Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Conversion to Mormonism

If you ask me where I am from, there is approximately a 96% chance that I will say "Massachusetts".
However, of my 22 years of life, I only lived there for 6 years.

The first 12 years of my life I lived in Utah.  Since then, I have moved around from Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Kentucky.
Why don't I like to claim Utah, then? Because when I say that I am from Utah, people say "Oh, you're a Mormon. You were born a Mormon."

I LOVE for people to know that I am a Mormon. I am very proud to be a Mormon.
But I was not born a Mormon.

Yes, I was raised by parents who are Mormon and I was baptized when I turned 8 years old. (The LDS church does not practice infant baptism. The youngest a person may be to be baptized is 8 years old. This is because this is viewed as the age of accountability when the individual making promises to God can understand what they are promising to do and to not do.)

My conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came more when I was 12-13 years old.

My move to Massachusetts was not an easy one. Moving when you are just entering the teenage years of life is never easy.  I had just received a terribly awkward haircut which resulted in getting a perm which looked like your grandmas's brown-afro-wig.  It's a good look for women over 65. Not for 12 year old girl moving to a new school.
I got a variety of nicknames in my new school. People called me Shirley Temple, Utah, Mormon Girl, and G.P.  This stands for Granny Panties because one time I accidently tucked my shirt into my underwear and walked back into Algebra.  I don't really think that the other 12 year old girls wore thongs, but that's what they told me and that's why they teased me. 
I was asked a thousand questions about being a Mormon, and coming from a school where much of the majority of the students and teachers were LDS, this was overwhelming.  I did my very best to answer everyone's questions, but I soon learned that many of their questions were asked because they wanted to tease me; not because they wanted to learn about what I believed.
Besides my unkind nicknames, I had a really hard time making friends. Such a hard time, in fact, that the guidance counselors sent me home with a list of nice girls in my grade with their phone numbers. They told me to call some of them and ask them to be my friends and to sit with me at lunch....which I did.
8th grade came around and while I had some friends at school, I was sad because I did not really have anyone to hang out with outside of school. I do recall being invited to a birthday party, where they all decided to watch an R rated movie, and as grateful as I was to be at the party, I elected to stay outside and chit-chat with the parents of the birthday girl rather than watch the movie. 
While I had no personal desire to see an R rated movie, I did desire to have friends and to be accepted by people. More important to me though, was being accepted by God. "Perhaps I can be accepted by both." I reasoned and decided that I needed to know for sure what God expected from me. After all, I was only a 13 year old girl. God knew what I needed and what I was capable of better than anyone else.
I determined that if the Church of Jesus Christ was the true church of God on the Earth, and that God had called a Prophet in these days, I would do absolutely anything it took to obey the servant of the Lord. I did not want to be making needless sacrifices and standing out unnecessarily, though. I had no desires to do bad things, but it seemed that drinking coffee and throwing in a few cuss words here and there might help me be more accepted and not make God terribly upset. After all, a lot of REALLY good people drink coffee and occasionally (or even regularly) swear.

I went out to the woods where no one would hear me, and taking the advice that Joseph Smith took from John, I asked God what I should do, whether or not the LDS church was truly His restored church, if Gordon B Hinckley was His prophet, and if I really needed to be doing all the things I was doing.

No voice spoke to me. No angels appeared. No music played. But suddenly I thought of all the doctrines that the LDS church teaches that no other church teaches. The idea of marriage ending at death and families not being eternal was something that struck at my heart.  I knew because of the confirmation of the spirit that families were the fundamental unit, that God was my father, and that when the day came for me to get married, I could be sealed to the man of my dreams for ALL eternity.  The idea of ignoring these truths make me feel physically ill.  

I began to think of what it would mean if the LDS church was not true and Joseph Smith was not a prophet. It would mean that I could drink all the coffee I wanted to, but much much more importantly it would mean that God was leaving us very much alone here on Earth. He had called Prophets in the past; why would he stop now? Why would the people on the Earth today be less important that the people on the earth during the time of Abraham, or Enoch, or Isaiah.  No, I knew that God loved me and he loved everyone else and he would not leave us without guidance in the ever-darkening world.
Immediately, my prayer became one where I asked God to forgive me for being so selfish and caring so much what other people thought. The nausea left me. What really mattered was what God thought of me; not what other students thought of me.  
I also knew that God loved my peers, but because they had not been taught the same truths that I had been blessed with, they were not held to the same standards.  I had an opportunity to live the values that I had been taught and I promised God that I would do my very best to obey Him and live in such a way that people who knew me knew that I knew Him.   
My life got much, much better after that. I went on to be the Mormon of the high school. No one ever invited me to a drinking party. No one ever offered me drugs or a cigarette. Everyone was extremely respectful of me and my beliefs and while I had the occasional lonely weekend, I really feel like my peers respected and liked me; even if we weren't best friends. I even went on to be class Vice President and Prom Queen.  I feel like it was a huge blessing to have such nice people at my school. Some of them had and have vastly differing values, but we respect each other and can learn different things from each other.

