Sunday, December 27, 2015

When Others Sin Against You

My gentle reader could not have forgotten that quite recently a rumor arose among people in my church that caused me great difficulty and heartache. Since that period and upon much reflection, I have undertaken to find the identities of those who began and perpetuated this slander. The leader who confronted me rendered me such basic hints as to narrow my search and one person approached me, admitted their part, and asked my pardon. He received it forthwith. 

Shall we discuss the others? There is one, a lady, who I know laid suspicion upon me and I know why. In truth, it was not necessarily against me personally but at least in part because she violently disliked the man of whom I found myself accused, and, finding me firmly set against treating this or any man with contempt, gave vent to her desire to injure him by laying this fabricated sin at my charge. Another person involved thoroughly disliked the fact that I recklessly strive to keep God's commands, and not able to reach that bar themselves, sought to stain my honor. The leader also, concerned with these reports, searched my writing, bypassing entirely my many comments pertaining to God and righteousness and focused only on what they could take out of context and condemn. But I will say no more of this person for I hope their heart at least was swallowed up in true concern. 

It is possible my slanderers read these very words. I hope they do. Realize, my friends, that with a few taps of my fingers I could pen their names and hold them up to public derision. I could openly unveil their names to my readers, who range from Egypt to Australia, from Denmark to the States. They told lies against me; I would only reveal the glorious, almighty truth. I am in every way justified. Thirty seconds and a few finger taps. 

But I won't. I am not the low, vile, unChristlike person these souls have illustrated me to be. I do not need to sink to that level. I am a disciple of Christ and I will render them what they did not see fit to render me - respect. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Grace Versus Works

"There are two kinds of religion in this world," declared a random pastor I happened to meet in the park one day. "Those who believe a person has to do anything at all in order to gain salvation, and those who don't.  Grace is everything and we don't need to do anything to gain salvation!"
 
I nodded politely, biting my tongue and keeping the cheeky comments in my head to myself.  I wasn't about to tell this obviously learned disciple of Christ that he might not be aware that he had described what only pertained to the Christian faith and that there were continents full of religions that had nothing to do with Jesus, so his statement proved from the very beginning incomplete.  I also declined mentioning that a person may take any passage from the Bible and contend that such stood as the pivotal hallmark of a true religion (method of baptism, priesthood authority, et cetera).  He had done me good service and I hoped I proved too kind a person to intellectually mop the floor with him.  But I digress.
 
The argument regarding faith versus work has raged almost since the beginning of Christianity, with human beings snubbing their neighbors, creating laws against heretics and even burning each other at the stake over such debates.  But when I hear friends begin the old argument about whether salvation comes through works or faith I quietly smile, listen politely and take in only one piece of information about the whole situation.
 
They don't get it.
 
So allow me to explain. 
 
I love the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and strength.  I love Him with every portion and part of my being, nothing withheld.  There is nothing I would not give Him, nothing I would argue is too high a price to illustrate my love for Him, and nothing He would ask that I would not attempt to do.  Salvation, my friends, isn't the point.  I know that must inspire shocked gasps, but truly, salvation of self proves only a speck in the totality of our relationship with our Maker.  Allow me to spend all my days in the service of my Father and my God, allow me to lay my spirit down in complete surrender to my Lord, allow me to die the painful death of a martyr in His service and after all this, let my Father condemn my soul to hell.  I would still love Him as far as my capacity would let me feel anything.  Salvation is not why I do what I do.  I do not follow Him in order to escape hell.  I do it because I love Him and want to do as He asks to the best of my ability.  I do not do this for reward in this life or the next.  I do not necessarily seek to avoid the anguish of hellfire; I seek to keep with me the Spirit of God, for when one has the Spirit, one can walk through the agony of hell with his head held high and his eyes focused on the next step ahead.  A disciple of God fears not pain.  Were I able, I would that I might have the roles reversed, that I might take the bitterness of Calvary upon my own shoulders that I might protect the Lord Jesus Christ, and save Him from such horrors.  I cannot, but I wish I could because I love Him so much. 
 
No.  It's not about gaining salvation.  It's not about stretching the extra inch to barely reach heaven or about performing the bare minimum in avoiding hell.  It's about cultivating a living, vibrant, breathing relationship with God.  It is about learning who He is and thus better understand who we are.  And when we do this, our faith will solidify.  Our acts will be in strict accordance to His will, not to gain salvation for ourselves but because His work becomes ours, His will becomes ours, and His wisdom guides our paths.  And what He chooses to do with us after we find ourselves in the embrace of death will prove just another step in our eternal relationship with Him and will be for our good. 
 
 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Successful Missionary Tactics

Tis the season for many things.  Lights, cookies, and inviting people to church.  I think we generally have the blinking bulbs and chocolate chips down to an art, but the last idea tends to frighten a great many people.  Sweaty palms, breaking voice, fearing rejection, chickening out at the last minute - most of us understand these stressful symptoms of attempting to bring others into the fold.  But we can leave those fears behind us.  The truth is that the invitation begins a long time before we ever "pop the question."  

Accept People For Who They Are

Anyone who knows me knows I am LDS and have never had a drink of alcohol in my life.  Often people fear that I will look down on them for drinking or living riotously.  Here is the transcript of a conversation between myself and the one of the most riotous cousins I have in my enormous arsenal of family.

Him: "I have to get a shot before I start my new job."

Me:  "What kind of shot?"

Him: "Shot of vodka."
Me: *Chuckling* "No, seriously.  What kind of shot?"

Him: *Emphatically* "A shot of vodka!"

Me: *Laughing in earnest now*. "Seriously..."

Him: *Explains about an inoculation shot necessary for his job.*

I know some well meaning church goers who would scowl at the mention of a devil's drink in their presence.  Actually, I find I cannot go to visit my relatives on the east coast for three days without finding myself in a bar at some point.  They know better than to offer me alcohol, and I have never rebuked them for getting sloshed in my presence.  If anything, I laugh at their antics.  It's a balance of mutual respect.  And it teaches them that they are firstly human beings to me and not just minions to be brainwashed into attending my church.  We have basically come to the understanding that yes, going to church is the higher road, I am right to take it, and they are invited to join me.  But no pressure.  We're still friends.

