Saturday, April 19, 2014

Passover Seder Service

Our family together with our neighbors decided to observe Passover this year and have a Passover dinner/Seder Service.  I am sure the whole thing wasn't entirely Kosher, but the event was done respectfully and the kids enjoyed it. Here are some notes I took about putting on a Seder Service.

LDS Passover Seder Haggadah:

Zeroa- roasted lamb, Jesus Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of world.
Beitza- boiled egg, life and new beginning.
Maror- bitter herb, bitterness of captivity
Charoset- mixed fruit and nuts, bricks and mortar represent the principle of labor and hard work.
Karpas- parsley dipped in salt water, hope for the future and tears of the past.
Matzah- unleaveded bread- Israel left Egypt with haste

Opening Prayer

Yom Tov = happy day.  The Passover story is told in our own language as if we ourselves had been freed from bondage and slavery.  The story of liberation from slavery is eveyone's story.

Kadesh- reciting the Kiddush- 
[drink first of 4 glasses of wine while reclined] Light candles.  Sabbath= God before mammon, God's love for all life. Jew, Gentile, heathen, slave, animal.

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

U'rechtaz- washing hands
Karpas- parsley dipped in salt water
Yachatz- breaking middle matzah
Wrap the larger piece in a napkin and hide.
Maggid- telling the story
"This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all those who are hungry come and eat with us.  Let all those who are in need come and share our meal.  This year we are here.  Next year may we all be in the land of Israel.  This year we are slaves.  Next year may we all be free."

4 Questions:
1. How is this night different from all other nights?
2. Why do we eat unleavened bread?
3. Why do we eat bitter herbs?
4. Why do we dip our vegetables?

"Exodus 12:25-27 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped."

[Drink second cup of wine.] 
Read Psalm 113
Rachtzah- washing hands
Motzi Matzah- blessing meal and matzah
Shulchan Orech- the meal
Tzafun- the afikomen
[3rd cup of wine]
Barech- saying grace
Pour cup of wine for Elijah
Open the door for Elijah
Hallel- psalm of praise
Psalm 115-118; 136
[Drink 4th cup of wine]

Nirtzah- conclusion
"And so we end the Passover Seder.  We have conducted it according to custom, according to law. Just as we have been privileged to celebrate it in the future as well.  Pure One, God in Purity, and Oneness in heaven, restore Your countless people.  Speedily lead us redeemed to Zion in joy. Next year in Jerusalem."

Songs and Closing Prayer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

LDS General Conference April 2014 Notes

Church Audit Committee- The Church lives on a budget, has no debt and saves for a rainy day. 

Elder Nelson-  Faith is the antidote for fear.  We shouldn't separate our religious and professional life.  If we live segmented lives we will never live up to the fullness of our personal integrity. Let your faith show. [Do wear your religion on your sleeve]

Elder Scott- Put God first in your life and help others by sharing your experiences, blessings and testimony.

Elder Oaks-  With regard to callings in the Lord's Kingdom, there is no stepping up or stepping down but only going forwards and backwards.  Keys of the priesthood carry the authority to authorize.  Keys of creation and resurrection have not been given to man. Women have been given divine authority to serve in temples and wards to serve under the keys of the priesthood.  Women are set apart by priesthood keys and receive priesthood authority to administer in the temple and to be full time missionaries.  Only men are set apart to offices in the priesthood.  We need to focus on responsibilities and not rights.  Blessings of the priesthood are available to both men and women on the same conditions. Both are endowed in the temple with the same priesthood power.

President Hallstrom (70)- Saying "that's just the way I am" is surrendering to satan.  We meet here because the way we are now is not who we can become.  We need to be different because we have made covenants.  Elder Holland can speak with enough fire to singe your eyebrows.  Be worthy.  Do all things in worthiness.  Sin chokes the priesthood.

President Ridd (YM)-  The internet provides choice and accountability.  What does your heart desire?  All thoughts and decisions leave their mark. We must train our desires to become our  ally and not our enemy. 

