Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thoughts on Homosexuality

Just as a caveat to this post. My understanding of homosexuality has come a long way since I wrote this post. I have appreciated these conversations about it and feel that this statement from the LDS church, explains my belief best: 


The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
I feel that that was the heart of what I was trying to say in the post, but that I didn't say it very well at all. I have considered taking this post down or re-writing it but I appreciate having a record of how my thoughts and perspectives have grown. Life is a constant learning process. 

Gender is the center of our identity as people and as a society. It is natural that something so important should be the center of so much controversy and confusion, important things usually are. In the last few months I've really struggled to figure out how I feel about homosexuality. The hardest part for me is the claim that many gays and lesbians make that they were born the way they are. They claim that some people are born with heterosexual attraction and others homosexual attraction. If this is true, if God really did create people this way, then it would be a crime to treat people differently based on their sexual orientation. It would be something they couldn't control, just like a person can't control the color of their skin. But if they weren't born that way, if God didn't intend for some of His children to be homosexual and others to be heterosexual, then it means homosexuality is a choice-- something that one can control.

In the last few months I've really searched the scriptures and studied the words of the prophets to try to understand the essential truths behind gender. I know that I don't have a complete understanding of it all, but I do feel like I've received some insights that I'd like to share. Please realize that these are my personal beliefs and I ask that you respect them, even if they differ from your own. Even so, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts and would love to hear your opinions on the subject-- even if it they are completely opposite of mine. I think that it is important for people with opposite opinions to discuss and come to understand and respect each other's viewpoints. Also, I am not taking a stand on Proposition 8 or other gay marriage amendments, that isn't my intent. If you'd like to discuss about that, Naomi wrote a wonderful post that I recommend. So with that said, these are my thoughts.

The foundation of my belief is Jesus Christ, the scriptures, revelation from modern prophets, and personal revelation. The following are statements I believe to be true and guide my spiritual and moral decisions.

Truth #1: "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 1995)

Truth #2: God is omnipotent and perfect; He does not make mistakes (Alma 7:20).

IF #1 and #2 are true, THEN.... homosexuality is a choice. BECAUSE: Maleness and femaleness are eternal characteristics of a person's spirit, and can not and will not change. God has commanded that "...a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Gen. 2:24) It was in God's plan from the beginning that males and females cleave (or covenant) one to another. Therefore, for someone to claim they were born as a homosexual, or born with homosexual attraction, would mean that God messed up and put a male spirit in a female body or a female spirit in a male body. God does not make mistakes.

Closer look at Truth #1, Gender is an eternal characteristic:

In the first chapter of Genesis we read "... God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. " (Gen. 1:27) I think it is significant that one of the very first truths that God teaches his children deals with gender, and states that from the very beginning He created male and female. Before I studied this subject closely I always thought this scripture referred to God creating physical bodies. Yet as I searched closer I realized that God is not talking about creating bodies, but about creating spirits. This creation of male and female happened on the fifth day of creation, but God doesn't create man's physical body until the seventh day (Gen. 2:2, 6-7). It isn't until the second chapter of Genesis that God , "... formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

This creation of male and female spirits before the creation of male and female bodies follows the pattern of creation. God has revealed that He creates all things spiritually before he creates them physically (Moses 3:5; D&C 29:31-34). Also, we know from the scriptures that men (male and female) were intelligences before the world was (Abraham 3:22) and that intelligence can not be created or destroyed and is free to act for itself (D&C 93: 29-34). Each intelligence or person, has an eternal identity and purpose that can not be changed or created, and gender is an important part of that identity. We are free to choose for ourselves and God can not force us to do anything.

We also learn in Genesis that after creating Adam and Eve God married them and then commanded that, "...a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Gen. 2:24) Here we see that it was in God's plan from the very start that males and females cleave (or covenant) one to another (here is an interesting insight into the word cleave in Hebrew). This was God's commandment concerning marriage at the beginning and it is still his commandment today. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8).

A closer look at Truth #2, God does not make mistakes:

We read in Heb. 13:8 that "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." This is one of the foundational beliefs of Christianity (and most other major religions), that God does not change and is omnipotent and perfect. The scriptures bear testimony after testimony that God is constant and true ( James 1:13; 2 Sam. 22: 31, Mal. 3:6; Acts 15:18; 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Ne. 9:20; Mormon 9:10). If God was changeable, faith would be impossible. It is the knowledge that God is perfect, true, and just that makes Him God and allows us to anchor our souls to Him with faith and trust.

Alma 7:20 says, " ... he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round. "

God is incapable of making mistakes. He is in perfect control of the universe, and knows each of his children on a personal level. He knows their struggles and knows their needs. He does not leave them alone.

Conclusion

After searching the scripture and praying I've personally come to the conclusion that God did not intend for some of his children to be homosexual and others to be heterosexual. Each spirit has an eternal gender identity, that God did not create and which God can not destroy. I believe that homosexuality is a choice, and because it is a choice it is something that someone can control.

God does not have the power to force anything to do anything. He control the elements only because they obey His word, he controls matter only because it obeys his voice. People have their free agency and are able to choose in all things, to obey the voice of the Lord or to disobey. Yet, just like there are physical laws that govern the elements ( gravity, aerodynamics, etc) there are spiritual laws that govern human choices. A person may choose to drive their car off the cliff, but it doesn't mean that the law of gravity "turns off". The person and the car are still bound by it and will suffer the consequences of disobeying gravity. The same is true for moral decisions. A person may choose to act upon homosexual urges but that doesn't mean that God's law on marriage is going to "turn off". There are consequences to every choice.

Yet, I do believe that homosexual urges are VERY real and that MANY people on this earth struggle with them. In fact, I'd venture to say that EVERY person at sometime in their life has felt homosexual urges to a different degree. Having homosexual urges is not a sin, but choosing to act upon them or forcing others to participate in them is. Like I said at the beginning of this post, gender is at the essential of our eternal identities and so it is natural that humans struggle with it. And because it is so important it make sense that Satan tries VERY hard to confuse us about it. If he can confuse us about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, then he wins.

I believe that God loves each of his children and gives them understanding when they ask for it. People desperately need answers about the true nature of gender, and I believe that such answers come only through personal study and prayer. God hears prayers and He answers them when asked with a sincere heart. If you want truth, you must put in the effort to find it and open your heart to the giver of all truth, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite


Ezra Thanks God for His Help
Ezra 2: 61-63
Nehemiah 7:63

Background:
abt 537 BC

Cyrus, king of Persia declared that God had commanded him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2). He commanded the Jews, who had been taken into captivity 70 years before, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1: 3-11). He gives them the vessels from the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had taken. 42, 360 Jews returned as well as 7,337 servants, maids, and 200 singing men and women (Ezra 2: 64-65). Ezra was a priest/scribe who brought a group of Jews back to Jerusalem. His first reform in Jerusalem is was to separate Jews form their foreign wives (Ezra 10). The temple was completed in 516 BC.

Facts about her:
  • She married a priest;
  • Her husband took her surname;
  • She and her family returned to Jerusalem and helped to rebuild the temple;
  • The name Barzillai means "of Iron" in Hebrew;
  • Her family's, as well as the families of Habaiah and Koz, names were not recorded on the genealogy as being priests. Therefore they were not allowed to hold the priesthood. The Tirshatha (high civic officer) told them that they were not to eat of the "most holy things" until there was a priest with a Urim and Thummin;
  • She was a decedent of the Barzillai who sheltered and fed King David when he was in hiding from his son Absalom (2 Samuel 17: 27-29) . David offered him a place in his house, but Barzillai turned it down because he was 80 years old and wished to die among his own people (2 Samuel 19:31-39);
  • Barzillai is mentioned to be "a very great man" who was kind and humble (2 Samuel 19:32). On his death bed David tells his son Solomon to" shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite" (1 Kings 2:7);
  • The area of Gilead belonged to half the tribe of Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh (see Bible Map 1).
Speculations about her:
  • The reason her husband probably took her surname was because she came from a very famous and respected family (see story on Barzillai the Gileadite, 2 Samuel 17: 27-29; 2 Samuel 19:31-39);
  • In the book of Esdras her name is given as Agia and her husband's name is Jaddus.

My Thoughts

Priesthood authority can only be given through the direct lineage of Aaron or by one having authority (D&C 107: 13-16). This right lies with the prophet of the church who is ordained as a prophet, seer and revelator. He has been given the keys of the priesthood and is able to authorize someone else to ordain others, who can then authorize someone else to ordain another, etc... Every man ordained to the priesthood should be able to trace his line of authority back to the prophet, who received the key to administer from Jesus Christ. The power of the priesthood does not lie with man, but with God.

In this story the sons of Barazillai were not allowed the priesthood because they could not prove they were direct descendant of Aaron and there was no prophet on earth who had the authority to ordain someone to the priesthood. This is the reason that the Tirshatha (high civic officer) told them "they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim. " (Nehemiah 7:65) The Urim and the Thummin represent the gift of revelation.

What we can learn from her:
  • Knowing our genealogy is important;
  • There are blessings that come to us because of the righteous lives our ancestors lived;
  • A man can take a woman's surname when they get married. There is no scriptural reason to show otherwise;
  • The choices and decisions we make now will affect the lives of our descendants, for good and for bad;
  • There are only two ways to be ordained to the priesthood, by being a literal descendant of Aaron or by being ordained by one who has authority from Jesus Christ.
Questions:
  • Why is it important for priesthood holders to be able to trace their line of authority back to Jesus Christ?
  • Why are literal descendants of Aaron automatically granted the Aaronic priesthood?
  • How have the lives of your ancestors influenced your life?
  • Would your husband ever take your last name instead? Why not?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mary Knew

Our lesson in church today was on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As my husband and I were walking home after church we got into a discussion about if the prophet will know when Christ is going to come again. He mentioned the scripture in Mark 13: 32 that says, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Meaning that no one knows when the Lord will come again, not even the angels in heaven. But then I mentioned the scripture in Amos 3:7 that says, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, until he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets". Meaning that God doesn't do anything without first revealing it unto his prophet on the earth.

We discussed these scriptures for awhile, but I wasn't feeling satisfied with any of the conclusions we came up with. I felt certain, deep down in my heart, that God's prophet would know when Christ was coming. When He came for the first time several prophets knew when he was coming, Samuel the Lamanite even knew the exact year. Mary and Joseph had an angel appear to them who announced His coming. Ding, Ding Ding! An answer came to me.

Mary knew that Jesus was coming. Both her and Joseph had been visited by an angel and she had been overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. When she conceived a child, she knew that she was carrying the Son of God. There could have been no doubt in both Mary and Joseph's hearts that Jesus Christ, their Redeemer, was coming to the Earth. Mary's pregnant belly was evidence enough. Yet, they also knew that it would take about nine months before He came. During that time Mary could feel Him getting bigger and stronger inside of her. She could feel Him begin to move and develop. She could feel her body change and prepare for labor, and as she rode to Bethlehem she must have known her time was close. Yet despite all these signs, she didn't know exactly what day or hour Jesus , her child, would come. All she knew was that He was coming and that His coming would be preceded by pain and suffering. And that after the pain would come a joy and a peace beyond all description.

I can't help but think that Jesus's Second Coming will be much like His first. We know He will not come again as a baby, rather He will come as a resurrected being in glory and power. Yet just as Mary could feel and see His first coming getting closer, the righteous will know with the same certainty that His second coming is close. They will see the earth growing ripe or pregnant in preparation for His coming, and they will anticipate with joy the coming of the Son of God. They know there will be pain, even for the righteous. Yet God has promised that, just as in childbirth, the pain will be followed by the most divine and consuming joy and peace.

I think that the prophet will know when Jesus Christ's second coming is going to be. No, he won't know the day or the hour, but he will know that the time is VERY near. He, like Mary, will watch the belly grow big and feel the first signs of labor; he will be prepared and ready to welcome the Son when He comes. It is my hope that each of us will be prepared and ready to meet our Savior when the day comes, whether in this life of the next. Remember that, "...if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. " (D&C 38:30)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pharaoh's Daughter (Solomon's Wife)




1 Kings 3:1; 7:8; 9:16, 24; 11:1
2 Chronicles 8:11

Background: around 945 BC

King David died and Solomon, his son by Bath-sheba, inherited the kingdom. Solomon was the third and last king to rule over both Israel and Judah. He walked in the in the ways of the Lord and built a temple to the Lord. Not long after he became king he made an "affinity" with the King of Egypt and took Pharaoh's daughter as his first wife.

Facts about her:
  • Her marriage to Solomon was a political alliance (1 Kings 3:1);
  • After the alliance she went to live in Jerusalem (1 Kings 3:1);
  • Her Father burnt Gezer with fire and killed all the Canaanites who lived there. He gave the city to her as a present (1 Kgs. 9: 16);
  • She was not an Israelite, and Solomon marrying her was breaking the commandment that God gave to his people in Deuteronomy 7:3-4;
  • She was Solomon's first wife. Solomon had 700 hundred wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11: 3);
  • She was the only one of his wives who was given her own palace (1 Kings 7:8);
  • It took 20 years for her palace to be finished;
  • Once her palace was finished she left Jerusalem, as did Solomon's other wives (1 Kgs. 9:24);
  • Solomon moved his wives because he didn't want his non-Israelite wives (and their Gods) corrupting the Lord's holy house. He said: 'No wife of mine shall dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come.' (2 Chronicles 8:11);
  • Eventually she, as well as Solomon's other "strange wives", turned his heart from worshiping the Lord. By the end of his life Solomon was worshiping "Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the detestation of the Ammonites." (1 Kgs. 11: 1.) He also built idols, made false sacrifices, and did not observe the commandments of the Lord (1 Kings 11: 1-10);
  • Solomon's kingdom was overthrown by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:19-25). Jeroboam was successful because he was supported by the people who were tried of all the taxes and labor forced upon them because of Solomon's building projects, which included the palace and upkeep for Pharaoh's daughter (1 Kings 12:3).
Speculations about her:
  • The fact that the Pharaoh's daughter married Solomon shows the great prestige and wealth of the Hebrew monarchy. Pharaoh's daughters did not ordinarily marry outside of their own family, in fact it had never happened before;
  • Her marriage to Solomon may have been the cause of the increased trade with Egypt talked about in1 Kings 10:28-29;
  • Some scholars think that the Song of Solomon was addressed to Pharaoh's daughter. Their reason for believing this are passages 1:9 that states "I have compared thee, O my love, to a steed before Pharaoh's chariots." and 1:5 in which the woman says "I am black";

Solomon and Pharaoh's Daughter reciting the Song of Solomon
  • Scholars don't agree as to her identity, but she is speculated to be the daughter of Pharaoh Shoshenq 1 and that her name was Nicaule or Tashere.

  • This tomb in Jerusalem is claimed to be hers. Archeologists say that the reason it has a flat roof is because it once supported a pyramid on top of it as a fancy headstone.
What we can learn from her:
  • Women have great influence over their husbands, and can use that influence to bring their husbands closer to God or to alienate their husbands from God;
  • Unrighteous women can be bring about the downfall of great men;
  • God has given commandments on marriage. The greatest joy and peace possible, in this life and in eternity, comes when these commandments are followed.
Questions:
  • What type of influence do you have on the men (or women) in your life? Are you using that influence to bring them closer to God?
  • Why do you think the Lord command the Israelites not to marry foreign wives? What harm could it do?
  • Do you think that Solomon knew he was sinning by taking a foreign wife? How do you think he justified it?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Peter's Wife's Mother

"Christ healing the mother of Simon Peter" by John Bridges 

Matthew 8: 14-15
Mark 1:30-31
Luke 4: 38-39

Background:

Her story happens early in the ministry of Jesus. He had just healed a leper (Matt. 8: 2-4), and the servant of a centurion (Matt. 8: 4-13). He was traveling in Capernaum, which was a wealthy fishing city, and while there he taught in the synagogue and cast out a devil (Mark 1: 21-28). After healing her Jesus goes on to cast out more devils and calm the tempest.

Facts about her:
  • She lived in Capernaum, in the house of Peter and Andrew (his brother);
  • She was the mother of Peter's wife;
  • She was lying in bed sick with a fever;
  • Christ heard about her situation and came to her;
  • He took her by the hand and the fever left her and she arose from bed;
  • She had the faith to be healed;
  • This is one of the first recorded miracles that Christ performs;
  • She was healed before Jesus called Peter to be an apostle;
  • She ministered to those who were present, among which were Christ, Peter, James and John.
Speculations about her:
  • We don't know how long she had been ill, but it does sound like the fever was serious and that she was on the verge of death;
  • She was probably well acquainted with Jesus;
  • She may or may not have been a believer. I can't help but wonder how she felt about her son-in-law forsaking all he had to follow Jesus.
My thoughts:

The scriptures say that once she was raised from her sickbed "she ministered unto them". This probably means that she resumed her female duties of providing food, care, and support to those in the house. It is significant that the first thing she did when she was healed was to serve. She didn't run out into the street shouting that she had been healed, she didn't fall down and praise Christ, instead she began immediately to serve Him and those around her. The best way she could thank Christ for what He had done for her was to serve. I think that is a profound lesson. The Savior promised:

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20: 26-28)

What we can learn from her:
  • Women have the faith to be healed;
  • Christ knows the sufferings of women and comes to them;
  • Christ can heal any wound, sickness or heartache women have;
  • We can show our gratitude to Jesus Christ through our service;
  • Women's work in the home is service to God;
  • There is power in touch.
Questions:
  • Why are priesthood healings given by touch?
  • How do you imagine her life was changed after this experience?