Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LDS Women: Working Without Going to Work

Julie B. Beck, General President of the Relief Society of the LDS church, gave a wonderfully inspired talk during the past General Conference entitled Mothers Who Know. A sign of just how inspired this talk was is the small but vocal amount of criticism the talk has garnered from within the LDS church. The point of the talk was that the ideal LDS woman desires to be a mother, to have children, to be a person of integrity, and to be spiritually minded as opposed to being materialistic and superficial.

My wife has just finished a great book by Jane Clayson Johnson (former LDS CBS anchor) entitled, I am a Mother . According to my wife and her friends, this book recounts Jane Clayson's decision to turn down a contract renewal at CBS so that she could focus on being a wife and mother. The book's main point seems to be that "just being a mother is enough." However, in discussing the book and contrasting it's thesis with Pres. Beck's talk, my wife is of the opinion that "just being a mother" does not represent LDS Doctrine, nor does it correlate in any way with the spirit and message of Pres. Beck in talk during this past General Conference.

Now, don't misunderstand, Jane Clayson's book is excellent. However, it is clear that Clayson's life since her decision to turn down the CBS job starkly contradicts her thesis statement. Being "just a mother" is not enough for Clayson. That's why she wrote this book and why she travels the country on a book tour and giving endless firesides and motivational speeches. In the same way, "just being a mother" shouldn't be considered enough for any woman. And again we get into the pendulum swinging false dichotomy thing yet again where one side argues that just being a mom is good enough while the other side argues that woman need to perform a male role to be considered of value to society.

When Pres. Beck said that "mothers who know desire to bare children, are nurturers, and do less" she is not saying that just being a mother is enough. But on the other hand, the measure of a woman's worth should not held to a male standard. The crux of Pres. Beck's talk was that baring and nurturing children along with personal spirituality and obedience are the things that will bring women their most fulfillment in life. This is not an issue of capability. The issue is that at the end of the day, if a woman earns all the honors of men but never rears a family she is more likely to feel regret. Now the other side is trying to tell us that this guilt is artificially put on women by a negative and chauvinistic society and that if we changed the traditional foundation of our society that women could be freed to perform the male role be be freed from the oppressive feelings of regret and guilt.

I do not want to be misunderstood either on the point of women in the workplace. I fully support women in the workplace. Women in the workplace make an amazing and critical contribution. I fully support allowing women the freedom to choose when and if they will gain an education, work, marry and have children. However, I hope I can be free to encourage and champion the role of woman as mother and nurturer in the home.

That said, "just being a mother" is not enough for any woman. It is not enough for Pres. Beck, for Jane Clayson, or my wife, and does not reflect LDS Doctrine in any way. My wife told me as we discussed this Clayson book and the Beck talk that it is very important that she feel she can both work inside and outside the home without having to leave her children and go to work outside the home.

So, how does my wife find the right balance in her life. Well, honestly she hasn't always been balanced. But, she choose to get married and have a family during college. And we have been blessed to have 3 healthy children despite considerable difficulty and adversity. She has worked hard to develop a skill as an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter. As it turns out she has not finished her college degree yet which she has mixed feelings about. When we moved to our current job we were disappointed that there is not a prominent deaf community in the area. Consequently, my wife hasn't had the pleasure of using her ASL skills the last 2 years. However, as divine providence would have it, a member of our LDS congregation is loosing her hearing and now requires ASL translation. My wife hasn't been happier since she has started to ASL translate for this deaf sister each Sunday and to teach a Sunday School class in ASL. She also is busy planning baby showers for other new mothers in our neighborhood and social circle as well as planning play dates, going to the gym regularly, making dinners when needed and planning other social engagements. She also loves to actively participate in our children's school classes. And she has 4 of her best girlfriends who she went to highschool with who all attend medical school here and who look up to her and envy her.

My wife's experience supports that "just being a mom" should never be considered enough for any woman. My wife will be the first to tell you that she is far from the ideal (I disagree however). She has no intention to be a so-called "supermon" and we make it a point to ignore the "Jones'" and the latest fashions. And although the home is the source of her greatest happiness and joy, it is important for my wife to be a well-rounded, productive, and balanced individual where she is free to work inside and outside the home without being forced to go to work.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Repentance: Witnessing God's Grace

Christian religions have debated for centuries over the place of grace and works, faith and repentance, in man's salvation. One side points to scriptures which suggest that the mear action of confessing that Jesus is Christ or accepting Christ as your Savior is all that is necessary for salvation from hell. Matt. 10: 32, Rom. 10: 9-10

However, this over-simplification neglects many other scriptures which speak of repentance, baptism, and obedience to the commandements. Philip. 2: 12, Heb. 5: 9 Looking past the obvious false dichotomy present in such arguments, the Book of Mormon clarifies how the doctrine of faith and repentance work together unto salvation. 2 Ne. 25: 23, Rev. 1: 5, Hel. 5: 10, 41.

