Posted by: dteeps | September 29, 2014

Mormon Monday: On Mormonism and Homosexuality

Last Sunday, on assignment from the Stake Presidency, our Bishop held a special meeting with all of the adults in the ward during the third-hour of church services. He had been asked to give a presentation on the doctrines behind the Church’s position on same-sex attraction. It was great lesson, a good discussion where he spoke candidly about an extremely sensitive subject and allowed members to ask questions and make comments and invited any who had issues or questions they felt uncomfortable asking in a public setting to meet with him privately. I would like to share some of the points our bishop made and add a few of my own thoughts.

He began by saying that he feels he is a very simple man, he often reflects on Adam’s response to the angel when he was asked why he was offering sacrifice, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me”. And then he outlined two basic principles that are and must be the foundation of any discussion of homosexuality and the gospel:

  1. The two great commandments, as specified by Jesus Christ, himself, are that we love God and that we love our neighbor as our self. Love has to be the basis of everything we do in the gospel. If we call ourselves Christian, if we profess to follow Jesus and to be striving to be more like God, then we will be filled with love for everyone. They are our brothers and sisters and children of God, regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor.
  2. The Law of God is very clear: Any sexual act outside of the bond of marriage between a man and a woman is sin. This does not just condemn homosexual acts, but any sexual act between any persons who are not married.

 

For me, that does sum up the issue completely. There is a law declared from heaven and all mankind is expected to live the law of God or they cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Yet, at the same time we all have to remember that everyone we encounter in our mortal lives here on this earth is a child of God, same as we are, and that we all have the same divine spark within us and the same divine potential. Family is the foundation of this world and we are all family in the eyes of God. We cannot treat any individual any less or any different than we treat any other individual.

I did like what Bishop was saying, though, especially when one member made the comment that it does not seem fair. He said his brother is homosexual and has been with his partner longer than he had been with his wife. He described a loving relationship but then said that if they were to join the Church they would have to give up everything they have. Bishop answered very directly, and I felt that he was using the full weight of his calling as Bishop when he stated that it isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. He said that he had been giving a building tour to a family with the missionaries and one of them told him, “This Church is hard”. He agreed. This Church is hard, it does expect a lot of us, it expects all of us to change who we are and to become perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

As Bishop spoke, I was reminded of a favorite scripture, Mosiah 3:19.

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever,unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love,willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father

 

This verse holds a special place in my heart for the eternal truths that it teaches. All of us have natural tendencies and natural desires. Each of us have our own individual challenges that keep us from being perfect like our Father is. Yet, there is one path, one Way through which we can overcome the natural man. We need to “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and put off the natural man and become a saint through the atonement of Christ”. There is no special set of commandments for homosexuals, with different commandments for heterosexuals. All children of God are asked to keep the same commandments and live the same law. True, we all start in different places, so the distance between where we are and where God wants us to be is different for each individual.  But, we are not racing against each other.   We are racing against ourselves, striving toward the finish line that the Lord has drawn, which is the Kingdom of Heaven. All of us need the atonement of Christ to help us put off our natural man, to put off the natural tendencies and appetites that we all have.

Bishop was very frank and stated that sexual desires are given to us from God. The desire to have sex is a good thing as it leads us to seek out a worthy spouse and to have children, filling the earth with families. Yet, like all other desires, it needs to be controlled and used within the bounds the Lord has set.

But, again, at closing the Bishop brought it back to the point he made at the beginning — he repeated that we need to have love. We need to remember love in all of our dealings with our fellow men. We need to have the love of God in our hearts naturally spilling out to encompass everyone we come into contact with. We love all of our Father in Heaven’s children, and because we love them we desire that they come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and of his Atonement. We teach correct principles and doctrine and hope and pray and love and work with everyone to accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But in the end, every one of us has the ability to make our own choices and we must allow that. But, we can never stop loving.

Posted by: dteeps | September 26, 2014

On General Conference

About a week and a half ago I stumbled upon a link to a General Conference address during my scripture study, and noticed again something I had long known about, that the Church has made General Conference address available online going back as far as 1971.   The thought struck me that it would be possible to watch every General Conference that has happened since I was born in September 1985.   And so, that is what I have decided to do.   Starting with the October 1985 General Conference, I am going through and watching, listening, or reading each of the addresses given.

It has been comforting and nostalgic to again hear the voices of Prophets and Apostles whom I have loved who have since been called home to that God they have so lovingly served.   I have loved hearing President Hinckley’s voice again, to listen again to Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder James E. Faust.  And it has been wonderful to listen to President Ezra Taft Benson, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton, men whose names I have heard but whose voices I do not remember hearing, having been too young at the time they first spoke to me.

