Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Rainbow Bridge?

The last seven days have been difficult, oddly enough as I wasn't one of the directly affected. My best friend and her mother had to make one of the hardest choices ever: to put their dog to death via euthanasia. Once the decision was made I helped make the arrangements and was present at the shelter and later took the 12 year old dachshund to Horizon Pets to be cremated. I put all of my efforts into helping the people Sugar left behind to grieve that I had no grief for myself. 

Yesterday, my mother was kind enough to pick up Sugar's ashes and bring them by our place. Along with the cherry wood box was a card and a clay heart with Sugar's paw print. The card was a sympathy card that came with a poem on the front. The Poem was titled "Rainbow Bridge". I pulled it closer and read it aloud to my friend. 

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still. 
Where the friends of man and woman do run, 
When their time on earth is over and done.

For here, between this world and the next, 
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest. 
On this golden land, they wait and they play, 
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness, 
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed, 
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

They romp through the grass, without even a care, 
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air. 
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past, 
The time of their parting is over at last. 

The sadness they felt while they were apart, 
Has turned into joy once more in each heart. 
They embrace with a love that will last forever, 
And then, side-by-side, they cross over...together.

For an unknown reason when I got to the penultimate stanza, my voice wavered and the last sentence broke me completely. My dam of emotions didn't burst, but a crack formed causing my tears to begin trickling. Was it for Sugar and the other animals of my past that have passed on? Was it for my dachshund at my father's place that has maybe ten more years before he goes to wait at Rainbow Bridge? I don't know. All I know is a simple poem written by an author no one can pinpoint came through my defenses and unlocked whatever emotion I still had clamped. I haven't cried since but those few tears took something. 

Perhaps it's the idea of a pet having a soul and going to heaven that touched me. A lot of people believe that animals don't have souls and cease to exist after death. I'm not so sure. Every time I look into the eyes of my Snoopy, I see something pure, something that belies the theory that my five year old dachshund doesn't have a soul. While Rainbow Bridge is merely the imaginings of a good poet, Heaven is very much real. Therefore the possibility that our departed companions have a place there, just as we have a place there. I can hope and I will hope that it is true. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Friend's Homily of Praise

Throughout Holy Week, many Christian's reflected on the events leading up to Good Friday and Easter. Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, His agonizing Crucifixion and His triumph over death with His glorious Resurrection. Because we all know Easter isn't about bunnies, sweets and coloured eggs, right?

On Easter I didn't go to church. Instead I read from the Four Gospels, from Romans and took in the message I found in the New International Version. This is my first Easter since my being born again and I read it like it was I was a child reading it for the first time. It reinforced the notion that we were saved with Grace because of Jesus willingly taking our sins upon him and suffering the separation from God and His death on the Cross. It was a beautiful experience.

I was also treated to another reading all together. Many of my readers are familiar with my friend JB who often blogs on issues regarding Mormonism as well as other branches of Theology. He just finished his four years of study at Asbury Theological Seminary and was recently interviewed for his Pastoral license. He was asked to preach at a Good Friday service in his hometown. He favored his readers, myself included, with his sermon on the subject. In my experience, preachers tend to favor John or Romans this time of years, so I had expected JB to do the same. However, he pleasantly surprised me with his sermon on Phillippians 2:1-12 which can be found and read here.

For those who are unclear what a Homily is. A Homily is a relatively short sermon regarding theological and moral matters. And this Homily in particular I recommend to my readers, Mormons and Christians alike, because it really drives home what Jesus did for us.

My favorite part of JB's sermon was when he spoke of how dark Good Friday was, because it's true. Christ's crucifixion was the darkest day in history. It was the day, He suffered the first time he was separated from God's presence because he took our sins from us. And it made Easter Sunday all the more glorious. I will close by quoting that part of his sermon. I heartily recommend anyone who has forgotten just how important Jesus' sacrifice is to read this. It will warm your heart as it has mine.

