The Peace that Faith Brings

31 03 2011

by PAUL HARDWICK, apostolic assistant

Super Typhoon Megi was to arrive in the Philippines on Monday, October 18, 2010, and so was I. Because of the forecast, I traveled into the area a day earlier, knowing air travel would not be possible on the day of the typhoon. We were staying at the Shaw Centre in Roxas, Isabela, exactly where Megi was to strike.

Megi had started to gather momentum by 10:30 a.m., just after we returned from gathering supplies in town. A small group was in the building. I was there with the apostle for Asia; Julio Sampayan, Chito and Josie Magabilin (ministers and staff in the Philippines); and the caretaker family, Angie and Roderick with their 3-year-old daughter.

The winds grew, howling in strength. As rain started to enter the building, we scampered to close windows and doors. Trees outside bent nearly horizontal.

The roof started leaking in several places, and we began shifting mattresses to keep them dry. The rain was coming sideways. We rearranged furniture to avoid the leaks. Outside, debris and galvanized-iron sheets flew in the fields. The typhoon was category 5 with sustained winds of 225 kph (140 mph) and gusts of 260 kph (162 mph).

Each of us worried about the typhoon and the damage it could do. In all of this, the 3-year-old was keen for us to play with her. And so we did. We picked her up and played hide-and-seek, all in the middle of the typhoon.

She seemed at ease and at peace with what was happening. For the most part, she was playful, smiling, and wanting attention. Her presence helped us to focus on her, reassure her by our actions. She gave us a calming influence.

At 3:00 p.m. the typhoon hit its peak, and an inside wall started to move. As we pushed against it, the 3-year-old still wanted to play. She kept smiling when we gave her attention.

From Matthew 8:23–26 NRSV, the story is told of Jesus stilling the storm:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.

Often, we focus on the part where Jesus stilled the storm. We forget that Jesus, the presence of God, was present in the storm itself. It is the presence of God in the storm itself that can bring peace.

On the day the typhoon struck, it was the presence of a child that brought calm, laughter, and a sense of peace. She brought the presence of God. I did not forget her name.

Her name is Faith.

Is It Worth It?

28 03 2011

by MARGO FRIZZELL, Chicago, Illinois, USA

When Grandma was a young girl she lived on a North Dakota farm with her mother, stepfather, and siblings. Her only contact with the church was when a missionary passed through a town some distance away. Her stepfather was Catholic, so her mother was her connection.

Once, when a missionary was visiting, my great-grandmother took Grandma into town to a church meeting. Before they went, she asked Grandma if she wanted to be baptized. But Grandma, being shy and unsure, said no. Afterward, as they were traveling home, Grandma said she had changed her mind. She wanted to be baptized. Her mother told her she had missed her chance and would have to wait.

I don’t know how long it was before the missionary came back, but I know Grandma talks about how excited she was to be baptized. But when the day came, it rained. Poured.

The dirt road they would have to travel washed out and her stepfather refused to take her into town. Grandma told me she stood at her front window, tears streaming down her face, as the rain beat the glass.

Then through her tears, through the rain, she saw it: a car, carrying the missionary and other church members, slipping and sliding on the muddy road toward her farm. They had come to her when she couldn’t come to them. She was baptized that day in the farm pond.

This story makes me cry. As I’ve worked alongside my husband, in his work for the church, I’ve heard much frustration and despair at our dwindling congregations. I’ve sensed an underlying question no one has been willing to voice. I suspect many are thinking, “Is it really worth it?”

Is it worth it to send extra ministers to a congregation of five? Is it worth it to hold services in a building when just three or four people are likely to show up?

Is it worth it?

Grandma’s story reminds me that yes, it’s worth it. She lives a life of faith. She loves her God, and she loves this church. I believe it has something to do with that car filled with missionaries and church members who braved the mud and rain to make sure a young girl could commit her life to Christ.

The belief that one person was worth it now has touched three later generations. It is a testimony of hope to all of us, a challenge to touch the lives God puts in front of us—one at a time.

