Tag Archives: Religion

Courage at Twilight: Between Two Temples

   

Taylorsville Utah Temple

Church President Russell Nelson announced the construction of 17 new temples, from Montana to Texas, the Congo to Spain, New Zealand to Peru, bringing the total number of temples to 282 worldwide. I drive past two temples under construction every morning and afternoon, one near my home—the Taylorsville Temple—and one near my work an hour away—the Deseret Peak Temple.  While I could drive an alternate way, I feel drawn to the temple route, where twice a day I get to see the construction progress.  Through the winter, the crews completed the steel framing of the Taylorsville temple, and dressed the ribbed walls with foam-panel insulation.  Behind scaffolding, marble and granite slabs began to clad the ground floor, and just today enormous cranes lowered the steel-gray steeple.  In Tooele, the Deseret Peak temple shows only the steel-beam super-structure forming the ground floor, mid-section, and tower, the walls yet to be built.  These temples are sacred edifices to the Latter-day Saints, Houses of God.  There Church members learn about the purpose of life on earth and the possibility of eternal life with an omni-beneficent Father.  There we make covenants to be determined disciples of Jesus: chaste, sacrificing, kind, generous, and honest disciples.  And there we are “sealed” or joined to our families in eternal unbreakable familial links and bonds.  I look forward to seeing what the crews accomplish each day, and I rejoice in the progress toward the ultimate stunning exalting beauty of the final buildings.  I wondered aloud to my siblings about this fascination of mine, and realized that the slow incremental transition from the foundation cornerstone to the steeple capstone gives me hope, hope in the life process of slow and careful creation toward a perfect end.  Like the temples, I hope my character is being similarly dressed and shaped and polished.  I know this: as I age, every act of meanness and gossip and pride and stinginess brings me pain, and every instance of kindness and compassion and generosity and forgiveness brings me pleasure.  So it is that I joy in driving by these two temples, twice a day, knowing they will be finished and perfect, in time, and hoping the same for me.

   

Deseret Peak Temple in Tooele, Utah

 

(Photos from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Used under the Fair Use Doctrine.)

 

Courage at Twilight: “I Hate the Church”

For over a century, my Church has preached a ministering program called “home teaching,” where Church members, two by two, visit with assigned families to make sure their temporal and spiritual needs were being addressed. At the awkward age of 14, I was Dad’s home teaching companion, and he was the “bishop” or unpaid lay minister of our large congregation—he knew all the Church members and their many problems and hardships.  He saw on the records the name of a young woman he did not know, Continue reading

Courage at Twilight: The Good Sermon

Dad always has words of wisdom for me and for all his family: lots of words, and lots of wisdom.  When he says, “You know, Rog…” I know a sermon is coming, and I flinch and tighten and brace.  We are eternal beings of tremendous power.  We are not weak beings sent to earth to become powerful.  We are powerful beings sent to earth to learn humility and love.  Love is the greatest power in the universe.  By refusing earthly power and choosing kindness and humility and love, we demonstrate to God that we are worthy of the greater power he wants to give us in the eternities.  I have asked myself many times why I have this ungrateful selfish resistant reaction, when his words are so gentle and so profound and so true.  Yet, every time, I cringe.  God has given us the secret for knowing how to live in this mortality.  He has told us that we can put our trust in whatever leads us to do good, to be fair, to walk humbly.  Pursuing the spirit of goodness, we will find that God will share himself with us, will enlighten our minds, with strengthen our spirits, will fill us with hope and joy.  We can always trust impulses to do good.  I have been listening to Dad’s impromptu sermons for decades, and have been recoiling for just as long.  After a particularly good sermon to which I was particularly stiff, I doubled down to answer my own question.  And the answer came.  Putting my emotional walls up is a self-protection mechanism.  I do not need protection from the message or its delivery, for the messages are redeeming.  But I have discerned my problem: hearing Dad’s expositions hour upon hour, day after week, month after year, I often feel both tired and trapped.  Jesus said, “He that sent me is true.  I do nothing but what the Father has taught me.  I do always those things that please him.”  We can trust God the Father, for he is true.  We can trust Jesus the Beloved Son, for he does and says only what the Father instructs him to do.  I love the Father and the Son for being true and trustworthy and loving and good.  I love a good chocolate chip cookie, homemade, with butter, brown sugar, pecans, and Ghirardelli dark.  I can easily eat three or four or five, with ice cold milk, in one sitting.  In fact, just dispense with dinner and go right to the delectable dessert.  Dad’s teachings are similar to my cookies: rich, sweet, and satisfying.  But I am immersed in them constantly, whenever Dad and I are together.  Were I to forego dinner every evening, and be required to eat only the most delicious cookies instead, unable to seek other food, soon I would grow weary, reluctant, resisting, resentful, and even ill.  The analogy is imperfect, but simply put, I may have too much of a good thing.  Jesus knows us intimately and infinitely.  He ascended above all things.  He descended below all things.  He is in all things, and through all things, and round about all things.  This describes his atoning sacrifice, because of which he comprehends all things.  He knows us.  He is there for us, working within us, at every moment of our existence, wanting to bring us to him.  One day, Dad will be gone, his voice silenced but in my journals, where I have recorded his sermons and stories.  And my world will seem achingly empty and bereft.  I will miss his teaching above all things.  I think I’ll have another cookie.