The bottom line is this: My conversion did not come in one moment or one evening. It was the result of persistent obedience to God's commandments. "If any man shall do his will he shall know of the doctrine; whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself." John 7:17.  My testimony of this the LDS church has come from daily acts, or 'by small and simple means'.  It is in the same way that anyone who is not carefully persisting in obedience, but rather engages in small acts of rebellion and disobedience, that they will weaken and eventually lose their testimony.  

I feel that I was very lucky to have such good parents teach me the lessons of Jesus from the Bible and from the Book of Mormon. Their lives have been examples to me of service and charity.  That day I went to pray about the LDS church was not the only time that God has affirmed to me the truth of it. Truths from the Book of Mormon seem familiar to me and without them, I would be very confused.  I am so grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The members aren't perfect people, but they are trying and they are good examples to me.  I am so grateful that I did not have to just believe the words of other people, but that God allows each of us to come to Him in prayer and ask him to tell us what is true. I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost which acts as a compass in my life and helps keep me on the straight and narrow path. 

I sound like the guy from Reading Rainbow when I tell you that the LDS church is the restored church of God, "but, you don't have to take my word for it."

I know that anyone who wants to get closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can do so by reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon and then pray receive a personal witness of the truth of the words contained therein.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


How many times have I been asked 'how many moms do you have?" or " how many grandmas do you have?"  
I have one mom. I have 2 grandmas, and assuming that your mom and dad aren't brother and sister, you have two grandmas also.  

No, the LDS church does not practice polygamy.  No, the FLDS church is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  (LDS church).  

The church has an official statement on polygamy which says this: 

 Today, the practice of polygamy is strictly prohibited in the Church, as it has been for over 120 years. Polygamy — or more correctly polygyny, the marriage of more than one woman to the same man — was a part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a half-century. The practice began during the lifetime of Joseph Smith but became publicly and widely known during the time of Brigham Young.
In 1831, Church founder Joseph Smith made a prayerful inquiry about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. This resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle.
Latter-day Saint converts in the 19th century had been raised in traditional, monogamous homes and struggled with the idea of a man having more than one wife. It was as foreign to them as it would be to most families today in the western world, and even Brigham Young, who was later to have many wives and children, confessed to his initial dread of the principle of plural marriage.
Subsequently, in 1890, President Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church, received what Latter-day Saints believe to be a revelation in which God withdrew the command to practice plural marriage. He issued what has come to be known as the "Manifesto," a written declaration to Church members and the public at large that stopped the practice of plural marriage.
Today Church members honor and respect the sacrifices made by those who practiced polygamy in the early days of the Church. However, the practice is banned in the Church, and no person can practice plural marriage and remain a member.
The standard doctrine of the Church is monogamy, as it always has been, as indicated in the Book of Mormon (Jacob, chapter 2): “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none. … For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”
In other words, the standard of the Lord’s people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise. Latter-day Saints believe the season the Church practiced polygamy was one of these exceptions.
Polygamous groups and individuals in and around Utah often cause confusion for casual observers and for visiting news media. The polygamists and polygamist organizations in parts of the western United States and Canada have no affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite the fact that the term "Mormon" — widely understood to be a nickname for Latter-day Saints — is sometimes incorrectly applied to them."

How I Personally Feel about Polygamy
I won't pretend that polygamy didn't happen in the early days of the LDS church; obviously it did. But there were lots of reasons and the bottom line is I dont know how those women, or those men, did it.
It is hard enough for a man to support one family, let alone several.
And I deeply admire the women who worked so hard to take care of their kids and support each other while their husbands were gone.

Our church today and in the past has really emphasized the importance of family and the roles of fathers and mothers and that their spouse and their children must be their number one priority. In fact, the LDS church has issued a Proclamation to the World on Family. (found here
I don't know all the reasons why God asked the members of the early LDS church to practice polygamy but I know a few of the reasons. There were a lot of women joining the church; some of whom were leaving drunk, abusive husbands in Europe. Legally and financially and physically, it was impossible for these many single women to make the trip to Utah where they would be free from religious persecution.
As I said, I really admire these women for the sacrifices that they made in following what they believed to be true, despite the difficulties of the situation. I think it was easier to be someones 3rd wife, than to be no ones wife and have no man to take care of your kids. Obviously it is ideal that a mother and father take care and raise their kids in love. I'm just so glad that the time frame for polygamy was short and I think it served its purpose even though I don't know all of the details of its purpose (God knows so much more than I do!)
But honestly and realistically, I can't imagine sharing my husband Matt. The army already kinda acts as a second and third wife wink.

Baptism, Repentance, and Priesthood

What about those people who were not living LDS standards but want to change their lives and eventually go to the temple? 
Well there is excellent news.  So far as I can tell, there are 3 Main Paths for Repentance

While it is true that you cannot un-drink what you drank last  year, or un-smoke the tobacco that you smoked last week, or take back the virginity that you lost in high school, your past decisions do not have to determine your future ones.  I have written before about the atonement in my life, but I wanted to write a little bit about it in general and the wonderful means we have to repent. By repent I mean we can apologize to God and start over with a clean slate.

