping an unprepared family to move. Over time, however, even the sweetest of hearts becomes somewhat “hardened” and begins to understand that it is okay to say “no” to some inappropriate service requests.

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Posted in Faith, Humor, Marriage & Family, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , , , , | 34 Comments »

The Parable of the Elephant

Posted by Andrew on February 28, 2008

ElephantSometimes I recall nuggets of spiritual wisdom but cannot remember when or where I picked them up. One in particular has increasingly taken on new meanings for me as I’ve wrestled with some of life’s tougher questions. You might call it the “Parable of the Elephant.” This is how it goes, as best I remember, with a few adaptations of my own:

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Posted in Apologetics, Faith, Inter-Faith Relations | 2 Comments »

On Bearded Bishops & Avoiding The “Appearance Of Evil”

Posted by Shawn L on February 26, 2008

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The shaving habits of post-McKay Mormon males is well trod ground, so forgive me if this horse has been sufficiently kicked. But it struck me recently that in my 35 years as an active member of the Church, I have never, ever attended a Ward (in the US) where any of the Bishopric wore facial hair. An important note: I lived in Utah only while attending BYU. Mine may be a unique experience, but I suspect not.

The only coherent argument I’ve ever heard justifying the dearth of beards in our ranks is the old saw about “avoiding the appearance of evil.” The argument goes as follows: of course there’s nothing wrong with beards per se, but people might see your bearded face and assume that you are someone you are not. As a bearded dude, I have heard this line of thinking dozens of times over the years. And after all these years, I’m still not buying it.

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Posted in Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , | 74 Comments »

“I Pray for Dead People”

Posted by Kerry on February 25, 2008

The other night my 6-year old daughter was chosen by the patriarch of our home to offer a blessing on the food that was sitting at our dinner table. After what started out as Food Prayer Transcript #26, she said something that at first made my wife and I giggle, but has made me think a bit. Obviously this daughter was aware of the recent passing of our Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley.

In her prayer, she sincerely mentioned:

“Please bless President Hinckley that he will have a fun time in heaven.”

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Posted in Faith, Humor, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Why I Am Not a Disaffected Mormon

Posted by Andrew on February 25, 2008

DisaffectedThere seem to be a number of disaffected Mormons lurking the Bloggernacle these days.

I am not one of them.

Here is why.

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Posted in Apologetics, Faith, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

A Tale Of Two Missions

Posted by Shawn L on February 22, 2008

muppmission.jpgMy wife and I were out to dinner the other night with some good friends of ours who are also LDS.  As I am wont to do, I shared with them an anecdote from my long-ago mission in Guatemala.  Admittedly, the story, which detailed the unpleasant experience of being tested for intestinal parasites in a third world country, was probably inappropriate for a post-meal discussion (hint: it’s not a blood sample they want).  It got a few laughs nevertheless.   Once she recovered from yet another rash of embarrassment at my hand, my wife asked a simple question that has stuck with me:   “Was it worth it?”

I was taken aback and, I’ll admit, a bit hurt by the question.  How could my wife even think to ask such a thing?  Surely she knows how important my mission is/was to me, right?  That it means much more than a few funny stories?  But as I have mulled over her question in the past few weeks, I have come to realize that it stemmed from the fact that I tell two very different versions of my mission experience.   And for each version, my answer is a bit different.

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Posted in Missonaries, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The Appropriateness of Blessings

Posted by Jon on February 22, 2008

Our two boys have been sick with the flu this week. Probably the reason I’ve been wondering how soon is too soon (if there is a “too” soon?) to give a blessing, especially for the so-called “little things” in life?

Don’t get me wrong, I love giving blessings. I love receiving blessings. I love seeing the faith of those who ask to receive blessings. I whole-heartily see blessings as a fundamental part of Mormonism and the Priesthood. But when Priesthood Blessings does it go to far? Can it go to far? After all, the power of the Priesthood was given to us to use it for righteous reasons, or so I understand it.

Still, I find myself slow to react for the little things, such as a cough, a cold or a fever. My rationale is simple: If I bless my kids when something little and that we know we can cope with, where do I draw the line?

It’s funny because I never thought I’d actually be asking myself this question. On my mission I had no problem explaining the benefits of blessings to people, and even offered (the appropriate way… not solicitation) many blessings to investigators, members or less-active members. So it’s weird that I find myself asking this question.

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Posted in Faith | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The Ammon Approach: Redefining Missionary Work

Posted by Andrew on February 20, 2008

MissionariesWhen it comes to Church growth, the Church sets high expectations for itself. Likening the Church to that scriptural stone that rolls forth to fill the whole earth, Church members may expect to see exponential Church growth, with significant year-over-year gains in the number of convert baptisms. However, over the past several years, the number of annual convert baptisms has actually dipped and plateaued somewhat, corresponding in part with a decrease in the number of full-time missionaries. Moreover, retention of new converts remains a challenge, as we are often reminded by Church leaders. In this situation, it is natural for Mormons to consider possible ways to improve the Church’s missionary program to increase the number of genuine converts to the Church.

