Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dealing with Detractors, or: Rusty, well said!

Over at Mormanity, Jeff Lindsay published a great post about the need for living apostles and prophets. As sometimes happens on Jeff's blog, there were some negative comments from detractors. And that's fine, because the discussion is great.

I took the bait and entered the fray. But I confess, I'm not very good at it. I have a distinctive approach when it comes to gospel argument, and that is I like to state my piece and get out. I am not a fan of "proving" anything with scriptures or quotations from arcane sources. I don't think it's that I am not eloquent (others may judge that for themselves) and I have been a fair debater through the years. But as I age, I just don't have the energy to fight, and I frankly don't think the spirit of contention is such a great thing.

I haven't always been this way, mind you. There was a time I was ready to bash with the best of them, and my hot head would often get me into trouble. In my response to a particular poster who had it out for all the members posting, I tried to be calm and simply express my view.

Well, after my last response, in came what I consider to be a remarkable response from a Rusty Southwick (who has, by the way, a pretty cool, yet offbeat blog, Rusted Ruminations.) His comment (which you can read in full at the Mormanity link above – scroll way down -- it's about the 43rd comment) starts remarkably well:

"I'm really trying to understand the issues you have with LDS doctrine, but the problem is that you're attacking things that are not LDS doctrine. Your characterization is quite off. Mormons don't believe that our works save us. Those are propaganda talking points, and I've seen it all over the Internet. It's used as an attempt to smear the LDS faith, and if you promulgated it unwittingly, you should be aware of the inaccuracies of propaganda. It's like trying to discredit the U.S. Constitution by means of graffiti. Basically, it doesn't wash. If you call us enough bad things that don't represent us, then job done, right?"

He goes on for six more terrific paragraphs with a clarity that is really impressive to me; the sixth and concluding paragraph:

"So if you want to make a better argument, don't attack things that we don't believe in, and look to be consistent in your application of other criticisms, otherwise you throw out much of the Christian community with the bath water."

I say, Three Cheers, Rusty! Thanks for saying it so well, and for setting an example for me.

- Paul

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Unconditional" Love?

In a priesthood meeting I attended while traveling last week, someone talked about the unconditional love we feel for our children, and how it is patterned after the unconditional love our Father in Heaven feels for us.

I had two issues with the statement, and felt strongly enough to derail the class for a few minutes to get them on the table. (It was ok – it was one of those weeks where the teacher hadn't shown up, so we were getting an impromptu lesson anyway, so I didn't feel like I was detracting too much.)

The first issue was that I remembered an Ensign article from Elder Nelson a number of years ago called Divine Love. (Ok, I didn't remember that it was called "Divine Love," and it appeared longer ago than I remembered, but I did remember the article.)

In that article, Elder Nelson says, "While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional" (emphasis from the original).

The other thought I had was that I don't love my children all the same all the time. (Gasp!) Sometimes I get angry with one of my kids. Sometimes one of them hurts me or his or her mother, and it upsets me. And at that moment, I don't bubble over with love.

Now these two things are very different from one another. The first, taught by an apostle, is a clearer understanding of how God is (compared with how we want Him to be). I appreciate that he says that God's love is "universal," but not "unconditional." That says that it's available to everyone, but the results of that love, the blessings, are not for free.

In his article he then explains that the fruits of God's love are His blessings, and they are not meted out regardless of our behavior – those blessings are very much conditional upon our doing what we need to do in His eyes. Fortunately our Father is also merciful and grants us the opportunity to make corrections when we need to, and as soon as we do, says King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, He blesses us.

The second –- my uneven love for my children -- is not a divine quality. It is the opposite of universal love, which I believe I should have for my children. If I really love them, then rather than getting angry and behaving badly (humanly, but still badly), I should allow them the consequences of their poor choices minus my not-so-righteous indignation. I might impose those consequences ("you came home late, so you can't use the car for a week") or someone else might ("you ran the red light; you pay the fine"), but allowing the consequence follows (I believe) the pattern of our Heavenly Father's love: we can learn from our mistakes.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't think I can say I have universal love for my children if I'm angry at them. In the moment of anger, I don't feel love. I know some may gloss over this and say, "well of course you love them; you were just upset." My point is that when I'm in that moment of anger, it's not love I feel, no matter how much love I feel the rest of the time.

