Monday, February 1, 2016

What Eastern Oregon taught me about Ferguson

My family of origin are all in agriculture.  Dairy, beans, beets, peas, sheep, cattle, swine, hay, barely, and of course potatoes. 

My uncle recently sold his sheep to my brother in law.  He was just too tired of fighting BLM and Forest Service and the Conservationists that swore his sheep were destroying nature.

My brother in law has only been running sheep for a few years and is already so fed up with all the BullSh!t that he is dry lotting them.  That's right folks, he is keeping 6,000 Ewes and their lambs (they average twins) on his ranch and feeding them twice daily.  Instead of continuing the once symbiotic relationship of grazing open lands keeping wild grasses cut short and reducing fire hazard.  You might think native herds could do this, but I assure you, most deer prefer the grass in my pasture not the wild stuff.

My grandpa's farm consist of a dozen farrowing sheds, that have stood empty for almost 15 years, because it costs more to feed a pig than it costs to buy pork at the grocer. 

I'm not sure if the nay-sayers think we should all become vegans or that wool is no longer a needed fiber when polyester from China is so much cheaper and apparently better on the environment *sarcasm in full swing*?  But I do witness the frustration and desperation of my family members.

I'm also a Cop's wife.  I have no words that adequately express the toll this profession takes on my husband, myself, and my children.

A bunch of healthy middle age men with zero sex drive because they have nothing left to give.  Their job takes everything out of them.  And that is just the most straight forward unexpected example I can come up with.

Last night he called to say good night, later than usual and then abruptly ended the conversation, because he had probable cause to stop a known dealer.  A known dealer that is also armed.  I assure you that my sleep consisted of tossing and turning from that call until he crawled into bed at 7 this morning, by which point I was already up with the children.  So I'm going on a power nap that I caught between school drop off and library story time. (BTW he took a bunch of meth off the streets with that stop, high school parents may send their thanks)

And so when my two worlds collided this past month, in Malheur/Harney Counties, Oregon.  I was expectedly overwhelmed.  My family still farms in Northern Nevada and Western Idaho and EVERYONE had an opinion.

I tried to stay out of it.  I tried to ignore the flood of one sided opinion on my news feeds.  And then something unexpected happened. 

I started to understand the riots in Ferguson.  I'm not talking about whether the cops in either shooting were good guys or bad guys, justified or not.  I'm not trying to place innocence or blame.  I am simply stating understanding.

The root problem isn't about race, or regulations, or cops.  Because most people are good, most regulations had good intent, and believe it or not, most cops are just trying to stay alive.

The problem is that people are frustrated, oppressed, stagnate, and DESPERATE.  They are so desperate for change that the thought of living is no longer the greatest priority.  They just need to be heard.  I don't have a solution.  This problem is too wide spread and has so many faces.  I'm just making an observation. 
We need to remember that in the end, every problem is about desperate people, people with names, faces, and families full of good intent.  The internet allows us to become faceless bullies that exhibit little charity.  Maybe part of the solution is for us all to practice a little bit more patience and understanding.  You don't have to like it or agree with it.  But put a face on that problem, and exhibit kindness for humanity.

Monday, November 16, 2015

There Must be Rules, but there is also Redemption

And Johnny Cash agrees with me.

 His words are especially poignant considering his very public struggle with addiction, serving jail time, and his relationship with June started before he and his first wife divorced.  The atonement is real people.  You can break all the rules, screw up your family and life, and God will still love you, He will still redeem you.

"Thank God for redemption, or I wouldn't be here." - Johnny Cash

Enjoy the beauty of the Redemption of the Man in Black

No Mormon Baptism for LGBT Children

I have a friend, her sister and I were friends since middle school.  She spent her teen and young adult years away from our church.  A late teenage pregnancy resulted in marriage.  It didn't last.  The two parted ways, grew, matured, started stable families of their own.  When their son turned 8, he desired baptism.  His grandparents had been heavily involved in his up bringing (no one complains about free child care!) and so he had been attending church meetings since infancy.  His mother was returning to church meetings as well and supported her son's desire.  The father was asked if his son could be baptized.  He had no ill will toward his ex-wife, her very loving and supportive parents, or the chruch and gave permission.

