Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Wild Goose

Ah, what a weekend. 

We don't go to church more than a couple of times a year but we go to activity days and ward gatherings as well as young men's and young women's when schedules permit. We have an emergency prep calling within our ward. We did Seminary for our oldest for 1 1/2 years. That's a funny story (I shall diverge from the topic moment here).

So he had an incredible teacher the first year of seminary. The teacher taught from the scriptures and engaged the kids into that world of holy writ. Then second semester comes and we get a teacher that is more focused on having fun. My kid likes to have fun but their primary motive for taking seminary was to deep dive into the scriptures. But they pressed on. The class eventually got so out of control, the teacher took down all the photos of the first presidency and the 12. I found it fascinating and symbolic of the rising generation. Maybe I'm negative like that. 

I emailed the principal and told them we are inactive but we love the church and still want our child to cultivate their love of the scriptures and could we get a teacher that is focused more on the scriptures next year. He said yes and to remind him...which is like asking a baby to change its own diaper. My memory is not great. 

So, I forgot to remind him and we got a new teacher in the fall and he was super awesome but struggled to stick with the scriptures. So I asked my kid if they wanted to stay in seminary or give it one more try for a teacher that sticks to the scriptures. They said to try for a new teacher. So I emailed the principle and he hooked us up with a new teacher that, according to my kid, taught more scriptures on the first week than the other had the whole month. YAY! But the one problem....he started to open up his lessons with questions at the beginning of class. A lot of the questions were repeatedly about polygamy and, well - that's when my kid decided to be done. I don't know about you, but I just can't teach my kids that Joseph Smith was an adulterer and a liar to his wife and his children, to his friends, and to those in the church.  I just can't. I have to stick to the Truth and from all the research I've done, I can't get there. And I can't ask my kids to go there either. 

So, back to where I was going at the beginning of this post: What a weekend. 

We don't go to church much but we do go to enough activities that we are known and our calling requires us to maintain a text channel that allows a big group of our neighbors/ward members to be able to contact their neighbors for anything. We try to keep it fun and useful and have taken all of them eggs, a lot of sourdough bread loaves (still working on getting every single one of them a loaf), showed up when there was a death, shoveled walks, driven neighbor kids to school or dance when people called out for help, counseled two different family's that felt to confide in us about their marriages being on the brink, delivered gifts from the ward, cleaned the church twice since we were called, you get the picture. We try hard to be engaged, know what our neighbors are interested in, and be of service.

When the first bank collapse happened last week I knew one neighbor, in his 60's, would be interested in that so I asked him what he thought. I learned that one way to build good relationships with other people is to either borrow something from them or ask their expertise. I did the latter. And he said it would be a 30 minute conversation and when the time came for us to go over to his house, I had things at home I needed to take care of so I sent Ryan over and - 90 minutes later he returned. I was amazed it took so long and he summed up what the conversation ended up being. The brother in our ward let him know that if we went to church then we could have the spirit to be with us so we could know what to do and you wouldn't have to ask your neighbor what to do.

I'll stop you right there. I wasn't asking him what to do. I was asking what he thought of it all. Kind of like that dude on a subway in New York who says in his thick Bronx accent, "Yo, how 'bout this weatha, eh?" That kind of interest level. 

Continuing on with what the neighbor said: He felt we didn't qualify to have full access to the spirit like we could if we served in the church and attended each week, so naturally, we must have reached out to him because we were worried for our family's "salvation and stuff" (said in Nacho Libre accent).

I'll stop you right there. Nope.

Rinse and repeat those last things in a myriad of ways and we got hosed. But I don't "get" hosed. I get verbal. It's a huge failing and flaw of my personality. Those of you with the gift of kindness or peaceability...good. Good for you. I am so jealous of you - you don't even KNOW. I was born with a small brain and a short fuse and it always goes to, "Well, they are going to hear what I think about that."

So I texted the dear man. I let him know that I was trying to build neighborly friendships and had he been interested in cars and there was something going on in the news about cars, I would have asked him his opinion on cars. I'm not worried about my family and that he turned into something it never was intended to be about.

