Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Chewed Piece of Gum and Licked Cupcake: Shame and Fear Based Relationship and Chastity Approaches

Perhaps you've heard the saying in mormondom about girls ending up as a "licked cupcake" that nobody's going to want in regards to them if they lose their virginity before marriage - i.e. someone licked the cupcake before its intended recipient, and who is going to want to eat it?  EW!

Or the "chewed piece of gum" analogy where the seminary teacher asks the kids to chew a piece of gum and then pass it around the room until everyone's had it, and when everyone then goes "EW!" compares the chewed piece of gum to their sexual purity: once it's been used, nobody is going to want it.

Or heard of youth, in an attempt to avoid the "actual" breaking of the law of chastity, and to avoid the stigma of now being "used", engaging in other sexual activities instead.  

The analogies, while poignant, completely overlook the atonement and the reality of the missionary work and world that we live in.  Telling a girl - or a boy - that they are now a licked cupcake, and nobody is going to want them because of a mistake, isn't going to help them in their relationship with the Savior or with others.

Many a teen has thought, "Well, I'm no good now, might as well go be what I am completely..." and decide to  just abandon spirituality together and leave the church after such a mistake.  They often receive the message "Well, you're mormon so you should have known better!"  thereby adding the message that not only are they no good, they are stupid.

Obviously we don't want to be transgressing the laws of heavenly father for numerous reasons.  But the reality is that we make mistakes for a host of reasons too numerous to list here.  And viewing ourselves or others permanently as licked cupcakes or chewed gum isn't going to help anybody recover from a mistake and achieve exaltation.

This is a missionary church, adding hundreds of thousands of members annually who haven't ever heard of or lived the gospel standards, let alone been in a covenant to keep the commandments - we want them to have faith in the atonement, such a message is inconsistent with everything we send our missionaries out to teach. 

Further, with divorces, creating a stigma against women and men who have had other partners as "used" or "damaged" isn't going to help families at all or make people feel loved or wanted and runs completely counter to the Lord's purposes through the temple and in eternity.

Sexual abuse, victim's seeing themselves as "used" and "damaged goods"because of someone else's actions isn't going to help them heal either.  I don't think that's what's being said in such lessons and comparisons, but that's what many a victim has heard with them.

Continuing still, the pressure on parents to not have wayward children within a religiously conservative community can create devastating circumstances for children who may find themselves disowned from the church and their families over a mistake - cut off from the very support that can bring them back to life.

Trying to recover from life's difficulties or choices only become more difficult when we are dealing with an institutional or cultural and even religious sense of shame and worthlessness..  As a counselor, I find more tragedies from people trying to cover up low self-esteem, shame, and guilt, than almost anything else I work with - it is almost always at the root of all I deal with in counseling.  As children of a royal heritage, sons and daughters of the King of the universe, shame and guilt and fear are debilitating weapons...which is why they are so often chosen to be employed against us.

That's not to say that we shouldn't experience remorse when we are repenting even on a weekly basis, but shame and guilt are and can be sham substitutions for spiritual humility and contrition.

I love the statement from Joe Pesci in "With Honors" (1994) where as an enlightened bum he comments, "When it comes to relationships, everyone's a used car salesman."  We are all in the same boat eternally.  Even Paul noted that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Whether it be this sin, or that, all need to be repented of before we return, and all of us stand condemned if we don't for any and all sins.....But if we're looking at ourselves or others as chewed pieces of bubblegum and licked cupcakes who can never be redeemed, we've entirely set at naught everything Jesus lived and died for.

Additionally, I've seen the value and strength that those previously married and who have lived hard lives bring to their new relationships, because they can appreciate some things better than those who are fresh out of highschool with no troubles under their belts, and they bring additional strengths.  I think this is part of the reason Father sent us down here so we can bring some of those experiences back with us.  

We can be washed clean, we can be forgiven, we can use our experiences and knowledge to teach others and warn others, or even speak out against the seductive lies of the adversary.  When I was a missionary, I remember teaching a man who was actually cross-dressed at the time we met him.  My companion was skeptical of any such success with him and didn't want to spend any time on him - an understandable line of thinking, I think, but I'm not sure it's always inspired when we consider that Christ even spent his time with all those who were considered unclean by the law.  My thinking was, we get this guy on board, do you know the damage he can help us do to the satanic causes that undermine the gospel in the name of "tolerance and diversity" while teaching hellish, man-made doctrines? This guy  This is exactly the guy we are looking for!  This guy has been on the other side, and nobody can say he doesn't know what he's talking about!  Let's bring him over!

I listened to a single mom once in fast and testimony give a very poignant reminder to the young women not to make the mistakes she had made and that had affected her life so significantly - that day I found myself inspired because she was giving a testimony and a voice of experience that only she could give - a successful bishop and married husband couldn't warn with the same credibility she did - and that day I was very, very thankful for her for the clarity she gave, and I remember it still. 

