Sunday, June 23, 2024

Primary and Sacrament Meeting Talks

Zoë was asked to give a talk in primary at the beginning of June. Here's what she said:

Good afternoon!

I was asked to talk about what it means to be “steadfast and immovable.” When I looked up this phrase in the scriptures I found that it is followed by either “abounding in good works” (Mosiah 5:15)  or “in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (1 Nephi 2:10 and 3 Nephi 6:14). 

Being steadfast and immovable means to be loyal, faithful, firm and determined. Being steadfast and immovable does not mean we should avoid change. President Dallin H. Oaks said that “the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change. ‘Repent’ is its most frequent message, and repenting means giving up all of our practices…that are contrary to the commandments of God.” We can and should fix things in our life in order to become better people.

For example, I used to not like mushrooms and would pick them out of everything. One day, my brother Ben made sautéd mushrooms. He asked me to try one, and I did. I liked it. I was not steadfast and immovable in my dislike of mushrooms. And that’s okay! 

Mushrooms still aren’t my favourite but I’m able to enjoy more meals because I can eat mushrooms without gagging. The change made my life a little bit better. 

The scriptures aren’t talking about being steadfast and immovable in every part of our life—because change is important in our lives. Instead, the scriptures want us to be steadfast and immovable in two important ways: in keeping the commandments and in doing good works.

The Lord sent Abinadi to tell wicked King Noah’s people to repent. This made the people—and the king—furious. Abinadi was brought before the king for questioning. The king told Abinidi that if he denied that the gospel was true, he would be set free. But Abinidi told the truth—and he ended up dying for it. 

That’s pretty extreme, but it’s a good example of how to be steadfast and immovable. I can be steadfast and immovable like Abinadi by telling the truth, keeping the commandments of God, repenting when I make mistakes, and always being kind to everyone. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.                                                     

Andrew and I were asked to speak in sacrament meeting this week with very little notice, so we scrambled together some thoughts and were ready to speak this morning. I wasn't quite sure how we were going to juggle kids and speaking since (a) Andrew and Benjamin were passing the sacrament so were sitting over with the deacons, (b) Miriam was playing the organ and was sitting on the stand, (c) Alexander has been sick so he was sitting in an empty classroom with Rachel, watching sacrament meeting on Zoom, (d) Grandpa and Darla were on their way but not there yet. So I didn't go sit on the stand. I sat with Phoebe and Zoë on our pew. 

But then someone else came and relieved Andrew of sacrament passing duties, so he came and sat down on our bench and Phoebe went to sit on his lap (hoping to use the colouring app on his iPad) and then Grandpa and Darla arrived and Zoë scooted over to sit between them...and I suddenly found myself sitting all by myself on our pew looking after no one!

I could have sat on the sat on the stand after all!

I just got up after the sacrament when all the deacons were returning to sit with their families and it worked out just fine.

Here's my talk:
Good afternoon Sisters and Brothers!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nancy Heiss and yesterday was my birthday. One interesting thing about our family is that all eight of the birthdays in our household fall within a six-month period, which is fairly improbable, statistically speaking. There’s only a 6.4% chance of that happening. Trust me—my husband ran the numbers. Andrew is a professor in the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University, where he teaches data visualization, statistics, microeconomics, program evaluation, and things like that. He’s good with numbers.

Another interesting thing about our family that you’ve probably noticed is that we still wear face masks. We get flack for that sometimes with people saying things like, “Oh, you’re still wearing those things?” Like, yes. We are still wearing these things. 

In 2015, the University of Utah conducted a study on the effect family size had on the frequency of viral infections in a given household. They found that “people living in childless households were infected with viruses on average 3-4 weeks during the year. In households with one child, that number jumped to 18 weeks, and for those” —LIKE US— “with six children, there was virus in the household for up to 45 weeks out of the year.” 

That’s 87% of the year, which is a bonkers amount of time to potentially be ill. 

While wearing face masks hasn’t kept us 100% healthy, we’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in the time we’ve spent being sick since we began wearing masks, so the masks are staying for the time being because who has time to be sick that often. Not me. (I’m about to start a PhD in Language and Literacy Education at UGA).

