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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Identity Crisis

There has been a big push recently to normalize Mormons. We are trying to fight the stigma that we are strange, 3 legged beasts, sprouting horns, carrying off dozens of women to Utah to be our wives. Nobody wants to be strange. Nobody wants to stick out. When you stick out people ask you strange questions that you are either tired of answering, or feel unqualified to answer. Nobody likes the spot light, but we are in it, Like it or Not.

Don't get me wrong here. I think the push is a great idea. The church, and it's members are doing a great job, maybe greater than ever, of shining their light to the world. However, we should be cautious to not lose who we are in the process. Here are some thoughts (mostly from my own life) on this subject.


This most recent General Conference (where I got my inspiration for this post) spoke heavily to me about my identity. It made me ask the question, "Who am I?" This wasn't the same question we answer in Sunday School, "I'm a child of God." Though pertinent, and applicable, I'm taking about a different question. That is, "Who am I at church? Am I the same person at home, at work, with friends, with family, and in the Temple? Do I have a secure identity? Do I really know who I am?"

I can unfortunately answer "no" to those questions. I struggle to be the upstanding church member when I'm not at church,or in the Temple. I'm not breaking obvious commandments, like drinking, smoking, or fornicating, but I do indulge in raucous laughter, boisterousness, don't always use clean language, and can throw an impressive temper tantrum. I'm prideful, and I try to fit in with the in-crowd. I just want to be liked, or left alone. Don't we all?

“When you are alone, are you in good company?” - Boyd K.Packer


We are members of the church. We are also many other things. We wear many different hats. The question is whether these are all separate identities. The question then is who are you at the core? You are a child of God, but what does that mean? What role does that play in your life? How should a child of God act? How should a Latter day Saint act? 

These are simple, yet complex questions to answer. The best I can say is to study Christ and his teachings. Study the prophets, and apostles. Don't rely on your own understanding of what a man of Christ would do, but learn it for yourself, then try to emulate it. Sorry for not having a clean-cut answer, but this is something that takes a lifetime of study and practice to truly understand. It is up to you to dedicate yourself to that endeavor.


There are many lies out there. There are more lies than there are truths, and it is hard to decipher between the two sometimes. However, I want to cover a few that are significant when we consider who it is we are when we are not at church, or at the Temple.

Truth: One purpose of mortality is to gain a body, and learn to care for it.
Lie: The only reason you came to earth is for a body, and your self worth (as well as everybody else's) is dependent upon how that body looks in a swimsuit.

Truth: We are a Christian Church.
Lie: We are a Christian Church, and we should learn to fit in with other Christian Churches, so it's okay to conform to their version of the truth as long as I have a testimony of the True Church.

Truth: Our friendships should not be exclusive to active LDS church members.
Lie: We should make people like us by conforming to their standards. It's okay to tell a dirty joke or two if it makes you look normal.

Truth: It is important to keep the commandments.
Lie: It is important to keep the commandments, and we must shun, demean, and deride those who don't keep the commandments, especially if they know better.

Truth: I am a child of God, and am special in his sight.
Lie: I am a child of God, so I am specialler than you.

Truth: God Loves me, and I can repent of the wrong I've done.
Lie: God loved me, but I messed up pretty bad, so he can't love me anymore, and if he doesn't love me, then I don't have any worth, so there's no point in keeping ANY of the commandments.

Truth: The two great commandments are to love God, then to love your neighbor as yourself.
Lie: The greatest commandment is to take care of number one.


This life isn't a popularity contest, or a game show. This life, your life, is the real deal. You only get one shot at it. Are going to live it for show? Are you going to parade around in a different costume for every crowd your in, and every job you do? Are you going to compromise your morals because of your own insecurity? Are you going to compromise your doctrinal beliefs to avoid (or start) an argument? Can you see the person wearing a McDonald's uniform, or conversely a three-piece suite as your equal? Are you a LDS at church? Are you LDS at work? Are you LDS at home? Are you LDS at a party with friends? Are you LDS home alone? Are you LDS in front of beggars? Are you LDS in business meetings? Are you LDS on vacation?


That's a bigger question than you think, and one that takes great introspection, and practice to answer. It's a question of not just identity, but of personality, self-worth, and character.


Friday, May 23, 2014

The Dangerous Filth of the Internet

I find myself increasingly saddened by the wickedness I've seen recently online. We live in a wicked world, and it is sad to see such vileness, and wickedness spread across the internet.