And while we don't want to fall any more than we have to, and once commited, we can't "un-commit" a sin - that reality has hit me more than a few times in my life - we mustn't underestimate the ability of the Lord to redeem and restore us. Once fully repented of, we are clean before the Lord, and our experiences - if we let them - can serve as lessons and reminders for us of the importance of keeping the commandments.

Personally, I've been terrified of the judgement bar of God, ashamed to think of my sins and flaws being shown forth - however they are shown - in whatever vivid detail may come and been more focused on those than others' sins around me.  But as my testimony of the Lord has grown, as well as my faith in the atonement, I've heard them whisper through the veil that the judgement is going to be a wonderful day for me, and a time of their rejoicing when I come back to them. 

To offset "the parable of the chewed gum", or the "parable of the licked cupcake" - I will recall - the parable of The Touch of the Master's Hand - where a battered and used violin was looked over by everyone at an auction, until the Master Violinist picked it up and demonstrated what it was truly capable of. 

Rather than thinking we are worthless because of our sins, or that we are going to be if we make a mistake, in the end we need to focus on the atonement and know our worth and our potential if we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and progress back to father.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Capacity of a Spoiled Child - Plan B

Before the world was, we all know there were two plans put forth for our eternal growth and progress.

But the more I think about the second one of them, the more I realize just how diabolical it was.

One that hit me recently was by doing everything for us he planned to destroy us!

Have you ever seen a kid whose parents do everything for them?  It destroys them!  It doesn't challenge them or let them grow or find out what they are capable of.  They never really find their true potential.  They can't!

Oh, it's an alluring promise of security and safety and ease!  But in terms of destroying godly potential and eternal growth....there's nothing more destructive than doing everything for someone.

We'd have been something like this....
Additionally, by taking power over everyone and everything, not only would our skills be diminished, in terms of protecting ourselves, in time we wouldn't be able to defend ourselves or even speak for ourselves.

And then if we displeased him, he could simply withhold the things we need from us, and we'd be powerless to obtain them - we wouldn't have the strength. 

Anyways, it was just realization as to how the notion of giving us everything really isn't as pleasant or wonderful as it sounds.    Nothing fancy, just a thought.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Peace In Zion In Babylon

There's a lot of racial strife in America.

And America isn't even the worst place in the world for racial strife. 

But the devil is always at work causing turmoil, using people to cause turmoil, while saying they are doing it for peaceful reasons.

But I just sat in a combined ward sacrament - Spanish and English - where both languages were spoken and our children performed in a primary program together.

The hymns were sang in both Spanish and English together.

The sacrament prayers were given one in English, one in Spanish.

The presiding priesthood got up to speak in both languages to address the congregation.

We all sat together.

Children of our father in heaven.

One in the covenant.

Our children together learning of our same heavenly father.

There's peace here - even if we do it imperfectly - the Lord is bringing us peace here.

There's a lot of talk about coming together - we did and do it all the time as Latter Day Saints as we build Zion.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Worthy to Enter - Samuel

I've learned that worthiness is a very personal thing.

It actually varies from person to person because we all have to interpret the law according to our ability, and we have to strive according to our capacity, and in those things are as different from each other as there are days in a lifetime and more. 

I think we all have had an experience with someone we thought or even knew shouldn't be in the temple for one worthiness-related-reason-or-another, or we have felt unworthy ourselves to enter the temple.

At one time I had to check my own worthiness to participate in a temple ordinance while I was at the MTC - myself and another Elder had a disagreement and weren't on the best of terms at the time.  The time came in the temple when we ended up attending the same sesion and we were asked to reflect on whether we had unkind feelings towards one another.  The realization that our hearts needed to be right before the Lord hit us both.  He and I looked at each other and realized that we both needed to repent, did the male-nod-thing and reconciled with each other with a look, and then proceeded with our spirits right before the Lord in his house.  It was a time when the temple ordinances brought peace to our lives and helped us repent - as the scriptures say that if we have unkind feelings we are to go first be reconciled to our brother before we make our offerings.

But in 1st Samuel I found a fairly explicit violation of the temple worthy-to-enter standards that kind of shocked me:

22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (1 Samuel 2)

I suppose what comforted me in some fashion was that this issue - abominations in the temple etc. -  wasn't a new thing.  On the flip side, I was comforted because I know that worthiness to enter is something we take seriously still, and even recently one of the seventy was excommunicated.  It's not that we want people excommunicated, but I'm grateful that worthiness is still something that's taken seriously in the temple and even in Latter Day Saint culture AND religion.  If anything, I think many of us Latter Day Saints struggle to feel worthy enough to enter actually.

At any rate, it was just something I came across in the scriptures that caught my eye and had me counting my blessings that I live in an era - the era - where I can have confidence that the church leaders will not lead us astray and that I live in the era where the gospel won't fail.  I was grateful I can have confidence that even if things aren't right, I live in the dispensation when things can be and will be made right.  I'm not living as Moroni watching apostasy and civilization-collapse, or even as Eli or any of the others who watched such abominations proceed unchecked.

