Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mormon Chocolate Pound Cake

When I was in the MTC a lady told me that she believed in the Christian Jesus but not in the Mormon Jesus. I asked her what that meant; I wasn't aware that multiple Jesus's had walked this planet.  She responded, in a somewhat annoyed tone, that her Jesus was the right Jesus and mine was wrong. I worded my question a little more bluntly the second time, in order to get the answer I wanted, and asked if she believed that more than one Jesus was born, ministered, and atoned for the sins of mankind. With chagrin she admitted that there was only one Jesus who ever lived, but the Christian interpretation of Jesus was different than the Mormon one.  I clearly knew that that was what she meant to say, but I wanted her to acknowledge that our Jesus was in fact the same man. She read to me a creed or something of the sort that defined her new age religion's beliefs about Christ and I told her we believed everything she recited to me. She was taken aback and informed me that there was no way that was true because her Jesus didn't require anything of her, and mine required a lot of me. I agreed with her on that point, made a joke about the fact that we were back to saying that Jesus has an evil Mormon twin, and then told her what we believe about Jesus. We finally got somewhere in our conversation.

I was asked by a friend to pen a post about the differences between Mormonism and other Christian religions. There are a lot differences and a lot of similarities, too. I have found that people, just like the lady above, like to act like all Christian religions are on one team and Mormons are on another one. In the theological dodge ball tournament a lot of balls are undeservedly thrown at people's heads. There are more similarities between Mormonism and all other Christian religions than people realize; though there are key differences as well. I want to outline what I believe is the main difference between other Christian denominations and Mormonism in the friendliest way I know possible; an analogy that involves cake.

For the sake of this post I want everyone to act as if their favorite cake flavor is chocolate. If that is simply too much to ask of you, then you have to imagine a different cake every time I mention fudge, devil's food, chocolate, or any other delicious adjectives derived straight from the cocoa bean.

All Christian religions (including Mormonism) are like cakes.  They are made of roughly the same ingredients with slightly different instructions and more or less add-ins.  Mormonism is like the homemade sour cream chocolate pound cake below. The tantalizing semi-sweet ganache that laces the delectable calorie packed confection is divine in its own right.  As I have said in previous posts, the true name of the Mormon church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As the name states, it is the church of Jesus Christ.  That doesn't just mean that we like Jesus or that we follow his teachings or that we try to emulate his actions and behavior.  It literally is the church that Jesus Christ established while he was on the Earth.  It is the authentic church.  The only true church.  The church that has all of the pieces.  When Jesus Christ ventured on his three year ministry, he shared His gospel (faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, and enduring to the end) with every one he came into contact with.  He held the priesthood authority of God and conferred that power upon the twelve apostles he worked closely with.  When they were all killed after Christ's resurrection, the priesthood* was taken from the Earth.  It was restored to Joseph Smith when he was directed by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to establish Christ's church on Earth once more. The main difference between Mormonism and other Christian religions is that members of the Mormon faith have the priesthood authority of God to perform saving ordinances the correct way, to administer blessings of healing and comfort, and to lead a worldwide congregation of people.  When you think of a chocolate cake done right, you imagine a gooey fudge concoction created with the perfect mixture of chocolate, sour cream, and love.  A cake that can make you forget about all of your problems. That cake, my friends, is a Mormon cake.

While I like to flatter myself by thinking my words brought you to my blog, we all know this picture did.  You can find the recipe here.  I promise it is as good as it looks.

Other Christian religions have many of the same facets that the LDS church does.  They are much like a cake made from a boxed mix.  They look delicious--and they are delicious-- but not quite as mouth-wateringly delectable as a made from scratch, sugar coma inducing cake.  They're missing some of the ingredients that the homemade cake has, like sour cream, for example.  They don't have God's priesthood authority so many of their actions don't hold the same weight.  A lot of boxed cakes can be made to look beautiful too, but that doesn't mean that they're as good when you bite into them.  Many churches look wonderful from the outside with their worship bands, beautiful structures, and convenient Saturday services, but they're still not authentic.

While I am using blunt terminology to describe religion, I hope everyone knows that I respect other Christians and their religions.  Many people who are dear to me are members of other faiths.  While I acknowledge their wonderfulness, I am not going to let that detract from what I know to be true.  I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the exact church that Christ lead while he was on Earth.  I know that you can know that too by praying and asking Heavenly Father in faith to answer your prayer.  You have to want to know to get an answer and you have to have an open heart and an open mind, but you will get an answer.  You may be happy with your boxed cake religion, but don't let that fool you into believing you have it all.  Contentment isn't pure joy.  Pure joy is a Williams-Sonoma pound cake.

* For more on the priesthood through prophets on the Earth, read my previous post here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Prayer: A Thoughtful Chat with Kelly and Michael

Ellen was booked today, so I'm taking my information to the stage of Kelly and Michael.

Kelly:  Today we are hosting some top notch individuals on our program.  The widow of Steve Irwin will be joining us to discuss her new book, Tackling Alligators Alone: Life as Steve Irwin's Widow.

Michael: We also have Channing Tatum joining us to talk about muscles and things (seriously, why does Channing Tatum ALWAYS visit talk shows the same day I do).  We will start our program though with a young sister missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Please welcome Sister P to our program!

[Kelly kisses Sister P on the cheek and Michael tries to, but she dodges that white handbook violation and shakes his hand; her companion, Sister Dumas is waiting backstage consoling Steve Irwin's wife and teaching the Plan of Salvation]

Kelly:  Welcome, welcome!  We are so glad you could fit a trip to New York into your limited eight hour P-day.

Sister P: Thank you for having me, Kelly and Michael.

