Archive for July, 2007

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Welcome to the modern age.

July 30, 2007

This week’s topic: the new “Preach My Gospel” missionary discussions

by carrie ann

Have you seen the new “Preach My Gospel” missionary guide? Full color, spiral bound, glossy, interactive, and totally inspired (especially from a designer’s point of view).

Do you remember the old discussions? They were 6 separate pamphlets, two color, in a very 1950’s palette and pedagogy, not interactive, unless you count memorizing as interactive.

My husband and I are both returned missionaries. He served in New Zealand and I served in Scotland. Even though we were in opposite ends of the earth our missions were remarkably similar, accounting for the fact that were in Commonwealth countries. Back in 1995, you bought your little packet of discussions and promptly began memorizing them along with supporting scripture.

In the new discussions, the pedagogy is completely new. Instead of the discussions being like a manual, they are a workbook/journal. In the front cover is a space for your name, your mission and dates of service, a list of areas, companions, and the names and addresses of people baptized and confirmed. How awesome! If I had actually written those things down all in one place…

You will still find an ordered set of lessons for an investigator. Chapter 3 is called “Study and Teach”. This section has 5 sections which contain all the information and commitments extended to investigators. Because of the workbook format, a missionary really can study to topic, writing his or her answers (drawing pictures) and building testimony. I love it.

Learning how to be a missionary teacher was revolutionary for me. My most formative gospel years were spent in Boston, Massachusetts were I had DAILY inquiries about my religion. Teachers and friends had copious questions about my beliefs, my early-morning Bible study class (seminary), my reasons for doing something or not doing something (sex), etc. I wish I knew then what I know now. Being a young person with a budding testimony, I didn’t know where to begin.

Just a few weeks before I left on my mission I was full of gospel fire. I friend of my sister’s asked me to participate in an after school forum at their high school sponsored by their Islamic club (only in Texas will you find religious clubs at school!). I was psyched, all the major local religions were going to be there: Muslims, Born Agains, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Jews, and Mormons! Let me at them! I’ll convert them all. Oh, I had zeal, but I didn’t have a knowledge of HOW to teach the Gospel. So took the 13 Articles of Faith thinking it would be a breeze. It was confusion. Some of those Articles head into pretty deep water.

I so wish I had known the natural progression of teaching the Gospel: God is our Father in heaven, Jesus Christ is His son, the Gospel was restored through Joseph Smith a prophet, Gdd has a plan for us to return to Him, He gave us commandments, you can be baptized and receive all the ordinances needed to return to your Father in Heaven.

IF I had kids, I would make the “Preach My Gospel” a regular part of Family Home Evening instruction. Whether you live in Saturated-Mormonville or not, you and your kids will be asked questions and it’s nice to have a starting point.

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Maybe this should have stayed with the pioneers

July 27, 2007

I found a cookbook in the thrift shop the other day for 29 cents. Famous Mormon Recipes by Winnifred Jardine. Printed in 1967 with a foreword that reads:

Part of the heritage handed down by early Mormon pioneers to our generation is to be found in pioneer recipes, many of them still a treasured part of family collections. Lamb stew, chicken and dumplings, biscuits and Mormon gravy, split pea soup, whole wheat bread, even buttermilk doughnuts made by my own great grandmother Emily Dow Partridge young for her husband Brigham Young…these are of Mormon tradition.  Some recipes have been brought up to date — streamlined to fit modern ingredients and time schedules — but the good flavors are the same as those that permeated early pioneer homes, and many of them are classics.  The “saints” as the Mormons called themselves came to Utah from many countries of the world, creating a sort of melting pot within a melting pot. Consequently, the recipes are as international as the “saints” themselves were. But no matter their origin, the dishes they prepared have lived beyond them, bringing pleasant eating to third and fourth generations…and to all who care to partake of their wholesome goodness, no matter where in the world they may live. (quotes original. those are not Amri quote-y fingers)

After reading through the 75 or so recipes, I decided that this is where the pioneers no longer matter. Where I no longer need their advice or their experience or their example. Pioneer Lettuce Salad is the worst offender. Listen to what’s in the recipe. 1 head lettuce, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 c vinegar, 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.  You shred the lettuce and then whip the heavy cream with the other ingredients. Then you put a huge dollop of whipped cream on the lettuce. For variety it says you can add onions and a little bit of black pepper.

 I am flabberghasted by this recipe. Whipped cream that is a little bit sweet and a little bit sour on lettuce? And this is the 60s, so while I have no idea what kind of lettuce the pioneers used, Sister Jardine is talking about iceberg. The great and abominable lettuce. The whore of all the earth lettuce. Plus did I say that it was whipped cream?