There are MANY Mormons who were adhering to a very different standard before they were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  They may have involved themselves with drug abuse, or living with their significant other before marriage.  There are many ways to sin and I don’t feel the need to outline the ones that come to mind, however, the wonderful thing about the atonement of Christ is that just because we have sinned, doesn’t mean we have to keep sinning. We have the opportunity to recognize that our actions were not in line with the commandments.  We can repent of our sins through prayer. We can repent as we partake of the sacrament (like communion) and the big way to repent is to be baptized. 

While many churches baptize, when someone decides they want to join the LDS church, they must be re-baptized. (Members who were baptized and then left the church and then decided to come back, do not need to be re-baptized.)

This is not because we think we are better and that other people who baptize were bad people.  I bet that those people who go around baptizing individuals into their churches are good people with good intent, but we do not believe that they hold the priesthood; the power and authority to act in God’s name.

The commonly used example is this.  Say I am flying down the road at 75miles per hour and the speed limit is 50. I am in the wrong. So, a wonderful driver of a ice-cream truck comes up behind me, turns on his music and asks me to pull over.  Even if I do pull over for this ice cream truck and listen to him inform me that I am a danger to myself and those around me, he cannot give me a ticket. This is because is not a police officer- he doesn’t have the power or authority to give me a ticket or take away my license.  He is well intended person but however wrong I am and however right he is, he doesn’t have the power/authority.  This is how we  try to make the power of the priesthood better understood. 

When we take the sacrament on Sunday (bread and water), we renew the promises/covenants that we made at our baptism. The sacrament is blessed by men who hold the priesthood- the same priesthood that was used at baptism and the same priesthood that Jesus sought when he wanted to be baptized. He could have gone anywhere to any body of water but he went looking for John because John had the proper authority from God. 

It is this power of the priesthood that seals families together forever in the temple.  There is a saying in our church about when you get married make sure it is "At the right time, to the right person, in the right place".  But along these same lines of marriage, there are lots of righteous people who join the Mormon chruch and for whatever reason, their spouse does not want to join the LDS church.  While they cannot go into the temple to be married for time and all eternity, the baptized member can attend church, worship at do temple work, and enjoy full membership.  They have no negative repercussions except that their husband/wife cannot go into the temple with them to be sealed in the temple. 

If they are married in a botanical garden or on a lovely hilltop or the church their parents were married in, goodness sake they are married!  I have heard people who think that because they were not marred in the temple, Mormons dont think they are legally married. Thats ridiculous! Married is married be it in Vegas or in the air skydiving. I do not believe that those marriages are sealed by the priesthood authority to continue beyond death, but they are married; legally and lawfully!  

The difference between LDS baptism and LDS marriages is found the in power of the priesthood.  This page talks about the restoration of the church and the restoration of the priesthood power.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


When I was a little girl, I did what most little girls do and I dreamed and talked about my wedding. I told everyone that I was going to marry a prince and get married in a castle and live happily ever after.
I was married on May 24, 2011 in the Salt Lake City Temple. On my wedding announcement, several little girls mistook Matt's military uniform to be what Prince William wore at his wedding (which happened around the same time as ours).  The Salt Lake Temple is the prettiest castle-like building I have ever seen.   However, my desire to be married in a LDS temple had nothing to do with my childhood dreams of fairy tales.  I will get back to this though.

Mormon temples are nothing at all like Mormon meetinghouses/churches.  Churches are open to anyone and everyone for regular worship.
Temples are not this way. To know how we feel about about temples, simply read the inscription outside each LDS Temple "The House of the Lord".  Over my life, I have heard some non-Mormons express their frustration (ranging from moderate to livid) about not being allowed to come into and tour LDS temples.  Perhaps it would put their minds to rest to know that there are many Mormons who are not allowed into temples.  We are very specific about who comes into temples.

House Guests
I am not overparticular about guests in my home. I let people come in and look around and talk with me. But even as laid back as I am, I do have some standards for my house guests. I am not as keen on letting strangers into my bedroom to look at the decor and small talk with me.  This is because I value my privacy.  I would not allow someone into my home if they were covered in mud. I would ask them to wash off before coming in because I try to keep my home physically clean.
 It is for similar reasons that the temple is specific about who comes inside.  It is the house of the Lord.  It is an amazingly spiritual place where those who come inside to worship can feel the closeness of the Spirit.
 Let me clarify this metaphor. I do not think that non-Mormons are spiritually unclean people. I know a LOT of members of other faiths, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, to be specific, who are wonderfully spiritually people who share a closeness with God.  They would not be defiling the temple if they were to enter. 
On the other hand, there are spiritually 'dirty' people of every faith, including Mormonism. These people should not be in the temple because they mock sacred things and have no desire for a personal relationship with god. 
The bottom line for determining who can worship in the House of the Lord (the temple) is based ona personal worthiness interview with the bishop of your ward. (see section on standards. ) Because it is an LDS church, LDS leaders determine which standards they feel God has set for entrance to his holy house. 
 Personally I feel the spirit when looking at the temple or when I walk in the doors.  Because it is such a spiritually clean place, we insist that those who come to worship are spiritually clean. The standards for regular temple visit (or to hold a temple recommend), are fairly high. This is because they are set by God for what kind of a place he wants his home to be.  We believe that the temple is the closest place to heaven we can get on this Earth because of the purity of the environment.
The temple is a place for worship and prayer and to listen to receive personal revelation and guidance.  It is not a place for tour groups.
Mormons recognize that people are curious about temples. Temples are not secret; they are sacred. We do not talk about them casually and invite anyone and everyone to come in a tour as they are because they are very important to us spiritually.

