Saturday, September 8, 2007

DIY

Do it yourself! Since we live in an environment of limited resources, this is our battle cry. Out of necessity, we take stewardship to an extreme. When Jan and I were first married back in ’84 she stood amazed in the kitchen one day when I returned from the garage with tools in hand to disassemble our Sunbeam electric mixer, repair wire connections and restore the little beast to good working order. She had received it as a gift four years earlier and complained that, “It sure didn’t last very long.” At the time, she didn’t realize she had married a serious do-it-yourselfer. Last week, in its twenty-seventh year of service, it was used to prepare the makings of a delicious chocolate pie. God is good!

Over the years, she has endured, with great patience, many a patch and repair job executed with a book in one hand and a wrench in the other. My theory is that if a man designed it, a man can repair it. This of course is not always true. There are some things which go past my capacity to repair. Automobiles have been engineered beyond my experience and the manuals now read like ancient Egyptian. Computers—well, you know the story on that. When projects require complex electrical wiring with safety issues, I tend to err on the side of prudence. Past those, I’ll tackle about anything.

I recently added nearly 200 sq. ft. of living space to our home which required some degree of skill in about twenty different building trades. Genius at work? No, just a guy with a full shelf of manuals in the library and a well equipped shop. Having good quality, well maintained and sharp tools is better than a full time helper. They fulfill their individual roles with efficiency and they don’t talk all the time.

We live on twenty densely wooded acres of oak, walnut and occasional other deciduous trees. In the center stands about four acres of grass. I bought a 54”mower from Sears when I moved here and soon learned that on this rocky knob you need a comprehensive knowledge of mower repair and maintenance. I stock more repair parts for this model than any local Sears Service Center. Seriously, I maintain sufficient stock to qualify for the wholesale replacement rate. In the fourth mowing season I find new problems still arise that I had never encountered previously.

In 1976, because of my own sinful devices and the church’s ongoing descent into apostasy, I found myself cast adrift without a church to rely upon. I really could have used some congregational support at that time but I was in a business which involved constant travel. I would attempt to find a church in some town I was visiting and soon found out the doctrine inside didn’t match the name on the outside. This pattern continued and I became more and more discouraged.

It was then I came to the decision that I should just make it a do-it-yourself project. I had the manuals. The Inspired Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants were there for me. I had wise counsel anytime I choose to seek help. Whenever sought, God helped me to find the right path. To use a carpentry metaphor, I did bang my thumb with the hammer a time or to. Instead of pointing out my clumsiness, He instead, provided the right direction upon my acknowledgement and repentance..

As time went on, with God’s help things just got better and better. In 1980, he helped me find a solution to my problems with alcohol. In 1984, he directed me (I mean literally) to my beloved spouse. Each successive year, under His guidance, I was led to a deeper understanding and a stronger faith. He had provided a loving spouse, faithful friends and the return of my family to a joyous circle. In 2003 He gave the most momentous gift to date: He, through His Spirit, brought Jan into the fellowship of Jesus Christ and the Saints. A couple years earlier I had started to share with a group of dedicated followers in the Las Vegas living room group, my first regular attendance in twenty five years. Despite a lengthy absence, the continuation seemed as familiar as an old shoe.

In retrospect, the survival of my faith for those twenty five years is indeed a miracle. Were there temptations along the way? Indeed there were but, He was there for me. He did not allow me to sink into denial, criticism or doubt. In the final analysis, we are all in a do-it-yourself project but we can’t do it alone. Yet, we must all account to Him individually. As I sit in the warmth of the Carthage congregation I am comforted to be in the presence of so many believers. I am even more comforted to realize the same God who guided me through difficult times is also there in that sanctuary to guide us all.

In His abiding love

Cecil Moon

Thursday, September 6, 2007

“The Death of Outrage”

Nine years ago, Bill Bennett published a book entitled “The Death of Outrage.” It largely dealt with the attitude of a nation so blas√© it refused to acknowledge intolerance for a chief executive who lied to cover his peccadilloes in the white house. Even after being impeached by the House of Representatives and losing his law license as a result of his crimes, tens of millions of American voters chose to overlook the facts and excused him saying, “It was just sex.”

