Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Tune for "If You Could Hie to Kolob"

If You Could Hie to Kolob is one of my favorite hymns. The melody itself makes up a large part of that though I greatly love the expansive view of creation and existence that is brings to LDS culture.  I was surprised to hear the tune in unexpected places over the last few days. Sitting in the middle of my neighborhood bookstore, I hear a Celtic fiddle version of it and different lyrics being sung.

Its not surprising because I do know that many of the hymns are arranged to familiar and commonly used tunes. It just was surprising to me to find it popping up. This is the first time I can recall hearing a tune of familiar LDS hymn in a different context.

As I learned more about the tune (its named Kingsford in the LDS Hymnbook), I discovered three different versions of it telling very different stories (in addition to the words of Parley P. Pratt).

First is "The Seven Rejoices of Mary" sung by Loreena McKennit which tells the story of Mary watching her child, Jesus, grow up and the joy she experienced seeing him fulfill his purpose on the earth.

The next, which is likely a more original use of the tune is "Dives and Lazarus" which tells the story of the rich man from Luke 16:20-31 who turns away a beggar in life and then after death finds himself begging for relief from the same beggar he shunned previously.

The third is "The Star of the County Down" which is a Irish folktune, also performed by Loreena McKennit. Its a typical song of a renowned Irish beauty and her admirer's pining after her.

You can hear many versions of the tune I've mention by searching for them on iTunes. I think my favorite is the punk/ska version I found of Dives and Lazarus by June Tabor and the Oyster band. With my love of the RM and Single's Ward soundtracks for their rock/punk/ska/dance/R&B stylings of LDS hymns, its really no wonder.

The wikipedia page about the ballad's tune also lists a few more songs that have used the same tune and good for the person who created the stub, If You Could Hie to Kolob was included in the list.

Lastly, I'll link to this one of particular interest because of the testimony of Christ that is given in the world. O Sing O Sing of Bethelem would be a fitting Christmas or Easter song in LDS ward meetings, as well as for the sacrament hymn with its final verse, saying:
O sing a song of Calvary, its glory and dismay,

Of Him who hung upon the tree, and took our sins away.
For He who died on Calvary is risen from the grave,
And Christ, our Lord, by Heaven adored, is mighty now to save.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Full Moon, Lunar Eclipse Family Home Evening

Monday night was the full moon and also that night was the lunar eclipse. Because of our effort to teach our children nature appreciation and to find the Spirit in the beauty of the earth, it was the perfect Family Home Evening activity and lesson.

We started by going outside to look up at the moon. We talked about how the moon changed appearance throughout the month and why that night, we could see the perfect sphere of the full moon.

We sang the hymn "For The Beauty of the Earth" and a la Heather at Mutual Approbation, we sang the verses like this:
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
God, Our Father, we now raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,
God, Our Mother, we now raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Christ, Our Brother, we now raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
After a prayer, the four of us went on a walk under the full moon.

We were fortunate that the clouds had cleared at this time because it had been cloudy earlier in the evening. After getting home, it was time for a treat and then bed.

My husband and I had been planning on getting the children to sleep so we could go outside and watch the lunar eclipse together, but Willem and Belle were not going for that plan. At a certain point once it started getting close to when the eclipse was starting, we gave up getting them to bed. Then, of course, Belle hit the point of "Bed, now!" right as it was starting. While Peter laid down to get her to sleep, Willem and I went outside and were able to watch the shadow of the sun cross the moon.

We had some sweet mama and son time while he sat cuddled on my lap and we watched the moon and talked about what we were seeing. I truly believe he understood (we had done solar system models of the moon/earth orbit with him before, and the Eric Carle book "Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me" helped him to understand the phases.)

Once the moon was completely covered by the lunar shadow, the clouds started to roll in. For 15 minutes or so, we could catch brief twinkles of the darkened moon from behind the clouds. Peter came out to join us and we sat happily as a family for a while until it became clear that we were not going to be seeing the moon again that night for the cloud cover.

We were able to reminiscence on the last lunar eclipse we had viewed together. (It was when Willem was a year old and we took a walk down to the edge of Lake Washington to view it.)

With that, and by that time, Willem was really showing signs of needing to sleep, we all went inside to bed. Later in the night, I went back out to check if by chance I could see it as the shadow moved away but by that time it was cloudy and rainy.

So the next day, I had to content myself from seeing the eclipse in time-lapse from the perspective of a Floridian:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Observing the Winter Solstice

I was very excited when last week my husband and I were having one of our late night conversations and he showed a great deal of interest in the Pagan ideas I had recently been exploring. We agreed on the goodness that would come from teaching our children about nature and science through experiential learning. I had been drawn to celebrating the Wheel of the Year as I learned about gardening, pregnancy and childbirth and the origins of our cultural traditions. Together, my husband and I committed to observing the wheel of the year in order to teach our children, incorporate ritual and tradition into our family life and to give thanks and praise to God for the earth.

The following is a description of how we observed the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Using LED candles (because I know my kids would attack fire and wax if given the chance!), I created a circle, with one candle in each direction. At north, south, east and west, I placed an object representing one of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. To the west (water), I placed a vial with water in it, to the north, a pumpkin as a product of the earth, to the east, a balloon filled with helium (air) and to the south, a lighted wax candle (fire). This was done to provide contextual evidence to small children what these abstract ideas are in a concrete reality.

That's Willem, waiting excitedly for the ritual to start.

We started by going around the circle and describing how each element is necessary for our continued survival on the earth and that we are thankful for each one of them. I truly believe because it was illustrated in such a concrete way, Willem understood it.

After naming and describing the elements and expressing our gratitude for them, we went around the circle again, this time reading a poem for Solstice at each element.

I read them in this order, each poem at a different element:
The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.

The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.

As the earth grows colder,
the winds blow faster,
the fire dwindles smaller,
and the rains fall harder,
let the light of the sun
find its way home.

Ending on fire, and to celebrate the return of the sun, Willem repeated after me as I read the following lines:
The sun returns! The light returns!
The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed,
and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun,
blessing us all with its rays.
To close, my husband offered a beautiful prayer giving thanks for the elements and the earth and to God for the creation of it.

In the end, it was short (probably only 10 minutes) but simple and effective. The Spirit was in our home in a special and meaningful way that night. It was just the encouragement I needed to continue building on this tradition with my family.

And for some additional cuteness, Belle was certainly interested and excited to be apart of it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christ's Birth

I found this tonight which I think is interesting:

December 8th: Immaculate Conception of Maryis celebrated in many Latin countries as, according to Catholic doctrine, the day of the conception of the Virgin Mary. The doctrine says that God had preserved Mary from original sin, giving her his grace, the divine life of Jesus Christ.

