Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dannis Talks About Religion

[picture from NASA - thanks, NASA!]
We are a worldful of 6 billion people. I have trouble remembering names of more than a handful. Most of us have religion of some sort. Arguments over religion have split up friendships, romantic relationships, and started wars. Yet, religion is not the problem. Tolerance of differences, not just in religion, this is the key to world peace.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you want to know official Church policy, please go to http://www.mormon.org, and there you may find answers of what we believe and who we are. I consider myself a devout member, so I agree with everything there. What is to follow is my opinion only and not the opinion of my Church, though everything I know about my religion, I've learned from much wiser and more spiritual people than I am.

What I am about to say is my interpretation of the Truth. But, it is true. How do you know it's true? Pray about it. Get on your knees, if you are able, and if you are not, I am sure that loving Father will understand. If you pray with true intent and peace, you will feel what I feel when I pray. If you don't, maybe you need a little practice, or maybe you've already made up your mind.

Religion is like science in a lot of ways. Once you receive an answer, if it is the right one, you will receive that same answer again and again, because Heavenly Father does not change. However, if you have already made up your mind about the answer, you will probably believe that answer, even if the evidence doesn't prove it. We do tend to deceive ourselves at times - just fall in love with someone and let your best friend try to tell you he isn't your type. You have to find out for yourself, don't you?

But, out of 6 billion people, we believe many different and conflicting things. Each person's perception of what the Spirit feels like can vary a lot in intensity. We are all on different steps of the path to spirituality. Atheists believe there is no God or no religion, and to them, we look ridiculous on our knees praying. Some people use religion as an excuse for mass murder. Who's right? Who's wrong?

I believe because the Holy Spirit whispers to me, with a warm, blankety feeling, that my Church is true, that the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only Prophet of God alive on the Earth, and he speaks to Heavenly Father as I could sit in a chair and speak to you. The Book of Mormon is another set of Scriptures that explains the Holy Bible, and puts back the plain and precious things evil men removed from the original King James Version. Our Bible is the King James Version, with footnotes. The man who added those footnotes and translated the Book of Mormon into English was Joseph Smith, our first Prophet, who started our Church back in 1830. Joseph Smith was a simple farm boy who never went to college, and never had access to many books. His parents were devout Christians, and taught him to turn to his Bible for guidance. His family went to many revivals in their small town in New York State, and part of them joined the Baptist Church, and part the Presbyterian Church. Methodists preached there, too, all of these voices proclaiming that they each were the True Church. So, Joseph, a boy of 14, found James 1:5-6 where it says,

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

  6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 
 [you may visit http://scriptures.lds.org and look up any Scripture references you like]

He went to a quiet grove of trees to pray, and Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to him. Jesus commanded him to join none of them and start His Church. We came to be called Mormons because of the last book in the Book of Mormon, written by a prophet on the North American continent of that name. Three of the Tribes of Israel came here through miracles, and had a war that wiped out both sides, for the most part. The Book of Mormon is the history of those tribes, and has a lot of explanation that makes books like Isaiah easy to understand.

I believe that Joseph Smith did see Heavenly Father and Jesus as two separate people. I also believe that Heavenly Father restored His Church through Joseph Smith and prophets that followed Him.

I believe that the True Church was restored to the Earth then. Does it make sense to you that for the thousands of years covered by the Old Testament and the New Testament, that Heavenly Father would suddenly decide not to have a Prophet? That He would withdraw all miracles from the Earth? For a time, He did withdraw His Church, because evil men killed Jesus, and all the leaders of His True Church. But, with Joseph Smith, the Church is restored as it was in Jesus' time.

Our missionaries go to most of the countries on the Earth and seek out those who are looking for the True Church. None of us intend to put pressure on anyone to change religions; forgive us if one of our sisters or brothers gets intent to convert you. This is not what our Church teaches. In fact, many amateur genealogists are aware of our vast collection of genealogy and family history; any volunteer who helps a non-member with genealogy is forbidden to mention our religion. I was one of those volunteers. We refer anyone to the missionaries who has questions. When out of the family history center, we are free to answer questions if anyone is curious, but we are never, never supposed to try to drag someone out of a church where they are comfortable. We believe that Heavenly Father gives everyone choices, and we are supposed to respect those choices.

