Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wickedness never was happiness

In discussion elsewhere, someone asserted that acts of sexual transgression bring them a measure of joy. In reply, it was responded that this "free love" argument is invalid, as there are acts we agree bring some people "joy", yet are unequivocally wrong.

This is such an obvious point that it is pointless to belabor. Those who are offended by the idea that "wickedness never was happiness" cannot allow themselves to see this vital point without accepting that they are responsible and accountable for their own acts, and their own reconciliation with God. So often, they seek to find someone or something else to blame for their unhappiness. Thus the popular claim from these "victims" that the church excludes or punishes those guilty of sexual transgression.

It is also obvious that only overtly sexual behavior is proscribed by commandment, and that such behavior is largely irrelevant to the most significant acts of true love. We are not compelled to copulate with everyone or everything we have real feelings of love for -- everyone recognizes that this would be simply a ridiculous caricature of real love. By divine commandment, the biological components of sexual behavior are only appropriate within narrow boundaries. Otherwise they become a vehicle for the perversion and betrayal of real love.

This is not specific to advocates for normalizing perverted behavior -- it applies to everyone. God is truly no respecter of persons. Those of us who don't fit the cookie-cutter Mormon stereotype know this from personal experience, and we bear our own burdens in this regard. It is entirely specious to argue that the rules are unfair simply because some feel strongly compelled to break them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Testing Legality

In my view, the restoration has a poor record of success when it comes to testing the laws of the land in court. For more than 150 years it has been a dismal and discouraging effort for the saints of God to importune the courts for redress. In legal matters regarding everything from trivial personal harassment lawsuits against Joseph Smith, on up to the testing of the constitutionality of federal anti-polygamy laws, the church has waged and consistently lost many important legal battles through the courts at every level.

Having personally sustained my own significant trauma at the handling of the courts, I shrink from the very suggestion that we might obtain any kind of satisfying judgement in the several legal matters currently concerning the general body of the church. But, notwithstanding my own reticence, and even in the face of confusion within the ranks regarding these matters, we are clearly obligated to follow the consistent counsel of the brethren in this matter. The saints have always been instructed to make every effort to work within the law. We believe in honoring and sustaining the law of the land. In many instances throughout church history, church members have been horribly abused at the hands of the system which should have protected them. Yet they always continued to press for justice and sound judgment.

I can see no other alternative. In the case of the assault on marriage laws, I honestly believe it may be a futile effort. But we ought to follow the example set by our stalwart predecessors, in exhausting every recourse to obtain legal settlement of the current issues.

President Hinckley: A Call to Commitment

In the June 2007 Ensign, President Hinckley's First Presidency message addresses common concerns about war and peace. He reiterates his earlier address on issues relating to the war currently taking place.

President Hinckley focuses his primary interest on another war, one that has been waging since the foundation of the world.

In the October conference of 1896, President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98), then an aged man, stood in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and said:
There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it.
President Woodruff knew whereof he spoke. He had then only recently passed through those difficult and perilous days when the government of the nation had come against our people, determined to destroy this Church as an organization. Despite the difficulties of those days, the Saints did not give up. In faith they moved forward. They put their trust in the Almighty, and He revealed unto them the path they should follow. In faith they accepted that revelation and walked in obedience.

President Hinckley calls for continued commitment from the Saints.
In this work there must be commitment. There must be devotion. We are engaged in a great eternal struggle that concerns the very souls of the sons and daughters of God. We are not losing. We are winning. We will continue to win if we will be faithful and true. We can do it. We must do it. We will do it. There is nothing the Lord has asked of us that in faith we cannot accomplish.

There is no equivocation. We face continuing serious challenges in this war.
The men of this Church cannot be unfaithful or untrue to their wives, to their families, to their priesthood responsibilities if they are to be valiant in moving the work of the Lord forward in this great battle for truth and salvation. They cannot be dishonest and unscrupulous in temporal affairs without tarnishing their armor. The women of this Church, be they wives, mothers, or sisters who have not found companions, cannot be unfaithful or untrue to their covenants and blessings and serve as the bulwark in the kingdom that they are meant to be.

President Hinckley then recites the stirring words of a traditional LDS hymn:

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

We wage no common war,
Cope with no common foe.
The enemy’s awake;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

He closes with this fervent prayer:

May our God bless us in the work that is so clearly laid out before us. May we be faithful. May we be valiant. May we have the courage to be true to the trust God has placed in each of us. May we be unafraid. “For [to quote the words of Paul to Timothy] God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:7–8).

Monday, May 14, 2007

How to Forgive -- revisited

President Faust's conference address magnified this topic into bold letters (James E. Faust, “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 2007, 67–69).

If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being.
We revisited the issue in President Kimball's teachings last Sunday in Elder's quorum.

This passage of scripture stands out --

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10).

President Kimball's counsel --

To be in the right we must forgive, and we must do so without regard to whether or not our antagonist repents, or how sincere is his transformation, or whether or not he asks our forgiveness.

...and further --

Many people, when brought to a reconciliation with others, say that they forgive, but they continue to hold malice, continue to suspect the other party, continue to disbelieve the other’s sincerity. This is sin, for when a reconciliation has been effected and when repentance is claimed, each should forgive and forget, build immediately the fences which have been breached, and restore the former compatibility.

The early disciples evidently expressed words of forgiveness, and on the surface made the required adjustment, but “forgave not one another in their hearts.” This was not a forgiveness, but savored of hypocrisy and deceit and subterfuge. As implied in Christ’s model prayer, it must be a heart action and a purging of one’s mind [see Matthew 6:12; see also verses 14–15]. Forgiveness means forgetfulness.

The phrase in their hearts has deep meaning. It must be a purging of feelings and thoughts and bitternesses. Mere words avail nothing.

"For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.” (Moro. 7:8.)

Henry Ward Beecher expressed the thought this way: “I can forgive but I cannot forget is another way of saying I cannot forgive.”

I may add that unless a person forgives his brother his trespasses with all his heart he is unfit to partake of the sacrament. (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, Chapter 9: “ Forgiving Others with All Our Hearts,”.(2006),89–101)

Sobering thoughts to ponder.

On personal reflection, I see that I am not very good at living these principles. How hard it is to be honest about forgiving those who have hurt or offended. I cannot see how it is done.

Very easy to forgive and forget trivialities. They really don't matter anyway. The big things are the ones that seem unreasonable or impossible to forgive.

How can I ever forgive those complicit in causing my brother's death? I want to kill them myself, with my bare hands. How am I supposed to forget what they did?

Yet, as Section 64, if I forgive them not, I am guilty of greater sin than they.