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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#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

A Phoenix Temple testimony

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Bountiful Utah temple in winter by Jason Carlton

I am impressed by Jason’s blog over at Temples and Testimonies. I enjoyed reading the inspiring messages there. His photos inspire too!

Here is my testimony of the temple. Thanks Jason for providing the impetus to write it.

When I first moved to Phoenix I immediately felt dismay over the distance to the temple. While not impossible, the 90 minute drive meant a visit lasted 6 hours, too long for me to attend if I had a nursing baby at home. The difficulty taught me to appreciate the temple more.

I felt ecstatic at the Church’s plan to build a temple in Phoenix. Then I had to find extraordinary patience as the planning and building phases took six years to complete.

This past fall, I had the privilege of attending the Phoenix Temple open house with my entire family. Many of my friends volunteered in the open house and shared their inspiring experiences with me. I’ve felt longing for this House of God, and now joy at being able to go inside and worship there.

I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers saving ordinances restored from ancient times. Through these ordinances, available in temples, my family has a chance to be together eternally. I have never found a more beautiful piece of truth; one that inspires me to keep trying even when life is hard. My husband and children bring so much happiness to my life. And the gospel teaches us the principles needed to achieve that happiness. It’s amazing!

-Holly

Two Testimonies

Today I want to share a testimony with you.

Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. (Alma 5)

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source lds.org

This beautiful testimony points out that all testimony results from revelation through the Holy Spirit. “Through revelation, the Lord provides individual guidance for every person who seeks it and who has faith, repents, and is obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (lds.org) A testimony is a beautiful combination of insight received through revelation and faith in things we don’t completely understand.

That is one reason it is difficult for detractors to understand how we can believe. To those outside of the realm of faith, belief in Jesus Christ seems foolish. (Alma 30:13) I feel very fortunate I’m taught God’s plan in a way that is simple and easy to comprehend. Millions have lived and died wondering whether God could save His children.

I like to consider what atheists have to offer. There is only one version of the ultimate destiny of mankind for those who don’t believe in God: annihilation. Whether through self-destruction or using up all available resources, the earth and its amazing creations end in death.

Belief in God offers a counter ending. God, who created and knows all things, made us for a purpose. He has enough foresight to make sure there is enough (and extra) for our grand experiment. Like a loving Father sending his young children out into the world to prove themselves, He created a laboratory where we could experiment and explore our potential. We prove ourselves in our daily actions, a lifelong test that is so much harder than any written or verbal examination.

I love that our church pushes each member to continually improve. There is no simple salvation for a trite pledge. We have to live what we believe. It only makes sense: God can’t be fooled by “cheating” on the test of life. He is wise enough to make succeeding questions adapted to our responses, showing us the holes in our logic. And he doesn’t close the examination until we’ve had time to revise our answers.

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source lds.org

As time rolls on, God’s kingdom grows stronger in opposition to the expanding forces of Evil. “We will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger.” (Elder James E Faust) “The solution of the great world problems is here in the Church of Jesus Christ. Ample provision is made not only for the needs of individuals, but also for the nation and groups of nations. I realize that it is a great claim. … It is simply the application of God’s plan to the world problems.” (Elder L Tom Perry)

I want to share my own testimony. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on the earth. It contains all of the pieces of the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathered in completeness with authority to provide ordinances of salvation to all of God’s children. The good are being gathered together, as we participate in the final battle against darkness. I know Jesus Christ will come again at the culmination of this battle. Good will be rewarded and evil will be defeated. It is so simple, yet in thousands of years of earth’s history, men haven’t been able to come up with anything to compare with it. I know it’s true. Like Alma,

“God hath made it manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Children restored

Today I read the Book of Mormon and found this gem:

For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer. 2 Nephi 10:2

This verse took on a different meaning to me this time. I picture Jacob, a righteous leader and father thinking about his children’s future. Inevitably, being righteous is hard and some fall away. Life is hard. Yet God is still merciful. He understands that we struggle through life’s journey. Sometimes we are casualties in the fight.

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All of God’s children are precious.

I love how it says “our children shall be restored.” One interpretation is the return of the House of Israel to righteousness in the latter days. But what about all of the casualties between Jacob’s day and the latter days? Those children are precious too. This time it occurred to me that through the temple, all children of all time have the opportunity to accept the gospel message of salvation. That is comforting to me, because I look at my children and think how precious they are. I would hate to lose a single one, yet I can’t force their choices. All of us are God’s children, and He considers us all precious. Even generations of children who lived without the gospel. Through the grace of God, because of our Savior Jesus Christ, we are all given a chance to accept everything God can offer us. And Christ is not finished until every child has been redeemed.