How a Question About the Relationship Between Boy Scouts of America the LDS Church Prompted Me to Ponder My Beliefs

What are your thoughts regarding the Mormon Church’s response to the Boy Scouts of America’s policy change?

That was the question I received from a friend on Facebook a few weeks ago accompanied by a link to an article in the NY Times.  It took me completely by surpise that this particular friend who had hadn’t so much as interacted with since college, which was about ten years ago, asked me such a bold question.  Even more than suprised I was apprecaitive that he took the time to even ask instead of assuming how I would respond.  At first I didn’t know how to even respond, but then a few paragraphs turned into a few more, and by two in the morning, I had written a fourteen paragraph essay in response:

Answering this feels rather like I’m walking into a minefield, but I really appreciate you asking rather than assuming what my thoughts might be, so I’ll attempt to answer this as best I can from my own perspective. Just note I speak only for myself. And since I don’t want to start an argument, I just ask that if you want to respond to this, that you do so out of place of respect and even love for the people involved on all sides.

That being said when I read the LDS Church’s official statement on this today I was a little confused. What I don’t understand as of this writing is why gay men and women in my church who keep their covenants, upholding the standards and expectations of the church can hold a recommend to enter our holy Temples just like anyone else who does the same, why is it that these same men (in this case) cannot lead a boy scout troop. I am confused why gay LDS men can do one and not the other.

Now when the Church’s response is applied to gay men of other faiths or no faith who are would be leaders of boy scout troops, I’m kind of at loss as to how to address this situation because on one hand I feel we should not impose our views about marriage and family on people and an organization that doesn’t hold the same views as us. That seems in conflict with some of our other beliefs and especially 11th and 12th LDS Articles of Faith which read:

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

As an LDS woman and a convert to the church, my feelings around marriage and how to define it are extremely deep, personal and nearly always conflicted. As a convert this is the one single issue i have, do and will, struggle with the most, and it’s a struggle that both breaks my heart and gives me hope.

That being said one of my core beliefs is that a family unit that is ordained of God is one that consists of one man and one woman joined by God, and their children, and that their primary function is to be an environment in which spirits can come down to earth and have bodies to enter allowing to experience mortal life for the first and only time.

Why do I believe it? There are a lot of complex reasons that are psychological, intellectual, and spiritual, but for me it boils down to just one thing.

1) When I ask God, in faith, if it is true, I keep getting the answer through pray and desire to understand God’s will, that it is true. And though I really don’t understand it and may never in this life, and though I really don’t like it, and though my heart breaks over it, believing it is a sheer act of faith on my part. (Some may see this as blind faith, but to me it is anything but. For me it is completely intentioned faith in which I choose to follow what I believe God wants even when I struggle with all my being to understand it).

And given all of this I have nothing but complete love and respect for my gay friends, family, and etc. Nothing can ever change that. And if anything, following Christ’s example has made me more loving towards everyone. It has really made me understand the power in not judging others.

So bringing me back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and The Boy Scouts of America policy change. I’m inclined to think that maybe the greatest act of respect, love, and civility isn’t to try to force one party of adopt the view of the other when those views are so diametrically opposed, is to simply bow out and go our separate ways.

To many people this may seem like the LDS Church is being a jerk, taking their ball and going home. But I see it as acknowledging inherent differences and respectfully deciding not to fight it out. As sad as it is for these two great organizations to have to part, it’s much better than judging each other, disrespecting each other, and hating each other in an attempt to get their way.

My prayer is that I answered you question. Thanks again for asking. Sorry I gave you such a long answer!

I also pray that all my friends on all sides of this issue how much I love and respect them and how much I would hate for anything, especially this way too long post to come between us. I also hope that we can seek first to understand each other and above all have charity for one another. <3

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 31-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

5 Ways To Gain More Knowledge & Blessings From The Hardest Trials

The ever present hiss of oxygen and the occasional beeping of a monitor are sometimes the only sound I hear for hours, as I lay alone in my hosptial room.  I stare at the white sterile walls that surround me.  The walls are totally blank with few unnoteworthy exceptions.  Sometimes I wish my life were as clean and as sterile as those walls, devoid of any adversitity.  It’s an easy thing to wish for when I’ve spend more than half of the last year in the hosptial.  If I could whitewash all the years spent facing the pain, lonliness, isolation, boredom, fear, anger,  grief, and saddness that comes with a chronic illness that requires very frequent and prolonged hosptializations, wouldn’t I want to?