Temple Dedication and when Tours are Given
 You may be surprised to know that there is a time when you can tour an LDS temple. Anyone and everyone is invited to come into the temple and see the rooms before it is dedicated.  This happens right after a temple is built or has undergone renovations.  I was very happy that I was in Hawaii when the La'ie Temple was rededicated and I could show anyone who wanted to come, the rooms in the temple and talk a little bit about what temples are for and what they mean to me.  And I swear to this day that I saw Julia Roberts there.   But not even Julia Roberts can come into a temple after it is dedicated unless she was living up to the standards set by the LDS Church.

Here are some pictures of the lovely Mormon/LDS temples.

Salt Lake City, Utah

San Diego, California

Washington, DC

Accra, Ghana

Copenhagen, Denmark

Fukuoka, Japan

Temple Standards
To hold a temple recommend (or to be able to go into Mormon Temples for regular worship ie not the blue moon tour) you must be an active member of the LDS church. You must regularly attend your Sunday meetings, fulfill your callings, live the law of chastity (abstinent before marriage and faithful to spouse in marriage), uphold the Word of Wisdom (see prior post for questions on that), and sustain the living Prophet.

You can go to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead (to be explained shortly) when you are 12 if you are living the standards.
At some point after you turn 19, usually before you get married or before you go on a mission, you decide to go through the temple and make additional promises to God (see post on garments 

Why I Chose to get Married in the Temple
The reason I wanted to get married in the temple is because I believe that families can be together forever.  I believe that God put us here in families because that is an eternal unit and that when you are married in the temple and you keep the promises you make you God, you can be married forever.  Marriage does not have to be 'til death do ye part'.  The idea of only being with Matt until we die, was deeply saddening to me. Death is very certain but uncertain in its timing.  I cannot imagine being a individual without any ties or without my loved ones after this life.  In the temple, couples can be sealed for time and all eternity. 

On marriage Russell M Nelson said this: “ Marriage has been divinely designated as an eternal and everlasting covenant. Marriage is sanctified when it is cherished and honored in holiness. That union is not merely between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God.”

This is a link to some frequently asked questions about Mormonism.

If you have additional questions, comment below and I'll do my best to answer. :

To see some lovely pictures of the temples (both the exterior and interior, and for further questions on the temple here is an awesome link.

Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, August 31, 2012

Church~ callings and breakdown of hours

Going to church and going to the temple and two very different things that can be very easily confused for anyone who is not a Mormon.  Sometimes we say church and temple and we do not explain ourselves. Well, I am here to explain. 

This post is about church and churches.

To begin, here are some pictures of meetinghouses.  
 i.e. These are churches.

The things they have in common are that they all have steeples (at least I think they all do) and they all have a sign on the outside that reads " The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints   Visitors Welcome"  
Jesus Christ is printed largest because that is what our church is all about.
Inside there is a chapel- with pews and a stand with a pulpit. There is an organ and and piano usually. There are classrooms with chalkboards/whiteboards, bathrooms (big surprise here!), a kitchen, and a cultural hall (usually this is a basketball court with hardwood floor and hoops that lower from the ceiling. However, I heard that in South America there are soccer fields outside of the church instead. We usually use this room for ward barbeques and get-togethers and such. Some members like to use the cultural hall for their wedding receptions because its free to use, its a big room, and why not if you don't mind the basketball hoops in the tops of a few pictures. ;)

Members go to church on Sunday for three hours for regular worship. As the sign reads; visitors are welcome. Anyone who wants to can just show up and sit down and worship with us.  Church on Sundays is 3 hours long.  This might seem overwhelming but let me break down the time frames and what exactly goes on during those three hours.

3 Hours of Church described
First hour -in general it actually lasts an hour and 10 minutes ( I underlined the condensed version of what happens)
Everyone is together in the chapel. The bishop (leader of the congregation) stands at the pulpit and welcomes everyone to church, gives any announcements such as "The Hughes had their baby this week. Adilyn Cynthia was born on Wednesday at 3:09am weighing 6lbs 6 oz.  Both mom and baby are doing well."  or "The youth will be doing a fundraiser this Friday, selling scones at the local farmers market." or " We have a new missionary in our ward. Elder Jones, welcome."
Then they proceed with the opening hymn and opening prayer. The prayer is offered at the pulpit by a member of the congregation who had been asked beforehand.  The members of the congregation fold their arms and bow their heads and close their eyes for the prayer. At the end of the prayer, they all say amen and the meeting continues. 
Then if there is any ward business to conduct this is where it happens. Members are given or released from callings. A 'calling' is basically this; the ward runs on volunteers. The bishop is a member of the ward who has been 'called' to be the bishop for a few years.  Some callings are much more temporary. When I was in Arizona for only a few months, I was called to work in the Nursery with the babies/toddlers from 18months to 3 years. The bishop or one of his counselors asks you if you would be willing to accept such and such calling. In plain English, Will you work in the nursery and help keep kids happy with treats and songs and lessons about Jesus so that their parents can go to their own classes and/or fulfill their own assignments?  What is really neat about callings is that I really believe they are (for the most part) very inspired.  (sigh, another tangent)
The bishop then gets up and announces who will be speaking, what the intermediate hymn is and thanks those who are playing the piano and conducting the music.
Then there is the blessing of the sacrament. Two males who hold the priesthood bless the sacrament and then the deacons (young boys who hold the priesthood) pass the sacrament to the members of the congregation. First the bread is blessed and passed to everyone. Then the water is blessed and passed to everyone. 
There are only a few prayers in the LDS church which we say verbatim. These are two of them. The prayers are found in Doctrine and Covenants section 20 verses 77 and 79.  Here is a link to that section.,79?lang=eng#76