This is actually referring to Mary's conception and birth but my mind immediately went to thinking about Christ's conception, and Mary's pregnancy with him. Fitting as its Christmas time and all.

We know that Christ wasn't actually born at Christmas time with most scholars thinking that he was actually born early to mid-Spring. Latter-day Saints believe he was born in April. Using the date, April 6, I thought it would be very cool to know the date of his conception AND birth.

If he had been born at 40 weeks gestation exactly, he would have been conceived in mid July. Using the birthing window that many women not ever faithful in their calculated due date, He may have been born between 37 weeks to be full term and 44 weeks at the outside, meaning he could have been conceived as early as mid June or as late as early August.

Wit that, I then ponder what those last few days of Mary's pregnancy was like based on those 2 scenarios.

First, birth between 37-39 weeks:
The Mary is compelled to go to Nazareth with Joseph to pay the taxes decreed by Cyrenius and she was full-term but not quite to 40 weeks. Maybe she was 37 or 38 weeks pregnant. She hopes that on the trip the baby will not be born and she can return to her home in Galilee to give birth after the tax collecting is done.

The long, arduous, dusty and dehydrating trip caused contractions to start before her due date. As she arrives in Nazareth and they are looking for an inn, she is having contractions and they are increasing in intensity and regularity. If she were me, she'd been freaking out a little. They settle into the stable and within a few hours, Christ is born into hers or Joseph's hands.

The other scenario, birth at due date or over due:
She's past her due date like the majority of first time moms, the baby hasn't been born yet and they have to get to Nazareth to obey the decree of the governor. She hopes that either the baby will wait until after they get back or that the baby can be born before they leave. In most mother's minds, anything is better than laboring on the back of a donkey or giving birth far from home without the presence of wise women: mother, aunts, sisters and cousins. She doesn't get her wish and contractions start during the trip. She's contracting while trying to find a place to birth her baby. The stable does the job and the Christ child is born there.

Either way, my heart goes out to this young girl who gave birth far from her family and home amongst animals and hay. Maybe she was as Zen about it as she is portrayed in the scriptures, but maybe that was a very stressful and upsetting situation for her to be in. Either way, I've been in both of the situations described above. And honestly, I think the over-due scenario would be worse.

Though its not mentioned, I do guess that Mary and Joseph would have been able to locate a midwife to attend the birth if they so chose. Though perhaps it was in the day when the midwife only was called when assistance was needed after some concern or complication arose. Whether Christ's birth was attended by a midwife or unassisted is a toss-up. The unassisted birthers like to claim that Christ was an unassisted birth, so for the sake of not knowing, I won't rain on their parade.

Alright, end of birth geek mode at Christmas time, that's what you get from a midwifery student...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finding the Goddess

I'm starting to read the book "When God Was a Woman." I picked it up from D.I. and its exciting to me to once again pursue my interested in the Goddess. In high school, before I started investigating the LDS church, I was interested in learning about a Deity with whom I shared the same gender. At the time, I rejected Goddess worship because I felt the Male was marginalized. Choosing to worship her would have been no better than what obviously happened at some point in history, there was a choice to put one before the other. All I wanted was to find a tradition where both Male and Female were valued together where they ruled and reigned together in perfect balance.

To be honest, the closest I have come to finding that in the LDS Church. Mormons at least believe that a Mother in Heaven exists, even if she is marginalized and preference is given to God the Father. The potential is there, however, for both to be found together and honored together. Unfortunately, it requires some pretty independent thinking to appreciate that union. In my experiences as a Mormon, I have come to know my Heavenly Father very well and love him deeply. As I ponder on my Mother in Heaven, I am led to believe that all along She too has heard my prayers and though they may have been directed to Her husband, that She has heard all those prayers, been an active player in the answers I've received and the divine guidance given me. In short, I feel She has loved me too. I can envision her side by side my Father in Heaven, counseling with him in how to minister to me and in whatever way she can giving me all I need.

So, how then did she get so hidden from us? How is that she can be one of the active listeners to our prayers but the world over few know she is listening?

I learned from "When God Was a Woman" that early peoples of the earth did not know that sexual intercourse between a man and woman led to the production of off-spring. They thought that woman was magic; that somehow she created a child within her body, grew it and then birthed it. Man was marginalized in the society. His equal role was not recognized or understood. Because woman was seen to be the Creator, the deity worshipped was woman. Man was left out entirely. Women today know what that is like so its relatively easy to be sympathetic.

So from long ago, the people of the earth inherited an imbalanced, less that correct view of gender and God. The pendulum was all the way as high as it could go on the woman's side. As with all pendulums, it was going to swing and its not surprise that next it went all the way over to the other extreme with man. I can't say that cultural shift is happening, and if it is, I'm coming in the fore-end of it, but next that pendulum will shift again and hopefully, if us humans can be intelligent enough, that it will rest in the middle. With Man and Woman recognized as God and Goddess, Father and Mother. Whatever the world around me says and does, that's what I'm working for--a balance between gendered deity which I believe is more reflective of the true nature of God. Someday, the truth will be seen though our vision now is imperfect as we strive on the earth.

I likely will have other insights as I read the book which you can count on me to blog about some of them here.

As I integrate these beliefs into practice, I am seeking to know how to relate to either parent separately. Is that necessary? Or is their union so complete that they truly are one? Perhaps, being separated by the veil, they are not separate in prayers. A prayer to one is a prayer to the other? If that's the case then praying to God or Father in Heaven, is also a prayer to Mother in Heaven and no one needs to be the wiser that a person seeking Heavenly Mother is finding her in prayer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When the Manna Gets Old

The Israelites in the Book of Exodus were fed miraculously with bread of heaven as they wandered in the wilderness. The bread, manna, fell from heaven each morning and provided all they needed for that day. In the evening, they enjoyed meat from quail provided to their camp. After a while though, they got bored and they wanted something different. They missed what they had left behind.

From Numbers 11:
5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:

6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna before our eyes.

This is a well-known scene from the Old Testament and it becomes in our modern times an example of not being happy with what you have, seeking luxury, being ungrateful, greedy and selfish.

