Friday, November 11, 2016

Post-election thoughts

I don't feel like fighting.
I don't even feel like "bearing witness against," an activity that normally yields me a lot of satisfaction.

It's not that I'm giving up.
But I want to try some different verbs.

I want to build.
I want to nourish. I want to nourish individuals, relationships, communities.
I want to support.
I want to give.
I want to compassion. That's not a verb, but it needs to be.
I want to stand with.
I want to mourn with.
I want to suffer with. Amend that: I want to have the courage to suffer with.

I want to reason.
I want to persuade.
I want to build on common beliefs.
I want to listen.
I want to go forth. I want to get outside my usual circles.
I want to speak as inspired by the Spirit that teaches to do justly, to judge righteously, and to walk humbly.

I don't want to be naive about this.
I want to be wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove.
I don't want to hide behind pious platitudes.
I understand that this is a call to make myself exposed and vulnerable.

But I don't want to do that under the banner of fighting.
I want to lift up an ensign of peace. I want to figure out what that means in this context.

I think I'm beginning to get an inkling of why someone who preaches "Love your enemy" ends up on a cross. And why it looks like foolishness.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A title of liberty for election 2016

After the 2004 election, another student in my graduate program remarked that she hadn't voted because she "didn't want to be part of the system." My reaction at the time was an exasperated, "Well, thank you for helping to give us four more years of Bush." Which I said to her out loud because I'm a d--k that way.

And now, 12 years later, I find myself wondering if I might sit out this year's election, at least the presidential race. Because as appalled--appalled!!!!--as I am to see the Republican Party reconciling itself to Donald Trump and setting itself the task of pitching him to the nation, and as frightened--frightened!!!!--as I am that he could actually win... I don't like being in the situation of doing what I'm appalled at Republican moderates for doing: i.e., reconciling myself to a presidential candidate I have qualms about because I think that at least that person's better than the other party's candidate.

Not that the situations are equivalent. But they're analogous enough to make me feel icky.

I dunno. Maybe I'll write in a candidate.

Whatever I do, I'm taking the following as my guide for election 2016:
In memory of our God,
our religion,
and our peace.
(Alma 46:12)
The original text also includes "freedom," of course, and I'm in favor of that, too. But that word gets thrown around so much in American political discourse that I'd rather let my attention linger over the other elements of Moroni's slogan.

If I vote, it will be for candidates who I think will advocate policies in line with the values of the God I know and worship.

If I vote, it will be for candidates who I think will advocate policies in line with the values of my religion--the values of Jesus.

If I vote, it will be for candidates who I think will advocate policies that promote peace.

And yeah, I know, I shouldn't expect purity in politics. So yeah, I know, maybe I have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Maybe that's my Christian duty here.

And yeah, I know, this whole "a pox on both your houses" posture I'm articulating right now is annoyingly sanctimonious, because God knows I've found it annoying when I've read it being articulated by other religious commentators in the past. "Look at me, I'm up with God, in transcendent purity, above the fray."

(It's people who like to imagine they're above the fray, able to criticize both sides, who will vote Donald Trump into the White House, if that happens.)

But on the opening night of the Republican national convention, taking place less than a half hour's drive from the Kirtland Temple, this is the state of my thinking.

And I'm praying. I'm praying that my fellow Americans will do what makes for peace. I pray that all those folks out there who talk about wanting America to be a Christian nation will recognize anti-Christ when they see it. I pray that I'll recognize it when I see it. And that I'll know what to do about it in my capacity as a citizen.

Friday, June 27, 2014

For Kate Kelly and all who are heartbroken with her

"Heirs of that heritage"
June 27, 2014

"Behind me is the Red Brick Store, in Nauvoo, Illinois. This is the place where the Relief Society was founded, and where Joseph Smith announced his intention to make that society 'a kingdom of priests.' This building is also the place where, for the first time, Latter-day Saint women were anointed to become 'queens' and 'priestesses' as part of the endowment.

"I'm not convinced that Joseph Smith intended those developments to lead to the ordination of women to priesthood office in the church, because I'm not convinced that Joseph Smith's vision was that progressive at that point in his life. But I do believe that the developments that occurred in this building offer Latter-day Saints windows onto wider possibilities--including the ordination of women, which I, like many of you, believe to be God's will, given the principle that, as we read in the Book of Mormon, male and female are alike to God.

"Kate Kelly's excommunication is a heavy blow to those who have been trying to work for the fulfillment of that wider vision.

"As I stand here in Nauvoo, I am very conscious of the fact that heavy blows, and setbacks, and tragedy, are part and parcel of the Latter-day Saint heritage. Here in Nauvoo, dreams and hopes were shattered. Our people became divided. Church members felt betrayed by church leaders. Nauvoo was a place of violence, and destruction, and loss, and grief.

"In Tony Kushner's play, Angels in America, Harper, a Mormon woman who has been betrayed by someone she loves, says near the end of the play: 'I've finally found the secret of all that Mormon energy. Devastation. That's what makes people migrate, build things. Heartbroken people do it...'

"Nauvoo is a witness to the heartbreak that has been part of Latter-day Saint history from the beginning. Nauvoo is also a witness to what heartbroken people can accomplish. Kate Kelly and all those who are heartbroken with her are heirs of that heritage."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

For John Dehlin, from Joseph Smith's gravesite

June 26, 2014

"This video is a message for John Dehlin.

"A couple of weeks ago, John, you posted to Facebook a quotation from Joseph Smith that spoke to you after the announcement of your impending church disciplinary council. It was the quotation in which Joseph Smith says that he is dismayed to see a church member called up before a church court over questions of doctrine because, Joseph says, that seems like something that the Methodists would do.