"But it came at such a cost, a cost greater than we may ever realize. Jesus walked down the darkest of roads for us. Out of love, the Creator let himself be broken by the broken creation. Out of love, the Light of the world let our darkness engulf him. Out of love, the eternal Word of God let himself be brought to silence. Out of love, the Lamb of God went quietly to the slaughter. Out of love, the Good Shepherd laid down his life for his lost sheep. Over eighteen hundred years ago, a bishop named Melito preached a sermon on the Passover, and here's how he described the paradox of Jesus on the cross:

Hear and tremble because of him for whom the earth trembled: The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged. The one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled. The one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted! God is murdered! ... For this reason the stars turned and fled, and the day grew quite dark, to hide the naked person hanging on the tree - darkening, not the body of the Lord, but the eyes of men. Even though the people didn't tremble, the earth trembled instead. Although the people were not afraid, the heavens grew frightened. Although the people didn't tear their garments, the angels tore theirs. Although the people didn't lament, the Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.

For us. It was all for us, all for the forgiveness of our sins, and the breaking of sin's power over us and over our world! Good Friday was a dark day, darker than any day before it and darker than any day after it. But love suffered that day of darkness to bring us everlasting light. Love accepted that cruel death in order to raise us up to eternal life. Because even through Good Friday, death and darkness do not have the final word. God shouted the ultimate word to the world on Easter Sunday: "Arise, shine, for your light has come! Behold, I make all things new!" But Christ's resurrection revives us because, on that old rugged cross, love suffered obediently, love paid the price, love fought for us, even at the greatest cost."


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Women in the Priesthood?

Recently in the papers and news, Americans have heard in some form about "Ordain Women", a group of active, good standing LDS women that are picketing for access to the Priesthood sessions at General Conference and the quarterly Priesthood meeting that are held at the Conference Center just off of Temple Square. For two GC's now, they have tried to gain access to these sessions only to be turn away by Priesthood members that were giving tickets in the "standby line". According to the Salt Lake Tribune, each of these women would wait in line until it was their turn, and when they asked for a ticket for the Priesthood session, they were refused. They also host demonstrations in hope that the General Authorities will acknowledge their goals and one day consider the possibility of ordaining women in the Priesthood. This upcoming General Conference that is taking place next month, the church may ban them from Temple Square and regulate them to designated "free speech" areas off of the block which is reserved for other groups that are "anti-mormon".

Since this news was published, I have seen various opinions on Facebook and other places on the Web. Some praise their efforts while others find it offensive and inappropriate. I chose to remain neutral as to the cause itself. However, I do feel that opponents to "Ordain Women" are too quick to bring those sisters to book. Some of them say it goes against the natural order or it goes against the Lord's doctrines in the church but does it? Anyone who has taken a history class knows that women occasionally rose above men in social prominence, but those occasions proved to be very few and far between. Natural order for the win, yes?

But in regards to the Priesthood and women being ordained.....against God's laws and doctrines? No, not really if you take a look at it. I mean, outside of Mormonism, female members of the clergy have risen to one in ten Protestant churches (USA Today 9/17/09). The Old Testament lists Miriam, the sister of Aaron as a prophetess, and one of three leaders that led Israelite tribes out of Egypt (Exodus 15:20). There was also Deborah in Judges 4 and 5: prophetess, judge and general of an army....as Phoebes would say when he nearly got decapitated by Esmeralda "What a woman!" There was also Hulda who was a prophetess who brought about religious renewal in the Jewish faith (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22). Girl power, Old Testament Style.

Then you turn to the New Testament. Women played important roles that have been studied and debated for centuries. Jesus had female followers, some of them also served others. Paul surrounded himself with what he referred to as female colleagues. Phoebe was ordained as a deaconess in Romans 16:1 and I doubt she was 12 at the time. Priscilla was a celebrated comrade as mentioned in Romans 16:3. Paul also named Junia as an apostle who was hailed as "outstanding among apostles" (Romans 16:7).

