Wednesday, March 28, 2007

There's Hope for Clutterbugs Like Me!

This news piece made me smile. I especially liked this:

"We all function at different levels," says Organize By Design owner Jamie Tabish. "Some people do fine with piles. Some people do fine with things all over. Perhaps it's because internally they're very well organized, and their environment doesn't affect them as much."

So, that's it. I must be very internally well-organized. :)

Seriously, though, I have been bothered through the years with this standard "out there" that you have to have a clean house to be a good woman (a good member of the Church?) It may sound like a cop-out, but I don't have much of a knack for cleaning. I never have. That's not to say that I don't want to try to do what I can and that I shouldn't try to find ways to make improvements. But considering my lack of natural knack and chronic illness issues, it was nice to hear a "professional organizer" say that it's possible for me to still have some semblance of order in my chaos. I've never really had any expert give me permission to not be perfect in this way. So that article was a bit liberating for me. I've got enough I feel inadequate about that I don't need to feel like a hopeless failure because I'm not the best housekeeper in the world. After all, there's more to making a home than just cleaning, right?

And, you know what? I really can find things in my mess. It's when I clean that I lose stuff. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Innocence is Short-lived These Days

This was a poignant account from a mom about dealing with her children's questions and concerns (and her own concerns) when lesbians moved in next door. It's impossible to read this and not acknowledge that homosexuality can and does have an effect on children. At the very least, the story demonstrates the fact that innocence certainly doesn't have the life span that it used to, and that the ideological wars of adults often put children unwittingly in the crosshairs.

(Hat tip to Times and Seasons' sidebar for the link.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gay Rights vs. Parental Rights

I have been known to express concerns about the movement to push forward gay rights. This issue is always so tricky to discuss. It's not just "an issue" -- on either side, it involves real people with real concerns. Let me make it clear that I realize this. This issue is not far from my own life, as I have loved ones who live the often diffucult life of a homosexual. I know a little of the struggle that this can be, especially when compounded by a religious faith that doesn't support such a lifestyle. I am not cold-hearted about this, and yet I have strong feelings about the topic.

Some want to claim that anyone who takes a position against gay marriage is hateful, lacks compassion, and wants to force religion on other people. I think this is unfair. We need to be able to talk about the issue respectfully, and I rarely see that done. I also think that the issue is not as clear-cut and innocuous as gay rights supporters want to make it out to be, and this is something I want to address.

I thought I would share some of the reasons why I am concerned about the momentum gay rights are gaining in our country. To sum up some of my concerns: I think they might in fact be threatening the rights of others. In this post, my focus is on parental rights, particularly as they relate to school curriculum. If I can pull other thoughts together, I might address other concerns such as free speech and religious rights in future posts. (This is as much for me to clarify and consolidate my thoughts as it is to share them, so if all this does is boil your blood, perhaps you should just stop reading now. :) )

In Massachusetts (one of the states leading out in support of gay rights), U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf ruled that: "The constitutional right of parents to raise their children does not include the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children." Children as young as five (!!) have been exposed to information or concepts related to homosexuality, and parents have been told they cannot even opt their children out of such classroom teaching. They are basically told, "take it or leave it." Shouldn't taxpayers at one level, and parents especially, have some input or influence over school curriculum? Apparently not when it comes to homosexuality. (You can read the judge's written opinion here.)

(I wonder: Would the judge or the school demand that a parent "take it or leave it" if they were concerned about elements of the math curriculum or some other subject that doesn't involve such a hot-button topic? I have to doubt that they would....)

I find it interesting, though, that the same restrictions on parental rights don't seem to hold if generic religion is ever brought into the curriculum, even indirectly. Parents can protest such supposed
"offensive exposure" (think Pledge of Allegiance, for example), but when it comes to religious parents wanting to opt out of indoctrination that violates their religious beliefs, then the rights are restricted. I fear that the religion of the secular often gets favored status when it comes to "rights" -- and often at the expense of the rights of others.

I'm not thrilled that we have removed God from our schools and our public language. But I can understand wanting to give people the right to believe as they do and not make others' points of view feel "forced" on them. But then this needs to be consistent. I expect that I and my children should be offered the same right, including opting out of offensive teaching without being told to "hit the road." If we are going to protect those who don't believe and don't want their children exposed to religious belief, we ought to protect those who do believe and don't want to be exposed to things that violate their religious beliefs.

Another concerning situation has been discovered in Illinois. Freshman students at Deerfield High School were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement committing to keep secret the content in a "Freshman Advisory" class. They were told they couldn't even tell their parents! Students who didn't want to sign were basically pressured to do so (although apprently at least one student signed the document only after altering it). Apparently the content of this class around this time was focused on the gay agenda. (More information can be found here and here.)