Why do we put such emphasis on genealogy? We have Temples where forever marriages take place. For the dead, we stand-in as proxies for our ancestors, or for complete strangers, and members of the Priesthood with authority to seal in Heaven seal us together as families. I cannot tell you much about the Temple, because it is sacred ground where Satan cannot enter. I will say that we are taught in the Temple as Jesus was taught and taught. Nothing happens in the Temple that any of us would not say or do in front of Heavenly Father. We are quiet and reverent, and it is a powerful, spiritual experience that recharges our spiritual batteries. Did you ever wonder why traditional marriage ceremonies for Christians say, "Till death do you part?" More is required for a forever marriage.

You might say, Yeah, and you're divorced, right? That's true, but my forever Temple marriage gives me strength. If my former spouse and I are good, we can still earn that Temple sealing. But, if I do not live up to my religion, I will lose it. The same applies to him. If I make it and he doesn't, Heavenly Father will give me a new spouse, someone I knew before I was born, in the Pre-Existence. I will be a willing partner. Remember, that Heavenly Father is our loving Father, and He would never take away my choices.

So, I've said a lot of things that may confuse someone new to our Church's ideals. Right now, there is a lot of controversy over proposals to allow legal homosexual marriage, and our Church's stance on it. Our Church has just released a formal statement that we support Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual Rights, as far as they don't threaten heterosexual marriage. It is because of our Temple beliefs that we cannot ever change on this issue. For us, marriage is more than most Christian marriages in Protestant or Catholic churches. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christian, but it is not Protestant or Catholic. We respect our Jewish brothers and sisters who follow the same Ten Commandments we do, and who believe much as we do. We as a Church are against any persecution or harm to any group, because we follow Jesus' teachings. Jesus never raised a hand against anyone, except once, when the moneychangers charged exorbitant prices for animals for sacrifice. It was greed, not a service for those who lived in the city. Jesus made them leave. He lost His temper, because the Temple is His Father's House, and they defiled it by having wrong intentions. I imagine the people who usually sold sacrificial animals raised them with kindness, and charged just enough to cover their expenses. Heavenly Father is just. He is loving. If you read your Scriptures carefully, you will feel His love and know that He is not an angry, punishing God. As a father wants the best for his Earthly children, Heavenly Father gives us good gifts, and He hopes we will choose the right. But, he gives us the choice to follow Him or not. Homosexuals are welcome in our Church, if they are willing to follow the Ten Commandments. I am sad that they feel they should not have to do this. In my Church, we are required to do some things that other Churches do not require. I do these things gladly, because I love the Lord and want to serve Him.
Anyone who won't do these things can't be a member, though if they repent, we welcome them back.

For the Temple, one has to be an active member for a year. One has to get a Temple Recommend and keep it current. More is required for the blessings of Temple marriage. There are civil ceremonies for those who don't qualify, and our bishops can perform this service. Use of our chapels is free for these ceremonies. Our bishops aren't paid for their service, which is volunteer and a huge job!

Non-members call us Mormons, but we call ourselves LDS. It's a culture, and requires a lot of changes that are good for us. My Church is not a cult; no one ever put pressure on me to change, or kept me up all night, or had me sign over everything I own. We believe in tithing 10% of our increase; I pay tithing every month as I have from the beginning. Where does that money go? It buys food for people who don't have enough. It pays the light bill in the chapel, and maintenance expenses. It goes for emergency loans if people are in dire need. It goes all over the world when disasters happen.

In our Church, our minister is called a bishop. He has two counselors who assist him. A bishop and two counselors and the Elders' Quorum preside over a Ward. Several Wards share a building at different times on Sunday. Every time a Ward gets to 400 or so, there is a Ward split and a new schedule is created for the new congregation. Our chapels are built for growth. Several Wards make a Stake, and there's a Stake President and his two counselors. They visit other wards on Sunday to speak to us.