In your mind, you may have already consigned this to a blog post condemning pornography, well you would be wrong. There is another pernicious filth being spread across the internet. Like pornography, it is also a dangerous and disgusting habit. It may just as great of a danger to members of the church as digital smut.

This particular sin is brought into our homes through internet users emboldened, and made courageous by the anonymity of the internet. Many are well-meaning church members just trying to do what is right. Others intentionally spread their filth like butter and syrup on bad pancakes, blaming their actions on the rights and duties of the priesthood, or their righteous indignation.

What is this filth I speak of? It is the same filth Jesus rebuked in his mortal ministry. It is hypocrisy, hate, and bullying. I have seen it in memes, comments, blog posts, and passing comments all across the internet. Sometimes it comes in light humor, such as a recent post I saw about linger-longers, and the awkward conversations we've all had with people we weren't comfortable with. It was meant to be humorous, but instead condemned the lonely, needy, and brokenhearted. Some come in pure meanness, such as multiple comments made in recent blogs about dating, sexuality, and other hot topics. One church member even responded to a post saying he would "punch in the face" anybody who disagreed with his beliefs.

Yes, we have been called to preach repentance to the world, but what does that mean? The answer can be found in the way Jesus treated people when he was here on Earth. I've heard it justified that Jesus said some particularly harsh words, but it is important to look at who he spoke those harsh words to. Study the New Testament if you are unsure. Did he condemn the awkward, unkempt guy who has a hard time speaking to girls? Did he condemn the homosexuals and lesbians? Did he condemn those seeking equality among their fellow humans?

No, he condemned the bullies, the haters, and the indignant. He condemned those who would stand between God and his children. He condemned those who only chose the right so their neighbors, wives, children, and bishops could honor their works. He condemned the "vipers" who laid in wait to accuse somebody of grievous sin, and demand that they be stoned to death.

Brothers and sisters, when Jesus comes to Earth, he won't turn first to the stoners, the druggies, the drunks, the LGBTs, the inactives, the non-RMs, or whatever group doesn't follow every commandment to the letter and demand repentance. No, he will turn to the members of the church, and ask why we have alienated so many of his children. He will ask why we have not loved our neighbors, why we have not clothed the beggars, why we have not fed the needy. He will ask why we have condemned so much of the world, instead of putting our arms around them, and showing them the way. We, as members of God's true church, are held to a higher standard than the rest of the world, that means that we will be held accountable first. That means that all of our unkind words, our bullying, our shunning, and ostracizing will be upon our heads. I daresay that it will be better at that day to have lived sinfully as a nonmember than to have spread hatred and injustice as a member.

Paul truly spoke that men in the latter days would be "lovers of their own selves," (2 Tim 3:2) but we know better, and need to love our neighbor instead.

From the scriptures:

Matthew 5 and 3 Nephi 12
Matthew 7:4-5
Matthew 23:13
Mark 12:38-40
John 13:34-35
John 17
2 Timothy 3
Mosiah 2:32
3 Nephi 1:24
3 Nephi 11:29-30
4 Nephi 1:3

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Sometimes we all feel small, unimportant, or insignificant. It's a big world we live in, and an even larger universe. When Moses was taken into his vision of the the whole Earth, and everything upon it he felt to exclaim, "Now for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." (Moses 1:10)

This is how I've felt more recently. I am 1 person in 6 billion and growing. My body mass, while growing, takes up an even smaller percentage of total mass in the known universe. Little tiny me is nothing. If I stopped existing the universe would move on without so much as a blink.

This feeling makes me not want to stick out. If I'm so unimportant, then why would anyone want to hear me. Why would anyone want to read this blog? Why would anyone want to hear me play my saxophone? Why would anyone care about me? This is why I've been silent lately, why you haven't heard from me. I don't feel like my opinions are of worth. However....

It's all a lie!

Satan wants us to believe that we really are insignificant. He wants us to feel that we are of so little worth that there is no reason for us to make anything of our existence.

The truth is that we are a small part of God's creation. We don't take up much space. We are little by comparison, but we are also the most important part of God's creation. Ponder God's statement to Mosess later in the same chapter, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) WE, human beings, who each (by comparison to the universe) take up less space than a quark in a proton in an atom on the far side of the moon are THE MOST IMPORTANT of all God's creations. It is enough to bring us the gifts of great humility, and great inspiration at the same time.