The cry went up that “everybody does it.” Given the record of our Congress, on both sides of the aisle, it may be a valid defense. If you are looking for righteous behavior, Capitol Hill is a poor place to start. Crimes ranging from manslaughter (Kennedy, D Mass.) to soliciting sex in a men’s room (Craig, R Idaho), demand a comprehensive use of our criminal codes to identify the miscreants just in Congress. To identify each person in Congress who has violated our country’s laws in one paragraph each would require an article equivalent to everything that has been written in this blog since its inception times ten.

To further identify local officials who have ignored the laws of man and God at state, county and municipal levels would require a library full of books. Rarely are these criminals incarcerated or fined out of existence. Many continue to pursue their careers and gain re-election. Having lived in twenty different states over the last fifty five years as an adult voter I may have more acquaintance with some of these local yokel shenanigans than some. I am also certain that you, dear reader, could supply me with more horror stories which I have never previously heard.

So what? Everybody does it! That’s the point. Why do we tolerate it? In my lifetime both in and out of the church I have met many, many people with sufficient character to be trusted to make decisions for my life which I know would be fair. Where do these people hide out on Election Day? As a church, although many would wish it, we cannot operate in a vacuum. We in the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of all people should understand the result of persecution by officialdom. We have in our history, a slain prophet put down by a mob with the tacit approval of local government. Well, you say, that couldn’t possibly happen today. Baloney! It can and does happen here. During the last year, you could follow the career of the Durham, NC prosecutor who threatened the freedom of three fine young men at the university with loss of freedom for thirty years each over a bogus rape charge. He hoped to inflame racial elements in the community to secure his re-election. Well, you may say, that doesn’t concern the Saints.

Oh, but it does concern us. Where injustice prevails for some, it prevails for everyone. If you are not outraged by the thought of three innocent (the intervening state authorities declared their innocence) young men spending thirty years behind bars for the personal aggrandizement of a rouge prosecutor then I truly believe we are reading different versions of the Bible. We are remiss if we tolerate false witness at any level. Total honesty is required in all our affairs. That includes our church.

Today, we have the means and the technology to keep meticulous records of what has been said and written on every subject imaginable. I personally applaud this development. The sanitizing effect of sunshine in our affairs allows us to make far better appraisal of men and their ideas. Openness also helps immeasurably to detect hidden agendas and personal ambitions on the part of those who would lead. If one submits thoughts on the internet it abides forever. As an example, a very lengthy thread (What’s in a Name) was deleted from a prominent discussion board. We copied, filed and printed the entirety of the thread in anticipation of just that action. You can burn books, you can silence priesthood, but can you locate every hard drive that took the same action we did? I hope that the days of decisions emanating from “smoke filled rooms” are nearing an end. I repeat from previous posts: “What in the world is going on in there that you don’t want us to hear?”

We must, for our survival as a church, demand integrity at its highest levels from those who would lead. One of our revered founding fathers—Samuel Adams—once said: “The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” We must examine the baggage they are carrying for hints of personal goals and things not of God. As a man, I would ask myself if I would embrace this man as a working partner in my business. As a woman, I might question whether he has those characteristics I would find desirable as a husband and father. In either case, talking a good game just doesn’t cut it. Living and working as a devoted servant of Jesus Christ beyond self are the criteria for service to the Lord at the highest levels.

Bill Bennett’s question is as valid now as it was nine years ago when he published “The Death of Outrage” Are we so inured to misbehavior that we numbly accept everything which is spoon fed to us? Does the well dressed, glib, and personable seeker of higher office have an intensely personal relationship with God or is he merely a well wrapped package? There is no need to have doubts about any of these men. Our loving God has invited— no—commanded us to accept His wisdom when we have doubts about anything. Pray to Him and beg for His counsel. You will know His answer. If you still don’t know, pray again and again until you do know.

I firmly believe that we are entering a time when accountability and repentance should be paramount in the hearts of all Saints. Repentance leads to forgiveness and redemption to further the work of the Kingdom. If every single person in our midst does not understand this, then God help us.