But then I remember what I am here on earth to do.  I remember that my adversity and trials aren’t punishments; they’re gifts that allow me to improve myself, transform my weaknesses, and grow into the person I was always meant to become.  I remember that adveristy is a blessed opportunity – even an invitation – from my loving Father in Heaven, to become more like my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  I remember that if I were able to whitewash my life and forget all my trials, I’d also forget all the knowledge and blessings that come from them.

It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in the weight of a trial, and completely miss what I am learning and how I am growing from it. Perhaps if I were more methodical, more intetional about learning from adversity, I’d be able to develop more from it.  There are five things we all can do to gain more knowledge, growth, and blessings from the hardest things in life.

Seek Guidance

It’s a lot easier to learn something when you figure out what you are learning.  Recieve guidance as to what’s there to learn from life’s hardest moments.  Sources of guidance can be close friends, family, religious leaders, professional counselors, scriptures and other books, and divine inspiration.  I personally realize the lesson in every trial most easily when I read my scriptures frequently and pray unceasingly to my Father in Heaven to reveal to me what He wants me to learn.  It reminds me that I am not in control, but that’s completely okay, because the one that is in control, my Heavenly Father, knows exactly what I need to learn, andhow I need to be blessed.

Conduct Research

It can be hard to know what you’re learning if you aren’t tracking your course throught the trial.  Record your journey in a journal. Look for patterns.  Ask yourself and Heavenly Father questions.  Pose hypothesis, and then experiment on the results.  I recently suggested this to a friend struggling with social situations and feelings of not being included.  Instead of thinking negatively about social situations, she tried thinking that people would perceive her in a positive way right before starting an converstation.  So far the results have been an off the charts improvement.

Count Your Blessings

When you remember to have an a attitude of graditude you get access to appreciating the good times and the bad.  Being grateful even for your trials opens up your ability to grow and change for the better and help you learn so much more from adversity.  When I take time to enummerate the ways being chronically ill has bettered my life, I am always astounded by all the good things that have come from it.

Serve Others

Getting out of your own head and focusing on helping others in need, gives you clarity and perspective that can shing light on what there is to learn from your trials.  When I take the time to be a good listener for a friend going through something really tough, the weight of my own trials diminishes.  As I lift their weight, Heavently Father lifts mine.

Do It Together

When you are in the depths of your trials, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone.  Whether it other people going through similar things or knowledge of the divine on your side, walking foward hand in hand allows you to both receive and share knowledge and blessings.  My default mentality is that I have to do everything hard alone (also that I’m alone in my trials).  The good news is neither are at all true. And not only do i not have to do everything alone, but it’s completely impossible to do so. In fact, this life was *designed* to teach me (and all of us) not to do it alone.  Instead I should rely on Christ, his teachings, and his disciples to get me through everything, from the smallest of small to the most miraculous triumphs that aren’t even imaginable to my feeble mortal minds. And we are the opposite of alone in our trials, we have a brother in Heaven that has a *perfect understanding* of what we are going through. I don’t even have a perfect understanding of what I’m going through, but through Christ I can start to come to an understanding.

In what ways do you gain knowledge and blessings from your trials? Please share in the comments!

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 31-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

Finding Wellness When You Can’t “Get Well Soon”

A balloon slowly twirls in the corner of my room in the ICU.  “Get Well Soon!” it proclaims, in its bubbly font pastered on a backdrop of a smiling kite floating above smiling flowers.

I am grateful to have it cheering up the overwise sterile and dull place I’ve called my home-away-from-home five times in the last year alone.  I am grateful to my thoughtful friend who brought it when she visited several days ago.  But the truth is life doesn’t fit neatly into phrases we so often use to comfort our loved ones when a major life trial afflicts them.  For me, “Get Well Soon” is a lie.  I won’t be well soon.  Yes, I’ll recover from this hospitalization, but I live with several serious chronic illnesses that will most likely sent me back to the hospital again.  When “getting well soon” isn’t possible, the challenge is to find insight, peace, and even gratitude in my situation.

I firmly believe that we are faced with trials on this earth, so that we can learn lessons we couldn’t learn any other way.  Through my illness I’ve learned patience, compassion for other’s trials, and trust that my suffering is all for a purpose and even brings blessings.  Nothing would have taught me patience, for example, quite like waiting through seemingly endless and prolonged hospitalizations.  I couldn’t have learned to have as much compassion, had I not suffered myself and felt the pain and loneliess of chronic illness.