I like the pioneers. They’re my people. I like to hear real stories about them. I have always thought it’s obnoxious to ask if we could give up our lives, just like the pioneers did but otherwise I say bring on the stories and the celebrations. Now I have just one more stipulation to remembering the people who walked across the plains and kept our religion going: please don’t serve me their food.

However, if you are interested in more horrendous recipes, leave a comment and I’ll leave some recipes to make for your friends and family.

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My Son’s Ancestors

July 25, 2007

by Ann

I’m a convert, so I don’t have any pioneer ancestors. My sixth great grandparents were pioneers in western North Carolina, given land reserved for Lutherans. My great-great grandparents were pioneers, moving to Pittsburgh from Ireland during the potato famine. My great-grandparents were pioneers, moving to Dayton, Ohio from Hungary at the very beginning of the 20th century. None of these pioneers were Mormon, though. They weren’t seeking to worship in safety and to establish the kingdom of God on earth. They just wanted an adventure, a better life, opportunity.

I married a man with a nice long pioneer pedigree. One of his nth great grandfathers was baptized during Lyman Wight’s mission, the call for which is documented in the 52nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants. There is a town in Utah that bears his (my) surname. His Scandinavian ancestors, arriving in Utah in the 1860′s, were late arrivals.

I have always been rather proud of my convert-ness. Blazing the trail for my progeny, boldly going where no one has gone before. With my older two kids, I had to figure out this Mormon stuff on my own. We made it up as we went along. Now, though, I have another kid. The Kid. And thanks to his daddy, he’s got a nice long pioneer pedigree. I’m not quite sure how to maintain his maternal heritage in the face of the sheer weight of the paternal birthright. Because we have never lived in the Mormon Cultural Region, he will not be regularly engaged with the physical emblems of the sacrifice and struggle of the forebears. I hope this will give him some balance; that My People will mean as much to him as Those People.

Those People, though, are His People, and so they are also My People. Maybe they have been My People all along, and I’ve been so busy making my own way I just didn’t want to acknowledge it.

I respect their faith, their commitment, and their pursuit of happiness. As long as faith and commitment matter, so will the pioneers. All of them. His and Mine.

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Mercy vs. Justice

July 16, 2007

This week’s topic: Mercy vs. Justice

by Carrie Ann

For a Christian (and many others), JUSTICE is an eternal principle, and I don’t mean a Mormon-y eternal, I mean a cosmic, universal constant. Justice is a cousin of KARMA: what goes around comes around. Religions differ, however, on how the comes around gets around to coming around.

I think most humans agree with this, that all actions (good/bad/moral/immoral/ethical/unethical) will bring about some result, and we can choose how to behave and how this will affect others. My afore-mentioned big brown study guide defines justice thus: “The unalterable decree of God that sin and righteousness bring their own consequences.”

The Book of Mormon seems to indicate that the law of justice is a law that constrains God himself. I have interpreted the whole idea that by breaking this law “God would cease to be God” to mean that he didn’t make this one up. This law existed before God (if that’s possible). But to give us agency, God was condemning us to be “victims” to justice. There was no way we could make it through mortality without screwing up and thus being damned, or stopped from returning to God, for although God loves us, he cannot abide sin (another bigger-than-God law?).

So there is a loop-hole: to satisfy the law of justice, one person can pay the price for another…enter MERCY and the need for that person to pay our price, our savior, or Savior.

The idea that mercy overcomes justice is not FAIR. Justice is not fairness. It is not FAIR that I sin and Jesus pays the price. But one reason I am here in the first place is to overcome my pride and to learn to rely upon a power greater than my own. God has shown me mercy by giving his Son in atonement. I can embrace mercy or kick against the pricks. It seems like an easy choice, but my toes are sore.

Many proud mortals, such as yours truly, have a hard time letting other people do something for them. I love to serve but hate being served (unless I’m out to eat). There are those blessed individuals who readily accept Christ as their Savior. They, at the last supper, would have been like John the Beloved and would have leaned upon his breast out of love and familiarity. I would have been filling cups and clearing plates, careful to keep a respectful distance.

The scriptures tell us that if we choose NOT to take advantage of Christ’s paying our price, the Atonement, then we will have the opportunity to pay it ourselves. Alma the Younger got a small taste of that after the angel visited him; he was in agony, he was a damned soul for three days. We are also told by Alma that is it a lot easier to repent now and be forgiven then if we wait until after our mortal probation is over. THIS is the time to prepare to meet God, he says. But the choice is yours. The choice is mine. Now or later.

I rarely do this, but I feel the need to testify, a little personally… I still don’t know a lot about the Atonement or how it works. One of my goals in my scripture study is to know my Savior better. I have always struggled with really knowing him or feeling close to him as I feel that I should. I went through a real rough patch once and I had to become intimately acquainted with the process of repentance. I understood so clearly how my actions required a payment of justice; it was acute and excruciating. I had no other option but to beg for the mercy of my God. I HAD to rely on my Savior. He was the only person who could help me make restitution, the only person who could give me relief. I can’t explain in enough detail to provide satisfaction or adequate closure, but I experienced the process of mercy overcoming justice. I understand this principle through experience. Not to say that you can’t understand it without going through it, because you can. The Holy Ghost can teach just as powerfully as experience. But through that experience, I have more gratitude for my Savior.

