Thursday, March 21, 2013

13 things I didn't know when I was a Mormon

These things weren't part of the Sunday School curriculum. Heck, they might not be on a Christian church's curriculum either.

  • There weren't necessarily three Magi that came to see the baby Jesus. There might have been more or less than three. Take a look and see if the Gospels actually name how many came.
  • The New Testament was written in a form of Greek called koine and yet Jesus may have originally spoken Aramaic, so even the earliest manuscripts may have been translations of what he said.
  • The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible created by Jews. The Greek Orthodox church's Old Testament is based on the Septuagint translation. When the early Christians quoted the Bible, they were often quoting from the Septuagint.
  • Speaking of translations, I had absolutely no idea how many English translations of the Bible exist. Wikipedia has a big list
  • Some of the translation errors found in the King James Version are copied in the Book of Mormon. Now why would God perpetuate those errors in the "most correct book"?
  • Some women were leaders of churches in the New Testament. Check out Phoebe, a deacon in Cenchreae.
  • And speaking of deacons, I haven't yet seen how the LDS church can say their "priesthoods" are a restoration of anything Biblical. If so, wouldn't Aaronic priesthood holders have to sacrifice animals at the temples?
  • And there's Deborah, a prophet in the book of Judges.
  •  I found out that Mormons aren't the only church that say their way is the only way to salvation. 
  • God didn't "give" multiple wives to Old Testament men like Abraham and Solomon. They chose to have more than one woman and they and their wives usually suffered for it.
  • A lot of the scary, ugly, nasty stories in the Old Testament aren't there because God was condoning the bad things that happened. The stories highlight the mistakes people made and how God works with imperfect humans anyway.
  • Having a liturgical calendar sure adds variety to worship.
  • And I'll stop with my new understanding of grace as compared to how I used to think about it. In the past, I was a fan of a book called "Believing Christ" by LDS author Stephen Robinson. He told a "parable" where a little girl really wanted a bicycle so she gave all her money, a pittance, to her father, who then made up the difference and bought her the bike. I thought that was great--I do my very best, which amounts to very little, then God makes up the rest. I just had to hope that my very best would be enough to stretch up to God's hands. Now I know that's NOT grace. Grace is a free gift. God did it ALL. I can choose to accept it or not. It's about what God did, not about how much genealogy I did or if I gave the neighbors a Book of Mormon. I can't save myself. And actually, I'm relieved.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What is Sin? (part 2)

This is my opinion: Sin is doing the opposite of what love would do.

If we love God, we'll want to do good things, serve God, praise God. If we love other people, we'll want to be there for them, forgive them, cheer them. If we have love in our hearts, we won't be so likely to act out in ways that hurt ourselves, other people, or the world in general.  The kindness and gentleness and courage that comes from love changes everything.

 Jesus could have given us a list of specific "don't"s, but instead he gave us two "do"s that apply to every circumstance and every century:

Matthew 22:34-40
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Mark 12:28-31 (NRSV)
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Luke 10:25-28 (NRSV)
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

John 13:33-35 (NRSV)
33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Romans 13:8-10 (NRSV)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
1 Peter 4:8 (NRSV)
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 
1 John 3:23 (NRSV)
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

Friday, March 8, 2013

What is Sin? (part 1, According to the Latter Day Saints)

As a Mormon, I associated sin with breaking the rules of the church, going against the words of the prophet, or failing to do what was expected of me as a member. For example, I never was a smoker, but I knew an older man who was and he struggled  over continuing to smoke because it was against the Word of Wisdom. He still came to church, and even served in a voluntary position as the ward clerk, but he smoked in secret. I knew this because as a missionary in his ward, I ran into him after church one day in the street. He flipped his cigarette over and somehow put it out in his own hand before my companion and I arrived at his side. My companion and I had heard rumors and then we saw him in the act. But we didn't say anything about it to him because we'd heard his wife was ashamed of it and we didn't want to make it worse and have him go inactive.

As for me, I felt worried if I skipped going to sacrament meeting and taking the sacrament because that was considered to be a necessary "renewal of my baptismal covenant" with God. (One of the LDS apostles, David Bednar, said this: "Through the ordinance of the sacrament we renew our baptismal covenant and can receive and retain a remission of our sins.") I was fearful if I didn't pay my tithing because I didn't want to "burn" when the Lord came again to the Earth. (He that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming: D&C 64:23) Once I refused a calling and felt guilty for that because I'd been taught callings came from God, and refusing a calling was refusing to serve God. Various church leaders and prophets said that members should not watch R-rated movies, so I felt wicked for giving into temptation and seeing "Schindler's List." Not getting visiting teaching done, not going regularly to the temple, not treating garments (underwear for people who have been "endowed" at the temple) with proper respect (seriously--don't drop them on on the floor, don't let people see them, don't roll them up to wear more revealing clothing over top, wear them 24/7) ("How it is worn is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior," First Presidency Letter, 10 Oct. 1988)....there are many ways for a Mormon to "sin" besides breaking the Ten Commandments. Now perhaps I missed something in all those 27 years of being a member and am classifying all this as  sin for Mormons when perhaps another member of the church would say sins are only things like being unchaste, lying, murdering. Let me look up how they define it on their official church website.

Sin: See also Abominable, Abomination; Filth, Filthiness; Offend; Rebellion; Ungodly; Unrighteous, Unrighteousness; Wicked, Wickedness

Willful disobedience to God’s commandments.

So now I ask, what do they consider to be God's commandments?

Commandments of God: See also Commandments, the Ten; Law; Obedience, Obedient, Obey; Sin; Word of God

The laws and requirements that God gives to mankind, either individually or collectively. 
Remember the man I saw smoking? Well, the Word of Wisdom is considered to be a commandment currently, although it was originally "given as a principle with a promise." If a person uses tobacco, drinks tea, coffee, or alcohol or uses illegal drugs, they are not allowed to attend the temple.
There's the "law of chastity"--no sexual relations before marriage. Breaking that can get a person as far as excommunicated depending on how much happened and if the person has been "endowed" in the temple.
Here are a couple more things (found under under the definition for Obedience):
In nothing does man offend God, save those who confess not his hand and obey not his commandments: Doctrine&Covenants 59:21

I the Lord am bound when you do what I say: D&C 82:10

When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated: D&C 130:21 
People must be chastened until they learn obedience: D&C 105:6
Can you see why Mormons run around stressed out, doing everything they believe is expected of them? It isn't just the peer pressure they put on each other to conform. They think they have to earn blessings, contribute to their salvation, prove themselves to God. I feel so sorry for them.