Category Archives: Faith

Like the Stars

In case you have been wondering–no, I’m not dead. My absence this week (if you even noticed at all), was only due to me feeling like I was dying.

Colds suck.

You know that you are sick when you start believing that the five-year-old might be mature enough to watch the baby. Or when you stop doing superfluous things like showering and brushing your teeth. Or when you call your husband half an hour into the work day to ask him to come home early, then spend the rest of the day essentially catatonic on the couch.

And the worst part? That would be when our satellite decided to go out for no good reason. Do you know how awful it is to be stuck on the couch and only have stuff that you forgot to erase off of the DVR to watch over and over?

Thank heavens I’m feeling like a person again.

I recovered in time for our Young Women in Excellence program last night. The girls did a beautiful program with lots of songs and narration that focused on stars and being a light to the world. I think that everyone was touched by the Spirit during the program.

Of course, for me, the theme of the stars brought up a lot of old memories. That used to be a theme/running joke in my life.

When I was a teenager, I became friends with a young man that I went to church with. He and I really started becoming friends right around the time that he was having a crisis of faith. Or an explosion of social life. He had gone from being a somewhat chubby trombone player in the high school band to a weight lifting, football playing, “Greek god” (my mother came up with that one) over the course of one summer. That fast and drastic of a change got him a lot of attention–not the kind that necessarily would make a teenage boy feel like clinging to religion.

Still, he and I became very good friends. We would talk a lot about life. He was a couple of years old than I was, and left for college. During that time, when I was insecure about not having a boyfriend, he would come home from college and ask me who I was dating. When I would tell him that I wasn’t, he would insist that it had to do with a choice I was making because any guy would want to date me. He did more for my self esteem at that point in my life than he would ever know.

One summer, when he was home from school and we were hanging out a lot, the stars became a regular topic of conversation for us. It started when I said how much a loved them. He asked why, and I smiled and said it was because I planned to have my own someday.

After that, he would tease me whenever I commented about the lack of stars some evening.

“They’re right there,” he would tell me.

“Where?” I would ask, looking up into the sky.

“Right there…behind the clouds.”

We had several conversations after that about his relationship with religion. I firmly believed that his testimony was like the stars–right there, behind the clouds.

It has been seven years since I’ve talked to my friend. Every so often, something reminds me of him, and I wonder how he is doing. I’ve always regretted that I wasn’t able to be the change in his life that I felt he was in mine.

I still hope that, someday, he’ll see the stars.

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Looking for a Big Picture

When I first asked my ethical question last week, it was with a very specific reason in mind. Before I move on from discussing  human trafficking, I want to do full justice to that topic (as well as touch on a couple of things brought up in the comments on these posts).

As a review, my initial question was:

If you were offered the chance to buy a child, knowing that if you did not, they would be sold to slave owners as laborers or sex slaves, would you do it?

Some of you said no. Some of you said yes. Those who said yes frequently said that you would view it as an adoption. This, interestingly, touches on the root of what I wanted to discuss.

The first time that I heard adoption linked in any way to human trafficking, I was incredulous. I suppose that what my family always accused me of growing up may have some truth–I can be naive. It is hard for me to look at an institution created to make families and see anything other than the positive. And, I believe, the institution of adoption is overwhelmingly positive. That doesn’t change the fact that corruption can, and does, exist.

Before choosing domestic adoption as my initial route to motherhood, I did a lot of research. That research included looking into the programs of just about every country that was doing international adoptions six years ago. Certainly, I knew that there were problems at the time. There were a lot of questions about the practices in Guatemala and Cambodia. The expectation of bribes in former Soviet countries was discussed openly (I remember reading that you should go with cash and vodka).

The information was there but, somehow, I really missed the significance of it.

As I said last week, there is a definite correlation between some of the worst countries for human trafficking and countries that have been investigated or closed to international adoption over concerns of baby buying. My initial disbelief of the idea that babies are bought, then placed for adoption, is gone. I accept that it happens (although, again, this is not a majority-of-the-time issue–I truly believe that most adoptions are done ethically).

I just don’t know the right solution for the problem.

