Mocking God

I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT!!!

Temple

Temple Visit

For the first time in almost 2 years, yesterday, I went to the temple.

Over the past 14 months, I have searched for the meaning of the temple covenants. I was discouraged, disheartened and dismayed with what I found. Everyone says that they know their meaning. But, no one could answer basic questions, nor did they seem to care what the answers were. I spoke with local leaders, my quorum, many friends and my family.

Last Sunday, we held a joint priesthood/relief society meeting. The topic being temple attendance. We examined things that prevent us from going to the temple more often. Many chimed in with the typical excuses. I zipped my lip and kept quiet, as I seethed inside. We’ll take 45 minutes discussing priorities, planning, & babysitting, yet not spend 1 minute talking about what the covenants mean. Ever!

Last week, I had my epiphanific evening. That pivotal turning point is described in the the blog post, “Temple Covenant Epiphany.” Finally, at age 63, I feel like I have a grasp on the meaning of these sacred promises.  Very exciting.  So, I decided to go back to the temple and listen to them first hand, again. Lot’s of new insights.  Let me describe one monumental moment.

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Knock, Knock, Knocking on Mocking’s Door

Entering into covenants is the centerpiece of the endowment ceremony.  Without them, it would just be a hollow ritual with a nice movie for the backdrop.  At one point, we are warned of the gravity of violating these promises—God Will Not Be Mocked!

As I think back on my attitude towards temple covenants, I’m worried that I may have been mocking God all along.  I’d made the covenants. But, those promises were kind of put in the back of my mind, with little consideration given to their actual meaning. My attitudes, actions, dedication, love for others, and obedience to commandments, were not really changed by my temple obligations.  My daily life was mostly directed by the run-of-the-mill commandments.  Seldom, probably never, did I say, “How should I act based on my temple covenants?”

In effect, these promises were yielding no effect in my life.  If that wasn’t flat out mocking God, it’s got to be pretty darn close.  Hopefully, I was only knocking on mocking’s door, not actually passing it’s portal.

Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Today, I have a new found respect for and understanding of the temple covenants. Mocking God? I do not want to do that. I want to knock on heaven’s door.  So, I’m referring to my sacred promises everyday to guide my path.

Unholy practices?  I cannot countenance them.  They must be called out. Doing otherwise would be knocking on mocking’s door.

Obey all the laws of God?  The Law of Common Consent IS a law of God to HIS church of the restoration. Today, for me to ignore it, would be walking over mocking’s threshold.

It’s a new day for this temple covenanted citizen of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In a few short years, I will literally be knocking on heaven’s door. No more mocking from this mere mortal.

***Disclaimer*** This represents my view of my covenants. They are between only me and God.  I have no idea what the meaning of other’s covenants are. Their promises are between themselves and God.

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You’re Not Broken—I’m Sorry

Budapest Shoes

Children’s Apology

Last year, my wife and I traveled to the congenial country of Hungary.  We toured The Great Synagogue of Budapest, the largest in Europe.  Hungary is still struggling to come to terms with its treatment of their Jewish population during WWII.  By war’s end, at least 70% had been murdered.

Our tour guide told us of a recent concert she had attended.  It was a singing & dancing group of German high schoolers.  At the beginning of the program, a couple of the children stepped forward.  They apologized for crimes their country had perpetrated during that long-ago war.

The story touched me.  Born years after this horror, these children had had no part in it.  They were not official spokespersons for their country.  Yet, they were willing to apologize to a people who had been wronged.

Here’s my attempt to follow their poignant example.  An official spokesperson for the LDS Church, I’m not.  But, I am the church.  At least part of the church.  At least a single part of the church.  And this little part of the church, along with any who will join in my cry say,  I am Sorry!  We are sorry!

Rainbow Ribbon

To My Gay Friends, Both Known and Un

For all the ways we’ve been wrong—I’m Sorry.

