Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faith and Death

A close relative of mine is dying of cancer: sent home from the hospital on hospice. I was talking with him the other day and he tells me he thinks God is healing him. "I've felt better the past few days," he says. "And, I've cut out tortilla chips and some other bad things from my diet." God and diet are doing the trick.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine died of Lou Gehrig's disease. Same thing, "I think I'm going pull through this," he told me. His twin brother had died of the same condition a year previously. He died a few months later. He was a great guy. Great guy.

I believe God heals people. I hope God heals people. I know doctors and drugs heal people. I use "believe," "hope," and "know" purposefully.

One time, I'd been hiking all day with a group of about 10 other people. Around dinner time, we said a prayer and asked for strength. While the prayer was happening, I felt something in my legs. I kept going for another 5 hours and had energy that really surprised me. I've hiked a lot. I know what it feels like to be tired. I know I had energy on a level different from other hikes. I believe God had something to do with that. I share this story because I have personal experience leading me to believe God can make adjustments to my body. I assume he can to other people as well. : )

Anyway, my relative is going to die, of this cancer, in the next few months. He's not going to be healed. I believe God could, if He wanted, heal him. He's not going to. Maybe it's comforting for my relative to believe this. OK. I guess he's allowed it. And, if it helps; who hasn't found comfort in a bit of irrationality at one point or another.

I don't think it's faith though. I think maybe it's hope. Faith, as I define it, has some condition of being in alignment with God's will. If God's will isn't there, it might fall under an expansive definition of "hope." You can hope for things that aren't true. I wonder if Christians sometimes do their faith a disservice by conflating this "hope" with "faith." Non-Christians might think "faith" is silly because it's so often in things that aren't true. If you, instead say, "I have hope God will heal me," maybe that's more accurate.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The view from just ahead...

Hiked to the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong today. Love that hike. On the way down, not too far from the top, I was walking down a windy two-way road. I came across a traffic accident within a couple of minutes after it happened. It was serious enough that the airbags deployed in both cars, one car was certainly disabled, the other maybe could be moved, but not driven. I snapped a photo and continued on my way. Within 80 yards of passing the accident, I was passing cars queued - the drivers had no idea what the problem was ahead ( couldn't see the accident - curves with lots of trees). As I passed cars, about 2 of 3 would roll down their window and ask what was the problem. "Head-on crash, cars not drivable, note how many yards ahead." Many drivers, immediately executed a 5 - 7 point turn (narrow road remember) and headed down the road.

This went on for at least a kilometer. After that, people stopped asking. Enough people were turning around (and maybe they moved one of the cars) that there was enough forward motion, that they didn't feel a need to ask.

This experience got me thinking about a few things.

First, my words (for those closest the the wreck, the ones not moving at all) helped them make a decision. Some chose to stay and wait, others chose to turn around. The additional information was sufficient for some to execute on that decision.

Next, for those making some progress (around 1 km from the accident and further), there were none interested in asking my perspective. Nothing was different except that they were making some progress. Since they were't stopped, it wasn't worth the effort for them to ask me.

Next, no one, not even those completely stopped, just 100 yards from the accident, made any sort of effort to gather any additional information. Now, for cars where there was just one driver, that'd be difficult - you don't know when the traffic will move again and it's not a good idea to abandon your car. However, for those cars where there was more than one person, it would have been easy to send them on ahead to get more information. No one did.

I started to think about this in more of a religious context.

For a few hundred meters, I was Moses coming down from the mountain. No one was willing to come up, but they were all interested in talking to me on my way down. Just the limited, but very important information I had, helped people make decisions. I suppose, the analogy to Moses had some traction. It also helps explain a couple of things about my religious tradition: the LDS faith. Joseph Smith claimed to have gone to the mountain (figuratively). He claimed to have talked with God. I understand, just a bit better today, what that means.

Unfortunately, my experience also helps me understand part of what's wrong with the LDS faith today. The leaders aren't going to the mountain. They are no different from the people sitting in the cars. They have no idea what's ahead. Sure, they say nice things, some are pretty good speakers, but they haven't been to the mountain. I understand better why LDS Church members are interested in people like Denver Snuffer. Denver claims to have been to the mountain. The current LDS leadership talk in vague generalities.

BTW, the view from the top is incredible.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


This year, in the LDS curriculum, we "study" the Book of Mormon. (Of the eight opportunities we have in a four-year cycle (4 in Sunday school and 4 in Priesthood) we dedicate one to the Book of Mormon.) This past week, we read the first few chapters of 1 Nephi.

If Lehi were to show up amongst the LDS Church today, the Church would treat him just the same way the Jews treated Lehi. Allow me to elaborate.

You don't have many people called Lehi today. So imagine our protagonist is named, say, Brian. One day, Brian has a vision. In that vision, he learns that if the people don't repent, they will be destroyed. In Sunday school the following week, he says so. "If you don't repent, you're going to be destroyed," he says. The following Sunday in Fast and Testimony meeting, he says the same thing. And, for good measure, he posts a like message in Facebook and on his blog. After all, in his vision, he was told to warn the people.

Next thing he knows, he's called into the bishop's office. The bishop reminds him that he can't receive revelation for the ward, the Church, or really anyone but himself and his family. The bishop lovingly tells him to stop with his repentance message. Brian tells the bishop he's been charged to preach repentance by a higher authority than him, and vows to continue.

The bishop reports this to the Stake President. The SP calls Brian in for a meeting. In the intervening Sunday, Brian preaches repentance again in Sunday school. This time, the member who had been whispering things under their breath, now are a bit more vocal with some "sit down and shut ups" heard. The Relief Society gossip network has kicked into high gear with damaging stories about Brian. The stories are full of sorrow toward Brian's wife and how much she must be suffering because of Brian's actions.

The meeting between Brian and the SP goes much the same way as the meeting with the bishop. Only this time, Brian is told that he is committing apostasy. Brian, amazed, asks how this is so? The SP tells him that by continuing to tell people (and their leaders) to repent, now that he's been counseled not to, he's "committing" apostasy. Brian tells the SP he will continue to fulfill the responsibility given to him in his vision.

The following Thursday (4 days later - these happen very quickly), Brian is excommunicated from the LDS Church for apostasy. Brian, however, is not deterred. He continues to show up on Sunday and preach repentance. By now, the calls to "sit down and shut up" are vocal. Jeff's kids are having troubles with their peers in Sunday school and the Relief Society gossip network has gone from being sorrowful for Brian's wife to pointing out some of Brian's wife's flaws and maybe she is somewhat responsible for this - wasn't she always just a little bit strange. One sister observes that this Brian and his family were always a bit unstable and, doesn't he own a gun.

Later this week, Brian get's a letter from the LDS Church law firm. The letter tells Brian if he steps foot on LDS property anywhere in the world, he'll be charged with trespassing.

I'll stop the story there. I'll leave it to you to ponder what would happen if Brian continued to preach repentance to his local congregation. What if Brian lived in an area with a high concentration of LDS people? How would Brian's kids do in school?

Yeah, it shouldn't be too hard to relate to Lehi's experience. Want to amp it up a bit. What if Lehi had been specific in his calls to repentance? What if he named names. If he noted that the Sunday School teacher lived and immodest lifestyle. What if he called out Andrew's exceeding pride? Oh, how we'd get rid of Lehi.