In His abiding love,



Cecil Moon

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lesson From a Spider

It seems as if this year has been a banner year for spiders. I don't know if it's the rain, the heat, the late spring, or the war in Iraq. But every time I walk my dogs I end up walking through enough cobwebs to make Dracula's castle look like a Coldwell Banker open house. I end up picking the sticky stuff out of my hair, scraping it off my face and clothes, wiping it from my shoes. They're not only outside. I've worn out a feather duster keeping them at bay around doors, windows, under desks, in lampshades, bookcases, and appliances.

The other night as I came home from work, I was driving up the long tree lined driveway to the house and encountered miles of webbing, spread from one side of the driveway to the other. It looked a little like a scene from a bad Halloween movie as my Explorer ripped through whole villages of busy little arachnids. Yesterday I was on the way to town, and as I opened the car door something dropped from underneath the door handle and fell at my feet. I had just enough time to recognize a fairly good-sized spider before it quickly recovered and climbed back up its thread to hide beneath the door handle again.

I hate killing things. I do my best to avoid turtles, squirrels, birds, snakes, and any other hapless creature that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Flies, mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks and ants are another matter. But for the most part, I'd rather relocate than exterminate. In the case of this particular creature, I talked Cec out of relocating it with the bottom of his shoe, wrapped it in a piece of Kleenex and deposited it in some tall weeds at the edge of the woods. As I left the area it was clinging to a leaf.

About five hours later the dogs and I walked past the weeds where I'd left the spider. There, spread among the greenery, was a huge cobweb, and my friend busily putting the finishing touches on its abode. Several things ran through my head. The first was that it hadn't wasted any time. It couldn't have. The amount of work that had gotten done in those few hours by this creature in proportion to its size was mind boggling. The second thought was that it didn't look any the worse for wear for having been ripped from its home, transported to another part of the planet, and rudely dumped in the weeds. Its God given instinct was sustaining it and survival was apparent. There had been no time taken for "Woe is me."

What a bunch of whiners we are! The wandering Israelites spent all their free time bellyaching to Moses. Every time things started going well they went back to their idol worship. Jesus preached about our hangups with worldly things. Even when He was gathering his disciples some of them wanted to stay behind and continue fishing. Or collecting taxes. Or whatever they happened to be doing. So much time is spent on the "yeah, but I gotta do this." Whatever "this" happens to be can be yanked out from under us at any moment. Remember Katrina.

Back to my spider. The night she (I think of her as a she, because it's the female who builds the web and catches lunch and kills her husband—another issue for another time.) was swept away from her home in the woods, she managed to pull herself to safety beneath the door handle. By the time I disrupted her again she had gotten a good start on building her nest in that confined space between the pull-up handle and the door of the Explorer. She made do. Then I came along and destroyed it all again. Bummer!

This morning, less than eighteen hours after being transported from car to woods, her web is a good two feet, stretching from low hanging branches of an oak tree to the tops of some unidentifiable weeds, which happen to have produced pretty yellow flowers this year. She is perched in the center, awaiting either lunch or unsuspecting husband. No time for poor-me or I've-lost-my-home or how-can-I-cope-in-this-new-place. Life goes on and, on this particular day, life is good. She is one of God's creatures, doing what God's creatures do, until the intellect and the "ME" enter the equation. I don't believe that, save for a very close walk with God, clinging to the Rod of Iron, and the certain knowledge that something better waits for me—for us all—I could do half of what that spider does—routinely

My prayer is that I can use the gifts which God has bestowed, to make do with what is before me, trusting Him for not only the little things but for the major catastrophes as well. Can I do this with a minimum of whining and complaining? God help me, I don't know.

In His Love

Seeker

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Well Schooled . . .

As a keen observer of goings on in the Restored Church of Jesus Christ (formerly the RLDS, formerly the LDS, formerly the — never mind) we are nearly overcome with the activity in our midst. Since we moved nearer to the center place three-and-a-half years ago, we left behind the quiet scriptural debates and heartfelt worship of a peaceful living room in Las Vegas (a city renowned for glitter, flash and noise.) We came as innocent freshmen to the “University of the Faith,” which is the Restored Church milieu here in Missouri. Our first year courses included: "Acronyms 101, Bob’s Rules of Order 213" (for those who successfully challenged the prerequisite: "Roberts Rules of Order",) "Fundamental Branch Organization 102", a review of "Financial Law 101" (for those not involved with formal congregations for nearly twenty years) and "Basic Bible Study 104". These courses were augmented by refreshers in "Property Maintenance", "Sacred Music", and "Meal Planning for Large Groups" with hands-on labs for each. All in all, a challenging curriculum for renewal of a regulated church life.

