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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are Mormons Christians?

I have been having an interesting exchange with a board member from the Christian Family Schools homeschool support organization in our area.  I recently sent her a link to share with all members of the group about a quality Christian production, 17 Miracles, which offers valuable historical representation while promoting faith and Christian values.  I thought members of CFS would be thrilled to support clean, quality, faith-based, testimony-building entertainment!  Unfortunately, my e-mail never even made it to the greater group as a board member replied instead with the following:
Thank you for sending this opportunity.  However, because there are significant differences between the teachings of the Church of the Latter Day Saints [Liz's note: the proper name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] and those of Orthodox Christianity, the CFS Board does not wish to promote this movie to our families.
If you would like to know more about the doctrinal differences, you might want to look at the Westminster Shorter Catechism which was written in the 1600's and summarizes what traditional Christians believe.  Here is a link to it:http://www.ccel.org/creeds/westminster-shorter-cat.html 
You may also find the following link helpful:http://www.bible-truth.org/arelds.htm
While I did not necessarily find her links to be helpful (rather more . . . inaccurate), they were, nonetheless, interesting.  To be perfectly honest, I was filled with a deep and resounding sort of sadness reading the ignorant way Cooper P. Abrams portrays the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here is how I responded to the CFS board member:
Hi ------!
I'm sorry.  I hope I did not offend!  It was not my intent to promote The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but rather to share the trials that early pioneers (Mormon or otherwise) went through to cross the plains in extenuating circumstances and how they relied on their faith in God to maintain hope during said trials.  I know how much homeschooling families appreciate history that does not remove God's obvious part in our country's birth and development.  I have a lot of admiration for my wonderful friends of various Christian sects and try daily to emulate their marvelous conviction.  I am a huge fan of many Christian productions and even own Fireproof with plans to see and promote the new movie, Courage, which will be coming out this Fall.  I suppose I shared this news about 17 Miracles with CFS ----- in my hope that people would want to support quality, uplifting productions despite denomination.  I completely understand where you are coming from, though, and thank you for taking the time to let me know.
God bless, 
And then, because I couldn't get this exchange out of my mind, and because I couldn't live with myself if I didn't share what I know to be true, I sent this additional e-mail:
Hi ------!
I just finished reading the links you shared with me.  They were fascinating.  I was grateful for the opportunity to gain a better understanding of your religious beliefs and hope that you might return the favor by reading the following two links about mine:
Are Mormons Christians?
We Are Christians Because . . . 
Millions upon millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have gained a testimony of the fullness of the gospel of the Savior, Jesus Christ, as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith, by simply asking God for themselves whether or not it is true (James 1:5).  Conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not achieved through coercion.  I, myself, can attest to the wonderful testimony that arrives with a personal and humble, sincerely inquisitive encounter with our Heavenly Father.  It is thrilling and amazing and glorious to know that His truth, in its fullness, has been restored to the earth and that He continues to speak to His children through His apostles and prophets.  I cannot imagine a more hope-filled gospel than that offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my heart yearns for others (everyone!) to know this same joy for themselves.
I pray for your life to be filled with peace and happiness.
Humbly and respectfully, 
I think about this woman a lot lately and pray for her even more than that.  I am concerned that there are still people in this world who are willing to allow their convictions and opinions to be shaped by those in positions of influence who, instead of preaching the hope-filled gospel of Jesus Christ, spend their time rebuking those who are earnestly and honestly striving to live it.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers a FULLNESS of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  Joseph Smith didn't take anything away, or even add anything of his own accord, for that matter; he simply restored the truths the Lord commanded be restored to the earth for our dispensation and then received further revelation from our loving Heavenly Father, commandments to guide us through the trials and temptations specific to our day.  And what wonderful truths these are!  I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to believe this stuff.  It's pure gold!  Furthermore, people don't need their preachers, pastors, fathers, and priests to tell them whether or not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, the invitation to certain knowledge has been issued by the Lord himself through His ancient prophet James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).

If you want to know what I (and millions of other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe is true, JUST ASK GOD!  It's that simple.  Really.  I promise.  I did it.  And I gained a conviction that every son and daughter of our Heavenly Father longs to attain and maintain.  My knowledge of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ carries me through every drudgery, tedium, trial, tribulation, and tragedy this world throws at me, lending personal growth and happiness to life's oft-times overwhelming lessons.  Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to restore His truth to the earth after many centuries of light and knowledge lost following the deaths of Jesus and His apostles.
"We believe that revelation to the early Church stopped because of the death of the Apostles and the growing apostasy, or falling away, from the truth. In the absence of Apostles, the church eventually turned to councils of philosophers and theologians, for guidance. These councils, after lengthy debates, in turn interpreted the gospel according to their best understanding. Often they drew upon the philosophies of respected men (like Plato), concluding, for example, that God has no body or physical nature; or that the three separate persons of the Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—are only one being. The declarations of these councils are still generally accepted today by traditional Christian churches as official doctrines. Yet these creeds were formulated centuries after the deaths of the Apostles and the close of the New Testament" (Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians?, New Era, May 1998).
I wish I could shout from the rooftops that I have in my possession the greatest truth restored to man in this dispensation of time!  What a glorious gift the Lord has given us in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

Monday, July 25, 2011


It's humid today and the heavy air is not only dense with moisture but also with the acrid smell of burning. I hope whatever is on fire is not close to us, or spreading.  Grandma and Grandpa are in the backyard heat, presumably constructing a fort, but more accurately building a legacy.  They are wonderful, wonderful people.  The best sort, really.  Buddha is humming on a little, blue harmonica.  If I close my eyes, I can almost picture him in overalls and a straw hat, surrounded by fields of wheat grass and closely followed by a beloved dog with tongue lolling and sides heaving in the heat. Bugga's busy little fingers are checking out everything they've been admonished to stay away from, no doubt. And Pip is sleeping blissfully beneath a blasting stream of cool air provided by the hurricane-strength ceiling fan above his bed.

Yesterday was Pioneer Day, the day members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate the entrance of the first Mormon Pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. In honor of Pioneer Day, the boys and I made covered wagons and listened to pioneer songs from The Children's Songbook. We also watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration and remembered Legacy, which we had watched some weeks ago. Before going to bed, I pulled out the July 2011 issue of the Ensign, an LDS Church magazine. In it, there is a wonderful article entitled "Faith to Answer the Call" by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I loved reading the stories Elder Holland shared of pioneers who were called to settle wastelands and their faith in accepting such calls. My favorite quote from the article reads as follows:

"The fundamental driving force in these stories is faith - rock-ribbed, furnace-refined, event-filled, spiritually girded faith that this is the very Church and kingdom of God and that when you are called, you go."

He closes with these words of wisdom and counsel:

"We must have faith in this work - faith in what all believers are called to do, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Father in Heaven. We need to conform our will to Theirs and then make that will rock-ribbed and pioneer strong indeed."

And then follows the promise:

"If we do that, I know we will be safe and secure in the inexorable onward movement of the Church and kingdom of God on earth."

Safe and secure.  Now that sounds like something I could definitely wrap my hopes around.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no . . . .

I am one of the first people who will heartily cheer, shout out a "Hail Mary," sing "hallelujah," and echo an "AMEN, sista," when someone can appropriately use the word "no" with their children. I have strong feelings about that word. I don't believe, as some do, that it's destructive, demeaning, and crippling to tell your child "no." I don't believe it's inherently negative. I don't believe I'm going to forever "mess up" my child if I tell him "no." I just don't believe it. Not for a second.

If Pip goes for the electrical outlet, what am I going to say in that split second I have to react before he's fried to a crisp? "Uh, honey? Honey? Baby boy? Here, baby, let's set you up over here with your favorite book instead."


{See? There. I used it.}

No. That is not what I would say with precious little time left to save my baby from imminent disaster. Instead, I'm going to appropriately BELLOW the word "NOOOOOO!" That will startle him, stop him in his tracks, and buy me enough time to rescue him.

"No" is a powerful word. It can be a life-saving word.

BUT . . . .

"No" has a time and a place.  "No" can become a very tired (and tiring) word.  "No" can lose it's power quickly. And "no" can be stiflingly restrictive and inhibitive.

Broken record, anyone?

For examples of this constricting, hyper-utilization of the word "no," let me share our recent experiences over at the high school swimming pool.  A couple of weeks ago, we purchased a family pass to the swimming pool that will last us for the summer.  The hours aren't ideal (M-F 12:00 - 2:30pm, Sat 1:00 - 6:00pm), but we figured they would suffice and we'd be able to get our boys in the water enough to make the purchase worthwhile.  For the first weekday visit, I would be flying solo with my three boys, two of whom are beginner swimmers, the third being my baby.  I packed up my wagon and made sure I had the usual suspects: towels, sunscreen, water, swim trunks, float for the baby, etc.  Once prepared, we drove the 60 seconds it takes us to get to the high school from our house. We walked out onto the pool deck after spraying ourselves up and down with sunscreen, grabbed the baby float, and high-tailed it to the water.

We didn't make it.

We were waylaid.

And reprimanded.

Why, you ask?

Because flotation devices aren't allowed.


Not even for babies.

I lost it.  I mean, I really did.  It's not easy to execute that type of preparation (herding cats?) only to be so summarily dismissed.  I gave that little, teenage lifeguard a piece of my mind about how the heck I was supposed to swim by myself with two beginners and one baby.  I griped about how it would have been nice to know this little informational gem before purchasing an entire summer pass. I groused about wanting a refund.

I have to give that little, teenage lifeguard credit.

She listened to my complaints and calmly pointed me to the office of the pool director and encouraged me to take it up with him.

Enter Dean.

I marched over there and gave Dean the same piece of my mind that I gave the little, teenage lifeguard.  I told him I wanted a refund.  I asked him why they have such a ridiculous rule and he responded that they aren't fans of flotation devices because they believe kids become dependent on them and can't learn to swim properly later on.  I pointed at Pip with my mouth open and reminded the guy that we were talking about a one-year-old here and shouldn't parents be the judge of this?  He just shrugged and asked if it would solve my problem to put one of his staff members in the water with us.  At this, I calmed myself down and thanked him kindly, but declined the invitation.  I told him I'd try it out one day by myself.  Despite my reserve, he had one of his lifeguards move down to the end of the pool where we were trying to make do with two arms and three boys.

In the end, it went okay.  (In fact, the circumstances even forced Bugga to learn to jump off the side of the pool, turn around and swim back instead of jumping to me and having me push him back.  I was glad for that.)

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it.

The "no's," I mean.

Today we decided to forgive and forget.  Today we made another go.  Today we took ourselves to the pool, arriving with a magnanimous determination to exercise a certain benefit-of-the-doubt.  Today was a new day.

A new day replete with a plethora of new (and equally ridiculous) "no's," that is.


So here's how it went down . . . .

Buddha was jumping into the pool from a couple of steps back from the side.  The lifeguard told him not to run and jump in.  I reminded him to respect his elders and please obey the rules (even though he wasn't really running).

Then Buddha was entertaining his wild side by doing corkscrew jumps into the water, only to come up with a lifeguard telling him a horror story about a kid hitting his head on the bottom of the pool and to be careful.
Then the boys wanted to play around the ramp that provides handicap access to the water.  I told them to just stay out of the way of the private swim lessons and they'd be fine.  Apparently, I was wrong, because no sooner had they arrived at the ramp then two lifeguards and the private swim instructor were on them like fruit flies on ripe bananas, hollering at them that the handicap ramp wasn't a play place, yadda, yadda, yadda.  The problem is, I've been to the pool before and noticed several children playing on the ramp without one word of reprimand.  The other problem I have with this is that I have never once seen a handicapped person using the ramp.  Not once.  And if there was one, I'm pretty sure I could remove my children before the handicapped person would be entering the water.  Surely they wouldn't roll onto the pool deck, over to the ramp, and, without pause, give the wheelchair a mighty shove into the water.  If such were the case, then I can admit there would be problems with my kids being in the way.  At any rate, I calmly asked my boys to, once again, respect their elders and the rules of the institution and remove themselves from the premises of the ramp.  So, they obeyed, though somewhat bewildered, and we situated ourselves on the steps.

The boys scouted out some kick boards and commenced playing at swimming pool boogie boarding. Not five minutes later, another lifeguard gets up, approaches, squats, and tells me that they had just made a rule that the public was not to use the kick boards!  WHAT ON EARTH?!  Seriously?  So, her declaration begged the obvious question and I, being rather exasperated by now, abandoned my formerly compassionate benefit-of-the-doubt demeanor, and asked it directly, "why?"  Her response, "Oh, a little girl shoved one down into the water and it shot out into her face and broke her nose."  Oh my land.  Come on!  I am sorry for that girl, but for goodness sake why are we penalizing everyone else for her unfortunate accident?!  Kids will be kids. Accidents happen.  Broken arms, legs, noses.  I have this eerie inkling that pretty soon they'll be telling us we can't use flippers and goggles, plug our noses, or open our eyes under water, because heaven forbid the pool be blamed for decompression sickness, sinus infections, or bloodshot eyes!  Upon relating today's events to The Chief, he asked, "So if someone drowns, will they close the pool?  Will they tell everyone else that because someone has drowned, no one can swim?"


No, no, no, no, no.  I've had it up to here with NO.

I want my money back.

And I want my own swimming pool, complete with a conspicuous lack of oppressive nit-picking.

Oh, and while I'm kitchen sinking, I'd also like a whole slew of trees with lower limbs still attached because FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, CAN WE PLEASE LET KIDS BE KIDS?!