President Uchtdorf- Unlike Rip Van-winkle, do not sleep through the Revolution/Restoration.  Do not seek your own pleasure.  Those who loose their life shall find it.  Addiction: bound by straight jacket of our own making.  You can break free.  Beware: Selfishness, Addiction, Distraction.  With his hand on the throttle of Air Force 1, President Monson said "Dieter, don't even think about it".

President Eyring- Choose and emulate good heros.  Pray with real intent.  Prayer will change you.

President Monson-  Call to courage. " Get Out!" if we are found where we ought not to be.  Remain faithful even when no one is looking and even when facing ridicule. 

President Uchtdorf- in the gospel of Christ there are no endings but only eternal beginnings.

Elder Ballard- We are commanded by the Lord that the Church should be known by the title " the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". Invite others to know more about the Church and follow up on your invitations.  If you consistently bare testimony then your sins can be forgiven.

Sister Stevens- Our Father knows us and hears the pleadings of our heart.

Bishop Stevenson- This life is your 4-minute olympic skeleton run.  You spent eternity in preparation and will spend eternity reflecting on it.  "let us run with patience the race that is set before us". We want to do our best but want others to do their best also.

Elder Bednar- The load of wood provided the weight for the truck to get the traction to get out of the snow and get back on the road.  We need to carry the right load to get spiritual traction.

President Monson- treat others with kindness and consideration.

Elder Walker- Live true to the faith. How could 500 men leave their homeless wives and children to heed the Prophet's call to enlist in the US Army forming the Mormon Battalion?

Elder Teh- Lay up in store treasure in heaven.  Do not sacrifice for that which is of no worth? Before ye seek riches, seek ye the Kingdom of God. Develop faith, hope, and charity.  Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

"All Are Alike Unto God"

I really enjoyed Elder Oak's talk on women and the priesthood in General Conference teaching us that women are set apart and given priesthood authority, power, and blessings.  Women are not ordained to offices in the priesthood or given administrative keys. However women are authorized to serve as full-time missionaries, officiate in the temple, and many other callings.  

I would add the ideas that 1. the LDS Bishop is not a "preacher" but is an administrative position to take out garbage, lock the building, count the tithing, and receive confession.  He is also president of the Aaronic Priesthood and works with the young men.  Women atready preach the sermons and teach Sunday School. 2. We know women can do many things better than a man. God has made a divine division of labor where men administer in the Church and women administer in the home.  Both men and women are to "minister" in the home and the Church. You don't need a special calling to minister.  3. Also, a person can experience more power via Influence and ministration than authority and administration.  

In the last year there has been a small but vocal minority of LDS women who have been pushing for what they say is greater gender equality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have several cousins that are part of this movement. This faction has recently compiled a list of suggested policy changes in the Church. 

First, the way this group is operating is totally inappropriate being so publicly in opposition to Church leadership.  This group is subversive and is using Alinsky-style tactics to organize a vocal faction within the Church.  There is always room for improvenent even for the Church but no one is getting injured by Church policues and these are not issues that women in the Church (other then this small vocal faction) are even worried about.

I am reading the Old Testament now and have just read about David and Saul. What amazed me about David was that even though Saul was continually trying to murder David at every turn, David still have respect for the Lord's anointed servant.  Likewise, despite how we think Church policy may affect us, we need to take care not to be so entitled and narcissistic that we put ourselves above the Lord's authority.  Although individual members may convince themselves that they know better and are trying to improve things for all women.

The "All Are Alike" faction is open about their end goal of seeking for the ordination of women.  However, what they are saying now is that until Church leadership is willing to consider women pastors, they have a list of policy change requests.   Some of these ideas are actually pretty good ideas.  Some others are not good.   

The unfortunate thing is that it can be difficult to even have a dialog with the leaders of factions because they can be actually really closed-minded and unreasonable.  They will get offended and play victim at the drop of a hat and refuse to accept well reasoned explainations about why such-and-such idea is not a good idea.  The tragedy is when well-intentioned followers get sucked into a faction with leadership that has a hidden agenda to damage the Church and not help it.  