Another pretty obvious parallel is the bread of heaven as a symbol for the bread of life. In the modern LDS church, I can see this case being made: Heavenly Father has revealed a certain amount of doctrine and gospel light to the people of the world and they have an obligation to daily partake of it and live according to its principles. These doctrines are made available through the scriptures and teachings of the prophets (i.e. the bread of life). If members of the church become bored with or tired of these teachings then they are obviously in the same error as the ancient Israelites. These Church members are unable to be happy with what they have, but vainly seek for more. Their selfishness is deplorable and in extension, they can be used as an example of sinful behavior. This can be used to denounce the people who enjoy speculation or scholarship or those who mention a desire for revelation on certain topics or those who seek to understand "the mysteries" mentioned throughout the scriptures.

And to those who make that case, I will say that their meaning sounds an awful lot like the people denounced in The Book of Mormon for saying, "A bible, a bible, we have got a bible. We have not need for any more bible."

Member of the church would be familiar with the foundation principles of the gospel being the core focus of correlation. I learned from Daymon Smith's Mormon Stories Podcast that correlation consists of 72 gospel principles and core doctrines that are intended to be solely concentrated on throughout the church and throughout the world.

In response to that presentation, I commented:
I’m coming to this discussion late, but after just listening to Part 2, have to comment that the discussion on correlation is informing and validating some of my frustrations with the 72 ideas of the gospel. I’m feel pretty solid on those, to be honest. I got it down. I’m bored with the general instruction of correlation and like Andrew referred to I’m itching to move on to the “mysteries.” How I wish there was a post-correlation track for those who are ready to move beyond the basics and seek the “further light and knowledge” that is in the realm of pure speculation now? Sunstone is great for that, of course, but hardly mainstream in the church.
I can't believe that Heavenly Father wants us to stop in our progression and refrain from seeking greater light and intelligence in this life, yet I see this being taught in his church. It saddens me. I find myself in a situation where I have to hide my thoughts and feelings in fear of the judgement and persecution of others.

I know that one of the arguments supporting the idea that those who aren't content with revealed gospel knowledge are ungrateful and selfish also claim that members of the church have the obligation to become perfect in the principles of the gospel that we do have knowledge of. In extension, it is because we are not perfect in these things that we have been deemed unworthy by God to receive any further information. Its as if we are in a period of being damned and halted in our progression because we aren't good enough at what we've got.

That may be true. Yet can such a sweeping generalization be true of everyone? Is this a judgement that we are experiencing because, like many other situations in life, the many are ruining it for the few or, like in other situations, the few are ruining it for the many?

If that is the case, then it might be accurate to say that some members of the church truly are ready to progress beyond correlated principles and to learn through revelation some of the less important doctrine that help us make sense of everything that is and all that will be revealed. If the glory of God is intelligence, why are damned if we seek it?

Those who defend the correlated view say that it is important to have a strong foundation and to not stray from it. That what is taught by the church is the foundation and most important information of the gospel and all we need to know to get back to our heavenly parents. While that is true, and it is important for each member of the church to be firmly established in gospel sod, you can't live in a house that is just a foundation.

Having heard the same lessons repeated with little variance over the last few years has left me weary and yearning for more. And if I run the risk of sounding like an Israelite complaining about manna, I think I'll take it considering my intention is "to hunger and thirst after righteousness."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reflections on Marriage : A History

I just finished reading Marriage A History by Stephanie Coontz which has been talked about recently on the Exponent blog. Through out my reading, I saw how one of the most profound changes to marriage was (and I don't know if it was because of or is just a side-effect) women becoming recognized as people and not property. There is still much to do on that and our culture is still very much imbued with the past where women didn't matter. I realize that the freedoms we enjoy now are tenuous at best. We can count ourselves as lucky but we're conditioned to be afraid of pushing for more.

I really think that this translates into the church. You can't take the cultural and historical context of our society/country/cultural world out of the administration of the church. From reading Marriage a History, I'm not so confident in the concept of traditional marriage that is being upheld by the church. If traditional marriage was only a short-lived phenomenon which only came about as a natural progression of people trying to figure out what was right, fair and good for them while at the same having subtle but very negative effects on women especially, how is that the will of God? And if the church is wrong on the ideal structure to marriage and women's and men's responsibilities to their families, then perhaps the extension of the priesthood is a continuation of the progress that we as people need to continue making so women can finally after so many centuries be treated equally.

It seems to me that the leaders need to be convinced of this but they are so busy only seeing it from their perspective and believing that they have the clarity of vision to know how women feel in relation to it that there's not a whole lot of hope to see things change. But perhaps there is hope, 50 years ago things were really sucking for women and I have to say that I prefer the role strain and frustration of being a woman now to envisioning living in that world then. 50 years from now could be better than what we have now, right?

There's some positive things taking place. Equality in parenting and employment is becoming more of a reality (reading War on Moms now). WAVE exists. I do believe that women's opportunities will expand in the next 50 years to where women will not be penalized to the extent that they are now for being mothers and caring for their children. It may take a great deal of time and patience for the leaders of the church to embrace the new order of men and women working part-time and caring for children part time relying little on childcare and having respected careers while being able to afford living comfortably. It sounds so utopian but I think that it could happen in the next 50 years in the United States. That's already the reality in Holland. It makes me want to move to Holland. I've been threatening becoming an ex-pat for so long that I wonder if someday we'll actually do it.

If the leaders of the church saw that reality, it makes me think that women's involvement in the church would change too because they'd finally be willing to seriously consider the thoughts and feelings of the sisters.

I originally wrote these thoughts with the ideas of from this post floating in my head where the writer is decidedly pessimistic in hopes of these things happening within the church. Where do you stand?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Going to Meet Mother

The following is an obvious allegory of faith in God and confidence in life after death in addition to the metaphor of a baby's introduction to life and its mother's arm. Yet, to me, it strikes a different chord. That of my desire to connect with my Heavenly Mother.

Spirit Twins

Imagine this scene if you will.

Two babies are in utero confined to the wall of their mother’s womb, and they are having a conversation. For the sake of clarity we’ll call these twins Ego and Spirit.

Spirit says to Ego, “I know you are going to find this difficult to accept, but I truly believe there is life after birth.”

Ego responds, “Don’t be ridiculous. Look around you. This is all there is. Why must you always be thinking about something beyond this reality? Accept your lot in life. Make yourself comfortable and forget about all this life-after-birth nonsense.”

Spirit quiets down for a while, but her inner voice won’t allow her to remain silent any longer. “Ego, now don’t get mad, but I have something else to say. I also believe that there is a Mother.”

“A Mother!” Ego guffaws. “How can you be so absurd? You’ve never seen a Mother. Why can’t you accept that this is all there is? The idea of a Mother is crazy. You are here alone with me. This is your reality. Now grab hold of that cord. Go into your corner and stop being so silly. Trust me, there is no Mother.”