Incidentally, giving a legal contract to a minor is illegal, so this agreement was either against the law or not legally binding. But would students know this (either way)? The contract surely appeared legal to these students, if not at least threatening. Clearly this was an effort to control and intimidate students to submit them to homosexual activism -- and then to deliberately hide it from the parents!

Apparently, this freshman class has also been used to teach about deviant heterosexual behavior. (Nevermind the fact that this is offensive content to many parents for a moment -- I fail to see what the academic justification for this is!) As parents and other concerned citizens started to realize that this class might not be something they wanted their youth to have, they requested to see copies of the materials for the class. Legally, this information should be accessible (per Illinois state law), but is kept behind a private portal of some sort. These requests for access to the class information have been denied.

Sooo.... Some questions I have swimming in my mind are these:

-If the gay agenda were simply about love and respect for all, why is there such deception and illegal and inappropriate control mingled with it? (NOTE: I speak collectively and not individually. I'm sure there are some who really only care about their personal lives and getting the rights they want. I am not addressing these people, but rather those who are behind such actions and motives as the above.)
-Why does this agenda include such devious efforts to get children exposed to and swayed by the bias of people who really have no right to tread on ground that is considered sacred to many? (Their motives seem highly suspect here and I think I could pretty accurately guess what their thinking is. And I am deeply concerned that they are willing to pull unsuspecting children into their battle. I still can't get over the fact that school officials, teachers, counselors, whoever would have the gall to demand that students be dishonest with their parents, knowing that many would be opposed to what was happening. I should add, too, that students who oppose such things are ostracized by other students. Where is the protection for them when they are harassed? Such harassment is never allowed toward gays. Again, another example of double standards with all of this.)
- What logic do gay rights activists hold to if, in their clamoring for rights they are willing to push the rights of religious people whose views differ to the side?
- If gay rights' activists protest the government's involvement in marriage and family life, why are they not bothered by the government's interference in the teaching of children on topics that for many are deeply religious -- a key element of their family life? The state's growing religion of secularism appears to me to be increasingly forced (without choice!) on more and more children. The whole reason for separation of Church and state as I understand it is to prevent compulsory, across-the-board indoctrination on religious principles. Since this issue involves religious principles for so many, a forced preaching of homosexuality seems to violate that principle in my mind. (Although I'm certainly no lawyer.) :)

In conclusion, it is very difficult for me to believe those who say that the gay rights movement doesn't or won't harm anyone, when from where I sit, I think they have already caused trouble. I can't help but think this is only the beginning of such trouble if we continue to let gay rights dictate the decisions made about what is and is not legal and appropriate. I think there is more to this issue than meets the eye.


A note about comments: I realize this is an issue many people are tired of discussing. If that describes you, please feel free to ignore what I have said. It might be better if you do. :) I also realize how strongly people can feel about this topic. I respectfully ask that any comments be about the information and the situations I have brought up, and not include personal attacks or bullying. If you have evidence to counter my concerns, by all means, feel free to share. I don't pretend to have a full understanding of this issue.

I do moderate comments. Inflammatory, attacking comments will either be edited or left out entirely. I don't expect that everyone will agree, and I'm open to listening to any point of view as long as it keeps on the topic at hand and I feel it remains respectful. Thank you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lehi's tent

I'm having a lot of fun mulling over Lehi's tent with a group of people at a new blog called BoM Groupies. I thought I would include some of my thoughts here that I included in a couple of comments there. (This will help me keep better track of what I'm thinking about and studying, too.) ;) (I don't want to distract from comments over there, though, so you can join in over at the BoM blog if you want to comment....)

Short summary: I read something from a BYU Studies on a CD I have about what has been called the axis mundi. Think "center" and "symbolic (and maybe literal) connection with heaven and earth" -- a place in a city (or a city) that was the center of religious, social, political and economic life. I'm particularly interested in the spiritual center, which often included a temple/place for religious ritual. Part of this was to suggest that Lehi's tent was actually like a temple. What I have studied is convincing me that this may very well be the case.

So here are some of my thoughts:

It struck me that this concept of axis mundi and the tent and what we are discussing relates directly to core (”central”) doctrines (many of which are covered by Isaiah):

-a standard (In Bedouin life, “A white flag,” we are told, “is sometimes hoisted above his tent to guide strangers and visitors. All visitors are led directly to the tent of the [sheikh].” (Thanks, Hugh Nibley (anyone opposed to Hugh Nibley around here?)
- gathering … the tent was a gathering place, a hub, especially for family but also for those invited to be with (to “have place” with) the family (this will be fun to discuss when we get to Zoram)
- councils, talking, teaching — this is a place where a lot of discussion and decision takes place
- Family — closely related to the previous two elements
- revelation (this was discussed in that quote I included above, as well as in other comments already made)
- temple-related elements (altars, sacrifice, teaching, ….that whole bridging the gap between heaven and earth)
— and, of course, the purpose of temples is two-fold 1) to gather us to Christ and to teach of the Atonement and bring the saving and cleansing power of the Atonement into our lives and 2) to gather us as families, and as the family of God
- refuge — the tent provided protection and refuge. Lots of potential symbolism there.

