Sunday, December 15, 2019

On and off the Wagon

A reminder as we approach the new year that it's easy to feel discouraged when we fall short of our goals. But in the long run, each attempt will take us closer to where we want to be than we were before. Failure isn't a sign that you'll never make it. It's a sign that you're still trying. And you've never fully failed as long as you learn something each time.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Trust in the Lord

There will be times in our lives when God will ask us to do or experience very difficult and even scary things. Sometimes those things may seem to contradict common sense or our best interest. But the Lord knows the end from the beginning. It is very often the difficult road that takes us to where we want to be, and the easy road that leads to distractions and pitfalls. The way we determine which road will ultimately lead us to the most happiness is to seek the Lord's guidance and then trust Him when we receive it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Without Charity

It doesn't matter how spiritual we are or even how right we are. If we do not exercise charity--that is, the pure love of Christ--when teaching or correcting someone, it amounts to nothing. Coercion may yield immediate compliance, but will not result in long-term repentance or conversion.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Yoked Together

The warning from Paul to be "not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" has been interpreted in a number of ways. Some have taken it to mean that we should not associate with or enter relationships with those who do not share our beliefs. But I don't think Paul's words are of a spirit of separatism. After all, his and our Lord associated with those considered to be the dross of the world and commanded that we do as we saw Him do. Paul warns against adopting incorrect traditions and practices from others, but I think there is another, deeper but no less important meaning to the caution against being "unequally yoked together." When we associate with others, we should not assume a superior or adversarial position to one another. To do so is akin to trying to pull each other in opposite directions: it wastes a lot of energy without accomplishing much (other than making ourselves feel exhausted and irritated). Rather, we should try to pull together. After all, there is much we can learn from one another, even when we disagree on important matters.
There may be times when our efforts to pull together do not yield productive results. At such times it may be the right thing to simply leave the yoke rather than to continue in contention and strife. But there's nearly always some common good that we can put our collective efforts behind. When we focus on doing that, we'll find that we strengthen one another and accomplish much good together, especially when the yoke that we share is the one given to us by the Savior (Matthew 11:29-30).

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Strength to Run

It can be discouraging to look at the progress and accomplishments of others and feel like we're being left behind. Just remember that everyone has their own unique set of abilities and challenges. God is pleased with whatever you can give, however large or small our offering may appear. And if we have means to spare, He's especially pleased when we lend what we have to others!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

A Labor to Perform

This was written by Mormon to his son Moroni near the end of the civilization of their people, the Nephites. They had grown exceedingly wicked, to the point that they were on the verge of destruction. In only a few more years, the Nephites would be completely wiped out because they refused to repent. Mormon knew this. And yet he told his son not to give up or stop laboring. No matter how bleak or hopeless their future seemed, they were still on the earth, which meant they still had a work to do. We are indebted to them for their continued labors in spite of the hardness of the hearts of those around them. Because of it, we have the Book of Mormon, which is an account of their people, but more importantly another testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

We too should not give up hope, nor should we stop trying to make the world better. It's tempting sometimes to look at all the things wrong with the world and decide to just let everything burn while we wait for the Second Coming. But God does not want us to stand idly by. If we can make life better for even a single person, then our efforts have meaning.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Intent of the Law

A commission. Jarom is an oft-overlooked book in the Book of Mormon. It briefly summarizes a period of Nephite history, including the teaching of the people. In this verse, Jarom explains that the people were taught the Law of Moses, but also the intent of the law. That is, they were taught that the law helped them to look forward to the coming of their Savior and His atoning sacrifice. We too should diligently teach, not only the commandments of God and the laws of the land but also the reasons that they were given. Doing so will help us and those we teach to internalize the principles upon which those laws are based.