He asked to talk on the phone and so Ryan and I sat there for another 58 minutes (2 1/2 hours total of this man talking). Brutal. I did interrupt him at one point when he said that, "no one believed an invention like the Liahona could ever exist", but "look at what we have in our pockets now - phones that can give us directions, just like the Liahona did!" I said, "I'll stop you there, that is, I can't...even - the Liahona operated on their righteousness. Our phones operate on our will. Not the Lord's will, not on righteousness, on our desire to do what we want whenever we want." His response? "I'm not asking what you think. I'm talking now." 

He went on to talk about how much money their family gave to the Nauvoo temple construction and the framed letter he has from President Hinckley on their wall. How much money he makes his clients. How good he is at following the spirit and he even saved a man from choking one time. How computers and phones are from God. How our daughter's talk in church was amazing but imagine what kind of a girl she could be if we came to church all the time (I'll stop you right there - her talk was probably the best talk ever given by a 12 year old over that pulpit. I'm biased but I did help write it give some guidance so I should know. It was entirely about Jesus and from the scriptures so it makes sense why it fell short for him). 

I could go on, but my blood pressure is rising. Lord grant me strength.

You might think that the conversation was so ridiculous that we were able to shrug it off. Yeah, wrong. I mulled it over in my head thinking of the perfect thing I should have said but didn't say but I could say it if we met in a dark alley one time. My husband says some of the things I'm concocting maybe shouldn't be said out-loud. So I blog.

You've got better things to do than hear a middle age woman rant. My goodness, I'm middle aged! When did that happen? Great. One more thing to depress me today.

So, why am I writing? Because I had a good cry over the weekend and I just want Jesus. When someone tells you that you're a crappy parent because you're not sticking to the gospel plan and you've already told yourself that a billion times nearly every day for years and years and you wish you could put the tooth that fell out back into your mouth (i.e. the church)...but it won't go back in then you have a good cry, say a few swearwords and then ask yourself where you could improve and could this neighbor possibly be right.

Well, here's what I've concluded. Some teeth fall out, and we can't put them back. We can buy fake ones and pretend they aren't missing but those new teeth that are stronger and made for shredding meat are waiting to descend and you can either deny it or move towards the juicy T-Bone waiting for you on the other side. There will always be gristle, or people that offer unsolicited advice that's hard to chew, but you don't have to swallow everything you're given.

While I'm talking about food - I like food. Correction, I like good food. I am somewhat picky which makes me kind of okay at making some nice meals because it has to be the best tasting I know how to make. I don't like leftovers and meat always tastes odd the second day. We pack our kids home lunch every day and try to fill their bags with nutritious food. But I gotta say, there is something fantastic about going to a restaurant or a friends house and not having to cook dinner. It nearly always tastes better when you didn't have to make it yourself. 

Regular church attendance, for me, was so nice. It was like a restaurant - it was all prepared for me! I made little, if any, effort. You show up, the speakers do their thing, the classes have all been prepared and you shuffle your kids off into their respective rooms and *big sigh* served. (Don't get me wrong, I was an engaged member, but you get the point)

But then we got away from that. We felt like the amount of false doctrine being regurgitated was getting harder to have to later explain to our kids what the truth was versus what people say they believe over the pulpit or in a classroom or in a lesson (D&C 93:40). And so we started to teach lessons at home. And this wasn't easy. I liked the restaurant! It's all made for you - it's so delicious. Well, not delicious, but it was food and I didn't have to make it - therefore it was pretty good. It was palatable. We ate something approximating food.

Going back from time to time has shown me, this isn't food. This is the equivalent of Government subsitidsed cafeteria food at the elementary schools. Have you been to an elementary school cafeteria lately? You would shudder to know what they are offering to young children and passing off as "ingredients". But, it does contain calories - I'll give it that.

In the Celtic tradition do you know what they called the Holy Spirit?

The Wild Goose

How beatutiful. How appropriate. How true.

When you are led by the spirit you encapsulate what Jesus taught Nichodeemus when He said,
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Can you imagine a church service like that? I can. Our family has had to practice chasing the wild goose for the last four years and I am thankful we have. All these little eyeballs locked on us and we get to teach them how to truly pray, how to literally ask, seek, knock. How to read the scriptures. All of it. I don't blame you if it is intimidating. I know many mom's who homeschool and just the thought of doing that gives me IBS. Perhaps it is the same for you when you think of home church? The wild goose will call to you. If it's time, you'll feel it. And if it's not, you'll know that too.