We homeschool our children, which can be pretty time intensive, but we have a front row seat to their daily learning, which has been fascinating. Children learn so many things so quickly. For a (non-scholastic) example, a few of our younger kids started competitive swimming this summer and it has been thrilling to watch their progress. This was our first season doing swim team and when my kids showed up at tryouts they couldn’t even name all four competitive swim strokes, let alone execute them. But over the last few weeks my kids have improved the strokes they knew going in and are also competing in these once-foreign events like “breaststroke.” 

I actually grew up swimming competitively, so I’m excited to see my kids feeling passionate about something that I also love. But, you know, I went ahead and got certified as a stroke and turn judge and have been volunteering at their swim meets in that capacity. I basically stand around watching for these poor, sweet children to make a mistake and then I disqualify them and ruin their whole evening and it breaks my heart a little bit—I’ve caused so many tears. But somebody’s got to be the bad guy, right?

In the book of Alma, we’re introduced to Zeerom, who is, according to Alma, a man who “was expert in the devices of the devil,” and who sought continually to “destroy that which was good” (Alma 11:21). He’s definitely the bad guy in this scenario. Zeerom gets into a debate with Amulek—one of the mission companions of Alma the Younger—about the gospel. Zeezrom wants to know whether there is a true and living God, whether Amulek believes the Son of God will come to Earth with the power to save, and so forth. Amulek answers him but Zeezrom twists Amulek’s words to try to dissuade people from believing him. Amulek then beautifully bears a testimony of the atonement and repentance and the resurrection and eternal life that is so powerful that Zeezrom is left shaking. He can no longer deny the truthfulness of Amulek’s words.

At this point, Alma sees the effect Amulek’s words are having on Zeezrom so he joins in with his own testimony, “[unfolding] the scriptures beyond that which Amulek had done” (Alma 12:1). Zeezrom’s attitude changes from one of craftiness to one of curiosity. Rather than trying to entrap Amulek and Alma in their words, Zeezrom begins to ask genuine questions—he “[inquires]...diligently” about what he had been told concerning the resurrection and judgment (Alma 12:8). 

Alma tells him that if our hearts have been hardened against the word of God— “inasmuch that it [is] not found in us, then will our state be awful” (Alma 12:13) when we are “brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works” (Alma 12:12), “for our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us…and our thoughts will also condemn us” (Alma 12:14). 

So how do we keep from having our thoughts, words, and works condemn us? First, I want to clarify that our actions can’t save us. There’s one Saviour and that is our Lord, Jesus Christ. We are ultimately saved because of his atoning sacrifice. But, as Nephi taught, that doesn’t give us an excuse to do nothing or to do evil because we are saved “by grace…after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Our works are still very important, therefore it’s important to understand the relationship between our thoughts, words, and actions and our ultimate salvation.

Once explained to young Anakin Skywalker Yoda did that “fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” 

Alma offers a similar, if not a more hopeful, formula of logical entailment for how to remain on the straight and narrow—the path to the light side. He said that God imparts his word to us “according to the heed and diligence which [we] give unto him” and anyone who does not harden their heart, ‘to [them] is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto [them] to know the mysteries of God…in full” (Alma 12: 9–10). 

To paraphrase Yoda as Alma might: love is the path to the light side. Love of God leads to heeding God’s word. Heeding God’s word leads to greater knowledge. Greater knowledge leads to the unfolding of the mysteries of God. 

Evidence that the word of God has taken hold in our hearts should be apparent in our thoughts and our actions. President David O. McKay taught that “thoughts are the seeds of acts, and precede them…. The Savior’s constant desire and effort were to implant in the mind right thoughts, pure motives, noble ideals, knowing full well that right words and actions would inevitably follow" (Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1971], 206).

After King Benjamin preached to his people, he asked whether they believed the words he had shared. The people replied that they did believe and that the Spirit had caused “a mighty change…in [their] hearts, that [they had] no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). And that is the power the Good Word should have in our lives as well; once it takes hold in our hearts it should motivate us to do good continually. 

