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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stay Optimistic & Avoid Negative Thoughts

     My Father, Irving E. Andersen, was a cockeyed optimist.  He admonished all seven children to adopt his attitudes toward being optimistic and happy.  He would show up at church singing happy songs, like "Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel" and "Today, While The Sun Shines".  I observed him walk up to someone and with the enthusiasm of everything he could muster, say how much he appreciates knowing him/her.  Saying anything negative was not in his character -- even when it was appropriate. 

     In matters of criticizing church leaders or Church policy, he had little use for those who look at negative things to talk about.  In his mind, the (LDS) Church was "true" and there was no place in which to fit criticism.  If the Church hid their money, or gave no accounting as to what they did with it, it was simply none of our business.  Similarly, those who were in authority positions could generally do no wrong in his eyes. 

    This got him into trouble more than once when this trust was extended to people who mis-used it.  One company that Dad worked for  while I was a teenager, was led by many active LDS businessmen.  They told Dad what to say to sell stock in their company and Dad did as instructed.  Soon, however, it was found to be a fraud and Dad was indicted along with others in the company for selling fraudulent securities.  His temple recommend was revoked till the matter could be resolved [which is why Dad was not allowed to attend my wedding in 1966]. 

     Discussion in our home about the abysmal civil rights record of the LDS church was just negativism and in Dad's mind there were better and more uplifting things to talk about.  The church officially taught that "colored" people brought it on themselves anyway because of their not being as valiant in the "pre-existence" as whites were.  It said so right in the scriptures and in the Book of Mormon.  So most civil rights agitation was explained away as being cause by the blacks and by the Communist leaders that they tended to follow.

     While on my mission in Pennsylvania in 1964-65, I invited a black couple to come to church to worship.  When I told the Bishop about it, he grew agitated and ordered us to locate the couple and "un-invite" them, as he knew that half the congregation would get up and walk out in protest.  I did what I was instructed, but I have been embarrassed by that all my life.

     When the "revelation" was announced by the Church that, in essence, said that the teachings of inferiority of blacks was wrong and was no longer an eternal teaching of the church, I was initially happy, but have come to believe over the years that the initial teaching was simply racism in the first place.  It is simply too convenient to preach one thing one day and then rescind it the next without a VERY good explanation -- which never came from the LDS church leaders.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Co-Dependent No More

     I learned early in my social work training how people live their entire lives trying to accept the blame and responsibility  for what others think and do.  It has a label.  It is called being "Co-Dependent".  It is never letting others live with what they do and accepting the responsibility for what they don't do -- that you want them to do.

     It never stops amazing me how people who live in this dysfunctional way try to get others to be co-dependent.

     Twice in the past two weeks, I have been asked by well-meaning Christian believers about how in the world, I can live with the thought that somewhere, someone latched onto the beliefs of the Church and, due to my influence, may decide to stop believing -- AND IT WILL BE BLAMED ON MY DISBELIEF!  How can I possibly live with myself?

     The lives of all these people who change their minds and become doubters and skeptics will be due to my poor example -- and it will be VERY BAD for me on the judgment day when I stand before Jesus and his angels.

     I have actually lived a pretty good life.  I have tried hard to help whenever and whomever I could.  In this, I followed the example set by my parents, who instilled in me and my siblings the importance of helping others.  I know that I have failed some who have expected more of me, but at the same time, I have had many who have let me know that I have influenced their lives for good.  I fear no honest appraisal of my life.

     While on my LDS mission during the time I was age 19-21, I tried to teach what I was taught to teach, and a few very good people took what I taught as "Gospel" and got baptized and at least made an attempt to make their lives better.  But I do not take any "credit" or "fault" for the decisions they made.  It was their decision and theirs only.  If anything, I was only an accessory to the fact.