The mission in which my stake is located is currently testing a pilot program that hearkens back to a familiar Book of Mormon story about a man named Ammon who wanted to build a bridge between two long estranged peoples, one of which was completely unfamiliar with the Gospel. Setting aside the direct proselytizing approach to missionary work, Ammon embarked on a mission of simple Christian service that inspired thousands who were previously considered the most unlikely potential converts to join the Church. If every stake and ward in the Church were to adopt Ammon’s approach to missionary work by conducting a wide-spread campaign of consistent, meaningful, no-strings-attached community service, could the Church experience the same miraculous growth that occurred in Ammon’s day?

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Posted in Church News, Inter-Faith Relations, Missonaries, Mormon Culture | 16 Comments »

What Else Did God Say To Joseph?

Posted by Shawn L on February 16, 2008

jsmith2.jpg The topic of last Sunday’s Elders Quorum lesson was the First Vision. The teacher, who I like and who generally does a good job, was leading a paint-by-numbers sort of discussion (Q: “What do we learn from The First Vision”; A: “God has a body”). As usual for this topic, the lesson had its share of omissions (no mention of the other accounts) and historical missteps (“No one else in 1820 believed that God and Christ were separate beings”). All in all, it was a fairly typical meeting and, to be honest, I was zoning out.

But then, quite unexpectedly, the lesson took a decidedly more interesting turn. The instructor focused on one seemingly minor detail of Joseph’s account that, despite having read it dozens of times, came as a surprise to me: “He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.” (JS-H 1:20) I had totally forgotten about Joseph’s private conversation with God. Of course, the notion of God forbidding his prophets from writing down something he has told or shown them is not new. But what makes this 15-word passage (which is not mentioned again in the History) particularly interesting is that Joseph never was shy about sharing what he felt had been revealed to him. Furthermore, as far as I know, he never revealed what “other things” God had told him during that experience.

The teacher then posed a question, which I now present for your consideration: what unwritten things do you think God said to Joseph at that moment?

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Posted in Joseph Smith, Mormon History | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The Promise of the Rings: Answering the Call for New Mormon Folklore

Posted by Andrew on February 15, 2008

RingsIn a recent Mormon Matters post, my compadre Super Nerd lamented the endangered status of stories about Big Foot, the Three Nephites, and the Lost Tribes of Israel that used to abound in Mormon culture. Whether he intended it or not, I interpreted his lamentation about the disappearance of those magical stories as a call for New Mormon Folklore. So ladies and gentlemen, I now humbly come before you, with slight trepidation yet firm resolve, to answer that noble call!

As with any enduring folklore, it all begins with a kernel of truth. So I am going to tell you two brief, bona fide, 100% true stories, which I will then use to reach a completely fantastical conclusion. With your help in spreading these stories around, as well as your creative embellishments that I encourage you to add, we can together create a new generation of Mormon folklore that will sustain the fruit of our loins for generations to come!

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Posted in Humor, Mormon Culture | 9 Comments »

The Zen Of Moving Chairs

Posted by Shawn L on February 11, 2008

ZenAs a young missionary in the MTC, I expended a lot of energy worrying about the relative strength of my testimony. I was raised in the Church, my whole family (at that time, at least) was fully active, and I was excited finally to be heading out to Guatemala to serve. But I was troubled because I felt as though something was missing. For me, the issue was not whether I had a testimony, but whether it was sufficiently buttressed with spiritual experiences. Hoping to see tangible fruit borne of Moroni’s promise, I nightly prayed fervently for a sign — something physical, something remarkable — to cement my testimony, to give me the ability to state, without hesitation, that “I know the Book of Mormon is true.” I honestly believed that, if I prayed hard enough, it was simply a matter of time. I knelt in the dark for long periods after I had finished, just waiting.

And after nine weeks of this . . . nothing happened. Well, not “nothing” — my testimony did grow and I felt closer to the Lord than I ever had. But I still felt let down — why didn’t I merit a life-altering, veil-thinning sort of experience? Isn’t that my entitlement as a faithful seeker? In the many years since I left the MTC, I have often pondered the question, what do we do when we don’t receive the spiritual confirmation for which we are earnestly searching? For me, the answer has come from an unexpected, and positively mundane, source.