There will always be wolves in sheep's clothing, there will always be traitors, and so on. 

Just this time around I know they won't prevail.

I just gotta check myself and keep an eye on myself.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Genocide of the Tribe of Benjamin, Moroni and the Lamanites

I don't understand everything about the Israelites, I know they were apostate very often and drifted very far from the teachings of the Lord at times.  But in the Book of Judges, chapter 20, I found a war that occurred between the Benjaminites and their brethren.

In this war most of the tribe of Benjamin was about wiped out, there was not going to be left any posterity of them.  

By chapter 21, they mourned the loss of their brethren and what was going to be a breach in the tribes of Israel and the breaking of the Lord's covenant towards the tribes at their hands.   So they took action and found a way to save the tribe's posterity according to the Law of Moses.

All of this might have been a singular, overlooked event in the chapters of the bible had I not remembered that Moroni and Mormon and Nephi and all the others had done something similar in regards to preserving their apostate brethren the Lamanites.  

There was a covenant to the Lamanites given of the Lord that they would be spared and one day driven by the gentiles but not destroyed, and one day be brought back.

Moroni, finishing his writing wrote to his brethren that the covenant of the Lord might be preserved to them - by his hand they are and were saved through his writing and the knowledge of the covenants that are in the book.

To think about it one way, between Joseph Smith and Moroni, they were combined greater than Moses in terms of a restoration of the house of Israel.

It was just something I found while  reading the scriptures, a similarity, and it was another evidence to me that Moroni really was from a land and a culture and heritage that the book says he was.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Evidences of the Book of Mormon

I joined the church without having read the Book of Mormon.  I didn't know how.  I tried to read it
but it didn't make sense to me. I had received an answer the church was God's church, but it was over a year or so before I could read the scriptures and understand what it was I was learning about.

Over the years the book began to be open to me through study and reading.  I began to read about this and that evidence, this proof, this language and that archeological evidence, this similarity and that....

As I served a mission in the deep south I became adept at the scriptures and learned this and that evidence, this witness, the answers to that question and so on, and in the end....

None of us were alive in the days of the Jews, so basing our testimony on cultural or historical this or that simply isn't relevant to most of us.  Few of us can base a testimony on metallurgy or what types of metallic records were kept, or modes of transportation used or literary styles or author's voices etc.  It simply isn't something we can base a testimony on.

And in the end....what's the testimony of? 

Metallurgy?  Horse migrations?  Literary style? 

It's about Jesus Christ.

It's about drawing us closer to the Lord.

If the book helps us do that, and understand Christ better's true and there's the evidence.  The evidence that it's true.

That's really the only evidence we need.

We are fools if we either try to build a testimony on anything else, or let a pretended and superficial knowledge/ignorance of anything else distract us from that. 

That's the only proof we need.   And if we read it carefully, and pray about what we read, we will know that it is of the Lord.   The rest....are only ultimately distractions unless we are built upon Christ and using them to build up our faith in his miraculous work.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pray Always: Lessons from Joshua

Joshua was a mighty prophet of the Lord - even making the sun to stand still at one point so the Israelites might finish a conquest.

I've wondered at times why the Lord would command so many nations to be killed before Israel - until I read the sins of those countries and cities which are hinted at in the scriptures - in short their sins made them beyond degenerate and like Sodom and Gomorrah and about the only thing that could be done with them was to lay waste to them for their own eternal sake as so they didn't creep back up like a cancer or some noxious weed to corrupt the nation of Israel.  

But what's interesting is the Lord gave certain lands to the Israelites, they were going to conquer and finish laying waste to them as they previously had, all by commandment and covenant of the Lord - and the Gibeonites knowing that they were on the list of people to be slaughtered - decided to trick the Israelites into making a covenant with them:

3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4 They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5 And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.
12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:
13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.
15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.  (Joshua 9). 

There's a lot of lessons here. 

One - the prophet of the Lord is not infallible - especially when he doesn't ask the Lord's counsel.  A mortal man with the priesthood can still make mistakes - as was written by Nephi: "And now, if I do err, even did they err of old not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself." - (1 Nephi 19:6)

But beyond this because they didn't ask what they needed to at the hands of the Lord...they now made an oath that put them at odds with the blessing the Lord had given them in terms of their inheritances - and they had a contradiction to deal with between the Lord and the oath they made which was sworn by the Lord. 

I imagine there was some pride there in what they did - a feeling of satisfaction after their conquests and a bit of confidence at this point - which led to their being beguiled. 

But the main lesson I learned was that we need to ask the Lord and consult with him in all our affairs always - not just now and then and not just the ones we think we need to.  Am I smart enough not to consult with the Lord?  No I am not. Am I smart enough to know what I should consult with him on while disregarding the other things?  

Again no. 

Even Joseph Smith was warned at one point in a similar vein to Joshua: 37 But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.  (Doctrine and Covenants 10). 

Pray always.  Ask always.  Check always.   

We have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood...we need to use them. 

Follow the guidance of the Lord.