Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mormon Questions: Joseph Smith

Almost all anti-mormon literature revolves around Joseph Smith. Some of it true and some of it not. So when people hear 'mormon,' Joseph Smith is often the first person to come to mind.

Hence this question: "Do you really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet?"

The answer is yes, I absolutely do!

In case you aren't sure who Joseph Smith is, I'll tell you! Joseph Smith was a 14 year old boy growing up New York in the early 1800s. He prayed in the woods to know which church to join and in turn learned more than he ever expected to know, I'm sure. God and Jesus Christ appeared to him then and told him that he should join no church because the gospel and the priesthood had been taken from the earth when the original apostles died. Joseph later received priesthood power, the Book of Mormon, and instructions from angels. He became the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I believe all that and more. I believe that Joseph was sincerely trying to follow God's directive. But I don't believe Joseph Smith was perfect and I don't believe he was more than a man (as in we don't worship Joseph Smith). Only Jesus was perfect and even then most people didn't believe He was the Son of God! They still criticized Him and pointed out perceived flaws.

Carter teaches Elder's Quorum (sunday school for men) and in his class someone brought up the good point that if all prophets were as well documented as Joseph was, they would likely all be controversial figures. Take Moses, for example. He intentionally killed a man! Or Jonas, who planned on forgetting the whole prophet business and moving far away where no one would know him.

The beautiful thing about Joseph Smith's story is how it all relates to our own. God uses imperfect people to do His work on this earth! Though we all are lacking (and He knows perfectly what we lack) we can all serve God in meaningful ways.

If you would like to know more about Joseph Smith and what we believe about him you can look at this website created by our church.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Awkward and Awesome

small forehead, llamas, and too many miles of hair for one selfie


Our toilet occasionally makes the loudest sound when we flush it. It's a mixture between the sound of a whale and an angry ogre, kinda like this. AND our neighbors just told us that they can hear it two apartments away. 
How looooong my hair is. It's the type of long that gets caught in other people's armpits, chokes me during swim workouts and is too heavy to hold any hairstyle. I think big changes are coming... 
Yoga with sexual offenders. I failed to realize this but apparently lots of yoga poses look like sex poses. #awk
I asked for bangs and my hairdresser refused on the grounds that my forehead is too short. SINCE WHEN IS MY FOREHEAD TOO SHORT/WHY HAS NO ONE EVER TOLD ME THIS BEFORE?? I can now totally relate to women's forehead fashion during Marie Antoinette's era. 
A while ago Carter randomly started bleeding out of his arm and it wouldn't stop bleeding for 40 minutes. We had no idea what it was but we got desperate and ended up super-gluing the hole in his arm shut, leaving a massive, bloody pile of superglue on his arm. The superglue held everything in but two months later his arm was still bleeding out of that hole every time Carter tried to remove the superglue. Finally, we got smart and asked Carter’s doctor dad what to do. He said that it was probably a arteriole (small artery) that was too close to the surface of the skin. Apparently, sometimes they just break open and  don’t ever clot over by themselves because there is too much blood pressure. So he cauterized the wound and now there is a crater in Carter’s arm. Carter thought it was so cool but I was pretty grossed out. 


FINALLY finished my pomegranate print pillows, complete with black trim! I'm learning to sew and moving on up in life.
Carter told me he "had an awakening" and now is applying to an internship with the Federal Reserve in NYC this summer. There's a good chance we'll go because his professor has connectionz and said he would hook Carter up. #seeyathere @cmacmitch
I'm a notorious plant killer but in order to justify having children, I've been working on changing my ways. So far my beautiful pink plant has survived a whooping 5 months in my care! Never mind that three died before this one and the two background plants are already as good as dead! We can have kids!
I had my wedding dress recently cleaned (10 months later) and I just can't put it away yet. Something about having that sliver of beading peeking out is so dreamy and nostalgic.
I'm a primary teacher and this calling could not be more perfect for where I am in life right now. I LOVE going to primary and singing songs all the days. One 9-year-old boy in particular reminds me of so much Carter. During a primary lesson about the second coming he asked, "What if I'm 112 and dead? Will I still see Him?" To which the primary president answered that he would because everyone will come forth out of their graves. And then totally serious he protest, "But then I'll be a zombie." LOLZ. Not even a hint of sarcasm, just innocent hilarious questions.

a beautiful wedding dress, an un-killable plant, and some rad pillows

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Him and Her: 5 Surprising Things About Marriage

In honor of our one-year anniversary, I thought we'd share some aspects of marriage that have been most surprising to us.