Watching the videos has also been fun, because it shows these men we are now familiar with and recognize as older, revered leaders in the Church but 30 years younger.   It is almost funny to see President Monson, or Elder Packer, or Elder Oaks looking so young.   Or to hear about Elder Scott and Elder Hales and President Eyring who were not yet Apostles but a President of the Seventy and members of the Presiding Bishopric, respectively.

I have longed loved General Conference.   True, I remember a time when I thought of General Conference weekend as a time when we had extra hours of Church, more time spent at the Stake Center watching and listening to old men speak, but also as an opportunity to sleep during church, which was all too easy with the low lights.  But I have come to love the messages and the spirit felt while listening to the Lord’s servants speak to us as inspired by the Holy Ghost.   And I have enjoyed spending my time reviewing and rewatching the General Conference addresses given in years past.

There is a wonderful power in reading the words of modern prophets and apostles, but there is a special spirit that can be brought into your heart by listening and hearing their words spoken aloud.  I am glad that the Church has made these General Conference talks available, not only in a text version, but also with video.  The words of these great spiritual giants ringing in my ears has brought me to introspection and reflection on my life and the spirit I have felt as I have heard these messages has convinced me of the need to change and improve myself.

And so, as we prepare for the next General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the General Women’s Meeting this weekend, and the General Sessions next weekend, I am finding that watching past General Conferences is great preparation, bringing the spirit more fully into my life and preparing me to search and heed messages that the Lord intends for me in my life at this time.   I hope that as many of you as can will be joining us for our General Conference, where you will be blessed to “listen to a Prophet’s voice and hear the word of God”.  I will be live-tweeting from my Twitter account @dteeps, if you want to follow along and I will be posting follow-up posts on this blog with my thoughts and impressions.   I am certainly looking forward to another spirit-filled weekend and invite you to join with us, wherever you may be.

Posted by: dteeps | September 24, 2014

Writing Wednesday: A NaNoWriMo preview — 2014

November is coming up soon and that means NaNoWriMo is upon us once again.   I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for years now, though only once have I actually managed to write 50,000 words in the thirty days.   Still, the purpose of NaNoWriMo, for me, is to keep writing.   It is less about writing good content or completing any project or finishing any novel, but the emphasis is all on getting the words written.   It is all about doing the necessary writing with a looming deadline to encourage the accomplishment of what seems like an impossible task.   There is time later to revise, rewrite, and edit.  There is time later to add new scenes and chapters and cut whole sections completely.

For the last couple of years I have taken each November to write the same story.   I have been working on this Mormon Steampunk novel idea for a long time, and never actually take the time to write until November rolls along.  Throughout the year I plan, take notes, contemplate the characters and ponder the plot points, but I do not write.   I should probably fix that.   But, this leaves me in the position that I have come to view NaNoWriMo as a time during which I pull out my novel again and try once more to write it.

So, with November approaching I am again thinking of this novel, but I am also considering that I might like to try writing something completely different.

There have been a few other ideas floating around in my mind, and I know I need to take some more time to flesh out some of these ideas and plan the plot and characters more in depth before I start writing.

I have long been fascinated with the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation having long loved Germany and German history.   And I am a tech geek, working tech support for universities for about five years now.  As such, I have been, at least casually, following the story of Edward Snowden who released documentation about secret government programs and then fled the country.  I see that there could be a parallel drawn between a Snowden-like figure and Martin Luther.   It might be fun to explore the idea of a modern-day Luther, but instead of posting 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg detailing aspects of the Catholic Church that have strayed from the Bible, this techie would, of course, post 95 theses online to a forum like Reddit detailing how the government has strayed from its founding document, the Constitution.    I would like to follow the Luther story pretty closely, with the user also sending a letter directly to the President, as Luther sent his letter to the Pope.   And the letter would not be accusing the President of any wrongdoing, but pointing out to the President what he was seeing going on in his intelligence agency – just as Luther was not originally accusing the Pope of anything, but sought to inform the Pope of what he saw priests in Germany doing that he felt was not in line with Biblical teachings.   Luther originally wanted to help the Pope clean up the Church, and so this user would originally seek to help the President clean up the intelligence agencies, getting them back on track with the Constitution.   But, of course, the movement grows online, millions of people get behind him and start a revolution.   Many go too far, attacking and destroying government buildings (just as the Peasant Revolt in Germany, though this was mostly just using Luther’s ideas of a new German Church instead of the Roman Catholic Church as an excuse to plunder and attack rich nobility) and the user is forced to come out of hiding to quell these violent acts and establish the proper ideals of government.