  • When I was young, church & culture tutored that gay was foul and perverted. I wish the prophet had spoken.  You weren’t broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • You chose to be gay.  So the leaders say.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  You’re not broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • chairTo some, they tried to shock your gay away.  At the Lord’s college, you were strapped in a chair, electrodes placed down there.  Movies of naked men were turned on.  If you were turned on, an electric shock in turn was turned on.  You wanted the strongest current to be cured.  But, gay doesn’t work in those ways.  You were simply tortured in those days.  An elder from my mission endured this, in submission.  Today, he’s still gay.  From the church, he’s parted ways.  Oh, how I wish the prophet had spoken.  You were not broken.  I went along, although I didn’t know.  Now, I’m so, so, sorry.  Tears blur my eyes.  I just want to cry….I’m sorry. I’m sorry
  • You were told to pray and pray and soon the gay would just go away.  Of course it didn’t.  You became depressed.  Maybe next time pray and pray ALL of the day.  Still gay and more depression came your way.  With no cure, some couldn’t endure.  By their own hand they sent themselves to the heavenly land.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  These precious people were not broken. We were dead wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • “Get married,” your respected leaders said!  You faithfully followed, while full of dread.  Your gay didn’t magically go away.  Now, with children and spouse, heartache and shame, you finally came out, and all suffered pain.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  Now a family’s broken. We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • Finally, something sure, that would result in a cure. You agree to participate in reparative therapy.  Humiliated, disgraced, and degraded again.  You cry because no matter what you can’t win. Now, this procedure is discredited & thrown in the trash bin.  Why couldn’t the prophet have spoken?  You were not broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • With Prop 8, we tried to legislate away, the rights to marry if you were gay.  I don’t know if the prophet had spoken.  What I know is, you are not broken.  This was wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • Last November the edict came.  Out of love was the claim.  If the gay marry, throw them away.  Really?  It just sounds wrong.  These are my friends.  I don’t want to follow along.  I’m sorry.
  • November’s policy also contains what I consider to be a stain. Children of parents who are gay, will have God’s choicest blessings taken away.  No baptism at 8, no holy spirit to guide, no priesthood at any rate.  With shame, the policy will make  kids want to run & hide.  Has a prophet really spoken?  The rules are broken.  We are wrong.  This time I will not go along.  I’m sorry.

I wish the prophet had spoken.  You are not broken.  We were wrong.  Next time, I will not just go along.  I love who you are, just as you are.  Of that, I feel very strong.

I’m Sorry.

“Tear Down this Wall”

“Tear Down this Wall”

Quoted from a seminal speech delivered by Ronald Reagan in 1987.  It was given in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate.  Of course, he was referring to the Berlin Wall that divided the German city in half.  It was a global symbol of repression, division & oppression.  Two short years later, the infamous wall was torn down.  Within four years, the entire Soviet Union ceased to exist.  In its place, freedom was about to sweep over the continent.

While I was growing up, the dissolution of the “evil empire” was thought to be impossible, or at least a generation away.  Once people’s desire for Liberty was set in motion, the course of history raced forward.  The speed of its advancement was a surprise to most everyone.

Now….“Tear Down THIS Wall”

There is a wall in my church that divides, separates and excludes.  I, Sam Young, have made sacred covenants within the confines of a modern-day temple.  I have promised to avoid every unholy practice.  The definition of my promise is that anything contrary to the teachings of Jesus is unholy.  There is an unholy wall that, as we speak, is tearing down families in our midst.  It’s time to tear this unholy wall down.   Part of my temple promise is not only to avoid, but to speak out against “every unholy practice.”

The current policy regarding temple marriages states that if a couple is married outside the temple they must wait one year before being sealed.  As a result, almost all marriages are performed in the temple, at the same time as the sealing.  The consequence is exclusionary, hurtful and entirely unnecessary.  Any parent, sibling, child, friend who does not have a current recommend is excluded from the ceremony.  Dreadful!