Our Church has members to give talks instead of the preacher getting up there for an hour or more. Each talk is 20 mins long. If Youth speak, their talks are 2 mins. each. Our Church bulletin has announcements, a spiritual message, and which hymns will be played, who will speak, and who will perform the special musical performance. Most Christians will find this familiar. But, we have three meetings on Sunday. Sacrament Meeting is where all this takes place, and, we take the Sacrament to renew our commitments to Heavenly Father and privately admit our sins every Sunday. There are many meetinghouses of our Church. They don't have crosses. We celebrate Jesus' Resurrection more than His Crucifixion, so our meetinghouses have a spire that points to Heaven. This doesn't mean we don't believe that He died for our sins; we believe that He died for us, but also that He set the example by His life, and He still teaches us. He suffered all the sins of the world, and all the pains and afflictions of the world, too. He understands anything we might be going through, because He has been there.

One meeting is Sunday School, where we study all the Scriptures. Each year we study one of the Standard Works. A year is devoted to the Old Testament, a year to the New Testament, a year to the Book of Mormon, and a year to the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants. The latter is contemporary revelation from God. People are called from the Ward to teach. I have taught Primary and Young Women's, which is Sunday School, but for younger groups. I consider my time in those callings blessed, and the young people I taught, taught me lessons, too.

The other meeting is where men and women split up and men go to Priesthood [men are given the Priesthood, or the authority to perform miracles in the name of the Lord, to bless and pass the Sacrament, and to give blessings to anyone who needs one].
I am a woman, so I will talk more about Relief Society. It is the largest women's organization in the world. We have lessons to inspire us to be good, and we share strength with our sisters. Sometimes, we volunteer to help members who have a need, or to prepare a meal for missionaries [they are called to go on missions, but they must finance it themselves]. Sometimes sisters have needs for babysitting; other times, a sister becomes disabled and I have participated in cleaning a woman's house before I was too disabled to help in this way]. We have special meetings to sew quilts, fill relief baskets, or put together hygiene kits for the homeless. Special projects I have participated in have been things like putting donated items together in shoeboxes to be sent somewhere near or far; once I sewed a stuffed animal for an orphanage in Russia; blankets for children in need of comfort after disasters; we've donated stuffed animals for this, too. Different wards will choose different projects, but all Relief Society units will come together to help someone, somewhere.

Members have both a Visiting Teacher [two ladies who come to the house every month or so] and a Home Teacher [two Priesthood holders who visit; they do not visit a lady alone, however]. These visits involve a Gospel lesson out of the Ensign [US] or Liahona [Church official magazine in other languages], and the same lesson is taught worldwide. Ditto Sunday School. We have more members outside of the US now, than inside! Persons of color are welcome. Scriptures are produced in many languages; I know of a BYU student friend from Singapore who spoke a language the Church didn't have translated. They asked her to do it! So the Church adds languages all the time, and all of it is a volunteer effort, as far as I know [remember, I am speaking from memory and experience].

Do I only make friends inside my Church? No! I have friends who are from just about every religion, and I love them. Heavenly Father loves everyone. Jesus is my Example. You can ask my friends if I push them to join my Church, and all of them will say no [y'all, if you have felt pressured, I'm sorry, and ask me to quit!]. I love my Church, but I love all my brothers and sisters, whether or not they have a religion, or whether or not they agree with me.

I do ask my friends to not use profanity around me, but some forget. I don't get mad. I just hope they won't, next time. If I'm on a forum, sometimes I use the "Report This" button, because I feel it's inappropriate to cuss at strangers. We need more tolerance, as I said at the beginning of this post.