It was a challenge we embraced. We dropped no courses and, I hope, got reasonably good grades in everything. Not “cum laude”, but acceptable with, ultimately, God giving the final grade. Now going into the eighth semester, we continue to learn. It was much easier for me because I had been exposed to all of this in several faithful branches and congregations pre-Sec. 156. For Jan, who was baptized in Las Vegas, it was much more difficult because she had to learn much of it from scratch. She rose to the occasion in spite of having to work as well as learn. Looking back, there were a couple of courses that were particularly outstanding.

One that comes to mind is "Failure of the Gentiles 401" under the excellent tutelage of Professor John Moody. His expert teachings about the recent history of the RLDS and the resultant Restoration provide a foundation for any serious student of the church. I have always favored any course under the guidance of the author of the text. I understand that it is available publicly from Deborah Bergquist at: 816-916-0543. Once you read this, you will realize why I believe it shines more light on our current affairs than any other text other than the scriptures.

A favorite instructor has been Ray Treat. Whether lecturing on the poetry of the Book of Mormon or plumbing the depths of Isaiah, his insights are invaluable. If you are looking for a role model, he may be the ticket—if you can keep up! You may also be fortunate enough to meet his delightful wife, Jean.

As I recount my most meaningful learning experiences I find I may risk leaving out some very important figures. Professor Arthur Hawley offered so very much in his sought-after course, "Hierarchal Bureaucracy 303". The superannuated Seventy Tommy Thomas and his ever popular "Build Zion Now" Symposium. I am still taking Chuck Miller’s, "Our Responsibility in Challenging the Adversary 407", but it promises to be comprehensive and in every way outstanding.

There are others I would be remiss to ignore. Our spiritual advisor and mentor Hartley Stanbridge, although not teaching formally, has given us direction, encouragement, and advice in accordance with the directions of God. At different times I have enjoyed some exceptional Biblical scholars in learning more about our three books.

For our fourth year, Jan and I have elected to drop some course work in favor of writing. Although not mandatory, we feel a “final thesis” is required of us. We are therefore, using “Zion Beckons” to formalize the previously mentioned course work. (She, of course, had a head start with her publication of “The Book of Mark” earlier this year.) It is our prayer that this on-line journal will stimulate interest in matters distressing the church as well as repeating some lessons learned with the assistance of others. We promise to not air our family squabbles here but rather glorify the Father and His purposes.

Although we will miss the undergraduate life style, we both recognize the need for further study so we shall submit to the rigors of seeking post-graduate status. Would the Lord ask less ?

Don’t be confused. There is no such formal "university" in the mount of Zion. These, or similar courses are, however, available for the education of the Saints. Unlike an academic setting, we may use our agency to pick and choose to follow whatever direction we desire or feel led, and at whatever pace. We may burn the midnight oil (it is now 1:45 am) or choose the path of “pew warmer.” Some say we need to attend every Sunday. A few even make it to prayer meeting. Of course attendance is required on Easter and Christmas. Does that every Sunday thing include Fall Sundays when the Rams, the Packers or the Chiefs play early? How about the club’s annual golf outing? What about Senator Bluster’s fund raiser on Wednesday night? What about God?

I know many Saints whose entire lives have been a learning experience. It shows! Others say, "I just can’t keep up with everything that’s going on." These are the ones who quietly acquiesced when the church fell into apostasy. They shunned the learning required to be on top of things and make well reasoned decisions. I know this to be a fact. I was one of them. Shame on me! We must study more and learn more about those who would lead us. In this information-glutted age, it is inexcusable not to know. It is also inexcusable to not seek that inexhaustible font of knowledge, God Almighty.

It is widely held that some in the hierarchy try to keep things from the larger body of Saints. Why do they bother? The natural apathy of the body, ignorance of current events, and the provincialism of congregations provides a hot house atmosphere that would grow mushrooms. The only other ingredient necessary is willingly provided from Independence.

Moroni had the answer. It is in a preceding post (A lesson from Alma). If you missed it (unforgivable!) it goes like this: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children” and he posted it on a cloth rent from his own garment where all could see and they clearly understood what their struggle was all about. We must listen to Moroni.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Monday Morning Rant (2)

I have added more than my my two cents—more like five or ten—to this post, so I'll take some credit, or blame, for it. It is a topic near and dear to my heart, and has been a thorn in my side since my childhood , growing up in the Baptist church. Neither Cecil nor I are advocating the bone-jarring, mind-numbing, tooth-loosening clatter of today's "Praise" music heard in the progressive churches of today. But we are in agreement on one thing: that some of the songs we hear and sing in Restoration churches lately are real snorers. It may be the tempo; it may be the attitude. But if we really mean it when we praise and thank the Lord for His many blessings, something needs to be changed.

In His Love

Jan

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

After a beautiful sacrament service, it’s a temptation to save the "rant" for another time. But, just because we feel at peace and one with the Lord, there is no reason to slack off so I shall proceed.

What has happened to our music? When I was music director, I operated exclusively out of the old red (grey?) hymnal. My opinion was it contained enough praise music to express the power and majesty of God. For a complete inventory of the blessings of God, turn to #7 and follow along: "Praise ye the Lord! 'Tis good to raise Your hearts and voices in his praise . . . " Then follow the wonderful blessings we enjoy and properly attribute them to Him.

Over a hundred years ago, Geoge Elvey understood his Master and celebrated Him in #197; "Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne . . ." One needn’t shout, but this song should be sung in full voice to appreciate the power of the message. “The Potentate of time," tells the story of an everlasting Presence, a Force for the ages. It has strength and power, like the God it praises.

Songs of joy occupy a special place as well. Who can fail to have joy singing #580; “What a glorious thing to be In the light . . .” It was written some years after the death of the prophet by a Saint who saw new beginnings in her midst rather than the tragedy of yesterday. It was her idea to celebrate, ”the true light of God.”

For those who seek peace, harmony, conciliation and conflict avoidance stay away from #283 and #309. The former advises; “We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,” “Armies” implies more than just a large assembly or congregation. It suggests an organized body, clad in the full armor of God, with a military bent. A preparation for a struggle is inherent in the chorus. The latter is more direct in that it says; “Onward Christian soldiers! Marching as to war.” Nowhere does it suggest reconciliation. There is nothing there about how we should all kiss and make up and live happily ever after. It recognizes our struggle with a capable adversary and urges us to prevail against the “gates of hell.”

These are serious efforts to allow us to sing to the housetops of our avowed relationship with our Maker. They are not the drones or chants or the hmmms of new age drivel; they are instead, the paeans of praise, awe and militancy in the pursuit of the goals of Jesus Christ. So “lift your glad voices” and search for the positive hymns which lift the spirit. And while we're at it, there are 582 hymns in the red (grey) hymnal. Why must we be subjected to the same four or five or six dreary, droning pieces Sunday after Sunday after Wednesday after Wednesday? No wonder half of us are depressed.

And speaking of art, why do so many artists portray the Savior as a wimpy, fine-featured feminine figure? Am I alone here? I, in my mind's eye, see a muscular, rugged guy with strong features, a real chin, and blazing eyes with a solid confident look. I see a working man, not a prissy effeminate dilettante. I see a figure who handled Pharisees, one with each hand, with furniture flying every which way. These characteristics do not require that we dismiss His capacity for all consummate love and tenderness. Actually, the contrast would enhance it.

You may now accuse me of being part of a testosterone-laden society which worships at the altar of six-pack abs and Alpha males. All I’m saying is that I would prefer our ultimate role model, Jesus Christ, be treated in the arts with all the strength and power which he exudes in our scriptures. It’s up to each of us to imagine on our own the figure which suits our concept of Christ. I just tend to see him as a figure with greater resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger than Pee Wee Herman.

I advertised a rant. It is now over and back to serious issues later. Come to think of it, this is serious.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon