In the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the Emperor is fooled by some charlatans into paying a lot of money for some invisible clothes. As he parades through the town in his underwear, the cowed crowds lining the street applaud and praise his marvelous new clothes. It is not until a boy yells out, “The Emperor has no clothes!”, that everyone finally acknowledges this truth.
I was reminded of this story when my wife, a Young Womens’ leader, related her latest Sunday experience. In the new youth curriculum, the June lessons are about the Priesthood. So, this week the Young Women’s president asked a couple of male leaders to come talk to all the girls about the Priesthood. Read More
One of the things I like most about Mormonism is the centrality of personal revelation, the idea that anyone can go to God and get answers. You don’t have to be in some high religious position for this to happen—God is no respecter of persons, and will talk to you directly. The narrative which has become the founding story of our faith is that of Joseph Smith reading in the Bible that he could ask God for wisdom, and taking that seriously enough to give it a try. Read More
A couple of months ago, my co-blogger Beatrice pointed out that lds.org applies handy topic labels to General Conference talks. I thought it might be fun to look through these to see which topics have been addressed most frequently in the last 40 years.
I first heard this story during my Jewish Studies coursework. I keep poking around trying to find the original since more than ten years have passed since that first hearing, but I have been unsuccessful. So here is the story, reconstructed from class notes and filtered through a decade of forgetfulness:
Once, shortly after the Second Temple was destroyed, a famous Rabbi told his students that he would be making the long journey from Yavne to Alexandria, Egypt, to meet with an important Gentile woman. His students loved him and could not bear to part with him, so they insisted upon accompanying him on the journey. Read More
For several years I have struggled mightily with the 10th commandment. Most of the others I can handle. The prime number commandments I’m especially good at, being a math major. Graven images hold little appeal (math majors aren’t artistic anyway), I try not to bow down much because it aggravates my recurrent sinusitis, my mom and dad are easy to please, and I’m too immature to commit anything that has the word adult in it. Read More
In Rabbinic tradition, Noah is considered the lesser – if not the least – of the Patriarchs. Unlike fathers Abraham and Jacob, Noah did not argue with God. When faced with God’s declaration of the impending destruction of all life through the Flood, Noah was obedient and preached to the people, warning them of the imminence of God’s wrath. But he did not, like Abraham when contemplating the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, attempt to persuade God to forgo such a drastic, horrific plan.
For the rabbis, then, part of righteousness comes from dialogue with God. Noah was righteous, yes. But the better part of valor – the proof of the truly great – is in challenging God; in wrestling like Jacob and the angel until we may claim our blessing (Genesis 32:24-32). Although we are to be obedient, we are not to be unquestioning. On the contrary, God wishes us to respond. No human question could upset the Divine; it is questions that bring us closer to Him. Read More
You can find the earlier posts in this series here, here, here, and here.
5) The Elders
I have no younger brothers. On my mission I came to feel a sense of siblingdom with a lot of the Elders in my different zones and districts – a feeling of occasional exasperation mixed with tenderness and deep affection, what I imagine I would feel toward my younger brothers if I had them. I loved those guys.
I served in the Provo MTC alongside an Elder from California. He and I were in each other’s district there and again after we moved to a smaller MTC in Latin America for our Spanish language training. Then, after we arrived at our mission country, we happened to be placed in the same district again. I will try to be careful in how much detail I give in this story because it is his and not mine.
Sometimes I dream that I’m watching a girl drown. The water is deep and dark, the current is strong yet gentle, almost caressing her. It seems to be a slow-motion drowning, lacking in drama and velocity. And I’m standing right there on the shore, waving my arms ineffectually as I look on in despair. I am useless. Sometimes it seems that she isn’t even trying to swim, and I become frustrated as she stops stroking and kicking, apparently consigned to letting the waves calmly wash over her and carry her out to sea. Read More
My wife’s life changed forever on a hot summer evening when she was 12 years old. Up until then she had lived a fairly sheltered life in a predominantly Mormon community in a cookie-cutter suburb in the Mountain West. This was a typical suburb–sprinklers greening up the lawns, bicycles in the driveway, the occasional cat or stray dog–no other wildlife to speak of.
On this evening, behind closed doors in his office at the ward building, the mild-mannered, middle-aged, soon-to-be excommunciated-for-adultery bishop, asked innocent little Lilian if she practiced bestiality. Read More