Weddings are pivotal events in life.  They should be filled with joy and celebration for everyone.  Instead, this wall of division creates hard feelings that often last a lifetime.  When I was married, my parents, my wife’s parents, her siblings and most of my siblings were simply shut out.  My mother has since left the church.  Her first doubts formed as she paced outside of the Salt Lake temple, denied inclusion in her own first born son’s wedding.  Does this sound cruel to only me?

Temple

“Why is This Wall Here?”

That’s the question Reagan asked the Soviets.  That’s the question my covenants push me to pose.  The marriage ceremony is not a saving ordinance.  There is no requirement that it be held in the temple.  “Legal and lawfully wedded” applies to those performed in public as well as in the temple.  So, why is this wall here?  It’s time for its demolition.

What’s more it has already been dismantled in many countries around the world.  From Serbia to Spain, the UK to New Zealand, Mexico and Germany, France and Brazil, from South Korea to Switzerland, and on and on and on.  In all these countries, the wall of temple marriage has already been torn down.  Not by our church, but by the citizens of each nation, themselves.  Their laws require weddings be performed in public.  The sealing then follows in private.

It’s time to tear down this wall in EVERY country where it disconnects families that are just forming.  Let’s not wait for the citizens of each country to demolish this partition for us.  That could take decades or never.  My covenant calls me to call the church to take action.

Make a policy pronouncement.  Watch the people rejoice.  Parents and children.  Members and non-members. Believers and non-believers.  Brothers and sisters.  Bride and groom.  Tearing down this wall, is a no-lose proposition.

One Vote

The Best Solution

There is a better way than just a pronouncement.  The procedure prescribed in our own LDS cannon.  Call upon the Law of Common Consent.  Allow the fellowcitizens, the Latter-day Saints, to vote this wall of familial division, either up or down.  We never voted for the wall in first place.  Let us vote now.

Either by pronouncement or poll, “TEAR DOWN THIS WALL.”

 

Temple Covenant Breakthrough!!!

No Small Thing….To Me

Tonight, I had an epiphany so exciting that I could hardly wait to get in front of my computer.  It may not be a big deal to any other planet inhabitant.  But, it is huge to this one.

CovenantSearching the Covenants

Great emphasis is placed on the importance of keeping the covenants we make in the temple.  In the summer of 2015, as part of my faith journey, I carefully reviewed those weighty promises.  Quickly, I found myself with more questions than answers.  For the next 3 months, I diligently searched, studied, examined and prayed in an attempt to understand exactly what my commitments meant.  Attempts were made to discuss them in the men’s meeting held every Sunday.   No dice.  Supposedly it’s forbidden to discuss temple covenants in public.  I then asked church friends and leaders in private.  Initially, everybody said they understood what these sacred promises meant.  With the shallowest of interrogation, NOBODY had answers.  In fact, almost without exception, as I continued to press, this response would eventually rear it’s ironic head, “Sam, why do you even care?”  What???  Why do I care about what the temple covenants mean???  This experience was highly disappointing.  I was left disillusioned and dismayed.

When I initially entered into these fateful temple covenants, I was not told in advance what the promises even were.  They weren’t explained at the time I made them.  Years later, I still didn’t understand them.  Then, I’m told we can’t talk about them.   The coup-de-grace…..nobody else knows what they mean, either.

EpiphanyA Lovely, Lovely Epiphany

I don’t know exactly how or why an epiphany finally bursts into view.  But, it did tonight as I drove away from a family reunion.  While ruminating on my covenant disappointment, it hit me.  Not with a slow burn.  Rather, like a distinct and sharp crack of lightning, right before my eyes.

Today, I don’t use the word “know” lightly.  But, in this instant I suddenly “knew” what it means that nobody knows what my covenants mean.  And, I love this revelation.  My friends and leaders can’t possibly know the meaning of my covenants.  I did not make the promises to them.  I made them with God!  Only God and I know what I have promised!!!  Only I and God decide on the terms and their meaning.