Well, of course I'm not perfect (and if you think I might be, just ask my 13-year old; he keeps a list, which was handed down to him from his older siblings…). And the Good News is I can change. And it's something I work at all the time. And that opportunity comes because of my Father's divine love for me.

- Paul

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adam and Eve as Co-Parents

I remember a friend of mine telling me of an exchange I found unbelievable, but I knew it was not only true, it probably had happened many times.

It seems they were having a discussion in their priesthood quorum about D&C 121 (where we're told how to exercise proper persuasion as priesthood holders – kindness, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, etc. -- see verses 41-42). When it came to the "reproving betimes with sharpness" (v. 43) verse, a brother said out loud that this verse gave him license to yell at his wife when she was out of line.

As my friend told me this story, I reflected on some solid teaching I received on my mission from Theodore M. Burton, then a member of First Quorum of the Seventy who instructed our zone conference. He said as a chemist he likened the "sharpness" in that verse to the sharpness of a clear photograph, not the sharpness of an acid. That image has always stuck with me, as has his rush to the second part of that verse ("showing forth an increase of love").

I remembered this story the other day as I read in Moses 4:22 the Lord's instructions to Eve that her husband was to "rule" over her. Someone in our class recalled President Kimball's discussion on that point suggesting that the word "preside" could well replace the word rule.

But the real nugget for me came in the next chapter, where we read in verse 4, "And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them…" I was struck that Adam and Eve were praying together, and that they received divine guidance together.

The Family, A Proclamation to the World teaches, "In these sacred responsibilities [of presiding and nurturing], fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."

The cool thing for me in the Moses verses is that Adam and Eve approached their condition together: they prayed together and they received inspiration together. A great model to emulate, if you ask me.

- Paul

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When Family Prayer and FHE Don't Seem to Be Enough

Years ago I sat in a stake leadership meeting. The visiting authority was running over his allotted time (and none of us minded; he was great to listen to), and so he closed with a parting shot: Teach your people if they'll have Family Home Evening and Family Prayer that everything will be just fine.

I don't know if I actually blushed, but I felt my head got hot enough to nearly explode at those words.

Two bits of history: at the time I was in a leadership position in my stake (I was in a leadership meeting, after all). And I had three young adult sons who were in varying stages of leaving the church.

FHE and Family Prayer were common in our home. We'd read the Book of Mormon as a family once a year for five or six years running when these boys were small. We took them to church, learned Articles of Faith, and sang Primary songs. I baptized and confirmed them, conferred the priesthood on them, ordained them deacons, teachers and priests, and watched each one peel away from things we held most dear one by one.

In that leadership meeting, I wanted to leap up and yell, "But what if it's not enough?" But I didn't.

I did email my wonderful stake president, a man whom I love and respect. He knows my family and me well. I told him of my feelings in that meeting. In his return email he said, "I was praying about your family this morning…"

I was stunned as I read that line. It jolted me just a bit to realize that of all the people in the stake, my family was on his "list." I felt before I read the rest of his note that I had already received quite a tender mercy.

He went on to offer some consolation. He neither defended nor refuted what the visiting general authority had said; he simply made a separate observation about our family -- and particularly about our sons -- that had come to him in his prayer that day.

I have thought over the years about what this visiting authority said and tried to make sense of it. There were lots of possibilities:

Maybe he was wrong. Maybe everything won't be fine. Medium term evidence seems to support that view in my case. But I reasoned that this general authority has served for years in the senior councils of the church; he surely has seen his share of good LDS families that don't live happily ever after.

Maybe I have a different view of "fine" than he does. I assumed at the time "fine" meant my kids would be sitting with me in sacrament meeting. But maybe "fine" meant that parents and their children who went a different way could still be civil and loving toward one another.

Maybe he had a specific assignment to remind priesthood leaders about FHE and Family Prayer, and he had spent so much time on other interesting subjects that he had to squeeze it in, and this is how he chose to do it.

Maybe his timeline was different from mine. He didn't say it would be fine now, or even tomorrow, or next week. Taking the eternal view, there may be more steps to take still.