Spirit reluctantly stops her conversation with Ego, but her restlessness soon gets the better of her. “Ego,” she implores, “please listen without rejecting
my idea. Somehow I think that those constant pressures we both feel, those movements that make us so uncomfortable at times, that continual repositioning and all of that closing in that seems to be taking place as we keep growing, is getting us ready for a place of glowing light, and we will experience it very soon.”

“Now I know you are absolutely insane,” replies Ego. “All you’ve ever known is darkness. You’ve never seen the light. How can you even contemplate such an idea? Those movements and pressures you feel are your reality. You are a distinct separate being. This is your journey and you’re on your own. Darkness and pressures and a closed-in feeling are what life is all about. You’ll have to fight it as long as you live. Now grab your cord and please stay still.

Spirit relaxes for a while, but finally she can contain herself no longer. “Ego, I have only one more thing to say, and then I’ll never bother you again.”

“Go ahead,” Ego responds impatiently.

“I believe all of these pressures and all of this discomfort is not only going to bring us to a new celestial light, but when we experience it, we are going to meet Mother face-to-face and know an ecstasy that is beyond anything we have ever experienced up until now.”

“You really are crazy, Spirit. Now I’m truly convinced of it.”

-by Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, theologian and writer. This text was included by Dr. Wayne Dyer in his book “Your Sacred Self”

As much as I look forward to being reunited with my deceased loved ones, and to meet my ancestors whom I never met, I have a greater desire to feel the comforting arms of my Father's hug. However, I feel a great deal of closeness to my Father in Heaven because I know him as well as I do. My conversations with God are open, consistent and at times constant and the communications in response so familiar that its merely curiosity that leads me to want to see God. On the other hand, I do not have the familiarity with my Mother in Heaven and so it is to meet her, and to understand her nature that propels me forward.

Up until recently, my desire to know Heavenly Mother was an intellectual pursuit but as I have studied what is known and not known about her and consequently encountered the barriers to knowing her, it has become a more emotional, primal need. Perhaps it was the impassioned poetry of Carol Lynn Pearson's "Mother Wove the Morning" and other emotional treatises on the necessity of divine womanhood to the people of the earth. It is true that my emotional response is being stirred up by the emotions of others, and yet, even independently, how long would I stay reserved and patient given the frustration of seeking and not being able to find?

Can this allegory provide a hopeful thought that can help us look forward to the time in faith, confidence and cheerfulness when we will meet Mother face-to-face? Or does that hope also lend to the frustration of being kept from her?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Human initiative in seeking revelation

I came across this quote today:

"LDS philosopher David Paulsen argues that, while God directs the ongoing restoration, He expects “concurrent human initiative— not only in seeking and receiving direct revelation from God, but also in seeking, recognizing, and appropriating ‘truths’ from others, wherever found.”

Its from an article from Dialogue about C.S. Lewis as a source for gospel truth for Latter-day Saints. In the church, I don't think many argue that he's not a good place to learn good Christian values and a positive example of Christianity. The author draws the parallel between C.S. Lewis's openness to embrace and accept truth wherever it could be found to the teachings of LDS prophets who make the same claim. Yet this quote from David Paulsen takes it to a place that perhaps many Mormons would be uncomfortable.

Most Mormons would agree that in order to receive revelations for one's self, one must take the initiative to seek it. If one takes "no thought save it were to ask (D&C 9:7), they are not very likely to receive the answer. One must diligently, prayerfully over time seek and come line upon line and precept upon precept to the answer that is to be revealed.

And yet, I have seen how some Mormons do not apply this same standard to revelations given directly to the church. I have heard a number times in different ways the thought expressed "If it was Heavenly Father's will, he would reveal it to his leaders and since that's not the way the church is run, then its obviously not His will." Its like these members of the church hold the church leaders to a different standard where they do not have the responsibility or need to take the initiative to receive the will of God for the church. In this line of reasoning, they simply wait for God to speak and tell them what we need to know.

I personally do not, and in all honesty, cannot believe that this is how revelation works in the church. I also do not believe that the leaders of the church have the time or energy to ask of the Lord on every question of doctrinal worth. At the same time, I don't understand the process by which leaders determine which issues are important to seek revelation regarding. Is it something that could be accomplished through a vote?

If we were to view LDS church leaders as representatives between us and God. is it like contacting your legislator and expressing your wishes for what it is you'd like to see accomplished or revealed? Does it then require a critical mass of constituents to effectively communicate what knowledge is being sought by the electorate?

Let's take for instance, the desire for many members of the church to receive church-wide revelation on the doctrine of Heavenly Mother. Would the leaders and, by extension, we be more likely to receive it if a great many members of the church petitioned the leaders to ask on our behalf to know more regarding the nature of a Divine Mother?

There is a pattern of this set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants where many revelations were received because a member of the church asked Joseph regarding a certain topic and as a blessing to the individual and to us generations later, we have the revelation recorded for our benefit and use. The most famous example, perhaps, is the origin of the Word of Wisdom where Emma Smith asked her husband regarding the appropriateness of men chewing tobacco and leaving their spittle to leak through the floorboards to the room below. One of my favorite anecdotes actually comes from David Whitmer who teased Emma about wanting men's filthy habits to cease but may be unwilling to give up the ladie's habits of drinking coffee and tea. Then the revelation addressed and restricted all three.

In the early church, it only took one member of the church. Now, in the modern church, how many members would it take? A couple of hundred? A couple of thousand?

And what would that effort to coordinate look like?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hopes for RS History study

I visibly startled when I heard President Beck say that the Relief Society history would be a new area of focus. Truly, it was the last thing I thought I would hear completely the phrase “the sisters of the should know and learn…” I was expecting “to know she is a daughter of God” or some other well worn phrase.

To me the history of Relief Society is synonymous with independent women, professional women, working mothers, women giving blessings, prophetic women, “priestesses”, and activism. All of which are frowned upon, covered up and discouraged at this time in church history.

When I read about the history of Relief Society, I feel that's the type of organization and group of women I want to be involved in. I want to live in that time. And I pine for the former glory and don’t recognize those actions in the Relief Society today.

When I first heard the announcement my fear was that the history would be whitewashed. That the fact that women giving blessings and being told they were given the priesthood through the temple would be ignored and hidden. That the way in which women giving blessings was phased out will be called a revelation from God and His will even though my reading of the history does not support that idea. I’m afraid at how these historical events will be handled. I can have hope that women will find the inspiration in their former powers and hope for its restitution but I can’t say I have faith that it will happen. Time will tell. And I hope my uneasiness does not interfere with whatever the Lord intends with this.