“And my father dwelt in a tent.” I’m beginning to think there is MUCH to learn from that little phrase. (I also think this all ties into the comment about the three things Lehi brought with him…family, tents, provisions (gotta live in this mortal sphere even as we are on a spiritual journey, right?)) Lots to learn, methinks. So fun to mull over.

Fleshing out a bit more about what happened in scriptures around the concept of the tent.

1 Nephi 2:6-7 -- sacrifices mentioned right after the tent is mentioned.

[Note also that teaching is mentioned in vs. 9 and 10. Although we don't know if time passed between the offering and the teaching, I like to see the combination of ritual and teaching together. Teaching can go with revelation above, perhaps.]

1 Nephi 3:1-2
Nephi returns to the tent after receiving revelation (he returns to the tent prepared?), and a discussion ensues about the revelation Lehi just received. I would assert that because of Nephi's preparation, he can accept the word of his father/the prophet as revealed with a soft heart, whereas the pattern of Laman and Lemuel's rebellion continues.

I see family, gathering, council/counsel and even temple application here (we should come to the temple with soft hearts, prepared to receive instruction (hard though it may be sometimes...and it will be less hard if our hearts are softened).

1 Nephi 5:7

The first thing he mentions about returning with the scriptures is that he goes to the tent. Again, family, gathering, revelation. (Sariah finally gets her testimony of her husband's prophetic calling at this time.) Comfort is also mentioned. Love that.

And, again, they offer sacrifices:
1 Nephi 5:9

1 Nephi 7:5 (also v. 21)

Ishmael and his family join the family of Lehi, and where do are they headed? To the tent! (Note that this happens after Ismael's heart was softened! Pattern there of a softened heart and going to the tent?) The tent was the focus, the destination, as they journeyed. It was what was on Nephi's mind. Interesting. (Temple, center of our thoughts? Our destination? Our focus?)

And look at 1 Nephi 7:22

There it is again!!!...gospel rituals right after the tent is mentioned.

1 Nephi 9:1

Revelation -- this comes after Lehi's vision. So a key vision that we still cling to today was received "as he dwelt in a tent." (Wish we knew what else he saw!)

1 Nephi 10:15-16

More prophecy and revelation!

v. 17 also is interesting to me...Nephi again seeks revelation. Ch. 2 and 3 shows Nephi receiving his revelation and softened heart, and then he goes to the tent. This chapter takes Nephi from the tent of teaching, and seeking revelation. So, I see going prepared to the tent and being ready to receive more, and coming away from the tent ready to seek confirmation and revelation.

And here he is again...receiving revelation and returning to the tent of his father immediately after. I sense a tight connection between Nephi and the tent and his father/the prophet.
1 Nephi 15:1
1 AND it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.

I wonder if this is significant:
1 Nephi 16:6-7
Tent and marriage right next to each other? Hmmmmm.....

And then Lehi receives the Liahona in v. 10. Does the temple help us receive our guiding Liahona, that gives us guidance according to our heed, faith and diligence?

Well, I'm very intrigued by the patterns I'm seeing. I think my thought is that the tent is significant. :)

(And here is some of that info from the BYU Studies article.)

This is a fun discussion! (Thanks again for letting me know about this blog, Isaiahsfan! I do hope that I’m not intruding in discussions among longtime friends.)

This discussion about Lehi’s tent brought to mind some things I had read a couple of years ago about the “axis mundi.” This reference will be long, but I hope it’s interesting to you as it was to me. (If this is too cumbersome, please let me know how it might be better to share information in the future.)

I included more than just what relates to Lehi’s tent because I think it can possibly shed light on patterns in the OT as well (and also the ancient elements of the BoM). Might it also shed light on the importance of “centers” and temples in the latter days. ?? Food for thought, anyway.

Ancient world civilizations believed that the perceived order of territorial environment, in its “natural” and built-up features, revealed the structure of a sacred universe. The epitome of this symbolic order was a capital city or ceremonial center. “In those religions which held that human order was brought into being at the creation of the world there was a pervasive tendency to dramatize the cosmogony by constructing on earth a reduced version of the cosmos, usually in the form of a state capital.”