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He may be heavy-metal but he’s my brother

July 14, 2007

My favorite Book of Mormon prophet has always been Nephi #1. His can-do attitude really saved his entire family from death. No matter how many times his elder brothers Laman and Lemuel had wronged him, he always forgave them. He looked out for them and only left them when they were plotting to kill him. It reminded me growing up to never resent your brother, even if he can be mean sometimes.

My  favorite Biblical prophet is Samuel. His whole life was dedicated to God and to helping others. He was a king-maker but did not seek riches or power for his position. And when the King of Israel strayed he told him that the Lord would anoint another one. His reign as prophet and judge was to be the last before the establishment of a monarchy.

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Think Like Me.

July 13, 2007

by Amri 

I’m a self-centered girl. Most the time I think I’m mostly right and I tend toward people who think like me, which is to say if you think I’m mostly right then I think you’re right too.

It turns out then that the prophets I like most are the ones I can get behind. The ones that think like me. The ones that don’t think like me, well, I conveniently don’t pay attention to them.

My current pick is King Benjamin. I like the whole tent revival feel. It’s like all gathering at the Manti Pageant, except without the freaky music and weird eternal love story.  I can get behind service, behind leaders working right along side their followers. I can get behind real, sincere gratitude. I can get behind humans sometimes being jerks and sometimes being great and kind and that we have to get over the jerkiness.  And I can definitely get behind his levelling of people. We’re all beggars. We all need so we should all give and our neediness robs us of the right to judge others’ neediness.

Benjamin’s is the religion that’s easiest for me to wrap my head around. I follow it and it makes me feel right about my place and purpose in the world. Plus there are a whole bunch of perks to service. If you’re doing it, you’re not doing bad stuff. Work gets done. People are happier. Things are exchanged for free. People are nicer.

I can’t tell if Benjamin thinks like me or I think like him but I’m sure that we’re right.

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He Started Out a Straight Up Punk

July 11, 2007

by melbo

There are two characters I’ve read about in books that have stolen my heart: Jean Valjean (from Les Miserables), and Alma the Younger. If polygamy exists in the afterlife and is somehow changed to allow me to select extra husbands, these will be my first draft picks. Yeah, okay, so one guy is fictional I know – just let a girl have her fantasies…

These men and their stories are very different, but I just can’t help but adore them for the same reasons. I sometimes wonder if Victor Hugo ever glanced through a Book of Mormon for some inspiration on a ruggedly handsome, repentant and compassionate leading man. Hmm, did I mention ruggedly handsome?

From the looks of my choices, I suppose I could give someone the impression that I’m a fan of redemption. Good thing, because it’s true. However, because this week’s topic is about favorite prophets and not favorite studly reformed ex-cons, I’ll put the spotlight on Alma.

The Book of Alma contains the most faded, stickered and highlighted pages in my 20-year-old Book of Mormon. (I know, it’s time for an upgrade, but who has time to re-sticker everything?) Everyone always jokes about reading the Book of Mormon and stopping at Nephi’s Isaiah chapters, putting it down, only to start back up months later with “I, Nephi having been born of goodly parents…” for the billionth time. My solution to that dilemma is to always go back to my boy. If I need inspiration, I’ll start with Alma’s words to his sons starting in Chapter 36 (some sage advice in there my friends). If I need to stay awake, I’ll start at the very beginning, Chapter 1, where as chief judge, Alma executes Nehor for priestcrafts. Nothing like a good old fashioned court room drama to kick start your scripture study – especially when it ignites a civil war! Woo-hoo!!

But like I said before, it’s the prodigal son niche that gets me every time. In his youth, Alma was a straight up punk – teaming up with the Sons of Mosiah to rebel against and unravel everything his father, Alma, the founder of the church in Zarahemla, worked so hard to build. Alma Jr. and his pals were eventually rebuked by an angel and Alma spent three days in a coma, forced to confront all of his many sins. (I figure there must have been a lot if it took three days to recap, eh?) “I was tormented with the pains of Hell,” he says in Alma 36:13. Afterwards he chose a life of repentance and preaching the gospel. He didn’t live long, though. About 20 years later he just up and vanished. Everyone at the time supposed the Lord received Alma in the spirit, unto himself. See? Isn’t he great? And while I know I’m not worthy of marrying a translated 2nd husband in my imaginary “afterlife draft”, I’ll settle for watching him from the bleachers. Or even an autograph. Gee, a photo together might be nice, too.

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