  1. Carter really doesn't understand that time of the month and I really can't explain it to him. He grew up with mostly brothers so I don't know how to tell him that, yes, I am furious over my lost sock and no, I'm not insane.
  2. My parents and siblings repeatedly warned Carter about my just-woke-up self. To illustrate: I almost slapped my college roommate in the face when she was too zealous about waking me up. I wish that was an exaggeration. In a nice twist of fate, I'm usually extra-lovey to Carter in the mornings. Carter says I either wake up really happy or really mad.
  3. I've always heard that money is the most contentious topic between spouses and now I really believe it. Not that we've ever argued about money; we usually agree on spending habits and yada yada. But MAN is it stressful.
  4. We never run out of things to talk about! We totally should because we only spend 6 hours a day away from each other. Not that much happens in six hours! I guess we got married for a reason.
  5. I totally don't believe that the first year of marriage is the hardest. This has been the best year of my life! And the transition to living together has been a breeze. 

  1. Whitney has the most vivid dreams. I guess I knew this when we were engaged because she would tell me about them, but it gets to a new level to wake up with her and have her tell me about all these crazy things. I mean, in her dreams really crazy things happen, like her being an assassin. I wake up in the morning and she has gone to a crazy place and done crazy things, and I just slept. 
  2. Even though I think Whitney is the perfect size she is always talking about how she is not. It blows my mind. It doesn't matter how many times I tell her she is the perfect size, she always believes she isn't.
  3. Whitney loves her plants. She has some plants she leaves on the dresser, and she calls them her planties. The hilarious thing is how much she talks about her planties. I cannot tell you how many mornings one of the first things that comes out of Whitney's mouth is "we gotta open the windows for my planties!" If action is not taken immediately, the planties will surely die. 
  4. Before I was married, Whitney's dad and sister warned me about Whitney right when she wakes up in the morning. I thought maybe it could be bad, but actually Whitney is usually really snuggly and soo cute in the mornings. There are the occasional mornings where she is really upset about something pretty crazy, but most of the time she often just wants to stay in bed and it is wonderful!
  5. I always imagined marriage would be great, but in reality it is so much better.  I tell Whitney all the time this is true. It is so amazing to not have to go home at night, to be able to stay together, live together, go through things together. It's amazing.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Christmas List

Usually I never read these wish lists blogs but I just couldn't resists making one! I honestly enjoy day-dreaming about my wish list more than I like actually acquiring the items in it. Anyway, here's what I'm currently dreaming about:

I'm currently obsessing over beanies. Anyone know of a place to find reasonably priced beanies? 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good Reads: A Thousand Lives

Apparently, I'm really into depressing books because, like Matterhorn, this one doesn't have a happy page in it. Happy endings are all we humans look for, but in reality they are subtle and often elusive. This book depicts the not-so-happy but true ending for one thousand people, the inhabitants of Jonestown. 

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Jonestown was a colony in Guyana founded by Jim Jones for his congregation, The People's Temple. Jim Jones began as any pastor but over time he became a paranoid leader of a cult. His followers found themselves trapped in a colony thousands of miles away from the U.S. with no way out except suicide. One thousand people died in a mass murder/suicide by poisoned red Kool-aid. The book follows the progression of The People's Temple from its foundation to its demise.

Cult leader, Jim Jones with some children of the People's Temple.
After I finished this book, I couldn't stop thinking about it. You would think that the one thousand were unhinged death-cult members, just as CNN and the Times depicted. From reading the book I realized that most of the people were just average. I wondered, "How is it that such normal people from typical backgrounds could follow such an obviously deranged man to their deaths? Why didn't they leave? Seek help? Resist?" In the chilling words of one survivor: "No one sets out to joins a cult." The answer to my questions is also found A Thousand Lives. Each person ignored small, but telling warning signs. They continuously choose to justify little deviations from 'normal' and with each justification, they grew used to their new reality. Eventually they found themselves trapped. Their perception was too distorted for them to see the truth about the leader and their forthcoming death.

I think the experiences of the one thousand Jonestown inhabitants is a very striking analogy to sin and addiction. It begins with small choices and gentle justifications. I would say to all suffering from addiction and living in sin that your ending is still unwritten. You do not have to follow your choices to their bitter end. True change can always be found in Jesus Christ.

Anyway, I would highly recommend the book with the disclaimer that it contains some very disturbing material. It's the kind of disturbing event that gives great insight into human behavior and the human experience. For the same reason you find the holocaust interesting, though horrifying, you will enjoy this book.

Jim Jones was notoriously charming and taught with the fervor of a Baptist preacher.

