|Print | Back||January 29, 2016|
MormanityDealing with Change
by Jeff Lindsay
After writing for nearly four years for the Nauvoo Times, I am grateful for the many things I've learned through this experience. It has involved the discipline of meeting weekly deadlines, unlike the "write whenever you can" approach I can take on my personal LDS blog, Mormanity. It has been a challenge but also a rich learning experience that has motivated me to dig a little deeper on a variety of topics so that I could have original material to share here, in addition to some things also shared at Mormanity or on my personal website at JeffLindsay.com. It was a surprising and puzzling honor to be asked to be part of the Nauvoo Times team. It's been a pleasure working with Kristine Card, Orson Scott Card's wife, and the late Kathy Kidd, the marvelous editor who will be sorely missed.
As the Nauvoo Times comes to a close, I'm reflecting on the many changes we face in life. I write at a time of dramatic change in China as economic unrest looms over the nation that has driven much of the global economy. With the plunging stock market here, many citizens have lost huge amounts of money. More big losses are likely from those who followed the momentum of big bubbles puffing up in artificially supported markets.
Manipulated markets and giant bubbles are not unique to Asia. The insane experiment in the United States of near zero interest rates and creation ex nihilo of vast amounts of money over the past few years has resulted in a nation and a populace more heavily in debt than ever, courtesy of artificially low interest rates. The ability of big banks to borrow money at essentially zero percent interest and buy treasuries with it yielding higher interest has resulted in siphoning vast amounts of money from the productive sectors into the hands of wealthy institutions. The taxpayers have been robbed blind in this process and eventually will face the inflationary impact of all the money that has been created.
Distortions in the market from government intervention eventually face correction, often with great pain. Pain is coming. When and in what form is not easy to guess, but the distortions, the bubbles, and the misinformation about the economy are huge.
This is a time for all of us to consider our situation. Got food storage and basics for getting by? It's a good time to gradually fortify your reserves. In debt? Strive to get out and have cash on hand. Loaded with stocks? That might not be healthy.
As an aside and perhaps a bonus tip for your consideration, precious metals look remarkably cheap right now (as I write, silver is $14 an ounce and gold is under $1100), in my frequently-wrong opinion. You may wish to buy actual precious metal and not just paper certificates that might not be connected to anything real. I think having at least a small portion of your assets in something tangible with long-term, widely recognized value is smart. A bucket of silver coins, for example, stored in a secure place, could be a smart investment. Of course, any investment comes with risks that you need to consider. Chances are we will see precious metals take another dip if markets panic and everything gets sold, but long term, I think the prospects are excellent for precious metals. The point, though, is to prepare for significant and troubling economic changes, including the specter of rapid inflation and devaluing currency.
Changes occur on many fronts. In religion, we may find that loved ones who were faithful Latter-day Saints give up their faith and move in a different direction that we may not understand. There are many factors that can lead people or drive people away from their faith--and that includes good people, sincerely trying to do what's right.
Great caution is needed in how we respond lest we damage the ties of love that connect us and impair our ability to be a meaningful part of their lives. Seeking to understand and love rather than judge is important. Beware of unnecessary assumptions ("must be some kind of morality problem going on").
You don't have to stop being who you are in this process, but can inquire to find out what issues are sensitive and shouldn't be brought up in gatherings to help them know they are welcomed, loved, and respected, even when there may be a huge gulf in faith and other matters. Maintaining loving ties with tact and respect should be a priority in this process, and hopefully the tact and respect will be reciprocated for you and your faith.
There have been some significant changes many of us Latter-day Saints have faced due to the response of the world to LDS policies on morality, marriage and the family. Some, viewing these policies as unnecessary, unwise or unkind, have chosen to take a stance that has distanced them from the Church, sometimes to the point of becoming outspoken critics or opponents.
Some faithful Latter-day Saints have struggled with LDS policies on same-sex marriage and particularly the Church's new guidelines in the Handbook of Instructions on dealing with same-sex relationships and children raised by same-sex couples. It's a sensitive issue for many, especially those of us who have close family members who are gay or who are otherwise strongly affected by the issue of same-sex marriage.
While the Church's statements to clarify the guidelines have been helpful (see the context provided by Elder Christofferson at MormonNewsroom.org and the recent letter from the First Presidency with some clarification), it has still been easy for Latter-day Saints to feel pain and confusion over this highly charged, sensitive issue, especially when we see bitterness or disappointment from those we love. When confronted with a new policy statement that you don't understand or disagree with, how do you cope?
For those who are confused and disappointed by the policy guidelines regarding families same sex marriage, I'd like to point to the example of one woman who has been an inspiration to me and many others here in Asia and in other parts of the world. She's given me permission to share a letter she wrote to a friend about her personal struggle with the new guidelines.
I think the way this faithful woman dealt with the issue is an excellent example for how to deal with these kind of challenges intelligently, but also with patience and faith. I don't know if the conclusions she draws about the need for some kind of policy like this are correct, for that involves complex legal matters. I need to explore that matter later, but for now, I want to call attention to the approach she took.