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

All Beggars

The righteous King Benjamin reminds us all that we are all beggars. There is not a single one of us who has not required and benefitted from the generous blessings supplied to us by God. Even those who do not believe in God must acknowledge that they have received boons which they did not work for and cannot claim to have "earned". It would be hypocritical therefore to look down upon those who need help from time to time, whether that be financial, emotional, or spiritual help. We should be generous with what we have, for it is not ours to keep. Everything we have came from another Source.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

White as Wool

A reminder that there is no stain that the atoning power of Jesus Christ cannot erase. We have only to accept His invitation to be made clean.

I tried inking this one by hand and then coloring it digitally. I like some things about the process but there are other things I want to refine.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Golden Counterfeits

Like a con-artist trying to trade us cheap brass trinkets in exchange for our gold, the world tries to promote its own systems of morality instead of the only one that will ultimately lead to mutual peace and good will. The exquisitely simple code of conduct that has come to be known as "The Golden Rule" can be found in all major religions today, and even some secular belief systems.

To be extra clear, the Golden Rule is not the same thing as the rule of reciprocity, or "tit for tat." This is the lesser law of "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" which is exhibited even by other animals in nature. Groups of certain mammal species, for instance, have been known to share food with other members who did not find as much when hunting or foraging on their own, but only if that member shares in turn when they have a good day and others aren't as lucky. This approach to life is satisfying to our sense of fairness and justice. But it is also, at its core, selfish. It essentially states that "I will only do good unto you if there's something in it for me."

Inspired religious and moral leaders of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and of course Jesus Christ Himself have taught that we can do so much better than this. To adopt the Golden Rule is to say, "I will do good unto you, even if you do not do so unto me." It has nothing to do with what you will get in return. It has everything to do with an inherent love for others, and--from a Christian perspective--a love for God. For remember that when we do unto others, we are doing so unto Him (Matthew 25:40).

Sunday, June 2, 2019

We need each other

Believe it or not, I actually wasn't planning on this post to be done for Pride month. Kind of cool that it worked out that way though.

Frequently, the relationship between LGBTQ and religious communities (specifically, those that believe homosexual relations to be against God's commandments) has been adversarial at best. It's not hard to see why. Even ignoring the acts of hatred and bigotry that have been committed against LGBTQ persons in the name of religion, it can be difficult to reconcile the philosophy of "Hate the sin, love the sinner," when what one group considers to be fundamental to their identity is considered by the other to be sinful.

Perhaps it would be simpler if both sides could simply leave each other alone and allow each to live their lives according to their own beliefs of right and wrong. But not only would it be nearly impossible to isolate ourselves from each other so fully that we'd never come into conflict with each other, but we would also be much poorer for it.

I'm concerned by how blasé some are to the idea of forcing someone to go against their religious convictions (or punishing them for not doing so) and equating said convictions with hatred and bigotry. I understand the concern that not doing so will enable and embolden individuals who really are bigots and homophobes. But when it comes to a person's constitutionally protected right of free exercise of religion, we need a much more nuanced approach than painting them both with the same brush. We can and must differentiate between those who sincerely believe they are doing the best they can to obey God's commandments and those who really do treat LGBTQ persons with disdain, hatred, and contempt.

On the other hand, I think many well-meaning people of faith go beyond the mark when it comes to trying to live their religious convictions. When interacting with those from the LGBTQ community, consider what the Savior would do. Jesus spoke and ate with sinners, He associated with them, He blessed them, and He forgave them. And even if there were a single one of us who didn't fall under the category of "sinners," He commanded us to do the things He did. The commandments of God are not a scorched-earth policy. Just because something might make life easier for someone who is LGBTQ doesn't make it against the commandments. When in doubt, we ought to err on the side of inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance.

I'm not asking anybody to change their beliefs of right and wrong outright nor to stop fighting for what they believe to be just. I only wish for us all to try to understand one another, to assume the best about each other, and to love one another.

I myself am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I sustain the Church's leaders and their teachings, including the Proclamation to the World, which declares that "Marriage between man and woman is essential to [God's] eternal plan," and that "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." However, I also believe in the 11th Article of Faith and in allowing all men and women the privilege of living and worshiping (or not) as they so choose. I also believe that there are things that God has not yet revealed, but that He will in His own due time (9th Article of Faith). Perhaps He will reveal more on this particular subject when we are ready for it.