I was thinking about the Star Wars movies yesterday. I found it interesting that the dark side is portrayed as Order and the rebels are portrayed as Chaos. 



If you think of lot's of movies that contrast good and evil, they tend to portray darkness as extreme order, crisp and clean,  hierarchy and leadership, rules and regulations. The rebels are always wild and scrappy. Can you think of other movies or books like that?

You have to ask yourself, what does the church do? Is it the wild goose? The "wind blows where it wishes," like Jesus told Nicodemus it would be? Or is it "order" in the extreme?

Have you ever heard someone say (or maybe you said this yourself), "The church is the same everywhere you go in any country on any continent." This is usually made as a statement of pride at our organization. Uniformity is definitely a comfort. Leadership has made a handbook of instructions so that you never have to pray to receive revelation about what should be done in almost every situation, the thinking has been done for you. But if you're looking for the wild goose, you won't find it in places where "it's the same everywhere you go." 

The Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws. By the time Christ came it had produced a people of vanity and unbelief as their brand of righteousness. As such, it contained some tragic flaws that kept them from coming to Christ. We in the church have the same vanity and unbelief which keeps us from relying wholly and completely upon the merits of Christ.

(1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations. 

This belief runs through our church as well. If it’s been a while since you’ve opened up the handbook of instructions, take a look (here). There are instructions ranging from how to wear your garments in the military to instructions on consulting with the stake leadership about music for stake events to instructions on how to properly take care of the church house, appropriate costumes for events, and more.

(2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men. 

If someone is in error and commits sin, rather than approaching God and working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philipians 2:12), you must go to a man and confess your sins and then he will consult a handbook and tell you how long you have to wait until you are forgiven. Forgiveness of sin then becomes mechanical - like punching in a clock for work and punching out. There is usually a standard/universal timeline that tells you when your sins are officially absolved.

(3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern. 

Rather than asking God what He would have you do, you consult your fleshy armed leader or the handbook or instructions given you by leadership to measure if you are on target or not. This leads to a dependence upon leadership and distances you further and further from your God.

(5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law. 

This happens frequently. One example I will share is when I was in church as a teenager. There was a wealthy member of the congregation who has much influence and had served as mission and temple president and knew President Monson (who was president at that time) personally. This brother had an extreme dislike of children who would bear their testimony that required a sibling or parent whispering in their ear. He wasn’t shy about making his feelings known over the pulpit as well. 

His chastening still did not remedy the situation to his liking so  told a few people, me being one who was within earshot, that he  personally wrote to President Monson expressing his disdain for such testimonies. I thought it was comical at the time until a few months later, a letter from the First Presidency was read over the pulpit concerning the bearing of testimonies of young children who are not able to do so on their own. It discouraged such actions as whispering in the ear, etc. and, well, that was that. 

I was amazed at the influence that one man’s pet peeve had to the point of a church letter, and later an admonition in the Church handbook of instructions (here).

(6) It produces inconsistencies. 

2 Nephi 31 shows us what these inconsistencies look like. In the church we teach that we need Jesus Christ to be saved. And we also teach that “we need more” than Jesus to be saved. We contradict the scripture that says we need to do 3 things to be saved: 1. Repent, 2. be Baptized, and 3. press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, "having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

We forget that the Book of Mormon says “this is the way”! “And there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

(7) It created a false standard of righteousness. 

The Pharisees had a false standard or righteousness. We are no different today. I recently finished reading The Brothers Karamazov. In the book there is a parable given called "The Grand Inquisitor". It begins with the story of Christ's second coming in Seville, Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. Christ performs several miracles similar in nature to the miracles He performed in the Gospels. The people of Seville accept Him as the Son of God, worshiping him at the Seville Cathedral. However, Christ is arrested by the leaders of the Inquisition and condemned to death by immolation the following day. The Grand Inquisitor visits Christ in jail and rejects his purpose, claiming that the Church is now enough for the world. If you haven't read it before, it's worth the read. The Grand Inquisitor portion can be read here

(8) It became a burden to the Jews.

Members of the church do not, on the whole, seek a true personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is relegated to the President of the Church. President Nelson’s wife, Sister Wendy Nelson confirmed this in a talk she gave to the European members when she said, “The Lord's prophets can see things we can't see and can hear things that we cannot.” You can’t see or hear some really important things. The little stuff is okay. Big revelation - no. 

That contradicts so many scriptures written by Prophets! No prophet would ever put themselves between you and God, nor would they allow another to do so either. A few scriptures: Hebrews 8:11, Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:34, John 6:45, 1 John 2:27.

(9) It was strictly external.

The Pharisees weren’t going for transformation. They missed the point of the laws, to bring them into alignment with their God. The church does something similar. You will often hear Jesus mentioned in church talks - leadership will acknowledge that Jesus had the gift of parables in teaching, that He raised the dead, He healed the sick, He cast out devils, He suffered and died for all humankind, He rose again from the dead, His miracles were beyond description…”BUT” you will subtly find throughout the talk that He isn’t enough. They essentially say, "you need more. And we are the only ones with "keys" and "authority" and the "covenant path" to give it to you and if you don’t get Jesus through us, you don’t get Him at all. 

A great example of this is Elder Wilcox talk to the youth here as well as Elder Hamilton's talk that Owl of the Desert wrote about here

If we are taught that Jesus isn’t enough, then you must preach the importance of rituals and that's what the church teaches - "We have the keys and the authority to the rituals". This is the LDS twisting of gatekeeping and the direct need for a connection to Jesus Christ is relegated to the Prophet and he will be the middleman for what we, to quote Sister Nelson, “cant see and can’t hear on our own.” (2 Nephi 9:41). 

This kind of thinking makes your spiritual journey much more transactional, like a machine. “If you do all the right things, you are guaranteed an outcome.” Or, “If you pay your tithes, attend church regularly, answer all of the temple questions, and attend the temple regularly, you are guaranteed a place in the Celestial Kingdom. It’s just that easy.” Jesus doesn't work like that. Remember the Wild Goose? His methods aren't something you can write in a handbook about or invest funds in. He rarely healed the same way twice, do you really think He's going to run such an orderly church? He was a Beautiful Outlaw (if you haven't read or listened to that book already, treat yourself today. Put it in your shopping cart and hit "buy"). 

(10) The Jewish church was rejected by Christ.  

In the church, we have many teachings and doctrines we believe to be true - with every fiber of our being. However, when things we believe aren't founded in the scriptures, they become a false tradition of our fathers (D&C 93:39). The Lord told us we would be rejected by him if we didn't get our act together in Nauvoo. Did we get our act together? Ryan and I wrote a paper about it - I'll give you a spoiler alert. We didn't. The church vainly teaches that the leaders have been darn near perfect in leading us aright and everything is in order but the scriptures reveal otherwise. Read that paper here. If that link doesn't work, go to my very first post and scroll to the bottom and click on the Ryan and Ruth paper link. 

Wouldn't it be cool to gather with people that had Jesus as their focus, and just Jesus. No dogma we have to subscribe to, no new and improved cannon or rules you have to promise to obey. Just PURE lovers of Jesus and the desire to seek and do the Lord's will in all things. A group with an eye single to His glory surely will "see eye to eye" (Isaiah 52:8). I long for that. I fantasize about a big gathering like that. It sounds creepy but I think about that at night when I can't sleep. For now the number of pure Jesus lovers is small and the contentions many. But when people love Jesus Christ above all else...when He is their only focus and His glory is their single want and desire, we will have unanimity.

First Things First
Consumed by Fire

1 comment:

  1. How have I never heard about this Wild Goose = Holy Spirit connection before? It is amazing! Those Celtics must have been on to something; after reading this Post I Googled 'wild geese' and am thrilled to have a whole new perspective opened to me about the Spirit, thank you. It is a powerful metaphor. Sometimes we get the still, small coo of a dove; other times the unnerving cackle of a gaggle of geese. I think I have found my new spirit-animal.