And that's just in the Bible. As some of my readers may be quick to point out, it doesn't mean the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would follow along. But here's the fun fact: Emma Smith was ordained to the full priesthood in the early days of the church along with other women who all had authority to do works in the name of the Church. We're not talking like the women of today's Relief Society. These ladies could receive revelations, heal the sick and afflicted with their own authority, even without church elders. Joseph Smith told the Sisters that it was their duty and privilege to have full Priesthood authority (as recorded by Eliza R. Snow at the first Relief Society meeting). Even Brigham Young told women at a General Conference: "Why do you not live as to rebuke disease? It is your privilege to do so without sending for the Elders. You should go to work to study and see what you can do for the recovery of your children. If a child is taken sick with fever give it something to stay that  fever or relieve the stomach and bowels. So that mortification may not set in.......study and learn something for yourselves. It is the privilege of a mother to have faith and to administer to her child, this she can do herself." (Journal of Discourses 13:18)

Forgive me if I seem facetious, but by saying it goes against God's laws and doctrines seems to be somewhat...shall we say....incorrect? With this kind of logic, it is no wonder that the members of "Ordain Women" would like to join the Priesthood. They're not shirking their roles as mothers or as church members. They made it clear in their mission that they are faithful members and do not seek to go against the church. They merely wish to regain what has been lost to women, the ability to serve God with all the tools that they need.



Ordain Women's website: http://ordainwomen.org/

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Unveiling Grace: A BYU Professor's Journey That Changed My Life.

Many of us whom have had any sort of ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have at the very least heard of Dr. Lynn K. Wilder, former professor at Brigham Young University who left the church in 2008. I certainly remember hearing of her. The whispers and press statements filled with people trying to figure out how a BYU professor could go off the deep end and apostatize from the Church. Even I wondered for a couple of minutes before shrugging and going on with my life. I never thought about again.

Fast-forward five years later. I had been questioning church doctrine and studying controversial teachings, both present and past. The more I studied the more hot water I found myself in. From September to November of 2013, I was being bullied by different members who called me a spawn of Satan, a traitor of Christ, even a Daughter of Perdition. Texts, Facebook messages and even my Facebook page started consisting of accusations, anger and disdain. I have always dealt with depression and everything I was enduring from people I had looked up for almost a decade fed that depression until I began to not eat, sleep or interact with others. In October, a support group mentioned a book called Unveiling Grace by none other than Lynn K. Wilder. I purchased it on Amazon and for some weird reason it sat on my desk for a few days. After having an unpleasant conversation with another church member, I sat at my desk and saw the book. Need I go on….?

I read the first chapter of the book which honestly amused me because it described an ideal LDS family. In a way, it was almost like reading about the Mormon version of the Cleavers. Good parents raising wonderful, faithful children where every son served a mission, returned honorably, etc. And just as I got comfortable, her youngest son said two words: “it’s over” about three weeks before he was due home from his mission. My first reaction was “wait, what?” When I finished the chapter with this surprising turn, it was bedtime because I had an 8 a.m class the next morning. I said my prayers, complete with the “thee’s” and “thou’s” and went to bed. Three hours later, and I couldn’t sleep. My mind was going over that chapter over and over which eventually created an urgency to read more. So, on went the desk lamp, on went the glasses and away I go…

The more I read, the more I needed to continue. By the time I finished it was time to get ready for school. Just don’t ask me to tell you what the professors said that day. This family went through trial by fire, maybe not in the physical sense, but the emotional and spiritual sense. There was an excommunication, friends separating from one of the sons, and the moral dilemma of how to remain in the LDS Church and teach at the Church’s university when Christ is at work in converting one’s heart to true Christianity. This book took me step-by-step through the journey this woman and her family experienced. But, despite everything they suffered, their courage awes me and inspires me. After they decided to leave, they moved their family in Florida where they run a ministry and continue to praise God and bring people closer to Jesus.
The best part was the challenge that same man that said those two words that still stay with me gave his family. Read the New Testament, read the New Testament, read the New Testament! Readers, this is so important! Even my own Bishop said that when you read the New Testament, you’re sitting in Jesus’ living room and there’s no place better. I took this challenge and recently finished my favorite book of the New Testament, the book of Romans. It brought me closer to my Savior than I ever was before because it taught me about grace, as I spoke about in my previous post.