Praying the Heart Dimension

26 03 2011

by KATHY SHOCKLEY, Spiritual Formation Team

The Series

This is the third prayer exercise in this series, which explores praying with all four dimensions of our being. Christ identifies these in the Great Commandment in Mark 12:30 as the heart, soul, mind, and our strength, meaning body.

Long ago the heart became linked with emotions, making prayers of the heart those from our deepest feelings.

Perhaps the best examples are in the psalms. Richard Wagner, author of Psalms: The Heart of Prayer, states, “What’s striking about the Psalms is that they’re real, brutally honest outpourings of emotion along the roller coasters of life.” The psalms can help us get in touch with the depth and breadth of our emotions, breaking us open so we can take them to the Lord in prayer.

Just as a sprinkle of salt flavors a whole dish, so a bit of emotion can color our entire outlook and attitude. Emotion is very much a part of who and what we are.

Prepare for this prayer by doing an emotional inventory of your heart. Look deep within and identify your joy, trust, fear, sadness, disgust, anger, loneliness, love—all that you find there. Read some of the psalms that speak to what you are feeling.

Next consider how you carry each emotion. Where and how do you feel it within yourself? Is there a particular posture that reflects the emotion? For those who recently have traveled the Worshiper’s Path in the Temple, the three sculptures near the end show powerful emotional postures.

For your prayer select three or four of the strongest emotions you would like to pray with. Use the following meditation for each.

Breathe slowly and deeply. Each time you inhale, imagine God’s love surrounding you outside and filling you inside. Assume the posture you link with this emotion or place both hands over your heart, feeling the emotion as fully as possible. Present it to the Lord, using one of the following:

1. For each positive emotion allow the Lord to expand and purify it.

2. For each negative emotion allow the Lord to help you overcome, transform, or wash it away.

3. For each wound or hurt allow the Lord to comfort and heal it.

Reflect on your experience.

• What was it like to do an inventory of your heart’s emotions? Did you find any surprises? Remember, awareness is the first step in transformation.

• What was your awareness of God as you offered each emotion?

• Are there places in your heart where you didn’t want to invite God? If so, what does that mean?

This type of prayer is about putting our whole self in the presence of God. Four-dimensional prayers seek to move us to a more-conscious and intentional prayer life. In the words of theologian Joan Chittister, “When we have prayed prayers long enough, all the words drop away, and we begin to live in the presence of God. Then prayer is finally real.”

Cookies—and Love—Bring Forgiveness

24 03 2011

by STEPHEN K. SMITH, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA and JIM FOSTER ELLIS, Phoenix, Arizona USA

During the 2010 World Conference, Jim Ellis and I were among the volunteers at the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, Illinois. We provided guide services while the regular staff was in Independence.

It thrilled me to guide part of the Tahitian delegation. My great-uncle and great-aunt, Joseph and Emma Burton, had sailed the missionary boat, Evanelia, from San Francisco to Tahiti, where they served as missionaries. My granddaughter is named after that boat.

We had a wonderful time guiding tours through Joseph and Emma Smith’s homes and talking about the life of the church in Nauvoo. In the sanctuary on the second floor of the Red Brick Store we shared in worship, singing, and prayers. We exchanged Tahitian ritual greetings and shell leis. It was a special, warm, and loving time.

But later that day misfortune struck. When the Tahitians went to a store, a stock boy became concerned about these different-looking people who spoke little English. He unjustly accused a Tahitian of shoplifting and called the police.

Eventually it became clear the allegations were unfounded. The police and store representatives apologized. But feelings had been hurt, damaging what had been a wonderful experience.

Later, however, there was a beautiful outcome.

Jim had been invited to dinner with a local family. He learned their daughter was on duty at the store the night the Tahitians visited. She went home very upset.

After learning what had happened, the girl’s mother and a friend baked a bunch of cookies and took them to the Tahitians’ motel.

They told the Tahitians how sorry they were about the false accusation and gave the cookies as a reconciliation offering. With many hugs, the Tahitians accepted the apology and cookies. In return they gave leis to the women.