After the blessing and administration of the sacrament, we have our first speaker. The people who address the congregation are members of the ward.  The bishop or one of his two counselors ask different ward members to speak and give them a topic such as "Charity" or "Parable of the Lost Sheep" or "Repentance" or any number of church topics. Personally I love the opportunity to address the congregation and share what I know about a certain topic and how it makes me feel. Then I share a few scripture.  My previous post comes mostly from a talk that I gave in church on Sunday during the first hour. But I have gone off on a tangent.
The first talk is usually youth speaker (between 12-18 years old). It lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Second speaker is someone from the ward who is not a youth. (18+) and their talk can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes depending on how long winded/short and sweet they are. They are encouraged to take 10 minutes. 
Then there is an intermediate hymn followed by the final speaker.   After the final speaker ends their talk, there is a closing hymn and a closing prayer.

That's it. The congregation does not so much participate in this first meeting unless they are the speaker or the ones saying the prayer. They sit and listen to the speakers and to the spirit. 

Second Hour - Usually lasts more like 40 mins once people get to class and stop socializing in the hall :) 
The babies/toddlers go to nursery where they have a short lessons, play with puzzles, color, play with toys, have a treat and sing cute songs.
Boys and girls ages 3-11 are called Primary Children.
Children 3-11yrs old go to classes with their age group. ages 3-4 in a class. ages 5-6 in a class. ages 7-8 in a class etc. each with a volunteer teacher from the ward. (Their calling is to teach the such and such year olds)
Boys ages 12-18 are called Young Men
Girls ages 12-18 are called Young Women
The young men and young women go to class together. (Unless there are lots and lots of them in which case they also break into age groups)
Adults go to one of two classes. The first is Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine. They just follow through different books of scripture. One year they will study the Old Testament together. Next year the New Testament. Next year the Book of Mormon. There is either one or a couple of teachers that take turns. It usually is more of a discussion among the adults with a bit of structure.
The other option class is called Gospel Principles and it is for people interested in learning more about Mormonism (we refer to these people as Investigators) or for new members. It focuses more on the core of the doctrines such as the Word of Wisdom, or Prophets or The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ. 

Third Hour
Nursery kids stay in nursery.
Primary Kids all to to a class called, (get ready for this) Primary. They sing songs and do group lessons and give mini-talks to each other
Young Men meet together.
Young Women meet together.
The women 18+ go to a class called Relief Society.  (If curious, my current calling is teaching Relief Society on the second Sunday of each month.)
The men 18+ go to a class called Priesthood Meeting.

And that's Mormon Church in a nutshell. Just kidding that was certainly no nutshell. But I wanted to be sure that I did not use Mormon Jargon without explaining myself. Speaking of Mormon Jargon, I found this website that you may want to look at if something I said was not well explained  or just in general curiosity about words us Mormons use.

