Should Church be a Judgement-free Zone?

I recently read that one of the top three reasons Millennials leave the LDS Church is because they feel judged at church. After I read the article with this fact listed in it I read the comments on it–like almost anyone does. One comment stood out to me: “Of course Millennials need their judgement free safe bubbles.”

Call me a run of the mill Millennial if you must, but I think designating church as a place where you can go and not have to fear judgement is a good thing. There are a lot of people who might agree, like Mother Teresa (who is arguably one of the most inspired religious women of modern times). She once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

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That quote from her can be echoed by the Savior’s answer to the Pharisees when asked what the greatest commandment was. He answered them saying:

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all they sould, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other greater commandment than these.

Mark 12: 30-31

You can see how the two fit together so well. When people come to church it can be a detrimental blow not only to ego, but to faith when the people who should be uplifting and sustaining us spiritually become nit-picky and catty because of past mistakes or what they’re wearing to church or how they interpret the Word of Wisdom at a specific point in time.

Jeffrey R. Holland said in a BYU Devotional, “Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried.”

We should always  strive to improve ourselves while trying to help those around us. I believe that it becomes easier as time goes on, because when you progress you naturally want the people around you that you care and love to progress with you.

Making sure church is an all inclusive place, where anyone can come and not be judged is living the gospel at its finest. It will leave bad feelings and worldly problems at the doors so everyone can more fully feel the Spirit and get the much needed spiritual fill up we all need from time to time.

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-Nikita

 

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Quitting Caffeine Was Seriously the BEST

There are a few things that people know about me. First, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (aka Mormon). There’s a health code that is largely followed by members in my church. Part of that is avoiding drinking beverages like coffee, tea, and alcohol. The second thing that should be known is that for a while I was not an active and participating member of my church. I was also drinking a butt ton of coffee everyday to get through the day. And finally, when I decided my religion was an important part of my life I switched coffee for Coca Cola and it took FOREVER to get it out of my system.
In 2008 I gave birth to my first baby. Things were awesome, but after about 8 months I had to go back to work. I needed a night job that would work with her father’s schedule so I wouldn’t need a baby sitter. And it worked out. I got a job from 3 PM to 12 AM. That was tough, especially since I would get home around 1 AM and then my daughter would wake up around six in the morning. I was running on five hours or less of sleep a night for almost an entire year. So, coffee was a pick me up that quickly became a necessity.

I drank coffee in the morning, I drank coffee with lunch, I drank coffee in the break room–Well, I think you get the point that it was my prime choice of beverage for a while. It helped me out like no other because I needed the energy I wasn’t getting from sleeping.

After a year of living with my daughter’s father things ended. There were a lot of reasons, but one decision that was made was that I needed to move back to Utah from New York because my family was better support for me than his family could ever be. So, we moved two thousand miles back to our home state. Before that I had been getting back into going to church thanks to some sweet sister missionaries. It was something I wanted. Being home surrounded by other people of my faith helped me adjust to my normal life. But getting rid of coffee was incredibly hard.

I don’t know if you know this, but caffeine is crazy addictive and when you first give it up it can be super hard. So, I didn’t give up caffeine. I ended up drinking so much Dr. Pepper and Coca Cola that I gained a bunch of weight. It wasn’t pretty. The sad fact is that it took me another six years to finally give up caffeine laden sodas and that was even worse than the weight I gained. There are some things you should know about ditching caffeine:

  • You’ll feel really groggy and sleepy for at least a week.
  • Get prepared for a massive headache that will last a couple of days.
  • After you get it all out of your system its totally worth it.

Feeling fatigued is going to happen. When you have this highly addictive substance that provides you with false energy in your system and you’re trying to purge it from your system you’re going to feel tired. That because your body is really craving that caffeine and your mind is going to slow you down in hopes that it’ll get its fix. Stay strong. You need resolve to stop drinking caffeine or you’ll just fall right back into it. Make sure it’s something you really want to do.

After you get past the lack of energy and start feeling better, you’ll get a HUGE headache. I’m talking on par with migraines type of headache. If you’re going through a withdrawal of anything you’ll get a headache. And it will make you angry and moody. I had to take the Advil Migraine pills to get through my three days of headache. I’ll be honest too, the pills didn’t always help the headache.
Once you get past the fatigue and headache you’ll just have cravings, but if you’ve made it past the two biggest hurdles you can fight through cravings! Have faith in yourself and make a mental (or physical) list of all the benefits you’re getting from cutting out caffeine. Some of the things I noticed right away were being able to sleep better at night, feeling more energetic during the day because I wasn’t having caffeine crashes every few hours, saved money because I didn’t need a caffeine fix anymore, and a bunch of other things.
Quitting caffeine was probably one of the best decisions I made. I know it’s helped me out a lot with my day-to-day living and it can help you too. It’s a personal decision, but one that can help you for the better.
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-Nikita

Your Life is (Kinda) Like a Video Game

“We have our agency to do whatever we want and we can choose to do whatever we want to do, so God can’t be omniscient because that would take away our agency.”

It’s an argument I hear against religion all the time. It’s also a concept that is misunderstood by a lot of people and a great way to get a brief understanding of it is imagining your life is like a video game.

Before video games come into existence, a game designer (or a group of game designers) has to plan the game out. There are quests, paths, character designs, foes and villains, and options all around that the main character gets to explore. The designer knows everything about the game. All the ins and outs, paths and quests, companions and enemies–everything. I mean, it would be silly if a designer knew nothing about their own game, right?

So, now you’ve got a new game that has been designed and finished in your hot little hands. You become the main playable character and it’s awesome. There is literally a world at your fingertips to explore. And that’s exactly what you get at doing. You go through tutorials, you find tools to help you on the way, and there are even people in your game that point you in the right direction to go through the main storyline. It’s pretty simple.

Then you get sidetracked by so many things, and that’s okay because there are tons of side stories (or quests) that you can play. They don’t detract from the main story and they can give your character valuable experience points which help your character level up. It’s all part of the game. And the designer knew it.

The designer knows every path you can take because he designed it and he knows what the possible outcomes of each story will be. It doesn’t mean you can’t explore to your heart’s content to all the ends of your game map. It also doesn’t mean you can’t skip stories or get really into them. It just means someone has thought ahead and came up with dozens of solutions to each problem presented and has given the player the options of which way to go.

It sounds complicated, but reasonable, right? Well, that’s pretty much a mortal equivalent of what Heavenly Father has done for us.

He has created this amazing world full of different paths that you get to choose to follow or not and He has given you free reign over it. The first 18 years of your life are kind of like the tutorial where you find tools, and then you step out into the world and find companions to help you get places. You work on your main storyline.

Just because the Designer knows all the possible outcomes and stories, doesn’t mean He doesn’t give you the agency to go through them all. You get to choose what to go through. You get to decide if you wanna be a good guy, a villain, or somewhere in between.

The best way to get through the game is to read the instructions or walkthrough guides that have been complied by people who played before us (this applies to games and life–read your scriptures! Those are your instructions and walkthroughs.).

Agency is an amazing gift from God. It allows us to decide where we want to be and gives us the opportunities we need to grow in this life–and the next. Use it wisely.

-Nikita

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The Coffee Question

Those crazy Mormons are at it again. Not only do they have to their own Bible, but now they're supposedly health nuts? Who cares if they drink coffee or tea? They drink energy drinks and soda and those are worse!

I get it, I really do. Why have restrictions on something so widely used and say it's for health reasons when ignoring all the other garbage we eat and drink? There are a lot of answers and opinions on the Word of Wisdom, but really, it boils down to obedience.

Whether you are a born and raised Mormon, convert to the Church, or just interested in Mormonism, there's one thing that you should know about that really gets people's feathers ruffle: the Word of Wisdom.

Like most revelation given to prophets both in ancient times and present, the Word of Wisdom started out as an answer to a problem Joseph Smith presented to the Lord. The Lord answered with guidelines for fruits, vegetables, grains, and vague statements like "hot and strong drinks". Fortunately, we have prophets who clarify what it meant. In 1921, Heber J. Grant told the Saints that the Word of Wisdom specifies alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco. Pretty simple, right?

Well, in the less than one hundred years there have been justifications and reasonings and murmurings as to why the Word of Wisdom isn't applicable. On the other hand, there are people who become fanatics and refuse to entertain phrases such as "coffee table".

People will come up with reasons that God instituted the Word of Wisdom, a common reason people say coffee is avoided is tannins, but there are just as many tannins in grape juice.

In opposition of the Word of Wisdom some Mormons will say that since barley is set apart for use in mild drinks (D&C 89:17) it's okay to drink beer, even though prophets have specifically said alcohol is breaking the Word of Wisdom.

Sometimes commands from God are simple. Sometimes they don't make sense either. In the Bible the Israelites were bitten by snakes. The Lord told them they would be healed if the bites if they looked at a serpent on a staff. And what happened? It was too easy. Many of the Israelites didn't believe it could happen. Like the Israelites there's a promise to the Word of Wisdom:

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel, and marrow in their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

Sounds pretty awesome to me, but the promises, like every other promise from God has a prerequisite of obedience. You don't have to understand the why, sometimes you just have to show God the respect He asks for and the love He deserves by following His commands.


-Nikita

Are Mormons Christian?

"Mormons are weird. I mean, they read the Bible, but they have another Bible? Revelations says you can't add to God's word anyway. There's no way they can be Christian."

It's something I've heard over and over in my lifetime–in fact, I heard it yesterday when I was asked to leave my favorite Bible journaling group. Unfortunately, it's also technically not true.

Sure, Mormons are kind of weird. I mean, who else willingly wears long pants, capris, or Bermuda shorts with regular t-shirts in the middle of 100•F weather? We kind of stick out once in a while because of it, but we don't have another Bible. I mean, we have scripture that's different from the Bible that we accept as the word of God, but so do the Jews and followers of Islam.

Before I get to the Book of Mormon (and I'll get there), let's talk about Revelations. In the last chapter of the book it says:

"If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book".

Pretty serious, right? I'd say so. And since Revelations is conveniently placed at the end of the Bible many people have concluded that the warning is to anyone who tries to add to the Bible itself. What most of Christian people don't realize is that Revelations was actually written before a majority of the New Testament. Chronologically it was written concurrently with the gospels. That doesn't mean we disregard all of the New Testament after John ends. I mean, if we did we wouldn't have the admonition of Paul, we wouldn't have the epistles if the ancient disciples of Christ, we wouldn't have very much of any New Testament at all.

In reality, John the Revelator was speaking specifically of the codex he wrote. The Bible wasn't all nicely put together and added to from time to time. It's made up of different codices that complement each other.

So, by having additional scriptures, no one is violating John's warning.

Now, onto the Book of Mormon and whether or not Mormons are really Christian or not.

The Book of Mormon is scripture. That's what it is. You don't have to believe in it just like you don't have to believe in the Torah or Quran. The Book of Mormon can be summed up pretty neatly in one verse from the Second Book of Nephi (which is one of the books in the book). The scripture says:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we write of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

2nd Nephi 25:26

Pretty neat little mission statement there. But that is literally the purpose of all Christian scripture. To bring people to Christ. The Book of Mormon doesn't take away from the Bible; it doesn't replace the Bible either, it complements the Bible. It testifies of the Bible's truthfulness while showing the "other sheep which are not of this fold" that Christ spoke about to the apostles.

So, are Mormons Christian? I'm going to answer with a resounding "yes". If the scripture above from the Book of Mormon doesn't convince you and if the fact that we believe and study the KJV (King James Version) Bible doesn't convince you, I'll offer this:

noun

noun: Christian; plural noun: Christians

1 1.
a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

Mormons are baptized at the "age of accountability" or later–which means eight years old or older. We are baptized by immersion just as the Savior was. And in addition to Christian baptism, we believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

In case you didn't know the actual name of the Mormon Church is "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". His name is literally in our church name.

I know there are still going to be people who don't believe members of the LDS (Mormon) Church are Christian even after I've presented my case. You know what though? That's okay. I just want to emphasize that there is happiness in doing good to all people, even though they may have different views and different beliefs.

It's not enough to say you're Christian. Act it.


-Nikita

the Millennial Mormon

Millennials are self-absorbed, technology addicted, nonreligious human beings who can’t focus on anything but their participation trophies they got as kids… Right? Talk to nearly anyone and you’ll hear all of that and maybe more. Of course, that’s just a generalization, but it is so hard to break free of stereotypes. I’m a millennial, and while I do use my fair share of technology and social media I like to think I’m not very egotistical or self-centered–I mean the majority of my waking life is centered around my five kids, so focusing on just me is a little impossible.

Oh, and I’m an active member of organized religion.

I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In an age of exploring what spirituality may mean and embracing abstract ideas of who (or what) God is, I’m an oddity. I read the Bible. I read the Book of Mormon. And I love it.

Religion hasn’t always been a big deal in my life. In fact, I was distant from religion for a while in my late teen/early adulthood. There’s a long story behind all that and I’ll have to share it sometime, but here I am in the heart of “Mormonism” and here I’ll stay.

Here’s the dealio: I’m going to let you see what Mormonism looks like from an active member’s eyes. I’m going to share all the funny, weird, and creative stuff I do to connect emotionally to my religion (think service projects, scripture journaling, trips with my kids to religious places, temple worship, etc). I’ll be honest about how the Church and accepting Christ into my heart and life has changed me, so if you have questions for me feel free to reach out and ask. 

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-Nikita