Saturday, April 5, 2008

Healing from Abuse Through the Atonement

During this afternoon's session of General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott spoke on the the power of the atonement to heal abuse victims, as well as those who are guilty of perpetrating the abuse.

His opening words immediately brought to my mind the thoughts I've had recently about the church's responsibility to address some social ills. To be honest, his words got my hopes up that he would be specifically addressing the social ill that has been most salient to me in the last year. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard that he would be speaking to abuse victims, because he was speaking directly to me.

Elder Scott went on to describe the process of healing after abuse, which included counseling with priesthood authorities (bishop, stake president) praying for healing and forgiveness from the Lord, and sometimes meeting with trained professionals who are specialized in helping people overcome abuse.

He also explained the responsibility of priesthood holders when they hear of abuse. I was surprised to hear the Elder Hales recommended that bishops, in addition to assisting the victims, are to report the perpetrators to civil and ecclesiastical authorities. In the case of childhood sexual abuse, I understand that bishops are to act as mandated reporters, just as I would as a preschool teacher; however, I didn't know it would apply to other situations of abuse as well. In mine, I don't expect that my bishop will make any type of report, but I can't help but wish that he would.

In regards to those who perpetrate abuse, Elder Scott spoke strongly and truthfully to them, saying that they need to repent and can have hope in Christ through their willingness to be changed and forgiven, by both God and their victims.

The Apostle's words were comforting to me in that I was able to see that I have been succesful of employing his counsel for healing. I almost feel bad for Elder Scott because he was careful to say that he didn't want his words to bring up any past hurts or memories of abuse, and in my case, he has, even though I have been given greater hope and peace from his words.

13 million members!

My favorite part of General Conference has always been the Church Statistical Report presented at each Saturday afternoon session of April General Conference. So unfortunately, I'm also a little let down in October when there is no Statistical Report.

Here is the report for this year (as of Dec 31, 2007):
stakes in the church: 2,790
missions: 348
districts: 618
wards/branches: 27,827

membership: 13,193,999
children of record born in 2007: 93,698*
convert baptisms: 279,218

missionaries: 52,686
dedicated temples: 124
One temple was rededicated in the year of 2007. No new temples were dedicated.

When I joined the church in 2001, there were 11 million members and I was so excited at the 2002 April Conference to know that I was counted in the number of convert baptisms and also the membership of the church. In 6 years, there have been over 2 million new members. I was also excited to hear in 2004 that another million had been added to the rolls, as this means that there have been many others who have come to have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ like I did.

*Willem is included in this number as he was born in 2007. He and the other 29 babies born into my ward in the last year.

And once again, I'll report that Wikipedia was updated before the end of the conference session where the report was given.

New Apostle Called

In today's morning session of General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson was called as the newest Apostle in the Quorum the the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I find this amusing...the wikipedia entry on him was already updated within a hour of the end of the session stating his call as an Apostle.

Here is the link to the wikipedia entry for a biography of Elder Christofferson.

In trying to learn more about him, I looked at this interview from a reporter at Reuters.

The reporter made sure to ask some of the hardest questions about the LDS Church, including will women receive the priesthood, are LDS men able to be sealed to more than one woman, what is the church's relationship to politics, and his personal beliefs on evolution.

I'm proud to say that I think Elder Christofferson answered unequivocally and honestly in all cases. Some answers would better than others, but they all addressed the question directed and answered it with either a Yes, No or I don't know.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Reuter's reporter: Do you believe in Evolution?

Elder Christofferson: I don't know. That's a very intriguing question. I can't think of a doctrinal statement by the church on evolution. We do believe certainly in a divine hand in creation. And one of our scriptures says there is a lot yet to be revealed.There's not much that's frankly been revealed on the religious side regarding it. You've got a basic account of creation over different periods - we're not talking necessarily about 24 hour days but periods in which God directed creation. The hows, the details, I don't know, to be honest with you. We don't claim to know.

REUTERS: Are there documents about the church's history that are purposely being concealed from the public, hidden in archives or vaults, as some historians assert? If so, what are these?

Elder Christofferson:I don't know if every document ever produced that's not private and confidential has ever been published, I'm not sure. There is no particular effort to hide things that could legitimately be public just because that never works. Somehow it always comes out, so what's the point? So there's not a hidden secret vault of things that contradict what we teach as far as the church's history is concerned or other things that we are afraid of seeing the light of day. That's not true. But there are confidential records, that sort of thing. Some of them are deemed confidential for the rights of individuals. We have disciplinary councils of the church

I am confident to say there is no secret document that would blow the church out of the water that's been held at a secret vault.

REUTERS: Does the LDS church believe that the second coming of Christ is imminent? Is that an accurate characterization?

CHRISTOFFERSON: Probably not in the way most people understand imminent. One of the prophesies that you find in the New Testament, Matthew, is that the Gospel has to be preached in all the world before that happens. We're making every effort to do that but we're far from accomplishing it. There are places where you can't go, period. There are other places where we are in an infant stage, so to speak, in that process. So we don't pretend to know but we think it's some years away.

REUTERS: The Woodruff Manifesto, which banned polygamy in 1890, never revoked section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants - Joseph Smith's 1843 revelation on plural marriage - why?

CHRISTOFFERSON: It's consistent with biblical teaching, with Book of Mormon teaching, and that is to say, to use computer language, the default mode is monogamy. That was divinely established at the beginning of time with Adam and Eve and it continues unless God for His own purposes, for whatever reason, permits, or authorizes or directs in this case the practice of plural marriage, and there have been times when He has, if you look at Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the old patriarchs of the Old Testament. And this instance here in the early (LDS) church history.

As I said earlier, we believe in this continuing flow of revelation and it's His right to authorize or de-authorize - to turn it on or turn it off. But unless God were to specifically reveal to the Prophet this must be done at this time, it's not, it's wrong without his direction.

I have also found one Conference talk of his given at the Oct 2000 conference where he addresses the question, "What is the destiny of the countless billions who have lived and died with no knowledge of Jesus?" Its a hard one, and one that had kept me from joining other Christian churches because I wasn't satisfied with their answers. It was the LDS Church with its doctrines of baptism and salvation for the dead that allowed me to believe in the necessity for all people to be baptised to enter into the Kingdom of God.

In that talk he also describes a doctrinal question that had puzzled my husband for a few years: How was the Savior able to take upon our sins and redeem us while simultaneously meeting the demands of justice? Elder Christofferson states, '"The principle of vicarious service should not seem strange to any Christian. In the baptism of a living person, the officiator acts, by proxy, in place of the Savior. And is it not the central tenet of our faith that Christ's sacrifice atones for our sins by vicariously satisfying the demands of justice for us? As President Gordon B. Hinckley has expressed: "I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle."'

From this much that I have read of his words, I see the Elder Christofferson is a man of everyday language but a deep and abiding understanding of the gospel, doctrines and history of the Church. I'm pleased that he is the newest apostle and I look forward to hearing his words and counsel at future church meetings.