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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The "Genuine Name"

Back sometime in the 90's, Disney made an animated feature film, a "remake," if you will, of a story of the days in early America. It involved a group of European settlers and the Native people of this "new land." Yes, I am speaking about the movie titled "Pocahontas." Naturally, as a child, I watched it, and by so doing; I learned. The foster parents who had custody of me at the time taught me using my knowledge of what I learned from that movie. They weren't Native American, but they wanted to make the connection between my linage, and the peoples mentioned in Pocahontas. The way they taught me was by referring to them by a commonly used word by which the Native Americans are called in that movie: Savages. As a young child, I thought nothing bad of that word. But, when I called other Native Americans that, they seemed to react negatively, and I was punished. As a result, I abolished this word from my vocabulary. Time passed, and I hadn't used this word, nor heard it. Then, I entered the seventh grade. One of the teachers emphasized reading a lot (Perhaps it was because she was the teacher of the "Reading" class). I had read plenty of books in that time span. Frankly, it took me away from the problems I faced elsewhere. So, I already had plenty of books under my belt. One time, while we were at the school library, I asked the teacher for a referral. She directed me to a corner and recommended to me a small novel she thought was an excellent read. It was titled, "Weasel." I had began reading about the story of a young boy and his family trying to tough out their early American life in the wilderness. Then, I read a line in it. The idea of that line still rings in my mind. It read something along the lines of, "Dad, I heard savages are people who don't bury their dead. I see Indian burial grounds, so why do we call the Indians 'savages'?" The response of this young man's father changed the way I have looked at things since. His reply was something like, "Because, it is easier to hate people and treat them bad when you give them a negative name." That is how the European settlers justified to themselves, as individuals, their treatment of the Native Americans. They told themselves, "They are lower than I am, because they are savages." This mindset continued as the Europeans brought slaves. Even today, we still hear terms such as, "negro" or "nigger" ("nigga" is what a black person calls another close black person.") That's what justified, "separate but equal;" even though "separate is inherently unequal." They tell themselves, "they can't be at the same table as me because they are negroes."

Now, I use those two as examples, because they are most well known. However, there are other 'nicknames' people use to degrade members of society, one of which, is the nickname given to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Mormon. An example of this occurred on my companion's second day in South Carolina. He had just barely began his mission, so I wanted him to get some experience. Therefore, we went knocking on doors. Yes, this was his first experience tracting. We walked down a road, and knocked on the door on the first house which had a car in the driveway. We were greeted by a woman in her middle ages. She asked, "Are you Jehovah's Witnesses?" We answered, "No, ma'am, we're with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." To this response, she said one word, "Mormon?" Because of the tone of her voice, we answered, "that's what people call us." She quickly responded, "Well, I'm a Christian, and I believe in Jesus Christ." I looked her in the eye, and said, "That's great, so do we!" She said, "*Humph*" (as if we were telling her a lie) and proceeded to shut the door on us. I thought that was not a great start for my companion. The first taste of the Southern "Christians" is bitter. Now, I want to be clear. I do not share this experience to condemn other Christian faiths (or people in other faiths), but I do share it to bring to mind there are attitudes, behaviors, and traits "Christians" (as individuals, including in this faith) have to repent of [change] to become more Christian (like Christ). (I have made mention to this subject in a previous post, and I invite you to read it, if you haven't already.)

The real reason I shared this experience is to demonstrate the simple fact there is a serious disconnect with people's understanding of the word "Mormon" and "Jesus Christ." Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated, "A recent opinion poll indicated that far too many people still do not understand correctly that Mormon refers to members of our Church. And a majority of people are still not sure that Mormons are Christian." (emphasis added) Hence, we, missionaries (and other members), get those negative reactions from people who call themselves "Christians." Elder Ballard explained, "Others may try to use the word Mormon more broadly to include and refer to those who have left the Church and formed various splinter groups. Such use only leads to confusion... Let me state clearly that no polygamist group, including those calling themselves fundamentalist Mormons or other derivatives of our name, has any affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Now, Don't misunderstand, there are times that it is appropriate to use the term "Mormon." It is not as derogatory as "Savage," "Negro," or any other "condescending" racial term. As stated by Elder Ballard "We do not need to stop using the name Mormon when appropriate, but we should continue to give emphasis to the full and correct name of the Church itself. In other words, we should avoid and discourage the term "Mormon Church"... Some may ask, what about the Internet sites such as Mormon.org as well as various Church-initiated media campaigns? As I said, referring collectively to members as Mormons is sometimes appropriate. As a practical matter, those outside of our faith come looking for us searching for that term. But once you open up Mormon.org, the proper name of the Church is explained on the home page, and it appears on each additional page on the site. It is impractical to expect people to type the full name of the Church when seeking to find us or when logging on to our website." Frankly, I have a Mormon.org profile, so people can look me up. I use the wording, "I'm a Mormon," but it does not change the fact the name of the Church is at the top of the page. The name of the Church is "The Church if Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The reason it is so long is because that is what the Lord named it in revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said, "thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (D&C 115: 4)

Now, you may be asking yourself, "why use such a long name?" Elder M. Russell Ballard explained "It may seem long, but if we think of it as a descriptive overview of what the Church is, it suddenly becomes wonderfully brief, candid, and straightforward. How could any description be more direct and clear and yet expressed in such few words? Every word is clarifying and indispensable. The word "The" indicates the unique position of the restored Church among the religions of the world. The words "Church of Jesus Christ" declare that it is His Church. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus taught: "And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man [like Mormon] then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel" (3 Nephi 27: 8). "Of Latter-day" explains that it is the same Church as the Church that Jesus Christ established during His mortal ministry but restored in these latter days. We know there was a falling away, or an apostasy, necessitating the Restoration of His true and complete Church in our time. "Saints" means that its members follow Him and strive to do His will, keep His commandments, and prepare once again to live with Him and our Heavenly Father in the future. Saint simply refers to those who seek to make their lives holy by covenanting to follow Christ."

This name for the Lords's covenant people dates back to ancient Biblical times (Deuteronomy 33: 3, 1 Samuel 2Daniel 7: 22 and plenty in Psalms; just to mention a few) I cannot call myself a Saint, and do something to hurt the feelings of one of my brothers immediately afterward. It is far easier to call yourself another title, for the soul purpose of hurting, or turning someone away. For example:

Jehovah's Witnesses:*Knock Knock*
Stranger: *answers*
Jehovah's Witnesses: Hi!
Stranger: Are you Jehovah's Witnesses?
Jehovah's Witnesses: Yes
Stranger: Well, I'm a Mormon (or Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, etc...)

The natural result of this meeting is going to be a turn away. But if we contrast that with this:

Hi, I'm Sheldon. I'm Native American.
I'm a blogger. I'm a philosophical
thinker, and I'm a Saint.
Jehovah's Witnesses: *Knock Knock*
Stranger: *answers*
Jehovah's Witnesses: Hi!
Stranger: Are you Jehovah's Witnesses?
Jehovah's Witnesses: Yes
Stranger: Well, I'm a Saint...

What do you think the end result will be? The Jehovah's Witnesses will not be offended, nor will the door be slammed in their faces. I could not, in good conscience, call myself a Saint and turn away anyone searching for the truth. Now, I don't want to appear about bragging about my righteousness. I will be the first to admit; Just like Nephi, "My heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities [and]... the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me." (2 Nephi 4: 17-18). Instead, I use this title of "saint" to show my desire to follow the Savior. I use this title because I desire to come into the fold of God.

I call myself a saint because I want to help someone's burden become light.
I call myself a saint because I am "willing to mourn with those that mourn."
I call myself a saint because I desire to "comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18: 8-10)

Mourn with those that mourn; yea,
comfort those that stand in need of comfort
Just as I have made changes to the blog, my invitation to you is to do they same. To take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ, and that you "remember to retain the name written always in your hearts..." (Mosiah 5: 12) I promise, as you do so, you will "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit," and access the Atonement of Christ to "[put] off the Natural man." (Mosiah 3: 19) You will be far happier, and much more appreciated. I testify, in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

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