Mormon culture vs gospel culture

A unique culture exists among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each person lives their life based on their core beliefs. Each member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or “Mormon”) applies what they believe to choices they make, and over time a common culture has emerged. Anyone who has visited Utah will notice differences between the culture there an other places in the country. Some may be good, others not so good. For example, Utahns take good care of their yards, but Utahns aren’t very courteous drivers.

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Welcome to Utah sign. From the Monroe family blog. https://themonroefamily.wordpress.com

I’d like to talk about the difference between Mormon culture and Gospel culture. Mormon culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group, in this case a group of Mormons. Gospel culture is the behaviors and beliefs taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as contained in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are different because Mormon culture may emerge from practices not founded in the gospel, for example eating green Jell-O with carrots. A person trying to live the gospel will inevitably do it imperfectly. So as Mormons live and practice their beliefs a Mormon culture emerges. Occasionally people get Mormon culture and the gospel mixed up. They think that the gospel teaches that you have to drive a big van, have lots of kids, and volunteer a lot. Or perhaps they had an experience where a Mormon said or did something less than Christlike and think the gospel condones such behavior. Neither is true. The gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect because it is based on eternal truth. Mormon culture is imperfect because it is the expression of imperfect people.

“There is a unique gospel culture, a set of values and expectations and practices common to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This gospel culture, or way of life, comes from the plan of salvation, the commandments of God, and the teachings of living prophets. It is given expression in the way we raise our families and live our individual lives.” L. Tom Perry, October 2012 General Conference

Latter-day Saints around the world may not all live the same flavor of Mormon culture, but all of them are trying to live the gospel culture. Gospel culture includes choices like valuing marriage and family, keeping the Sabbath day holy, and studying the scriptures. I enjoy meeting other members in the church and finding out how they live the gospel, what they are working on right now, and hearing their testimonies about the happiness they have found. Here are a few examples:

I have also noticed that church leaders have tried to adapt teaching the gospel to all cultures. They are willing to discard cultural practices that are simply Mormon culture, while not changing the culture of the gospel. “While we treasure appropriate cultural diversities, our goal is to be united in the culture, customs, and traditions of the gospel of Jesus Christ in every respect.” (Elder Cook). Last time I flew on an airline, I sat next to a man who is married to an inactive returned missionary. He was raised a good Christian and they are raising a happy family based on Christian values. He knew a lot about Mormons and we had an interesting discussion about Mormon culture. I do not know why his wife decided to leave the church, but I imagine it’s probable someone could have offended her.

In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless. Elder Bednar

I think if we realize the difference between the cultural practices of people who are Mormons and teachings of the gospel, it is easier to see that a Mormon may do something contrary to their beliefs even though the gospel itself is true. Also realize that living the gospel will look as unique as each person trying to do so.

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A Mormon girl
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A Mormon from India.
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A Mormon from Guatemala.
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A Mormon from Canada.
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A Mormon grandpa.

As a mom, I have to be careful to not get a perfection complex. I call it Martha Stewart complex when someone tries to have a perfect home, fabulous meals, manicured appearance, well-dressed children, etc. Those things are nice, but in the end they are not important. What is important? The gospel. Because it is the key to happiness. I hope we can see past the imperfections of Mormon culture to unlock our potential through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Create a Life Handbook

I’ve been inspired to create a Life Handbook. A life handbook is a personal manual that encompasses your goals and dreams, personal mission, and ideas that you have on your journey of becoming. Often, we get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the practical means necessary to realize our dreams. By working on a physical expression of my life purpose, I want to increase my ability to accomplish my own potential.

from lds.org
from lds.org

Life is always harder than we envision. As a youth, I thought my life would be a straightforward execution of my goals, with occasional episodes planned by God. That was naive. In reality, I have discarded some of my lesser goals in pursuit of the ones that I found more worthy. Even some of the skills I spent years acquiring have been simply nice nick-knacks on my accomplishment shelf. My life has been a series of days upon days with the detours from God being the better ones. I see how learning one admirable attribute may take a lifetime. I see how there is never enough time to work on the mediocre aspirations, because there is so much out there and so little time. I would like to organize my spiritual life better, to make spiritual growth a priority that won’t get pushed aside by the daily chores. I’m going to create a life handbook about and for myself.

Here’s how to create a Life Handbook. (from Celestine Chua at Personal Excellence.)

Spend a few minutes a day pondering the following list. Begin writing down your thoughts about each. Estimate taking between two weeks to a few months getting a “rough draft”

  1. Your life purpose/vision/mission
  2. Your values
  3. Your strengths
  4. Your improvement areas
  5. Your life adages (I.e. your personal mottos on living a great life. These can be inspirational quotes or personal mottoes.)
  6. Your vision board (Vision boards are visual representation of your goals and dreams. Check out Celestine’s vision board tutorial.)
  7. Your long-term life goals, comprising of five-, three-, and one-year goals
  8. Your short-term life goals, usually a breakdown of your long-term goals
  9. Your action plans to achieve your goals
from lds.org
from lds.org

Continue adding to your book on a regular basis (daily). Add images, reflection, to-do lists, track goals, motivational quotes, etc. Make sure to include any spiritual experiences, promptings, and tender mercies. Back up your document regularly. (I don’t really envision this document being a hard copy at first). Use your document to see a snapshot of your inner self over time. Since I’ve never done this, I’ll have to write more about how it goes. Wish me luck! (I could have started tonight, but wrote this post instead.)

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Found on bestliving.biz

Update: I told a few of my most-admired friends about my goal. I’ve spent a couple of days thinking about what format I plan to use (excel file) and today I’m starting to create my life handbook. I always have goals I am working on, but I have never thought about writing a comprehensive list down, prioritizing them, and tracking my progress. I’m excited!

7 Things to Do on a Bad Day to Feel Better

After my last post, I had a better day.

I cleaned the house. Especially this kitchen. Cleaning isn’t my favorite thing, but I can never relax in a messy environment. So when I’m stressed out, a clean house calms me down. If I can’t clean my immediate surroundings immediately, a break outdoors gives me a moment to regroup before tackling the house again.

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Disorderly kitchen

Phone calls. Talking to someone helps me feel better. So I’ll call, text, email the people I like to talk to the most until I find someone who has time to chat. Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels better after a visit. Thank goodness for woman friends with the gift of gab! I also like to talk to the Boss. My DH knows when I am having a bad day and listens to my frustrations. I like to talk things out in the evening and tell him all of my accumulated thoughts from the day.

Check something off the to-do list. I always have a looong list of projects. Some are easy, some hard. Most I never even start because (a) the house isn’t clean, and (b) taking care of numero uno priority (aka kids) takes all my time and energy. But if I feel stagnant, getting a project done really helps me feel happy. Especially if I get to use some creativity. So, after last week, I painted color on the bottom half of my bathroom wall to match the shower curtain.

Service. Doing something for someone else can help me feel better. I see how everyone has bad days and needs a pick up once in awhile.

One-on-one time. Taking care of all of my kids together can be overwhelming. But spending time with just one of them very enjoyable. Each has a constantly changing personality to explore. Quality time is my love language, so when I spend quality time with someone else, I feel loved.

Count blessings. Sometimes hard when you’re trying to be cranky, but I eventually have to acknowledge that I have lots more positives than negatives in my life.

Connect with God. Reading scriptures, meditating, and praying all help me center myself and remember my perspective. I love to attend the temple because I do all three. Spirituality nourishes the part of us that can overcome the trials of life.

singing-hymns

Feeling down

Today I notice this verse of scripture

And now, my son, I have somewhat more to say unto thee than what I said unto thy brother; for behold, have ye not observed the steadiness of thy brother, his faithfulness, and his diligence in keeping the commandments of God? Behold, has he not set a good example for thee?  – Alma 39:1

After writing fifteen verses to his obedient son Shiblon, Alma proceeds to give much lengthier advice to his disobedient son.

Parents tend to give more attention to the children in need of correction. Which means sometimes the obedient children wonder if they’re worth commending. They make right choices and then fail to get as much attention as their wayward peers, which can make rebelling look more attractive.

To give some credit to Alma, his fifteen verses to Shiblon include some great counsel.

And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

Alma believes Shiblon is making decisions that will end in his ultimate happiness. That is doing pretty well, if you ask me. Alma doesn’t give his wayward son the same approval.

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Alma had experience to share with his son. He had rebelled as a young man until he had an amazing conversion experience.

I noticed this verse because sometimes I feel like the obedient child who doesn’t get noticed. And although I try to show positive attention when my children are trying to make good choices, I know they also sometimes feel this way. It would be easy to pass over, but sometimes I also wonder if God is happy with my attempts to do right, or if I’m failing miserably. It’s possible to slip into feelings of depression and discouragement without anything major going wrong. There are probably lots of factors that play into feeling down. But if you’re sacrificing everything inside to try to accomplish something, it becomes important to know you’re on the right track.

Here’s what Elder Bednar said about these feelings:

My beloved brothers and sisters, godly fear dispels mortal fears. It even subdues the haunting concern that we never can be good enough spiritually and never will measure up to the Lord’s requirements and expectations.

I can tell you that haunting fear is real. I feel it.

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Motherhood: the most rewarding and also hardest job in the world. See my last post.

I’m working on building my relationship with God so that I can feel His acceptance and love for me, instead of fearing I will never measure up. I testify that as a parent, I’m learning how parents love. They love their children unconditionally and watch their childishness with patience, hoping to build them and help them accomplish their potential. I know God feels that way toward me. He isn’t discouraged by the things that get me down. He knows they are small things that I will overcome in time. He also sent His son, Jesus Christ, to rescue all of us from our mistakes. Christ’s atonement is so all-encompassing it empowers God’s entire plan for His children’s growth.

There. I feel better just saying all of that.

Everything that gets us down can be overcome because of Jesus Christ.
Everything that gets us down can be overcome because of Jesus Christ.

Images from lds.org

Motherhood: the hardest thing

Motherhood begins with nine months of physical discomfort. The birth of every baby is an adventure: unpredictable, painful, joyful, life-changing. Newborns require hours of holding, feeding, rocking. Through the first bleary days of waking and sleeping until mother and baby emerge bonded into two beings whose hearts beat as one. Out of the exponential burst of physical growth blossoms a unique personality. Bright innocence shines from a child’s face, giving a Mother a glimpse of heaven.

newborn baby

Motherhood requires a certain level of proficiency at housework. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, planning, and budgeting grow out of the need to care for the children we love. Mothers pick up bits of information in subjects they never knew existed, becoming an encyclopedia of practical knowledge.

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Photographing 3 youngsters: an example of no matter how hard we try, it never turns out perfect.

Motherhood piles up responsibility so high a woman bends with exhaustion. There is always more to do, more that can be done. She wants the best for her children. So she tries to balance the work with episodes of play: going to the park, reading a story, giving undivided attention. The work piles higher. Things break, children get sick, time runs out. She feels tense, anxious, hormonal. The children argue, throw tantrums, ignore her quiet responses, yell, tease, pout. Her patience runs out. Every day her patience is stretched further and further. Sometimes it breaks. At the end of the day, falling into bed, a Mother feels the quiet assurance that her work is the most important work she could have done.

A mother sees the infinite potential in her child and nurtures it. She teaches, tutors, trains. She sees a talent and works to give the child the chance to develop it. Karate, building kits, music. Mother wishes she could be the perfect mentor. As the child grows, there are missed opportunities, negative peer pressure, laziness. A child becomes a youth exerting independence. Mothers have to navigate child psychology, honest disagreement, autonomy and responsibility. They teach the lessons, learn the lessons, and live the lessons they try to instill.

Motherhood is a road to becoming. A mother develops maturity, capacity for work, patience. So do her children. I have done hard things. Motherhood is the hardest thing, but also the best thing I have ever done.

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a busy mother

Life’s challenges never let up. A woman willingly takes on more when she becomes a mother. But somehow amid the tears, there are smiles. Somehow between the trials there is growth. Looking back through the struggle there are golden memories. The human connection between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds on earth. The generations of life would not continue without mothers.

God is our Father. In this whole messy experiment of humanness, He planned for our growth. He saw our potential and He designed our lives to intersect as Mothers and children, wives and parents, daughters and aunts. God, the perfect Parent, wanted us to become more like Him and so he created Mothers.

Happy Mother’s day to the special women in my life. My life wouldn’t exist without you.

#LDSconf thoughts

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Conference Weekend

It was a whirlwind weekend. Saturday morning DH went out riding motorcycles with a friend. Five minutes before conference started, I tried to move the computer out to the living room so we could all watch. But I didn’t know how to set up the wireless internet connection, and daddy wasn’t home yet, so we listened to primary songs and worked on cleaning the house instead. Once our chores were done, we went over to Grandma’s house to watch the Saturday afternoon session with extended family.

Watching conference as a family is my favorite way to spend conference. Some Sundays get harried and hectic by the time we get ready for church and do all of our assignments. On Conference Sunday, we can just be together. I love it. And whenever there is a family gathering, there is good food. Since it was Saturday, I asked my kids to watch one talk plus watch if President Monson spoke. The rest of the time they spent playing with their cousins.

On Sunday we stayed home and watched conference as a family. By this time our computer was all set up and ready to go. We turned on the Tabernacle Choir broadcast and enjoyed the Easter Sunday concert. Sometimes it can be hard to watch conference with little kids, but mine were pretty good this time. My daughter had the Friend magazine out and played bingo on the board in the magazine. My son sat and read a book, pausing to pay closer attention once in awhile. The little ones played in the room with us.

I love the messages presented at conference. There is always a smorgasboard: messages of personal improvement, testimonies of Jesus Christ, gospel application, missionary work, and the plan of salvation. Usually there is a balance between calls to repentance and consoling our efforts. For example, Elder Oaks helped us evaluate our soil in the process of conversion. He has spoken many times on the theme making eternal goals our highest priority. Elder Bednar spoke about fear: how the fear of God can actually help us feel peace in a troubled world. For those of us who get over-anxious about the challenges we face, his message was soothing.

Video quote: Source of Enduring Peace — David A Bednar

My favorite messages were the back to back talks on Grace. First, Elder Holland’s talk about how Jesus Christ’s mission was the greatest expression of love ever known. Christ gave us “the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins.” Then Elder Uchtdorf gave a beautiful and concise explanation of grace. It is the power that erases sin, raises us to a level beyond our capacity to reach, and pours into our lives the power to accomplish all we strive for. Without understanding grace, Latter-day Saints get depressed when we try to achieve perfection and fail (every time)!

Video quote: The Path of Discipleship — Dieter F Uchtdorf

I also appreciated the talks about Returning to Faith and Waiting for the Prodigal. Because there ARE casualties in the trials of life. Living the gospel is hard. Some of us fall away, become inactive, etc. Yet even for those of us bogged down with difficult doctrines or difficulty living the doctrines can find peace in the gospel. And those of us who are strong can extend love and help to those who need it. Because none of us are strong enough on our own. We need each other and we need Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful for conference. It gives me a chance to take my spiritual temperature and evaluate where I need to improve. I know our leaders are righteous men who are in tune with God’s direction for the church. I also feel the camaraderie of the worldwide Saints. There are people like me who are also trying to live this glorious gospel and feeling its blessings in their lives.Pres-Monson-exiting-conference

Easter: Everything good happens because of Him

I look around at the world. The plants are blossoming, the world has been reborn as it is every spring. I think how God created this beauty, from the oceans and mountains to the molecular structures and biochemical processes of life. TulipsI notice my new baby. He has come alive. From complacent newborn he’s grown into a curious infant. He can scoot across the room and explore things that capture his attention. He brims with happiness over his new-found abilities. He freely shares his gushing happiness with anyone around.

I am surrounded by love. My children and husband gush over me. Tell me how much they love me. They notice my moods. Sometimes when I am quiet, they come up and give me a hug.

The message of Easter is all of this and more comes because of Jesus Christ.

Jesus-Christ-at-the-wellHe created the beautiful Earth and all life upon it. The purpose of this splendor simply to witness of His love for us. He implemented God’s plan for His children by creating Adam and Eve, our first parents, and beginning family units.

Jesus makes it possible for little children to be born into the world innocent. They are alive in Him. They exemplify the beauty of heaven that we cannot remember yet yearn to return to.

Jesus was born into the world to experience all of the pain of mortality. He felt all of the emotions, physical pain, spiritual stretching, and uncertainty that comes with life. He felt the weight of the sin of all mankind in the garden of Gethsemane and again on the cross. He died.

Then he took his body again and became a resurrected being. He overcame death. He overcame sin and all mortal imperfections. He uses his power to reclaim all of mankind and offer us the blessings He received. He loved us and did not forget any of us in His miraculous mission. He and our Father focus completely on us, their children.resurrected-christ-wilson-ongAfter this life is over, God wants to share with us “all that He hath.” (Luke 12:44). He wants to take the little fragments of happiness that we have experienced here and make them into an eternal reality. Jesus Christ made this possible. Everything from creating the Earth through redeeming God’s children is encompassed in Jesus’ divine mission that He fulfilled when He rose the third day.

He is risen!

If you like this post, consider reading Because He Lives: Meditations on Christ

Motherhood: watching children suffer

After nine months of anticipation, patience, impatience, and discomfort, I delivered my baby boy. He was big, a lusty nine pounds five ounces, and absolutely perfect. Then my husband pointed out a patch of skin on his temple that looked slightly different. It didn’t make much difference to me; he was still my perfect baby.

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my newborn baby

Because of that patch of skin, we went to see a dermatologist, then a pediatric craniofacial plastic surgeon. Last week, I took my baby to the hospital for surgery so it could be removed. No one in my family has required surgery for anything before, let alone a baby. I felt anxious about the risks, even though it was a minor procedure.

I prayed. I prayed that everything would go well. I prayed for the surgeon. I prayed that my baby wouldn’t have any adverse reactions to anesthesia. I prayed for his happy little self to continue on in life without any hindrance. Babies are so precious, partially because they are so innocent. They obviously have done nothing to deserve the unfairness of life, yet they take everything in stride with even more patience than adults. They are also precious because of their potential; their life is a wide open opportunity to achieve something. It is heartbreaking to see that potential lost when a child dies.

Fortunately, my prayers were answered in the way I asked. I cannot even begin to imagine the stress and anxiety of Moms whose babies have chronic conditions that regularly take them to the hospital. My little experience was so minor in comparison. Baby had his surgery and I got to hold him in my arms as he woke up.

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my baby recovering from surgery

I brought him home and he has returned to his happy little self. I wonder why we even had to have the experience. Why the extra stress, expense, time? I don’t know, except that I trust God who has engineered our experience in mortality to teach us lessons we could get in no other way. My baby will never remember this experience, but he’ll have a scar. I, on the other hand, will never forget it.

baby with a bandage from surgery
baby with a bandage after surgery

I love my children. But I know babies don’t stay perfect and innocent. Each precious baby will grow and make mistakes. Motherhood brings with it potential for heartache. I hope my children achieve their full potential as adults. Even if they don’t, I will love them. I would never go back to the person I was before I became a mother. This experience was just a taste of the heartache a mother feels. Life hurts sometimes.

This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.

-Thomas S Monson

If heartache is what helps me become the person God wants me to be, then it is worth it.