So how do we do good continually? I mean, I’m no expert on this front. I am a sporadic do-gooder at best. I make mistakes a lot, and sometimes those mistakes are hurtful to other people. And that is not good, but I think that motivation is key. Just as King Benjamin’s people had no disposition to do evil, which means their deepest desire was to do good, even if they messed up sometimes (which we all do), I don’t desire to do evil either. I want to do what is right. And hopefully you do, too.

I quoted Yoda earlier and I’m going to quote him again. Despite what you might think, I’m actually not that into Star Wars (as my children will attest), but there’s this one thing that Yoda says that you’re probably familiar with, which I feel is applicable here. In the Dagobah swamp when Luke Skywalker is feeling hesitant about his ability to use his power to do good, Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

I wonder if Yoda has read Emily Dickinson because she wrote a poem with a very similar message. It goes:

What I can do—I will
Though it be as little as a Daffodil—
That I cannot—must be
Unknown to possibility—

Both of these expressions have the potential to be misinterpreted. At first listen they sound like success is the only path forward, that trying and failing is not an option. Unfortunately, I think we all know that failure is simply part of life. Dickinson and Yoda likely knew this as well, so I don’t think that is what they are telling us. Rather, I think they are speaking against inaction. Rather than quibbling over whether or not to act—whether or not to try—we should be doing what we can do.

One of my favourite primary songs is “Little Purple Pansies,” which, like Dickinson’s poem, speaks about the power of the smallest flower to bring about good in the world. It goes:

Little purple pansies, touched with yellow gold,
Growing in one corner of the garden old;
We are very tiny but must try, try, try
Just one spot to gladden, you and I.

No matter how small an act of goodness may seem, it contributes to the light in the world, it is a testimony that the word of God is inscribed on our hearts, and we should not hesitate to do it. Often it is the small things that matter most. As Alma said “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). 

This is true about the way we learn here on earth. Going back to the example of swimming, my children improved their swimming through incremental instruction. Their coaches fixed one small thing at a time, instructing them to keep their chins tucked or keep their fingers together or their toes pointed…and when they were able to do those small things, their coaches asked them to do more things like to extend their reach and to swim further before taking a breath. And when they mastered those things, their coaches asked them to do even more things. Over time these small changes have added up to form rather proficient swimming techniques. 

Our two-year-old Phoebe really wants to swim as well. She’ll stand on the side of the pool and say, “Swimmers, take yours mark…beep!” and then jump in the water, only to flounder around because she can’t swim. It will be a while before she can swim across the pool. In the meantime, she’ll work on her floating skills and her breathing skills, but every little thing she masters will lead her closer to where she wants to be (which is in the pool with the big kids). 

This is true for every aspect of our lives. It’s how we learn temporal things like swimming and reading and math. It’s how God shares His knowledge and mysteries with us—line by line, precept upon precept—and it’s how we, in turn, share His light and goodness with others—through small and simple but undeniably good acts.

Sisters and Brothers, “Let us then,” as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “be up and doing.” Let us, as Gordon B. Hinckley said, “face each day with resolution and purpose…use every waking hour to give encouragement, to bless those whose burdens are heavy, to build faith and strength of testimony.” Let us, as Joseph Townsend, the author of the hymn “The Iron Rod” wished, cherish the word of God. Let us move through life placing “hand o’er hand, the rod along, through each succeeding day, with earnest prayer and hopeful song…[as we] pursue our way.” 

I bear my testimony that the word of God is wonderful, and I’m hopeful that as we allow God’s word into our hearts, as we seek for God’s light, and share his love with others through our good works, that His light will grow “brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
There was an intermediate hymn between me speaking and Andrew speaking, so I was able to take over Phoebe duties from him. Here's what he had to say:
Overly Angry Alma

One thing that distinguishes LDS doctrine from all other Christian sects is that we don't really believe in hell. For many denominations, eternal life is binary: if you're good you go to heaven where you'll have eternal bliss, if you're bad you go to hell and have never-ending suffering. There are lots of variations on this theme. The Puritans who helped initially settle the United States tended to believe that everyone was predestined to either heaven or hell and you couldn't do anything to change it, and only a very few would make it to heaven. As a result, they were really strict and boring and mean. The Catholics have a middle ground—purgatory—where people can make some post-mortality progress before going to heaven or hell.