But that wasn’t all. The next morning the Tahitians returned to the store and presented leis to the staff. They sought the stock boy who had made the allegation and brought leis to him. They did not want him to lose his job over the incident.

Their actions were a wonderful testimony of the living reality of the gospel message among the Tahitian members of Community of Christ.

They extended forgiveness and reconciliation. And they demonstrated the love and peace of Christ by reaching out to those who had offended them. As Christ said in John 13:35 (NRSV): “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Legacy of Josiah Henson

21 03 2011

Josiah Henson

by KRISTEL ANTHONY, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Many people know little about their ancestry. But I believe our ancestry is important to our growth and development as a people. I believe our heritage influences our identity.

I say this because my heritage has influenced me. I treasure my heritage because of the rich blessings that have rippled for more than 200 years.

My heritage includes a strong story of faith. It’s a tale of putting God above self that still resonates today. I delight in knowing it set my family on a path that led to Community of Christ.

My family has traced the birth of Josiah Henson, my great-great-great grandfather, to June 15, 1789. He was born a slave in Charles County, Maryland. He saw many horrific things as a child. When Josiah was 3, his father was beaten severely by his master for defending his mother, whom the white overseer had beaten.

His father’s punishment was severe. His right ear was cut off close to his head, and he received a hundred lashes on his back with a whip. Soon after, he was sold, never to be seen again by his family. I tell you this because it had to have deeply impacted Josiah.

Soon after, the master, intoxicated, fell into a stream about a foot deep and drowned. This prompted the sale of his estate, including his slaves. Because Josiah was so young, he remained with his mother, and they were sold together. His other five siblings were sold off, and he never saw them again.

Josiah grew into a strong and robust young man with pride and ambition. Whatever the task given to him—hoeing, mowing, or reaping—he surpassed his fellow slaves. He also excelled in athletic exercises. He began to receive favorable regard from the overseer and master.

He also gained great influence with his companions in slavery, who regarded him as a leader. Josiah held compassion for his companions, for many were starving, miserable, and unable to help themselves. Josiah helped them to some comforts the owners denied them.

Meat was not a part of their regular food. But the master had plenty of sheep and pigs. Josiah would pick the best of the flock and carry it a mile or two into the woods. He’d slaughter it, cut it up, and share it among his friends, to whom it was both luxury and medicine.

Another time in Josiah’s life that is precious to me is when his master sent him on a mission to New Orleans, Louisiana, with the master’s 21-year-old son and three white handymen. Their job was to take a flatboat to New Orleans to sell cattle, pigs, poultry, corn, whiskey, and other articles. The master’s son then was to pay the handymen and sell Josiah to the highest bidder.

By this time in life, Josiah had a wife and children. He knew of the master’s plans. But he had to follow the orders given to him. As they traveled to New Orleans, his anger grew more ferocious daily at his master’s plan and all those participating.

He considered killing the four white men he traveled with and escaping. Then one rainy night, Josiah was alone on deck as the white men slept below. He crept down, took an ax, and entered the cabin.

As Josiah later told in The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, a dim light let him see the master’s son, who was nearest. His hand slid along the ax handle. He raised it to strike the fatal blow. Suddenly, the thought came to him:

“What! Commit murder! And you a Christian?”

He had not thought of it as murder before.

It was self-defense, it was preventing others from murdering me, it was justifiable, and it was even praiseworthy. But now, all at once, the truth burst upon me that it was a crime. I was going to kill a young man who had done nothing to injure me, but obey commands which he could not resist; I was about to lose the fruit of all my efforts at self-improvement, the character I had acquired, and the peace of mind which had never deserted me. All this came upon me instantly, and with a distinctness which made me almost think I heard it whispered in my ear; and I believe I even turned my head to listen, I shrunk back, laid down the axe, crept up on deck again, and thanked God, as I have done everyday [sic] since, that I had not committed murder.