How can you tell when leadership is well- or evil-intentioned? You have to judge people by what they do.  In the debate, one way is to see if leadership are intellectually honest.  Do they happily aknowledge and support when your side has made a good argument?  Or do they dogmatically and divisively resist and counter every argument without any attempt to build consensus? 

In an attempt to build consensus I wish to go through the "All Are Alike" suggestions and give my take on which ones are good and which suggestiins are not good:

Encourage partnership in marriage and eliminate the idea that husbands preside over their wives.
[Poor. This statement doesn't reflect Church teaching. We cannot change what is not taught. It is Church doctrine that husbands "preside over their families in love and righteousness"...."as equal partners". Men need to feel needed and appreciated.  Look at the inner city.  There are so few Dads because gov. welfare makes men feel unneeded.  Also, men are encouraged to preside spiritually. This means to "lead out" in family prayer and scripture study and FHE so that the wife doesn't have to "lead out" in everything temporally and spiritually in the home.  Presiding spiritually gives men something to do in the home.  The Church never teaches, "you have to do what I say woman because I am the man."] 

Create parity in the Young Women and Young Men organizations through equivalent budgets, educational programs (leadership, career, and spiritual training,) and activities (sports, service, and outdoor events).
[Good and Poor.  We are talking about Boy Scouts here vs. Activity-Day Girls.  Boy Scouts has some attendant costs because of shirts, books, badges, and scout camp.  But in reality there is not much of a difference in money spent.  Primary has a large budget, young men and women also have sizable budgets have many joint activities.  With 4 girls of my own, I agree that Activity-Day girls could be much better organized.  In reality, the best activities don't have to cost any money. Also remember the budget for the Elder's and High Priest's quorums in my wards have been zero.  Do we really want Title IX imposed at Church?]

Balance the stories and images of boys and men in church publications, talks, and other media with stories and images of girls and women.
[Good.  I can support more pictures in the gospel art collection about Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Hagar, Rachel, Bilhah, Zilpah, Leah, Tamar, Ruth, Abigail, Hannah, Mary, Martha, Junia, etc.  I think LDS artists should put something together focused on women in the scriptures.]

Invite women in Church leadership positions to speak and pray during General Conference in numbers equal to the participation of men.
[Good and Poor.  I like seeing more women give prayers at General Conference. However, we come to General Conference primarily to hear what our Apostles and Prophets have to say and the Relief Society, Primary and Young Women's presidents.  There are 15 Apostles and many more 70's so they are going to get most of the time.  When GA's travel, we generally hear from spouses as well].

Encourage leaders to use gender-inclusive language whenever possible.
[Good.  It is not Church policy to use gender exclusive language]

Recognize that girls and boys, women and men are equally responsible for appropriate sexual behavior, and avoid reducing morality to sexuality, and modesty to a preoccupation with women’s and girls’ clothing.
[Good.  This is already Church policy.  "For the Strength of Youth" discisses all areas of righteous conduct]

Instruct bishops to refrain from asking Church members probing questions about sexual practices and experiences.
[Good, it is already Church policy for bishops to ask questions about worthiness to encourage confession but not to probe for inappropriate details.  Appropriate questioning can assertain the extent of sin without delving into specifics]

Call women to perform pastoral counseling, particularly for women and girls who have been sexually abused.
[Good and Poor. This type of counseling should be done by professionals.  For general support, women have visiting teachers and young women's advisors that already do this work]

Choose a General Relief Society Presidency and General Board that reflect the diversity of viewpoint and circumstance in the Church, and establish frequent meetings between the First Presidency and the General Relief Society Presidency.
[Good and Poor, The Relief Society already represents the unity of viewpoint of the women of the Church. The Relief Society already meets regularly with the First Presidency. I think what you mean is you think the Relief Society may not reflect all of your views. I don't think it wise to allow manifest divisive agitators to infiltrate the councils of the Church]

Include the Stake Relief Society President in Stake Presidency meetings, and appoint women to meet with the High Council.
[Poor. I don't think women necessarily need to be involved in Church disciplinary councils.  This is an administrative task like counting tithing, locking doors, taking out the garbage.  If you want to do this part of the job then you need to accept the rest of it.  

However, my wife has accompanied several single women for their disciplinary councils who have worked through their repentance process and has been a great support for them.  She didn't need a special calling for this]

Delegate more expansive supervisory authority to the Stake and Ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, including approval of personnel, programs, and activities. 
[Good and Poor.  The Church already encourages all presidencies to plan their own activities, agenda, and make  personnel suggestions.  However, the Bishop has to review the requests because he is the only one who knows about worthiness issues. ]

Include women among stake and ward leaders who hear evidence and offer judgment in Church disciplinary councils.
[Poor, This is similar to the suggestion above about High Councils.  I don't think women necessarily need to be involved in Church disciplinary councils.  This is an administrative task like counting tithing, locking doors, taking out the garbage.  If you want to do this part of the job then you need to accept the rest of it.  

However, my wife has accompanied several single women for their disciplinary councils who have worked through their repentance process and has been a great support for them.  She didn't need a special calling for this]

Include the local Relief Society president in all bishopric meetings, and rotate the planning of Sacrament services among the Relief Society president and members of the bishopric.
[Poor, the Relief Society Presidency doesn't need more responsibility than she already has.  RS already is on the Ward Council and can meet with the Bishop at any time.  Why pick and choose what part of the Bishop's job you want to do but not the other parts?

LDS Bishop's are not preachers.  Their role is more administrative. Membership teaches the sermons and Sunday School lessons already.]

Examine all Church positions to determine whether they can be filled without regard to gender.
[Good and Poor. I have worked in the nursery and primary and cub scouts. Men obviously cannot not serve over the Young Women and Relief Society.  Women make great Gospel Doctrine teachers. I don't think having a male Primary president is such a good idea.  We already know females do a much better job at any calling than men.  That is precisely why women get the primary presidency calling.  Sunday School presidents don't necessarily do all that much so I don't know that anyone should care.  I don't think female clerks is appropriate because its an administrative job and requires working too closely with other men.]

Appoint women as presidents of Church universities and heads of administrative departments.
[Good.  This is already the policy of the  Church if there is a qualified applicant. The Church isn't going to practice affirmative action. Jan Sharman at BYU and Sherri Dew at Deseret Book are great examples.] 

Expand hiring practices in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and within the religion departments at Church universities to provide women the same placement, advancement, and tenure opportunities as men.
[Good.  Women are already early-morning seminary teachers all over the world and religion teachers at BYU.  As far as Utah Seminary goes, I don't know their policies.  It seems men and women would want to emphasize marriage and family rather than teaching seminary.  Many women teach elementary school for a few years and then put their career on hold to raise a family and may return to it after their children are grown.  Utah Seminary is already overly competitive for such little pay.]

Call young women as well as young men to serve missions at the same age and for the same length of time, and afford women the same opportunity as men to function as district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president.
[Good and Poor.  Women are called at 19 because the age difference helps prevent attraction and distraction. Most missions already call Sister missionaries to zone leader-like positions to supervise the other sisters.]

Lift the prohibition on women's participation in the blessing of their children.
[Poor.  Women can fast and pray for their children and can bring down more blessings by showing respect for and honoring God's system.  Also, as I have said, women could do everything better, but God has the save somethings for the men to do.]

Change temple marriage policies so that men and women have equal opportunity to be sealed to their second spouses after they are widowed or divorced.
[No rating, I can see this can be a difficult situation. Women can only be sealed to one man.  This doesn't mean a women won't ever see her children from another spouse.  We have to have faith about why God has organized families this way. It may just come down to the order of resurrection.  In heaven you live with your eternal companion and your children live with their eternal companions.  If you already believe in sealings, you must believe that God has worked all this out. I have compassion for anyone in this situation, but I don't think this one issue should be used as a basis to go on a Crusade against the Church.]