In the restored gospel, on the other hand, we believe that pretty much everyone will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory: the telestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the celestial kingdom. We learn from the Doctrine and Covenants that all these kingdoms will be places of eternal happiness, and that the celestial kingdom allows for eternal progression with our families. The closest thing we have to a "hell" is outer darkness, a fate that we typically teach is reserved for only a handful people—those who had an absolute sure witness of the divinity of God and Christ who then rebel. That's a super limited population—basically Satan, and maaaaybe Judas.

It's a glorious conclusion to a beautiful plan of salvation. We come to earth to learn and be tested, and in the end, everyone ends up happy with what they've accomplished and end up in some sort of kingdom of glory.

This week on our Come Follow Me schedule, we read Alma 9:14–23, though, where the prophet Alma teaches something a little different. As he's teaching groups of Nephites who had fallen away from the church, he gets angry at them and calls them to repentance, threatening them with eternal damnation.

He first reminds them about how evil the Lamanites—the Nephites' constant enemy—are and how they were separated from God because of their own rebelliousness. He then tells them that their own fate will be far worse than the Lamanites'. In verses 23–24, Alma teaches this:

23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.

24 For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?

Essentially, Alma is teaching the Nephites that since they have received so many blessings from God and have made covenants with Him, if they fall way and rebel, it will be worse for them than for the Lamanites. Rebellious Nephites who leave behind their spiritual heritage "shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth."

This threat seems at odds with our restoration teachings of the kingdoms of glory. We believe that everyone will find some kind of eternal happiness. But Alma here is angry and promises eternal misery for those who break their covenants. That feels really harsh.

One possible—and common—interpretation of this that life is hopeless for people who leave the church. This seems like it might be relevant to today. Over the past decade, social scientists of religion have seen noticeable trends in irreligiosity, with large numbers of Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z disengaging from and leaving the church. This is not necessarily because of something we as a church are doing wrong in particular or a sign that we're being persecuted against. This research shows a decline in religious activity across all Christian denominations, including us. Data collected by the US Census Bureau in the General Social Survey shows that there has been a massive generational shift in religious belief. From 1988 to 2018, 60–70% of Baby Boomers and Gen X report believing in God without a doubt. In the late 1990s, Millennials reported similar levels, but as of 2018, only 45% of Millennials report belief in God without a doubt, and only 35% of the younger Gen Z report strong personal religious belief. For lots and lots of reasons, people are less religious today than they were in the 1950–80s.

Alma's teaching that those who had been blessed by the gospel are worse off than the Lamanites—the sworn enemies of the Nephites—is often weaponized against people who leave the church. Prior to moving here five years ago, we lived in Utah, south of Provo in the heart of Mormondom. Our neighbors to either side of us had each left the church at some point, and kids in the neighborhood were told by their parents to not play with those kids precisely because they no longer came to church. There was severe social ostracism that can possibly be traced to Alma's teaching that it would be better for the non-member Lamanites than for wayward Nephites.

But this is not a very empathetic or Christlike approach to life. We all know people who have left the church. I'm the only one of my five siblings who is still an active member. Several of Nancy's siblings have left. Many of my friends and mission companions have left. I can't fully buy into Alma's teaching here that they all deserve to be destroyed because they've turned away from the gospel.

Today I'd like to explore an alternative reading of Alma's sermon to the Nephites.

To do this, I want to explore Alma's story a little bit more in depth. Stories are powerful. Theology is found in stories. They're the most memorable parts of the scriptures. We can't remember which beatitude is number 6 in the list, but we remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Kylie Nielson Turley, a scholar of the Book of Mormon, and Alma in particular, has said:

After vicariously experiencing someone else’s story, we are different. People who read stories are transformed in a deeper way and for a longer time than people who read lists of commandments. (Kylie Nielson Turley, Alma 1–19: A Brief Theological Introduction, 2).