(Image by pixel1 from Pixabay.)

Courage at Twilight: Prayers of the Innocent

As a boy, Dad’s mother Dora prayed with him every night, saying, “Bless the cost and worn.”  He thought it a good thing to ask God to bless the cost and worn, whoever they were—their situation sounded grim.  Sometime later, Dad asked her, “Mother, who are the cost and worn?”  She looked quizzical, confessing she did not know.  They thought and thought and repeated the phrase together numerous times, eventually realizing they had meant to be asking in prayer for those who had “cause to mourn.”  Of course, God knew their hearts, and what they meant to say, and who the cost and worn were—and doubtless He accepted their petition.  Again as a little boy, Dad was asked in his church primary class to offer a prayer.  He stood dutifully in front of the class and ventured, “Heavenly Father, help us to beat the Japs.”  While one would never refer to the noble Japanese people in that fashion today, eighty years ago, in 1942, that very prayer was on the lips and minds of tens of millions of people.  Even a seven-year-old boy felt the weight of the great conflict that was World War II, and asked his God to end it.  I have heard many testimonials from young children who prayed to find something they had lost, and immediately seeing in their mind, or feeling an impression about, where the lost thing was, and finding it precisely there.  I have felt tempted to pooh-pooh this puerile witness of the Divine.  But then I remember that God loves little children (and wants us older folks to be like them)—He wants to bless them, and appreciates their simple supplications as much or more than my own more complex concerns.  Children love and have faith and hope.  And what sweeter exercise of faith could one encounter than a small child turning to God in momentary distress.  An excellent pattern we would do well to emulate our whole life long.  The next time I lose my car keys, I will pray to God to help me find them.  Tonight, I will pray for the cost and worn.

(Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay)

Courage at Twilight: Tithes and Offerings

Tithing

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, said Yahweh to Israel.  Thousands of years later, paying one-tenth of one’s increase continues to be the standard in my Church, a law both temporal and spiritual.  Temporal to help the poor, and to build schools and churches and temples.  Spiritual to show faith and obedience, spiritual to turn outward to others, spiritual to be sanctified through sacrifice.  Tithing and other offerings are used for Church buildings and programs, for Church institutions of higher education and missionary work, to help the poor, and to provide humanitarian assistance worldwide.  Every December, members of our Church are invited to meet with the local church leader, the Bishop, for a Tithing Settlement, where we discuss in private our tithe-paying status.  Mom and Dad put their names on the sign-up sheet for after Sunday services.  I followed the unconventional step of asking if I could join in their appointment, though we tithe our incomes separately and privately.  The Bishop thanked us for our offerings and reiterated Jehovah’s promise that for those who give to the Church, God will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon us that we will not have room to receive.  Our vessels will be full to overflowing.  We consider ourselves greatly blessed.  And we are grateful.

 

(Photo from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Courage at Twilight: Recommended to the Temple

Salt Lake Temple

On a Sunday afternoon, I took Mom and Dad to see their church leaders to renew their temple recommends. This document allows them admittance to the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Church has 265 temples worldwide in operation or at some stage of construction.  They are magnificent buildings, and we consider them a House of God on earth.  Temples are not for regular weekly worship services, but for ceremonies in which we covenant with God to obey his commandments, to be moral and chaste, to contribute our time and means to the Church, and to love and serve one another.  We are instructed on the purpose of existence and the nature of God and his Son.  And couples are married and families sealed together not just until death but for eternity.   We change into white clothing as an aspirational symbol of purity and cleanliness, and of having left the world outside.  Mom and Dad do not visit the temples anymore due to age and infirmity, but visited temples monthly during the previous decades.  Even not attending, to them it is important to be worthy to attend.  So, they cheerfully waited in the church meetinghouse foyer for their interviews, making pleasant small talk with the other temple-goers.  I waited for them as they each had their turn, knowing the questions they would be asked, including: Do you have faith in God the Eternal Father and in his Son Jesus Christ?  Do you believe in Jesus and his role as your Savior and Redeemer?  Do you strive for moral cleanliness, and are you chaste?  Are you a tithe payer?  Do you abstain from consuming harmful substances?  Do you believe in the truthfulness of the Church, and support its Prophet and Apostles?  Are you honest in all that you do?  Mom and Dad each emerged from their brief interview with humble smiles, the smiles of peace from living lives of faith and good works.