The Church of Jesus Christ teaches that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." Consequently, LDS doctrine focuses on repentance and obedience as well as faith in Jesus Christ. Now, some professors of religion argue that teaching obedience, repentance, and ordinances as a part of faith in Christ is somehow denying Christ's grace. However, the Bible clearly teaches that we show our faith in and love for Christ though obedience and repentance. James 2: 14, John 14: 15

It is misguided to consider a call to repentance a denial of God's grace. The gospel of repentance should not be construded into the idea that man can somehow save himself. That is not the point. The point of repentance and then obedience thereafter is for the individual to witness the grace, power, and mercy of Christ's Atonement in his life. No man could repent without God's grace. But as we actively engage in the process of sanctification, we can become a witness to the power of God. The power of Christ's Spirit which enters into our hearts washing away our sins, purging us of any desire or disposition to do evil, and changing our hearts that we become new creatures; disciples of Christ, sons and daughters unto God.

And through our faith in Christ, we can experience the miraculous transformation and realize that God is still a God of miracles who is intimately involved in the details of our lives. Personally, I appreciate the consistent exhortation by my church to good works and repentance. I need the daily reminders. The better I can, by God's grace, align my life with the will of God, the happier I am.

Active participation in the repentance process by confessing our sins, setting positive goals, making restitution for wrongs committed, and removing negative external influences does not deny God's grace or power either. Since he created my body, anything I do good with my physical body is a manifestation of God's grace and power. Did not Christ teach us about removing negative influences when he taught, "if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out." Matt. 5: 29

The same principle applies to helping others. Is it denying God's grace to serve food at a soup kitchen to the poor or to teach children how to read. Is it somehow greater faith to sit at home and pray for the poor only or to actually get out there and use our God-given abilities on their behalf. Isn't it generally accepted that God answers prayers through the kindness of others and that random acts of kindness is a manifestation of the goodness of God. Isn't it generally accepted that we should act like everything depends on us and pray knowing everything depends on God. Isn't it generally accepted that we are expected to both talk-the-talk as well as walk-the-walk, in Christ. In the same way, repentance doesn't detract from God's grace or power. Rather, repentance is the power of God's grace unto salvation.

2 Thes. 2: 13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Restored Christianity

Time Magazine reported on Richard Land's, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, labeling of the Church of Jesus Christ as a "Fourth Abrahamic Religion." While the SBC has previously considered the LDS faith a cult, Time author David Van Biema wasn't sure if this new "charitable" categorization was "a promotion or demotion."

What is wrong with letting the Church of Jesus Christ label ourselves. And who is the SBC that they can dictate who is Christian and who isn't. First off, we are not and never were trying to sell ourselves as Catholic, or Protestant, or Evangelical. Joseph Smith clearly categorized the LDS Church as RESTORED CHRISTIANITY. If you consider the official name of the church which was given by Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith via revelation; restoration is clearly inferred in the title. We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a restored version of Christ's church in the latter days as opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Meridian-Day Saints.

The LDS Church holds that Christ's church which he left to his 12 Apostles was removed from the Earth. While the fruit (meaning the early Saints) would remain [in God's grace] and be exalted, the kingdom itself was lost as was the priesthood authority. Consequently the Christian world fell into the Dark Ages. Then in 1820, God initiated the restoration of His kingdom to the Earth. As part of this restoration there was a restoration of priesthood keys, prophets, Apostles, ordinances, covenants, new scripture, revelations, miracles, and temples. God's kingdom on Earth is now known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now is there Biblical precedent to support such a claim of apostasy necessitating restoration? Yes! Consider Adam, Enoch, and Abraham-- the great Patriarchs. For centuries we didn't have any of their writings. The only thing we knew of them was restored via Moses. But, while the Old Testament hints, restored revelation through Joseph Smith confirms that Adam was the first Christian and that Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, and Abraham were all Christian and practiced a very similar religion that members of the LDS church practice today except for the replacement of animal sacrifice which foreshadowed Christ's atonement for the Lord's Supper as a commemoration of his death and atonement. So, it can be said that the LDS church is also a restoration of the original Abrahamic religion as well as a restoration of the original Christian religion. We aren't the 4th Abrahamic religion. We are the original Abrahamic religion.
There is nothing in the Bible that says that God wouldn't prevent men from adding or subtracting from scripture despite his commandment to the contrary. God has not violated man's agency even in this instance. Despite the heroic efforts of inspired souls who have preserved what we have of it, the Bible has been left ambiguous. Consequently, the Bible alone has failed to bring us to a unity of the faith. Therefore, after the great spiritual famine prophesied by Amos and John who told of the church/woman fleeing into the wilderness to escape the dragon that there would need to be a great restoration of all things in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Come and see for yourself.