Sunday, February 24, 2008

Their Own Sins

I have a friend who once belonged to a church which had two cemeteries--one for those who had been baptized, and one for everyone else.

My friend was serving as a secretary in the parish organization, and one day at a meeting the pastor mentioned the upcoming burial of a baby born to church members. The infant died without being baptized, and the pastor stated the baby could not be buried in the cemetery for the "saved."

Despite having been a member of this particular church her entire life, this woman was suddenly struck by the error of this practice. She spoke up: "That's wrong." Everyone turned to her, shocked at her outburst. When the minister remonstrated, citing the doctrine of original sin, she said, "I can't be part of a church that condemns innocent babies." And with that, she walked out, never to return.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--the Mormons--believe that men and women will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression. Further, the Book of Mormon teaches that little children are not capable of committing sin. They are beneficiaries of Christ's atonement, and to deny them that is to deny the mercies of Christ.

Anyone who has held a newborn infant; anyone who has spent any time with a little child; anyone who looks into the faces of such innocents knows in their heart that God is more merciful than to banish such from His presence for lack of baptism.

Back to my friend. After moving into a new neighborhood, she became friends with a neighbor who invited her to learn more about her church--the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My friend was leery, having heard dubious things about the "Mormons." But she agreed to be taught, and all hesitation vanished upon learning this critical doctrine: that we will be held accountable for our own sins, not for others' transgressions. That babies are not held accountable for the sins of their parents, however many generations away those parents may be.

That God is great, and kind, and good, and fair.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mother's Best Helper

Apologies for the tardy post. Our newly married Mormon son and his wonderful Mormon wife came to visit and we were busy having a warm, wonderful weekend with them. Which leads me into this week's post.

The sweetest experiences of my life have been those moments following the intensity of labor and delivery when the doctor placed in my arms our newest-born child. Nothing tops the awe, wonder and joy of that moment . . . unless it is seeing that child many years later, kneeling at the marriage altar in a holy temple, being united by sacred covenants to a worthy, wonderful spouse. Zeniths, these experiences.

As a Mormon parent, the road from labor room to celestial room could loom long and terrifying were it not for an incredible gift from our Heavenly Father.

In addition to our belief in God, our Eternal Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, Mormons believe in the Holy Ghost. Member of the three-person Godhead, the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, and when one is baptized and then confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a Mormon), one is given by priesthood power the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Let me tell you what this gift has meant to this Mormon mom.

In specific instances, the whisperings of the Spirit have given me insight into the motivations of a misbehaving child, and with that heaven-sent understanding I taught and trained him with greater patience and love. The Holy Ghost has enlightened my mind and answered questions as to the cause of a child's personal struggles. The Spirit has confirmed to me the correctness of a child's chosen path; has compelled me to correct a child going down a dangerous path; has helped me love a child when the child wasn't acting in a particularly loving way; has given me brief glimpses into the future experiences a child may have. The Holy Ghost has brought me comfort and hope that, if we parents and our children keep our covenants, we can be family forever.

I don't claim to be constantly guided by the Spirit, although I could be if I did a far better job of being worthy of that. However, my experiences with the Holy Ghost are marvelous testimony that our Heavenly Father loves us, His children, and has prepared a way to guide and direct us while we are temporarily separated from Him. If for no other reason, I would want to claim membership in the Mormon Church because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, available to all God's children who qualify for it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Confessing Christ

I hit high school at the tail-end of the hippie movement, which movement pervaded most things adolescent. Even religious teenagers had gotten into the culture, at least regarding appearance. I remember watching the local college's homecoming parade, one entry in which was the Campus Crusade for Christ. Dressed in sloppy bell-bottom jeans and ratty t-shirts, sporting long stringy hair and sandals, they carried posters and shouted slogans like "Honk if you love Jesus" and "Jesus Freaks and Proud of It." The whole thing bothered me. Something didn't jive.

I know, I know: there are those who would argue that the Savior too wore long hair and sandals. But I suspect there was a gravitas about him different from my parading pals' posture.

Today I see something of a resurgence in public proclamations via t-shirts, bumper stickers and Christian rock music regarding one's belief in Christ that again bothers me. I think it's because of what I, as a Mormon, have been taught to believe about who Jesus Christ really is. We can thank Heavenly Father for revealing through the Prophet Joseph Smith the correct nature of the Savior of the world.

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God. We believe that through Christ's great atoning sacrifice, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel. We believe that the Atonement provides a literal resurrection for all and empowers us to become what the Apostle Paul testified: "joint-heirs with Christ."

Jesus Christ is dignified. He is perfect and pure and holy. And while he loves us to unfathomable depth and degree, I believe that if given the opportunity to see him, we would not rush up to him and high-five, back-slap, chit-chat or even necessarily embrace him. His magnificence and power would instead cause us to drop to our knees and silently adore, while we waited for his invitation to come to him.

In my observation, those whose lives have been changed by the atoning power of Jesus Christ--be they Mormons or otherwise--behave with greater, not lesser, dignity and purity. The great change His power offers is a change to become MORE like him. Then we will find Christ-like ways to proclaim our belief and worship of him, ways infused with an element of the dignity and reverence He epitomizes and deserves.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Passing of a Prophet

One week ago tonight Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet, seer, revelator, and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) passed away at the age of 97.

A few nights later at a high school basketball game, a good friend of mine--Catholic, not Mormon--approached me to offer her condolences in the loss of our "president." Her wishes were genuine and I was touched her thoughtfulness. But her reference to President Hinckley as "your president" took be aback. He certainly was the president of the Mormon Church. But he was much, much more than that.

As far as I know, Mormons alone claim living prophets guiding their Church. Some find that odd, viewing prophets as some Old Testament fixture no longer needed by modern people. I find it incredibly comforting and fortifying, and I wonder why anyone would NOT want to be led by prophets.

The Book of Mormon writer Mormon describes prophets as "them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. . . [who] bear testimony of him [Christ]. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ."

My life has been shaped, guided, and blessed by prophets. Whether the prophets lived and ministered centuries ago, or walk among us today, their testimonies of Christ and his doctrines have made me a different person. As I have applied their counsel--whether as a wife and mother, a neighbor, or an individual daughter of God--I have become better. And that means that my own little corner of the world has been improved as well.

In a future day I hope to clasp hands with these great prophets--such as Moses, Enoch, Joseph, Nephi, Mormon, and Gordon B. Hinckley--and express to them my gratitude for their "strong faith and firm minds in every form of godliness." I'm not quite sure how I will verbalize that, but I sincerely want to do it.

And I will be eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for sending such prophet-men into my life.