Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Purpose of Freedom of Religion

I was supposed to speak in sacrament this morning. It was a topic that I cherish so I was really looking forward to it. My body didn’t agree. I kept throwing up.  I got up six different times determined to go and each time my body betrayed me.  I was quite disappointed. To ease my own disappointment I will blog my talk.  The upside is I get to be more opinionated when not standing in the pulpit, so I get to say all the things I wanted to. Some things, though true, are not best shared during sacrament. I’ll also have to pare it down to fit in this format.

There are two types of Freedom of Religion: External and Internal.

External Freedom

Whenever we hear the phrase “Freedom of Religion”, most of us think of external freedoms, such as we have in this country. It is something we should be very grateful for and I am positive we take for granted. There are citizens of other countries who would give up all their worldly possessions to have that privilege.  I think of the Romeike family from Germany who fled their country for the right to raise their children according to their faith. I think of the many members of underground churches in China. What they wouldn’t give for our rights! 

The freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience came at a high price. Many people gave their lives for this privilege. They gave their lives in the years following the Savior’s resurrection. On this soil, they gave their lives both during the revolutionary war and the years following the restoration of the gospel given to Joseph Smith. It is worth suffering for.

And to be quite frank, the current administration has been very strategic in their undermining that freedom. If we don’t wake up and start paying attention we may find ourselves one day wondering what happened to our freedoms. That however, is a topic for another post.

Internal Freedom

There is a second type of religious freedom, which is what I’d like to focus on: Internal freedom, also called agency.

In the book Gospel Doctrine  Joseph F. Smith says, “There are no freer people upon the face of the earth today than the Latter-day Saints.” Those who don’t know our culture and bylaws won’t understand just how true that statement is.

We are free to be good Latter-day Saints or bad ones. We’re even free to stop being Latter-day Saints altogether. If we chose we could write the bishop and ask him to remove us from the rolls of the church and he would oblige us, simple as that. There are no nasty consequences for not being a member (in the physical world). Even when someone commits a grievous sin and must be excommunicated, they are still welcome to services and homes. They are still loved and treated as a friend. And, when they are ready to return, they are welcomed back with open arms as if nothing had ever happened. The gospel calls that agency.

Those who have grown up as Latter day Saints won’t necessarily realize what a blessing that is. You may not even realize that not all churches have such a loving culture. In some faiths, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God overrules any agency of man. The cornerstone of those churches is submission. The membership is putting themselves not only under the leadership of the pastors and elders, but the rule of them as well. I belonged to such a church before I became a Latter day Saint. Early in my membership there, we had gotten a new pastor. Once his leadership started it was decided that all new members had to sign a form saying that they were submitting to the decisions of the elder board in order to complete their membership.

If a Mormon bishopric even considered producing such a form, they’d probably be released before the ink had time to dry. Coming from that type of church background, I had a little trouble adjusting to the mindset most Latter-day Saints held. Submission had been held up as the standard of righteousness for so long, that independence and agency took some time for me. Wives were to submit to husbands, children to parents, women to men, members to elders. It was a simple process of just do what you’re told.

Now, suddenly, as a Latter day Saint, I had to make all the decisions for myself and I found it challenging.  My children however, took to it like fish to water. Once they learned about agency, our whole family dynamic changed. In their young minds it meant total freedom. They no longer had to do anything. If I tried to ground them they would say, “Isn’t this taking away our agency?” They weren’t being disrespectful, they were trying to figure out what agency meant.

It took a while to get them to understand what agency really did mean. In the meantime, I had to remind them that though they had the agency to decide their actions, they would not get to choose the consequences of those actions. Should they decide, in their agency, not to do their schoolwork, I would fail them.  So, with their agency, they needed to learn wisdom in carrying  it out.

Wisdom is the key to any freedom. Like the Israelites, The Lord sets before us the freedom to choose between blessings and cursings. Take the time to read Deuteronomy 28 sometime. This is the type of choice set before us as well. 

Using Our Freedom

We have the freedom choose how to live our lives. We’ve been doubly blessed with the external freedom to make it easier to bring to pass.  Now ask yourself how do you use that freedom.

Do you invest it in things of eternal value, or do you waste in on pleasure seeking?

Do you choose to keep your covenants, or to tread them under your feet?

Do you know your hobbies or your Scriptures better?

With both freedom of religion and freedom of speech how many of your friends and neighbors have you shared the gospel with?

We can fill our lives with the blessings that come from living the gospel, or we can waste it and toss those blessings away.

What will you do with your freedom?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some Problems with Common Core:

Almost all 50 states have adopted the national Common Core standards.

I don’t have much time today, but wanted to give you two resources to watch and think about.

After watching the video below think about some of the following. Though there is nothing wrong with learning to use powerful words, these children are being taught to engage negative emotions in order to manipulate. They’re also being taught to lose empathy. For instance, in the workbook were the following questions:

My mother always_________me to clean my room.

Their choices were tells  and nags.  The only correct answer was nags.

Whenever I go to Max’s house, his little sister is very ______________.

Their choices were curious and nosey.  The only correct answer was nosey.

Now, there wasn’t a literary passage where they were drawing the information from. They were simply asked to choose the more emotional word. The point of the lesson was to teach them to cause anger by their words to promote a political change. 