How gorgeous!  What freedom!  Of course, the words for the covenants are the same for all.  It’s the meaning of those words that are individual and perhaps unique.  We are not told the meaning of the covenants in advance.  Of course not.  That’s because we can’t be told their meaning by others.  Our promises are determined by us.  We don’t study their significance in priesthood.  Of course not.  That’s because nobody knows their significance except the individual covenant maker.

I have struggled to get what the higher law of the temple is.  I get it now.  The higher law is simply this:  I am a thinking, reasonable,  & grown-up adult.  As such, I am trusted by God to determine exactly what I can & will promise.  He sets the wording.  Both, and only, He and I determine the definition.  YES!!!  Nobody can tell me what my covenants mean…except me.

It has been over 18 months since my last temple visit.  With my new epiphanific understanding, another temple visit may now be in my future.

To all my friends and leaders who had no answers, THANK YOU.  And, I mean it!

Apostles’ Best Friend by Voting Opposed

Ballroom B&WBallroom dancing is my hobby.  Don’t worry.  It’s not terribly contagious.  But, it is great fun.  Inadvertently and with serendipity, ballroom has also taught me precepts of general living.   Recently, at the beginning of a lesson, my instructor, Lisa, and I had the following interchange:
Lisa:  Today, I’m going act like your best friend.
Sam:  What does that mean?
Lisa:  I’m not going to let you get away with anything.
Sam:  What does that mean?
Lisa:  I’m going to be totally truthful.  We’re working on your style and I want you to get it right.
Sam:  Good.  You know I prefer honest feedback.

Time for Best Friendship

In the LDS Church, the top leaders are called apostles.  For all of my 63 years, I have held them in high esteem.  I’ve attentively and earnestly listened to them, followed them, quoted them, loved them.  However, I was not being a ballroom best friend.  That has changed.  As of last April, I have started acting like the best friend I should be.  Three times, in April and May church conferences, general, stake & ward, I gave my honest opinion by raising my hand when “any opposed?” was pronounced from the pulpit.

Opposition vs. Disapproval

As part of the Mormon Church governance, 4 times every year, the names of the apostles are presented to the membership.  We are given the opportunity to sustain or oppose these men as apostles.  It’s a wonderful part of how the church should to be run.  However, I don’t care for the wording we use.  “Opposed” seems a little harsh.  But, that’s the way it’s done.  This procedure is based on multiple LDS scriptures contained in the book, Doctrine & Covenants.  For example, in D&C 124:144 Christ gives Joseph Smith the commandment to get approval or disapproval of those selected for various callings.  This is done by presenting the names at conferences of the church and asking for a showing of hands.  I much prefer the wording Jesus used:  approve vs. sustain and disapprove vs. oppose.  I’m not opposed to the apostles.  I simply disapprove of some of what they are doing.  Most of their decisions, I do approve of.  But, their is a fly in the ointment that has pushed me to dance onto the stage of disapproval.  It’s time for me to be a best friend.

The Gay Policy

Last November the church leadership announced a new policy.  If members of the church marry someone of the same sex, they are now labeled apostates and excommunicated. Their kids are to be excluded from baby blessings, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordination, & participation in temple worship.  Only when these children reach the age of 18 can they be baptized.  Two conditions are stipulated.  1) Approval of the First Presidency.  2)  Disavowal of the lifestyle of their parents.
The purpose of this post is not to discuss all the reasons for and against such a policy.  At this point, I’m just going to say that it’s disturbing to me on several levels.  I disapprove and have done so in the manner set forth by Jesus and Joseph Smith in our LDS canonized scripture.