It may be a little preachy, I’ll try to tone it down and make it more of an interesting story than a sermon on privacy rights and the proper role of government.   I’d like to explore the idea of Martin Luther as a man, his personal character and how his firm beliefs inspired others to action.   And also address the fact that many misinterpreted his words and sought to use them to exact vengeance or ‘justice’ on the noble classes.   I see this as being just as feasible a story today with the internet.   It is not unlikely that a man with inside information on how the government functions, being just an ordinary “monk”, but well versed in the “bible” sees what is going on and posts about everything that is wrong.   And it is not inconceivable that, once posted to the internet, it takes on a new life of its own, growing to a massive movement, people seeking to abandon the incorrect practices of the government and re-establish or “reform” a new government.   Though, probably, since they will be all hearkening back to the core document of government, the Constitution, they will have to organize a political party and seek election to office before enacting any major changes.

I think this could be a fun little novel, paralleling the Martin Luther story with an Edward Snowden-type figure, and probably drawing on some elements of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, a book I highly recommend.  He, too, writes about what the effects of such an over-reaching government program would be like if exposed to the people, and how the people would react.  This should be a fun little project, an interesting novel showing that history does repeat itself, at least in archetypes and broad, general strokes.  The story of humanity is almost always, when viewed in the long term, about man’s inhumanity to man, and about the common people rising up, gathering together when they feel that something is not correct, and moving to change it.  Perhaps I can work in a little parallelism to the Berlin Wall? With thousands of people simply gathering and demanding to be let through, overwhelming the guards by sheer numbers until it just falls.  I love the Berlin Wall story and how it mostly fell by accident and when enough people believed there was a chance to get through that they all gathered in overwhelming numbers.  And I love a little news clip I remember seeing, of a border guard standing with his weapon drawn at a border crossing with thousands and thousands of people arriving. He looks to his supervisor and asks, “What? Should I shoot them all?”  And, to me, that is how the Wall fell, it was just too many people coming together to affect a change they all wanted.  Too many people that the government had to relent.
The more I think about this novel idea, the more the ideas flesh themselves out and the more I am getting excited.  This should be fun.  I will, of course, spend the next month outlining and detailing characters and settings and plot points and working on the framework of the novel.  Let’s hope I can actually sit down during November and get to 50,000 words!

Posted by: dteeps | September 22, 2014

Mormon Monday: On Missionary “Work”

I do not like to do missionary work.   There.   I’ve said it.   I know you were all thinking it.   Or, most of you, anyway.   I do not like to do missionary work.  No matter how many times I hear a General Conference talk or Elder’s Quorum lesson, I find myself coming back to the conclusion that I do not like to “do” missionary “work.

Let me explain.

I don’t like the phrase missionary “work”, it sounds like too much effort and it makes people think of something hard or something special that they need to do. I do not believe that we are supposed to do missionary “work”, instead we are supposed to be missionaries. We are supposed to be missionary-minded.  We are supposed to share the Gospel naturally as part of our lives, as part of who we are.

When members are asked to “do” missionary “work”, they think they are supposed to go knocking on doors, or stopping people in the streets, or shouting it from the rooftops. And this scares them. This makes them uncomfortable.  This makes me uncomfortable.  I didn’t enjoy doing it when I was full-time missionary, and I feel like I’ve already done my time, put in my required hours of “doing” missionary work in this way, and now that I’ve returned from my mission, I am done with that.   I am retired from “doing” missionary work.

But, we are rightly taught “Every member a missionary” and we rightly believe and feel that we should be doing more in our personal lives to share the gospel with others.   The question now becomes, how do we shift our focus away from merely “doing” missionary work or missionary-like activities and more toward becoming a people who naturally and normally share the gospel with others?

Missionary work should not be something extra we do in addition to all of our daily responsibilities and activities.   Missionary work is something we do  because we love the gospel and the joy that it brings to us and our families and we honestly desire to share the joy with other families and individuals we care for.   Love really needs to be the beginning point.   I wrote a while ago about the role that Love plays in missionary work, specifically, that ‘perfect love casteth out fear’ especially in missionary work.   If we develop a love for the gospel and a love for those we are in contact with, then sharing the gospel becomes natural and instinctive on our part.

I firmly do not believe that we should ‘do’ missionary ‘work’, but rather we need to be missionaries.   We need to cultivate in ourselves the traits of missionary-minded members, and we need to find ways to naturally and normally and regularly share the gospel. I love the recent address from Elder Bednar in which he outlined the Church’s new focus on social media and the effort to #ShareGoodness. That is really how simple it can be to share the gospel. The Church creates wonderful digital content and all we need to do is share it. Sharing the Gospel is now literally sharing the Gospel.