In any case, he certainly got my attention. And he drove me to have a very touching and spiritual exchange with my stake president, through which I experienced a wonderful tender mercy.

I don't think he was wrong. There's plenty of counsel teaching us to have family prayer and Family Home Evening. And we still do that with our younger kids who live at home. (And when our older kids are in our home, they still participate politely in prayers, too.) And that regular prayer and learning time helps me to be a better dad – probably a better dad than I was to my oldest boys. (It's that way a lot – the older kids teach parents to be better parents to the younger kids.)

And, for today, that's all fine to me.

- Paul

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is the church the same everywhere you go?

I've been to church in lots of places (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Utah, New York, Washington, Arizona, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Venezuela, North Carolina, Connecticut, and probably a few more I can't remember), and from time to time I've heard (as some of you have, no doubt, too) someone say, often in a testimony, that "the church is the same everywhere you go."

Well, no, it isn't.

And, yes, it is.

Yes, the meeting structure is the same (generally a three-hour block on Sundays, generally the same curriculum, of course the same scriptures (assuming they're available in the language of the congregation), though perhaps in different languages), but part of what makes the church the church are the people. And given the diversity of geography, ethnicity, language, economic standing, political views, family stage, age, and so on, we can't expect things to be the same everywhere.

To be sure, I'm playing a bit of a game here. When some say "the church" is the same everywhere, they mean the gospel. And God and the gospel don't change from place to place. But local culture (infused by all those differences I mentioned above) plays a big role in what an individual congregation is like.

We have lived in some wards where, as active members with long experience in the church, we were sorely needed by a tired bishop to help staff organizations in the ward. And we've lived in other wards where we were a dime-a-dozen in terms of our experience. We lived in international wards where we spoke the minority language and had to rely on translation, and we've been in some wards where others spoke the minority language. Small inner city congregations have unique challenges compared with suburban units, just as suburban units have their own set of challenges.

To be sure, we hope we find some comfort in the "sameness" of congregations when we travel or move from place to place. But many have also felt the disappointment that a new ward just isn't the same as the one they left.

My wife and I have moved more often than we ever imagined we would. We've been "new" in 11 wards, including times we've moved back into a ward after having been away, and including two ward divisions. We've developed a couple of coping mechanisms for our moves.

First, we try to join the ward choir wherever we go, assuming there is one. It's something we enjoy doing, and we are able to find a few like minded folks pretty quickly.

Second, we try to get to know our ward leaders in the bishopric, Relief Society, priesthood, and whatever organizations our kids might be in. We know the bishop is often too busy, but by our reaching out we get to know a few people, and hope that a friendship sticks.

Finally, we seek opportunities to serve. We'll tell the bishop early on that we're ready for callings when he's ready to extend them (so he won't hold off allowing a "settling in" period). And we volunteer to do stuff where it's needed and where we can. I've made a couple of good friends helping to unload someone else's moving van.

What's your experience in different wards and branches? How have you coped with the changes?

- Paul

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Shall We Teach?

Two decades ago I had the chance to teach seminary for a couple of years. We had regular in-service meetings in our stake, and our CES representative regularly reminded us that in seminary we taught the scriptures. We did not teach about the scriptures. We did not teach scripture stories. We taught the scriptures.

There's been some discussion across the blogs recently about renewed call by the church to have teachers stick to the lesson manuals – everything from a talk in General Conference to an editorial in the Church News. My favorite blog comment came from The Narrow Gate.

Frankly, I don't get the hullabaloo. (How many times to you get to use that word?) I've been teaching in the church for many years. I started teaching in Primary before my mission over 30 years ago. And my teaching has always been a blend of manual / scripture / personal stories / related materials approach. And I see no need to change that given the latest invitation from the brethren to stick to the basics when we teach.

I remember when I was called as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward in Hiroshima, Japan years ago. It was a Japanese language ward, but there were half a dozen or so of us who attended an English language class. Our subject was the Book of Mormon, and the first week I prepared three different lessons – well, one lesson, but with three different focuses – and I asked the class which one they'd like. The choices were history, literature, or doctrine.

The class kind of stared at me, not sure what to make of this new teacher. One fellow (who was visiting at the time, but later moved into the ward and became a great friend) finally said in a voice suggesting there was only one answer, "Doctrine." In fact, all three themes had been touched on in the lesson manual, but there was no time to do everything in the class time, so we had to pick.