MoroniCovenants

Although, I don’t want to discuss details of this edict, I do want to frame the mindset that has resulted in my disapproving conference votes.
The pinnacle of LDS worship is carried out in our temples.  Therein, sacred ordinances are performed.   Serious covenants of exaltation are at the very heart of these holy rituals.  I have made these promises.  I take them seriously.  It’s in consideration of these very covenants that I feel compelled to manifest my best-friendship.  Following are the three covenants in particular that relate to my decision.
  1. Avoid all lightmindedness.  Not sure exactly what this means.  But, at least, I take it that it I should be serious about serious matters.  Jesus tells his leadership to consult me 4 times every year and ask for my opinion.  Should I approach this opportunity with lightmindedness?  If I’m not thoughtful, prayerful, studious about the sustaining process, I now consider it as breaking my covenant.  A former apostle offers some support here, “It is clear that the sustaining vote by the people is not, and is not to be regarded as, a mere matter of form, but on the contrary a matter of the last gravity.”  It’s my opinion that the Savior wants me to be a best friend to His leadership.  It’s a vital part of the church governance that He established.  From here on out, no lightmindedness from this poor dancer.  I’m going to be a best ballroom friend.  Totally truthful.  As my instructor would say, I’m not going to let them get away with anything.
  2. Avoid all evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed.  Again, I’m not sure exactly what this means.  But, let’s take it that the Lord’s anointed are the church leaders. BTW, I don’t agree with the limiting nature of this interpretation.  Never-the-less, let’s go with it here.  Some have said that I’m breaking this covenant by voting opposed.  Obviously, I don’t agree with that assessment.  It just seems silly that Jesus would have them ask my opinion and then say, “Uh, uh, uh!  You just broke your covenant by being honest.”  For me, this covenant implies that I should be concerned about the welfare of the apostles.  I am.  This policy has created lots of evil speaking.  Many have lost respect for the high leadership.  The apostles have lost credibility and influence with many members.  I’ve seen friends and family simply walk away.  With them, the apostles have now lost total influence.  I desire to help in the avoidance of evil speaking.  Voting opposed works towards keeping this covenant.
  3. Avoid all unholy practices.  Once again, I don’t know exactly what this means.  Here’s what I’ve come to:  Jesus tells us to do something…it’s unholy if we do something different.  Jesus tells us not to do something…it’s unholy if we do it.  This is the most important reason I voted opposed.  For me, this exclusionary policy, especially regarding children, is an unholy practice.  A clear and present violation of my temple covenant.

Temple Recommend

When I voted NO, I held a current recommend.  I still do.  After the first vote of disapproval, a 2 3/4 hour interview ensued with my stake president and bishop.   I was asked, “How would you feel if you were to lose your temple recommend?”  My response, “I would view it as an egregious example of unrighteous dominion.  Christ has commanded the leadership to ask for my opinion.  If I’m punished for being forthright and honest, that wouldn’t be right.”  My recommend was not pulled.
But, if it had been, I would have been OK with that.  Another apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, speaking of temple covenants, weighed in with this insight,  “The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men.”  I’m OK with that assessment.  Keeping McConkie’s words in mind, I’m certainly willing to sacrifice my temple recommend in order to keep my temple covenants.

Questions?

Do I believe others in the church are violating their temple covenants by supporting our gay policy of exclusion?  Absolutely not.  There is something really divine about these sacred promises.  We don’t understand them when we make them. We never discuss them openly.  And, no one has been able to answer my covenant questions when I queried.  So, I guess it’s up to each one of us to sort out their meaning.  Well, that’s kind-a-cool.  I respect your interpretation of your covenants.  I ask that you do the same for me.

Do I believe others should vote OPPOSED?  Not necessarily.  I’m not encouraging anyone to vote one way or the other.  Common consent is a vital, yet overlooked part, of the governance of the church.  In my opinion, the church would be much better at self-correction if more would consider voting their opinion, if they are truly opposed.  Unfortunately, those who are troubled  about this and other policies often vote with their feet rather than their hands.  That’s OK, too.  If you leave the church, I wish you the very best.  I respect and certainly can understand your decision.  Godspeed and happiness on your journey.  I will remain your friend, probably even better friends than before.

In the meantime, I’ll remain best friends with the apostles by giving them my truthful opinion every time they ask.  My ballroom instructor has taught me well.