Here’s the thing: If someone is desperate enough to sell a child, they are going to sell a child. Unethical adoption agencies are not, by far, the only option for doing so. While the method is wrong, the adoption itself may just end up saving a child from a much worse fate. However, as some of my commenters pointed out, human trafficking is a supply and demand industry. No one would be buying these children (for adoption, sex slavery, forced labor…) if the market didn’t exist.

So, which is worse? Certainly, children should not be bought and sold. Buying a child, even for a “good” reason, is wrong. Let me make it clear that adoptive parents do not go to other countries and buy babies–adoption would cost a heck of a lot less if that were the case (Average cost of a person being trafficked? Ninety dollars. That’s it.). In fact, potential adoptive parents can take every precaution possible against unethical adoptions and still end up in the middle of one without knowing it. The countries where these things occur are notorious for misinformation and scant or changed documentation. The parents are generally acting ethically, while the governments and orphanages/agencies are doing shady things.

Shutting down a country for adoption, however, does nothing to benefit the children caught in this crisis. I found it interesting that, from the comments I received on my other posts, the perception seems to be that people being trafficked are sold by “others.” I believe people kept referring to them as “the traffickers.” The thing is, while there obviously are the middle men that deliver slaves to their destinations, the initial traffickers, very frequently, are family. Parents. Siblings. Aunts and Uncles. In some societies, it is not uncommon for a family to find a wealthy “benefactor” for their daughter when she is still very young. This benefactor will give the family monthly stipends until the child comes of age, at which point she will go “visit” for a couple of weeks. Even in countries that are notorious for sex tourism, little impact would be felt if outsiders stopped paying for their unique brand of services. The cancer, largely, comes from within.

So, what can be done?

I wish I had answers. In the realm of adoption, certainly, accountability is important. Unethical agencies are sometimes more obvious than you would think (and, sometimes, not). Sometimes, however, people choose not to see the signs or question the actions. Obviously, the answer is for everyone to always act with integrity–but that can seem a tough road to travel. Choosing to wait longer for a referral from an ethical agency is hard. Worrying that something will happen to your paperwork that might prevent you from bringing your child home if you don’t pay a bribe is terrifying. But, if the problem is going to stop in the adoption world, it is necessary.

And in the rest of the world? Well, that’s a tougher question. The fact is, deeply held social mores have to change. Bone crushing poverty has to be alleviated. Things like prostitution need to be seen as a much greater evil than is currently the case. Organizations that help keep former slaves free need to be funded. Beyond that–I don’t know. People who do know more have made proposals for ending slavery. I plan on reading Ending Slavery by Kevin Bales to see what his suggestions, after many years of researching this issue, are.

I understand that this is an issue that is so large that it seems overwhelming. If you are capable of nothing else (and so inclined), pray for these people. Sometimes, the biggest changes are started by the smallest acts of faith.

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Filed under adoption, Books, Faith, modern slavery, politics

Nothing New Under the Sun

*When I was younger, my father told me that there are two things that you don’t introduce into conversation–religion and politics. I am about to discuss both. You have been warned.

Last night, Sean and I did something that I haven’t done in a long time. We sat and watched 60 Minutes. They were doing a story about Darfur and the atrocities that are occurring there. It was both stunning and heartbreaking. At one point, Dr. Ashis Brahma, the lone doctor for a massive refugee camp, said:

This is bad. They go to the villages, and they burn one village after the other, then when the people come out they catch the women and gang bang, they rape them not one guy, no 10, 15 then they carve up the men and throw them in the drinking water to make sure that this place will never ever be used again. And you’re telling me the people in America don’t know this or don’t want to know this. Maybe its too much to know but that’s what’s happening right now and its happening all over again.

Sean looked at me and said, “Do you know what that reminds me of?” Of course I did. How could I not?

Near the end of the Book of Mormon, in what has to be the most difficult chapter for me to read, is the final accounts of the wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites (two groups of people making up what we would now consider the Native American people).

7 And now I write somewhat concerning the sufferings of this people. For according to the knowledge which I have received from Amoron, behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children.

  8 And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them.

  9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

  10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.

Moroni 9: 7-10

It has always been so difficult for me to imagine how an entire society of people could fall into such depravity. And then I see things like this story on Darfur, and am forced to face the fact that the same societal depravity exists in this day and age. Not just the lone serial killers that have always fascinated and appalled me, but whole societies.

What is even scarier to me, as the member of what many see as a “fringe” religion, is the fact that these atrocities are very frequently linked to religious disagreement. The religious majority wiping out the minority. That is the underlying problem in Darfur. The Sudanese are Muslim. The people of Darfur are not. And for that, they are being exterminated in much the same way as the Jews in Nazi Germany.

As I have thought about this, I recalled a conversation that I had with my grandmother several years ago. I asked her what she thought of the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews as it was happening (she was a young mother at that point). She told me that she really didn’t think of it–she didn’t know what was going on. I was a teen at that point and was having a hard time grasping how millions of people could be dying without her knowing that it was happening. Never mind the lack of CNN or Fox News–how could she miss something like that?

But here I sit, admitting to you that even with our 24/7 media, this youngish mother has gone for years recognizing the name “Darfur,” but not really having a clue of the extent of what has been happening over there. And now I know. And I’m disgusted and very, very sad.

And I relate to Mormon as he says to Moroni about his warring people:

15 Behold, my heart cries: Wo unto this people. Come out in judgment, O God, and hide their sins, and wickedness, and abominations from before thy face!

Moroni 9:15

As a teen, I couldn’t understand why Americans didn’t stop Hitler–why they let things go on for so long. As a slightly more jaded and practical adult, I understand that our government can’t be the world’s police force. The interesting thing to me is that so many people want us to, but then complain when we do it. The Kurds are no longer the subjects of genocide, and how many people gripe and complain about our involvement in Iraq?

I suppose that it comes down to the individual. We have a responsibility to bear witness of the atrocities and correct them where we can. I was pleased to find that my church has been using members’ contributions to offer aid in Darfur since 2004. Other large organizations are doing tremendous work there, too. Help can be given. Who knows if it will ever be enough, but it will bless the lives of those who receive it.

Ultimately, I can’t look at this topic without being both grateful and fearful. I am grateful for the tremendous freedom that I experience as an American. I am grateful that I can practice my religion without persecution. But I know that that was not always the case for the people of my faith–even in this country. And I look at the Lamanites and Nephites in the end of the Book of Mormon. I see how depraved their actions were. And I read Mormon’s declaration that “only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people” (Moroni 9:12), and I know how quickly the tide could change–even in a civil society like ours.

And that scares me.

 

Watch the entire 60 Minutes story.

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Filed under Faith, politics, Soap Box

It is Better That One Man Should Perish…

I started my blog last year as a way to keep track of my pregnancy. Well, I didn’t do much of that, but I have spent a lot of time writing on a variety of topics. And I have picked up some readers on the way. It is humbling to know that people who I have never met are willing to take time from their days to read the things I have to say. Out of curiosity, I installed one of those visitor maps to see where my readers are coming from. So far today, I’ve had two hits from across the pond. (Hi there!) Really, it is amazing.

But, knowing that so many of my readers are people who don’t know me or where I am coming from does put a certain responsibility for my words on me. I don’t hide who I am, nor do I apologize for it. Where appropriate, though, I do try to explain things that I think many of you wouldn’t get.

My point?

Today, I received a comment on one of my recent posts. My general rule on comments is that I will approve them as long as they don’t attack someone other than me, they are not abusive, and they don’t contain foul language. I approved this comment. But that doesn’t mean that it sits well with me.

It isn’t because the commenter obviously disagrees with my religion. I can handle that–I’ve had to my whole life. It is the idea of commenting on someone’s blog for the very first time and referring to their deeply-held religious beliefs as “myth.”

After posting my brief summary of Nephi killing Laban, I went to bed and thought a lot about the discussion with my children, as well as how the story might be perceived out of context (although, based on the fact that this commenter had a blog called “Recovering Mormon” on her bloglist, I’m detecting the possible sound of an axe grinding…). And you know, I can see where the idea of God telling someone to kill another person could sound sort of odd.

Maybe it was because I had the Fourth of July celebration to look forward to the next day, but I laid in bed and thought about a young man that I have known for years. He attended my church growing up, and was my little brother’s best friend. After graduating high school, he entered the military, where he went on to become a very notable sniper in Iraq. Several years later, I can still easily find an article that mentions him on the internet (I would link to it, but it mentions my town–all one traffic light of it–and we all know how I feel about my privacy). At the time that the article was written, when he was still in Iraq, they estimated that he had killed somewhere in the vicinity of 50+ insurgents.

Do I think this makes him evil?

No.

Would I be afraid to have him around my family?

Heck, no.

Did I, the next day, celebrate him and others like him, and all that they have done to protect this wonderful country and the liberties that we enjoy?

Absolutely.

The parallels between Nephi and this young soldier are not lost on me. Even if you take the self-defense angle out of the story (Laban had robbed Nephi and his brothers, then tried to have them murdered), Nephi’s task–as unpleasant as it was–served a much greater purpose. During the course of that story, in 1 Nephi 4:13 it says:

Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

If Laban had lived, an entire nation and their posterity would have lost the words of God.

Similarly, without brave young men like my brother’s friend, terrorists would have greater success, despots would rule, and thousands more would have died for nothing more than the nature of their ethnicity.

Maybe the title of my post was misleading. I do believe there is right and wrong. But sometimes, you just have to look a little closer to perceive the reason that something is right.

So, let me take the opportunity to offer up my sincerest gratitude to all those (past and present) who have done the hard things to save a nation.

God bless you.

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Who Are You?

Despite a day full of church and family activities, I was determined not to miss another Sunday in my goal to explore faith more fully. I sat down with this month’s issue of my church’s magazine, the Ensign, and was drawn to the title of one particular article, Your Divine Heritage by Elder Robert C. Oaks. Two quotes from the article really got me thinking.

In the first paragraph, Elder Russell M. Nelson is quoted as saying “Understand who you are in God’s plan.” A little while later, a story is recounted where Elder Henry B. Eyring received the impressing that “When you find who you are, you will be sorry you didn’t try harder.”

What powerful messages.

At the same time, what amazing reminders of my own insecurities.

I have mentioned recently (although in a password-protected sort of way), that I have a real tendency to feel like I don’t measure up. I am plagued by fears that there is something I should be doing–someone I should be being–that I’m not. And that makes me feel like I’m failing. When I read the Elder Eyring quote, “When you find who you are, you will be sorry you didn’t try harder,” it touched a nerve. At 31-years-old, I still don’t feel like I know entirely where I fit in God’s plan. And I wonder if I will have regrets when I figure it out.

Let me back up a bit and clarify. In a general sense, I know who I am. I’ve been learning and believing it my entire life.

I sang about it in Primary.

I Am a Child of God.

I recited it in Young Women.

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love him…

I believe in the divine potential within myself–within us all.

It is the specifics that elude me. And, just maybe, my inner control freak has a hard time processing that.

But, how do you find out those specifics?

A scripture quoted from the Book of Mormon near the end of the article reminded me of a concept that I learned in a college religion course:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

~Heleman 5:12

Remember. It is a word that is used frequently in the scriptures (especially in the Book of Mormon). Remember the covenants you made with the Lord. Remember His deliverance of the faithful. Remember who you are.

The amazing thing, though, is that remembering can be a way of determining your future. Similar to the concept that those who don’t know the past are condemned to repeat it. Except much more positive.

Those who understand the past have the opportunity to shape the future. Those who remember their worth and potential are able to do anything.

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

~2 Nephi 10:23-24

Does this suddenly open my eyes to who I am, or what I should be doing? No. But it gives me a place to start–a clue of how to find out. Maybe, instead of trying to find the future, I should spend more time remembering the past. Remembering the doctrines of the scriptures. Remembering the words of the prophets. Remembering impressions, promptings, and counsel that have been given to me.

Maybe, once I’ve done that, I will remember who God planned for me to be.

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Faith and Works

Life with a newborn impeded my ability to go deep into a faith topic this week. When unprepared, nothing works like a great quote and a MormonAd:

In order for faith to lead to salvation, it must be centered in the Lord (see Acts 4:10–12; Mosiah 3:17). You exercise faith in Christ when you have (1) an assurance that He exists, (2) a correct idea of His character, and (3) a knowledge that you are striving to live according to His will.

Faith in Jesus Christ,” Russell M. Nelson

faith mormanad

James 2: 17-18

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

  18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

*Edited: It seems that the right side of the MormonAd got cut off. Nothing important was lost. I don’t want to shrink it down since the text on the bottom is already small enough.

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