I remained on deck all night, instead of rousing one of the men to relieve me, and nothing brought composure to my mind, but the solemn resolution I then made to resign myself to the will of God, and take with thankfulness, whatever he might decide should be my lot.

I reflected that if my life were reduced to a brief term, I should have less to suffer, and that it was better to die with a Christian’s hope, and a quiet conscience, than to live with the incessant recollection of a crime that would destroy the value of life, and under the weight of a secret that would crush out the satisfaction that might be expected from freedom and every other blessing.

They arrived at New Orleans a few days later, and sold everything. The next day Josiah was to be sold. He could not sleep that night. A little before daylight, the master’s son awoke ill. Josiah had to care for him and pay for both their fares back to Kentucky on a steamboat with the earnings from the sale.

Josiah made it back to his wife and children, and soon after they escaped to Canada.

In his life as a free human being, Josiah helped bring more than 100 slaves from the South to freedom in Canada. They established the city of Dawn (now Dresden, Ontario) and set up schools and businesses.

My great-grandmother was a granddaughter of Josiah. She, her husband, and children were baptized in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My grandmother moved to Detroit when she was a young woman.

I am blessed to come into the church from a heritage of several generations. I am blessed to have a legacy richly filled with faith and steadfastness. I’m thankful for my great-great-great grandfather’s autobiography, Truth Stranger than Fiction, which resides in the public library.

I’m also thankful for a book based somewhat on his life, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But it cannot compare with Josiah’s own words and writing. How great will our biography be when our years have passed? Will someone tell our life stories?

It is my prayer, that though our life journey may be much different than that of our forefathers, we live in greatness and godliness and boldly confess our witness before God and the world in which we live.

Mummies, Lightning, Roller Skating All Part of Kirtland Temple Lore

19 03 2011

by BARBARA WALDEN, Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation

• Historians and economists estimate the cost of building Kirtland Temple was $40,000–$70,000. This was at a time when the average farmer and family brought in less than $400 a year.

• The Temple dedication on Sunday, March 27, 1836, was attended by 900–1,000 people. The lower court filled to capacity. Overflow guests gathered in the schoolhouse behind the Temple. Others surrounded the Temple and listened through windows despite the cold weather.

• The brilliant white Kirtland Temple we see today would not have appeared white in the 1830s. The Temple was rather colorful at its dedication. The exterior stucco had a blue tint with sparkling, crushed glass imbedded. The roof had wood shingles, perhaps dipped in a red lead paint to preserve them, thus giving a reddish-brown appearance. Finally, the front doors were olive green.

• The Temple was declared a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior and the National Park Service in 1977. Fewer than 2,500 places bear this distinction. They include George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Empire State Building, and the Alamo.

• In the 1830s, lines were painted on the exterior stucco to resemble mortar lines. From a distance, the Temple appeared to be made of smooth-cut stone blocks.

• Heavy canvas curtains once hung from the ceiling of the lower court. Leaders could lower the curtains to divide the assembly room into four smaller areas of worship. Curtains also hung over the east and west pulpits, providing privacy to priesthood members for prayer, meditation, or small meetings.

• In the 1830s, Egyptian mummies were exhibited, often a tour highlight for visitors.

• Workers installed the Temple bell in 1890. After reinforcing the belfry, the local Saints bought a bell from the Buckeye Bell Foundry of Cincinnati, Ohio, for $357.

• During massive restoration in 1883, the Temple caught fire. Cassie Kelley reported the incident in the Saints’ Herald and shared that a bucket brigade saved the building:

“By letter from Kirtland to Coldwater, Michigan, we learn that the roof of the Temple at Kirtland caught fire from the tinner’s kit, employed in the tinning [of] the belfry; and but…for the timely discovery, and the energy and assistance of Bro. C. Scott and Sr. E.L. Kelley, the old building would have been burned. Sr. Kelley wrote: “Five minutes later and the whole building would have had to go…NO damage was done to the building to the amount to anything as it was.”

• Lightning struck the bell tower in 1904, badly damaging the roof and belfry. An adjacent barn caught fire. Again, a bucket brigade prevented extensive fire damage.