I have even found blessings in my trials with chronic illness.  As I was forced to adapt and find new interests, I discovered my passion for writing novels, my love of web and graphic design, and, most importantly, my faith in Christ when I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  All these things came to be in my life directly as a result of my chronic illnesses.  They have blessed me in more ways than I can number, and especially blessed me with a sense of a life calling, purpose, and knowledge that I am not alone.  Realizing these blessings give me insight into the person my trials are helping me to become, a person I couldn’t have learned to be without these trials.

Knowing that trials have brought me great blessings fills my life with peace, purpose, and meaning.  And I am grateful for the role of trials in my life to make me a better person.  I am grateful for the ability to bless the lives of others that I learned from these trials.  I am grateful for my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, that I’ve learned from experiences I’ve had being sick.

As I look to the bigger picture, I see the role these trials play in becoming the best person I ultimately can be.  I may not “Get Well Soon”, but as I look beneath the harsh surface of life with multiple serious chronic illnesses, I’ve come to recognize that, on many levels, things are already “well” with my life.  And as I strive to find insight, peace, and gratitude in the face of my trials, all will be well.

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 31-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

He Knows Us All By Name

It’s easy to feel alone in this temporal life I live in.  It’s easy to forget that my God, my Heavenly Father knows me by name.  And  not just me but all of us.  How can we really know God knows each of our names?  How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?

I had the joyous opportuntiy to visit Utah for the first time this past October of 2014. I went because I’d never been, to visit friends, to sightsee, and most importantly to gain a stronger testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ by attending General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

General Conference was an amazing Spirit filled even in which the Prophet of the Lord, President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, Apostles, and Auxillery Leaders spoke to us over four two-hour session.  I was able to attend two of those sessions and be in the same room with these holy men and women.

One of the talks given that hit me the most was by Elder David A. Bednar entitled “Come and See”.  If you’ve never watched General Conference before, if you aren’t sure why you are reading this Mormon-centric post, then this is the perfect video for you because Elder Bendar speaks directly to the questions of people who do not belong the the LDS Church.

Come and See by Elder David A. Bendar

Read the transcript!

But the true highlight of my trip occurred the very first evening I arrived in Salt Lake.  By happenstance, the couple I was visiting with that evening had been invited to a Mission Reunion.  And this was no ordinary reunion for return missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  This was something extraordinary.  It was the mission reunion for the missionaries who had served under our Current Prophet over 50 years ago when he was a young man and the Mission President of a large Mission in Canada.

I was so excited to go.  Hardly daring to hope that I’d get to see the Prophet up close, I was still buzzing with the mere idea.  And I wasn’t disapinted.  President Monson came to greet his missionaries!

We were in a small chapel way far out of Salt Lake.  Where I sat a mere 4 rows back from the modern day Prophet of God, I was overcome with the Spirit of the Lord.  Though the thing that impressed me the most, that strengthened my testimony the most was something that harkened back to my questions:How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?How can we really know God knows each of our names?

How can we really know God knows each of our names? How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?

As President Monson stood on the stand, something incredible happened.  He began pointing to various missionaries aged by 50 years since he last saw them and calling on them by name.  He said that he still could recognize and name all his missionaries from his Mission President days.  And I could see the love he had for each of them.

What a gift!  A divinely bestowed gift.  It truly testified to me that if a mortal Prophet could know all his missionaries by name, than our Father in Heaven must have an infinite capacity to do the same.  And God’s love for each of us, His children much be infinitely greater than even the Prophets.

Throughout the trip, and even now, that testimony really stuck with me and left me feeling so loved and understood that I felt surrounded by the divine embrace of Heavenly Father’s love for me.

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About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 31-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

Preying on Writers’ Dreams: “This Letter is an Advertisement”

Self-publishing is a big industry right now.   Which means big money.  Not necessarily for authors but for companies who sell self-publishing services to authors wanting to self-publish.  One contender, Balboa Press has been calling my cell phone every month or so. Writers Beware!

A class action complaint has been filed against Balboa Press’s parent company, Author Solutions, for its sketchy dealings that are bringing in the big bucks.  The class action complaint breaks it down:

4. Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (“Services”).

5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.

6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors — errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.

7. Most of Author Solutions’ earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.

8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as “[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,” authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an “indie publisher” at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.