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Posted in Missonaries, Mormon Culture, Scripture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Celestial Navigation: Why Our Imperfect Guidance System is Perfect for God’s Purposes

Posted by Andrew on February 11, 2008

Imagine being an ancient mariner on an empty sea in the black of night with nothing more to guide you than a few distant lights in the heavens. Celestial navigation is an ancient skill that enables its practitioner to use the stars to determine where he is, where he wants to be, and which direction he needs to go. As a guidance system, it was woefully imperfect and had a high rate of error. Sometimes the heavens were obscured by clouds, and even when the skies were clear, the constellations were continually drifting. A sailor could easily misread the stars and end up hundreds of miles from his intended destination. Nowadays, modern mariners have GPS devices that make all the necessary calculations for them with virtually flawless precision at the push of a button. They always arrive at their intended destinations, but I wonder what would happen if one day the satellites and computers stopped telling them what to do and where to go. Would modern mariners have adequately learned in their previous voyages to guide themselves by the light of the stars?

I’ve been wrestling with the question of why God allows so much ambiguity and uncertainty to exist about him and his ways, and why he’s left us with such an imperfect guidance system to discover the answers to life’s most important questions. There are so many things that God could just come out and clearly say, so many questions he could easily answer, but he chooses not to. And I’m coming to the conclusion that the reason why has a lot to do with the above comparison of ancient and modern mariners. It has a lot to do with clouds, stars, moons, suns, and which of those heavenly bodies God wants us to become. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Apologetics, Faith, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Is There a Deeper Reason Why Mormons Don’t Use a Cross?

Posted by Kerry on February 7, 2008

Most modern Christian churches use the cross as the symbol of their worship. More specifically, it represents and memorializes Christ’s death for them. They place the cross on the walls of their churches, hang it around their neck, even tattoo it on their arms. To most Christians, it serves as a reminder that Christ suffered and died for them. But still, I have to admit that in today’s world, seeing a cross around a person’s neck is a gratifying sight to me, because I know that in that person’s mind the cross is one way to demonstrate their love and devotion for the Savior.

Now, for some reason I grew up thinking that the cross was bad…that people who wore it were mocking Christ…that it was a ghastly symbol that should be shunned…that we as Mormons didn’t use the cross because it represented and reminded us of His horrific death. And focusing on His suffering and death on the cross was bad. It was like I was taught to avoid all of those appalling Catholic illustrations and statues of the Savior with a crown of thorns on his head and blood running down his cheeks, to get those images out of my mind because the cross is a reminder of his suffering and death, which is something we shouldn’t focus on.

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Posted in Bible, Book of Mormon, Faith, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 20 Comments »

Selection 2008: Is One of These Latin Americans the Next Apostle?

Posted by Andrew on February 5, 2008

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[Pictured above: Elders Claudio R.M. Costa of Brazil and Walter F. González of Uruguay, now serving in the Presidency of the Seventy.]

With Elder Uchtdorf’s calling into the First Presidency yesterday, a vacancy has been created in the Quorum of the Twelve. Will this opportunity bring us the first Latin American Apostle?

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Posted in Church News, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

New First Presidency: Monson President, Eyring and Uchtdorf Counselors

Posted by Andrew on February 4, 2008

Read the Deseret News article here.

The article notes: “At age 80, President Monson is one of the youngest men to become church president in the past quarter century. President Hinckley was 84, and Presidents Howard W. Hunter and Ezra Taft Benson were 86. President Spencer W. Kimball became president Dec. 30, 1973, at the age of 78.”

With Eyring and Uchtdorf as two of the younger members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the new First Presidency is one of the younger ones we’ve had in quite some time. Uchtdorf’s inclusion in the First Presidency also has obvious significance because he is a native of Germany.

Posted in Church News | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

On Being A Mormon Democrat

Posted by Shawn L on February 1, 2008

Over Christmas break, I attended my in-laws’ ward in Logan, UT.  The Gospel Doctrine class was filled to capacity with approximately 50-60 people of all ages.  The lesson was on the Book of Revelations, which admittedly is not an easy subject.   The teacher, a young guy no older than 25, handled it in a fairly rote fashion, leading a class discussion about the “signs of the end times” seen in the U.S.’s rapidly-devolving-into-pure-evil popular culture.   He hit all of the usual suspects:  abortion, gay marriage, naughty television shows, etc.   Then, he held up a picture from the front page of the local paper showing a picture of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Photo in hand, he said something to the effect of, the fact that either one of these folks could lead this nation is surely sign of the latter days.  The teacher said that while he wasn’t necessarily taking a partisan stand, the scriptures make clear that, in the final days, wolves in sheeps’ clothing would rise to power and we should be on guard.  All heads nodded in knowing agreement.

This, unfortunately, was not an isolated incident.  Over the years, I have witnessed numerous other instances of Democrat/liberal bashing in Church.  You likely have seen a few yourself.   I say, enough is enough!  It is high time that those of us on the left of the politial spectrum make our voices heard.

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Posted in Mormon Culture, Politics | Tagged: , | 57 Comments »