Sunday, March 22, 2020

My wishes upon a star for LDS General Conference

Take responsibility.

Open the doors
All of them
No door exceptions.
Let us in.

Come to the bridge we have built
Even when ya'll obliterated the bridge
Again and again.
See, the beautiful prism of ALL colors 
in our bridge.
Take a step. Step again.
Be the light.
Let All of our siblings in
As themselves.
Just love.

Only love  remains.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Jared Talks About Happiness

Jared gave a talk today in church. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that's what we call sermons given by regular members of the congregation.  Today, Jared gave a sermon and I loved it and wanted to share it.


Good morning brothers and sisters.  Today I have been asked to talk on happiness – as in the plan of happiness, but with a focus on happiness in this life.  I remember one time before the Copper Crest ward was formed and I was in the Fairway Groves ward the bishop asked me to give a talk in church.  Then he realized that it was some special Sunday and he called me back and said we would have to reschedule.  That never happened and I remember how happy that made me!  So, I am talking today about happiness while being a little bummed out at the same time that this assignment didn’t also get postponed!  Oh well, I’ll see what I can do.

Just to start, the plan of happiness is also known as the plan of salvation.  The Book of Mormon prophet, Alma uses both expressions interchangeably in Alma chapter 42.  This being the case, I do not want to discuss the “Plan of Happiness”.  Rather, I would like to focus on happiness in this life.  We can circle back to the ‘plan’ later if there is time.

OK, so what does happiness in this life look like?  There are a couple of scriptures that I like regarding happiness:

2 Nephi 5:26-28
26 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people.
27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.
28 And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem.

The context of this scripture is Nephi and some of his brothers (and their families) have parted company from Laman and Lemual and their families, because Nephi was told that they were no longer safe to stay.  They left, established some order, and then ‘lived after the manner of happiness’.  Sounds simple, right?  It seems to me that living after the manner of happiness is connected to their faith, but also by the fact that they were a group recently united by a specific common goal – not to get killed by others.

Jesus has given us the following admonition: 
John 13:34
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

I have found, like Nephi and his family, that it is always easier to love those with whom you are united in some way – like family, church, something you might go to a convention for, or maybe because you have the same pair of shoes.  We seem to be more willing to overlook our differences and things that might normally bother us when we can find some common ground, or just when we are able to get to know someone better.  

What has this got to do with happiness?  I submit that when we follow the Savior and make an honest effort each day to love one another, we will be happier.  This aspect of our happiness is completely within our own control.  I am not claiming that this is always easy, but it does get easier with practice.  Also, each new day gives us a chance to try again, and hopefully do better.

Another scripture I like about happiness is:
4 Nephi 1:15-17

15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

I really like this idea of “nor any manner of –ites”.  They were united – the children of Christ.  We live in a world that doesn’t always feel so united.  We seem to have all manner of –ites.  It is not possible to stop dividing ourselves off into specific groups.  

We are Christians, but we are also Mormons.  Some of us are male, some of us are female.  Some of us are married, some are single.  Some of us are gay, and most of us are straight.  Most of us like the Beatles (I hope), some of us do not.  I could go on, of course.  In this context we will never get away with “nor any manner of –ites”, but that’s ok.  

What we can do, and should strive to do per the Savior is to use whatever means we have to avoid otherizing our spiritual brothers and sisters.  To otherize is to make or regard (a person, social group, etc.) as alien or different.  After all, we are all children of our Heavenly Mother and Father – a big something that we have in common.  

With very few exceptions, it is not our place to judge, but it is our place – even our responsibility to love.  I testify to you brothers and sisters that as we strive to love one another, to get to know each other’s story, as we resist the temptation to judge and prematurely draw conclusions, we will be happier.  We will be living after the manner of happiness.

As for the Great Plan of Happiness, this focuses on the family.  Getting married, having children and grandchildren, etc.  I am blessed to have been married for over 31 years now.  I have 4 children and 2 grandchildren.  I can tell you that my family is a source of great joy and happiness for me.  I can also tell you that I know many people who are not able to have a similar “ideal” family configuration.  These are people who should not be otherized.  These are people who should not be made to feel like they cannot participate in the Great Plan of Happiness.  Our Heavenly Parents do not want any of Their children to be miserable.  

President Boyd K. Packer in his last conference address said:
"When we speak of marriage and family life, there inevitably comes to mind, “What about the exceptions?” Some are born with limitations and cannot beget children. Some innocents have their marriage wrecked because of the infidelity of their spouse. Others do not marry and live in single worthiness.
 For now I offer this comfort: God is our Father! All the love and generosity manifest in the ideal earthly father is magnified in Him who is our Father and our God beyond the capacity of the mortal mind to comprehend. His judgments are just; His mercy without limit; His power to compensate beyond any earthly comparison. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19)."

There are, of course, many more ‘exceptions’ than those listed by President Packer. But to me what he is saying means that we all get to participate in the Great Plan of Happiness, even if it ends up looking a little different than the ideal.  We must be careful to make sure that no one is ever made to feel like they cannot participate in this great plan.  We must not constrain the Great Plan of Happiness by our limited ability to understand it. 

It is clear to me that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to be happy in this life.  It is also clear to me that Heavenly Father’s love, patience and mercy are without limit.  

Again, the Savior has commanded us to love each other the way that He loves us.  He wants us to do that now – not wait for the eternities.  Get to know the people in your life – especially those that may be outside of your comfort zone.  Listen to their stories, make connections, and find common ground.  Expand your imagination and increase your empathy.  In this way, you will begin to see people the way the Savior does.

I know that God lives and that he loves us.  He wants us to be happy and has given us many ideas on how to make that happen, but it all begins with loving one another – including ourselves.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wherein I respond to current events which are important to me.

Isn't that the point, Elder Holland?
We are telling you by the 1000's of souls,
Please hear us.
"Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?! Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that."

My Thoughts:
When he told the story of the boat and apostles and "Carest thou not that we perish" ~My vision opened up.  I knew that I DON'T fall apart, cry out for help, panic, or lose hope---if I'm NOT in a safe place with someone to rely on.  Those apostles, yes they were masters at the sea as Elder Holland reminded us, surely they had weathered many such storms-
They cried out in such a manner because Jesus was there and they knew what he could do to save them.
They trusted the Master of Heaven and Earth and Skies and Sea.

I can not ever in my wildest imagination think I have listened to more desperately heart rending stories than Elder Holland has listened to.  NEVER.
I hear a man, frustrated, tired, worn, I heard a man speaking there in the first 2/3 of this clip and then I heard my beloved trusted favorite apostle - speaking words of peace.

I will continue to be a witness for those who are feeling thrown OUT of that boat Elder Holland is speaking of, who do NOT feel heard or cared about.
I will witness my precious friend's anger and pain and I will weep and I know, I will be tired.

Then, I will remember
I will trust in the Lord and Master of Heaven and Earth and Skies and I will wait.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I have been thinking about football quarterbacks since last Saturday.
I want so desperately to not get tackled by every thing that shakes my confidence, makes me confused about motives, or even down right MAD!

I want to hold my intentions close, hug them as tight as I can and run for the end zone.
I want to trust that God the Father and Mother and my Savior Jesus Christ have got this one.
Everything has to pass the
Does it shine Light?
And I set the intention for my ministry when I was prompted to.
"We bore them, We baptized them, They belong in This church.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Phoenix Pride 2016

Written by:  Jared Johnson
There is something special about being a straight, active Mormon participating in a Pride parade and giving out hugs at a Pride festival.  It is the best example I can think of about something that illustrates the concept of the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.  I don't like parades, festivals, crowds, difficult parking, arriving early only to have to wait, etc, etc, etc.  Basically, every element of what it takes to 'do' pride is something I usually try very hard to avoid.  What I know from doing it for the past 3 years is that the experience is wonderful and personally life changing.  I am so grateful that the Pride-going masses have allowed me to even be there.  For the most part, they are a very inclusive group and very willing to understand and forgive.  

Sometimes being a Mormon at Pride can be uncomfortable.  Looking like a Mormon is easy - it is who I am and I am never embarrassed or ashamed of that fact.  Dressing the part is easy - I have spent many years wearing a white shirt and tie to both church and work.  I am much more comfortable (and myself) in a long sleeve shirt and slacks than I would ever be in shorts and sandals, for example.  What can be uncomfortable is when someone knows I am a Mormon and they are angry at the church so they are angry with me.  It can be hard to stand there and listen patiently while someone gets their feelings out.  Sometimes a hug feels like a very silly thing to be offering.  But I am not there to just give out hugs.  I am not there to show people what a Mormon looks like.  I am there to try in my own small way to build a bridge.  To let people know that they are loved and that no matter what they may think, there are members of the LDS church who love them and accept them exactly as they are.  I love it when I coax someone in to receiving a free hug and then they give me a look of pleasant amazement when I give them a sticker that informs them they were just hugged by a Mormon!  Sometimes they walk away with a smile, sometimes a wonderful conversation gets started.  It is in those moments that I feel like bridges are being built. 

This year a young lady wanted to buy us all a lemonade or something to "bless us".  She wanted to give something back to the people of the hugging booth.  I asked her why.  She told us that two years ago she came to a Pride festival after 'coming out' just a few weeks earlier.  She was scared, confused and ready to take her own life.  She came to the festival and to our booth where she received a hug.  A long, meaningful hug from a mother of a gay child.  A mother who held her and let her cry and let her know that she was loved for who she was.  Many more stories like that are out there as a result of this simple act of being at a hugging booth in the middle of a Pride festival.  It is worth all of the work and potential discomfort.  It is worth feeling like a fish out of water for a couple of days.  I don't really want to blend in - I don't think I could even if I tried.  I am so white, straight, old and Mormon that not wearing a tie or other church clothes makes no difference.  To my fellow active LDS church brothers and sisters I say step out of your comfort zone and join me in this outreach.  Not by changing who you are or how you dress, but by following the Savior's admonition to love one another.  To my beloved brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ / SSA community I say thank you for your love, acceptance and patience.  I love you and I am better for knowing some of you and learning your stories.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Remembering Mom Johnson

One year ago Jared and I drove to Utah all night and surprised his mom with a visit.  That was one of the best decisions we ever made and it was the last time we saw her in mortal frame.

Margie was a spitfire of a person, what she lacked in size she made up for in personality and energy.  I learned many things from her in 25 years of being her daughter.  I like to think that I am a better mother in law because of the way she treated me.  There was absolutely no end to the amount of love she had to give.

One of the things she always said "Be grateful in ALL things."  Sometimes, I didn't like to hear that but, she of course was right on.
So mom, whatever fun and exciting project you have going on up there in heaven stop for just a minute and know I learned this valuable lesson in gratitude from you and I LOVE you for it.

Mom, know that we think about and fondly speak of you day by day.  You are an important part of what our family is and we are so thrilled that we get to be a part of your forever. Just last week I said something and all three kids at the table started laughing and Stephan said, "Well hello grandma Johnson, when did you get here!"

 I know you were there with me that terrifying night on the highway and that you were whispering for me to hold still, and I am grateful because just like you, I have lots of work still to do.