There has been a great emphasis lately in the Church on “hastening the work”, in almost all the General Conference talks and Stake Conference talks and lessons, I keep hearing about ” hastening the work” and that we all need to do more than we have been doing. There is a real sense of urgency and the Church is certainly stepping up its game. We need to match that enthusiasm and energy and effort.

It is as simple as sharing a quick message on Facebook, a link on Twitter, or a YouTube video. The Church has done the hard work already, and we just need to be willing to not be ashamed of our belief in and love of the gospel. The gospel needs to be a huge part of our lives, it needs to be so fundamentally ingrained in who we are and what we do that it naturally comes out in our every conversation.

And there is one more thing that helps in keeping the proper perspective. There is a quote on the wall in our meetinghouse from President Uchtdorf, I can’t remember the exact quote but the general idea is that it is not or duty to convert everyone, all we are asked to do is to share the gospel. We cannot force others to accept, we cannot make others join the Church or get baptized. We remember that not even God saves everyone. Many, far too many, of his children use their agency and free will to make choices that take them away from his love. We can expect no better is in our efforts to spread joy and happiness. We are only asked to be open and honest about our love of Christ and his gospel and give as many as possible the opportunity to make choices that will lead them to the same eternal lines and pure happiness that we hope to enjoy.

Posted by: dteeps | September 19, 2014

On Solving Problems, and When It’s Okay Not To

I work tech support and have done so for about 7 years, and so all my life is about solving problems, fixing things that aren’t working, and helping people do things that they are not able to do themselves.   I enjoy it, I really do.   I like having a problem presented to me, and then working out how to resolve it.   That is what I have spent my whole day doing for these past several years, and so solving problems has become an integral part of my life and the way that I view the world.   I often approach situations in the same way that I approach my work — as an issue to be resolved, a problem to be troubleshot, an incident requiring a solution.

That is great, it has certainly helped me in a lot of ways.   I am able to take in a whole situation and begin applying troubleshooting techniques to break it down into more manageable projects and issues which are more easily solved.   It does make some aspects of life easier – to approach them as problems to be solved, and as situations to be taken one step at a time.  It is a logical way of looking at the world and I enjoy it.

But, I have had some problems of my own that are not so easily solved.   And there are some problems that do not have easy solutions, or are not meant to be solved.   I found myself thinking about this recently after a discussion with my wife.

There have been some major changes in our lives recently, as we moved across the country and are still looking for a job in our new home in Seattle and are trying to adjust to a new living situation and our son growing up and becoming more independent and defiant.   Though we have been married six years this weekend, I am still learning many things about my wife and we are still working on drawing closer to each other.   My wife is one of those people who needs to talk through her problems and issues.   She likes to talk and explain things as her way of working through them, and I do my best to sit and listen to her, being attentive to her needs.

The problem arises when I immediately launch into troubleshooting mode and want to solve all of her problems.   For me, that is what life is about, that is what I do.  People come to me complaining or bringing up problems that they have all day and they expect me to solve their problems and be quick about it.   That’s what I do as technical support.   But, my wife is not a technical issue.   Our family is not a technical issue.   I want to solve all problems quickly and then move on to the next one, because that is what I have trained for and studied and learned, but I am learning that my wife often just wants someone to listen to her.   She does not want or need me to answer all of her questions and resolve everything right away.

I do enjoy solving problems and it has provided me a great job and career and great experiences in life, but I am learning now that not all problems need to be immediately solved.   It is okay to sit and discuss and talk about issues without having to jump to solving them right now.

Patience truly is a virtue, and sometimes we need to patiently sit and wait and we will see that things we thought were huge problems and unsolvable, simply work themselves out and are no big deal. I got more upset than I honestly should have when I thought my wife was bringing me yet another problem that I had to fix.  She was explaining an issue that arose in our family and wanted my sympathy and a jobs listening ear. Instead I saw it as just another incident brought to my attention that I was expected to resolve. And so I began along questions about how we were going to handle the situation and I was harsher than I should have been. My wife just needed me to be her husband, and her companion listening to her and loving her. I started to see my wife as another customer whom I needed to support, but she is eternally more than that.

Problems will arise, things will need to be fixed abs dealt with. Life will go on. I am glad that I have my wife beside me to help me, to constantly assist me and push me to be more than I am or think I can be. I truly do not know why she has started with me for six years, but I am grateful to her and I love her more than I tell her. Life is meant to be lived, not solved. Marriage is meant to be enjoyed, not fixed. We work together and we love together and we have a hope for an eternity spent together in the world to come based on the promises of God and his priesthood.

Posted by: dteeps | September 17, 2014

On Education and Certification

I have been thinking a lot recently about learning and online education and researching subjects for my own benefit.  There are a lot of things that I would like to know, would like to be able to do and there are a lot of resources on the internet to provide the knowledge that I am looking for.  But, with all of this, there is one big question that I have been pondering.