I have another friend, met her a few years ago.  She is still learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is taught by our church. She was baptized as a child but spent her young adult years away from church activity and now desires to learn it as an adult.  She was meeting with the missionaries to learn the gospel as it is meant to be taught, not the cultural church she knew as a teen in Utah.

Her ex-husband and father of her children is not a member of the church.  She left her family and support group in Utah when this man began beating her and her children.  The sister missionaries she was learning with knew and understood the violence and resulting fear the children had for their father, and when the older daughter turned 8 they continued to love and teach but didn't bring up the issue of baptism.  They understood her baptism would require permission from her father and contact with that man would result in pain not permission.  But missionaries rotate through and the incoming missionaries, although aware of the history, refused to acknowledge the fear.  They repeatedly encouraged the mother to seek permission from her ex for her daughter to receive the saving ordinance of baptism.  "If only she had more faith!"  After her daughter had multiple break downs for fear her mom would reach out to her dad this darling family stopped coming to church.

A third friend, the dad is neither abusive nor Christian.  The divorce terms state that the child could not receive religious ordinances of ANY kind until he was 18.  This boy comes to church with his mom, her husband and his half sisters.  He is plenty old enough now to choose not to come, but he does, because he believes it.  He has watched all his cousins (and there are a lot) get baptized and he stands by and watches.  He is only 18 months younger than two of his cousins, and he watches as they participate in the blessing and passing of our Sacrament (Communion) and prays his dad will change his mind. And now these cousins are on their missions.  And he is left behind. 

Broken families are not uncommon,  Requiring permission from both parents before minor is baptized is a sign of respect to the family. Morally and legally it is the right thing to do.

The church respects that the family is primary to a child's upbringing and that the church is to serve as a support system. 

So it is with the recent addition to the Church Handbook of Instruction (note instruction not law) that children of a parent living in a same gender relationship may not recieve a Name and Blessing as an infant or be baptized until they are 18.

The media and a relatively small number of others take issue with this.  They say The LDS Church is punishing children for what LDS doctrine views as 'sins of the parents'.   They say this instruction is anti-family.

But lets face it, families can get messy.  Especially when they are broken.  My examples above were messy enough without bringing into fact that The LDS Church teaches that homosexual ACTS are a sin.

Lets introduce your to another family.  I am friends with their adult son.
While he was on his mission his parent's marital issues, to which I am not privy reached a breaking point.  The mom desired to leave the church.  She never truly believed, she was always just there because it was Utah culture.  The father, in an effort to save his marriage, formally left the church with his wife and their 6 minor children.  As in all decisions made for the wrong reason, the marriage still failed.  He was kicked out and she moved her girlfriend in.
    Now lets suppose that the father, who still believes the Gospel teachings of The LDS Church decides to come back to church. Can you even imagine the mess that would ensue if he decides to start trying to re-baptize his children?  His two adult children would be supportive and excited to have their father and younger siblings start worshiping with them again.  The mother and her soon to be wife, who has been helping to raise the younger children (but is down right frigid to the adult children) for a few years now would strongly opposed.  These poor kids would get stuck in the middle.  They love their older siblings, sibling in laws, father, and friends at church.  They also love their mother and step mother who oppose the church.  They have enough confusion having a dad and two moms while living in a very small and conservative town.  Do we really need to add the additional confusion of committing at age 8 to a church, who teaches, their mom's who love them, are living in sin!  I think NOT!  We don't even want to make it an option for the biological parents to argue about.

To be clear, anyone is welcome to worship at a Mormon Church.  The principle being taught is to LOVE all men regardless of their particular brand of sin.  It does not say we have to condone the sin.  Each person has the ability to choose how or if they interpret that command.

I fully believe this instruction was meant to eliminate the option for families to use the church as a weapon against each other and to protect children from having volunteer teachers undermine (purposefully or ignorantly) what the child is being taught at home.
A church is meant to bring people to Christ, therefore the LDS Church has rules and commandments, that if followed bring one closer to Christ.   You do not need to be free of sin to come to church.  You don't have to obey all the rules (I swear like a cop, and that is not Christlike).  You don't have to be perfect.  BUT the Gospel is perfect and it sets high standards to which we aspire.

It is also important to note key doctrinal differences from the Mormon church and other churches.

1.  Infant Name and Blessing:  While comparable to Christening, this ordinance places the child on official church roles. It is not uncommon for a baby to be blessed as an infant because the culture or grandparents want/expect it.  The parents have no intention of raising their child in the church but their child is now a 'Child of Record' which means that every so often a church teacher or leader will come looking for the child to see if the family is interested in returning to church.  It sounds annoying to the family, but its just as much work for the teacher or leader.

2.  Baptism isn't just about salvation:  Mormon Baptism is a saving ordinance.  Just like baptism in any church.  It is a formal acceptance of Christ as your Savior.  It also makes you an  official member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

A membership number is created and key milestones attached.  Name, birth date, address, languages spoken, baptismal date, disciplinary action (yes we have it but only for serious sin), missions served, temple ordinances, etc.  This number is also used for record keeping of tithes and offerings for tax purposes.
 It also means that for the rest of this child's life on church records they will have other members assigned to watch their back.  It's called Home and Visting Teaching, and when done properly provides every member of the church with a support system.  This is great if you want a Mormon support system, but if you don't, its pretty annoying to everyone.  You can tell them to go away, but that is still one more visit the assigned teacher has to record and one more hassle the assignee has to deal with.  It's like ELLA ENCHANTED, her blessing became a curse.

3. We don't believe in Original Sin:  We believe Adam and Eve sinned when they partook of the fruit, we just don't believe we are guilty of that sin at birth.  We believe that children are alive in Christ, that they have no need for baptism until they are of the age of accountability.  Our church has set that age at 8.  Kids that die before age 8, or never reach an intellectually age of 8, have no need for baptism.  The Atonement of Christ encompasses them fully, because they are HIS precious children.

"Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."" ~ (Matthew 19:14)
God is perfectly just.  He can not condemn a person if they have NOT HAD the opportunity to be baptized.   By forbidding a child from getting baptized until they are living on their own and mature enough to distinguish their parents choices from their own, the church is protecting them from condemnation.  This may read as though a child is condemned for the sins of their parents, which we already discussed is contrary to the belief of our church.  But it is incredibly difficult for a child to reject his parents, especially loving parents*.
A small detour inference:  
If gay parents can not naturally have children, it stands to reason that unwanted children will not exist in the LGBT family.  A couple will not go through the red tape, hardship, and expense to adopt or use AI to become unwilling parents!

An example an be found in 1Nephi 4:4-9

 For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
 But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.
 Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
 Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever.
 And it came to pass that after my father had made an end of speaking to the sons and daughters of Laman, he caused the sons and daughters of Lemuel to be brought before him.
 And he spake unto them, saying: Behold, my sons and my daughters, who are the sons and the daughters of my second son; behold I leave unto you the same blessing which I left unto the sons and daughters of Laman; wherefore, thou shalt not utterly be destroyed; but in the end thy seed shall be blessed. (emphasis added)

Lehi, a Book of Mormon Prophet circa 600 BC, knew his older sons had wickedness and hatred in their hearts and were teaching their children wickedness and hatred.  Before he died he blessed his grandchildren that God would show mercy to these children as they were never taught truth.  In the end of the record we see that the descendants of these two sons are not destroyed, but the wicked descendants of the righteous sons are.

I go to church at The Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day saints not because the church and it's people are perfect, in fact a lot of them drive me insane with their hypocrisy and shallow ways.  I continue to attend because I have read the Principles of the Gospel and have a strong belief that the teachings (not the people) are perfect.