Later in that same ward, the bishop asked me to teach everyone in Gospel Doctrine together, in both Japanese and English. (His wife translated for me into Japanese.) That meant I had only half the time to teach (since half was taken in translation). It really made me work hard to pare down what we would discuss in the class, and it also encouraged class members to prepare ahead of time since we could not "cover" the whole lesson.

My point is that lesson-manual lessons provide (for me) a great deal of latitude in their preparation and presentation. I've rarely had a problem augmenting my lessons with quotations from general conference talks or personal stories or related scriptures. I enjoy lessons that provide historical context, and I enjoy great discussions in classes. But in the end, I don't go to church to be entertained. I go for spiritual food. And I find that my ability to find it is far more dependent on how I attend rather than how the teachers teach.

That said, I prefer a well taught lesson. My personal non-favorites:

- Reading the lesson from front to back. This seems to be common in my High Priest group these days, and I'm glad when we have an instructor who breaks from that mold.

- A teacher who assumes the person in the scriptures is just like him ("If I were Nephi, I would…."). I get the need to liken the scriptures and all that, but I'm not sure a 21st century teacher can speak for Nephi, especially when Nephi has pretty eloquently spoken for himself.

- A teacher who doesn't connect the dots between the verses of scriptures read in class, but simply has the verses read and then moves on; it just seems like this teacher is going through the motions.

- The teacher who doesn't pay attention to comments, but has already moved in his head to the next idea in his lesson; again, it seems the teacher has a destination he's driving to and we're going to there no matter what.

- The teacher who abandons the lesson and teaches whatever he feels like; I feel cheated, especially if I happened to have prepared for the lesson that day (which doesn't always happen).

I've attended lessons in lots of places with lots of teachers and teaching styles, and here are some things I have learned:

- I can determine what I'll get out of a lesson by what I put in it, regardless of what the teacher does. I can complain to myself (or to my wife after the lesson), but if I do, I'm pretty sure I'll not get much; alternatively I can listen and make my own connections even if the teacher doesn't, and I can come away fed.

- Most teachers are pretty good hearted. Even nervous teachers want to do a good job. My wife is a very nervous teacher; frankly she'd rather almost do anything than teach a group of adults, and yet she's called over and over again to teach, and people love her lessons. I think it's because she approaches her lessons prayerfully and humbly; she prepares carefully, but she doesn't try to be the smartest person in the room, and she willingly accepts the help of her class members and of the Spirit.

In the end, we all teach, whether in a classroom or in our homes or by our example. May we teach truth.

- Paul

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12 Steps to the Atonement

I have an addicted love one in my family, and therefore I have participated for several years in Families Anonymous, a 12-step program. I've debated about writing about my participation because there is a great need for anonymity in recovery programs to protect everyone involved. But I feel strongly enough about what I'm writing today that I decided to take the plunge.

Before coming to my 12-step program (they're all quite similar, and grow out of Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 steps, though AA does not affiliate with other 12-step programs), I assumed such programs were for people who were too weak to overcome their problems. After years of failing to come to terms with my own problems, I finally began my walk along the steps.

As a faithful latter-day saint, I can tell you that it is embarrassing to contemplate the need for such a thing in your life. In a culture where "perfect" families are the goal, such glaring imperfection is heart breaking on many levels. But in my case, I'm glad that I finally overcame my pride enough to seek help for myself. (Of course, it wasn't until I began my work on the steps that I really understood what pride I had.)

I learned many things along my path with the steps (I'm still on it, and will be for life, I suppose), but the most startling thing I learned is that the 12 steps are little more than a clear method of applying the atonement to our lives. Although I did not participate in the Church's version of the 12 step program, I found nothing in the steps to be inconsistent with what I had learned in all my years in the church. In fact, working the steps forced me to reexamine how I lived my life, how I applied the teachings of the Savior, how I prayed, and how I exercised my faith.

My first round through the steps was not a walk in the park by any means. The 12 steps are for personal healing, and that healing rarely comes without opening up and cleaning out some wounds, nor without identifying and rectifying some pretty self-destructive (and sometimes just plain destructive) behaviors. Such self examination is not for sissies, but the rewards on the other end are sweeter than one might imagine.

