LDS Leadership Hierarchy

July 17, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Religious

Over 2 years ago I asked for Sunday post topics (this was before Formspring obviously, as I now have a practically limitless question queue to pull from!) and I thought it might be nice to revisit that post and see which questions have gone unanswered. Some of them are really involved and difficult, and I might not ever have the time to dive into them. Christiana’s question about church hierarchy involved not much more than a little googling to find some pictures to help explain things.

Most positions related to working in the church are not paid (we call those callings), but there are some like the auditing department, media department, budgeting, etc, are jobs that people work to support their family, and some callings like being in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that means you devote your life to the church and receive a living stipend in return. Tithing is not used for these stipends, it comes out of the church’s investments.

Source

Here is a basic pictorial representation of the chart above (at least the higher positions).  I was actually able to meet the current prophet once, during my time working for BYU Catering. We served the then-current prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, and his two counselors, one of which is now prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. He was very kind, shook my hand and asked me where I was from. When I said the area he told me a funny story about the Moses Lake airport, making me realize how well-traveled he is, since there aren’t very many people who have ever flown in and out of that airport!

 

Women in the LDS church do not hold the priesthood, but this does not mean they don’t serve in the leadership of the church. This is the current presidency of the women’s organization in the church (The Relief Society).

Source

There is also an organization for the young women which is led by women.

 

And one for the children, also led by women.

Source

I think my post on callings will help you understand how people end up serving in these positions. All of this feels pretty familiar to me because I’ve grownn up in the church. Does this post bring up any questions?

13th Article of Faith: Honest, True, Chaste

May 29, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Religious

In April of 2009 I set out to write a post explaining each of the Articles of Faith. These Articles are taught to the youth of the church at a very young age, as they are very easy to understand and a concise way to explain our beliefs. The rest of my posts can be found on my LDS faith page.

The 13th Article of Faith says:

We believe in being honest, true, chastebenevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuouslovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

In past posts on these Articles I’ve tried to expound and explain on the doctrine contained within them. I don’t think this passage needs any explaining though. I love that this is the way that Joseph Smith chose to end the Wentworth letter, as these are qualities and attributes that every good person strives for, no matter their faith.

It seems fitting that the newest Mormon Message is about honesty. The Church recently held an international video contest offering entrants the chance to share their own Mormon Message. My favorites are Stand Tall and Life. If you’re only going to watch one of them, watch the Life one. It’s in that very trendy infographic style, but I like that it had a little bit of humor (my favorite line was “the other trees are ok”).

I hope that you learned something about the LDS Church through these Articles of Faith, and that you will continue to learn about Mormons and our beliefs through future posts I plan to write. I look forward to the day T1 is old enough to start learning these Articles so he can answer your questions too. :)

Praying To Our Heavenly Father

May 22, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Religious

I love prayer and think it adds so much to my life. I’m excited to take a few minutes and share some ideas about prayer from and LDS perspective. I think when talking about prayer, a few key questions need to be answered.

Why do we pray?

Prayer is how we talk to God. There are many different kinds of prayer: formal prayers offered out loud, blessings on the food, prayers offered on your knees by your bed at night, and those you offer up quickly to say thank you or ask for help throughout the day. All are important and allow us to talk to our Father in Heaven in different ways. Could we just speak to Him in our mind throughout the day? Yes. But I think offering audible prayers, kneeling down at night, and other such physical acts show an extra dose of humility. Sometimes when it’s late at night and I’ve already curled up in my blankets after kissing That Husband good night the last thing I feel like doing is turning over and saying my prayers. I don’t know why it feels like such a big deal, but it often does. Then I get on my knees and I remember that the feeling of peace of contentment I have during and after my prayers is worth falling asleep a few minutes later.

We should do it because praying is an opportunity to put in a little, and get a lot back. The returns on your investment are unheard of!

When do we pray?

A scripture tells us that we should “pray always”, but I don’t think the Lord is asking us to spend every moment speaking with Him. He wants us to accomplish other things in our life as well, and I find that for me prayer is often about contemplating an action, and then getting up off my knees and executing what I’ve just pondered.

I’m not perfect from it, but in an ideal day I pray at least 6 times. First on my own when I wake up in the morning, as a personal prayer on my knees. I don’t say this one out loud, I just think it. Then a prayer over breakfast, and another over lunch, and another over dinner (and if I have any snacks it makes sense that I would pray over that as well). I offer them sitting down, and say them in my head if I’m alone, or out loud if I’m with other people. If the other people I’m eating with are LDS we will decide which one of us will say it beforehand. I personally don’t pray over public meals like at a restaurant, as it feels strange for me. There are LDS members who do so though. I’ve heard some members say that they don’t think there is any reason to pray since it’s not a commandment, but I think it shows gratitude and reminds me that God provides me everything in life, especially the food that I need to live.

