Meditation as a Spiritual Practice

December 13, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 10:24 pm   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation

About three years ago I was listening to a Sunstone Symposium recording (a “Pillars of my Faith” talk) given by John Kesler where he talked about his conversion to the gospel after being an atheist for quite a while. He also mentioned that later in his life as a member of the church he started meditating with a Zen Buddhist which led him to feel incredible love and connection with God, which has also allowed him to occasionally hear God’s voice. He also described the experience as training one’s thoughts and gaining self mastery. As a result, I was intrigued with the concept of meditation as a spiritual practice and decided to look into it some more.

I found out that meditation is a part (or has been a part) of the spiritual practice of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. for thousands of years. I started paying attention to the use of the word meditation in the correlated materials and the word is often used in conjunction with prayer, scripture study, and fasting as a means to feeling God’s presence and experiencing personal revelation. However, the context that I believe most Mormons use the word is often synonymous with the concept of pondering, or thinking deeply about something; rather than as a systematic mental exercise. The spiritual practice of meditation in other traditions seems to be somewhat different than what I think Mormons do (though it may still be parallel in some regards).

Blake Ostler to be presenting in California this weekend

October 12, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 8:37 am   Category: Uncategorized

Blake Ostler will be presenting on “The History of the Trinity: Mormonism Engages the Christian Creedal Tradition” twice this weekend, down in Southern California. Unfortunately, The Miller-Eccles Study Group didn’t have their website updated (as of this post) to announce this event which they are hosting, but I wanted to get the word out.

Orange County
Friday, October 16, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM

Home of Morris and Dawn Thurston
9752 Crestview Cir., Villa Park, CA 92861

Los Angeles County
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM

Home of Russ & Christie Frandsen
4357 Chevy Chase Dr., La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
(818) 790-5491;

Omnipotent & Omnimalevolent

August 25, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 7:39 pm   Category: Calvinism,Theology

Certainly, the greatest theological problem that plagues most individuals in our generation is theodicy, or why a good and all powerful God allows for evil to exist. We as Mormons can be trite and say, “Well that’s easy, people have agency,” as if that answered every possible objection. Of course there are additional issues that agency doesn’t answer, such as natural evils. An all powerful God could probably make a world with fewer earthquakes, diseases, etc.

Anyway, I’m not super interested in directly answering the problem of evil in this post, rather, I would like to discuss a thought experiment. I really enjoy following the links of the sideblog at By Common Consent which are often humorous and witty. A few weeks (or months) ago they linked to a blog post by Stephen Law titled The God of Eth, which I found wonderfully effective in illustrating the weakness of our common responses to the problem of evil. Stephen turns our premises on their heads by offering a mental exercise wherein professors on the planet Eth are debating whether they can defend their basic beliefs that the God of Eth is all powerful and all evil. He has his characters try and explain and defend a belief in an all evil being who allows some good to come through in the world. You see, they have to deal with the Problem of Good. Here is a short sample of the dialogue.

New Sayings for Mormon Walls (and Decorative Tiles)

August 15, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 4:45 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

If you live outside the Mormon corridor, you may not have seen these types of signs or tiles up in people’s homes (as illustrated in the photo to the left). It seems like every Mormon home I go to has a sign up in awesome stenciled lettering which provides opportunities for reflection on deep gospel principles (like “Choose the Right” or “Love is Spoken Here”). I haven’t loved the new fad of the decorative tiles or the vinyl stenciling on the walls until I saw one that stated, “What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?” At that moment I realized that we could start something wonderful that will catch on, especially in Utah Valley. I thought of some new ones that would work well in our home and hope you will share some sayings that you think could catch on. My wife thinks about 1/3 are totally dumb, but who knows which one will soon be hanging in our home? You may hold the key to swaying her with your vote.

Honoring your agency means telling you no.

I never said it would be easy.

Obedience is the first law of heaven. The second is like unto the first.

It is always darkest before God opens a window.

I love you no matter how I treat you.

Chapter 7 – Enduring to the End

June 11, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 10:02 am   Category: Plan of Salvation

This is the last installment in the series of the Plan of Salvation. Click here for previous posts in this series and why I’m writing this children’s book.

The process of becoming like Christ is called sanctification. As the Holy Ghost sanctifies us, we receive more light, knowledge, and love for others; which makes us happy because we also enjoy God’s presence in our lives. n order to be sanctified, God will ask us to sacrifice the temporary things of this world to choose the things of eternity. In order to strengthen us against the temptations we will face to cling too tightly to the things of this world, Christ has outlined, through His prophets, specific habits that focus our minds on life’s purposes and invite the Spirit into our lives. (more…)

Chapter 6 – Principles and Ordinances

June 2, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 7:44 pm   Category: Plan of Salvation

Click here for previous posts in this series and why I’m writing this children’s book.

Christ can’t force us to receive His gifts of life and joy. For us to be like Him and receive all that the Father has, it requires our participation. God can’t just make us become as He is because at the deepest level, we all have agency or free will, and that cannot ever be taken from us. Agency is the ability to choose who and what we will love and how we will use our power to pursue our desires. At our core, we have always existed with agency. (more…)

Chapter 5 – Atonement

May 22, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 2:29 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Plan of Salvation

Click here for previous posts in this series and why I’m writing this children’s book.

Every living person is given the Light of Christ when they are born, which is also sometimes called our conscience. This light helps us know basic right from wrong. When we feel we should do something kind for someone else, and choose not to do it, we sin against this Light, which diminishes our light and defeats some of our purposes of being here. When we hurt someone else, it hurts us too and creates guilt. The largest consequence of sin is that it hurts our relationships with others to where we can’t be trusted by others and we can’t trust ourselves. In such a state, we wouldn’t be able to stand being with holy and clean beings like our Heavenly Father. Heaven is not just a place, but it is rather a society in which trust abounds; trust that my tender heart will be valued as highly as I value it. My character is defined by my trustworthiness with the needs and feelings of others.


Chapter 4 – Adam & Eve and The Fall

April 27, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 9:01 am   Category: Plan of Salvation

Click here for previous posts in this series and why I’m writing this children’s book.

During the last period of creation, God created human bodies for our spirits to inhabit, and we recognize our first parents as Adam and Eve. They were two of Heavenly Father’s very valiant spirit children and they were married and lived in a beautiful place called the Garden of Eden. When they received their bodies, the veil was placed over their minds and they forgot their pre-earth life. Even though they were grown-ups, they were like children and didn’t know much about right or wrong choices. Heavenly Father and Jesus came to the Garden to teach them and gave them two commandments. The first was that they should have children and begin a family. The second was that they should eat fruit from any plant except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was their choice what to eat, but God warned them that they would die if they ate from that tree. This was the first decision they would be accountable for. In their childlike and innocent state, they hadn’t learned how to be parents yet. They had no knowledge, so they were taught a little at a time, just like children are.


Chapter 3 – The Creation

April 1, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 4:06 pm   Category: Plan of Salvation

Click here for previous posts in this series and why I’m writing this children’s book.

Chapter 3 – The Creation

Under Heavenly Father’s direction, Christ created and organized the earth, putting natural forces in order and making sure that all types of plants and animals would grow on it. God made this beautiful earth and all its marvelous creations for His children, where we could experience life with mortal bodies and exercise our agency (D&C 88:19, 25). Because the earth was created for God’s children to live on, it will be renewed to its paradisaical glory after Christ comes again and will be the home to those who choose righteousness and who follow Christ.

I actually do believe in evolution, so maybe that is tempering what I have to say in my paragraph. Maybe with less to say, there will be more room for illustrations. It seems a little odd to me that with so much time spent in the scriptures and in the temple about the creation, I have so little to say about it here. If you have more that you think I should add, please tell me.

As the prophets have condensed the presentation of the endowment, they haven’t trimmed down the creation that much, which makes me curious as to what insights you may have on why that may be. Why do you suppose that so much time is spent on the creation when the purpose of it is so straight-forward in the plan of salvation? Am I missing something here?

Chapter 2 – The War in Heaven

March 22, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 10:34 pm   Category: Plan of Salvation

See my three earlier posts (here, here, and here) if you don’t know what this series is all about and the table of contents.

Chapter 2: The War in Heaven


Chapter 1 – Council in Heaven

March 10, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 1:47 pm   Category: Plan of Salvation

Okay, so here is the first chapter of my children’s book (to be illustrated by my wife). See my two earlier posts (here and here) if you don’t know what this series is all about and the table of contents.

Chapter 1: Council in Heaven

Before we were born on this earth, we lived as spirits with our Heavenly Father. We learned a lot as spirits and Heavenly Father told us He had a plan that would help us learn more so we could be even happier. Heavenly Father explained that He has a fullness of joy, which means He is full of love and gratitude, and that He loves being our Father.

Heavenly Father’s plan would help us all be full of joy like He is. We call His plan the Plan of Salvation, or the Plan of Happiness. Heavenly Father was a spirit like we were, but He also had a body and tremendous glory. As we learned, we were also gaining glory, and having glory made us happy, but we couldn’t receive more glory and have a more intimate relationship with our Father without coming to this world.


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