My Personal Story about The Atonement

The day was picturesque; sun high in the sky, breeze coming in off the ocean and waves crashing on the sand.  I was a student at BYU-Hawaii and decided to spend this Saturday, October 31st 2009, at the beach with some friends.  It was a day when high surf advisory had been issued and at this particular beach the waves were breaking at about 10-12 ft.   There was a steep sandy decline to the water’s edge and every 30 yards or so were signs which read
“Warning: Dangerous conditions include dangerous shore break, strong current, and high surf. Swim at your own risk.  Ocean conditions may cause serious bodily injury, paralysis, or death.” 
These signs were always posted at this beach, high surf advisory or not, and so I did not give them much attention.  A few of the boys were taunting me as we sat on the shore by telling me that boys were naturally better swimmers than girls.  Since I was a talented Varsity swimmer I would not allow them to make such comments if they were not going to back them up.   I looked up and down the beach and saw a few people in the water- not immediately nearby but they seemed to be doing fine and so I determined that I too would be fine in the rough waves.  If I got too tired, I would just get out and rest.  I started down the sandy slope backwards so as to see the expressions on my friends’ faces. I had not planned on getting into the water necessarily. I just wanted to get close enough that they would rescind their sexist remarks.
A friend shouted a warning to me just as I felt water rush up around my ankles and pull me with surprising strength face-first into the sand.  The water dragged me further down to where the waves were crashing and like a huge piece of plywood the water pounded me down.  Sand was filling my suit and fists as I clawed at the ground trying to regain my footing and steady myself.  My mouth filled with hundreds of the grains of sand and water, my nose stung with salt, my eyes were blurry with a combination of them all. The sand was working as a weight that sunk me with my suit.  I gasped for air as my lungs burned and I glimpsed my friends on the beach as they watched me and were completely unable to help. 
They shouted directions to me to “Swim out past the breaking waves” or to “swim parallel to the shore” and I tried to obey.  The water was too strong though and it pulled me again, faster than I could have anticipated back into the waves that threw me violently on the sand but this time I wasn’t washed on shore. I yelled out for help- only succeeding in depleting my air.  I was sucked underneath the water with the receding wave and I hadn’t had time to breathe.  I didn’t know where was up or down and all I could feel were my muscles knotting up as I began to panic. 
It was black all around me and I prayed with all my strength that somehow, someone could help me and save me.
I awoke as I felt strong arms lift me from behind.  I was given directions to run up the hill as fast as I could before the next wave set began.  I knew that this was my only choice though my legs trembled beneath my weight.  His arms pushed me forward, nearly knocking me down again, but still praying, I ran up the sandy shore where my friends helped me cough up water and sand and stop hyperventilating. 
I know that there were many things I did wrong in the situation; I ignored the warning signs, I thought I was an exception to the rules, I imagined myself to be stronger than the ocean currents and waves, I couldn’t see the riptides from the surface, I flirted with danger by getting to close to the edge, I allowed pride to distort my judgment, and I assumed that the others in the water were handling the waves with ease and enjoyment.
But despite my mistakes, I did a few things right; I kept my wits about me, I listened to instructions from the shore, I prayed, I listened to my lifesaver, and I did not give up. 
In life, we all get too close to the edge. Life sucks us in and beats us down. We get used to the warning signs and begin to ignore them or downplay the danger at hand.  We think that we are strong enough or that we are an exception to commandments or prophetic guidance.
That day at the beach, it did not matter that I was a good swimmer in good shape. It didn’t matter that I didn’t mean to get in that deep.  Even though my friends were so near, and wanted to help me, they could not because they would endanger themselves.  If I wanted to get out of the ocean and out of the waves, I needed someone who was already in the water.
We all need the Savior in our lives.  He is the only one who knows or situation and our hearts. He is the only way that we can get back to Heavenly Father.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try on our own. We must do our best and struggle to rise above the waves of life, but after all that we do, no one else can save us except for Jesus Christ.  “Oh how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp.,. of death and hell..” (2 Nephi 9: 10).

Not God Versus Science; God is a Scientist

There is much debate concerning science versus God.  
I do not see it that way. I have never seen science and God as rivals. Science is a merely a means by which God can and has worked many wonders.  I see God as the Master Scientist and that he uses science to accomplish his means. Omnipotent to me includes knowing everything about science. I would not deny that evolution happens, but I also do not think that Adam was a monkey. I find the idea of that to be blasphemous. I have no idea how God created the world or man or any of the beauties that I see around me every day. I do know that he used science to do it and that it is beautiful and amazing!  This idea of God being an incredible scientist makes lots of things more clear to me.
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that tea has anti-cancer effects.  There is also advice in the world for everyone to have a glass of wine a day for their health.  However, I believe that God has told us that these substances are not good for us and we should avoid them.  The scientists here on earth are great and they have been able to do wonderful things, however they are also fallible. God on the other hand, is not fallible. His science is perfect and if He tells me that these things are not good for me, I believe Him over current scientific evidences because, we can all attest to how quickly 'facts' change. 
The LDS church has urged its members time and time again to gain knowledge, to learn things, and to educate ourselves.  This is not just pertaining to religious studies. This includes science, math, languages, cultures, business, people, etc.  Our minds are amazing and God wants us to use them and the more that we learn about the world, we can get closer to God.  
It is for this reason that the church has BYU Provo, Idaho and Hawaii. They also have LDS business college. They are private colleges and they are so incredible affordable because the church subsidizes the cost because they want everyone, regardless of background, to be able to come and learn. The slogan "Enter to learn; go forth to serve." has been taken by many schools because knowledge gives us the ability to help others in vast ways.  
If we were to just work by faith and not use some knowledge, life would be way to difficult and we would be "carried about by every wind of doctrine". Ephesians 4:14  We must be rooted down with knowledge; personal knowledge.
Here is a quote from the late Prophet Gordon B Hinckley:

"You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently … of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78–80).
The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you. "

Writing about this makes me think of my favorite hymn; How Great Thou Art. It makes me think of God and how he miraculously (and using science) created the beauties in the world around us.

I found this short video on YouTube and I think it explains this very well.

Caffeine, Coffee, Tea; Oh My!

Throughout my life I have had various people at various times tell me what I can or cannot do; particularly with regards to being a Mormon. examples, "You can't drink caffeine or you are a bad Mormon." "You can't drink coffee because you believe that if you drink coffee then you are going to Hell."  Personally I do not like when people tell me what I can't do or what I personally believe; especially people with starkly differing value systems. I know what I believe much better than they do.  Besides, they are wrong.  I know many excellent people and excellent Mormons who drink caffeine. There is no commentary from LDS headquarters regarding drinking caffeine. Futhermore, I know many non-Mormons who drink coffee and are probably going to heaven before I get there.  Just because I hold something as a value for me, doesn't mean that I think everyone who does something different is going to hell.  That would be outrageous (not to mention a LOT of people would be going to hell).  I don't even think that if I drank an iced coffee or a toffee mocha I would be going to hell.  
The Church of Jesus Christ has the Word of Wisdom as a revelation from God as a law of health.  It teaches that alcohol, tobacco, hot drinks (tea and coffee) are harmful substances.  When it was revealed the general opinion was that tobacco was good for you and many of the church members at the time were using spitting tobacco. Actually, the women thought it was revealed so that they would stop needing to clean the floors so often from the nasty spit.  Today we have the scientific evidence that tobacco gives you cancer and has such harmful effects as to kill people. This is a fact. Today over 8.5 million Americans live with tobacco related illnesses.  Personally I love the smell of coffee, but I do not drink it or any form of it because the revelation did not say that caffeine was the reason. I bet it is part of the reason, but I do not drink decaf coffee because there are probably things about it that God knows that I do not know.  There are a number of Mormons who have decided not to drink caffeine however there is no church doctrine which states that members cannot drink caffeine. My husband and father are big fans of Coke/Pepsi. There is nothing secretive about their drinking Coke and there are no negative repercussions.
 My friend Danica Palmer expressed her feelings about this: "Caffeine is an addictive substance (As a girl who lived with a father that was a grouch until he had his Diet Coke every morning, I can say this is true). Our Heavenly Father protects us with commandments because He is protecting our agency. If I can't make it through the morning without my cup of coffee, I've surrendered part of my agency: I am no longer capable of choosing to drink or not to drink coffee; I HAVE to drink it; I HAVE to have it. Since caffeine is addictive, I can see why a lot of LDS people stay away from it. I think that there is moderation in all things; I can have a cup of soda and move on with my life (I usually don't because I get those bubbly burps in my nose, and I'm not a fan). Also, I believe we're not told specifically yes caffeine is out, or no caffeine is fair game because we're living the higher law. Heavenly Father knows we're capable individuals who don't need to know how many steps to take on the Sabbath (which was a law created by pharisees anyway). He expects us to make our own choices, and then go to Him to confirm the righteousness (or discover the not-so-righteousness) of our decision. It all boils down to protecting agency. :)

Tea is complicated because teas come in so many forms; green tea, black tea, iced tea, herbal tea, etc.  When I was pregnant I got a bad cold and I was not able to take cold medicine but I did drink some caffeine-free herbal teas because the scriptures say that herbs of the earth are to be used for the good of man. I do not think that drinking herbal teas is wrong or bad; but that is just my personal opinion. Some people find it easier to just say no tea means no tea. In fact this is usually my opinion because I’m a ‘better safe than sorry’ kind of a person.  The Church says that tea is a dangerous substance and while this is not something that I understand, I have faith that it is  true revelation and therefore I do not drink tea. Because it does not specify, people can make their own decisions based on their own prayers and communication with the holy spirit.

Mormons who are regularly attending church and are doing their best to become better and live like Jesus Christ work towards going to the temple. To be eligible to enter the temple you have to be keeping the commandments; including following the Word of Wisdom.  If you are going to the temple then you are wearing garments. If you are not keeping the Word of Wisdom, then are not honoring the promises that you made to God when you went to the temple and you are not or should not be wearing your garments. 

Personally I am grateful for the Word of Wisdom.  There is not a night in my life that I do not remember and I have always had control over my decisions. I have no addictions (except maybe to White Collar or Lost) and I am healthy.  I do get weary when I run, but that is because I do not run enough.   Am I tempted when I smell Starbucks at Barnes and Noble? Not really tempted. I have already made my commitment to God. But I do linger a moment to smell the hot coffee.   And Blue Bell Coffee ice cream….well, that might just be a bit of a temptation.  ;) 

If you have any questions about Mormonism please, just ask me and I will answer candidly.

 If you have some thoughts on questions asked or some personal experiences and you are a Mormon I would love to look over them and share some on this blog.  


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mormon Underwear

As a cultural anthropologist, I have come to know a lot of people from many different cultural groups and I have NEVER had someone willingly come up and show me their underwear.  I have never asked anyone to, but I cannot imagine that I would be happily invited into their bedroom and shown everything from their comfy, down-days underwear to their lingerie. “Why are they so secretive about their underwear?” you may ask. Well, it is for much of the same reason that Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are so secretive about their underwear.  It’s underwear!  Underwear by nature, regardless of external appearance, is private.
Besides that, our temple garments are very symbolic and sacred to us as Latter-day Saints.  When we go to the temple we make covenants/ promises to God and these items of clothing are constant reminders of our commitment to our promises.  Because these promises we make to God involve sexual purity, our garments cover the private parts of our bodies.  We wear them every day under everything we wear (except swim suits because that would be bizarre!) as a constant reminder of the promises we have made to God.  This is similar to how married couples wear wedding bands to remind themselves of the promises that they have made to each other regarding fidelity and lasting love.  (Most women do not wear their diamond rings when scrubbing the toilet because the cleaners can damage their ring.  Mormons do not wear their garments to the pool because it would a) look ridiculous and b) put unnecessary wear on our garments.) 
 Since our promises are made to God, we do not need the world to be able to tell by looking at us, that we are wearing garments. God knows when we are wearing them and keeping our promises. With covenants, they are two sided. When we promise to keep our promises to God, he promises to protect us. When we wear our garments, we are protected.  They are not ‘magic Mormon underwear’. They are symbols of our commitments to God and His promise to protect us.  They are made of various materials from cotton to silk just like any other clothing.
An example to illustrate this came to mind. A crucifix necklace, whether gold, silver or nickel, is a metal pendant. Some people wear crosses to remind them of Jesus Christ and help them to live righteously. If someone promises God that they will always wear the cross to think of Christ and in return ask God for protection, I believe that God will honor that. Say someone tries to shoot them and miraculously the bullet hits this necklace instead and their life is spared. It is not because the necklace is magic- it’s because God keeps His promises.
As a final thought on this, no one makes anyone wear garments. If they decide they do not want to keep the promises they made to God, they do not have to wear them and they can pursue whatever lifestyle they want to.  That means that God does not need to hold up His end of the bargain. While a couple is married they wear wedding rings but if things go wrong, they break marital promises or decide they do not want to be married anymore, they take off their ring. 
In summary- personal underwear by nature is private and not publically displayed; this is not unique to the Mormon culture.  Garments are not ‘magic Mormon underwear’; they symbolize promises and when promises to God are kept, He can do miraculous things. Finally, no one forces anyone else to wear garments. It is between the individual and God.

Here are some more comments based on some questions I received concerning my previous post.  Garments are usually two piece. Everyone I know wears two piece. It is possible to get one piece but those would be very uncomfortable and hot and inconvenient.  They are basically all shaped the same way regardless of age. They do make maternity ones for the pregnant shape. :) They are short sleeved (the women’s are very short sleeved as you can see by my pictures that they are not visible under my t shirts. )  Men’s are also short sleeved like a standard men’s t-shirt.  They are very sheer so that they are breathable and not too hot. The variance in styles is  in the necklace such as V neck or scoop neck. Plunging neckline is not an option because modesty is important.  Undergarment bottoms vary slightly in length but generally they are Bermuda short length; about to the knee. ie- Bermuda shorts are great, capris are great, long pants are great, daisy dukes/ short shorts are not as great. :) 
My friend Jessica Constantine wanted me to share this thought that she had concerning the style of garments. 
" Although this isn't the express purpose of garments, I feel like the unchanging length of the garment acts as a template and standard for modest dress. We are counseled a lot as youth to dress modestly because of the incredible protection it is to our physical bodies as well as our spirits. The temple garment helps us to keep our hemlines in check, and as one of many personal benefits temple garments offer the wearer, they also keep us focused on our deep beauty not just skin beauty. (Although men don't seem to have as much of an issue with modesty in dress or self worth issues that come with dress, it equally applies to them as well). "
 I do not know how many Mormons wear garments statistically but I know it is a lot.  If they were married in the temple or served a mission or they are devout Mormons and they go to the temple, you can bet they wear them.  I would guess that most Mormons over the age of 20  wear them.  You might not guess that because they are not noticeable and we don’t talk about them.  With regards to the word of wisdom; Certainly there are in any religion those who pick and choose things they want to believe and things they do not want to believe and adhere to.
Here are some pictures of Mormons wearing garments. 


*The little Buzz and the young Soldier are not wearing garments because they are children and have not been to the temple.  You begin wearing garments when you go through the temple formally as you make additional promises to God.  This happens before you serve a mission, before you get married in the temple, or when you have passed age 19 or so and you would like to go to the temple. 

"But these are normal people wearing normal clothes!" you might say. Yes, that's because the garments are underclothing and as such they are underneath their clothing.  As you see, you can wear most anything you want over your garments. I do not feel like my wardrobe is limited. It helps encourage me to dress modestly. 
Regarding the history of the garment, we believe that garments were used in the church when Abraham was a prophet and when Adam was on the earth. Certainly the styles of garments have changed as cultures and dress have changed but the concept God instituted for his church has remained the same.  When Joseph Smith restored the church of Jesus Christ, the garment was re-instituted as a symbol of temple covenants. 
I do not think that they are blessed. In our church we do not so much bless things. We bless people and we believe that we are blessed as we keep our covenants with God.

My dad also has some comments that he wanted me to add in here. :) 
 I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I would want to emphasize that the protection would be viewed primarily as a spiritual protection. Ephesians 6:11-18 would be a good example of this. The garments help us to spiritually put on the whole amour of god by helping us remember who we are and our relationship with him and the specific covenants we have made with him.  For me the symbolism of the garment is in almost every way I can imagine symbolic of the atonement.
As we repent we are then “covered” by and through the atonement. Even the word “atonement” in Hebrew is “kafar” which means “to cover”, which in our case is literal. So when I think of the garment, I think “Atonement” and what the Savior has done for me.