Those twelve steps encourage us to recognize our own powerlessness in dealing with certain areas of life, acknowledge that there is a higher power who can deal with those things we can, and give over to the God of our understanding our lives. Then we begin to inventory our own lives for good and bad, to sort out who we may have harmed, to make amends where possible, and then to engage in an ongoing cycle of self assessment and rededication to God, applying the principle of the steps in all our affairs.

The steps are, as my wife observed, a framework for applying the healing power of the atonement in our lives. And they work.

- Paul

For information on the church's 12-step program, check this  website.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Believing vs. Knowing

Common parlance in the Mormon Church is to say we "know" things when we bear our testimonies. We know the church is true. We know that God lives. We know there is a prophet on the earth today.

For some, that declaration of knowledge is disquieting. For many people, we only can know things we perceive with our senses. Or things that are supported by empirical evidence. I had a friend a number of years ago who made what for me was a startling statement. He was questioning his own activity in the church, and he declared first that he could only accept things that could be demonstrated empirically, and then he made the astounding claim that he believed that all the great scientific discoveries had all already been made. This was about 20 years ago. Seems to me that he was at least wrong about all the major scientific discoveries having already been made by the late 1980's.

When we way we know in the church, our use of the word knowledge links it closely to faith. In Alma 32, we learn about the classic example of faith – plant the seed of desire, nurture it and if it grows, then we have faith, which ultimately leads to knowledge. Another example I've heard is this: we "know" when we push that switch on the wall that the lights will come on. Now, it's not actually true that every time we push the switch the light comes on; sometimes the power is out, or the circuit breaker has been tripped or the light bulb has burned out or the switch breaks. But still, we "know" because of our long experience with wall switches, that flipping the switch means the light should come on, so we say we know it will happen.

To be sure there are some who do know. Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, so he knew they existed. Those who find him a credible witness might also say they know because they trust him. Joseph and Sidney Rigdon also had a separate experience described in the Doctrine and Covenants in which they report having seen the Father and the Son. Stephen in the New Testament makes a similar claim. Just as a jury knows by the witnesses presented at a trial, one way we may know is to listen to credible witnesses, even if we don't have first hand knowledge.

Another way we know may be our own cause and effect relationships. We keep a commandment and we perceive a blessing in our lives as a result. One might argue coincidence in such an example, and one might similarly wonder why one person sees the blessing in his life and another apparently does not. But for the person who perceives it, the cause-and-effect relationship is real.

Perhaps the greatest way of perceiving spiritual truth, however, is in the change that we feel in our hearts. Book of Mormon prophet Alma teaches that at our conversion our hearts change. He's not the only one; the Old Testament speaks of Saul's receiving a new heart when he becomes king, for instance. Alma also speaks of feeling the swelling of the spirit in our hearts. The Doctrine and Covenants also records the idea that we might understand the spirit through our heart and mind.

For me, I have to work hard to separate my own emotional response (I cry at most movies, and even have an emotional response to favorite classical music, and I'm a sucker for family-oriented advertising) from what I think is a spiritual response. For me, a spiritual response is not always an emotional one (though for others it may be). But over time, I have come to sort out what a spiritual response looks like to me. Having that response allows me to say "I know" even if my knowledge is not empirical. And I suppose that for many, my "knowledge" is only an expression of my faith. That's ok for me.

I'm struck by the many years in the Book of Mormon that prophets spoke so clearly about the coming of Christ long before He came, and spoke as if He had already come. These prophets spoke based on their own prophetic knowledge, and their people often acted in faith as if it had already happened. When we speak in faith of "knowing", I believe it is a similar circumstance.

- Paul

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Testimony

I've written before about testimony – what we know and how we know it. Of course when we say we know, it is often not in the empirical sense, but in the sense of knowing as any jury might know something – based on the credibility of witnesses. There is a key difference in testimony, however. The scriptures repeatedly report that the Spirit can bear witness (as the Holy Ghost did at Jesus' baptism, for instance).