First grade curriculum

Also ask yourself why teachers would EVER be asked to evaluate that a child’s behavior has changed to align itself with the common core instruction, let alone evaluate that on a yearly basis.

Next, watch the video below by a mental health therapist on the danger of implementing common core curriculum on our children.  Listen especially to the deletion of empathy in children.

OK, for some reason it will not allow me to embed this video. However the following link does work.  Mental Health Video.

I think we need to have a healthy discussion about these issues before forcing them onto our children.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Getting Your Children to Talk to You


Generally I blog about what I’ve been learning in Scripture. You may wonder if my recent lack of blogging has meant I haven’t been reading my Scriptures. The answer, thankfully, is no. The reason I haven’t been blogging is three-fold.

First, my scripture study has revolved around the inductive scripture study I’ve been writing. I have a great test group that has been going through that with me. To be fair to them, I didn’t want to post any of its contents until my test group was completed. Secondly, my time has also been taken up by completing my first novel.  Though it is completed, I’m still doing some revising and am in the process of shopping it to literary agents. Thirdly, I have been very ill.  I’m being treated for a bacterial infection in which the treatments make you even more sick.  Given the fact that I have to work full-time and I have four children to raise and homeschool, an illness makes my schedule almost unbearable.  Blogging is the first thing to go in that case.

However, I’ve been getting many emails of concern from my readers. I didn’t even know I had so many readers.  I apologize. Had I realized, I would have been more conscientious with my blog. So, I will make a commitment to make this more of a priority. Until my inductive study is ready for print I will blog about parenting and women’s issues. Some of my opinions on women’s issues may be a little controversial, but I’ll be completely honest regardless.  Today, I want to focus on developing a good relationship with your teenagers. Don’t tune out if your children are young, because it starts when they are toddlers.

We all want our children to talk to us. It becomes even more important as they grow into their teen years. We want them to share about the details of their lives. From the mundane…What kind of movies do you want to see? To the serious….What is going on in their personal relationships? Do they have anything they need someone to talk to about? How do they feel about a mission or life direction?

We all know that teenagers tend to get less communicative right at the point in their lives when they need an adult’s direction more than ever. So, how do you keep the lines of communication open? The first, and most important thing is to start the line early. Be in a habit of really talking to your children from the time they can first begin speaking.  If you want your children to share the things that are important to you, then you must show them that you care about what is important to them. That starts when they are a toddler. If you just pretend to listen to their “important” babble, they will quickly learn that what they share is not important to you.

When my oldest child was a toddler, he would spend an hour telling me about his play date with his imaginary friend. That kind of talk is important for two reasons. First, it is important to him. That alone makes it worth my time. Secondly, I learned a lot about how my delightful son thinks. I learned about the things he values. I learned what he considered good and bad. That is indispensible information.

As he got older, the things that were important to him changed. In his elementary school years, he really got into Bionicles and Lord of the Rings. I knew Lord of the Rings well, so that gave us many great conversations. My Bionicle lore was much less solid. He would instruct and quiz me on their elemental powers.  I was horrible at his quizzes, but he loved that I tried.

When he hit his teen years, our life had changed. I was now having to work full-time in addition to homeschooling them and caring for the house. It left me little time for anything purely for fun. About that time he began to get interested in a complicated card game called Magic: The Gathering.  It takes ages to play and even longer to learn.  When Dillon mentioned that he wanted me to learn the game, I was discouraged. How could I find the time? When he mentioned it a second time a few days later, I knew it was very important to him. So, I made the time to learn. We had so much fun that first game. We laughed together a lot. He told me, “I knew you’d be good at this game.”  We have a standing date to play it every Sunday, which is the only day I am not working non-stop.

Those times have made for some of our best and most open conversations. We talk about his girlfriend. We talk about his frustration with some adults in another ward that were spreading a false rumor about him. We talk about what frustrates him with his sisters. We talk about his future.  We talk about his joys. Would he have been as open if I didn’t make sacrifices to join in on what he values? I don’t know. But, if I wasn’t willing to spend time in his enjoyments, why should he open up?

There are times that teens need someone else to talk to aside from parents. It is good if we realize that and not feel threatened. I loved when Dillon wrote the young men’s president in our ward. He wrote to him about the adults that were spreading rumors about him. He asked his advice on handling it. I was grateful my son had someone to go to. I was also grateful my son told me he had written him and why.

Does my teenage boy tell me everything? I sincerely doubt it.  I’m sure there are many things he doesn’t tell me. I’d be a fool to think otherwise. All I can do is trust that my son has enough faith in me and my love for him that he will come to me about the things he thinks are really important.

I firmly believe that that trust starts when they are young and what is important to them seems childish to us. 

What do you do if you’ve not had a good relationship with your child and they are already in their teenage years? I believe God can heal any relationship. It will take work and brutal honesty.

Go to your teenager. Plan a nice meal for just the two of you. Tell them your regrets and failures. Tell them you want to start over and develop a relationship with them. Then, pray, pray, pray.  Make sure you are intentionally spending time on the things that are important to them, even if it is something you have no interest in whatsoever. Talk to them about your days also. Be vulnerable. When your children see and believe that, they will begin to talk to you as well.