As a member of my Church, I believe that everyone who tries to be good does so according to the light and knowledge they have been given. I've known people from many religions who tried to choose the right and help people. They don't have to be Christians to be my friends. But, I believe what I believe, and I will not pretend that I don't just to please somebody. I believe in being honest. That means, I will speak my mind, but I won't deliberately go out of my way to hurt anyone. If my best friend comes out in a dress that's not something I like, I won't lie and say that I like it. Instead, to spare her feelings, i will find something I can honestly say I like about it. I haven't got a clue about fashion, and everyone who knows me, knows it, so I know where my skills are :) My friends know I don't say things to flatter; if I give a compliment, I really mean it. But, I don't go out of my way to say something mean to make someone feel like they have less skills than me. I do put my foot in my mouth at times, so all of you I have offended, please know I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. There have been times I've said something to my daughter, and she repeated it to someone not realizing I didn't mean it the way she took it. I also have ADD, and sometimes things come out in a way that sounds BAD. But, I think most of us have similar experiences. Good communication is the grease that keeps relationships rolling, and we never use enough of it, do we?

So, there, in detail, is my Testimony of my Church, and my views on religion. Did you know there is a group of leaders from many churches who coordinate relief efforts when disaster strikes? President Monson meets with other leaders when there's a famine, or a hurricane, or a tsunami, and they work together to send humanitarian aid where it is needed.

Think of this the next time you want to argue about your church, and I'll try to think about it the next time I feel a little defensive. Heavenly Father loves us Christians, He loves the Muslims, He loves the Hindis, and He loves the Buddhists, and the Wiccans, and every other religious group, large and small. It makes Him very sad when we harm others. Heavenly Father and Jesus will begin the Millennium soon, but we will be told when it comes. There will be peace, after Satan has his  time to try to prove that he can lead us. He can't. Someday, all the churches will agree on doctrine, with Jesus teaching us, and we will have the opportunity to repent and follow Him. After 1,000 years of this opportunity, Judgement Day will come. We in my Church believe that Hell is separation from Heavenly Father. After death, we are resurrected in the body we have earned, and if that body cannot bear Heavenly Father's presence, we can't stay, to our sorrow, and His. Some will be able to bear Jesus' presence, and some will only be able to bear the Holy Spirit. Those who can't, will have to leave for the Outer Darkness, and their memories of their sins will torture them. Heavenly Father won't. Jesus will not. I think both the Father and the Son will weep for their lost children, and I think the ones who stay will weep. We are all brothers and sisters. We knew each other before we came to Earth to get mortal bodies - and be tested. Those who were valiant in the War Against Heaven won't need much testing, such as my four babies lost through miscarriage. They were perfect, those far enough along to have spirits; I won't know until the Millennium how many perfect children I have. But, I know my son, James Arvie Cole is there, waiting for me. I have peace because we believe all children who die before age 8 go directly to live with Heavenly Father. The special children who are born with severe developmental problems, the mentally ill, and all of those unable to understand the gospel, are the ones who didn't have much need to be tested - they suffered so much during the War Against Heaven that they are spared the difficult choices we the sentient have. They are forever children, and will have a chance for their parents to raise them during the Millennium.

My son led me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because my preacher couldn't tell me what happens to a baby's soul. He said we're not told about details of such things. But, now I know that we are. Nothing can take this perfect peace away from me, after several years of torment wondering why my perfect son left me so soon. Jimmy is with Heavenly Father. It hurts, when I watch young men, and wish I could hug my son! But, I know I will see him again. I have my answers. And, I am content.

On this Sunday, I hope you have peace, and are content. If you are getting that peace from your church, I am happy for you. Or, if you get your peace another way, I am happy for you. It is not my place to tell you that you're in the wrong Church or believe in the wrong God. It is my place to be the best member of my Church that I can be. I am sharing the light and knowledge given to me, just as you may share the light and knowledge you have been given with me. Everyone has gifts. Every life is priceless. All of us are members of a flock called Earth. There are flocks on other worlds. But, our test is the most severe. Whatever you believe, may you have a blessed Sunday.

Love,
Dannis

We believe that when we are Baptised by immersion, by one who has the authority granted by God [the Priesthood]

Posted via email from Dannis' Posterous From DanniStories

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