At the end of the day I read scriptures and say a “couples prayer” with That Husband. We’ve done this since the day we got married, and all LDS couples are encouraged to do so. Then we turn and say our individual nightly prayers. We say the couples prayer out loud, but the individual nightly prayers in our heads.

In my family growing up we also prayed together in the morning, and again at night. We don’t currently pray regularly with T1, but we will start doing so soon! I’m so excited for the time in his life when he starts offering simple, heartfelt prayers.

I’ve also offered many prayers when things were hard, and I try to remember to offer prayers of gratitude when the Lord blesses me, but I’m still working on that. I worked as a waitress for a summer during college and one of the pastry chefs used to drive to work voicing and singing praises to the Lord. I always admired her for using her time that way, as I was always listening to This American Life episodes with my driving time. Often I offer up little prayers as I’m writing posts about the LDS faith, as I want to be a good representative of the Lord’s gospel.

How do we pray?

I think Mormons have a pretty distinctive way of praying (at least based on what I’ve experienced) and it’s one of the first things taught to investigators of the Church.

First the physical aspects.

We bow our heads and close our eyes, as seen in the picture below (this is at an LDS ring ceremony, I didn’t take a picture during the prayer, but I did take it in the second right after he said amen). Most LDS members will also cross their arms over their chest, though clasping them and extending your elbows is common as well.  As a child I would pray by kneeling next to my bed and clasping my arms, but now I usually pray while kneeling on my bed.

Second, the language.

We open our prayer with Our Father in Heaven, Our Father, Father in Heaven, and other reverent acknowledgments of God. Most Mormons use the term Heavenly Father or Father at the beginning of their prayer because our relationship with Him is very personal. We are literally His children! Opening with a phrase that uses a term like God is perfectly acceptable though. The most important part is clarifying that you are praying to God, and no one else.

There are a handful of times when set language is used, like the prayer over the Sacrament each week (which must be said exactly right, or it must be offered again) or when a person is baptized, but other than those few times there are no set prayers. The things that are uttered come from the heart and soul of the person offering them. When teaching young children or new members about prayer we talk about opening by expressing our gratitude, for the things we have, then talking about the things we want. I try to follow this pattern in my own personal prayers, because without it I sometimes find myself spending all of my time asking God for things, and hardly any time thanking Him for the multitude of things He has blessed me with!

We close with in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. This is the other part of the prayer that is very important and never changes. We open our prayers by addressing our Heavenly Father, but we close them by offering them in the name of Jesus Christ, or Savior and Intercessor.

A sample prayer I might offer at night would sound something like:

Father in Heaven
I am grateful for all of the things that I was able to accomplish today.
I am grateful that T1 was in such a good mood, and that we were able to get along so well together. I pray that he will be free from the pain of teething soon.
Please help me to be more patient with him. Please bless my friend who is going through a hard time.
I am grateful for the blessed life I lead.
Please lead me in thy work.
I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Unless I’m very tired my prayers are usually much longer and more specific than that, but you get the idea. :)

What happens next?

Ideally, I spend a few minutes waiting for promptings and whisperings from the Spirit. Maybe I prayed about when to have our next baby, or where to take Jenna Cole, or how to help someone I know who is struggling. I ask God for help with so many things, it is important that I take the time to listen to his replies! Recently I had someone in my life who was really struggling, and I didn’t know how to best help them. I spent some time on my knees talking with God about the situation, and then spent some time in the act of meditation, where I tried to leave my mind open to suggestion. The answer I received was a subtle thought, but it was so effective and solved the problem so readily, that I have no doubt it came from God. I have prayed about big things, and little things, and I know the answers will come with time if I listen for the reply.

Do I always get the answer I want? No, certainly not. And there are times when I’m not sure that I heard the answer at all. But I do think that Heavenly Father answers in some way, if we will listen for His reply. Developing that relationship takes time, and effort on our part though. I consider it a life-long journey that I will never really master.

——————

I hope this post helped you better understand prayer from an LDS perspective. I’d love to hear more about how you talk to God in the comment section below.

Mormons and Caffeine

May 01, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Religious

If there is any topic that gets the most regular attention on Formspring, I think it is caffeine. There is a whole lot of confusion out there, and I think this post was a long time coming.

Disclaimer: This post expresses my own opinions about things, much more so than I usually do on LDS Sunday posts where I try to represent the official position of the Church. Unless you see something cited and written with quotation marks please assume this this is one person’s attempt to explain what we believe, what our teachings mean, and how it should be applied. Also, please keep in mind that these standards are set for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because we agreed to follow them. I don’t think people who do things differently are “bad people”.


You’ve probably heard that Mormons don’t drink alcohol, coffee, or tea. My new favorite blog has an excellent concise definition of the Word of Wisdom, which is a passage of scripture found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Avoiding alcohol and coffee altogether might seem strange to some, but I think they make sense from an LDS standpoint.

One of the core doctrines of the Church is the idea that we are sent to the earth by God to exercise our ability to make right or wrong choices, known as free agency. God does not force us to do things, He lets us choose for ourselves. Free agency is so important to God that He cut off Satan and a third of all of our spirit brothers and sisters in the premortal world when Satan proposed that we should live all be living a life without free agency (as in the life we are living right this very moment, but with no power to choose what we want to do with it).

What do alcohol, coffee, and tea have in common? When overused and abused they can be addicting. It’s not that the substances themselves are inherently bad, but that men and women have the tendency to overuse them. And when that overuse occurs, judgement and choices are impaired. If I am an alcohol addict I might drink too much and then not have control over my actions. Or I may drink so much coffee that I can no longer function normally without it. Does everyone drink so much coffee that they can’t function? Certainly not, but I’m sure you know someone like that, and God decreed that the Word of Wisdom was given to help the “weak and the weakest of all” of His saints. (We as LDS members call ourselves saints, and in this context it means a follower of God.)

The story behind the Word of Wisdom was told by Brigham Young:

“The first school of the prophets [a special school for the early leaders of the Church] was held in a small room situated over the prophet Joseph’s kitchen. … [This was the room where] the prophet received revelations and in which he instructed his brethren. The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen [feet]. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first [thing] they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room; and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths, a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry” (in Deseret News [Weekly], 26 Feb. 1868, 18).

I believe the Word of Wisdom to be brilliant and inspired by God because this was brought forth during a time when the harmful effects of tobacco were unknown by science. I think it’s important to keep the time-period in mind when thinking about what substances were to be avoided, because this is where some confusion sets in when we talk about caffeine.

Some of the questions about the topic of caffeine/coffee/tea/soda/etc that I currently have sitting in my Formspring inbox include:

I know that Mormons do not drink alcohol coffee or tea, the last 2 because of the caffeine and you will not drink tea with caffeine but you drink dark pop. Could you please explain the difference?

Why is it that you can’t have coffee or tea but you can have soda? Seems like it should be the opposite since coffee and tea are the more natural options.

and anyone who has read my responses knows that I’ve answered sever other questions as well. These questioners bring up good points that I would love to answer with this post, in part so I can point other people here when they ask the same thing!

The reason that I brought up the story of the origin of the Word of Wisdom above is that I think the fact that we were instructed not to drink coffee and tea, but soda pop was left off the list, makes more sense when you think about the time period. Joseph Smith revealed (began talking publicly) about the Word of Wisdom in 1833. This was long before soda pop with caffeine, like Coca Cola, was commercially available. The substances that were spoken of in the Word of Wisdom were all available and used commonly during that time period, but several years would pass before men would start combining sugar and caffeine to create a product that would hook people by the millions.

So do Mormons drink caffeine? Yes, we do. Do we ingest caffeine? Yes, we do. Caffeine is found in drinks, medication, chocolate, and a host of other things, and all of these things are items which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consume on a regular basis with no disciplinary actions necessary by spiritual leaders. I think the Lord put coffee and tea off limits because those were abused during that time period. As science evolves, caffeine and other addictive substances will be used in a variety of new ways, and what Mormons should be doing is thinking about the reasons behind the Word of Wisdom and analyzing whether their own actions are inhibiting their freedom of choice in any way. Moderation in all forms is key, and in my opinion averaging 50 ounces of caffeinated soda every day (accompanied by signs of withdrawal if the soda isn’t acquired) is just as bad for the body/free agnecy as drinking coffee or tea would be.

The Church’s official position on caffeine is:

“With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.”