 

How do I prove what I know?

 

I can research information online, even take courses online, free courses from MIT or other universities that offer such things online.  But, then how do I prove that I have learned that information?  More importantly, how do I show an employer that I have this knowledge?  Isn’t that really all a college degree is — a document from the university that says this individual has adequately demonstrated that they possess the knowledge and skills requisite to achieve this type of degree in this field.  And employers can look at that and assume that an individual has a certain level of knowledge and skill.  That document represents what the individual knows and can do.

But, with the advent of the internet and online content, there is a lot of information available and a lot of people who try to learn skills. The question now becomes how do we prove that we have actually learned this, that we have gained this knowledge?  Is there, or should there be, some sort of online equivalent of what a university degree is?   Some documentation that can be earned to prove that an individual has a certain amount of knowledge so that others can look and at a glance have an idea as to what this individual knows.

I have gone through some courses at Code Academy, teaching myself some basic HTML and web design.  It was fun and I think I’d like to take those courses again to refresh my understanding of HTML and CSS and to dig a little deeper.  At this site, there are badges that are earned whenever a course or project is completed.  I guess these could be used to demonstrate that I have indeed completed certain courses and gained this understanding of these specific principles.  But, for me, the questions still remains, how do I demonstrate this to others?  Would an employer look at this as evidence that I know how to build a webpage with HTML and CSS?  Should I include some of these badges on my resume?  And would they have the same weight as someone who has taken an official course at a university or college?  Why not, if the material covered and the information learned is the same?

I think that is the crux of the issue.   Is the material I learn online by researching and reading and studying the various websites the same as material covered in a course taught at a college or university?  And is it perceived that way by employers?  If so, should an online certification hold the same weight as a college degree?  What would be the ultimate difference?

Education is definitely changing and the internet is making more information more readily accessible.   I believe that we need to somehow come up with a way of codifying what is learned and we need a way to demonstrate what people know even if they do not have any ‘official’ degree or certification.   I think a system like Code Academy has would be great — a series of courses and practices and assignments that demonstrate what has been learned and then a badge is earned demonstrating that a course has been passed, that a project has been completed, that a certain level of knowledge has been gained.

If online educational resources were to implement some sort of exam or assessment at the end whereby a user could verify they have learned what was taught in the course, then they could award a badge or certificate of some kind demonstrating that, which would be acceptable as proof of what a person has learned.   That is hopefully where the future of online education is going.   Right now there seem to be many sites and resources that can provide the information and teaching that learners are looking for, we now need to have some universally recognized form of certifying what a person has learned.

And could this style of online learning eventually replace (at least in part) a formal University education?  There are many people who believe and have been taught that the only worthwhile career or life goal is to go to college and get a degree.   Now, I am not saying that people who want to go to college should not, but I think there are many who feel forced or pressured into going to college who would do much better in a different learning environment.   Some would do much better in a trade school or technical college, taking courses and earning certifications that will qualify them for specific careers.   And there are many who do much better in individualized education, studying on their own and not in a classroom setting.

If I were an employer and looking at a group of candidates, there is a certain something to be said for an individual who has obtained a college degree.   It does show that not only have they taken courses required for this particular degree, but that they have successfully navigated the university setting.   It shows that they have learned how to work and achieve and fulfill requirements.   All of this is necessary when considering a person for a position.   But, if I am looking for someone who knows a particular thing or has skill and experience in a particular field, I do not really care where they gained their experience, if it was in a classroom at a university, or by reading and studying and doing things on their own.   If the candidate can demonstrate knowledge and experience and skill in the required field, that is good enough for me.

But, this brings us back to the point of how to we demonstrate knowledge or skill or experience, when it is gained in a non-traditional setting?  A college degree is shortcut for this and demonstrates that I have sat through a certain number of classes and passed the accompanying assessments.   But there does not yet exist an equivalent online version of a university degree.   I would love to see this develop in the next several years.   I can imagine some sort of online organization that exists to validate and certify individuals.   I see people creating accounts with a central site and then uploading documents or performing tasks or taking certification tests and earning scores that can be translated into some sort of “virtual transcript”, indicating what knowledge and skills the user has.

Or maybe I am just not as well-versed in internet-ology as I think I am.   Does something like this already exist that I am unaware of?  What are your thoughts about education and certification in a digital era?

Posted by: dteeps | September 15, 2014

On Why I Am a Mormon, or Why I Stay

“And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things”  1 Nephi 11:17

I feel that I should caveat almost all of my posts with this scripture.   It sums up my positions rather nicely.   I do not know everything, but there are some basic things that I do know, and among those is the fact that there is a God and he loves his children.   That is a wonderful starting point, a sure foundation upon which other truths can be built and based.