The apple doesn’t land far from the tree.  I’ve had a pretty shady experience with Balboa Press so far.  I’ve checked them out and everything I’ve read indicates they are ripping off their own customers.  If you want a prime and horrific example look no further than this author’s experience:

The illustrative sketches and colorization were a disaster. It was apparent that there was a problem with adherence to the RAD/character description form. Pictures that were provided, or the coinciding text (page number and line number) from the manuscript provided to aid the illustrator were obviously ignored or subjectively reviewed. It was so evident, to the point where I was wondering if anyone bothered to read, or if they even couldread the RAD form. There was clearly no oversight of the illustrator’s work before remittance to me. I had continued to write, please call if you have any questions…

After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received “dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD and characterization forms. The little girl’s bed looked like a cot out of an army barracks or prison. Angel wings on a helicopter were inverted, objected to, and objections to the CIAC remained ignored – a lame excuse was offered.

My own experience with them so far has been subpar at best.  They called me up and tried to rope me in by getting me excited about my novel’s potential.  They told me how great my ideas were and how much I deserved to get my book out there.  They wanted to help me achieve my publishing goals.  All they needed was to relieve me of $999 to $7,999 of my money, and we could get started.  Even if I had that kind of money lying around I wasn’t totally sold that first call.  No deal.

A few months later someone else called again.  But this person had no clue about me or my novel.  What was my book about? No idea? Back to square one.  Apparently no one at Balboa ever cares enough about what potential clients say to make any file notes.  No points gained there. * Click.*

And on it went.  For a few years now.  (Yes really.)

Which brings me to another call today.  Same thing.  Starting from scratch with another clueless representative from Balboa.  I wasn’t buying.  *Click.*

Then I get the following email.  Then it hits me.  Not only did they pack this letter so full of stupid writing cliches that it reads hilariously, but they are preying on the dreams of writers’ with this letter and others like it.

Subject:  Believe in Yourself

Hi Lauren,

Be proud of who you are as a writer. An author’s voice is unique and no one will tell your story like you do. Don’t lose your voice. Stand out by having your own style. And your book doesn’t have to have an outrageous plot to be important. Simple can be good. Stick to who you are as a writer and your message will always hold significance.

Financial stability is a challenge nowadays. Money is something achievable but it will depend on you. It will depend on how committed you are in publishing and sharing your message to the world. Money comes and goes in life. If it is meant to be, it will happen. We can’t just wait for it to happen though. We need to do something about it. Dreaming for success is for everyone but putting it to reality is for those who are brave enough to take the next step even if there is fear of the unknown. Let us take this one step at a time.

Why make excuses when you can start your dreams? Why do nothing when you can begin something? Look, you have a lot more power within you that you’re revealing to the world. We all do. But because of distractions and interruptions and responsibility and excuses we sell to ourselves, we coast along at the same level for the best of our lives.

Only few have the guts to make A LEAP – a leap to new habits, new routines and a whole new story about their new place in the world and their service to it.

The Gandhi’s and the Mandela’s and the Zuckerberg’s and the Mozart’s were just ordinary people who had an idea, protected it from the voice of dissent, advanced it via tiny wins and got up every time they got knocked down.

You have this power too, but power unused deteriorates and potential not expressed turns to PAIN.

Now is your time to fly and to shine and to rise up. This is the day to show the world who you truly are.

I would like to assist you with your dreams. Yes, publishing will ask you to shell out money from your own pocket, but what I can assure you is that Balboa Press can expose you and your book to the rest of the world. This way you truly get to say to yourself, “I’ve done my part, let the book speak for itself now!” It is not easy to invest in something that you’re not sure of its future, but nothing is ever certain. What you can do as a writer is to invest in your dreams and believe that you can be someone that you never expected to be. Your sacrifices can result to a life changing journey if you give your book a chance.

All the best,
[Name Redacted]
PUBLISHING CONSULTANT
Balboa Press
A DIVISION OF HAY HOUSE

[Contact Information Redacted]

This email is an advertisement.

So I’ll be staying away from Vanity Presses.  There are ways to legitimately Self-Publish but using Balboa Press isn’t one of them.  If they contact you, remember it is called a vanity press for a reason.  They play to your vanity and emotions.  I know they tried to get me that way.  It’s enticing to think that the only thing standing between you and your dream is your savings.  But it’s a gamble.  And Balboa Press is the house that  always wins.  The only way to beat them at their own game is to not play.

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 31-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.