Hello, my Name is Michelle and I am a Religious Nutcase

It's basically written on my sleeve.  I often find people approaching me and asking me questions about my faith when I have absolutely no recollection of telling them I was Mormon.  I am not ashamed of my religion, and speak of it freely as I would anything else that I love.  A person probably cannot have a full conversation with me without realizing that my passion for religion is very strong.  I recklessly bear my testimony in the most bizarre situations whenever I feel so impressed.  I recall doing so with a woman I barely knew.  She looked at me strangely and rather stiffened.  I noted her coldness and discomfort and decided to help her feel better.  Later, in another conversation with her and her ex mother-in-law, I brought up the subject of religion again, quite calmly calling myself a complete religious nut, but that is okay because at least I'm a harmless nut.  She laughed and since then has slowly learned that I will not join her in speaking ill of those people she dislikes, simply because I choose not to speak ill of anyone.  Nothing personal, just what I feel a Christian ought to do.  I think she's learned to live with it.  Most people learn to brush things like that off and remind themselves, "That's just Michelle.  She's just like that with everyone." 

Handle it With Grace 

My life has generally resembled a mix between a violent war and the most bizarre soap opera of all time.  Beyond having extreme post traumatic stress, however, I generally handle insanity with calm.  Much of this is due to experience and practice. 
A friend of mine had requested I fill her in on the latest in my life and after having laden her with more gossip than human beings should ever have to handle, she remarked, "You are handling this very well...clearly that is because of your faith."  I agreed. 

Sometimes the manner in which we react to trial and temptation will be the highest indication of our faith in God and also in His almighty power to make troubles lighter on our shoulders.  When others see such things, it often acts as a powerful missionary tool that we did not necessarily intend to employ.  As the saying goes, "Preach every day and every hour continually, and when necessary, use words."

Come One, Come All!

I think we often fear that missionary work and inviting people to church has to involve a face to face, one on one confrontation.  Not so.  The Book of Mormon cites a man who exclaims, in essence "Oh that I had a the voice of an angel and could preach repentance to all the world!"  What would he have given to have had a Facebook account!? A status is a completely valid invitation.  I recently had a  woman invite me to her Christmas Eve gathering at her church via events on Facebook.  That is a valid invitation, and I appreciate the thought.  
Swallow the Rejection

Yes, we may be rejected.  In fact, we probably will be at some point. Get used to it.  I have been so many times.  Do we hide in a corner and cry?  No.  Hopefully we invited someone about whom we truly care and who we honestly want as a friend.  What do we do?  Continue being a friend.  I was fairly recently rejected in an invitation by a lady I respect very much.  She proved cold and uncomfortable around me for a while.  My move?  I warmed up more, not as a missionary but just as a friend.  I joked with her about getting drunk.  I showed her that her rejection of my invite didn't matter and that my interest in her as a person was stronger than merely wanting to get her into church.  Eventually she relaxed and our relationship is stronger than ever.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fearless

As my loyal readers will readily comprehend I have spent much time of late in reevaluating my own actions, thoughts, and perspectives in relation to a rumor recently spread about me and also several attacks questioning my moral decency due to the fact that I tend to wear femininity recklessly on my sleeve.  

But isn't that the point?  The fact is that I love being a woman and yes, I have self respect enough to wear sleeves.  My friends, wake up and open your eyes!  We live in a world that teaches women to wear next to nothing in order to gain masculine acceptance.  We hear that pornography is a victimless crime and that such things are natural and normal - even necessary to a man's happiness.  We learn from media that there is no difference between man and woman.  Women often expect themselves to compete with men, to attempt to behave like men and we see gender confusion continually on the rise.  Excellent parents and moral conservatives find themselves engaged in a continual battle against easy sex amongst teenagers and even adults who ought to have outgrown such immaturity.  Unnecessary and flippant divorce is becoming the norm.  We see celebrities spending exorbitant sums to change their gender and view their rewards among the social powers that be without anyone to raise a voice against it.  

I will raise my voice against it.  

I have endured what has felt like much persecution due to my decisions to express in manner and in word my gratitude to God for being a vibrant, passionate, feeling, faithful woman. I have proven the subject of malicious gossip in part because I have attempted to illustrate what a woman of God is and can become.  I have prayed much to find yet another confirmation that what I have been about is indeed the will of God, and I have received my answer.  God willing, I will not be silenced.  I cannot live with my conscience in beholding these atrocities and doing nothing.  Has the Lord given me the drive and ability to write and forced me to view sexual abuse, the damage of pornography, the anguish of sexual addiction, and the debilitating consequences of moral recklessness so that I stand idly by?  Nearly every day I plead with the full force of my heart that God may keep my body pure and safe, untouched by the vile fingers of any man save the one He has reserved to be my eternal companion and soul mate.  This world needs desperately moral women who are not afraid to be innocent and are passionate about being women.  These well meaning people who rebuked me on the grounds of morality perhaps did not comprehend that a woman who knows her boundaries and can promote femininity is not an enemy of God to be feared but a sacred weapon of light that must needs remain unsheathed.


Childish Secrets

I never attend Sunday School anymore.  It's true.  The management has decided that either I do not need it in order to keep my spiritual life in order or else I have opened my mouth too many times for the other students to allow me in the door.  Whatever the case, the powers that be in my congregation requested that I skip my regular programming in order to take care of the two year olds so that their parents may for nearly two hours every week enjoy their quiet, sacred, Sabbath bliss undisturbed.  My cohorts in nursery and I run after little ones constantly plotting to escape their imprisonment, have children screaming in our ears, kicking at our faces with hysterical little feet while we unsuccessfully attempt to calm them, sometimes find our bodily temples the receptacles of mucus, saliva and urine, and endure the continual aroma of messy diapers.   I know what you must be thinking, gentle reader, and you are absolutely correct.

We are the luckiest people on earth!