"Now, before I say what I’m here to say, I feel a fastidious professorial need to qualify things by pointing out that while that particular quotation from Joseph Smith makes him sound supportive of freedom of thought within the church, Joseph could also be, let’s say, firm about condemning what he regarded as apostasy in the church—so I’m not certain that Joseph Smith would have positively regarded you (or me, for that matter).

"But with that fastidious caveat, I can certainly understand, John, why those particular words of Joseph Smith spoke to you in your current circumstances. And so I’m pleased to say that I am standing here with the man who spoke those words. I am standing at the gravesite of Joseph Smith—in Nauvoo, Illinois, the place where Joseph spoke those words that had inspired you. And I would like to say to you, in his presence, that I agree with you, John, that those particular words of Joseph Smith’s represent the better part of his legacy, a legacy that you and many others in the bloggernacle are helping to carry forward into the 21st century—a legacy of expansiveness, of creative initiative, of continual searching, exploring ideas, seeking truth wherever it may be found, envisioning new possibilities.

"I have extremely mixed feelings about this man. But to the extent that I believe he deserves to be honored, I think that the work you have been doing with Mormon Stories honors him. And so I hope you will continue that work, regardless of the outcome of your upcoming meeting with your stake president.

"Joseph Smith is dead. But I hope that the best parts of his legacy will live on and flourish. My thoughts are with you, John. God bless."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sacred Grove, 6/21/14

“I am sitting in the Sacred Grove, in Palmyra, New York (where there are many mosquitos, which I am going to do my best to ignore). Somewhere in this wooded area, the story goes, a confused teenager came to pray, in the faith that God would provide an answer to his confusion. And according to the story, God did, although the answer was not one that the teenager had anticipated. Furthermore, the story continues, the teenager discovered that not everyone approved of the answer he believed he had received; some people, in fact, were very emphatic about expressing their disagreement.

“As I sit here remembering that story, I am mindful of the ongoing controversy around Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. And I’m mindful, especially, of individuals for whom that controversy may be occasioning a crisis of faith or identity—people who may be wondering if there is a place for them in the LDS Church; and if not, where do they go from here?

“For what it may be worth, I would like to reach out to people in that situation by offering my testimony of the principle taught by the story of the Sacred Grove. At the end of the story as told in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith draws an explicit moral from the story, which is, he says, that anyone who lacks wisdom can ask of God and receive. I would like to add my witness to that affirmation, based on my own life’s experience.

“When push comes to shove, every one of us has to decide for ourselves what to believe, or who to believe, or who to follow, or who to stand with, who to trust. We have to make that decision for ourselves; but as we make that choice, we can receive guidance from God through personal revelation. That guidance may not come on the timetable that we would like. It may not come in the ways we would have expected. The answer might not be what we had hoped for. Our understanding of the answer might evolve over time as we learn by experience and grow in further light and knowledge. Living in keeping with the answer we receive may be difficult. It may seriously disrupt our status quo. It may strain our relationships with people we love who cannot accept the answer that we believe we have received, and who may urge us not to trust our personal revelation.

“Seeking your answer, and living your answer, can feel very lonely. But the good news is that we are never actually alone. The scriptures promise us that everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who seeks will find. Everyone who knocks… will have a door opened to them, even if it wasn’t the door you had hoped for. I have faith in that promise because I believe I have seen it fulfilled in my own life.

“That is my testimony from the Sacred Grove. May God be with you—God will be with you—as you seek answers in your own Sacred Grove. In Christ’s name, amen.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We Limit Not the Truth of God

Yesterday I was looking through Community of Christ's new hymnal, Community of Christ Sings. They have several hymns on the theme of Continuing Revelation. One of these spoke to me particularly powerfully in light of the ongoing controversy around Ordain Women.

Here are the words. The tune to which the words are matched in Community of Christ Sings doesn't appear in the 1985 LDS hymnal, Hymns; but it could be sung to the tune that accompanies "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise" (Hymns, #41).  

"We Limit Not the Truth of God" (Community of Christ Sings, #69)
Words by George Rawson (1807-1889)

We limit not the truth of God
to our poor reach of mind
by notions of our day and sect,
crude, partial, and confined.
No, let a new and better hope
within our hearts be stirred--
the Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from his word.

Who dares to bind to their dull sense
the oracles of heav'n
for all the nations, tongues, and climes,
and all the ages giv'n?
That universe, how much unknown!
That ocean unexplored!
The Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from his word.

O Father, Son, and Spirit, send
us increase from above;
enlarge, expand all Christian souls
to comprehend thy love,
and make us all go on to know,
with nobler pow'rs conferred,
the Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from his word.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A prayer for Kate and John

The cynical, embittered pessimist in me watches the unfolding events with resignation and even, I shamefully confess, a taste of Schadenfreude. ("You see--I told you.") This video comes from a different part of me.

"Behind me is the Kirtland Temple. When this temple was dedicated in 1836, Joseph Smith prayed that the Saints would be empowered, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to go forth and do God's work in the world. He prayed that as they did this, prejudices against them would be swept away, and that the hearts of those who opposed them would be softened. [D&C 109:56.]

"Tonight that is my prayer on behalf of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. For Kate, and John, and all those who are in mourning because of the actions being taken against Kate and John, I pray in words adapted from words that were used at the dedication of this temple:

Holy One--
May your name be upon them.
May your glory be round about them.
May your angels have charge over them. [D&C 109:22]
Remember all your church, O Lord. [D&C 109:72]