 

Pictured above: Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah (where I live), dedicated in 1898.

Some Church temples around the world:

Washington D.C. Temple

Washington, D.C.

 

Laie Hawaii Temple

Hawaii, Laie

 

Hong Kong China Temple

Hong Kong

 

Accra Ghana Temple

Ghana, Accra

 

Lisbon Portugal Temple

Portugal, Lisbon

 

Oakland California Temple

California, Oakland

 

Sao Paulo Brazil Temple

Brazil, Sao Paulo

Courage at Twilight: In the Resurrection

Dad wants to be buried by his father, Owen. Owen died of heart disease at the age of 59, a sad separation of father and son.  Dad harbors a secure faith in the resurrection and afterlife.  He is not concerned with the mechanics of how our bodies will be rebuilt and immortalized—God knows how to work all that out.  In the next life, each person will receive the divine inheritance they craved and strove for during this mortality.  The character we forged here will be our character there.  How could it be any different?  Did we think we could spend our life injuring others and suddenly, in the next sphere, be transformed into benevolence?  No, the universe doesn’t work that way.  Dad shared with me that when he awakens in the resurrection, next to his father, who will likewise resurrect, he intends to exclaim, “Father!  I am so happy to see you!  I love you!”  And Owen will rejoin, “Son!  I am so pleased to see you!  I have missed you!  I love you!”  Now, that is a hope and faith I can subscribe to.

Courage at Twilight: Sacramental Emblems

Sunday church services focus on what we call “the sacrament” in my Church.  The sacrament consists of small pieces of bread and small cups of water, one of which we each eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus.  After Covid-19 forced churches to close, Church leaders authorized the men of the Church to use their priesthood authority to provide the sacrament at home to their families and others.  While the church buildings are again open for in-person attendance, Mom and Dad have been too weak to go.  How pleased and privileged I felt to use priesthood authority to prepare the bread and water, to kneel and offer the prescribed prayers, and to distribute the sacramental emblems to Mom and Dad.  After we partook, Mom looked up at me from her chair and said sweetly, “Thank you so much.  That was very special.”  As a threesome, we discussed how the sacrament serves several purposes.  We remember Jesus, his infinite loving sacrifice for us, and his ongoing atonement.  We covenant anew to obey God’s commandments, and to love and serve our neighbor.  We recommit to repent and to strive to be our best selves.  And we express our gratitude for our life and blessings.  After our intimate church service, we broke our fast and enjoyed leftover creamy vegetable soup and toasted ciabatta.

Prayer

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Prayer Rock by Laura Baker

Prayer has never come easy for me.  I avoid it, put it off, wander in my thoughts, cut it short.  Yet, I pray every day, because I have been told to, all my life.  It’s what I should do, they said.  I also pray because I want to believe that someone is listening and caring and responding.  But really I pray because I cannot deny a subtle, loving presence that abides and sustains when I am prayerful.  Prayerful through formal kneeling prayers as well as daily mindfulness.

For a family activity, we had each child choose a special rock from our faux riverbed, a rock to paint.  Laura (now 20) painted this rock when she was a young girl.  She gave it to me: a present for dad.  I keep it on my nightstand where I see it every morning and every night.  I call it my prayer rock.  I reminds me to bend my knee and bow my head, in humility, in gratitude, in desperate supplication, in recognition of the divine.

I offer to you two short poems on prayer.  Fitful, imperfect, but sincere prayer.

YES, I PRAY

Do you pray morning and night? they asked.

I wondered, Do I?

I pray all the day long.
My life is a prayer.
Living is a prayer–
a sacred expression of dreams, frustrations, loves, and straining efforts;
a reaching out to the One who can reveal the mysteries hidden deep within;
a cry of faith and despair, of struggle and the hope of victory;
an ever truer reconciliation of heaven and earth.

Yes, I pray.

ENDURING

Father–
I am here, and
I am listening.