The photo of the mass suicide that appeared on the cover of the Times. Many dead with a large vat of poisoned kool-aid.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mormon Questions: Terminology

At our first LIVE Christmas nativity. They had all sorts of biblical animals,  elaborately dressed roman soldiers, and one very cute baby.

Mormons use a lot of religious jargon that other Christian denominations do not use. Have you ever wondered, 'what does that mean?' when talking to a Mormon? I can admit, it can all be very confusing. Like stake? As in steak? What? (Until I was ten or so, I really did think it was "steak" and I had no idea what anyone was ever talking about ever.) 

I present to you translations of Mormon speak:
Atonement: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It includes his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross as well as His resurrection.
Bishop: unpaid spiritual leader of a ward, or congregation. Similar to a pastor. They are asked to serve in that position for approximately 5 years. They give advice, conduct interviews, and assign callings.
Ward: analogous to a congregation. Everyone is assigned to a ward based on the area they live.* Approximately 100-300 people make up a ward.
Stake: A group of neighboring wards (seven or so) are put into a stake. A city may have several stakes. "Stake" is a term that comes from the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:2). The tent or church is upheld by supporting stakes.
Calling: an unpaid assignment in the church. Almost everyone has a calling and they vary from "visit so-and-so every month to "teach Sunday School" to "plan activities for the ward four times a year." 
Priesthood:  The authority and power that God gives to man to act in the name of Jesus Christ in all things for the salvation of mankind. You need it for things to be legit in God's eyes i.e. baptism, eternal marriage, ect.
Agency: the ability God gives to people to choose and act for themselves in all areas of their life. Everyone is free to choose between good and evil.
Prophet: A man who God calls to speak for Him. The prophet receives commandments, revelations, prophets and authority from God. He also leads God's church. God had prophets in biblical times and still has them today.
Branch: a congregation too small to be called a ward. A branch has a branch president instead of a bishop.
Contention: argumentative atmosphere 
Non-member: someone who is not baptized into our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) 
Talk: a 15-minute sermon given by various members of the ward. The bishop picks the topic and asks someone to speak from the pulpit on the subject 
Trial: Hard times that we believe God gave us to help us grow and to 'try' us

*Growing up, I was always a little perplexed about the idea of "picking" a church with a likable pastor.  I can see how that would be a big deal to people; I mean if you're going to go there every Sunday and give the pastor money you need to like the church, right? Well, in our church the clergy is called of God with His priesthood authority (and not even paid) and so you are expected to go to your geographically assigned ward and make the most of it. If you don't have any friends, you don't like the bishop, or there is a closer building nearby, the overall sentiment is mainly: "Deal with it." It can sometimes be hard, but as a disciple of Christ you're supposed to build up the people and the ward where you are.

So what do you think? Any other confusing words I should add the the list?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

King Lamoni's Father

I was reading the Book of Mormon and thinking about how history is always told from the vantage of the author. Historians unintentionally write their own bias and culture into their work and I imagine the same is true of the many scripture authors. Carter and I have just finished the miraculous story of how Ammon and his brothers convert a nation of Lamanites to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lamanites are then called the people of Ammon before they dub themselves the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's (meaning 'for' or 'in support' of Nephi and Lehi). Alma was probably used to Lamanites being the 'bad guys' his whole life. After Ammon reported his success, it maybe didn't strike Alma to ask King Lamoni for his account. And so you read the story and can't help but feel that Ammon was the hero of the story. Not to say that Ammon wasn't heroic, but reading it through this time I realized more and more what true heroes King Lamoni and his father were. King Lamoni and his father must have known that they could be considered traitors for their new beliefs. When they took on the name Anti-Nephi-Lehi, they were renouncing 600 years of cultural Nephite-hatred. They perhaps expected to lose their thrones and their lives. In fact, many of the converted Lamanites did die because of heir belief. And yet, their unfailing faith led many of their people to Christ. They were amazing men of faith.

There is one particularly great moment when King Lamoni's father commands Lamoni to slay Ammon because Ammon is the descendant of Nephi, "a liar." Lamoni refuses, and Lamoni's father, in anger, tries to slay Lamoni. Ammon prevents Lamoni's death by holding Lamoni's father by the sword. King Lamoni's father then says
If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of my kingdom.
Carter always laughs over that scripture, "So if Ammon had asked for 3/4 of his kingdom he would have said, 'Uh, no. Just slay me then.'?" But fast forward two chapters. Ammon teaches King Lamoni's father about the plan of salvation and King Lamoni's father says
What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive the Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
 Isn't that beautiful? King Lamoni's father is only willing to give up half of his kingdom for his life but his whole kingdom to be born again. He realizes that eternal life is more precious than anything in this world, even his life. Not only did he realize that, but he lived it! What a hero.