She has given me permission to use her name, but I'll just call her "Jeannie G." Here's the letter:
Like you, I was upset by the new church policy on gay family members when it was first announced. Many members who donít personally know any gay people (or think they donít know any) seem to be less troubled by the new policy. But for those of us who have gay friends and family members, it was hard not to feel distraught.
I would like to share with you my experience in dealing with this issue in hope that it might help you in your own struggle.
In recent years I have been heartened by the small but significant steps taken by the Church to provide support to gay members and their families.† These include: Acknowledging the difference between feelings and behavior. Advising parents to support their gay kids, and not to kick them out. Encouraging gay members to stay with the church, because we need them, and creating the mormonsandgays.org website.† All showed much needed acceptance and respect for a maligned group of members who didnít ask to be gay. As the website states: ďWith love and understanding the Church reaches out to all Godís children including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.Ē
After these efforts, the new policy seemed to take a step backwards. It first struck me as unkind and unnecessarily painful. My heart goes out to gay members who still have a testimony, or are trying to salvage their testimony, while hoping to find a supportive environment in the Church that they love. I was heartsick with the implied message of the new policy: ďYou are not wanted here. The Church is no longer your home.Ē
I am extremely grateful for the gospel. I grew up in a difficult family situation. I could not have survived without the support and direction of the Church. The gospel saved me. So it pained me to think that the innocent children of gay members would be excluded from the resources and strength of the Church community.
I have found the gospel provides rich satisfying truths and a clear logic. I was totally baffled by the new policy that seemed to have none of those defining hallmarks.
After a three week struggle with many heartfelt, tearful prayers, I got an answer. Most of my inspiration comes in the night or early morning, as did this. I awoke one morning to find this answer: The Church had to do it. With legalized gay marriage, the Church is now vulnerable to being sued by some LDS gay couple claiming a right to a temple sealing. Children of gay couples could also sue, thus the need for them to formally disavow the gay lifestyle should they join the Church at age 18. The policy was not intended to divide family loyalties. It is to provide legal protection to the Church. Understanding the legal reasoning, despite my negative first impression, helped me see that the Church is not trying to denigrate those with same sex attraction. Although it creates a wrenching dilemma for gay members, I now see that the general authorities clearly had to institute this new policy.† Currently it would be difficult to sue with the religious guarantees that presently stand.† I believe the church is putting the policies in place now for the future safety and well being of the institution.
Although it would have helped if the Church had reiterated the positive message from the website while announcing the new policy, I hope that gay members can still find solace from mormonsandgays.org website. Itís still up and running.
I worry that with married gay members now facing a disciplinary council for apostasy, some members might feel justified in condemning or mistreating all gay people. We need to remember the policy was established not to condemn gay members, but rather to protect the temple. As disciples of Christ we are to give succor and support to all those who struggle, whether gay or straight. That love and support is needed now more than ever in these difficult times.
I hope this has been helpful.
This woman is a powerhouse of compassion and intelligence, and if you know her personally, I think you would agree. I always learn something from her. I appreciate her example of dealing with a challenging, difficult issue.
Whatever the reasons are behind the policy, I think those who strongly disagree with it should realize that people with different views on gay marriage are not necessarily driven by hate or bigotry. Too many people are trained to think--a word I use loosely--that those who disagree with them must be VEPs (Very Evil People). There is a genuine debate here, as there is on many social issues, and intelligent people can be on both sides, even intelligent non-Nazis. To assume that the guidelines and policies related to gay marriage are driven by bigotry and hate is neither fair nor reasonable. See "The Brethren are not Bigots" by Cassandra Hedelius, a thoughtful and valuable post.
Since we don't have infallible leaders, it is possible for mistakes to occur. Faithful Latter-day Saints who disagree with a decision or policy can fairly wonder if it's a mistake, and if so, hope that it will be swiftly corrected. On the other hand, we should also be willing to ask if perhaps there is something we personally don't yet understand or see properly. We should have the courtesy and civility to recognize that leaders who view something differently aren't necessarily bad people or failed leaders, and may have legitimate reasons for their view that we don't yet appreciate. That's a reasonably faithful approach to sustaining our mortal leaders. Denouncing them is not.
For those interested in understanding this issue, an excellent discussion is provided at FAIRMormon.org in "A Look at the Churchís New Policy on Children of Gay Couples." This touches briefly about some of the legal issues that could be involved and may suggest that Jeannie G.'s conclusion has merit. It also carefully explains what the policy does and what it doesn't do. What you've heard about it may not be very accurate or fair.
In the midst of the firestorms of protest against the Church's policy, often in the form of anger and mocking from "great and spacious websites," I am reminded that lessons, teachings, and spiritual experiences found through studying the scriptures are more important and relevant than ever, especially the Book of Mormon. This miraculous book was written for our day. Those who are grounded in it and have a testimony of its power and truthfulness are much better able to cope with media storms and confounding issues of the day than are those for whom the Book of Mormon is more of a cultural artifact than a precious treasure.
The Book of Mormon, like so much in life, is also subject to change. There have, in fact, been many changes in the text, as we can most fully appreciate by looking at the rich body of work coming from Royal Skousen's scholarship with the earliest texts of the Book of Mormon. Understanding those changes can do much to strengthen one's testimony of the Book of Mormon.
For example, as we read about the Title of Liberty in Alma 46:19, you might be surprised that the Book of Mormon originally said that Moroni waved the "rent of his garment." This was later corrected to read "rent part of his garment," which makes much more sense. Some people have objected that this change was an attempt to hide an obvious blunder in the original text. After all, how can one wave a rip or a rent or a tear? That's bad English, but it's actually good Hebrew.
The way the Book of Mormon originally expressed it reflects a valid Hebraic expression. The Hebraism that appeared to survive the translation process was understandable but not good English, so it was corrected. Other expressions were edited out that reflect Hebraic origins but are awkward English. In these cases, the changes might be good, but understanding the changes is even better.
Changes in the Book of Mormon also include our appreciation of its reality. While it is tempting for some to treat it as a book composed by Joseph Smith that may express some "truthy" concepts devoid of real history, there have been dramatic changes in Book of Mormon studies as we have encountered solid archaeological and other tangible finds supportive of the plausibility and historicity of at least some parts of the Book of Mormon.
The recent finds in the Arabian Peninsula with rich evidence relative to the plausibility of Lehi's Trail demands careful reflection.
The uncovering of altars from Lehi's era in Yemen bearing the tribal name Nihm, whose Arabic pronunciation is quite close to Nahom and comes from the particular region that conforms with the requirements for the place Nahom in the Book of Mormon, is exciting stuff indeed.
Ditto for the discovering of a remarkable candidate for the Valley Lemuel and the River Laman by George Potter in Lehi in the Wilderness and Warren Aston's beautiful and stunning find of Wadi Sayq as a candidate for Bountiful, a beautiful story told well in the new DVD, "Lehi in Arabia," and in his book, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia: The Old World Setting of the Book of Mormon.
These breakthroughs represent dramatic changes in our knowledge of the Book of Mormon. I am disappointed at how few Latter-day Saints understand what treasures have been uncovered in the Arabian Peninsula.
There have been many other changes in Book of Mormon studies that have helped us to refine our understanding of geography, DNA issues, the translation process of the Book of Mormon, and the richness of the text. I have found that digging into Book of Mormon issues has greatly expanded my respect for this book, a book that continues to speak to us from the dust, a book that withstands the many challenges raised against it and which will continue to surprise and astonish those who give it a chance.
In pursuing these issues, though, we may find some things in our own understanding that need to change. We may have assumed or been taught that the Book of Mormon explains the origins of all Native Americans and has stories spanning the entire Western Hemisphere, when it does not.
We may imagine Joseph translating the plates the way a modern scholar would, and find ourselves surprised and embarrassed to learn that he was looking at a seerstone in a hat instead of examining the gold plates character by character. However, that initial embarrassment needs to be replaced with awe when we realize that the evidence from multiple witnesses (and supported by the original manuscript itself) points to a steady verbally dictated translation process done without the aid of a pre-written manuscript and even without the aid of a Bible for the many Bible passages quoted. The text itself is a witness of miraculous origins.
If there had been a carefully composed fraudulent manuscript that Joseph was working from, why waste so many weeks dictating it to form what we call the Original Manuscript, which then had to be copied to create the Printer's Manuscript? Why not just take the manuscript to the printer?
Some speculate that the dictation process was meant to impress his scribes, but if this were a fraudulent project, the scribes as witnesses of the gold plates were already in on the con. Seems like they would object to the tedium of dictating the whole text out for week after week when the manuscript was ready to go. The incident of the lost 116 pages also makes no sense if manuscript was being used by Joseph for dictation.
The evidence from the manuscripts, the witnesses of the translation process, and the witnesses of the plates all consistently point to a book that is the result of steady dictation during a miraculous translation from real plates in a way that just could not be faked as Joseph looked into his hat and spoke. And the richness of the text, with its complex language, its Hebraisms, its deep connections to the ancient Near East, and now connections to specific locations and finds unknowable in Joseph's day, represent major changes in the Book of Mormon that almost seem timed to support us through the trials caused by other major changes we face, as the Church is no longer a Church becoming accepted and respected by the world, but one that will increasingly feel it's wrath.
Like those who faced the jeers of the thought leaders and social media influencers in the great and spacious building in Lehi's dream, we face serious challenges today that require us, more than ever, to be anchored with a firm grasp of the Book of Mormon. That's vital for enduring the changes ahead, in my opinion.
Many changes are coming in our lives. Are you prepared? Take wise steps now to be ready temporally and spiritually.
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