Consider further wording changes to temple ceremonies and ordinances such that both men and women make the same covenants and enjoy the same promises.
[Poor, both men and women enjoy the same blessings.  If you already believe in the power of eternal sealing, then trust God that he has perfectly organized things]

Recognize women as witnesses for baptisms and marriage sealings.
[Poor, Women already officiate in the Temple under the authority of the priesthood. Again, some of this administration in the Church vs. administration in the home has to do with a divine division of labor and reserving a few things for men to do.]

Restore the former institutionally-accepted practice of women giving blessings of healing and comfort.
[Poor.  Women can fast and pray for their children and can bring down more blessings by showing respect for and honoring God's system.  Also, as I have said, women could do everything better, but God has the save somethings for the men to do.]

After reading these suggestions, I have 2 constructive suggestions of my own for the "All Are Alike" group.

1. I would love to see the "All Are Alike" group put together a project were they create beautiful artwork of women in the scriptures.

2. Also, the "All Are Alike" group should create a curriculum and manual with numerous low-cost projects for Activity-Day Girls. 

Matthew 24: Stay With the Carcass

"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be..... For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together."(New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 24:21-28)

Here the Lord directs the Saints to stick with the main body of the Church and not get lured away from the carcass.  This may become especially important in the Tribulation when the Saints need to gather for preservation. The Lord's Saints myst stay with the carcass because that is where we will find the Eagles (the Lord's anointed).

The Church of Christ during the Tribulation may be likened to a carcass because it may not be in complete operation at that time (following the Burning of Babylon).  Carcass doesn't necessarily infer carrion (decaying and rotting flesh). After an eagle kills a rabbit (for instance), the fresh kill will attract other eagles who will all feed together.

Jesus Christ warns us in these verses that the Saints must gather together in one place and in one body. We need to stick with the carcass, with the main body of the Saints, and with the priesthood keys.

Called Home to Defend the Constitution?

I grew up in an affluent LDS ward on the East Bench of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Consequently, in addition to the great blessing of being raised in the LDS faith, at the same time, I think I myst have been exposed to just about every crazy, spurious, and false doctrine imaginable.

One of the more memorable false doctrines had to do with rumors of numerous young men receiving Patriarchal blessings that supposedly said something like, "you will fulfill a faithful mission but then be called home early to defend the Constitution".  Seriously, who makes this stuff up?

My comment on "defending the Constitution" is this.  The full-time missionaries need not be called home to defend the US Constitution because their work to encourage a spiritual revival of faith in Jesus Christ and a return to virtue is doing more to defend the Constitution than anything else that could be done. 

Constitutional government can only protect the freedom of a moral, virtuous, and righteous people. The erosion of traditional family values and morality in America is the single most significant domestic and foreign threat to our freedom.  There is no law, or tax cut, or budget, or convention that can fix what only a return to virtue can save.  

Immortality threatens freedom because drug abuse and promiscuity lead to poverty, and poverty empowers evil people to take over our government and limit our freedoms in a vain attempt to do the business of the Church which is to provide welfare and expect virtue. That is why when I see the missionaries, in addition to our military serviceman, I also make a point to thank the missionaries for their service to defend the Constitution and preserve my freedom. 

5 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 31)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Martial Arts vs. Scouting and Priesthood

Many people are attracted to millitary service and martial arts because of a desire to learn discipline, life skills, and moral values.  And the military and martial arts do teach discipline, skills, and values. However, I have really come to appreciate my experiences and on-going service in scouting and the LDS priesthood. 

Instead of learning discipline and values through the art of war; scouting and LDS priesthood, teach discipline, life skills and the highest Christian values via the art of peace and service.  In the Millennium the scriptures tell us that there will come a time when man will no longer learn the art of war any more. 

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Old Testament, Isaiah, Isaiah 2:4)

Through the boy scouts, LDS missionary and priesthood service young men learn the disciple, life skills, and develop the moral character that will not only help them succeed in the work place, community, but also in their marriages and family life.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Old Testament, Isaiah, Isaiah 52:7)