There has been some discussion lately in the social media circles that I follow about building bridges. These are bridges that would help bridge the gaps between “free range” Mormons (that’s such a great name, Charlotte) and traditional Mormons, and between Mormons and Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical Christians. I don’t think it’s an accident that such discussions are taking place. I think it’s a natural progression. At first, there was mourning. Now, perhaps, the time has come for healing.
Today was my last day of work. I’m not sure how this is supposed to affect me. I’m sure it will sink in as the days go by. Will there be mourning?
At my last customer assignment, there was a lady (and I do mean “lady”) who was born in Ghana (West Africa) who just shines. She’s very sweet and “bright”, and we made a connection right away. When I told her about my impending “retirement” and subsequent adventure, she started asking questions. Ultimately, she said she’d like to read my blog. Well, I couldn’t just spring all that on her without at least some sort of an explanation as to the paradigm from which I write, so I felt to offer a more in-depth introduction. The following letter was the result. After I wrote it, I realized that this was my first attempt to put the afore-mentioned spirit of healing into action. Therefore I share it. I hope and pray there will be many more letters like this – letters of explanation, understanding, and invitation that will flow between people who choose to love Christ and/or to love and respect each other in spite of their differences.
Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. Everyone in the world wants to feel special, and you have a knack for making others feel special. That’s a talent that I, also, seek to nurture.
Per your request, I’m going to share several of my blog posts below, but before you read them, I should provide a little context:
I’m very “Mormon” – even though I’ve left the LDS church. Why do I say this? Because almost all of my writing, and the motivation behind what I’m doing after I retire, has to do with my religion – which boils down to a powerful belief in, and desire to become one with, Christ.
How are Mormons different from other “faiths”? Well, besides the culture and jargon that are immediately recognizable to most Mormons, (but which will likely be misunderstood by most everybody else), theologically we believe that the world has been given scripture other than the Bible – namely the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. I firmly believe that these writings are the word of God and therefore scriptural. I give them the place of scripture in my life. They witness mightily of Christ, but they are not just duplicates of the Bible. If they were a duplication of the Bible, there would be no need for them. Some may say that they contradict the Bible. I have not found that to be the case at all. Since they’re not a duplication, and if they don’t contradict, that implies that they supplement the Bible, and that, in turn, implies that they teach things about God and Christ and their relationship with man that may not be readily discerned by reading the Bible alone. In other words, they expound and expand on doctrines that are perhaps less clear in the Bible than they are in these other scriptures.
One of those doctrines has to do with Zion. The bible talks about Zion a lot, but few understand what Zion really is. Most people think that Zion refers to Jerusalem. Although the Lord attempted many times to establish Zion “in the tops of the mountains”, mostly with the Israelites and later the Jews, they always rebelled and tried to do things their own way – so Zion was never established. Well, actually, that’s not true. These other scriptures – the Mormon canon – make it clear that Zion was established at least once – and that by a descendant of Adam named Enoch – who is mentioned fleetingly in the book of Genesis, chapter 5. The “Zion”, or city, that he established was actually taken by the Lord into the heavens. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Crazy, I know – but I believe that somehow this actually happened.
So – what IS Zion? Zion is a society where all things are had in common, and the inhabitants are “pure in heart” (think about what that really means for a minute), with no guile, no jealousies, no fears. I am including a talk I gave last spring that addresses this. Utopia is probably a word that would give you an idea of what I mean by Zion, but Zion is really much more than that. Furthermore – the post below about sacrifice suggests that anything we depend on other than Christ (consider the lilies) prevents us from becoming one with Him. I personally believe that in Zion we will not be dependent upon anything but Him.
I further believe that Zion is at the heart of the entire history of the relationship between God and Man – from Adam and Eve to the present day. If you read the Bible in this context, the doctrine fairly leaps from the pages. The Lord has essentially kept saying, “This is what I created you for – try it, you’ll like it“, but we keep saying, “But it won’t work” and we turn our collective backs on Him. This rebellion is the result of our unbelief – our lack of faith. The Bible calls this having “stiff necks”. Isaiah is especially good at describing how this dynamic affects, even to this day, the man-God relationship.
I believe Zion can work. I believe it MUST work, before Christ will return to this earth, because He must have a place to come to, and He cannot come to the world as it is. It will take extraordinary effort – humility, charity, faith, trust, righteousness, purity, virtue – all the great virtues from 2 Peter 1:5-7. I further believe that He will call people to build Zion in these last, final days before His return – people who are willing to try despite the chorus that is constantly shouting “It can’t be done”. Well, I’m willing to try, and that’s what I’m going to go do – I’m going to try to be part of His glorious effort – the effort that has been millennia in the making, but which has been repeatedly frustrated by the hard-heartedness of men.
Utopian? Yes, but, you know, I’m 62 years old and I’ve lived a pretty ordinary life – a very ordinary life. I finally have the opportunity to do something extraordinary – truly extraordinary (even risky – if you measure by the standards of the world) – and if we’re successful, we will make history – eternal history! If I were to turn away now….
Some might say this sounds prideful or elitist or – well, all kinds of things that suggest that I’m setting myself up above others. That’s not the case. I’m just grateful. Grateful for the ability to hear His voice. Grateful for good health. Grateful for my precious wife whose desires are right in alignment with mine and those of the Lord. Furthermore, I’m grateful that somewhere in this heart that was for so many years hardened against any such possibilities, was found (or placed) a reservoir of courage such that I am now willing to say, “Yes – I’ll go”. Yes, I’m excited and joyful and fearful and humble and rejuvenated and crazy and peaceful all at the same time. I’ve never felt so alive! (Well, actually – I’m reminded of the hope and joy that accompanied my marriage to Diana.)
A couple of other things about Mormons…the scriptures, taken as a whole, make it clear that Christ wants a very personal, powerful, living relationship with us – even to the point of actual in-the-flesh visitation(s). The LDS church has begun denying this, which is one of the reasons I am no longer a member. The church has started saying we don’t need to seek that personal powerful, real relationship – that it’s dangerous. I don’t buy that. It actually might be dangerous, but it promises to be oh, so worth it. There are no churches on the earth that teach this, but that is what I seek. To seek after this – to ask, seek, knock – is to make Christ come alive in our lives. He’s no longer just some spiritual, almost mythical, God in the heavens (wherever that is) who is mostly hands-off but who we think is going to judge us when we die. No – He’s real…a real friend and confidant who loves me and wants me to become just like Him. I know Him more intimately than I ever thought possible, even though what I know is miniscule compared to what He has promised I can learn.
So – off I go. It’s an adventure that most of the world will call crazy, but that’s ok. I’m finally going to truly live life – the life I was created to live. I’m going to fulfill the measure of my creation (that’s some of the Mormon “jargon” I mentioned above). By the grace of God I’m going to try to lay hold of all the spiritual gifts that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. I’m going to seek to become one with Christ as He expounds in the great intercessory pray of John 17. I’m going to seek to know Him, and receive the eternal life that He promises to those who truly believe. (John 17:3).
Before you choose to read any of my blog posts – you need to have this context. Otherwise they will make no sense at all. They may still not make any sense. However, if they do, if they somehow strike a chord of familiarity, then I encourage you to approach Jesus Christ in prayer. Ask Him what you need to do to truly know Him. If you ask with a pure heart, truly desiring to know, I promise that He will answer you. I do not promise in what manner He will answer – that differs from person to person and situation to situation. However, if you believe, He will answer – I promise He will.
I would love to hear back from you. If not – well, c’est la vie, and I hope you find great joy in your life.