• Kirtland High School used the attic for classroom space in 1836–37. Oliver Cowdery reported that 135–140 students climbed the stairs to the third floor for reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, Latin, and Greek classes.

• James Ryder used the upper court in 1850 as a photography studio. He built a temporary platform over desks and invited locals and visitors to sit for a daguerreotype.

• In the 1880s, a local resident pleaded with Cassie Kelley to allow him to rent the upper court for a roller skating rink. Cassie refused.

• The church’s first seminary was on the third floor of the Temple. The Kirtland, Ohio, Theological Institution was among the first five seminaries in Ohio.

Peace, History, People, and a Bell Tower

17 03 2011

by LEANNE DE VREUGD, Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA

Camps, reunions, and vacation Bible school defined my summers in Community of Christ. Then last summer I had a new church experience—incredibly memorable and meaningful. It was a fellowship at Kirtland Temple.

The Temple, which will mark its 175th anniversary this month, is not only impressive and beautiful, it’s sacred and historical. Visitors come with their own expectations. Some know the Saints’ story and hope to have their own spiritual experiences. They leave excited to share the story with family and friends.

Daily, I heard questions about church history, Community of Christ today, and my own story and faith. Visitors often stayed after tours to discuss their experience and enjoyment.

The fellowship was more than I expected. The summer began with extensive tour training and church history classes. As summer progressed, the facts and stories about Joseph Smith Jr., the early Saints, and the movement allowed me to serve as a knowledgeable and confident guide.

The museum at the Kirtland Temple Visitor and Spiritual Formation Center displays artifacts from the 1830s. It was amazing to see the other historic sites and work with artifacts so important to the Saints 175 years ago.

When I wasn’t giving tours, I worked in the Mercantile store at the Visitor Center and I learned about the business aspects of the historic site. Time with other staff members—at work, during devotions, or after work—was my favorite. The interns brightened the summer by sharing picnics, movie nights, and trips to a lake.

Why should you spend a summer at Kirtland? Because of the peace that surrounds the Temple. Because staff members are some of nicest people you’ll ever meet. Because you meet visitors from all over the country and volunteers from around the world. Because the Temple is a National Historic Landmark, connecting people today with Saints of the past.

And if that’s not enough, you receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the Temple—all the way to the bell tower!

The Power of the Story Continues

14 03 2011

by BARBARA WALDEN, Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation

Celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Kirtland Temple

Shortly after arriving in Kirtland, Ohio, in 2002, I attended the annual Thanksgiving service in the lower court of the Kirtland Temple. As my husband and I sat with more than 100 other guests, we witnessed our new community come to worship in a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving.

I vividly remember hearing Father Norman Smith, the local Catholic priest, deliver the evening sermon. We listened as the high school choir sang traditional holiday hymns from the historic choir lofts and the police chief offered ministry of music while playing the guitar.

We sat in delighted amazement when the mayor offered the invocation and the school superintendent delivered the benediction. We saw the leaders of several denominations and civic organizations share in readings, testimonies, and song.

The evening could have been portrayed in a Norman Rockwell painting. It was the moment I recognized the Kirtland Temple was the “House of the Lord,” a sacred place where all are welcome.

As I consider the 175 years of Community of Christ history in this small, northeastern Ohio community, I am reminded of how the vision for building and sustaining community continues to inspire us. It’s where our past and present friends experienced the Divine and glimpsed Zionic community.

On March 27, members and friends of Community of Christ will celebrate the 175th anniversary of the historic Kirtland Temple dedication. The lower court again will ring with the familiar chorus of “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.” And we’ll worship the Spirit that inspired generations of Saints to build and preserve the Temple.

We will share the stories of past and present volunteers whose service has touched our lives. People like Emma Smith, Larry Masek, Cassie Kelley, Earl Curry, and Glenna Van Buskirk.

I invite you to join us in celebrating. Come to worship, celebrate, and rededicate yourself to the cause of Zion.