There is one story Dr. Wilder mentioned in the book that I admired and even took as an example. When she and her husband turned their hearts to Jesus, they both purchased crosses to wear to show their commitment to Christ. This was in my opinion, a brave thing for Dr. Wilder to do because wearing crosses at BYU is frowned upon, if not prohibited. So, of course she had to wear it under her clothing, but she kept it with her every day. On the days she didn’t have a high enough collar, she would keep the necklace in her pocket. On one of those days, she misplaced the cross. She looked in the places she had it and even had the nerve to go to the campus lost-n-found where they had four crosses (I had to chuckle at that note), but hers wasn’t among them. The person running it assumed it was a family heirloom, which in a way made me sad. It made me sad because there’s such a negative view on things like crosses that in her mind the only way a BYU professor would have such a sacred emblem is if she had inherited it. By a God-given miracle, Dr. Wilder’s cross was found and she swore she would never part with it again.

This inspired me because it must have taken a great deal of courage for her to buy a cross in the first place, let alone where it among members of the church. I myself had purchased a cross before I read this book and after I read it, I started openly wearing my cross, even to Sacrament Meeting. For me, it is a reminder of what is really important and what my salvation is credited to.

I love this book. I know my LDS readers are probably wondering why I read a book of a former member that is an account of her exodus out the church. I read it because a lot of the trials and strife mentioned in the book that was suffered by different members touched me. I could relate to a lot of those trials because I went through similar tribulations and God knew that. I think it was God’s way of saying: “See? You’re not alone in this. There are others that know what your shoes feel like. Take heart and follow me.” It was God’s way of tapping me on the shoulder and helping me see hope where I saw none. I am not being melodramatic when I say this, but I know God wanted me to read this. This book has literally changed my life.

Since reading the book, I’ve watched various interviews on Youtube and I did my research on Dr. Wilder. I’ve even had the privilege of speaking to Dr. Wilder. I can promise you; this isn’t a woman that left the church over petty reasons. Like me, and many others I’ve met, she did her homework and left for valid reasons.

I know my active member friend probably won’t want to read this, but I’d still recommend this book regardless. Dr. Wilder not only goes over the doctrines that troubled her, she backs them up with references from LDS canon and the Bible. This may be a story of a family that left the LDS Church, but the most important thing is that they left for something better.

God be with you. Christ be with you.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

God's Grace, Mormonism and Romans chapter 8

Last night the topic of Mormonism came up, A LOT. Dad and I had a discussion where he opened up to me about his thoughts on the religion. Mormonism creates doctrinal issues, like substituting Grace for Works and even created a different Jesus that required works other than faith in order to achieve God's forgiveness. A year or two ago, I would have steadfastly denied, quoted James and brushed off the possibility, as much as it embarrasses me to admit it. But in the last couple of months and especially last night, I found that I agreed with what my father was saying. He especially drove the point home by pointing at me and said "keep in mind, Kristyn, that there isn't a man on Earth that can do God's job for him."

"There isn't a man on Earth that can do God's job for him." That definitely got me thinking. Because, for the last seven or eight years I have followed a man that claimed to be God's mouthpiece, not necessarily blindly, but definitely with devotion. I believed in a man that restored God's word with plates of brass and gold that was full of supplications to repentance and even tried to mold my life according to the requirements. And it made me angry. When I asked dad why the thought of the last few years made me angry, hurt and sad; he said "because you thought it was true and you'll never be able to make up for the years you were being deceived." That is the thing, too. I have come to realize that Mormonism isn't true and that I had been living a lie. And while I have come under condemnation for slowly making my way to that conclusion, I have also realized something else and it is the most important: No man can judge my eternal destination, not even a prophet.

