church talk - july 25, 2010

Now and again people ask me, "So, you're a Mormon?"  I answer, "Yes, but I'm different than Most Mormons; Most Mormons don't go to church regularly, they drink coffee, tea, beer and stuff; Most Mormons don't pay tithing; Most Mormons don't abstain before marriage, Most Mormons don't go on missions; Most Mormons cuss freely. If you look close you'll see there's very little difference between Most Mormons and regular people in our society"  At this point the person I am speaking is a bit bewildered, until I explain, "No, I'm not like Most Mormons, I'm a devout Mormon---the small minority of Mormons (I'm one of the 3-4 million Mormons, out of the total 13.5 million, who are actually Devout Mormons."  So, I am one of those Mormons you probably hear about that don't drink, don't smoke, etc.  As a Devout Mormon I have much more in common with the Devout Catholics, Devout Baptists and other Devout Religionists, than I do with Most Mormons.

But being a devout Mormon does not save me...Jesus Christ's atonement saves me.  For all I know, Most Mormons may fair better at the judgement day that I will.  Because I believe Jesus will judge us on tragectory...not how far we made it in life (how high we are up the mountain of righteous behavior), but by our hearts in relation to our light and knoweldge....

Our issues will count

Part one (I have issues)

I have issues.  Big issues.  

But you know what?  Y

ou have issues too.  Big issues.  

I don't know what your big issues are---ok, for some of you it's pretty obvious---but I am not focused on your motes today, I am focused on the beam that is in my own eye....the one that the great physician Lord God is helping me remove, inch by inch.

Even if I don't know WHAT your BiG Issues are...I can tell you where your and my big issues come from.

There are basically two theories on the origins of issues.

The first theory,  the BIG BANG theory of issues, argues issues are the unfortunate result of a series of random events. In the Big Bang theory, the big issues we are stuck with are happenstance, mere artifacts of mundane circumstances of life on earth.  

This theory is seems pretty persuasive, and is easy to believe, when issues in our lives are in play

banging up our toes, our egos, ruining our best-laid plans, our relationships, or whatever other havoc is being stirred up by them.  

In truth, as life rolls along, especially in moments under pressure I find myself surrendering to this Big Bang Theory of issues: thinking that I am just flawed, my relationships are flawed, etc.

But I know better.  Because I believe strongest in a second theory.  The Intelligent Design Theory of Issues.  This theory is expressed in

Ether 12:27 - And if men come unto me I will show unto them they have ISSUES. I give men ISSUES that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make their ISSUES become strengths.

Ex. 4: 11 And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?

1 Cor. 1: 27 (26-31) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

My favorite is 2 Cor. 12, where Paul relates what the Lord said: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

I want to learn  like our brother Paul did, to "glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest on me."

May that spirit now rest on me as I give you  PART 2 of my talk.

Part two (My big issue, not alone)

The scriptures say that the Spirit giveth utterance to the groanings within us.  My whole life there has been a groaning inside a nawing hunger or sliver...or such.  A few years ago, this  groaning  inside me, got loud, big time.

It was the issue God put inside me.  Here is what I wrote in my journal about it:

"One day, not too long ago, right out of the blue, I turned to my wife and said, "You know what, I find church boring...and come to think of it, I always have." My words surprised both she and I, partly because of their implication; but mostly because they were heartfelt. "

I sometimes call it my midlife a youth I was always wondered if I was going to have a midlife crisis.  The pain of going to church had finally humbled me.  I had finally hu

When I was a child....understand spake...put away.

My wife...

I'm not alone.

4 ways we can deal with our big issues: away/highway, against you/myway, against myself/yourwayconform, toward/with new way (negotiate...learn to find greater expression of self)

I tried all 4 ways (and I still do)

Part three (the fruit, new beliefs)

Since that day I have been consciously seeking ways to make church less boring and more tolerable for me. 

MEDIUM: I go to church for the same reason I do lots of things that are boring, uncomfortable and demanding: I believe God wants me to. When I say that ‘church is boring’ I am not being precise. Not every aspect of church is boring. I enjoy the friends I see at church. I enjoy singing some of the hymns. I like being with family. I have fond childhood memories of sitting with my father holding his hands at church. My mom would rub my back and make the time more bearable. Perhaps most importantly I have had many joyful and extremely important spiritual moments at church, times when I have felt God’s Spirit comfort me and testify to me good things that I can believe.

HIGH: For example, most recently Father in heaven answered my prayers by showing me a powerful way to find more glory at church. He asked me do something small and simple. He led me to ponder on the many opportunities that I have forgone in favor of attending church. Then He prompted me to calculate how many hours I have spent at church and in church-related activities. I was amazed! My conservative estimate is that I have spent 7,332 hours so far.....I will have 12,058 (males, lds 77.3) (pity lds females, age 82).

The Lord now instructs me to confess that which I have sacrificed in His holy name. He wants me to be specific in naming things that I could have achieved (especially those things that would delight me and bring accolades from my society) had I not chosen the ‘better part.’ This reverse testimony reveals (implies) the glory that is (must be) hidden at church.
Here is my testimony, here is my witness.
• I believe that had I chosen to practice music instead of going to church, I could at this very moment sing, play the piano, guitar and drums at a level of expertise that would approximate the skill level of some of my favorite rock stars and performers. I confess too that on almost any Sunday I would have had more fun and found more societal approval by gaining such music skills.
• I testify that I could have spent more time with my children (playing ball, swimming, camping, hanging-out) instead of going to church.
• I could have spent more time with my spouse than I have, dating, playing, reading good books together, working on our relationship, etc.
• I could have earned close to $100,000 - - working at minimum wage; or, more likely, about a quarter million dollars working at U.S. average wage, given my education level

Add church blessings here....

• More to come…

Abstract This paper compares life expectancy between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons) and non-LDS in Utah. It examines the extent to which tobacco-related deaths explain variation in life expectancy between LDS and non-LDS. Complete life table estimates were derived using conventional methods and cross-sectional data for white males and females from 1994-1998. Life expectancy was 77.3 for LDS males, 70.0 for non-LDS males, 82.2 for LDS females, and 76.4 for non-LDS females. For those alive at age 80, the remaining years of life expected were 8.2 for LDS males, 6.5 for non-LDS males, 10.3 for LDS females, and 7.1 for non-LDS females. Years of life expected increased more so among non-LDS after we removed deaths associated with tobacco use from the life table. A comparison between LDS and non-LDS of the adjusted life expectancy estimates indicates that although differential tobacco use explains some of the higher life expectancy in LDS, it only accounts for about 1.5 years of the 7.3 year difference for males and 1.2 years of the 5.8 year difference for females. Higher life expectancy experienced among LDS not explained by tobacco-related deaths may be due to factors associated with religious activity in general, such as better physical health, better social support, and healthier lifestyle behaviors. Religious activity may also have an independent protective effect against mortality.
Author's affiliation