I should probably also caveat my posts with the fact that I’m not perfect.  Writing is a way for me to work through ideas, I write what I hope I believe and know to be true, even if I do not always live it.  Please do not think that because I write about a particular topic that I am an expert of any sort on that topic.   I write my thoughts and feelings in a way to share what things I do know as well as to work through and discover for myself what I truly believe.

With that said, or written, I have known several people through the years who have been faithful active members, and who, for one reason or another, have left the Church. I consider myself an intelligent person, logical, well-read, eager to discover and learn things for myself.   And so, when I think about people I have known who have decided to stop attending church, or to stop believing what they once held to be true, I find myself asking the question: Why do I stay in the church I was raised in? Or in other words: Why am I a Mormon?

In the Church we often use the metaphor that our faith is built like the church building.   We talk about building on the rock of our Redeemer, which is Christ the Lord, and we talk of building line upon line, precept upon precept.   You cannot build a block tower that is three feet high by starting at the top, and you cannot build a testimony that way, either.   The foundation of my testimony, of my belief in God and Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants section 46.

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.   To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:13-14)

I firmly believe that I am one of those spoken of in the first verse, one to whom it has been given to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.   And I am extremely grateful for that knowledge.   I have spent some time in my youth reading philosophy and discussing with friends different schools of thought and different views on religion and God.   I have tried to be a good deconstructionist, by deconstructing my preconceived notions and ideas to find out on what they were based.   As I questioned different aspects of my life and thought, though, there was one thing that I never questioned or called into doubt — That God is my Father in Heaven and that Jesus is the Christ.   I have always taken those facts as given and built everything else on top of that foundation. I look back at my life, at the  many hours I spent with my family reading in the scriptures and discussing them, at the many hours in Church meetings listening and learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the many hours I spent on my own reading and praying and pondering and I realize that I always started with the fact that God lives and loves me and sought to make sense of everything else in light of that fact.

But a foundation is pointless unless there is something built on top of it.   I have not just accepted the fact that I have always believed in Jesus Christ.   I believe Alma put it best when he was asked a similar question, why are you a member.

“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?  Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit” (Alma 5:45-46).

I, too, like Alma, have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself.   And as I have written before, that is what I love best about the Joseph Smith first vision story.   It is not only the basis of the Restoration -the facts behind how the Restoration of the Gospel of Christ occurred, it is the pattern that everyone is invited, and even commanded, to emulate.   Each one of us must, as young Joseph Smith did, seriously reflect upon things heard and taught, then turn to the scriptures and read and afterward, “reflect upon it [the scriptures] again and again” and then come to the “conclusion that [we] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else [we]  must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (Joseph Smith History 1:13).

I have done so.   I have pondered upon the scriptures, I have found quiet moments and prayed to my Father in Heaven, and I have received an understanding through the Holy Spirit that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that the Gospel of Christ was restored to this earth with all of its ordinances and requisite priesthood authority through the Prophet Joseph Smith.   I have read the Book of Mormon, in its entirety and in sections, multiple times and have felt the confirmation from the Spirit that the message it tells is true.   It teaches of Jesus Christ and encourages and admonishes everyone to come unto him and “lay hold on every good thing” (Moroni 7:19).

Why am I a Mormon?  Because I have found the joy of the Gospel of Christ.   Because I believe that there is a God who is our Father who loves us infinitely more than we can understand.   Because I have prayed to know and have felt the Spirit teach me truths that can come from no other source.   I am grateful that I was blessed to have this knowledge and belief from an early age and that I had a family that helped me learn these truths.   I am a Mormon because the Gospel of Christ has been restored and there is once again a Prophet in Israel who receives revelation from the Lord on how we can be happy in our families.

Posted by: dteeps | August 15, 2014

Update on my life

I am just looking at my blog and realizing that I have not posted in almost four months.  Things have been busy for us lately, with the biggest news that we have moved across the country — from Columbus, Ohio to Seattle, Washington.

I grew up in Renton, WA and we have been trying to find our way back to the Seattle area for several years now, but haven’t had any luck in finding a job.  I have applied for anything I could find that was even remotely related to what I want to do and what I have experience in, but haven’t heard back from hardly any of them, even the jobs I was more than qualified for.  In reading several job search sites and speaking with friends I learned that many companies do not like to hire from out of state, and often will not even look at candidates who are not local.  Especially in Seattle in the technical support industry, which is what I am looking at.  They have enough local applicants that they do not want to bother with the hassle of interviewing and hiring someone from out of state.  I have heard that some companies in Seattle do not even look at applicants if they live on the wrong side of the city, fearing the commute may be too much or some other factor may keep the employee from taking the job or staying long, I guess.

So, after a couple years of hearing nothing from Seattle and with the knowledge that jobs would respond better if we actually lived in Seattle, we decided to just move.  We began looking into the logistics of moving from Ohio to Seattle and started planning it. Our current landlord wanting to raise the rent significantly in our apartment and then having some friends in Seattle say they had a house they rented out a few rooms in where we could stay with them helped make the decision for us.  

It was quite a month, boxing everything up, organizing a yard sale to get rid of excess items and bring in some money to help with the move, and getting everything else settled to move across the country, but we did it.  And then we took five days to drive the 2600 miles, having a slight problem with our radiator and overheating as we were towing a full U-Haul trailer over the mountains in 100 degree weather.

But, we arrived safely and had wonderful help getting the trailer unloaded and now we have been working om getting all of the boxes unpacked and things put in their new place.  I have been looking for a job here in Seattle, and have had a couple of promising interviews.  But one last great thing happened a week before we left Ohio.  I had already put in my notice at work and was preparing to leave, when my manager approached me and asked if I had a job lined up in Seattle yet.  I told him I didn’t yet, and he asked if I wanted to keep working for Ohio State remotely.  I could take the laptop and log in remotely to keep working for the University to help them through the beginning of the fall semester, which is the busiest time of year for a university help desk.  So, I have still had a job and continue to have a job with OSU through September giving us much needed time and income to get on our feet and search for a job out here.  

We are doing well and enjoying Seattle so far. I have been driving around trying to take in all of the changes that have occurred in the ten years since I lived here and showing off my favorite places to my family for us all to enjoy now.  We are equally excited to see what comes next for our family, now that we are finally living in the great Pacific Northwest where we have wanted to be for so long. 

Posted by: dteeps | April 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

Today is the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.  I heard a story on NPR this morning during my drive into work about the Globe Theatre’s “bold, stupid idea”, as the director put it, to perform Hamlet in every country in the world over the next two years.  I think this a great idea, as the director explained, there may be plays more well known, like Romeo and Juliet, but Hamlet is so universal that it can be performed and understood and appreciated in every country.

Hamlet is such a universal play because it deals with universally human themes and characters.  On the one hand it is about a murdered king, a usurper taking his wife and crown, and a plot to avenge the murder.  But, it is also about a murdered father, a brother stealing his wife, and a son avenging his father.  It is about corrupt government as much as it is about family drama.  It is about an entire kingdom, but it is about a single family.

There are court politics and intrigue, with Polonius, who can’t keep his nose out of everyone’s business and gets himself stabbed for it.  It is about family relationships, with Hamlet trying to figure out how to deal with his mother and his uncle and their reaction to his father’s death, and trying to figure out how to deal with his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s father, and his girlfriend’s brother.

Everyone can find something in this play that they can relate to, something that they can enjoy and learn from and ponder as they leave the theatre.  It is so very complex that scholars, actors, directors, and students have been studying this play and performing it for over 400 years and are still finding new interpretations.  Yet, it is so simple that it has played well in non-English speaking countries, almost from the very beginning.  There is evidence of a tour of Hamlet going through the Netherlands and northern Germany in the early 1600s.

I had a Shakespeare class at BYU where our research was not confined to one, end-of-the-semester paper, but was instead written as a research blog, online, with several posts each week about the research we were doing and the plays we were reading.  I chose to focus my study on Shakespeare in Germany, and one of my conclusions was that the play Hamlet is now as officially German as it ever was English or Danish.

I love the play Hamlet, and would love an opportunity to see, act in, and direct this play at some time in my life.  I would love to find a German translation or version and find some way of performing that to an English audience, to prove and explore the universality of this play’s importance and impact beyond the language of it.  I think it would be incredibly interesting to see this play performed in a different language, to find the similarities and the differences that a different language and culture brings to this play.

Maybe that is in the works for the Bard’s 500th birthday — the Globe Theatre not just doing Hamlet around the world, performing in every country, but Hamlet around the globe, performing a version in every language!  I would definitely see several of those performances.

 

Happy Shakespeare Day everybody!

During this last General Conference two different talks (here and here) mentioned the story of Martin Harris and losing the 116 manuscript pages.   Each made the point that because Martin and Joseph kept asking the Lord after he told them ‘No’, there were consequences, including the fact that Joseph lost his spiritual gifts for a time.