     One of my favorite poems is called, "Invictus", by William Ernest Henley:



  Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

     I accept the responsibility for the decisions I make.  People who choose other decisions are responsible for what they decide to believe and live.  "I" am the only person who I can mostly control.  I firmly believe that.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trouble In The Sky Signals Trouble In My Faith

     The year, 1968 was an amazing year.  I was 25 and had been married for only two years.  I accomplished getting a bachelor's degree from college.  I had a new job that I wanted to point toward a profession -- not just a job.  I had my health and was living in beautiful Idaho Falls, Idaho.  Everything seemed to be good.  I went to church regularly, prayed, helped my neighbors and was asked by the church to be scoutmaster.  Twelve of my thirteen boys received their Eagle award and our activities were fun, fun, fun.
     I loved learning new technology and learning about this beautiful world that I had inherited.  I was meeting new people and loved going fishing, hunting, exploring and finding new things.
     I had always wanted to learn a bit about astronomy and decided that the best way to go about this task was to make my own telescope and learn about mathematics and optics while I was doing it.  I bought a couple six inch telescope glass blanks and proceeded to grind them by hand for hours and hours in preparation to be the primary reflecting mirror for my Newtonian telescope.
     After doing the mathematics on the proper curvature of the mirror blank, I sent it to a telescope manufacturer to get the mirror coated with a silver glaze and when it was returned, I constructed my own telescope tube, installed an eye-piece lens and on a dark night proceeded to do what Galileo did 400 years before by looking into the night sky to learn from what I saw.
     I wasn't prepared for what I saw and felt.  
     One of the first objects I wanted to see was a nebula -- specifically, the Owl Nebula.  It was formed 6,000 years ago in a violent explosion and is only about 1,000 light years away from earth.
     For some, as yet, unexplainable reason, I suddenly lost interest in my newly-found hobby.  I didn't realize till many years later that what I had seen was frightening to me on a very fundamental level.  If I could believe my own eyes at what I was seeing, I might somehow lose my faith in my religion -- in much the same way that Galileo did.  I did not want that to happen.  It would be better, easier and safer to let others blaze their trails through the teachings of organized religion and allow myself the role of an interested non-aggressive non-combatant in these trials.
     I have since read biographies of Galileo and have some to grips with this amazing pioneer.
     Why has it taken so long for us to challenge religion?  I have no simple answers.  All I know is that in my own life, it was not an easy thing to do -- to stand up for what I can see with my own eyes in the face of such strong dogma coming out of religious organizations.
     Last summer I located the Andromeda galaxy on a very dark night while camping in the mountains far away from light pollution and that old sense of awe swept over me that I felt nearly 44 years ago.  It is a much more beautiful existence that we live in than I have ever imagined it to be.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gay People and Defending Traditional Christian Marriage

     Let me begin this post with an explanation:  I am NOT Gay!  I have no vested interest in what Gays do or don't do.  No amount of pressure could make be be gay.  I am drawn emotionally and sexually to the opposite sex -- WOMEN.
     I don't even remember anyone who brought up the topic of Gay-ness till I was about age 20.  (You may have seen the three photos of me in my previous post when I was age two and had long, curly hair and may have come to the conclusion that I just might be a transvestite, however  - Mom just loved those curls!)
     Therefore, it came as a questionable surprise that ANYONE could be drawn to someone of the same sex.  While on my LDS mission, I never even thought of my "companions" as something that I might be sexually attracted to.  None made "advances" toward me, and I certainly didn't feel sexually attracted to any of them.
     I have since come to know some people who have struggled with their feelings regarding gay-ness.  Over my lifetime, I have met and known many -- and laughed at those who are stereotyped on TV shows for their gay-ness.
     When I first heard of efforts of some bigots in fundamentalist Christian churches who denounced being gay as synonymous with evil, sinful and stupid, their actions came to me as a surprise.  Being an educated social worker, I knew, of course, some whose lives were in turmoil due to sexual preferences and I knew that, for the most part, these people were very misunderstood by everyone -- particularly by those who should be most understanding of people who are abused and hated.
     A turning point for me against those dogmatists who hated gays was when I found out that my own church leaders had set aside $500,000 of donated tithing  to try to support a gay marriage amendment to the Alaska constitution in the fall of 1998.  I had been told that not only was financial support illegal, but that the LDS church only used its contributions for support of chapels, helping the poor and needy, etc..  This came as a shock and initially I couldn't believe it.  A letter was even read in church begging the members to support financially this kind of idiocy.   Well, I found out that, not only was the church actively involved in this noncharitable activity, but that I was expected to follow the counsel of the brethren, or I would be held to be in violation of my covenants that were taken in the temple to support the local and general leaders of the church.
     Of course the old testament has one verse that talks about "stoning" to death gay behavior, but who in their right mind would do that today?  The Bible also had laws about stoning women (only women) who commit adultery (heterosexuality).  But we would not do that either today, thank goodness and common sense.