God created planets, stars, galaxies, the whole universe. He created black holes, and dark matter (if it really does exist). Everything he has built is amazing in scope, breadth, and beauty, yet you, yes, little old you, who can barely open her eyes in the morning to take a shower; you, who doesn't like peas because they squish when you eat them; you, who works hard day in and day out to cover most of his bills; Yes, YOU, reading this blog right now are among God's most favored creations. You are more important than the moon, the stars, and the planets in their orbits. You are his work and his glory. Jesus didn't suffer and die for the stars in the sky. He rose on the third day for his children.

...for you.

Next time you feel insignificant, remember it is only in mass that you are small, for you are big in the eyes of God.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

EQ Pre-Lesson: Joseph Fielding Smith Chapter 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

Chapter 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

This week we are discussing Chapter 9 of the Joseph Fielding Smith Manual. Instead of going over the lesson as a whole in this blog, I'm going to cover a few vital points.

What is truth?
"All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also, otherwise there is no existence." (D&C 93:30)

Some would say that there are two types of truth, spiritual truths, and temporal (or scientific) truths. However, truth is all in one. Truth exists without bias. One truth does not put itself above another. Truth IS; no more, no less. Interpretation and application is what gives order and meaning to truth. Deciphering the truth, it's importance, and meaning is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. 

The gospel is true. It contains many truths. It is up to each of us to discover the truth(s) of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the Book of Mormon. Just as scientists dedicate their lives to discovering the universe, and all things in it, we dedicate ourselves to discovering God, and all his teachings. We begin this process by following Moroni's promise, "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." (Moroni 10:4) This is just a beginning though. We can't do do this once, and expect to be enlightened for life. We have to go through this same process over and over throughout our lives.

So, after having found the Book of Mormon to pass the test of truth, it is then our duty to determine it’s value. As I said before, the order and importance of truth is irrelevant without interpretation and application. So, how important is the Book of Mormon to you? Has it changed you? “Have ye been spiritually born of God?... Have ye experienced this mighty change of heart?” (Alma 5:14) These aren’t questions anybody can answer, except for you. Ponder the change the Book of Mormon has brought about in you. The greater the change, the more you should consider its importance.

"Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book?
Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation"
- President Ezra Taft Benson -


That's a peculiar phrase isn't it? It's strong. It's powerful. It doesn't inspire movement. Wait, what? Standing as a witness inspires us to stand. This isn't about taking the gospel to the world. This is about standing firm. This is about holding firm to the Iron Rod when the scorn from the great and spacious building gets personal. This is about standing strong in your testimony in the face of temptation, persecution, false doctrine, harassment, ridicule, or provocation. This is about being firm and immovable. Standing as a witness at all costs.

So, let's tie all of this together:

  1. Discover the truth of the gospel. Not "your truth," but the unalterable truth that does not change based on your opinions, how you feel, or who you're trying to impress.
  2. Evaluate the importance of the truth you have discovered. What does it mean to you? Is it something  you need to protect, and keep for your own, or something you want to share with others?
  3. Stand as a witness. Be firm, and immovable.

Read the lesson
Evaluate areas of your life where you struggle to stand as a witness of the Book of Mormon, and the restored gospel.
Strengthen your testimony in those areas so that you may stand firm, and immovable as a witness of the Book of Mormon, Christ, and his restored gospel.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Like it or not

Portland, Oregon Temple, Moroni's Spire
Most of us don't like to be put on the spot. It's uncomfortable, and makes us nervous. Well, guess what, you are on the spot all the time. As a Mormon you are an ambassador of not just the church, but of Jesus Christ himself.

Ponder on that for a moment.

Look at yourself, members of your congregation, your ward and stake leaders, and the General Authorities. When you consider their example, do you see individuals, or examples of Mormonism? Do you consider yourself an example of Mormonism?

Like it or not, YOU are the example of the church to your friends, coworkers, classmates, etc. Whether or not you live righteously, whether or not you are Christlike, the attributes you exhibit to the people you know are how they will see ALL Latter-Day Saints.

I found this out firsthand. I wasn't active when I started my current job. I didn't tell anybody I was LDS, and I certainly didn't talk like I was. As people found out they would say things like, "I didn't know you're Mormon, you don't act Mormon." I felt guilty, shouldn't those I see everyday be able to say something more like, "I didn't know you're Mormon, but I can see it now that I know."

Well, I've cleaned up a bit since then. I do my best to be an example of Christ, and of Latter-Day Saints. I don't always do well at it, but I try nonetheless.

Remember this when  you interact with others. Are you being an example of Latter-day Saints? Your example is THE example by which they will view the church. Are you a good example?