Moreover, we benefit when we expose ourselves to ideas that disagree with our own when they come from a place of sincerity and respect (which sometimes seems hard to come by, but such sources are out there). We also benefit when we treat ideas that reinforce what we already believe with a higher degree of scrutiny. It's okay to challenge our own beliefs. The ones that are true will withstand and the ones that are not will fall by the wayside where they belong.

I have gained invaluable friendships among those who identify as LGBTQ. Some of whom are among the most Christlike individuals I've met and have treated me with love and respect in spite of our differences. I hope that I have been a true friend to them in return. I've learned a lot from them and the discussions and occasional lively debates we've shared. From these experiences I know one thing: we are better together. We can't just assume that we have all the answers. We benefit when we challenge one another but do so in a spirit of love and a desire to make ourselves and each other better.

I don't have all the answers. I, like so many, am doing the best that I can to follow what I believe to be God's will for me. I seek often to reevaluate where I am and where He wants me to be, and I believe that to be true about others who are sincerely trying to learn what's right. I don't know all the reasons why we so often come to different conclusions (I may write about that particular topic in the future). But I do believe that the more we humble ourselves, sincerely seek the truth, and are willing to correct ourselves when needed, we will come closer to the truth.

Sincerely wishing everyone a Happy Pride Month. 🏳‍🌈 God loves you, and so do I. And those are two things that I do know for sure.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Lively Hope

In memory of those who have passed on before us, and the One who gives us a lively hope of being reunited with them again. ♥ Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

You Matter

Listen to the part of the universe that cares. It may be a small part, but it's the part that matters. And so do you. ♥

Sunday, March 10, 2019

To Send a Sword

What do we do when we're searching for answers--or even when we're not--and we encounter something that clashes with our already established beliefs? It's very easy, natural even, to interpret these differences as a personal attack.  And of course, the natural response to an attack is to either "fight" or "flee"; to respond with hostility or fear. However, there is ample evidence that earnest truth seekers are expected to engage with opinions that differ from our own but to do so in a way that maximizes the chances of both parties coming away edified.

That we shouldn't simply shy away from conflict is hinted by the Savior's own declaration that He "came not to send peace, but a sword." How do we reconcile this with the angelic declaration, "on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14)? We read a clarification of this saying in Luke 12:51, in which the word "sword" is replaced with "division." Clearly, the preaching of the Gospel of Christ has caused and will continue to cause division amongst those who hear it. Not merely division between believers and non-believers, but also between believers of different sects. Differences in interpretation of scripture have caused no small amount of contention. This shouldn't surprise us. We are, after all, talking about weighty matters, including the salvation of the souls of all men and women to ever be born. God does not want us to be lukewarm when it comes to the Gospel. Rather, He wants us to diligently, even zealously seek truth and then treasure it and defend it once found.

However, that doesn't mean we must consider those whose beliefs differ from our own to be our enemies. (And even if we did, we'd still be commanded to love them.) The Lord's purpose is not to stir people up to anger. How then do we engage without becoming hostile? The imagery of a sword--as opposed to another more blunt weapon like a club or staff--is instructive. In Hebrews 4:12 the word of God is described as being "sharper than any twoedged sword... to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In this passage, the keen-edged sword appears to be an instrument of surgical precision, capable of dividing truth from error. We can and must do the same when encountering differing belief systems. Divide truth from error and good from bad, even from the same source. Nobody but Christ is ever 100% correct. But rarely, if ever, will we encounter someone who is 100% in error. Everyone has something we can learn from. It's up to us to discover what that is while also holding firm to the truth we have already received.

Let us develop the courage to wield the sword of the word of God. When we must strike down error, let us do so without striking down friends.

This is the fifth in a series of Sour Peppers on personal revelation.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

I Love You.

Do you ever feel like your own worst enemy? Never underestimate the ability of love to transform an enemy into a friend. Love yourself. You deserve it. ❤