All of this is found in Romans 8:1- Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

No condemnation means that those who are in Christ are saved from Hell because we are acquitted from our sins. Because we are in Christ Jesus by accepting him as his personal savior. Which means we are saved by GRACE.

But what is Grace? Grace is mercy. According to the Bible dictionary, Grace is a favor in expression. The unmerited and abundant gift of God's love and favor of man, "particularly made effective in Jesus Christ".

One particular form of grace can be saving from a cataclysmic event, such as found in the Book of Genesis. Noah was saved from destruction because of his faith and God showed mercy: Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:8

Another form of grace is found in the New Testament that is full of descriptions of God's tender mercies.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The word is alive! It came to us from a loving God so that we may behold HIS GLORY! Because of His eternal truth and his good grace we are saved.

John 1:15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out saying; "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me."

John is referring to Jesus, his cousin. Even though John was born before Jesus, he recognized that Jesus is above him because Jesus is the savior of the world.

John 1:16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received on blessing after another.

Grace, it is all about grace. Every blessing God has given us comes from loving grace.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

While we were given laws by God, we are only saved by Jesus Christ. We can't work our way into Heaven.

Romans 5:15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 

Jesus' sacrifice covers all trespasses! God's grace cover us because His son has us covered! Jesus Christ is the only way we can be right with God. Because it's the love of God that forgives us and no amount of penitence will makes us right with Him unless we allow Jesus to cover us. Think of it like you go to dinner with Jesus and when the bill comes you both reach for it, but he says, "It's okay, I got it. The bill is on me." That, brothers and sisters is the grace that Jesus offered us on Calvary where he hung on a cross and took our sins. Why would we cheapen it by offering to pay the tip with penitence and constantly trying to earn our place in the Kingdom of God?

We are natural men! We are imperfect beings! I'm sure these thoughts are going through the minds of some. But to that, I offer 1 Corinthians 13:10 for your consideration:

But when perfection comes, the imperfection disappears. 1 Corinthians 13:10.

This means that we are imperfect, because we sin and we do it over and over and over and over. But Jesus is perfect. He never sinned and by immersing ourselves in his blood that was shed for us. Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are as crimson, they shall be as wool." Jesus makes us perfect if we accept his eternal gift of grace.

2 Corinthians 6: 1-2 gives us warning when it comes to grace.

1. As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 

God's grace is truly a gift to us. We are the only creatures given this opportunity. We should never deny God. He wants us to accept this gift freely. He doesn't want us to reject him or worse cheapen His gift by trying to buy it with works. After all, Romans 4:4 says, "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due." When we work towards Heaven, if it were remotely possible, and we achieved it; God would give it out of obligation, not grace. Which is why Romans 4:5 says "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." 

2. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." 

God helps us in our times of need and He is always there to help us. We just need to trust him to be there.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Jesus loved us enough to humble himself and allow our sins to taint him, thus cutting himself off from the presence of God. Jesus was so rich because he was in God and God was in him. But he loved us enough to give up his perfection, God's presence and his physical comfort just for us. That is perfect grace, brothers and sisters.

Ephesians 2:8-9

8. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. 

We are saved through faith, which is God's gift to us. We can't save ourselves.

9. Not by works, so that no one can boast. 

We enter the Kingdom of God because it is his gift for faith. We can't do it with works. The Book of Mormon says that we are saved with grace AFTER ALL WE CAN DO (2 Nephi 25:23). But Joseph Smith is wrong. While works are an act of faith, they cannot make us worthy of Salvation. And, frankly, it is arrogant of the church to teach that we have to do works to be worthy of forgiveness and salvation. When it comes to the grace of God, we have no bragging rights.


2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and may the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 

This is how we should fare people well. By letting them know of God's grace and wishing it upon them. This is how we glorify him and Jesus, by helping others see the wonders of God's eternal and majestic grace.

God be with you. Christ be with you.


Merriam Websters Dictionary: Grace- unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification. A virtue coming from God. A state of sanctification enjoyed through DIVINE GRACE. A disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy and clemency.