While neither of these talks directly referenced the Ordain Women movement, it seems they are making a reference to this group, who have already been told, and were told once again by an Apostle, Elder Oaks, during this conference about the rights and responsibilities of the Priesthood and the order the Lord has established for His Church.   It will be very interesting to see what this group does when the next General Conference rolls around in October.   They have been given their answer, by an Apostle of the Lord, a leader in this church they say they are a part of and believe in.   Will they again petition the Lord with the same question, as Martin Harris and Joseph Smith did, until they get the answer they want to hear?  And what will be the consequences of their repeated petitions of the Lord and the Lord’s Church?

Does it seem coincidental that at exactly this moment the story of Martin Harris and Joseph Smith was again emphasized with the consequences of repeatedly asking the Lord the same question hoping for a different answer, waiting for the Lord to give the answer one wants?  Or do we believe that the Church is directing its messages to those who associate themselves with this Ordain Women group?   An Apostle of the Lord spoke and clarified many things pertaining to how the Priesthood is used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the fact that many women in the Church are given Priesthood authority to act and serve in their respective callings.   Elder Oaks said,

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.

He taught that women do have access to Priesthood authority to fulfill their callings and responsibilities in the church, even if they are not ordained to Priesthood offices.   At this time only men are ordained to Priesthood offices, as Elder Oaks taught: “The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to offices in the priesthood. But, as various Church leaders have emphasized, men are not “the priesthood.” Men hold the priesthood, with a sacred duty to use it for the blessing of all of the children of God. ”

He was very clear, answering the main concern of the Ordain Women group, which states on their website that they are “Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the Priesthood”. Elder Oaks clearly addressed the fact that the Lord has determined that women are not ordained to offices in the Priesthood.   I believe Elder Oaks also addressed the first point as well when he said, “In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.”  And he quoted another Apostle, Elder Ballard, in saying ,”Our Church doctrine places women equal to and yet different from men. God does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other.” But, it seems that many may not have caught that, or have wished for a better, fuller answer.

I was browsing the #ldsconf hashtag on Twitter today and came across this tweet:

Honest question: how can we claim equality of gender while we say one gender presides over the other? #ldsconf

My response was:  @brianspittler Ephesians 5:21-33 Men preside over the family in love and righteousness as Christ presides over church. Should emulate Him.

I am a big fan of these verses in Ephesians, though I know they are often misinterpreted or misunderstood.   I was asked by my brother-in-law to read a Biblical passage at his wedding, and these are the verses I choose, and when we told the Pastor conducting the service, he seemed surprised that I was “bringing out the big guns”, as he put it.   Even he recognized that these verses can be controversial, but do contain heavy doctrine pertaining to marriage and how husband and wife should treat each other.

Most people start quoting at verse 22, which says “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord” and they do not like that women are told to be submissive to their husbands.   But I like to start in verse 21 where Paul is still talking to the congregation as a whole and says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord”.  Marriage is not just about wives submitting to their husbands in everything, but husbands submit to their wives as well.   Anyone who says differently has never been married, or is sorely mistaken about the true relationship in his marriage.

True, Paul starts out by talking to the wives, telling them to submit unto their husbands as unto the Lord, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” and “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. ”  But Paul does not stop there, he goes on to preach, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”.  That does not sound like a husband who domineers over his submissive wife, demanding that she obey him whatever he says.   No, the relationship between a husband and a wife needs to emulate Jesus Christ and the way he dealt with the Church.   He presided over the Church and gave direction and counsel and taught good principles, but he never used force or sarcasm or demanded subservience from the Church.   He said, “I am among you as he that serveth.”

Men preside over the family in the same way, always looking to Jesus Christ as an example for how to act, just as He said he only did those things which He had seen the Father do.   Presiding in the Priesthood is fundamentally different from presiding in any other aspect of our mortal, secular lives.  As Elder Oaks taught, “There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward”.  This does not make sense to a corporate world which teaches that if one is above another then that one is more important.   The positions one holds in the Church, even that of Husband and Wife or Father and Mother do not make one important, it is only in how one acts in those positions.   And just because a husband is set to preside over his family does not place him above his wife or children, instead he has simply been given more responsibility for ensuring their needs are met and they are taught the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again Elder Oaks mentioned this important principle: “Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities.  Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities.”  Presiding in the home and in the family is not about having the ‘right’ to do so, but having the ‘responsibility’, and husbands have been given the primary responsibility, though any husband who does not engage his wife and utilize her as an equal partner is a fool.

As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed Elder Oaks’ talk and I do not see that women in the Church need to advocate for equality.   When it works properly, women are equal, though with different God-given responsibilities and talents and characteristics and roles.   I think the real problem is that the Church, as an organization, does not always function as well as the Church, as the Kingdom of God on earth, should.   I had a mission companion who said, “Jesus founded a perfect Church — and then he let hosers like us in.”  Well we could say, with Mormon, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God”

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