In my own life, I avoid soda altogether for the most part, not only because I want to avoid dependency on drugs like caffeine, but because I think food should be real and consuming too much sugar is terrible for us. I do indulge a few times a year though (like on the plane, I love drinking ginger ale), sometimes choosing a caffeinated beverage and sometimes not. I eat dark chocolate, which contains caffeine, but I eat it in small amounts because I’m trying to lose/maintain my weight, and because I think it’s difficult to eat enough chocolate that you become physically addicted and dependent on it. I have a diverse collection of herbal tea, much of it gifted to me by my husband’s family in Poland, which I love to sip on throughout the day. For me, following the Word of Wisdom means knowing what the text says, understanding the rules that need to be followed, and working to avoid behaviors and substances that could negatively affect my body and my free agency.

 

 

12th Article of Faith

April 10, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Religious

As a child attempting to memorize the Articles of Faith I admit I kind of glossed over numbers 11 and 12 because they are a bit political and I just wanted to get to number 13 because it was the longest and I knew it would give me a feeling of pride to memorize the longest one. :)

It is only now that I write this post that I realize how important these two Articles are, and how they work together to create good citizens in all nations. I talked about the 11th Article here. The 12th Article of Faith says:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

I searched LDS.org, but there really isn’t a whole lot that covers this Article. I think because it is both simple (obey the laws/leaders in the land where you live) and complicated at the same time (what if you live in a land where worshiping a Christian God is forbidden?) I don’t think I’m going to be able to answer all of the questions that might come up, because I have no idea how every situation would be handled. I did find a few quotes from the Church website that I think are helpful when thinking about this Article in the context of America.

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience. D&C 134

and

Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” Elder Oaks

and

Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward government. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them. Elder Oaks

So do not rebel against the leaders/laws of the land if the “inherent and inalienable rights” are protected (in America we can vote to influence the laws that govern us, those who live under dictators do not have that same privilege), promote good morals, and serve in the military/participate in jury duty/or otherwise serve where called upon by your nation.

If you are really interested in reading an LDS perspective on the Constitution of the US I’d spend some time reading this talk by Elder Oaks. There is also an article on the Encyclopedia of Mormonism site titled “Church and State.

Where I think this becomes particularly interesting is where young men/women are called to serve missions (and where they aren’t) and how we work to bring the goodness of Christ in areas of the world where proselytizing is forbidden. We do not send missionaries in where the local governments do not approve. I’m not sure how old this list is, but here is a list of 346 LDS missions and you will see that China only has one mission, in Hong Kong. Middle Eastern countries or others hostile to Christianity are found on that list because we don’t send Church sponsored missionaries there. We do have a placed called The BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem, where students from BYU are able to do a type of study abroad, but I’ve heard from those who have done the program that the rules regarding behavior are incredibly strict. I hope that someone reading might have attended the Jerusalem center, or know someone who did, because I’d love to know a little bit more about the rules. I have a friend married to a Middle Eastern man who revealed that when she visits his family she attends a sort of “members only” LDS meeting. The laws in that area forbid an open door policy, something I’d never heard of before.

I stumbled on this article that talks about the growth of the LDS Church in Poland a few months ago, and reading it gave me a little bit of insight into how the Church works with national governments.

The Holocaust and the ethnic departures left the Catholic Church all the stronger, and it became a thorn in the side of the communist government during the Cold War.

After the war, many of the previous LDS branches in eastern Germany now resided in the realigned Poland, meaning many members soon left or were forced out. The branch in Selbongen – renamed Zelwagi by the government — earned a post-war visit by Elder Ezra Taft Benson in his nearly yearlong European welfare mission in 1946. More than 100 members and friends gathered for a quickly convened meeting.

The next year, the government ordered branch meetings discontinued because only Polish was allowed to be spoken in public meetings. Two years later, the Zelwagi branch resumed meetings — in Polish.

While the Church was registered officially in 1961, emigration of members out of Poland eventually resulted in the last Polish branch being discontinued in 1971. The abandoned Zelwagi meetinghouse was turned over to the government, later serving as a Catholic chapel.

A Mormon presence re-emerged in the mid-1970s, thanks to a number of converts in western Poland, who were baptized in neighboring Germany.

Feeling threatened by the power and popularity of the Catholic Church in Poland, government officials were happy to open the proverbial door for other religions to enter. Now re-established, the LDS Church was again officially registered in May 1977, with church President Spencer W. Kimball visiting four months later and offering a prayer of dedication on the country.

The Church does call both proselytizing and service missionaries, and I think I may have heard stories about service missionaries working in non-life-threatening areas of the world to spread goodwill (with no formal tracting/preaching) and provide aide for the “poor and downtrodden”, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this and so I don’t know for sure.

This is certainly a post where I would appreciate input from other LDS members to help clarify some of the things I don’t know!

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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