Unfortunately, we lost two of our comrades today.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps the bishop overheard something about Brother Nymeyer flinging plastic chicken legs across the room, much to the little ones' delight.  We enjoyed a camaraderie unparalleled in any other calling I have filled - perhaps because it was four of us against sometimes sixteen miniature soldiers of destruction.  We had to depend on each other, and life will not be the same without the sweet, calm sanity Sister Nymeyer offered our group.  It certainly will not be the same without her husband's equally powerful measure of hilarious and somewhat riotous insanity in our midst.  We will try to get by.
How can intelligent, free thinking adults actually manage to enjoy such an environment and such usage?  What is the secret to surviving this madness we call child care?  Is it all a matter of bracing oneself?  Well, partly, yes.  Choose to accept what may come and love it?  That is certainly part of the equation. But the real secret is to learn to love these babies.  They are a joy to me.  What might have been a chore every Sunday has become a blessing and a wonderful part of my week.  Here are some of our favorite moments in nursery - music time, gabbing with international celebrities on an old fashioned plastic telephones, and cutting off marshmallow distribution during snack time.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Music Time with Michelle!

video
video



The blue instrument in my hand is an indispensable part of caring for young children.  It is a wand for blowing bubbles.  Merry Christmas from the Tortolita Ward Nursery!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not One to Judge

Perusing recently the autobiography of one Robert Clary, a Holocaust survivor who later starred on the television sitcom Hogan's Heroes, which mocks the Gestapo and Nazi Germany, I happened upon his statement that during his incarceration, he prayed nightly to God. By the end of his time in camp he had come to the conclusion that there was no God, for surely God could not have any justification for allowing such crimes as he experienced and witnessed. He respects the rights of others to believe, but he simply cannot.

I know that many people would love to act as missionaries to this noble man and bring him to the knowledge and goodness of God. To those stalwarts I have two beautiful little words.

Shut up.

I would be the first to try to bring joy to his misery filled life by teaching him about God, but I first have to respect who he is and take seriously what he has endured. Truthfully, a Holocaust victim who can get up in the morning and make it through the day without continually screaming hysterically has already accomplished more than most do in their entire lives. God has these very special people in hand and our job is not to judge, but to love unconditionally. Let God convince him otherwise, gently, lovingly, and with a perfect understanding of his feelings.

I think we sometimes forget this principle in our everyday lives with everyday people. Sometimes we become so quick to judge someone that we consider flawed without taking into account all they have endured, much of which might prove horrific. Sometimes we pound our fists, arguing the absolute fact that we are right. Maybe we understand a true principle but maybe it is not right to attempt to force them to believe. Maybe we need to show them understanding and then they will begin to learn what we know on their own. Maybe we need to remember that human beings will not care how much we know until long after they know how much we care. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Would You Have Stayed?

My hands tremble a bit in creating this post, as it treats upon the very difficult week that preceded it.  Quite recently I have found myself in a situation that has ravaged my confidence, strength, and emotions.  Already many know I have been weighed down by much trial and grief, and in the midst of those overwhelming pains, a person from my congregation with greater, shall we call it "rank?" than I, a lowly nursery worker enjoy, found it advisable to confront me with an eye of terrible suspicion.  Apparently others had informed this leader that I was meeting a man secretly in the park in order to pursue an immoral affair.  I found my words taken out of context, twisted, and placed before me accusingly.  I understood that some people I had trusted, though their identities were not made known to me, were agreeing that I must be doing quite wrongly and my worthiness to maintain a temple recommend was challenged as it has never been in my life.

Not knowing their identities, but recognizing that this rumor must prove widespread indeed, I did not know which of my friends I could trust, and which people in my congregation had heard and believed such ideas.  Which of them had confronted this leader with the apparent desire to destroy my standing in the Church?  Not surprisingly, I felt I had not one good reason to set foot in that building again.  

Stifling tears I took my daughter to the church Christmas party and as soon as possible excused myself to an empty classroom, where sobbing came more readily.  Where could I go?  Who could I trust?  And for one tear streaked moment of sheer desperation the idea occurred to me that several good, generous people I know attend a different church.  They clearly have a wonderful time and accept each other with open arms.  Could I possibly rest my weary heart in their pews instead?  But I shook it off and opened The Book of Mormon, which I carried in my purse.  

Hands shaky and randomly scrambling, I happened upon a passage that describes a company of very young soldiers who have the choice to run to certain safety or to turn back to help their countrymen in what might very well be a trap.  Their leader leaves the question to them.  Shall we move on or return?  This was their answer. "Behold, our God is with us, and He will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of [our countrymen]." These young men return, and though many of them are wounded in the battle that follows, they win the day and miraculously not one of them falls to his death.  As our prophet President Monson said, "I read the words, but God turned the pages."  I decided to stay.

Walking numbly back into the crowd, I found myself almost immediately greeted with an amazing amount of sincere kindness, interest, affection and respect.  People I barely knew approached me and demonstrated that they considered it an honor to call me a friend.  Even the person who had rebuked me sought me out, admitted that the rumor was not so badly or maliciously spread as they had unwittingly led me to believe and all but craved my pardon.  

What had kept me there?  I had nothing to cling to socially, my reputation unjustly tainted, my standing and moral position unjustly questioned.  I had endured altogether over two hours of this suspicious questioning on top of the other burdens I carried.  What had kept me from walking out that door?  

Because I know that this gospel is true.  I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and it is the church that most pleases the Lord.  He is at the head of this church.  I know perfectly that the Book of Mormon is true and is the word of God.  I know perfectly that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and I know that those appointed as apostles are called of God.  I know that the temple blessings are real and in these sacred edifices families can be sealed together forever and not just until death do us part.  This is not just a nice idea.  It is real.  It is vibrant.  And it rings so truly to my soul that I could never have been complete without it.  My friends, look into your hearts.  Do you know with perfect surety that your denomination is the true one that most pleases God?  If your social status, your moral standing and the warmth of your religious family were taken from you, would you still return because you knew it so completely to be true?  Human mistakes do not change the reality of this gospel.  Human weakness does not compromise the fact that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God who translated the Book of Mormon by divine direction.  It is true; it is a fact.  If my gentle reader cannot say with perfect conviction that their doctrine is completely true, perhaps it is time to work on his testimony, for we do not know when it will be put to the test.  And of course, if my gentle reader finds that she cannot reconcile herself to her own denomination so completely, hey, the blissful doors of Mormonism are always open.

Monday, December 7, 2015

There's One in Every Family...

Welcome to the holidays!  We have successfully traversed Thanksgiving and find ourselves headed toward late December at an alarmingly rapid pace.  We will soon find ourselves surrounded by wrapping paper, holiday food, caroling, and family.  We hope the last item on that list is a pleasant thought, but if not, we can still have a wonderful season together.  

Almost every family enjoys that one member who inspires stifled groans, sighs, and even possibly the occasional eye roll due to his or her attitude about family gatherings.  Perhaps it is that aunt who cannot say a kind word to anyone, that cousin whose focus in life seems to be comparing herself to others in a manner degrading to anyone save herself, or maybe it is that brother, father or uncle who thinks that imitating Ebeneezer Scrooge before his transformation is an ideal way to greet extended relatives at the door.  I myself have an older sibling who doesn't happen to be a woman.  Historically we have fought like brother and sister.  No one quite knows why.  

I also have two relatives, one via blood and one marriage who waited for literally years to accept my Facebook friend request, considering me too far beneath them to condescend that far.  I never treated them badly regardless of their blatant rudeness to the extent that the rest of the family began spitefully whispering about how bad they were and what a generous saint I proved.  But we do not have to treat relatives badly in order to have peace or a wonderful holiday.  One great lesson from the yoga mat is that when we find a tightness in our bodies or in our lives, we breathe into that spot and shortly the tension will dissipate.  I employed this technique with these two ladies and though they both continually shot me venomous looks, I had peace.  I would sit quietly alone, concentrate on these ladies, mentally accept the existence of frustration that stood between us and then breathe deeply, focusing on releasing tension in that quarter.  It worked.  I felt calmer, more peaceful about them, more ready to give and recognized better that I deserved to have peace, even if they did not accept my offerings of good will.  I gave generously to them as they stiffly replied or perhaps didn't even acknowledge me at all.  This continued for years.  I invited them to parties and into my circle.  They continually rejected me.  I find it didn't hurt my feelings, because I was doing this partly so that I would not harbor negativity in my own soul, and being kind to people, despite their reaction, cultivates peace of conscience.  

People may have some wrinkle in their souls that would lead them to reject us.  No judgement.  That is their own problem. It does not ever have to be ours.  Breathe into that relationship.  Pray for Christlike generosity.  Extend the hand of kindness that your own spirit may be without stain or blemish.  Do not expect anything in return, for it is possible you may not receive anything.  No matter.  God will bless you and someday, as transpired with both these ladies, they may actually grace your life enough to deign to click the "Accept" option on Facebook. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Honoring Catholicism

* I penned this some years ago but include it now, as this month invites us to come together as Christians and minimize those barriers that often stand in the way of our unity.


Finding myself in varied conversation with my ever trendy lady friend one day, I mentioned that a common acquaintance of ours proved devoutly Catholic.  A sudden aghast expression crossed her lovely face as she passionately inquired “He’s Catholic?  I thought Catholicism was out of vogue!”  as though social acceptance determined the validity of spiritual faith.

Nevertheless, how right she was!  One of the first points in Dr. Greg Jackson’s groundbreaking book The Word and it’s Witness: The Spiritualization of American Realism argues that while other religions exist in America, the most academically influential prove the mainstream Protestant denominations.  Even the more universally encompassing The Social Life of Scriptures edited by James Bielo chooses as its subjects predominately Protestant movements, and we find a considerable decline in the focus on the Roman Catholic Church.  How did the erstwhile universal powerhouse dwindle to its present state and why should we as a Judeo Christian community take notice of this comparative decrescendo?  

Within the English speaking society, much of the alteration from Catholicism to Protestantism arose from King Henry VIII of England.  His expulsion of Papal Rule stemmed not from a classically moral argument but in order to follow his own lust and personal ambition to beget a son by the unyielding Anne Boleyn.  After outlawing Papal authority and by executing his long sought Anne he threw open the windows and doors of religious chaos through the opposing reigns of his daughters, the Catholic Mary and Protestant Elizabeth.  In essence, the blood he spilled continued to mount into a thrashing crimson tempest of bloodshed that fully saturated the whole of English streets and eventually created in England a primarily Protestant nation.

It was in this state that the British Empire exploded throughout the world and thus the tendency toward Protestantism grew and expanded to such an extent that “the sun never set” on this manner of thinking.  The Puritan emigration to the New World took this concept to greater heights with the goal of worshipping God outside not only Catholicism but Anglicanism as well.  This connection between personal freedom and Protestantism cemented itself in America which created for Catholicism a stronger social stigma of stagnation.  

But though the original organization has undoubtedly fallen in numbers and political power it would serve us within the Judeo Christian framework to recall the foundation we inherited through the more than one thousand years of its continual European reign.  In our fast paced society, focused so entirely on instant answers and immediate gratification it behooves the contemplative mind and humble follower of God to remember that this single organization kept alive the New Testament against overwhelming odds, preserving them through a millennium without computers, printers and the like, and carrying the idea of Jesus Christ through mass murders of early Christians in the Roman coliseums and general persecution.  It stepped up to the plate armed with faith and reckless devotion to God and spread the message of Christianity through whispers in catacombs and by secretive symbolism on peril of human life.  It was the early Christians’ unabashed love of their God that steeped their courage to continue relatively alone as the apostles dropped one by one from the earth in martyrdom and the world plunged headlong into the Dark Ages.  

There are many, I recognize, who will cite the various corruptions of the Church from the Crusades to the Inquisitions, Indulgences and several other accounts and hold these as sufficient reason to despise and degrade Catholicism in general, denouncing it as a wholly corrupt entity but let me answer this argument in a brief sentence.  What organization made of imperfect human beings with complete control over an ignorant population will not have individuals within it that will seek to take advantage of the absolute power they hold?  We have learned through sad experience that this is not confined to the organization in question or even to greater Christendom.  It is a fact of human nature that some people prove ultimately culpable but we cannot assume that the actions of some ruling parties reflect the essential doctrines of the scriptures by which the greater number of followers honestly seek to abide.

Indeed, we find similar moments within Protestant history as well.  Let us for a moment consider the notorious Salem witch trials or the Anti Catholic Gordon Riots in London.  Protestantism, as far as it has had the opportunity to be so, has proven equally violent as Catholicism in its own proportion.  