Modern revelation is even clearer on the subject as Joseph Smith and others testified of seeing heavenly messengers and witnessing miraculous events. Of course the witnessing of miraculous events is not limited to Latter-day Saints. Faithful people throughout the ages have attributed outcomes to God's merciful intervention in their lives.

A commenter raised a question the other day about that verse in Alma 32 which suggests that desire is the first step to faith, and that faith is an early step on the path to knowledge. Alma suggests desiring to know will lead us to put something to the test, to exercise faith, and that over time we will come to know. We teach of children this works with keeping the commandments, and realizing the blessings of the Lord. (Of course the Savior also taught this principle when he said "If any man will do his will he will know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).) If we faithfully keep the commandments, we will sooner or later sense the blessing of those commandments in our lives. This has certainly been my experience.

James 1:5-6 suggests if we pray in faith, "nothing wavering", then we will receive assurance from the Lord. Some have cynically suggested that such "praying in faith" simply predisposes us to assume any presumed response is an answer to our prayer. While I can understand that argument, it's not my personal experience. And that is primarily because for me, answers to my questions in prayers rarely have come at the time I've prayed. Instead, the answer may come days or months or even years later, often triggered by independent circumstances.

A case in point: in my early college years, I had, like many students who really start studying church history, some specific questions that I hadn't been able to resolve in my mind. I had no issue with the Book of Mormon or even with the First Vision. I was confident that priesthood was restored through Joseph, but I wondered about later choices he made, presumably under inspiration.

I followed some advice I had received at the time to cling to what I knew (or believed) and to wait patiently for answers to these other questions. For some time I fervently prayed for resolution and none came, but I did continue to have that sweet confirmation of the spirit that the basic teachings of the church (and of Joseph) were true.

Years later (like 15 years later) I was teaching Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants in Sunday School. And in preparation for a particular lesson, I read passages in the Doctrine and Covenants that I had read many times before (by then I had taught Gospel Doctrine repeatedly, and even had taught Church History one year in seminary). All at once, as I read several particular passages, I felt my concerns fade away. It was like Enos' experience in which he felt his guilt was "swept away". There was a logical response to my question in what I read, and there also came the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost that this logical response was correct.

I don't know why it took me so long to resolve the matter. Looking back, it should have been plain to me much sooner, but for whatever reason it wasn't. In some ways, I'm glad it wasn't, because it gave me a chance to exercise my faith, understanding what I knew, and recognizing that I didn't know everything.

Of course these things of the Spirit are difficult to describe in specific terms: they are personal, and individuals are likely to see things differently, if for no other reason than because we have different gifts and different life experiences.

- Paul

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Am I Brainwashed?

A comment on another LDS-related blog the other day suggested that church members are brainwashed. I chuckled and shook my head as I often do when I read such things. And I wondered why we use such absolute language when we speak of the things that are so important to us.

I suppose the fact that those things are so important is one reason. We feel the stakes are exceptionally high, so our rhetoric tends toward the absolute – Black and White, Right and Wrong, Left or Right, Up or Down. We assume that there are two ways: mine and the highway.

I think it’s a dangerous thing to be so absolute. In so saying, I’m not suggesting a lack of faith, or a lack of certitude about spiritual truths. I’m just suggesting a softening of the rhetoric around them. My father was a great example of this idea: he rarely spoke in absolutes, though his life demonstrated his own strong conviction without his having to announce it.

The scriptures contain catalogs of spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians, for instance, we learn “to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge…to another faith” (1 Corinthians 12:8-9). In modern scripture it’s even more clearly stated: “not all have every gift given unto them…to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know…to others it is given to believe” (D&C 46:11,13-14).

Knowing as we do that not all enjoy the same spiritual “knowledge”, it seems to make sense to soften our rhetoric to invite others to share understanding rather than assuming we (whoever “we” are) sit at the top of the mountain of knowledge so we can cast stones at the unknowing masses below.

My question in the title is whether I’m brainwashed. I certainly don’t think so. I’ve had my own deeply personal and deeply moving experiences with the scriptures and the teachings of Christ that have led me to my own convictions. I don’t expect others to take my word for it, but rather to seek your own experiences. Your experiences are likely to differ from mine, since we all have different gifts, but it seems if we’re all listening to the same divine influence, we ought to find some common ground, even if that effort takes some time.

- Paul