Kelly: As many of you know, we live in a world with varying religious beliefs.  People don't have the same religious devotion that individuals had in previous decades. We wanted to get a little insight on prayer and the importance of it in our daily lives.  Sister P, what is the purpose of prayer?

Sister P:  Prayer is open communication with our Heavenly Father.  We pray for a plethora of reasons. We pray to express gratitude, to ask for blessings, to talk about our problems, to share excitement, to vent frustration, to discuss our day, and to ask questions.  Prayer is a lot like writing in a journal except someone is listening on the other side and answers.  We pray because Heavenly Father has asked us to communicate with him.  Prayer isn't just for prophets, apostles, pastors, or individuals of elevated spirituality.  Prayer is for every member of the human family.  Do you talk to your dad, Michael?

Michael: I definitely do.

Sister P:  Do your siblings talk to your dad?

Michael: They do.

Sister P:  Even when they were in trouble or felt like a disappointment?

Michael: Yes. We have all always talked to our dad no matter where we were in life.

Sister P:  Prayer works the same way.  Heavenly Father always wants to share in the ups and downs of our life and the most effective way of divine communication is prayer.

Kelly:  Now that we better understand why prayer is important, how do we do it?

Sister P:  Prayer is a lot more simple than people make it out to be.  I want you to imagine your mom cooking dinner in the kitchen while you're practicing piano in another room.  Your microwave timer is set for the half an hour you have to practice and you want to know how many minutes you have left.  You can yell, "HOW MANY MINUTES DO I HAVE LEFT?" and your mom may not acknowledge you.  She is really getting into her food processor.  She assumes that you're yelling at one of your brothers or at your incapable hands that keep missing G sharp.  If you yelled, "MOOOOOOOOOM" first though she probably will listen. After you have her attention you can ask how many minutes are left on the microwave timer and then grumble as you play through your songs one more time.  Like our mom in this story, our Heavenly Father is a very busy man.  We have to address him before we start our prayer, so we start every prayer with "Dear Heavenly Father".  We then fill our prayer with the thoughts of our heart.  I often start by listing things I am grateful for and thanking Heavenly Father for the blessings in my life.  After I have done this I go on to tell him about the hardships I am enduring and ask for assistance in bearing the burdens of life.  I will often ask for specific blessings for myself and those I care about as well.  After I have said everything I want to say, I close my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ and end with "Amen".

Kelly: So to re-cap, you say "Dear Heavenly Father," insert whatever you please, and end with "I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen".

Sister P: Yes.  Perfect.  It's a lot like an Oreo too.  You always have your two cookies; your address to Heavenly Father and your closing in the name of Christ, but you can change up the filling.  If you're having a double stuff kind of day then add a bit more fluff.  You can also mix it up with a mint flavored prayer or my favorite, birthday cake filling.

Michael:  Sister Poppe, thank you so much for meeting with us today.  You have enlightened our minds and lifted our spirits (okay, maybe I imagined that Michael said the last sentence).

Sister P: Thank you.  Send Regis my best.

[As Sister Poppe leaves an alligator is brought on stage in preparation for the wife of the late Steve Irwin]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What I Wish I Would Have Told My High School Friends

My family moved to Minnesota a few days before my freshman year of high school began.  Within minutes of stepping foot into my new academic haven it seemed that every other student somehow already knew two things about me; first, I was from Iowa, second, I am a Mormon.  Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quickly became my most common identifier.  My family was the only family that actively attended LDS church services in our new community, and as such people didn't know a lot about my beliefs.  Unfortunately I wasn't always the best at taking the opportunity to share my beliefs. When people asked what Mormons believed my confident demeanor shriveled and was replaced with an apologetic summary of extremely basic beliefs and random facts about my faith.  In essence, I quickly changed from the post-battle-with-Scar-newly-reinstated-king-of-Pride-Rock-and-new-boyfriend-of-Nala Simba to the tails-between-their-knees hyaenas.  I occasionally invited friends to go to church with me on Sunday or to participate in other activities on other days of the week, but I never shared a lot with them.  I didn't necessarily hide my faith under a bushel, but I didn't place it out in the open either.  As I prepared for college I decided to apply to Brigham Young University and this provided me with more opportunities to talk about my faith with friends, though I never gave the opportunities justice.  While my friends and I were touring colleges or going on various trips our senior year we would sometimes bring small gifts back for one another.  I flew to Utah to tour BYU's campus in October of 2008 and while I was there I picked up a copy of the Book of Mormon for three of my closest friends. Being the coward that I am, I wrote three notes boldly stating my beliefs and stuck the unique notes in each of the front covers so that I wouldn't have to verbalize my beliefs to my friends Kyle, Danielle, and Shelby.  By February I was accepted to BYU and six months later I was driving the 1300 life altering miles to Provo to work toward my bachelor's degree. 

I invited my friends, Shelby and Kyle, to a "Mormon Dance" in high school...this was the "pre-dance model shot"

Four of my closest friends, Shelby, Whitney, Danielle, and Nicole at our high school graduation
Five years later, I am filled with regret for not being more open about my faith.  I wish I would have told them that my religion is centered on Jesus Christ and His gospel.  I wish I would have told them that there is a prophet on the Earth today that leads and guides us with the priesthood power and authority of God.  I wish I would have told them that the Book of Mormon can answer all of life's questions. I wish I would have told them that Heavenly Father loves them as they are and that they can always turn to him no matter where they are in life.  I wish I would have told them that they don't have to agree with my beliefs, but I still want them to know them.  I really wish I would have told them that life will never be easy, but we can rely on the atonement of Jesus Christ to calm every fear, ease all of our pains, and lighten every burden.  All in all I wish I would have told them what it means to be a Mormon.  It means peace, happiness, comfort, and love.