Can’t Travel? Celebrate at Home!

A wonderful Kirtland Temple hymn festival by Richard Clothier is available online to help your congregation celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Kirtland Temple:

Poised to Fulfill God’s Vision

12 03 2011

by STEPHEN M. VEAZEY, World Church president

Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a

When I finished writing what became Doctrine and Covenants 164, I thought paragraph 8 was the conclusion. After completing it, I paused to “rest” with God in quiet reflection.

Being with God in that way provided an opportunity for more words of blessing to emerge. A heightened sense arose of divine expectation about the “readiness” of the church to respond to God’s full vision for it.

I searched for the right word to capture the meaning of what I was experiencing. The word “ready,” though descriptive, was not sufficient. The phrase “on the edge” was in the right direction but could be misunderstood. Then, the word “poised” caught my attention.

Yes, “poised” seemed right. I looked up “poised” in my dictionary. Poised means ready, prepared, perched, primed, and “in position” to do something.

When I was in high school I played (American) football. My coach suggested I run track to stay in shape in the off-season.

My track coach approached me one day and said, “Veazey, we don’t have anyone to run the low hurdles. What about you?” With enthusiasm I said, “Sure coach, I’ll give it a try!”

My first attempt was less than impressive. Over the next months I studied the proper technique. I visualized what I needed to do. I practiced every chance I got.

Eventually, the day of my first track meet arrived. When my race was called, I walked to the assigned lane and put my feet in the blocks. I placed my hands just behind the starting line and waited.

The starter bellowed, “Ready!” I rose into a crouched position. The starter shouted, “Set.” Every muscle became tight. My heart rate rose. Adrenaline surged. Mind and body became singularly focused.

In that moment between “set” and “go,” I was “poised!” Poised is when sense of purpose and preparation meets opportunity. There was no way I wasn’t going to run the race! Unless, of course, in that pivotal moment between “set” and “go” my confidence or desire failed, and I stepped back.

Paragraph 9a describes the church as being “poised” to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for it. All that has been—especially the more-challenging and surprising parts of our faith journey—happened to prepare us for opportunities ahead.

What could keep us from responding?

When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9b

When “willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation” exceeds our “natural fear of relational and spiritual transformation” the church will leap into the future God envisions.

The phrase “sacred community as Christ’s new creation” refers to the vision presented in paragraph 5 of Section 164:

…when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.

Is this paragraph impractical idealism or wishful thinking? If so, we are in good company. Paragraph 5 focuses on the vision of Christian community found throughout the New Testament as expressed in Galatians 3:27–29 NRSV:

As many of you as were (are) baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And, if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

This passage recalls a confessional statement made at baptismal services in the early Christian church. Baptismal candidates publically committed to living in a new community of equal standing before God and with others, centered in Christ’s love.

The church will move into God’s future when our willingness to live the meaning of baptism as communities of oneness in Christ overtakes our reluctance to change how we view others. Our natural instinct is to label, stereotype, and even fear others based on perceived human differences. These predispositions reside so deeply in our minds, it is extremely difficult to recognize them, much less change them.

However, God in Christ has brought into human experience the spiritual power to recognize, reconcile, and transform these differences. As we live the meaning of baptism in Christ, walls of separation and hostility break down. (Read Ephesians 2:11–22.) Through baptism we are incorporated into a covenant community where the peace of Jesus Christ redefines our relationships.

Baptism is the sacrament of human solidarity in Christ with each other, and especially with those who are different, strange, and even frightening to us…

Baptism creates a solidarity that defies and shatters the divisions and barriers that sinful human beings have created. Racism, sexism, and other ideologies of separation are doubly reprehensible when they exist within or are supported by the Christian church, since they are a denial of the solidarity that is God’s intention for human life…—Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, p. 294

Living God’s covenant of peace in Christ, while difficult, is transformative.

This covenant entails sacramental living that respects and reveals God’s presence and reconciling activity in creation. It requires whole-life stewardship dedicated to expanding the church’s restoring ministries, especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons, protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual suffering. —Doctrine and Covenants 164: 9c

Living the covenant of peace is much more than holding right beliefs or just attending church. It involves righteous, grace-filled living that is “sacramental.”

Sacramental living reveals the sacredness of creation and God’s vision of peace. It highlights the reconciling and healing activity of God wherever it occurs.

Living the covenant of peace takes initiative to “assert the worth of persons.” This is more than simply accepting human worth. It involves ministries that stress the inherent worth of others while stopping discriminatory attitudes and systems that degrade people. It relieves human suffering where possible so people can experience more of their worth and giftedness as God intends.

Doctrine and Covenants 164:9d connects God’s covenant of peace with living “the concerns and passion of Christ.” The following story helps us understand:

Here is the story of a Hasidic rabbi, renowned for his piety. He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted youthful disciples. In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, “My master, I love you!” The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his fervent disciple, “Do you know what hurts me, my son?”

The young man was puzzled. Composing himself, he stuttered, “I don’t understand your question, Rabbi. I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions.”

“My question is neither confusing nor irrelevant,” rejoined the rabbi, “For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?”—Madeleine L ’Engle in Walking on Water, quoted in Spiritual Literacy by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, p. 427

Ideally, as disciples we come to know Jesus Christ in such an intimate way that we clearly sense his greatest wishes and wounds. The word “passion” can mean fervor or zeal. In the scriptural sense, it also means “suffering.”

So, what hurts the One we claim to love the most? Is it when we rebuild the walls of hostility that he sacrificed his life to tear down? Is it when we ignore our baptismal covenant and choose to hide the sacredness of our lives and others? Is it when we ostracize others in the name of Christ without truly knowing the extent of Christ’s love? Is it when we could be generous, but we withhold?

Whenever I reflect on the “concerns and passion of Christ,” I ponder an image of Jesus gazing over the city of Jerusalem and weeping. Grieving over the lack of human responsiveness to his message, he said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:41)!

If we truly are growing as disciples of Jesus Christ we will live his passion for peace. The “things that make for peace” will be our highest priorities.

It is not easy to be community in Christ, living the meaning of God’s covenant of peace. According to paragraph 9e, “The challenges and opportunities are momentous.”

We stand at a pivotal place in the history of our faith community with a crucial question to answer:

Will you remain hesitant in the shadow of your fears, insecurities, and competing loyalties? Or will you move forward in the light of your divinely instilled call and vision? —Doctrine and Covenants 164:9e

God always allows us freedom to choose. However, if “the mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:9f), the answer should be clear.

Step up to the Call of Generosity

10 03 2011

by MICHELLE McAULEY BOOTH, Integrated Formation Ministries

After buying a home and going through a divorce, life was going well for me and my three children, then ages 6, 8, and 11. I was working two part-time jobs, at my home congregation and as a hairdresser. With my salon clientele increasing, I was in a place of comfort, enjoying the work I did to provide for my family.

One Sunday afternoon, while at a congregational business meeting, I received a phone call saying the owner had closed our salon and taken everything with him. As I took that call, the congregation met and decided to cut my hours.

That was no surprise. As a congregation member I understood the need and would have voted in approval. Earlier, knowing the decision was coming, I felt grateful because I figured I’d be able to increase my hours at the salon.

But the phone call changed everything.

Not only was the salon closed, but the computer there had my clientele information.

In a few minutes I went from two jobs I loved, to one job with fewer hours. The following months were difficult. I did find work at another salon, but because I lost my clientele database I lost many clients and was not bringing in enough income for my family.

One day I opened my door to my sister and brother-in-law, their arms filled with groceries. They continued to bring in bags, and I stood in my kitchen, watching their outpouring of generosity as tears streamed down my cheeks.

My sister hugged me and said, “Wipe away the tears and put the food away!” I hadn’t felt generosity like this before. I promised myself I someday would provide that generosity to others. I haven’t kept that promise well. I think God brings these testimonies to our minds as little reminders.

It’s time I step up to the call!