Are Mormons Christian?

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Are Mormons Christians? Depends on who you ask. And depends on what you mean.

If you mean do we believe that the historic Jesus of Nazareth is God’s only begotten Son in the flesh and the Savior of the world, if you mean do we try to follow His example as disciples in these modern times, if you mean do we get baptized as He was baptized and eat bread and drink water to remember His death and resurrection as a regular part of our worship, and if you mean do we fully expect His triumphal return as King of kings and Lord of lords…then yes we are Christians.

If you mean do we follow traditional Christianity which includes the dogma and tenants born out of the creeds such as the notion of Trinity, infant baptism, the authority of the believers, purgatory, till death do we part marriage, irresistible grace, predestination, a closed canon of scripture etc, etc…then no we are not Christians.

The message that Joseph Smith brought to the world was that Christianity (and really the whole world) was in a state of apostasy, and that this long night was breaking into a day of restored true Christianity. This restoration included angelic ministration, prophets and apostles again on the Earth, revelation, additional scripture, priesthood authority. Through the prophet Joseph Smith the Living Christ brought back His living church.

Understandably, traditional Christianity is dubious to such claims. In fact it’s risky business to accept something so new and disruptive to nearly 2000 years of tradition. But our message to the world is not to just take our word for it, but investigate our claim. And investigation is simple, read the Book of Mormon, ponder it’s message and then ask God with an honest heart, a real intent (meaning you will follow when you know) and faith in Christ. The promise from the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5) and the Bible (John 14:26) is that you can know the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. Once you know, we invite you to join us in this great work.

So I’m happy proving my Christianity through action and faith even as most of the Christian world rejects me and my church as one of their own

Portrait painting progression

I’m not a great gift giver. I always struggle with what to give my wife. Other people are easier, paint them something and they’re happy. But Bonnie is used to my paintings. To compound the gift giving problem, she is also the CFO of the family so I can’t spend a dime without her knowing about it. The only times I can surprise her are on those rare occasions when I’m commissioned to do a piece and she doesn’t know about it. (Christmas 2011 I surprised her with a KitchenAide mixer. She never saw that one coming!) But I can’t count on that from year to year. So this year I was complaining about my gifting woes, and I told her I just wished she would commission me. Surprisingly, she did.
When my oldest son Haken was about two years old, and an only child, I painted a portrait of him. My thought was that I loved having a toddler and knew this stage is so temporary and I wanted to capture it.

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Since then we’ve had this ginormous painting of him in a prominent place in our home…and we have two other children now. They’re too young now, but eventually they’ll wonder why we have a shrine to the birthright son.
So Bonnie asked that I paint equally ginormous painting of our other two children (both of which are in that toddler stage, so it fits the original idea.) After one week here is the first one. I thought it would be fun to post the progression of the painting as a sort of artist diary. It’s more for me and posterity than it is for you, but you’re welcome to observe.

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It all starts with the right image. I wanted something candid not posed. And even though my kids are big smilers, I didn’t want any smiling. Those type of portraits always look a bit contrived to me. So I found this one from when Jack was 2 and he was watching the polar bear at Hoggle Zoo. He’s so captivated, I loved it. So I did a drawing (but didn’t need an under painting since this was over the top of many failed paintings.) I also had to fake his ear since the photo was cropped further over than I wanted for the composition.

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Next came some flesh tones. Because of the dramatic lighting, this came more easily to me. I also laid down the deep blue background of the polar bear tank so I could get a better contrast to his face.

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I warmed up the flesh tones, and got the rest of the colors blocked in.

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The blue was too intense for me so I blasted it with a more neutral color. Although I could tell this was still too intense.

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So I backed that off as well. I wanted to keep it loose so that nothing would detract from my boy’s beautiful face.

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My favorite part of a painting is when I know it’s successful (this isn’t always the case), and I just need to finish up all the little things. This is a fun time to be all finicky, but I have to be careful not to over do it. And that’s it. First painting down. Time to get after Gracie’s.

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How Prayer Works

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In the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have a lay ministry. That means we don’t have professional clergy in charge of our congregations. This Sunday my bishop (an electrical engineer) nailed it in his talk. Here’s what I learned.

Many are familiar with the saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” The wisdom here is that knowing how to get something is more valuable than simply having it. The example my bishop used was his child’s math homework. “They would rather me just give them the answer to the problem, but how will that help them on the test? They won’t understand the concept.” A wise parent or teacher understands that knowing just a single answer to a specific question is not as valuable as understanding the concept behind solving many problems.

It’s funny that we sometimes don’t take this same mindset into prayer. What I mean by this is that when people pray, they often want the quickest answer to their question. Some people will falsely conclude, when such an answer is not given, that either God doesn’t care or that He’s not even there. What is forgotten is that God is the perfect parent, and teacher. If it’s not going to help us be better, or not help us understand more, then He’s not going to give it to us. The purpose of prayer is not to help God see things our way, it is to help us see things His way. This will take time, and patience, and faith.

My bishop began his talk relating the buzz around the 1998 NBA finals when the Jazz were playing the Bulls. He talked about how in his family prayer during that time it was requested that God would help the Jazz to win. If you’re familiar with sports you may know that Michael Jordan had an incredible game where he battled the flu and almost singlehandedly defeated the Jazz. Either he had more faith than we did, or God isn’t super concerned about who wins games. It might be that He has much bigger things planned for us, if we will accept the tutoring.

Being Active

20140112-201816.jpgIn the Mormon vernacular we have a phrase for not participating in the church: inactivity. (Another, slightly modified, use of the term is “less active”. I guess its softer sounding.) The normal use of the term refers to a person or family who doesn’t attend church meetings on Sundays. I think this term could have wider application.

A few years ago I attended a meeting where the speaker was an assistant administrator for the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion within the Church Educational System. He was explaining how the church uses the active/inactive terms for church buildings. Since the church has a global presence, and many buildings are built in developing nations where power options are limited, a building is “inactive” when it doesn’t have climate control. A building is “active” when it does. Thus an inactive building is dependent on outside forces for a comfortable meeting setting, whereas an active building is comfortable regardless of outside forces. (I’m sure I’m getting some details wrong since I’m pulling this from a 7 year old memory.)

This use of the term is insightful to me as activity means being plugged into a power source that makes you impervious to outside influences. Being inactive is a lack of power that makes you vulnerable to and dependent on surrounding conditions.

This condition of being either active or inactive can apply to more than just church attendance. For example, I realized last summer that I was inactive in missionary work. I wasn’t plugged into the power, and was dependent on outside influences (like someone coming to me who was interested) to do any missionary work. I decided I was going to be active as a missionary and had some cool experiences (material for a future post I’m sure).

I’ve really tried to look at all facets of my life in this way. Am I active as a husband? as a father? in my calling? as a member of my ward family? as a member of the community? I believe there’s much good available from our lives and for our lives if we will choose to be active.