I wrote this in response to Spunky's post at Exponent asking the question, "What do you hope? Is there anything in the history of the Relief Society that you wish was embraced in the modern church?"

The Shelf List

This question was posed on a discussion board and since its bloggable, I'm copying and pasting my answer to it here:

What have you shelved? (anything?)

And why have you shelved it? If we are entitled to personal revelation, why would we not get answers about these things? At least personal assurances to whatever degree?

I'm at a period of my life where I'm taking things off that shelf and trying to figure out if through examining them I can come to an understanding of them. I really am testing the boundaries of what I can learn through revelation for myself.

My list of things I've shelved in the past:
the mysteries of the gospel mentioned in the scriptures, what are those?
What does God really expect of homosexuals and us in showing compassion to them?
to what extent does evolution play a part in the creation of the world and the human specie?
why were women granted the power to give blessings, then limited, and then ultimately taken away?
Why the harshness of the law in the Old Testament?
what is the rightful place of Heavenly Mother in our worship?
where do the ideas of other world religions intersect with the fullness of the gospel?
where is the truth that can be found in other religions?

I'm sort of studying all these things right now because I feel like my base of reading materials has expanded. Obviously, these answers aren't in the scriptures though guidance and insight into the answers may be. Once I gave myself permission to study the scriptures by relying on outside sources (Sunstone magazine, Dialogue journal, other Mormon scholarship like FAIR and FARMS) and academic religious studies, I felt like the world was open up to me and I could meaningfully study and ponder these questions. I was so heartened to see that other Mormons have been pondering, writing and publishing their studies for the benefit of others.

I've had to give myself a certain freedom to speculate and try on new ideas without accepting them as truth. I try to brainstorm the possibilities, knowing that one may true, many may be true in different ways or none of them are true and being okay with not knowing. But I enjoy the process and the insights I can gain through it. Sometimes I come to a conclusion that I feel may be as close to the truth as I can get and I will guardedly accept it, pray about it and keep it to myself by trying to remember that it is not my place to openly share experiences such as it with others since it hasn't been revealed to the church and that I must wait patiently to discover if my hunch is right knowing full well that it may not come in this life and I'll have to wait until the afterlife to find out. And I'm okay with that. Most of the time.

Its actually these questions that led me to start this blog and why I state in the header "my ponderings to know the difference." The way I got into the LDS church was through the process I described above. In order to change my beliefs and accept something that I previously thought was impossible or improbable, I had to be willing to suspend my disbelief and see what it was like believing it might actually be true. Giving myself permission to "try ideas on for size" allowed my mind and my heart to be open enough to accept the truth. After joining the church, I found that sort of inquiry wasn't specifically endorsed or encouraged so it wasn't until recently that I gave myself permission to try the same strategy in other areas of the gospel, specifically those not addressed by revelation.

I have to admit that I love speculation and I've considering starting a series on my blog about my speculations on gospel doctrine. I even adapted a song for it which of course I can't remember now. I know that speculation must be done with caution and needs to be checked against revealed truth and policy. So understandably, I'm cautious in publicly sharing my ideas. Perhaps a disclaimer is needed: "You cannot take my writing here to be an indication of what I actually believe to be true. I'm pondering, I'm shaping my understanding through a somewhat messy process called stream of consciousness writing. Its how I process my thoughts and receive useful feedback from others that I exploit as sounding boards. So please know when you read my blog, that is what you are. I welcome your comments and responses but please remember I have good intentions of learning and growing as a child of God and if I am mistaken or leaving out crucial information, please inform me respectfully. I'm open to critiques of my ideas, as long as it is done respectfully and with compassion."

In fact, maybe I ought to paste at the end of every post or add it as a comment policy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recent Tender Mercies

Just a few hours before a weekly meeting for my calling, I had been wishing that the evening meeting would no longer conflict with the newest endeavor I'm about to embark on. I'm trying to arrange things so I can become a midwife's assistant and attend a particular midwife's prenatal clinic on the one day a week she does them which just happens to be the same night my calling meets. I've been in that calling for close to 5 years so I was contemplating asking to be released. Then the Relief Society presidents asked out of nowhere if we could move the meeting to another night in the week. Everyone was amiable and just like that I no longer had a conflict in my schedule so my plan could proceed!

I'll recognize that as a tender mercy of the Lord. '

The other came from the same meeting. Like I said I've been in that calling for almost 5 years and I don't feel like I've done much in it. I've attended meetings and a lot of them over the years and I've assisted in projects and responsibilities where I could but I really haven't done much. Sometimes I've wondered why I'm still in the calling. Though a little over a year ago, I was introduced to a woman where I realized working with her was the reason I was still in that position. That was over a year ago though, so why am I still in the calling?

Again, out of nowhere, one of the men at the meeting asked to give an impromptu spiritual thought. He quotes from Psalms "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" and then went on to say that sometimes it is better to be ready to do something than it is to be always doing. If there is nothing the Lord expects of us at a certain moment, we still have the duty to be ready for him and wait for the direction to go forth and do something.

That's exactly what I needed to hear to help me realize that though I may not be doing much in my calling currently that if I am ready and waiting to do, that I'm doing what is expected of me. Having that unexpectedly given me and and in a surprising way as it was, I will definitely count as a tender mercy as well.

Two in one meeting! The Spirit definitely was at that meeting that night!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Notes from General Relief Society Meeting

Its short-hand so I will hopefully have time to come back and fill in more coherent thoughts in relation to what I heard. There were some specifically salient points made this evening that I believe are important to me because it was truth I was seeking but it also important in relation to recent happenings among women of the church. Those I will bold for emphasis.

Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President:
quoted President Barbara Smiths (former Relief Society President from 1974-1984) last council to her family before her death: "Honor and respect the women of the church."
acknowledgement of the oppression and betrayal that women often experience
addressing the criticisms of Mormon women for being weak, too womanly, ineffectual
call and instruction for women to focus on activities within Relief Society [is this an example of retrenchment?]
new policy for church wide Relief Society: women should know and understand the history of R.S., hence a history book is in process of publication
the Lord's vision of R.S.: to perfect the saints through the women of the church
an acknowledged hunger within the women of the church to know women's value, identity and purpose
report on policy changes from last year--has had positive impacts
through studying the history of women in the church, women will find inspiration from historical female church members
in conclusion; The Lord is preparing the R.S. for a glorious future [though the details were not described]

Silvia Allred, General Relief Society First Counselor:
told that she became a member of the church at age 15.
"motherwork is the most important work" and it should be done in partnership with husbands
She asked women of the church: what helps you be faithful?
The answers she received helped her to develop this list: *prayer, *scripture study, *obedience and *service
her description of obedience was to the covenants of baptism and the temple
she emphatically stated that service includes the emotional and spiritual needs of women

Barbara Thompson, General Relief Society Second Counselor:
quotes Jude: "And of some have acompassion, making a difference"
counseled women to have compassions on people's needs, feel love, mercy, sympathy, and a desire to help one another
Christ called his followers to be compassionate
Visiting Teaching is a model of Christ's call to be compassionate
prayerfully consider those we visit teach.