So what is the purpose and importance of a study of this hue?  What does it behoove persons outside Catholicism to comprehend and weigh these matters?  Certainly the interdenominational bigotry among many Protestants may temper itself remarkably in acceptance of the fact that all Protestantism arises from the Western Catholic Church.  It renders us a common motherhood and ancestry within our religious sphere.  Indeed, without Catholicism there would be no Protestantism.  Let us recognize therefore that we all worship a mutual God but confine ourselves, generally speaking, to our own conclusions and methods of worship.  It also behooves us as individuals to recognize that we have no solid intellectual ground for demonizing an organization in its entirety by the actions of a few members.  All human organizations, like all human souls, hold imperfect constituents interspersed with divine virtues, and demonizing either an organization or a human for relative frailties does the seeker of greater virtue no spiritual favors.

If our true and honest aim is to emulate the Savior we profess to worship, would it not prove advantageous to sheath our weapons of proud contention and rather seek to lift where we stand?  Perhaps we might recall that people are as diverse as denominations and we might well learn from our neighbors’ various strengths.  Some argue that we each hold the responsibilities of missionary work and therefore cannot afford to harbor such pacifistic respect.  Is not quiet gentleness, human kindness, and love unfeigned more resonating than a thousand hellfire sermons?  As I have often experienced, sincere investigators will come to us if we softly abide by the New Testament precepts of charity and service.

I have sometimes received expressions of confusion and reprimands bordering accusations of blasphemy for my continual defense of religions outside my own; yet those times I freely discuss my personal testimony of God, though my voice be hushed, one can virtually hear a pin drop for the effect I find it generally has in its hearers.  That is the power of personal conviction and once we have it, it frees us to openly defend and even promote interests of another religion with a greater respect for other human beings as they are and not as we would make them.  In short, my convictions are so steadfast and unshakable that I feel no need to compete against or degrade other faiths and can openly and easily harbor greater respect for convictions other than my own.  I find that those who generally engage the loudest in bigotry and ignorance are those whose own testimony rests on a sandy foundation.  The truth needs no defense.  It will ultimately triumph and will do so under the hand of an Almighty God and all the human hysterics under heaven will not, and cannot change it. What remains is whether or not we in our own lives follow the counsel and command of the God we profess to adore and whether we will harbor in our own bosoms a clear conscience and quiet soul.
 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Lonely At Christmastime

My heart and prayers reach outward toward all but especially those who find themselves alone in this jolliest and also often most emotionally gnawing time of year. Heartache seems inevitable, and we must face the anguish, for time, circumstance, or distance separates us from those we love. We sit silently weeping on chilly nights, hoping for a reprieve we know may never come. And the twenty fifth looms on the horizon, threatening our lives with a loneliness unbearable. How can we prove cheerful on these cold, bitter days?

Strange it may seem, but I and others also tend to feel most lonely when surrounded by warmth and family.  Sometimes the loneliest times are those in which we find ourselves in loud and laughing company.  We gravitate toward the window and gaze through the rain bespattered glass. Tears streak down our faces and we can't quite explain why.

But solace comes when we listen more carefully to those tears and realize that what we miss is the peace from honestly remembering the Savior. We spend millions of dollars on Christmas cards and gifts, desperately attempting to remember everyone important on our lists. I think we forget the main person in our lives, the One who drives away sadness and fills to overflowing our chronically empty lives and hearts with light. So those times we think we have no one who cares, no one to comfort us or raise our dampened spirits, let us bow our heads and reconnect with the One who will never leave us and who truly is the reason we celebrate each year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sorry, I'm Taken

Wow!  I simply must inform my gentle readers of the amazing relationship that beckons me in!  He's perfect in every way!  Strong, resourceful, loving beyond measure, and treats me like a goddess!  He only wants what is best for me and spoils me rotten!  He can and would create miracles for me and sees more potential in me than I can ever see in myself!  Money is no object and nothing is too good for adored, beloved little Michelle!  He doesn't even mind that I have another self indulging relationship going on at the same time!  Mind blowing!

I refer, of course, to the Savior Jesus Christ. Sometimes we tend to think of Him as a distant, obscure Being in another land and era, or perhaps from a place far distant in the great expanse of heaven.  We forget that He is our Friend, our Savior, and also refers to Himself repeatedly as the Bridegroom.  The chaotic events of recent years have led me to ponder continually on what the title of Bridegroom means to us personally.  A bridegroom is one who protects, provides for, and thoroughly loves his counterpart, respecting her as his equal but recognizing that his part of the relationship will be different and complimentary to hers.

Many of my dear lady friends have of late found themselves once again single, and truly, attempting to navigate this poor, sorry world proves often soul stretching and agonizing.  One requires a guide, a helper, a patriarch, and a protector.  How great a blessing is it to know that we always have One!  No matter our circumstances, we have a prophet, a helper, a male role model for our children and a priesthood holder under our roof and nothing save our own choices can make Him leave.  

I believe I mentioned another relationship in which I find myself.  It is one that every human being ought to have, man or woman, and it should come before any romantic commitment takes shape.  It is the relationship we have with ourselves.  Sometimes we tend to brush that commitment away, thinking it unnecessary or unimportant.  Nay, for without a strong relationship with ourselves and God, any other relationship we have will likely crumble to dust and fail.  Relationships with God and self are necessary prerequisites to a healthy and strong romantic relationship.  And one of the most beautiful and joyous aspects of this arrangement is that when we dance with God, blissfully being grateful for ourselves, God can gently let the right romantic counterpart cut in. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Prudish, Prudish, Prudish!"

I have never openly related this story or recorded it in my various journals, though I do include it in my autobiography, as it proves a very powerful time in my life that tried my soul beyond all reckoning, defining my character and providing lovely fodder for much reflection and self exploration. 

College years proved delightful to me for many reasons and from my infancy I had dreamed of pursuing a PhD, or several of them if opportunity presented itself.  My studies brought me to a class like none other, which treated upon my favorite subjects and at the head of which stood the most exquisitely brilliant professor I have ever had the privilege to know.  Though nearly as young as most of his pupils and in some cases much younger indeed, this doctor of English commanded the subject matter, the classroom, and it seemed each moment of our homework ridden lives with the ease of a true master of his art.  I knew at once that I would gain a great deal of knowledge from his lectures but I did not expect to learn even greater lessons with regard to him off of the academic stage.  

Women around me constantly buzzed with excitement at the sight of this almost GQ model instructor.  Finding myself married and morally clean, I kept my nose discretely in my books, basking in the language and reveling in the added knowledge I gleaned.  It hadn't occurred to me that this was precisely the kind of behavior that attracted the said professor's amorous attention.  Angry upon discovering that I wore a diamond ring of status, he kept a close watch and studied me as deftly as he often studied his books.  He found through observation several marital problems with which I strove and upon so doing, engaged in a full blown attack of romantic coaxing that haunted my steps continually.  Marital issues proving quite painful and the powerful wooing of this man overwhelming I found myself in the middle of an earth shattering but generally unspoken war.  I recall times when I felt so torn that I became something of a being walking through life in a dream of exhausted stress.  I recall praying continually for strength to do the right thing.  I recall the exertion of turning him down so drained me that at one point I left his office, found my way outside and to a bench, and promptly blacked out.  He became incensed when I continually rejected his attentions to the point that he sacrificed his own lecture time to point out quite eloquently before a captive audience of two hundred that a woman who rejects such a man on nothing save the grounds of moral decency proved not only wrong but absolutely "prudish, prudish, prudish!"  We rounded out our relations some years later, concluding, as best as we could, as friends and common pilgrims, struggling through life with a united appreciation of beauty and religion.  

We often look for justifications and excuses to betray our own consciences and trample upon the commandments of God.  We may tell ourselves that it proves too hard, it isn't worth the fight, and that human attraction stands paramount in importance, towering over trifling ideas like morality.  I cannot tell what might have happened had I given in to his beckoning but I can testify conclusively that I have never once regretted living a clean life before God.  I know for a fact that my life is better and more richly blessed than it would have been had I allowed him his way.  I know by experience that when a situation is harder than we can bear, our God will create miracles to help us withstand temptation.  When our hearts are aright and we are giving our all, He may not make it easy, but He will make it possible. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

That Moment When Youtube Freezes

Am I the only one who thoroughly dislikes singing in my car to Roar and just as Katy Perry is about to hit a truly magical pitch, the internet freezes?  Or that moment when you just want to get to your favorite video and there is, of course, an advertisement standing between you and fun?  Or maybe it's that moment when your breakfast needs to cook for two minutes in the microwave and you are already late that irks you the most?

Whatever the case, we all tend to hit that "moment" that, innocent of itself, tempts us to turn into fire breathing dragons, swearing that the powers that be in charge of Youtube did that on purpose just to be irritating.  Inwardly, we know it's not the case, but within that minute it feels as though life was just frustratingly and unnecessarily put on hold.  

I use such moments to remember the yogi in me.  This is just an exercise of patience that a loving God gave me because He wants what is best for me, I tell myself.  Breathe and enjoy the breath.  This is a gift in the middle of the day to come back to being, to give myself a moment to enjoy the silence (because we always mute the commercials) and think about having peace.  We can use this moment to plan out our day.  We can use this moment to be grateful for our breath, our heartbeat, and all those little blessings we tend to take for granted.  So the next time we come to a red light of any kind, but especially those little, annoying ones that seriously have no meaning and were placed there by the authors of Google just to make life difficult, we can choose to smile, look up, thank God for that moment to ourselves, and enjoy the breath.  

Wishing one and all a calm and peaceful Thanksgiving and December. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

How I Overcame Depression

I used to share this quite frequently when I first began blogging but it seems to have fallen through the cracks and as we enter the holiday season it seems appropriate for many reasons.  I recognize that many suffer from this ailment during this cheerful time of year and also in light of Thanksgiving, it seemed that sharing this remedy once again seems timely.

I grew up continually in a darkness and a low level misery, feeling rejected and abandoned in many directions.  Being somewhat a solitary person I did not end up seeing a psychologist and thus had to strive through finding a solution on my own.  Yes, I was suicidal at times and in hindsight I am exceptionally grateful to have been so because I have been able to help others facing the same kind of trouble.

I pass over the initial part of my healing, which began first with the very difficult decision to want to be happy.  This can prove frightening when depression is all you have known, but I promise you that you will not lose the strength you have found in yourself.  You will gain a greater one. Secondly, prayer in droves pushed me a little upward.  I recall spending hours one afternoon in prayer, tear streaked, and repeating the same few words again and again out in the mountains behind my home. 

But the main thing that kept me sustained in a generally happy state proved to be a practice I still often employ today, not because I am depressed, because I am not anymore, just but because I find no reason not to do so.  I began bringing a notebook to church and jotting down positive things I saw in others.  It may have been as frivolous as a cute outfit or it might have been a great comment in Sunday School, or what have you.  May it was just that a person over there looked depressed herself and needed reminding that she was a daughter of God.  I would come home with this list and leave it on my dresser.  Later, when depressive episodes hit in full fury, I would retrieve my list and also a stack of beautiful greeting cards I kept always in stock for that purpose and  begin to write.  I would express appreciation for each of these people.  I would tell them how I was touched by their thoughts, by how God loved all His children, which certainly included them, or how I absolutely loved the shoes they wore this last Sunday.  Sometimes the pain would continue and I would end up with a massive stack somewhere around midnight before I finally felt able to breathe and collapse into bed.  The next morning my mailbox would be filled to capacity with outgoing cheerfulness and gratitude.

Was it easy?  No.  Did it take years to stabilize the bouts of misery and sadness.  Absolutely.  But I haven't the faintest trace of it now.  Appreciating people has become part of my blood and it courses through my veins at all times. 

So now I leave a challenge for you, whether depressed or no.  We often think of sending Christmas cards but between now and Thursday I challenge thee, gentle reader, to send out 25 emails, texts, cards, or what you will to different people that begin with the words, "I appreciate you because...."  This may seem a bit strange and the like, especially for men, but you have my permission to change it about a little and send a text like, "Dude, I saw how nice you were to that wayward kid.  Good job, man."  But you get the idea.  And may all of us have a pleasant and truly cheerful Thanksgiving and December this year.  Okay.  Ready?  Three, two, one - go! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Man of the House

Let us review the mindsets we have adopted throughout history. First, nature urged humans to marry and breed to continue the species. Women became naturally attracted to strong men and masculinity craved to stand at the head of his tribe. This might have worked out perfectly well except for the fact that men and women prove quite imperfect. Men often employed their authority wrongfully, to abuse and degrade. Women became dissatisfied and eventually of necessity created the movement of women's rights. 

But then a horrible thing happened. Gender roles became confused. Women in their anger and frustration chose to prove that they could become more manly than men. Men were taught to become effeminate and more frequently gave up their duties as patriarch. Women felt they no longer needed men. Men felt worthless and stripped of the dominance they naturally craved. Before we knew it, men decided to marry homosexually and women did the same until the world spiraled into sheer madness. 

I know of a lady whose heart had been continually broken by romance and in her despair she felt led by God to focus on becoming powerfully feminine and to push away from relationships. Eventually she met a man who ached to marry her. He wanted to be her anchor, her stability and her strength but she was such a powerful, God fearing woman that spiritually at least he could not prove stronger than her. Some men might have given up. Others might have tried to abuse her and make her less than she was that they might be the macho, dominating man. He didn't. He prayed. He turned to God and through the power of the Lord became so powerful in his masculinity that she literally did not have power enough to turn him down. He proved able to be her big, strong protector because through God he attained enough strength to do so. Their relationship stands as a masterpiece of God's creation. Their physical relationship, for example, proves jaw droppingly amazing. He had to spend some time in prayer and meditation learning how God wanted him to treat His daughter and he had to break some bad habits but now he can have whatever he wants from her whenever he wants it. He trained his heart to only want that which was right. And he became so exquisitely...talented...that her favorite remedy for a headache is to get in bed with her man. She has no reason to turn him down because he makes it feel so amazing for her. He learned to balance male dominance with respect for femininity so brilliantly that there is absolutely no reason he should have her whenever he wants. Both of them take their own progression as a man and woman as a sacred duty. She has repeatedly made it clear that if he does not do what God wants his authority is over in a finger snap, and he, understanding that fact, works like a slave to be a good man. 

Is there a way to clarify gender roles in this wild, wicked world? Absolutely. But it won't come while women try to be men and men shirk their responsibilities. It will come when women love being feminine and men step up to the plate. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

You Aren't Grateful Until...

Some weeks ago I happened upon a delightful conversation with a lady who casually mentioned in passing that she enjoys this blog immensely.  I told her, as I have often had occasion to tell others, that I was touched by that and that I only know the number of hits on my posts.  I do not know who my readers are unless they tell me.  She looked taken aback with an expression that clearly read "She didn't know I was a fan?!?!?  How could she not have known that?!?!"

I have known situations in which a husband took his wife's sacrifices so much for granted that he engaged in abuse and infidelity in droves.  When finally she said that she was praying about divorce, he seemed shocked, dropped his bad habits and pleaded with the phrase "I don't want divorce!"  It was too late.  

I once had a relative who treated me horrendously thinking that I would always be as close to them and take their garbage as long as they decided to fling it at me.  They took no thought of expressing any kind of gratitude for the many favors I had bestowed, and as I try to be Christlike I took their behavior with grace.  Finally things necessarily came to a head and as I walked away, they turned panic stricken and spat out "I love you!" I turned and looked at this person with some pity and then said the only thing left to me.  "I don't believe you."  They might have tried to prove the truth of their statement and for a while I wished they would at least make the attempt but they never really did.  Things haven't been the same since.  

Thanksgiving is upcoming.  That is well, and I hope many will express then their appreciation of those around them.  Hopefully we will all express gratitude one to another.  But why do it only once a year, if at all?  Why don't we take opportunities to tell people that we love them and that we appreciate them?  What does it cost?  What would it hurt?  One wise LDS prophet said that feeling grateful to someone and not thanking them was like wrapping a beautiful present but not delivering it.  Are we really grateful if we do not take the trouble to tell the person of our gratitude?  I promise that rarely will an expression of gratitude injure a relationship (I have known of mentally ill people who took offense to expressions of gratitude).  And even more rarely will a relationship flourish and strengthen without it.  I would plead with you to express your love, your appreciation, your tender feelings now, before it becomes everlastingly too late.

Accidentally Sexy

Oops. I'm sorry - was that hot? 

We see great multitudes of women today desperately attempting to discover how little they can wear in public or how immodest they can behave everywhere they go in order to catch someone's attention.  We see women throwing away their self esteem, their natural femininity and their inner goddesses in order to chase after men and keep up with the continual sludge and filth of demoralizing pornography.  They end up with multiple broken relationships, low self esteems and in places no happy person would ever choose. 

All this misery, when the answer lies in two little words - accidentally sexy.

I have of late renewed my wardrobe.  Thrift stores can be magical places and I don 't believe in breaking my wallet in order to feed my creative genius.  Fate and God decided I should lean a bit toward the idea of a wardrobe rather sexier than my closet provided erstwhile involving (faux) furs, dangerously smooth and delicious blouses and the absolutely almighty pencil skirt.  All these clothes are things a good, upstanding Mormon lady can wear.  The blouses have sleeves with modest necklines, and the skirts touch my knees.  Beyond that, I make no promises.  My favorite shirt at present is of the sweet, light pink, touchable, silk little baby doll persuasion and I invested in a few leather, booty grabby, knee length pencil skirts.  They are form fitting; they feel delicious; they feed natural femininity, and are perfectly modest.  They give the impression of a woman who, instead of chasing after men in hysterical and frustrated desperation, can sit down quite comfortably with a good book while men murder each other for the chance to kneel at her feet.  It lends to the idea of "Yes, I am totally open to a great relationship, but catch me if you can, boy.  I'm not about to give away all this steamy sensuality to just anyone."  (Somehow, I just caught the vibe of several masculine mouths beginning to water - strange.) 

We have a bizarre conception that a morally upstanding girl has to be shy on the dance floor, personally unattractive, and talented only in baking cookies and bearing children.  Not so.  Don't get me wrong, my children are paramount in my life and I make a mean chocolate chip cookie.  But women of faith can also be downright sexy.  Not sexy in the typical worldly sense but in the sense that we are daughters of God and are perfectly at ease in being adored by men in general as we naturally go about our daily lives.  No chasing, no frustration, and no defeats.  Dressing in this sexy modest manner leaves the woman free to do whatever she feels like doing, whether it be professional, philanthropic, familial or what have you and when she glances around and finds men drooling unconscionably behind her pencil skirted back (as I have often found myself of late) she can look completely innocent as if to say, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I was just being myself.  I didn't mean to make you fall all over yourself and worship the ground on which I tread."  And smiling she turns back to her activity of choice and inwardly adds, "Yes, I did." 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mormonism and Homosexuality

It seems like a firestorm unleashed in social media pertaining to the idea of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints refusing to allow membership for children of homosexual couples.  I have not yet heard anyone on Facebook discuss this from the perspective of a faithful LDS member, so at least within my own circle I am honored to prove the first. 

I have long wondered and worried about the laws passed in this country regarding gay marriage and also the extreme narrow minded bigotry among many people who argue that we all must support and applaud homosexual marriage in a perfectly unanimous ovation.  We who support traditional marriage have been demonized continually for our religious beliefs and I at least have proven quite concerned about the country attempting to force me to accept homosexuals being sealed in holy temples.  Mormonism cannot allow this, or even come close and it has nothing to do whatsoever with hatred against gays.

We love people who have homosexual tendencies.  We appreciate them and we consider them children of God.  The Brethren in Salt Lake have said this from the pulpit repeatedly.  But Mormon doctrine stands thoroughly rooted in heterosexuality and much of what we believe of ourselves, of God, of our eternal destiny and within the temple pertains to the spiritual and eternal connection of man and woman in marriage.  The highest blessings we believe God can and will bestow is an eternal family, and man and woman creating a child is the greatest joy and responsibility of our eternal lives.  We believe that men are glorious in their masculinity and women are exquisitely crafted in their femininity.  We believe that a union between man and woman is sacred and what God intended for our progression and greatest happiness.  It would destroy the very foundations of what Mormonism is and what we believe to allow homosexual couples to be sealed together forever in temples.  Other religions may allow that, but by definition we simply cannot.  That does not mean we demonize gay people, but in order to enter a temple of God there are several moral requirements one must reach.  One cannot drink alcohol or even coffee and still enter the temple.  The bar is high and it will remain high in order to preserve the sacred nature of that holy edifice.   I cannot speak for the Brethren or for God in His clear inspiration to them but I can say that it makes me breathe more easily to know that the sanctity of marriage between man and woman will be more protected and held sacred within my faith.  We may experience hatred, threats, dislike and bigotry but that proves far better than sacrificing our consciences before God or casting away God's commands as we understand them in order to accommodate a very confused and sin ridden world. 

As I have read the many posts of friends pertaining to this idea I have noticed that the people lashing out against the Church are generally those who already had a grudge against it.  Most of these are people who were once LDS and have since wandered into other paths.  My heart goes out to these people.  I cannot help feeling sorry for someone who, once having left an organization, spends much of his or her time in seeking out things they would consider negative and heralding their extreme disgust.  Many of them are obsessed with destroying the Church.  I would ask, if the Church is so worthless and completely untrue, why spend energy in dwelling upon it?  And yet some I know simply cannot leave it alone.  Personally, if I do not like an organization I fling it aside and spend my time in things I love.  Life is too short for an intelligent person to voluntarily emerge him or herself in hatred like so many demons from hell.  In choosing to spend time appreciating beauty in the world one is happier.  And if the Church is so false what difference do new rules make anyway?  

Many supporters of traditional marriage seem worried that Satan is winning in the world today.  We Mormons will clearly be taking the brunt of whatever attacks may come and by our wounds will your rights to religion be more protected.  We are heading up this fight to support what we believe.  We are tough, we are unafraid and we are united.  And when this world falls into chaos and the devil seems rampant there will still be a haven of clarity within the walls of a Mormon temple.   

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Where Have All the Good Women Gone?

"Women today have become demonic.... They have no standards."
 
"A single woman who is attractive and also morally upstanding is almost impossible to find."
 
"These women at church were hitting on me too much.  I mean, they're GORGEOUS but all they want is my body."
 
"Women only want to have sex with me and then they ditch me."
 
"Secretly, men really want a woman they have to work hard to win over.  It makes them feel like they have won a prize.  I mean, women aren't a prize to be won, don't get me wrong, but..."
 
These statements were made to me in private conversations respectively by a philosopher, a psychiatrist, a super intelligent martial artist, a doctor, and an absolutely brilliant and very handsome businessman.  All are single men and all are having trouble finding a decent woman who has standards and behaves like a lady.  My heart aches for men in this situation and it is for their sakes primarily that I publicly extend these thoughts today.
 
Sisters, the time has clearly past when wearing a mini skirt will attract the man we want.  Indeed, most women strut down the street half naked and clamor loudly about their rights to walk about wearing precious little, declaring that whilst they do so men prove villains if they look upon scantily clad females as sex objects.  Quit lying to yourself, my dear women.  I am a woman too and a female sauntering down the street with underwear length shorts, spaghetti strap, midriff exposing half shirt and a push up bra does not dress that way in order to avoid masculine attention.  They may get some hoots and hollers, but at what cost?
 
Want to make yourself unforgettable?  Embrace high moral standards. 
 
You want to be that woman that stands above the rest and makes him want to chase you. You want to be the woman who inspires men to slay dragons for her.  You want to be the one that men remember years after she turns him down.  I have had some relationships with men in my younger years and though it did not work out, those to whom I was closest still tripped over their tongues when speaking to me years later, though two were married with kids and one had become a literary superstar, distinguishing himself from coast to coast.  They all wanted to go physically further with me than morality permitted and for that transgression I kicked them to the curb.  Such behavior, I believe, was what made me linger so much in their minds. 
 
Be different ladies.  Be better than average.  Stand your moral ground and stick to your guns in making a man say "I do" before he can get his hands all over you.  Other women may come and go in his mind, but you will be the image that continually haunts his desire ridden dreams.