The specific features of this model of spatial organization vary from culture to culture but can be generally expressed in terms of three principles: centripetality, cardinality, and inductance. Centripetality is the notion that terrestrial space was created from and ordered by an “existentially centered point.” This center or “navel of the earth” was considered to be the point of contact between heaven and earth [this is a point that I find very interesting to this discussion], the most elevated place on earth and the point at which the creation of the earth began. The construction of a temple or other holy sanctuary celebrated the sacredness of the axis mundi. Rituals and other observances were performed in those holy places to preserve the parallelism of the macrocosmos (heaven) and the microcosmos (earth). Natural, political or social catastrophe often succeeded in dislocating the axis mundi. When this occurred, the holy of holies was likely relocated to another site declared auspicious by the ritual leader of the group.

[This gives some historical background; the author’s purpose was largely to show the ancient roots of the BoM. Following is the connection with Lehi’s tent.]

One of the recurring themes in the Book of Mormon is the establishment and maintenance of a centralized social and territorial order. The Book of Mormon narrative opens in Old Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah with the minor prophet Lehi preaching that the city of the Jews is about to be destroyed because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. The citizens respond by trying to kill Lehi; consequently, he flees with his family into the wilderness. They do not leave, however, without first receiving the promise of being guided by God to another land of promise, “a land choice above all other lands,” to establish another axis mundi.

Having abandoned their traditional, though profaned, sanctuary, Lehi’s company constructs a temporary axis in the wilderness: Lehi’s tent. That Lehi “dwelt in a tent” is mentioned fourteen times in the desert narrative and appears at critical events in the historical sequence: after Lehi reported his “dream of the tree of life” and after Nephi reported his vision of the promised land (1 Ne. 8:11-14); after Lehi’s sons acquired the Hebrew scriptures from a corrupt religious leader in Jerusalem and after additional refugees from Jerusalem joined Lehi’s company (1 Ne. 4; 7:1-5); and on the occasion of essential observances of the Mosaic law (1 Ne. 2:6-7; 6:7-9; 7:22). Lehi’s tent thus secured contact with the heavens, despite the nomadic existence of his following, and allowed him and his people to continue in confidence toward the promised land.
Steven L. Olsen; BYU Studies Vol. 23, No. 1, pg.82

Since we are in ch. 2, note what happened right after he pitched the tent:
6 And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.
7 And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.

A bit more on this as we look forward toward more readings in the BoM (from the same source, a couple of pages further on) :

The image of the center as a holy mountain was also established early in and maintained throughout the Book of Mormon. In relation to the wilderness Jerusalem was always “up,” while the wilderness in relation to Jerusalem was either “down” or “into” (1 Ne. 3-7, passim). Once in the promised land, the people always went “up” to the temple and to the “lands of our first inheritance” (Jacob 2:11; Mosiah 1:18; 2:1-11; 7:2-4; 20:7; 28:1; 29:3; Alma 17:8; 20:2; 24:20; 26:23). Finally, the elevated status of the kingdom of God was emphasized in millennial imagery and ecstatic experiences, such as Nephi’s vision of the promised land (1 Ne. 11:21; 17:7). In the nearly thousand-year period that this civilization occupied the promised land, four successive centers were established–Lehi, Nephi, Zarahemla, and Bountiful. Except for the land of Lehi, in which Lehi’s tent served as the axis mundi, a temple was established at each center. Ritual officials were appointed to perform the prescriptions of the Mosaic law, with major observances, such as renewal ceremonies, occurring at the temple. Important sermons were also delivered to the community from the temple (2 Ne. 5:10, 16; Mosiah 2:5; Jacob 2-5; 3 Nephi. 12-17).

He goes on to talk about how the development and growth of cities (surrounding the center) corresponded to righteousness, and how destruction of cities (and ultimately no more civilization) was tied to wickedness. I think keeping an eye on this concept of “centers” and the role they played in Nephite civilization might be interesting as we move forward.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Pray for Peace

(I was hoping to get this out earlier this week, but my to-do list has been seriously disrupted by a whopping case of bronchitis. Sorry for the lateness of this post.)

Today is a day of fasting for those of my faith (although, wouldn't you know it, in our particular area, we had our fast day last week because we have different meetings this week). Anyway...I was asked to post something about a day of prayer and fasting for world peace...that our leaders will be able to find peaceful solutions to the conflicts that rage.

There are a host of opinions about the war in Iraq and foreign policy in general. I like to think of this faithful effort as something beyond any political points of view. I think any of us, regardless of specific feelings about the war, ultimately want peace. I hope we can include that hope in our thoughts and prayers today.

As for me, I hope we can have peace domestically as well. I don't think the angst and divisiveness that surrounds this issue is helpful toward the overall goal of peace, either. I hope for more peace in the United States as well as in the world at large.

If you feel so inclined, you are invited to join in the effort to pray for peace today.