Thomas S. Monson, Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
how do we view each other? are we making judgements without having all the facts?
Judge not
prophet admits none of us is perfect
Do not judge appearances or life circumstances
"if you judge people you have no time to love them."

[insight: it is helpful to have an outside voice of instruction and views, I can see how this talk would have been more difficult for one of the R.S. presidents to give)
paraphrase: we need to have the type of charity that comes from being tolerant and lenient of other's actions
Horace Mann: "to pity distress is to be human, to relieve it is god-like."
"Recognize that each is doing her best to overcome her challenges and we must do our best to help her."
charity is not just providing service to others, but it is also loving them without judgement
be guided by the R.S. motto in everything we do, "Charity Never Faileth."

Eve's transgression

A couple of days ago, I was having a phone conversation with Heather (TopHat in internet circles) and we were talking about Eve's transgression in the Garden of Eve. I kind of went off-topic and ended up thinking and speaking out loud about why Eve then is commanded to be obedient her husband's counsel (which then is still expected of women today). I know that some women in the church struggle with that expectation. Their question is along the lines of: If men and women are supposedly equal partners in marriage (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World), why does a woman need to be subordinate to her husband?

In our conversation with each other, we discussed how the fact that EVE ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is actually celebrated in our church. She made a wise and courageous decision to experience mortality and to know good from evil. As Sheri L. Dew said, "In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress."

But there has always been something that bothers me about her decision. She obviously saw the virtue of experiencing mortality and saw that the knowledge gained from it was necessary for her and Adam to progress and that becoming like God was a good thing and not a prideful motivation like Satan implied. But, she made a decision that forced Adam to choose a certain path and she did not consult with him first.

I am sensitive to this sort of injustice. I don't appreciate people speaking for me, or compelling me to make choices that I otherwise might not have chosen for myself. I most certainly would not appreciate it if it was my husband who forced me into that situation.

And, that, is what I think Eve did to Adam. Though she made a good decision, and perhaps the right decision, she did not consult with Adam, come to an agreement and act together in unity.

I feel badly for Adam to be in a place where he was stuck between obeying commandments: staying with his wife and fulfilling the command to multiply and replenish the earth or to not partake of the fruit of that tree. It was Eve that put him in that situation by hastily rushing forward and partaking of the fruit without consulting with Adam and taking into account the implications.

What if Adam had said, "I'm not going to partake of that fruit and I'm going to stay here while you are banished from the garden and we will both be alone?" What if he had gotten mad at her for limiting his choices instead of seeing the situation with the clarity of knowing that he needed to stay by his wife? Her choice and his compulsion to choose along with her had long lasting effects on him. He learned what suffering was as a result of her choice, and while he did freely choose it, it should have been a decision they made together.

I wonder if its for this reason Eve and in extension her daughters have the obligation to counsel with their husbands and to listen to their counsel. This begs the question however, if "men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression (Second Article of Faith), then are women being punished for Eve's transgression by being compelled to a subordinate status under their husbands?

I would also add its likely that women who are disturbed by the hearken counsel would comforted if men were also counseled to hearken to their wives and both husband and wife communicated with God with equal footing where both go through their spouse when making decisions, instead of one going through the other and it not being reciprocated.

The D. Michael Quinn Challenge

After finishing reading the book Women and Authority, I created a challenge for myself: go to the temple and listen carefully for wording that I had heard many times before but not with this new awareness of women's history in the church.

One of the chapters from the book that was most affecting for me was D. Michael Quinn's "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843" where I was impressed by the sources he cited showing clearly that Joseph Smith and other early church leaders believed that women were given the priesthood through the endowment. It was unclear however where in the endowment this could be traced to. One of the clues that I took to heart was that there was a belief that women were anointed and thereby received the priesthood. Anointing only occur in the initiatory ceremony, not in the presentation of the endowment itself.

Thus, my specific challenge. Go to the temple, participate in initiatories and listen carefully to the wording of the anointing as well as the entire recitation. This morning, I had a chance to do that. We had planned to go, do an initiatory and then an endowment session so I could take in the whole thing in the context of this question in my mind. Through an unfortunate series of wrong turns and time constraints however, we only had time for a set of initiatories. That turned out to be for the best because it was only after hearing the ceremony repeated a few times did I clue in on the phrases that were applicable to my question.

The anointing offered no clue so I listened carefully for instances of the word priesthood in connection with women. The only time that appeared together was in the authorizing of the garment as a sacred article of clothing and this is referred to being clothed in the garments of the Holy Priesthood. I prayed to know if this wording (though not understanding specifically what it meant) was the indication that women were granted the priesthood through the temple ceremonies. I cannot deny the Spirit I felt confirming that to be true.

I should also say here that the time prior that I went to the temple and participated in an endowment session, I remember at one point having the distinct impression from the Spirit that because I had progressed through the stages of the endowment that somehow through that process, I possessed the priesthood in some manner. This was even before I read Quinn's chapter on women and the priesthood so before the idea was externally planted that women were given the priesthood through the temple ceremonies.

I don't understand it how it works but I have tried throughout this process to pray and ask specific and clear questions always being willing to accept any answer I was to be given. I don't understand all the implications of this and have many more questions. Was perhaps the wording changed over the last 180 years so more specific phrases referring to priesthood being removed from the women's initiatory? If yes, what did it used to say? And how does it work that women are conferred the priesthood if they are ordained after the order of Melchelizdek?

I was able to learn more about the men's initiatory process from my husband who described the point in time when names needing proxy are ordained to the priesthood and that process is obviously missing from the women's ceremony.

Its obvious that I may not ever understand more beyond the point where I currently am now, but at the same time for years, I said the same thing about where I was then. Who knows what further information or understanding may come to me as I continue this study and seeking? I will continue faithful, relying on prayer and having a much greater appreciation and desire to have the spirit of discernment which will help me to know between truth and error.

There will be many who believe I am in error and I'm scared as to what that might mean for me socially in the church. And yet, if I know if I were to deny the lessons from the Spirit that I have received in the last few months, I would also have to deny the Spirit confirmations that convinced me of the truthfulness of the gospel, that told me that my husband was the right man for me to marry, that told me it was God's will (or he was supportive) of me attending graduate school, or going to BYU, or any of the other many times the Spirit has testified to me of truth.

I do know however that I can't do much with this knowledge. If anything is meant to change in church policy, I must be patient for it and not push for anything or even recognition or corroboration that what I have been told is true. That's okay. That's the way it works on doctrine that hasn't been revealed through the proper channels. People can pray and know and its perfectly fine to believe whatever they are going to believe as long as they don't go out trying to convert people to their understanding. I'm concerned even by publicly saying this on my blog.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mothering Breakthroughs

I've lately been pondering the challenges of maintaining spirituality as a mother of young children. In my experience, its sort of like a pressure cooker where the effort required is so intense and sustained that there is barely any time for the quiet reflection of prayer and scripture study. At best, a morning prayer is a quick hail mary sent up as I fly out of bed to answer a baby's cry or help a child get to the bathroom. And yet, I've been experiencing what I'm finding to be a spiritual renaissance in my life where prayers are more effective, study is more frequent and I feel a greater excitement for the things of the gospel than I have for a long time. Then of course comes the guilt and fear that I'm not giving my children enough of the focus that they require and my gospel study is becoming a selfish pursuit that interferes with my care for them.

I have found inspiration, comfort and guidance in the words of faithful women recently. In both cases, I have been close to this realization. Its like its been off stage waiting in the wings for me to get to that point. Often for me, this can take weeks, months or years as I encounter experiences and thoughts that bring me to such realizations. Its very nice when I feel led almost right to the brink and then its the words of others who show me the waters to drink from are right in front of me, ready for me to take, read and digest.

First came from a new friend that I am getting to know through midwifery school: She wrote in her post
This week has been one of those weeks that I like to call: Foundational. In Proverbs 14:1 the Bible says, "Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." Well, I have an imagination and I like to think about my "daily grind" as a building project. Some days I may be watching kids play pleasantly and giving some positive affirmation here and there. These are painting days (because I like painting). Some times, my days are consumed with breaking up fights, scolding and correcting. This is like putting up walls to me! Anyway, you get my point.

And second, a blog post that my friend passed along with me in mind, where the author reminds me of the opportunities for daily and constant devotionals that can turn my attention to my God and love for my children.

I have found myself trying to survive spiritualy as a mother the way in which she describes and I've just recently begun to realize the times throughout a day that I can connect with the spirit.

We spend the first decade of motherhood waiting for a moment of quiet. When the children are older, then I can pray. Once the house is clean and organized, then I can find peace. When we reach the other side of this trying time, only then can I be the wife and mother I truly wish to be.

Always missing the opportunity to engage the present moment, living for an imaginary one.

The treasure hunt within the present moment. Where is it? Where is the grace hidden in this moment in time? God is here. Where is He in this very moment?

My meal time prayers become more meaningful, as well as my time driving in the car. While children sleep in their carseats during car rides, I have quiet, time to pray, reflect and ponder. And I find the Spirit in those moments.

The author of the post says its the first decade of mothering. I will count myself lucky that I was exposed to this idea and was able to grasp it after only 4 years. Not that its a race, but the sooner the better it is to learn lessons such as this.

May I remember that laundry can be a time to reflect and pray for my family members, that each article of clothing is a tangible extension of my love and concern for them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book of Jenne and Carolyn: The Book of Mormon Abridged

This summer, my mom started studying the gospel and investigating the LDS church in her most serious attempt yet since my baptism 9 years ago. Her efforts came after she had a stroke at the age of 56 and in a blessing of healing afterwards, she was counseled to study and learn about the gospel. To my surprise, she listened. After attending church with me one Sunday, she discovered she really liked the format of the Gospel Principles manual. She's been reading it on her own and tonight she reported to me that she's on Chapter 13. Last time I asked probably a month ago, she was on Chapter 6 so I'm pleased to hear of her progress. '

One of the things she requested of me before I said left for home last was that I help her find the scriptures in the Book of Mormon that were meaningful and instructive without having to get bogged down in the storyline or dealing with the objectionable warlike culture of the Nephites and Lamanites. She's tried to read the Book of Mormon before but has struggled and given up. I feel she wants to find the special and profound information present in the Book of Mormon but doesn't know where to look.

Her request came at the time when I had been thinking about compiling all of my favorite Book of Mormon verses together in one place for my own quick and easy reference when wanting to turn to familiar, comforting and instructive words. Off the top of my head, I know that swaths of 2 Nephi, Mosiah, Alma and Moroni will be included, including also the vision of the tree of life in 1 Nephi.

Don't be surprised if you see this post become the receptacle of these verses.

Also please suggest some of the most instructive, comforting, inspiring or otherwise useful verses in the comments. My mother, lovely woman that she is, has been subject to a great deal of suffering, disillusionment and unfulfilled dreams throughout her life. She struggles with a sense of worth and purpose. I'm open to suggestions on Book of Mormon verses that might address the feelings of her heart and give her hope in the gospel as a source of fulfillment and joy.

The Book of Jenne and Carolyn: Abridged and Annotated Book of Mormon for Mom
1 Nephi 8: Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life
1 Nephi 11: Nephi's vision of the Tree of Life
And for some scripture mingled with (very interesting) philosophies of men: Nephi and His Asherah
1 Nephi 12, 13, 14: Nephi's vision and prophecies of Christ and the gospel (symbols and languages explained)