One Jewish tradition of studying the scriptures is a method of reading called "midrash" where the reader crafts stories to accompany the actual text. Think of it as a kind of scriptural fan fiction—someone creating a midrash will explore plausible stories that ask questions about the text.

I'd like to examine Alma's experience here by offering a sort of midrash—telling his story in more detail and exploring how his personal history shaped his approach to teaching and missionary work. We'll try to "vicariously experience" his story to understand where he's coming from, and hopefully find some new insights into his character.

Throughout the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon, Alma is the high priest over the Nephites, equivalent to the prophet. Imagine a slightly younger Russell M. Nelson.

At the very beginning of the book, Alma is also the chief judge over the people, or the main political leader. Imagine a younger Russell M. Nelson with the job of Joe Biden. After a few years, the dual burden of leadership got too heavy—he felt that he couldn't simultaneously be in charge of secular matters and spiritual matters—so he stepped down as chief judge and focused solely on being the prophet. He spends the first third of the Book of Alma wandering around Nephite lands, calling wayward Nephites to repentance, and falling into all sorts of trouble.

Alma has a unique past. His father was a priest of the wicked King Noah, but after hearing Abinadi preach, Alma the Elder escaped and started a new church community in the wilderness, baptizing people and helping them make powerful covenants with God. Our modern-day baptismal covenant to bear one another's burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort comes from Alma the Elder. He then led his people out of captivity and joined up with the rest of the Nephites after a daring escape through the wilderness. Alma the Elder was a spiritual giant.

With this great spiritual heritage, it seems like Alma the Younger should have had an unshakable spiritual foundation. He didn't, though. He rebels against his father, teams up with the equally-rebellious sons of the king, and starts a violent breakaway movement. He and his friends persecute members of the church and teach them to abandon their beliefs by twisting doctrines. His goal is to destroy the church that his father led.

Eventually an angel shows up to intervene, knocking Alma the Younger out and threatening to destroy him if he doesn't. He repents and turns his life around and eventually becomes the prophet.

Alma's name is a little misleading. We know him as Alma the Younger, since his father was also named Alma, and the "younger" part makes him sound, well, young. But if you look at the little dates at the bottom of the page in the Book of Mormon and do a little math, we find that Alma the Elder was around 73 years old when the angel appeared to his son. MAYBE Alma the Younger could have been an older teen or young adult at this point but probably not. Those of you in your 70s likely don't have teenagers—your kids are full grown adults. Alma the Younger was most likely an older, well established adult who was incredibly persuasive and far more destructive than a rebellious angry teenager that we often imagine.

Alma's personal history here is important. Alma's ministry is focused on re-gathering lost Nephite communities that had fallen away from the church and abandoned their covenants. These Nephite communities aren't falling away because they're forgetting to read their scriptures or attend church or do all the basic primary answers we learn about all the time. Instead, they're being targeted by people who Alma calls "anti-Christs"—men who twist the gospel to lead people out of it.

Alma is particularly angry at these men, and he has good reason to be. He was one of them. He taught the same things that Nehor and Zeezrom and Korihor taught. He made their same arguments. He hoped for the same outcomes they hoped for. He likely helped create this whole generation of dissenters. He spends the last couple decades of his life trying to fix everything he had destroyed.

Even as the prophet, he feels guilt over what he did. He sees Nephite communities struggling and losing their testimonies and he's frustrated because he helped cause it all. And just because he personally repented doesn't fix everything he destroyed. In many of the communities he visits, the people reject him because they remember the incorrect things he had taught earlier and struggle to reconcile them with this "new and improved" Alma.

During the angelic visit that made Alma the Younger change his life, the angel threatened to destroy him, saying "If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God." (Alma 36:9). That "destroy" language is important and reappears when Alma is preaching to the rebellious Nephites in Alma 9. Remember that he tells them "if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth"

Following Alma's own argument and logic here, it would have been better for the Lamanites than for his pre-conversion self. He deserved destruction—the angel told him so! Alma was hyper vigilant and particularly sensitive towards the Nephites he strayed because he was one of them. He was one of those anti-Christs that he now hates so much. So maybe here he's being a little too harsh.

Alma's experience immediately after this angry condemning speech reveals that his "God will destroy you" teachings are more complex and nuanced than they appear. Let's return to the story.

Alma is angry in particular at Zeezrom, one of these anti-Christs actively leading people astray. While debating doctrine with Alma, Zeezrom riles up the people in the city so much that a huge mob forms and perpetrates one of the most horrific events in the Book of Mormon. The mob imprisons Alma and his missionary companion Amulek and then gathers all the men, women, and children who are members of the church. While Alma and Amulek are forced to watch, the mob burns everyone alive. After the massacre, Alma and Amulek are returned to prison where they are repeatedly beat for days until God finally miraculously delivers them and destroys the prison and all their captors.

When Alma arrives at the next city, having just witnessed the death of so many of his friends and just barely escaped his own death, he runs into someone familiar. Zeezrom—the anti-Christ preacher who started this whole horrific chain of events. If there's anyone who deserves the wrath of God that angry Alma preached about earlier, it's Zeezrom.

It turns out that as the mob was forming, Zeezrom realized that he had made a mistake and that he was leading people astray. He had his own Alma-the-Younger-moment and felt immense guilt over what his words and actions had done. He fled the city before the massacre and holed up in the neighboring town where he came down with a burning fever from all his guilt.

When he hears that Alma survived, he immediately sends him a message begging him to come and heal him from his fever. Still recovering from his own torture, probably still bruised and bleeding, and still dealing with the trauma of witnessing a massacre caused, in part, by Zeezrom, Alma goes to Zeezrom and extends forgiveness and healing. Zeezrom eventually heals and becomes a missionary, traveling throughout the land trying to fix the damage he made, just like Alma.

This is remarkable.

Again, if anyone deserved Alma's condemnation and needed to "utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth", it's Zeezrom. We might even want to condemn him to outer darkness—his teachings and actions led to a huge slaughter of innocents. But he repented. There is hope for those who leave.

So what does the story of angry Alma and repentant Zeezrom mean for us today?

It is highly unlikely that anyone you know who has lost their testimony or stopped attending church then went on to instigate a massacre of thousands of believers. Zeezrom did horrendous things, and even he had hope and a second chance. Alma did horrible things, and he became the prophet. 
Don't be quick to condemn those who leave the church (or even post angrily against it on social media). There is hope for those who leave. There's no need to judge them and send them to hell. First, we don't believe in that anyway, and second, it's not our job to make eternal judgements like that—that's God's job. 
Alma remained hyper-sensitive and angry about rebellious anti-Christs, but he also learned to love them. We can let these things go as well. I'd argue that the families that banned their kids from playing with inactive and former member kids in our Utah neighborhood were wrong. Stay friends with those who leave. Don't abandon them. Just be normal about it. Jesus's command to love our neighbor doesn't have an asterisk that only applies when our neighbor is a member of the church in good standing. 
Does the story of Alma and Zeezrom mean that everyone we know will re-find their testimonies and become mighty missionaries? No—of course not. That doesn't matter. Does it mean that anyone who leaves the church deserves "utter destruction"? Also no—of course not.

I have a testimony of the expansiveness and inclusiveness of the plan of salvation. It is one of the most glorious parts of the restored gospel. There is hope for everyone. In the end, everything will work out and we'll all end up where we should end up. In the meantime, we have made the same covenant from Alma the Elder—to bear one another's burdens, to mourn with those that mourn, and to comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Our individual lives are all difficult and our experiences can push us towards or away from the gospel. Often people leave. Sometimes they come back. Either way, it's still our covenantal duty to create spaces of inclusion and be welcoming and loving.

I encourage all of us (me included) to make a more concerted effort to live up to these baptismal covenants. Make the world a more inclusive, loving, and Zion-like place for everyone.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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