Second Nephi
This is my favorite book of the Book of Mormon because it teaches the plan of salvation, explains clearly Christ's role and how we are helped every step of our lives as we are faithful to him.
2 Nephi 2 in its entirety but for highlights see below:
Note: when Lehi addresses Jacob or his sons, replace their names with yours to read the personalized message of Christ's gospel
  • 2 Nephi 2:2: "thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain."
  • 2 Nephi 2:11: "opposition in all things"
  • 2 Nephi 2: 14, 16: "the Lord God gave unto man that he should aact for himself"
  • 2 Nephi 2: 25-28: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."
2 Nephi 3: 6-24: Prophesy of Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon and the restoration
2 Nephi 4:15-24, 33-34: Blessings of scriptures, God's hears prayers, love of God
2 Nephi 9: 4-17: Inevitability of death, Means for escape from death provided by Christ, need for the atonement, division of spirits in paradise and prison(cross reference to D&C: 138: 8, 28 Christ preaches to the spirits in prison and offers a means of salvation i.e. baptism for the dead)
2 Nephi 9:21-24: Christ "suffereth the pains of all men, yea the pains of every living creature, men, women and children."
2 Nephi 9:27-39: Sin described and examples given of actions that separate people from God
2 Nephi 10: 23-25: "remember you are free to act for yourselves...wherefore reconcile yourselves to the will of God"
2 Nephi 18:19: "should not a people seek unto their own God for the living to hear from the dead?"
2 Nephi 19: 6-7: prophesy of Christ's birth (text became Handel's Messiah)
2 Nephi 21:1-9: Description of Christ's personality, temperament, mission and values "for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord"
2 Nephi 22:2: "God is my salvation; I will trust...Jehovah is my strength and my song."
2 Nephi 24: 12-14: The downfall of Satan, pride without humility
2 Nephi 25:23-27: Nephites lived the law of Moses and believed in Christ, looked forward to his coming (vs. 19- prophesy of when Christ will come and what he shall be called)
2 Nephi 26:11 & 13, 32-33: "The Spirit will not always strive with man" but Christ beckons to and blesses those who live the commandments and "inviteth all to come unto him."
2 Nephi 27: Prophesy of Book of Mormon
2 Nephi 28:3-31: A description of the evils that will exist in our day
2 Nephi 29: The Book of Mormon is intended to be in addition to the Bible (Fools say: "A Bible, a Bible, we have got a Bible and there cannot be any more Bible!")
2 Nephi 31: The necessity of baptism, "Wherefore you must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, with a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men."
2 Nephi 32:1-6: After baptism you are led by the Spirit through reading the scriptures and prayer "the words of Christ [and the Holy Ghost] will tell you all the things you should do"
2 Nephi 32: 9: Pray Always and the Lord will "consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of your soul."

The Book of Jacob:
Jacob 2: 17-19: description of social justice "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you."
Jacob 4:3-13: through faith and prayer, revelation will be given

The Book of Enos: 1-9 example of sincere prayer leading to conversion

The Book of Mosiah: 

Mosiah begins with the reign of King Benjamin who is the king over the Nephites at the time. He was a faithful man and a conscientious leader. At one point in his reign, he gathered his people to together and expounded on the scriptures and taught them principles of the gospel. Chapters 2-5 are his address to the people. Linked verses are highlights of his address. 

King Benjamin's Discourse: 
Mosiah 2:17: Perhaps the most famous line from King Benjamin "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings are ye only in the service of your God." 
Mosiah 2: 19-22: Give thanks to God for creating you, recognize their (Father's and Mother's) role in your life
Mosiah 2: 23-24: What God requires in return: keep commandments and he/they "doth immediately bless you." 
Mosiah 2:34: "ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly father (+mother), to render to (them) all that you have and are"
Mosiah 2:41: "the happy state of those who keep the commandments of God, they are blessed in all things temporal and spiritual."
Mosiah 3: 5-11: prophesies of the coming of Christ. 2 important things here: King Benjamin reveals the name that Christ will be known by. Verse 7 teaches us that Christ, in his atonement, also experiences our suffering including our pain (from any cause), our fatigue (which can be caused by frustration, weariness in suffering, physical disability, etc). 
Mosiah 3:14: Little children cannot sin. They must come to an awareness of right and wrong before they can be held accountable for their mistakes. Cross reference: Moroni 8:8 
Mosiah 3:18-19: The Atonement does not work for those who do not accept and believe in it. We must "yield to the enticings of the Spirit" and "becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ."
Mosiah 3: 24-25: "whereof they shall be judged, every man according to his works." At that time, it will be clear to each of us the results of our actions during life. Cross reference: Alma 11: 43 We will have a bright recollection of our guilt. Our understanding will not be clouded anymore and we will know perfectly where we went wrong. That awareness can be horrific to possess because we are our own worst critics. There is pain that comes from realizing our mistakes. That pain is what is being described by scriptural references to "fire and brimstone." Alma describes it as wishing that he could cease to exist but knowing that he could not and would have to live with his mistakes and the hurts he caused others. This is where the Atonement comes in and why it is so useful and necessary. It makes it possible for us to forgive ourselves for the hurt we cause ourselves and others. Once we forgive ourselves we can carry on with hope and assurance that despite our mistakes we are good people. 
Mosiah 4:9: "believe that [God] has all wisdom and all power both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things that the Lord can comprehend" Yet we are promised that we can and will comprehend all the things the Lord can comprehend IF we are willing to do what it takes to get to that point when we are ready to learn those things, even "all wisdom and all power." 
Mosiah 4:10: "if you believe all these things see that ye do them." 
Mosiah 4:11: Strike out "unworthy creatures" and its a great verse showing how we can feel God's love through forgiveness and how we can go about living a faithful life. 
Mosiah 4:12: if you are faithful, ye shall be "filled with the love of God" and "ye shall grow in knowledge of that which is just and true." To me, this means a perfect knowledge and understanding of what is right. The world needs a great deal more of that and I take hold upon the promise that I can find it from the source of all true and goodness with the hope that everyone else can do the same. 
Mosiah 4:13: Those who come to know the love of God (whether you think its how to love like God, be loved by God or show love to God), "ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably." 
Mosiah 4:15: I'm really just including this verse because its one of my favorites and is my hope for what my children learn: "ye will teach [your children] to love one another and to serve one another." 
Mosiah 4:16: Ye will succor those that stand in need of your succor, ye will administer of your substance unto him who standeth in need." And thus begins some of the greatest social justice verses in all of scripture. Also, cross-reference to the baptismal covenant (i.e. the covenant a member of the LDS church makes at baptism). 
Mosiah 4:19-22, 26: Like I said, some of the best verses on the topic of social justice in all of scripture, perhaps all religion in general. This is the gospel of Christ in word and action. 
Mosiah 4:24: Also empathizes and excuses those who feel guilty for not having enough to give. "I would that ye would say in your hearts, I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give."
Mosiah 4:27: Wise words indeed: "See that all things be done in wisdom and order, for it is not requisite that a  [wo]man should run faster than [s]he has strength."
Mosiah 5:2 and 5, 7, 8 and 15: Effects of conversion: "because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change  in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually...And we are willing to enter into a covenant  with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days....  Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed  through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head ye are made free.... Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good  works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal  you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen."
Mosiah 7: 18-19: Working through difficulties, obtaining strength during affliction: "O ye, my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made. Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your  trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought  the children of  Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them."
Mosiah: 7:29-30, 33: The effects of wrongdoing and the balm: "I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them. And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap  the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison....But if ye will turn  to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage."
Mosiah 8:15-17: description of seer (yay mysticism!) "But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed."